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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Ephesians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Ephesians 4:1

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.

Calling and conduct

I. The behaviour of Christians should correspond with their vocation.

1. From a sense of gratitude.

2. The Divine sentiment from which the vocation sprang should possess them.

II. Certain virtues specially become the Christian vocation.

1. Because of what they are in themselves.

2. Because of the great end they promote--“the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This reveals the real grandeur of these virtues. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The obligations of the Christian calling

I. The nature of the obligations resting on Christians.

1. They spring from the circumstances of the Divine call.

2. They are determined by the fact of the Divine call Having been summoned by that call into a spiritual separation from “the world,” the followers of Jesus were at the same time constituted into a “calling” or profession by themselves.

II. How these obligations of the Christian calling are to be satisfied.

1. By humility and gentleness.

2. The root and sustaining principle of these is love.

The lover of mankind will subordinate his own pleasure and advantage to the welfare of others. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The nature and obligation of a Christian’s calling

I. The nature of a Christian’s calling.

1. It is a holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9).

2. It is an honourable calling (Philippians 3:14).

3. To serve an honourable Master (1 Timothy 1:17).

4. Hence it is a profitable calling (1 Timothy 4:8).

II. The obligation of the calling.

1. We must first study the principles of our calling (Ephesians 1:17).

2. We must be emulous to claim the privileges of the calling (Ephesians 3:16-19).

3. We must cultivate the spirit of the calling (Ephesians 4:2-3).

4. We must perform the duties of the calling (John 14:23).

III. The dignity of the calling (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

IV. The object of the calling (1 Peter 5:10). (T. B. Baker)
.

Walking worthy of our calling

How comes it to pass, that one half of this Epistle is made up of exhortation? Does not this force itself on one’s conviction as its cause--that the saints of God need it? They want not only to be comforted, they want not only to be taught, but they want to be roused.

I. First as it regards their privilege. Beloved, it is one of the greatest that can be communicated to a fallen sinner. My dear hearers, in one sense, there is not a creature on earth, but what has a call of God to serve Him. There never could be a state in which there could be no law, because the very law of creation puts a man under obligation to serve God. But this is an especial calling; a call of a higher order, a covenant calling, an effectual calling: secured by the certainty of the Divine counsel, and never to be frustrated by man. We find in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians, that it is a call to liberty; “brethren, ye have been called unto liberty.” Ah! man, with all his fond ideas of liberty, knows nothing of liberty, till he is under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost; for man, by nature, is a bond slave. Oh! the liberty of a free spirit; that can look death in the face, that can look quietly from the troubles of life to the God that ordained them, and find peace and rest in the midst of them! But observe, they are described as having been called into the holy fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9)--“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ.” But they are also called to glory, to His kingdom.

II. Let us now, secondly, speak of the exhortation that stands based on this glorious privilege. “I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles”: “I therefore beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” He does not beseech them to be worthy of that vocation. But he beseeches them to walk worthy of their vocation, their calling, because they have received such wondrous mercy. And if you ask me how they could do it?--in proportion as you walk in holy liberty, as you walk in the peace of the gospel, as you walk in the fellowship of Christ, as you walk in the path of holy walking. But I would remark, beloved, by way of concluding observation--see what place humility of soul occupies in this passage before us. Observe, “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness.” He did place it first; and it is its right place; it is the great place, next to faith, hope, and love. The more a man knows of the crucified One, the lower he lies; the more he knows of the depth of God’s grace, the more he abases himself. Observe, too, what great stress is laid here upon what are the passive graces of the spirit. We ought to contend for activity; we live in days in which activity is required; not only activity of opposition, but activity of dispersion of God’s truth. But if you ask, What ought to be in the front?--it is the passive graces of the Holy Ghost. “All lowliness, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another in love, and endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” But observe that the basis of all is privilege. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

On the Christian’s vocation

This exhortation takes in the whole circle of our duties. In effect, if we exhort a man of noble birth, or of distinguished rank in life, not to do anything unworthy of himself, disgraceful to his family, or unbecoming his high station, we say everything that can be said.

1. There is not any truth more evidently expressed, nor more frequently repeated, in the sacred Scriptures, than that the first object of our vocation to Christianity is to disengage us from the world, to break the chains which bind our affections to creatures. You are Christians: and therefore, when you appear among men, you are to make yourselves distinguished by charity, purity, and every virtue.

2. It is therefore a most destructive illusion to reason as Christians are sometimes heard to do: “I am a man of the world; I must live as the world does; I must conform to its manners.” “I am a Christian; therefore I am not of this world; therefore I cannot live as the world does, cannot conform to its manners.” Reason in this manner, and your determination will be conformable to the spirit and to the grace of your vocation. You must take notice that there are two kinds of separation from the world: the one corporal and exterior; the other, a separation in heart and in spirit. Withdraw yourselves from the world, before the world retires from you. You must quit the world by choice, and by an effort of virtue, or be torn from it at length by force and violence. Follow, therefore, now the sweet attractions of Divine grace. (J. Archer.)

The Christian’s calling

What is the kle?sis, vocation, or calling, of which the Scripture speaks so often? Take the following hints:

1. It is the calling of God (Romans 11:29; Philippians 3:14; comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 3:1, 2 Peter 1:10, Ephesians 1:18), because it is God Himself who calls us from darkness to light, and from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of His dear Son.

2. It is a high calling (Philippians 3:14), for the prize attached to it is eternal life.

3. It is a holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9), because the end and purpose of it (at least on earth) is holiness.

4. It is a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1), for it comes from and draws us to heaven.

5. The hope of our calling (Ephesians 4:4) is the hope which those called by God to serve Him may cherish. It belongs to the brethren alone, and proceeds entirely from God (1 Corinthians 1:26). This is what our fathers termed effectual calling, and it occupies a prominent place in all our systems of theology. The doctrine is based upon, or takes for granted the following principles--

Christian consistency

A writer on Christian consistency, says: “History records that in the days of Tiberius it was thought a crime to carry a ring stamped with the image of Augustus into any mean or sordid place, where it might be polluted! How much may those who profess to be a holy people learn even from a heathen!” (From The Epworth Bells.”)

Apostolic exhortation

I. Consider, in the first place, that “therefore” of his and what it implies. For there are many reasons for not exhorting people to walk earnestly and carefully, and worthily of their high name and knowledge. It is much pleasanter to dwell exclusively upon the privileges and blessings of Christianity, and to leave its heavy responsibilities and penalties out of sight. But this “therefore” was something that moved the apostle, even from his prison, to fill half his Epistle with earnest, importunate, and pointed admonitions. A very potent “therefore” it must have been--but what was it? It does not appear to have been any one statement or fact in particular, but rather all that has gone before; as if, pausing at the end of the third chapter, he had been reading over what he had written, and had been so moved by it that he felt compelled, constrained, to break off into this exhortation. It is this strong feeling in his mind which finds expression in that word “therefore.” And what was it that he had been writing about? Why, it was the marvellous grace and loving kindness of God towards the Gentiles revealed to him, and preached by him; their fellowship in Christ, their union with the remnant of Israel and with one another in one divinely constituted body, their eternal predestination to this grace and adoption in Christ.

II. Consider, in the second place, the title which St. Paul here assumes in order to give force to his exhortation: “I, the prisoner of (or rather in) the Lord.” Himself a prisoner, enduring a painful captivity for the Master’s sake, how properly might he exhort them in liberty to be true to their colours and to the standard of Christ. And this may lead us to reflect how universally true it is that Christianity needs example in order to be believed and obeyed. It is too weighty to be accepted on its own strength, too little favourable to the natural pride and indolence of men, too tremendous in its promises, revelations, claims, and assumptions. Men are beginning to perceive that the Christianity of Christ and His apostles was intended to be a life--a supernatural life, indeed, because the life of Christ Himself, and yet a life to be lived amongst men by ordinary people, and to be readily distinguished by certain palpable differences from the natural life of men.

III. Consider, in the third place, what it was of which they were to walk worthy. Their “calling,” or “vocation”--what was it? Not anything which we speak of now as a “calling,” such as we follow for gain, or honour, or convenience, or even for duty: this calling whereof the apostle speaks is of God. It is, in fact, His invitation, which He has addressed to each one of us as inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

The prison house

I. Let us think first of the place and manner of St. Paul’s imprisonment. The place was Rome, the capital of the world. A city full of glorious memories of the past, and famous in the present for art, and eloquence, and learning. Its soldiers could boast that they had conquered the world, and could point out the tombs of Pompey and of many another hero along the Appian Way. Its streets had been trodden by some of the greatest of poets, and its Senate-House had echoed with the burning words of the first orators of the world. Rome was full of contrasts, wealth and beggary, beauty and squalor, the palace of Caesar, and the haunt of vice and shame, were close together. The city was ruled over by a cruel tyrant, at once a hypocrite and a monster of iniquity. It was in such a place, so glorious and so shameful, that St. Paul was a prisoner. He was not, however, confined in a dungeon. By the favour of the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, whose duty it was to take charge of all prisoners awaiting trial before the Emperor, the apostle was allowed to live in a hired house of his own, to have free access to such friends as he had, and to preach the gospel freely to those who would hear him. But still St. Paul was a prisoner. After the Roman fashion, he was chained to a soldier, and at night probably two soldiers were linked to him. Yet, although an exile, a prisoner, waiting for a trial where he would have little chance of justice, knowing that the sword hung above his head ready to fall at any moment, St. Paul utters no complaint, no murmur of discontent. On the contrary, he bids his hearers rejoice in the Lord alway; he himself thanked God, and took courage; he tells his disciples that he has learnt in whatsoever state he is, to be content. He is poor, yet making many rich. The heathen tyrant can make him a prisoner, but his chains cannot keep him from the glorious freedom of the sons of God. And now what lesson can we learn from the prison house at Rome? We can learn this, that this world in which we live is in one sense a prison house to all.

1. It is a prison house of hard work. In our great cities the roar of traffic, the rattle of machinery, the shriek of the steam whistle, the eager crowds flocking to office and bank and exchange all mean one thing--work. Every man’s talk is of business; he is in the prison house, and he is chained to his work.

2. Next, this world is a prison house of sorrow and trial. Everyone who has lived any time in the world can show you the marks of his chain. Everyone whom we meet is wearing a crown of thorns. It is hidden under the scanty white locks of the old, and the sunny tresses of youth. Specially is this world a prison house to those who strive to do their duty, and help their fellow men. For them in all ages there have been prison bars, and chains of persecution. If we would look on some of the greatest teachers, philosophers, and benefactors of mankind, we must look for them in a prison house. Socrates, when seventy-two years old, was a prisoner, and condemned to drink poison, because he taught higher lessons than the mob could understand. Bruno was burnt at Rome, because he exposed the false philosophy of the day. When Galileo, an old man of seventy, taught the truth about the earth’s motion, they cast him into the dungeons of the Inquisition, and after death the Pope refused a tomb for his body. And so for many others who dared to do their duty and to speak the truth. But the stonewalls could not confine the mind; the iron chain could not bind the truth. Some of the most glorious works in literature were composed in prison. The prison house at Rome has given us some of those Epistles of St. Paul which have gone far to convert the world; and the finest allegory in the English language was written in Bedford gaol. “If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are we.” There are prisoners who are not the Lord’s. There are some fast bound in the misery and iron of bad habits, and habitual sin. These are lying in the condemned cell, bound hand and foot with the devil’s chain. And I tell you that you will often find this life a prison house, where you must give up your own will, deny yourselves, learn to endure hardness, and to bear the chain which suffering, or neglect, or ignorance put upon you. If you are indeed the prisoners of the Lord, the iron of your chain will make you brave to suffer and be strong. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Freedom in bonds

This prisoner has more freedom than any emperor ever had. External freedom, with internal bonds, is but an affectation, and a mockery of freedom. A man flattered and deceived by an ostentation of bodily freedom, while his spirit is held in the heavy chains of his own lusts and fears, is as melancholy a spectacle as any under the sun. The evil spirit laughs to see his slave enjoying the fond delirious conceit that he is a free man. The slavery is then perfect. Paul’s prison lies open to all heaven. In spirit, he walks at large, in boundless light. The prisoner writing to those who are worthy to know the secret, says: “I am surrounded by innumerable angels,” I walk in paradise with “the spirits of just men made perfect,” I am entertained with “unspeakable things.” Chrysostom says: “Were any to ask, whether he should place me on high with the angels, or with Paul in his bonds, I would choose the prison.” According to his own showing, he was less in peril in prison, than in the third heavens. As a safeguard against his ecstasy, he must needs have some messenger of Satan, to buffet him. In prison he found no such temptation. His bonds were a precious means of grace to him. Finding an unspeakable peace in “lowliness of mind,” he commends the same to his brethren in Christ. (J. Pulsford.)

The privilege and duty of the Christian calling

I. The privilege declared. Their “vocation,” i.e., calling. Men have callings in the world--their business, profession, temporal office. The apostle speaks of “the calling of God.” There are different callings spoken of. There is--

1. An external calling--the invitation to gospel privileges.

2. An official calling--the appointment to administration in the Church.

3. An internal and effectual calling by the Spirit of God. This is

(a) Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9).

(b) The Church (Ephesians 4:4; Ephesians 1:18-22).

II. The duty urged. How can anyone walk “worthy”? It means suitably, in a manner somewhat becoming those who enjoy such privileges. As if the apostle would say: Have you--

1. A call to knowledge? Walk wisely.

2. A call to holiness? Walk unblameably.

3. A call to fellowship? Walk lovingly.

4. A call to glory? Walk happily.

Conclusion: These things--

1. Should put us on examination.

2. Should move us to diligence. (H. Parr.)

The life worthy of the calling

I do not think that St. Paul would consider, or have a right to consider, that his bondage was then his “vocation”; but an affliction, a sickness, an inability even to move, may be as much a “vocation” as anything that may happen in life. But he urges the Ephesians to use “worthily”--while they have it--their “vocation to walk.” To “walk” ought to be used as the emblem of a Christian life; and for this reason, because “walking” alone of all our actions places the whole man in motion, and that motion is a progressive one. It was “a calling”! Then there must be a caller. Who was the Caller? Was there not a Providence in the fact of your “calling”?

1. In the first place remember that “call” came from the Holy Trinity. The Father willed it, the Son mediated to obtain it, the Holy Ghost applied it. Is it then a fact that you have been thought worthy of the notice, the remembrance, the power, the love of each Person in that holy blessed Trinity? What a sacred, what a solemn thing that “call” must be!

2. Each Person in that mysterious Three is love, perfect love. That “call” then was the call of infinite, unspeakable love. Have you been walking “worthy of the vocation” of love? Could you say that your life is a life of love. Your walk, your walk! does it drop love at every step? Remember what you were when you had a call of love. You were unloving and unlovable.

3. But there is another particular characteristic of that love wherewith you were called. It was a call of forgiveness. The whole Trinity had combined to make that forgiveness. Now let me ask, Is there anyone at this moment in the whole world whom you have not forgiven? If so, then you are not walking worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called.

4. But there was another predominant characteristic in your call--it was a call to holiness. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Now are you walking every day a holy walk? Moreover, your call was a call to activity; also a call to a higher life. Are you walking worthy of it? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Calling and walk

1. I feel sure that I shall carry along with me the experience of every child of God, when I say that his call, however it came to him, was very humbling. God has thousands of methods by which He draws souls to Himself, but in one respect, there is no difference between them all--He never calls a soul without humbling it. It is very likely that the instrument which effected your call was not one that the world would call great. It is very likely that the providences which attended it were very humbling providences. But however this may be--however it may be in respect of outward things, I am quite sure that as the grace of God began to take effect upon your heart, your soul passed into very low places, down into the very dust. You began to see yourself in a very different light from any in which you ever saw yourself before. And let me say, that I believe one of the chief reasons why many young Christians are happier than other Christians, is that in the first stages of grace, there is a more realizing, deep sense of nothingness, and sin.

2. But if it was an humbling call, I am sure it was a very kind one. Perhaps in the recollection of what took place then, now the thought is “Through what exercises of mind you passed”; but at the time itself, the chief feeling with you was--“How very kind this is of God! what wonderful patience God has been exercising towards a poor, miserable sinner!”

3. And let me further remind you, brethren, that your call was a very personal thing. It was characterized by individuality: each soul is singled out by itself by God. As respects “walking,” the apostle uses the figure for two reasons: one because it is distinctly a progressive motion, in all places progress; and secondly, it is the only movement which engages and puts in action the whole man. But as was the “calling,” so must be the “walk,”--humble, tender, earnest, holy, heavenly. Whatever progress you have made, still remember, that whatever cause there was for humility at the beginning, there is more cause now. For now, a wrong thought is worse than once a wrong action, because you are more responsible. Walk in the valley. That is an unworthy thought which ever lifts itself too high, either to God or man. And was God very kind, very patient, very long suffering, to bear with you, to choose you, to call you? Then be you just like that to every poor fellow sinner. And never forget what a real, personal, earnest matter between your soul and God, your “call” was. You have nothing to dread more than for religion to become a generality. As many as have felt God’s callings, know the exceeding weight and moment of every little thing. By little things you were made, by little things you were called. Therefore, again, if you would not frustrate the grace of God, you must be holy. “He hath called you, not to uncleanness, but to holiness.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Walking worthy of one’s vocation

I. The vocation wherewith a believer is called.

1. It is God’s speaking to the heart of a sinner in and by His word (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 5:25).

2. It is to the enjoyment of the greatest privileges (Isaiah 61:1; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13).

3. It is various, and yet the same, to all believers.

4. It is of the sovereign goodwill of God (Romans 9:19-24).

5. God never repents and revokes this calling (Romans 11:29).

6. It is the duty and privilege of professors to make it sure to themselves.

II. What it is to walk worthy of this vocation. In general: When there is a suitableness in the walk to the nature of the calling. Particularly--

1. When it is such as has been exemplified in Christ and His Church.

2. When it tends to the edification of those about us--saints and sinners.

3. When such as God approves in His Word.

III. The manner in which the apostle enforces his exhortation. “I, the prisoner,” etc. (H. Foster, M. A.)

Mission of the saints

Each of God’s saints is sent into the world to prove some part of the Divine character. Perhaps I may be one of those who shall live in the valley of ease, having much rest, and hearing sweet birds of promise singing in my ears. The air is calm and balmy, the sheep are feeding round about me, and all is still and quiet. Well, then I shall prove the love of God in sweet communings. Or perhaps I may be Called to stand where the thunder clouds brew, where the lightnings play, and tempestuous winds are howling on the mountain tops. Well, then I am born to prove the power and majesty of our God: amid dangers He will inspire me with courage: amid toils He will make me strong. Perhaps it shall be mine to preserve an unblemished character, and so prove the power of sanctifying grace, in not being allowed to backslide from my professed dedication to God. I shall then be a proof of the omnipotent power of grace, which alone can save from the power, as well as from the guilt of sin. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Worthy walkin

g:--There is a seemliness appertaining to each calling. So here. We must walk nobly, as becometh the heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Luther counsels men to answer all temptations of Satan with this word, “I am a Christian.” They were wont to say of cowards in Rome, “There is nothing Roman in them.” Of many Christians we may say, “There is nothing Christian in them.” It is not amiss before we serve the world to put Alexander’s questions to his followers, that would have persuaded him to run at the Olympic games. “Do kings use to run at the Olympics?” Every believer is higher than the kings of the earth. He must therefore carry himself accordingly. (J. Trapp.)

What are we called to

1. The knowledge of God (1 Peter 4:9).

2. The faith of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9; Galatians 2:6).

3. Holiness of life (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Romans 7:1).

4. Peace (1 Corinthians 7:15).

5. Eternal life (1 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). (Bishop Beveridge.)

What is it to walk worthy of our calling

1. Generally, to carry ourselves as becometh Christians (Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

2. Particularly--

Why walk worthy of our calling

1. Otherwise we sham our profession (Hebrews 6:5).

2. We lose the comfort of our calling (Psalms 19:11).

3. We shall lose its end (Hebrews 12:14). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Our walk is watched

A gentleman in England said that he owed his conversion mainly to the marked consistency of a merchant who lived not far from him. His neighbour was a Christian, and professed to carry on his large business on strictly Christian principles. This surprised him; but not being sure of its reality, he determined to watch him for a year, and if at the end of that time he found that he was really what he professed to be, he would become a Christian also. All the year he watched without finding any flaw or inconsistency in his dealing. The result was a thorough conviction that the merchant was a true man, and that religion was a reality.


Verses 1-6

Verse 2

Ephesians 4:2

With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love.

Exhortation to lowliness

These words, after all that has gone before, thrill us like the tones of a trumpet. If it had been left to ourselves to expand the general exhortation into practical details, we should have insisted, perhaps, on the duty of cultivating a magnanimity corresponding to the greatness of our position and the greatness of our hopes. We might have argued that those who have received such a “calling” should exhibit a certain stateliness of character, a lofty indifference not only to the baser pleasures of life but to power and fame. Or we might have urged that with such a “calling” Christian men should be inspired with a passionate zeal for heroic tasks and fortitude for martyrdom. This would be to walk worthily of the calling wherewith we were called. But instead of appealing to us in this lofty tone, Paul exhorts us to humility, to meekness, and to long suffering; and this suggests a principle of great value in the discipline of the spiritual life. Religious excitement, originated by direct contact with God, will always enlarge and exalt our conception of God’s greatness, and will deepen our sense of dependence on Him. The heart may be flooded with a shining sea of religious emotion; the imagination may be glowing like the heavens at sunset with purple and golden splendour; but as emotion becomes more intense, and as our conception of the Christian life becomes more and more glorious, the infinite greatness of God’s righteousness and power and grace will inspire us with deeper wonder and awe. We have received unmeasurable blessings, we have been raised to wonderful honours, we are hoping to share with Christ Himself infinite blessedness and glory; but all that we have has come from the eternal thought and purpose and love of God; all that we hope for will be conferred by His grace and “the exceeding greatness of His power.” The wealth is not ours; it is a Divine gift: the strength is not ours; it is the inspiration of the Divine life: the dignity is not ours; it is conferred on us by the free unpurchased love of God, because we are in Christ. We live in palaces of eternal light and righteousness, and among the principalities and powers of heaven; but our native home was in the dust, and this transfigured, eternal, and glorified life was not achieved by our own strength, it has come to us from God. We are nothing; God is all. Humility, lowliness, is disciplined by prayer, by communion with God, by the vision of Divine and eternal things; by meditation on God’s righteousness and our own sin, on the greatness of God and the limitations of all created life, on the eternal fulness of God and our own dependence on Him; on the blessings which God has made our inheritance in Christ, and the dark destiny which would have been the natural and just result of our indifference to God’s authority and love. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Lowliness and meekness go together

Where there is “lowliness” there will be “meekness,” the absense of the disposition to assert personal rights, either in the presence of God or of men. Meekness submits without a struggle to the losses, the sufferings, the dishonour which the providence of God permits to come upon us. It may look with agitation and distress upon the troubles of others, and the miseries of mankind may sometimes disturb the very foundations of faith; but in its own sorrows it finds no reason for distrusting either the Divine righteousness or the Divine goodness. It is conscious of possessing no merit, and therefore in the worst and darkest hours is conscious of suffering no injustice. The same temper will show itself in relation to men. It has no personal claim to defend. It will, therefore, be slow to resent insult and injury. If it resents them at all, the resentment will be a protest against the violation of Divine laws rather than a protest against a refusal to acknowledge its personal rights. There will be no eagerness for great place or high honour, or for the recognition of personal merit; and therefore, if these are withheld, there will be no bitterness or mortification. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Meekness an element of long suffering

Meekness is one of the elements of long suffering. Paul is thinking of the mutual relations of those who are in Christ, and his words imply that there will be large occasions for the exercise of this grace in the conduct and spirit of our Christian brethren. We are not to assume that all those who are honestly loyal to Christ will keep His precepts perfectly, or that in all those who have received the Divine life the baser elements and passions of human nature have been extinguished. Our Christian brethren will sometimes treat us unjustly. They will judge us ignorantly and ungenerously. They will say harsh things about us. They will be inconsiderate and discourteous. They will be wilful, wayward, selfish. They will make us suffer from their arrogance, their ambition, their impatience, their stolid perversity. All this we have to anticipate. Christ bears with their imperfections and their sins; we too have to exercise forbearance. In forbearance, meekness and love are blended. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Advantage of meekness

There is nothing lost by meekness and yielding. Abraham yields over his right of choice: Lot taketh it. And, behold, Lot is crossed in that which he chose: Abraham blessed, in that which was left him! As heaven is taken by violence, so is earth by meekness. And God, “the true proprietor,” loves no tenants better, nor grants larger leases to any, than the meek. (J. Trapp.)

Long suffering improved

Some years ago, I had in my garden a tree that never bore any fruit. One day, I took my axe in my hand, determined to fell it. My wife met me in the pathway and pleaded for it: “Why, the spring is now very close, stay and see whether there may not be some change in it: and if not, then you can cut it down.” As I never repented following her advice before I yielded to it now: and what was the consequence? Why, in a few weeks the tree was covered with blossoms, and in a few more it was bending under a load of fruit. “Ah,” said I, “this should teach me. I will learn a lesson from hence not to cut down too soon: that is, not to consider persons incorrigible or abandoned too soon, so as to give up hope for them, and the use of the means of prayer on their behalf.” (W. Jay.)

Human forbearance

The Jews would not willingly tread upon the smallest piece of paper in their way; but took it up, for possibly, said they, the name of God may be on it. Though there was a little superstition in that, yet much good may be learnt from it, if we apply it to men. Trample not on any, there may be some work of grace there going on, that thou knowest not of. The name of God may be written upon that soul thou treadest on it may be a soul that Christ thought so much of, as to shed His precious Blood for it: therefore despise it not. (Archbishop Leighton.)

Lowliness is Christlike

The late Rev. Dr. R-- had a somewhat lofty manner of expressing himself. In the course of visiting his parish he called at the cottage of an elderly female, who familiarly invited him to “come in by and sit doun.” The Doctor, who expected a more respectful salutation, said, in stately tones, intended to check any further attempt at familiarity, “Woman, I am a servant of the Lord come to speak with you on the concerns of your soul.” “Then ye’ll be humble like your Maister,” admirably rejoined the cottager. The Doctor felt the reproof deeply, and never again sought to magnify himself at the expense of his office. (C. Rogers, LL. D.)

The meek deflated

A missionary in Jamaica was once questioning the little black boys on the meaning of Matthew 5:5, and asked, “Who are the meek?” A boy answered, “Those who give soft answers to rough questions.”

Meekness and forbearance

Anthony Blanc, one of Felix Neff’s earlier converts, was very earnest in winning souls to Christ. The enemies of the gospel were angry at his success, and used alike scoffs and threats against him. One night, as he was returning home from a religious meeting, he, was followed by a man in a rage, who struck him a violent blow on the head. “May God forgive and bless you!” was Anthony’s quiet and Christian rejoinder. “Ah!” replied his assailant, furiously, “if God does not kill you, I’ll do it myself!” Some days afterwards Anthony met the same person in a narrow road, where two persons could hardly pass. “Now I shall be struck by him again,” he said to himself. But he was surprised, on approaching, to see this man, once so bitter towards him, reach out his hand and cry to him, in a tremulous voice, “Mr. Blanc, will you forgive me, and let all be over?” Thus this disciple of Christ, by gentle and peaceful words, had made a friend of an enemy. (Clerical Library.)


Verse 3

Ephesians 4:3

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The unity of the Spirit

By virtue of his having the Spirit, the believer is in union with every other spiritual man, and this is the unity which he is to endeavour to keep.

1. This unity of the Spirit is manifested in love. A husband and wife may be, through providence, cast hundreds of miles from one another, but there is a unity of spirit in them because their hearts are one. We, brethren, are divided many thousands of miles from the saints in Australia, America, and the South Sea, but, loving as brethren, we feel the unity of the Spirit.

2. This unity of the Spirit is caused by a similarity of nature. Find a drop of water glittering in the rainbow, leaping in the cataract, rippling in the rivulet, lying silent in the stagnant pool, or dashing in spray against the vessel’s side, that water claims kinship with every drop of water the wide world over, because it is the same in its elements; and even so there is a unity of the Spirit which we cannot imitate, which consists in our being “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” bearing in us the Holy Ghost as our daily quickener, and walking in the path of faith in the living God. Here is the unity of the Spirit, a unity of life, nature working itself out in love. This is sustained daily by the Spirit of God. He who makes us one, keeps us one. Every member of my body must have a communion with every other member of my body.

3. The unity of the Spirit will discover itself in prayer.

4. There is also a unity of praise.

5. This unity will soon discover itself in co-working. It was a motto with Bucer, “To love all in whom he could see anything of the Lord Jesus.” It is said of some men that they appear to have been born upon the mountains of Berber, for they do nothing but cause division; and baptized in the waters of Meribah, for they delight in causing strife. This is not the case with the genuine Christian; he cares only for the truth, for his Master, for the love of souls; and when these things are not imperilled, his own private likes or dislikes never affect him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Exhortation to unity

Let us here inquire--

I. Into the state and character of those to whom the advice of the text is given. The persons to whom the advice is given are all members of one body; they are members of Christ and of one another. All inhabited by one Spirit. Called in one hope of their calling. The property, the subjects, the servants of one Lord. Professing and possessing one faith. This God is “above” them “all,” superintending and governing them, although infinitely exalted: through them “all,” and they live and move and exist in Him; and “in them all,” for they are “an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

II. What this advice implies.

1. The “unity of the Spirit,” of which the apostle speaks, it should be observed, is an internal unity, an unity between the spirits of men. It may subsist, therefore, between persons of different nations, educations, conditions, etc.

2. It is an unity of affection--mutual love, viz., desire of, and delight in, each other--mutual sympathy.

3. It is an unity of intention; one and all must have the same end in view, the glory of God in our own salvation, and the salvation of others.

4. It is an unity of resolution to prosecute that end.

5. It is an unity of operation (1 Corinthians 3:9), their work in the field.

III. The reasonableness of this advice. Inhabited as they are by one Spirit, which can no more set them at variance with each other, than the soul which resides in the human body can set the members of it against each other. Called from similar misery to a similar state of safety and happiness, in the same way and manner: having one object of hope, and one hope, is it not reasonable they should be united? (Anon.)

The unity of the Spirit

1. Christians should strive for unity in faith and opinion. Lowliness of mind and patience will conduce to this; as pride, self-love, and impatience make men easily dissent in affection and opinion. Satan is constantly trying to stir up strife in the Church.

2. Means to be taken for the attainment of unity.

3. It is not enough for us to entertain peace; we must give diligent endeavour to compass and maintain it.

4. A peaceable disposition is an excellent means of concord. (Paul Bayne.)

How to get and maintain peace

1 Take heed of giving offence.

2. Avoid taking offence.

3. Guard against beginning any contention.

4. To keep peace, get pure hearts. (Paul Bayne.)

The unity of the Spirit: the bond of peace

I. What is to be kept. “The unity of the Spirit”--the unity of which the Holy Spirit is the Author: that oneness of believing men in Christ which is the Spirit’s new creation. It must be an unity corresponding in its nature and character to the nature and character of Him who is its Author and Creator.

1. Look at its outward manifestation.

2. The real seat of this unity is within, in the heart.

II. The unity of the spirit is to be kept.

1. There must be an endeavour to keep it. And the endeavour must be most earnest and most strenuous.

2. There is a bond provided for keeping this unity. The bond of peace. The endeavour, strenuous and sustained as it must be, is not to be the endeavour of violence or excitement. It is no desperate groping and struggling in the dark that is required. The unity of the Spirit is to be sedulously kept. But the keeping of it is to be quiet, calm, peaceful. The bond, the girdle, which is to be the means of keeping it, is peace. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

The unity of the Church

I. Observe, in the first place, there is much said in the Word of God on this very subject of the true unity of the children of God (John 17:20-23; Romans 14:19; Romans 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 3:1-3; Colossians 3:12-15). But there is an expression in the text, that I would not pass over: the apostle speaks of it us “the unity of the Spirit,” because He secretly inclines heart to heart in the children of God.

II. But, observe, secondly, some of those high motives that we have. The world thinks that we are full of discrepancies; that our differences are unutterable, and that we have no real unity. But we say that in the midst of it all there is a solid, real, substantial, veritable unity.

1. It is the unity of a flock. Many folds; but one flock.

2. It is the unity of one body. There are many members in that body.

3. It is the unity of a temple.

4. The unity of a family.

III. Observe we now, beloved, the precept given to us in the words of the text--“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And here I would desire to give tender counsel, that in order to bear with infirmities and to avoid all needless separations, all causeless divisions, I must be effectually called and renewed by the Holy Ghost. Observe, further, that the words imply difficulty. “Endeavouring.” It is a hard thing; it is easy when the love of Christ constrains, but in itself we find abundance of difficulty. How little can I understand my brother’s position! How little can I see a secret principle of his spirit! How little can I comprehend the prejudice that works through him; that he has been brought up in from his infancy. Labour for it in all things possible. It is not the surrender of principle; it is not the sacrifice of truth; it is not the giving up of conscience. No, beloved; that is a sort of union the Spirit of God never would sanction. Do not attempt that which is actually impossible. We may “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit” in a way that never can be attained. It is the unity of a flock; various are the grades in that flock. It is the unity of a temple; various are the stones in that temple. It is the unity of a body; various are the members of that body. It is the unity of a family; but all the family do not speak alike, all the family do not think alike. To attempt it, is to attempt that which is unattainable; and we forget that, although these things have their source in our sin and ignorance, yet the eternal God overrules them for good, and brings good, and educes good out of evil. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The unity of the Church of Christ

So long as imperfect men are gathered together in a Christian society--men of different types of character sad different powers, and with a special fondness for their own way; men liable to mistake excited feeling for intensity of conviction, and to treat their own opinions with the reverence due to absolute truth--they will require to be admonished to “endeavour,” etc.

I. The unity of the church. Spiritual--not formal.

1. Unity of life. Bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit; their affections set on things above, etc.

2. Unity of service. Christians have one Lord, towards whom they cherish one faith. He inspires the same loyalty; it is into His service they have been all baptized.

3. Unity of worship. We have not an unknown God; he that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father. We know Him to be righteous in all His works, and holy in all His ways. To worship is to perceive His excellence, and to love Him for it; to be strengthened by communion with Him, calmed by submission to Him.

II. How to preserve the unity of the Spirit.

1. By recognizing it.

2. By cherishing a peaceful mind. (A. Mackennal, D. D.)

The promotion of unity among members of thy same Church

If we are to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in the same Church, then we must avoid everything that would mar it. Gossip--gossip is a very ready means of separating friends from one another. Let us endeavour to talk of something better than each other’s characters. Dionysius went down to the Academy to Plato. Plato asked what he came for. “Why,” said Dionysius, “I thought that you, Plato, would be talking against me to your students.” Plato made this answer: “Dost thou think, Dionysius, we are so destitute of matter to converse upon that we talk of thee?” Truly we must be very short of subjects when we begin to talk of one another. It is better far that we magnify Christ than detract from the honour of His members. We must lay aside all envy. Multitudes of good people liked the Reformation, but they said they did not like the idea of its being done by a poor miserable monk, like Martin Luther; and so there are many who like to see good things done, and good works carried on, but do not care to see it done by that upstart young brother, or that poor man, or that woman who has no particular rank or state. As a Church let us shake off envyings; let us all rejoice in God’s light; and as for pride--if any of you have grown vainglorious of late, shake it off. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Wherein the unity of the Church consists

This unity, whereof the apostle speaks, consists in submission to one single influence or spirit. Wherein consists the unity of the body? Consists it not in this, that there is one life uniting, making all the separate members one? Take away the life, and the members fall to pieces; they are no longer one; decomposition begins, and every element separates, no longer having any principle of cohesion or union with the rest. There is not one of us who, at some time or other, has not been struck with the power there is in a single living influence. Have we never, for instance, felt the power wherewith the orator unites and holds together a thousand men as if they were but one; with flashing eyes and throbbing hearts all attentive to his words, and by the difference of their attitudes, by the variety of expressions of their countenances, testifying to the unity of that single living feeling with which he had inspired them? Whether it be indignation, whether it be compassion, or whether it be enthusiasm, that one living influence made the thousand for the time one. Have we not heard how, even in this century in which we live, the various and conflicting feelings of the people of this country were concentrated into one, when the threat of foreign invasion had fused down and broken the edges of conflict and variance, and from shore to shore was heard one cry of terrible defiance, and the different classes and orders of this manifold and mighty England were as one? Have we not heard how the mighty winds hold together as if one the various atoms of the desert, so that they rush like a living thing across the wilderness? And this, brethren, is the unity of the Church of Christ, the subjection to the one uniting Spirit of its God. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Unity among dissimilarities

Unity, is that which subsists between things not similar and alike, but things dissimilar and unlike. There is no unity in the separate atoms of a sand pit; they are things similar; there is an aggregate or collection of them. Even if they be hardened in a mass they are not one, they do not form a unity; they are simply a mass. There is no unity in a flock of sheep; it is simply a repetition of a number of things similar to each other. If you strike off from a thousand five hundred, or if you strike off nine hundred, there is nothing lest of unity, because there never was unity. A flock of one thousand or a flock of five is just as much a flock as any other number. On the other hand, let us turn to the unity of peace which the apostle speaks of, and we find it is something different; it is made up of dissimilar members, without which dissimilarity there could be no unity. Each is imperfect in itself, each supplying what it has in itself to the deficiencies and wants of the other members. So, if you strike off from this body any one member, if you cut off an arm, or tear out an eye, instantly the unity is destroyed; you have no longer an entire and perfect body, there is nothing but a remnant of the whole, a part, a portion; no unity whatever. This will help us to understand the unity of the Church of Christ. If the ages and the centuries of the Church of Christ, if the different churches whereof it was composed, if the different members of each Church were similar, one in this, that they all held the same views, all spoke the same words, all viewed truth from the same side, they would have no unity; but would simply be an aggregate of atoms, the sand-pit over again. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Advantages of unity

Great is the force of unity, peace, and concord. One man serves to strengthen and stablish another, like many staves bound together in one. Many sticks or staves bound together in one bundle are not easily broken; but sever them and pull them asunder, they are soon broken with little strength. Thus the case in all societies, whether it be in the Church, or commonwealth, or in the private family. (W. Attersol.)

How unity is to be attained

An apparent union may be produced by none thinking at all, as well as by all thinking alike; but such a union, as Leighton observes, is not produced by the active heat of the spirit, but is a confusion rather arising from the want of it; not a fusing together, but a freezing together, as cold congregates all bodies how heterogeneous soever, sticks, stones, and water: but heat makes first a separation of different things, and then unites those that are of the same nature. (H. G. Salter.)

Real unity

1. ll real unity is manifold. Feelings in themselves identical find countless forms of expression; for instance, sorrow is the same feeling throughout the human race; but the Oriental prostrates himself upon the ground, throws dust upon his head, tears his garments, is not ashamed to break out into the most violent lamentations. In the north we rule our grief; suffer not even a quiver to be seen upon the lip or brow, and consider calmness as the appropriate expression of manly grief. Nay, two sisters of different temperament will show their grief diversely; one will love to dwell upon the theme of the qualities of the departed; the other feels it a sacred sorrow, on which the lips are sealed forever. Yet would it not be idle to ask which of them has the truest affection? Are they not both in their own way true? In the East, men take off their sandals in devotion; we exactly reverse the procedure, and uncover the head. The Oriental prostrates himself in the dust before his sovereign; even before his God the Briton only kneels: yet would it not again be idle to ask which is the essential and proper form of reverence? Is not true reverence in all cases modified by the individualities of temperament and education? Should we not say in all these forms worketh one and the same spirit of reverence?

2. All living unity is spiritual, not formal; not sameness but manifoldness. You may have a unity shown in identity of form; but it is a lifeless unity. There is a sameness on the sea beach--that unity which the ocean waves have produced by curling and forcibly destroying the angularities of individual form, so that every stone presents the same monotony of aspect, and you must fracture each again in order to, distinguish whether you hold in your hand a mass of flint or a fragment of basalt. There is no life in unity such as this. But as soon as you arrive at a unity that is living, the form becomes more complex, and you search in vain for uniformity. In the parts it must be found, if found at all, in the sameness of pervading life. The illustration given by the apostle is that of the human body--a higher unity, he says, by being composed of many members, than if every member were but a repetition of a single type. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Spiritual unity

The union for which the Lord Jesus prayed was a union of spiritual men--a union not of mere professors but of His true disciples--a union in the Lord. Any other union is little worth. A union of professors with professors of one dead Church with another dead Church is but a filling of the charnel house, a heaping of the compost pile. A union of dead professors with living saints, this union of life and death is but to pour the green and putrid water of the stagnant pool into the living spring. It is not to graft new branches into the goodly vine, but to bandage on dead boughs that will but deform it. It is not to gather new wheat into the garner, but to blend the wheat and chaff again together. It is not to gather new sheep into the fold, but it is to borrow the shepherd’s brand and imprint it on the dogs and wolves and call them sheep. The identifying of christened pagans with the peculiar people has done much dishonour to the Redeemer, has deluded many souls, and made it much more difficult for the Church to convince the world. It was not this amalgamation of the Church and the world which the Saviour contemplated when He prayed for His people’s unity. It was a union of spiritual men--a holy unity springing from oneness with Himself. Union with Christ is an indispensable preliminary to union with the Church of Christ. An individual must be joined to Christ before he can be a true member of the Church of Christ. And those individuals and those Churches which are the most closely joined to Christ are the nearest to one another, and will be the first to coalesce in the fulfilment of Christ’s prayer--“May they all be one!” (Hamilton.)

Need of unity

“Ane stick’ll never burn! Put more wood on the fire, laddie; ane stick’ll never burn!” my old Scotch grandfather used to say to his boys. Sometimes, when the fire in the heart burns low, and love to the Saviour grows faint, it would grow warm and bright again if it could only touch another stick. “Where two or three are gathered together” the heart burns; love kindles to a fervent heat. “Ane stick’ll never burn” as a great, generous fire will be sure to.

Si collidimur, frangimur

“If we clash, we are broken,” according to the old fable of the two earthen pots swimming in the sea. “The daughter of dissension is dissolution,” said Nazianzen; “and every subdivision in point of religion is a strong weapon in the hand of the contrary party,” as he (the historian), upon the Council of Trent, wisely observed. Castor and Pollux, if they appear not together it presageth a storm. (J. Trapp.)

Unity aids work

By union the pyramids of Egypt, the gates of Thebes, and the columns of the Parthenon were reared, and oceans crossed, and valleys filled up. (Dr. Cumming.)

Strength of union

There was a small band of three hundred cavalry in the Theban army, who proved a great terror to any enemy with whom they were called to fight. They were companions, who had bound themselves together by a vow of perpetual friendship, determined to stand together until the last drop of their blood was spilled upon the ground. They were called “The Sacred Battalion, or the Band of Lovers,” and they were bound alike by affection for the State and fidelity for each other, and thus achieved marvels, some of which seem almost fabulous. What a name for a militant Church, “The Sacred Battalion!” It is when she is thus animated by one spirit that she is victorious.

Love of Christian unity

The attachment of the Rev. John Elliot, usually called “The Apostle to the Indians,” to peace and union among Christians was exceedingly great. When he heard ministers complain that some in their congregations were too difficult for them, the substance of his advice would be, “Brother, compass them. Brother, learn the meaning of those three little words--bear, forbear, forgive.” His love of peace, indeed, almost led him to sacrifice right itself.

Unity is strength

Separate the atoms which make the hammer and each would fall on the stone as a snow flake; but welded into one, and wielded by the firm arm of the quarryman, it will break the massive rocks asunder. Divide the waters of Niagara into distinct and individual drops, and they would be no mere than the falling rain, but in their united body they would quench the fires of Vesuvius, and have some to spare for the volcanoes of other mountains. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

False unity

Divisions are bad things. Do not fancy that I have any sympathy with those who, confounding charity with indifference, regard matters of religion as not worth disputing about. Such a state of death is still worse than war. Give me the roaring storm rather than the peace of the grave. Division is better than such union as the frost produces, when with its cold and icy fingers it binds up into one dead, congealed, heterogeneous mass, stones and straws, pearls and pebbles, gold and silver, iron and clay, substances that have nothing in common. Yet divisions are bad things. They give birth to bad passions. They cause Ephraim to envy Judah, and Judah to vex Ephraim. Therefore, what we ought to aim at is to heal them, and when we cannot heal them, to soften their asperities. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Unity in the bond of peace

Bind not thine hands, but bind thy heart and mind. Bind thyself to thy brother. They bear all things lightly who are bound together by love. Bind thyself to him, and him to thee. For to this end was the Spirit given, that He might unite those who are separated by race and diversity of habits: old and young, rich and poor, child, youth, and man, male and female, and every soul become in a manner one, and more entirely so than if they were of one body. For this spiritual relation is far higher than natural relation, and the perfectness of the union more entire; because the conjunction of the soul, being simple and accordant, is more perfect. And how is this unity preserved? “In the bond of peace.” It is not possible that unity should exist in enmity and discord. St. Paul would have us linked and tied one to another; not simply that we be at peace, not simply that we love one another, but that in all there should be but one soul. A glorious bond is this: with this bond let us bind ourselves together, alike to one another and to God. (Chrysostom.)

Need of harmony

The following incident in the life of Lord Nelson contains a lesson for Christians. On the day before the battle of Trafalgar, Nelson took Collingwood and Rotherham, who were at variance, to a spot where they could see the fleet opposed to them. “Yonder,” said the Admiral, “are your enemies; shake hands and be friends like good Englishmen.”

The fulness of the unity

Were all Churches and church members concerned to “keep the unity of His Spirit,” a bond of peace, strong as the everlasting firmament, would encircle them. But how is it possible that we should worthily conceive of the riches comprehended in “the unity of the Spirit”? We have seen a company of a thousand musicians and singers playing and singing one tune in harmony. The persons were distinct, the instruments distinct, and the voices very distinct, and yet all were a composed unity. An army of a hundred thousand men, in movement and operation, may be a perfect unity. But in order to form an idea of the “unity of the Spirit,” we must imagine that the whole universe, visible and invisible, with all its distinctions, elements, powers, and virtues were dissolved in one sea of being. For all have sprung from such a sea, and, in the Spirit, are such a sea of living, blissful unity. Even in the sphere of striving, corrupt nature, we see enough to make us wonder at the variety which the Spirit carries in the bosom of His unity. For all the variety, in earth and heaven, is wrought “by One and the self-same Spirit.” The new growths, the joy and the glory, which constitute our summer, are so much of the fulness of the Spirit opened to our view. The creatures in different elements and latitudes are so distinct that they have no communion with each other; but they are all One in the Spirit which animates them. The sea and its contents, the innumerable tribes of the air, and all the species found on our hills and in our plains and valleys, are but very partial manifestations of the wealth and variety of the Spirit. The all things of the Father, and all things of Creation, and the all things in Christ’s finished work are included in the Spirit’s unity. Pause and contemplate “the river of God’s pleasures,” “the fulness of joy” which the perfect know above. Whatever our understandings may hold as truth, is but a mere division of this unity. “The unity of the Spirit” is “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” and can only be apprehended by the affections. (J. Pulsford.)


Verse 4

Ephesians 4:4

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

The seven unities of spiritual life

1. One body.” Now the body is for our habitation, and it is for our action upon the world around, and it is for our reception of influences that the world around exerts upon ourselves. The body is for habitation, for activity, and for reception. If, then, in our own personal body our spirit so dwells that all the various organs work together for a common end, which end is good, then our body is what God designed it to be. And if in a group of persons the common life actually resides in each individual, so that each for the rest works willingly and earnestly towards procuring a common good, then there is a “body.” So, if through our bodily frame we act well upon the world, the use for which God designed the body is being fulfilled: and if our various senses are inlets of wisdom and of happiness from the world without, then again the use for which God designed the body is being fulfilled. And if a group of men are acting upon the world by their various individualities, combining by one thought to promote one good, they are a body--the use God designed in forming men into societies is being fulfilled. So, too, if they are receiving from without the various influences of knowledge and of happiness, they are as one body--the use that God designed is being fulfilled. We notice then, again, with respect to the body, that some of its members are more essential to existence than others, and yet they are all essential to completeness of existence. And one last thing concerning the body we may say, which is this--that though particular works require particular organs, or a connection of such organs, these are always best done when the general health and aptitude of the body are highest. Thus, if you have to work as a player upon instruments of music, or work as a painter with colours and with the pencil, the hand is requisite; but will it be merely the hand to which your excellence is due? Certainly not. If there be no general fineness of your senses, there cannot be any peculiar excellence in your specialty. Whatever be that specialty of a man which requires a certain organ or group of organs, his work will always be of the best sort according to the general health of his bodily sensibilities, the general harmony of his bodily powers. And so it will be in the works of a spiritual society. Whatever we require to be done, though it may, so to say, need only a part of our organism to fulfil it, that will be best done when our general state is healthiest. If we be full of bodily excellency, then any particular work will be most excellent.

2. There is “one Spirit.” Were there not one life in the root, the blade, and the ear, there could be no progression from the root towards the full corn. Were there not one life throughout the bodily frame, there could not be this union of activities to promote common advantage. There is one life in each thing that lives; nay, it could not be called living, were it not for this fact of internal unity. Now, speaking of ourselves completely, and not of the animal man merely, we say that if there be a disturbance in the spirit, the unity of life will show itself in the distress and groans of experience; but we say also, that whatever we do spiritually aright, whether it be to sing, to pray, to read, to give gifts, to discuss, to advise, to study--whatsoever we do aright, the benefit of the part will produce a blessing for the whole. Especially is the Spirit called the Holy Spirit. Now, the first thing required of us in preparing what is holy is separation; and the next thing is conjunction. The soul disunites from the world, and comes into conjunction with the Lord God.

3. “One hope.” “Ye are called in one hope of your calling.” A happy thought that is, that we are called. We have not in uncertainty come and asked, Is there any heaven, and which is the way there? Is there any God, and is He friendly? But there has come a call to us, and it is a call upwards. That is the only call that is a sufficient one for men. It is the call to glory and virtue that is a sufficing call for man. We are called, then; and as replying to the Divine call, with our active feet and our ready hands, we partake in a hope. Now, what is this hope? We hope for the redemption of the body, and the full perfection of the spirit; and as we are already much interested in one another, it is not simply the full redemption of our own flesh and blood, and the full perfection of our own individual limited spirit, that satisfies us, but we hope for a wise and happy world; we hope for a full and abiding joy. We are all called to do good--all called to be good; and it is quite certain that we can never be satisfied until individually there be a perfect spirit in a harmonious and healthful frame, and socially, also, there be a perfect spirit in a harmonious and healthful frame. This is our hope, and it is a hope of which we need not be ashamed.

4. “One Lord,”--the Lord Jesus Christ. One Lord; but men have not been at one in their thoughts of Him; they have not been at one in their conduct, which they have professed was governed by Him. This Lord has brought strife into the world. Now, to reconcile opposed persons is very hard, but to reconcile opposed opinions much easier; for truths have no animosity to each other; but persons, although their interests may be identical, are often, and soon, and very, angry with one another. Now, we must seek to reconcile truths in our own mind. Of course, as they are in the Divine mind which contains all truths in eternal harmony, there is no reconciliation required; but it will require much effort to make our little minds in some humble manner a transcript of the bright Divine mind.

5. “One faith”: by which we adhere to the one Lord. Faith is at once an expression of a weakness that we acknowledge, and of a strength which we trust and receive. It is, then, our adherence to the one Lord, who in His humanity gives us all necessary example and sympathy, and in His Divinity sustains us with a fund of strength that can never be exhausted.

6. “One baptism.” The actions that pertain to baptism, like the opinions that pertain to faith, are of comparatively little moment; but baptism itself is essential, because it is the application of the purifying element to the soul. Now, there are two principal elements, the water and the fire, that are applied for purification; and surely any man who comes out of the water after baptism, or has used the water thoroughly in any way for baptism, may say to himself, “This very water that cleanses me could drown me; this very water, whose action is so gentle, could sweep me away, as with a mighty rage.” In its gentle application, water removes impurities from us, as still capable of being cleansed; but should we become utterly impure, instead of washing in the wave to be made clean, we are washed away by it, that the earth may be cleansed.

7. Then we may speak last of all of the “one God,”--the one God and Father of us all, who is over all in His creative love, who is through all in the actions of His multiform but harmonious providence, and who is in us all, making the body of the spiritual Church to be the residence of His own love and truth. The Father of all: is the great Fatherhood of God yet manifested to the world? No, Is even His unity as the one Lord of creation manifest to the world? No. And are we approaching--for this is surely a suitable thought to allow ourselves in the closing moments of this discoarse--to a time truly catholic? Is society getting more catholic, or more conglomerate; more of a Church, or more of a medley? Are things becoming more in common; the spirit becoming more truly holy? (T. T. Lynch.)

Gospel unities

1. There is one body--the Church.

2. One Spirit--the Holy Ghost.

3. One hope--the resurrection from the dead.

4. One Lord--Jesus Christ.

5. One faith--the Christian religion.

6. One baptism--Christian baptism.

7. One God and Father of us all--the Lord God Almighty.

(a) He is worthy of our worship.

(b) He is worthy of all reverence in our worship.

The unity of the Church

The Church is one. When the apostle wrote this Epistle there were societies of Christians--Churches--in Rome, in Corinth, in Thessalonica, in Philippi, in Colosse, in Ephesus, in the cities and towns of Galatia, in the Syrian Antioch, and in Jerusalem. There were less famous Churches in other cities. They stood apart from each other; every separate Church had authority over its own affairs, maintained its own discipline, elected its own bishops and deacons, organized its own worship. As yet there was no confederation of these independent societies under any central ecclesiastical authority. Their unity was not constituted by an external organization, but by their common possession of the Spirit of God, and it is therefore called by the apostle “the unity of the Spirit.” He has spoken of the unity of the Church in the earlier part of the Epistle. The exclusion of the pagan races from “the commonwealth of Israel” had ceased; “the middle wall of partition” which separated them from the sacred court in which the elect nation had nearer access to God had been broken down. There was now one city of the saints, of which all Christian men of every nation were citizens; one household of God in which they were all children; one holy temple “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” into the sacred walls of which they were all built “for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” He has asserted this unity in a still bolder form; for after speaking of the glory of Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, “far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world but also in that which is to come,” he described the Church as “the Body” of Christ, the organ of His life and thought and will, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” And now he returns to this great conception. The “Body” of Christ, he says, is “one”; the “Spirit” of Goal who dwells in it is “one”; and in harmony with this unity of the “Body” of Christ and this unity of the “Spirit” who dwells in it, the great “hope” of all Christian men, of all who have been called into the Divine kingdom and have obeyed the call, is “one.” There is “one Lord,” only one--Christ Jesus the Prince and the Saviour of men; “one faith”--not a common creed, but a common trust in Christ for eternal righteousness and eternal glory; “one baptism,” and one only, the same rite by which Christ visibly claims men as belonging to the race for which He died, and over which He reigns, is administered to all. There is “one God and Father of all”; we all worship before the same eternal throne, and in Christ we are all the children of the same Divine Father; His sovereignty is absolute and supreme--He is “over all”; the power of His life penetrates the whole Body of Christ--He is “through all”; and His home is in all Christians--He is “in all.” (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The communion of saints

Believers in Christ are bound together in the ties of a holy brotherhood. Let us look a little at the nature of this communion.

I. With respect to the condition. “There is one Body and one Spirit”; and the exercise of that Spirit and the execution of His office are the same in all--to show them the things of Christ, that thus through Christ they may hold communion with the Father. The whole Body of the faithful are joined together in communion with the Father of spirits. They all meet at the same throne; they all unite in one common feeling, and join in one common song of praise.

II. Their pursuits. The Church is dispersed throughout the world; it is separated by difference of language, rank, age, circumstances; but being partakers off one Spirit and one faith, they are of one heart and one mind in the gospel, and they unite in the pursuit of God’s glory.

III. Their enjoyments. Here again their hearts are one. Christ Jesus is the centre of their joy. (William Reeve, M. A.)

One Body and one Spirit

The Church or Body is one. There are not two rival communities. The Body, with its many members and complex array of organs of very different position, function, and honour, is yet one. The Church, no matter where it is situated, or in what age of the world it exists--no matter of what race, blood, or colour are its members, or how various the tongues in which its services are presented--is one, and remains so, unaffected by distance or time, or physical, intellectual, and social distinctions. And as in the Body there is only one Spirit, one living principle--no double consciousness, no dualism of intelligence, motive, and action--so the one Spirit of God dwells in the one Church, and there is, therefore, no rivalry of administration, and there are no conflicting claims. And whatever the gifts and graces conferred, whatever variety of aspect they may assume, all possess a delicate self-adaptation to times and circumstances, for they are all from the “one Spirit,” having unity of origin and oneness of design and result. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The oneness of Christ’s Church

The real spiritual Church of the Redeemer is one Body. All the members of that Church partake of the same grace, adhere to the same rule of faith, are washed in the same Blood, are filled with the same hopes, and shall dwell at length in the same blessed inheritance. Heretics and ungodly men may find their way into the Church, but they remain really separated from its “invisible conjunction of charity.” There may be variations in what Barrow calls “lesser matters of ceremony and discipline,” and yet this essential unity is preserved. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The Church is not a material Body

In contemplating this Body you must divest yourselves of a material idea. What we call matter is by no means essential to living organisms. On the contrary, it is essential to the reality, unity, and permanence of a body that it be not material. “There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial.” But the celestial is much more strictly a body than the terrestrial. For a celestial body is incapable of decay, but an earthly body soon collapses, and falls into an inorganic mass. A body may be material, or psychical, or spiritual. The material is the lowest, and least worthy of being called a body. Strictly speaking, matter is an apparition. It is essentially deficient of the higher qualities of being, and consequently cannot maintain its integrity. It is a dense vapour that “appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away.” As our own material body is a veil hiding another body, in like manner, the material universe is a covering upon a more glorious universe. The sanctuary, which was so constructed as to be a figure of creation, had for its outmost covering rough animal skins; but by lifting a series of coverings, you came to gold, and within all was the Divine Presence. Peter, James, and John were permitted to see that our Lord had, within His material body, a divinely luminous one, which was His true body. We are called to become citizens of the kingdom which is the inner and true body of the universe. This is the kingdom of heaven, which our Lord preached and opened to men. Our souls live, move, and have their being in this inner sphere. We are a part of it. (J. Pulsford.)

Sins against unity

All sins against unity are sins against the Holy Ghost. (Dr. Hedge.)

Union is strength

If you consider how it is that a hempen twine is made strong enough to draw a loaded waggon, or to bear the immense strain of a ship as she rides at anchor, you will see a significancy that perhaps did not occur to you before, in the use which Holy Scripture makes of this work of human art as an emblem. It is formed of many threads twisted together into one cord, and these cords are again combined into one cable. Each thread is in itself so weak, that a child could break, or the slightest weight would burst it; but when the threads are turned into one rope, their united strength is such as would have seemed incredible. “A three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” The truth is just before us that union is strength. They who are weak and helpless singly are able to produce a vast result, when they combine their powers. It was in order to restrain His sinful creatures from carrying out what they had combined with the intention of doing, that God frustrated the building of the tower of Babel, and scattered them over the face of the earth, and He gathers together again His elect people in one body in Christ, that by uniting their various energies in one work, and for one end, they may strengthen each other’s hands, and effectually “bruise under foot” the powers of darkness. (Bishop Trower.)

Christian work promotes unity

Captain Moreton, to illustrate the concord that came from union in work, retailed the following incident he had heard from Mr. Macgregor (Rob Roy). He was walking one day on the southern English coast, and fell across some seafaring men quarrelling about the way in which a button had been sewn on one of their coats. They were on the point of coming to blows, when a cry was raised that there was a ship on the Goodwin Sands, and that the lifeboat was needed. Instantly the trumpery quarrel was at an end, and all were heartily at work doing their best to save their shipwrecked brethren.


Verse 5

Ephesians 4:5

One Lord, one faith, one baptism.

The Lord of the Church

From the beginning, the Church is constituted of all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I. How is the Lordship of Jesus constituted? Not by the suffrages of men; but by the will of God. And it is the reward of His servantship.

II. What does this Lordship comprise? Master, Teacher, Leader, Captain, Prince. In all things He is preeminent. In and over the Church He, and He only, has the right to reign.

III. How is this Lordship essential to the Church? The saints who form the one Body, and are actuated by the one Spirit, and are called in the hope of having one Lord, are companions in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. They are servants under one Master; disciples under one Teacher; soldiers under one Captain; subjects under one Lord. He is preeminent and paramount. And it is His Lordship that gives tone to their character, firmness to their testimony, steadfastness to their hues, and direction in all things.

IV. The practical uses of this doctrine.

1. It stirs gratitude.

2. It requires obedience.

3. It promotes equity and fair play among Christians.

4. It binds together Christians in unity.

There are differences of service and ministration rendered, but the same Lord is the rallying point of the whole kingdom. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The five points of universal charity

I. One faith. This may be interpreted of the principle of faith as applied to revelation in general, and to Christ, the great object of that revelation, in particular. This faith is “precious.” It unites to a precious Saviour. It is precious, as the medium of deriving the greatest benefits.

II. One baptism. We prefer to consider this as the baptism of the Spirit; the sign being put for the thing signified.

III. One hope. This is termed, the one hope of their calling; namely, the one object to which they are all called, and which, therefore, they all have in hope, This is heaven, and is rather a state than a place, being two-fold, the one introductory, the other future and permanent.

IV. One Lord. This is Jesus Christ, viewed as a Saviour by faith and hope, and regarded as Lord by the principle of Christian submission and obedience. His supremacy, all true Christians joyfully acknowledge.

V. One God, and father of all. Here the apostle leads Christians up to the source of human redemption; and the ultimate object of all religious worship and homage. With God the Father, the plan of our salvation originated. Our Saviour perpetually refers His mediation to the will and appointment of His Father. “I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. The work that My Father giveth Me to do,” I do it. And even now, He carries on the process of human redemption in heaven, entirely in accordance with the will of the Father (John 5:19). Let us follow this epitome with some reflections on the agreement of Christians in these several particulars.

1. How great must be the work of their salvation! What great objects without are concerned in it; what great dispositions are wrought within them in relation to these objects to accomplish it! Here is God the Father intending it from eternity, Jesus Christ procuring it in time by His mediation, and a glorious heaven in future for its completion and enjoyment. Here is the Holy Spirit bringing their minds into contact with these objects, so as to be deeply influenced by them, through the medium of revealed truth, by the power of faith; which faith is expressly said to be of the operation of the Spirit of God, and the effect of the exceeding greatness of His power: and here is a supernatural principle of hope given them for the promotion of the same object.

2. What provision is made by these objects for the promotion of Christians in holiness? All the means and agencies requisite for that purpose are here at hand. The principle of faith with which they are endowed renders every part of the Bible that is favourable to holiness capable of being brought to bear on them. The principle of hope also is a great help and incentive to holiness. It saves us from being drawn to sin by the allurements of the world, presenting something infinitely more captivating before us; and it saves us from being driven to sin by its terrors, suggesting in such ease the affecting idea of the loss of its great object. Particularly does it influence to holiness by leading the mind to converse with holy objects, which must have a tendency to assimilate it to them.

3. What a foundation is laid, by the agreement of Christians in these particulars, for a mutual affection! The points of agreement among Christians, compared with those of disagreement, are much fewer in number but far greater in importance.

4. What a fearful thought is the fact of Christ’s lordship to the ungodly! They who neglect Him, little think of His present grandeur, and of His future glory. (J. Leifchild.)

The Church of the future

I believe in the Church of the future. I think that there will come a day, at no distant time, when from the watchtowers of Asia, once the land of many lords, there shall roll out the exultant chorus, “One Lord!” When from the watchtowers of Europe, distracted by divisions in the Faith, there shall roll up the great chorus, “One Faith!” When from the watchtowers of America, torn by controversies respecting the initiatory rite into the vestibule Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, there shall burst forth the inspiring chorus, “One Baptism!” When from the watchtowers of Africa, as though the God of all the human race were not her God, as if the Father of the entire family were not her Father--when from the watchtowers of neglected and despised Africa, there shall roll forth the chorus, “One God and Father of us all!” When the sacramental host, scattered all over the face of this lower creation, shall spring upon their feet, and, seizing the harp of thanksgiving, they shall join in the chorus that shall be responded to by the angels, “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all; to whom be glory, dominion, and majesty, and blessing forever.” (A. Cookman.)


Verse 6

Ephesians 4:6

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

The universal Fatherhood of believers

I. A truth proclaimed by the gospel.

II. A truth manifoldly confirmed by Christian experience.

1. The Divine Father is over all His children. Fatherhood the ultimate truth concerning God on which all others rest, and out of which they grow. Expressive of

2. The Divine Father is through all His children. This preposition suggests movement and instrumentality.

3. The Divine Father is in all His children.

One God and Father

The ideas connected with God and Father are here joined beautifully in the same person--power and love. Majesty is softened with tenderness, and the splendours of the Divinity tempered by the condescensions of paternal love. This principle is indeed wonderfully exemplified in all God’s dealings with the human race since the beginning of the world. The entire Jewish theocracy was the clothing the splendours of the present Ruler under the forms of a carnal ritualism. Whenever, in the old Testament, the glory of the Lord appears, two things take place--the sinful creature is laid in the dust, and then a word of comfort comes from the excellent glory: power is tempered with grace; the majesty of Jehovah with the human heartedness of the Father. Thus it was with Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5-9); Ezekiel fell prostrate (Ezekiel 3:23); and Daniel fainted and was sick certain days (Daniel 8:17-27); John, the beloved, fell down as dead before the glory of his Master (Revelation 1:17); and even the fierce murderer of the saints (Acts 9:4-5) was overwhelmed by the manifested glory. It is a source of comfort to remark that in these and all such cases there is ever some word or act of kindness on the part of God to raise up and strengthen His trembling creatures. It is the realizing of the name, “God and Father.” This is, indeed, the principle of Incarnation. The awful glory of the incorruptible God is tempered, softened, humanized in the person of Christ. (W. Graham, D. D.)

The Fatherhood of God

There are degrees of Fathership; or rather, there are such different degrees of the development of a Father’s love as make new orders in the relationship. He is the Father of the inanimate creation. Job calls Him the Father of the rain. In a higher sense and measure, He is the Father of the whole human race. All are the creatures of His hand; all are the subjects of His special providence; for all Jesus died. But the believer says it as a heathen or man of the world never says it. Or, see it again in this way. God has only one begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As many as believe are united to Jesus Christ; they become members of that mystical body. So they become sons by a double process, and by virtue of their union with Christ they are sons indeed. Therefore to them in a further degree God is Father. I do not say He is a reconciled Father to them, that He did not need (that is not in the Bible), but they are reconciled children to Him. There are two persons who best know what it is to say “Father.” One is a little, simple, trusting child, “of the womb of the morning,” who has not yet unlearnt the faith of his infancy. The other is a penitent, rising up from his sin, going back to his home--“I will arise, and go to my Father, and will say unto Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.” I believe the remedy of all sorrow and almost all sin will be to think of God more as a Father. But this is not the line of thought along which I wish to take you now, but it is this, that God is the common Father of us all. Surely it would be a great thing if we could have it always before us--“One God and Father of all.” There is a great deal of harshness of opinion in the world just now, and men are very busy unchurching and un-Christianizing one another. The rich speak of the poor as “the lower orders,” and the poor--partly in consequence because they think the rich look down upon them--the poor dislike the rich much more than the rich dislike the poor. But ought this to be where all are one family? Do we call brothers and sisters “lower orders”? At this moment, have you any disagreement with any living man? have you any quarrel? Now think--That person has the same Father that I have; how patient that Father has been with that man; how very patient God has been with me; and is this the way, as a child of God, I should act to another child of the same God? There are deep mysteries in God’s providence--why some are heathen and some are Christian, some know nothing and some know much, some have so many advantages and some have so exceedingly few. But let us never forget the Word, and all it tells, and all it teaches us to do--“One God and Father of us all.” I know nothing which brings heaven so near. Here are we on earth trying to say, and we ought to say, every day, “Our Father.” And up there, just inside the blue veil, the hundred forty-and-four thousand have “the Father’s name on their foreheads.” Was this the reason why Christ taught us to say, “Our Father”? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

God the Father of all

The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy. The lowly pine on the mountain top waves its sombre boughs, and cries, “Thou art my sun.” And the little meadow violet lifts its cup of blue, and whispers with its perfumed breath, “Thou art my sun.” And the grain in a thousand fields rustles in the wind, and makes answer, “Thou art my sun.” So God sits effulgent in heaven, not for a favoured few, but for the universe of life; and there is no creature so poor or so low that he may not look up with childlike confidence and say, “My Father, Thou art mine.” (H. W. Beecher.)

God is above all

When Bulstrode Whitelock was embarking, in the year 1653, as ambassador for Sweden, he was much disturbed in his mind, as he rested at Harwich on the preceding night, which was stormy, while he reflected on the distracted state of the nation. It happened that a good and confidential servant slept in an adjacent bed, who, finding that his master could not sleep, at length said, “Pray, sir, will you give me leave to ask you a question?” “Certainly.” “Pray, sir, don’t you think that God governed the world very well before you came into it?” “Undoubtedly.” “And pray, sir, don’t you think that He will govern it quite as well when you are gone out of it?” “Certainly.” “Then, sir, don’t you think you may trust Him to govern it properly as long as you live?” To this last question Whitelock had nothing to reply, but, turning himself about, soon fell fast asleep, till he was aroused and called to embark.


Verse 7

Ephesians 4:7

But unto every one of us is grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Grace determining function

I. The function or office of any Christian in the church depends upon the gift which he possesses.

II. This gift originates in the grace of Christ.

1. It is not merely by nature or education.

2. Nor is it the reward of desert.

3. Still less is it arbitrary or capricious.

III. Therefore the position and task determined by this grace should be accepted with grateful unquestioning obedience.

1. Every Christian has received some gift fitting him for usefulness.

2. Loyalty and faith towards the Head of the Church demands that he should make the utmost use of it.

3. By so doing he is the more certain to receive increase of grace for further and higher service. “Every gift of the Spirit is a prophecy of greater gifts.” (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The gift of Christ

“The gift of Christ” is the gift which He confers. That gift is measured, and each individual receives according to the sovereign will of the Supreme distributor. And whether the measure be great or small, whether its contents be of more brilliant endowment or of humbler and unnoticed talent--all is equally Christ’s gift, and of Christ’s adjustment, and all is equally indispensable to the union and edification of that Body in which there is “no schism.” The law of the Church is essential unity in the midst of circumstantial variety. Differences of faculty or temperament, education or susceptibility, are not superseded. Each gift in its own place completes the unity. What one devises another may plead for, while a third may act out the scheme; so that sagacity, eloquence, and enterprise form a “three-fold cord, not easily broken.” It is so in the material creation--the little is as essential to symmetry as the great--the star as well as the sun--the raindrop equally with the ocean, and the hyssop no less than the cedar. The pebble has its place as fittingly as the mountain, and colossal forms of life are surrounded with the tiny insect whose term of existence is limited to the summer twilight, Why should the possession of this grace lead to self-inflation? It is simply Christ’s gift. The amount and character of “grace” possessed by others ought surely to create no uneasiness nor jealousy, for it is of Christ’s measurement as well as of His bestowment, and every form and quantity of it as it descends from the one source is indispensable to the harmony of the Church. The one Lord will not bestow conflicting graces, nor mar nor disturb, by the repulsive antipathy of His gifts, that unity which Himself creates and exemplifies. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Gifts differ--be natural

Now you that have lately been converted, do not go and learn all the pretty phrases that we are accustomed to use. Strike out your own course. Be yourself. “But I should be odd.” You need not mind that. All the trees that God makes are odd. The Dutch chip them round, or make them into peacocks, but that style of gardening is not to our mind. Some people say, “What a lovely tree.” I say, “What a horribly ugly thing it is.” Why not let the tree grow as God would have it. Do not clip yourselves round or square, but keep your freshness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Use your own gift

It is said that in Derby resides Mr. Thomas Eyre, a veteran in the temperance cause, for forty years an abstainer and an earnest worker, but unable now to go out and labour, being paralyzed. In his window is hung a small board, with the following notice: “A temperance pledge kept here. All who are weary of drinking, come in and sign.” “Yesterday,” said our aged friend, “one who has long been a slave to drink, and in great distress, came in, and for the first time signed the pledge.” This example is worthy of being imitated.


Verses 7-12

Verse 8

Ephesians 4:8

Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

The glory of the ascended Christ

I. The ascension of Christ secured and declared His triumph.

1. The glory of Christ was foreshadowed by the triumphal procession of Jehovah to Zion.

2. The descent and ascension of Christ reveal the universal character of His triumph. There is no sphere of the universe He did not enter, and there is nothing that remains unaffected by His influence.

II. The gifts conferred upon Christians and exercised in the Church are a portion of the glory of the ascended Lord. Instead of fretting at the manifold distinctions of the Christian ministry, we ought to look upon these as showing forth the unspeakable fulness and glory of Jesus Christ. The varied functions of the ministry, and the private gifts of the membership, are signs not of weakness, but of all-conquering power, and they all emanate from the one Lord. The rich variety of nature is surpassed by the more significant and glorious variety of grace. (A. E. Muir, M. A.)

The ascension of Christ

I. The fact of Christ’s ascension.

1. It should afford us supreme joy to remember that He who descended into the lower parts of the earth has now “ascended up far above all heavens.” Shame is swallowed up in glory, pain is lost in bliss, death in immortality. Well deserves the Warrior to receive glory, for He has dearly won it (Psalms 6:8).

2. Reflect yet again that from the hour our Lord left it, this world has lost all charms to us. If He were in it, there were no spot in the universe which would hold us with stronger ties; but since He has gone up He draws us upward from it. The flower is gone from the garden, the first ripe fruit is gathered. Earth’s crown has lost its brightest jewel, the star is gone from the night, the dew is exhaled from the morning, the sun is eclipsed at noon. Joseph is no more in Egypt, and it is time for Israel to be gone. No, earth, my treasure is not here with thee, neither shall my heart be detained by thee.

3. We must henceforth walk by faith, and not by sight. Jesus is no more seen of human eyes; and it is well, for faith’s sight is saving, instructing, transforming, and mere natural sight is not so.

4. Reflect how secure is our eternal inheritance now that Jesus has entered into the heavenly places. Our heaven is secured to us, for it is in the actual possession of our legal representative, who can never be dispossessed of it.

II. The triumph of the ascension (see Psalms 24:1-10; Psalms 68:1-35).

1. Our Lord’s Ascension was a triumph over the world, He had passed through it unscathed by its temptations; He had been solicited on all hands to sin, but His garments were without spot or blemish. He rises above all, for He is superior to all. As the world could not injure His character by its temptations, so no longer could it touch His person by its malice.

2. There, too, He led captive sin. Evil had assailed Him furiously, but it could not defile Him.

3. Death also was led in triumph. Death had bound Him, but He snapped each fetter, and bound death with his own cords. Our Saviour’s ascension in that same body which descended into the lower parts of the earth is so complete a victory over death, that every dying saint may be sure of immortality, and may leave his body behind without fear that it shall forever abide in the vaults of the grave.

4. So, too, Satan was utterly defeated!

5. Brethren in Christ, everything that makes up our captivity Christ has led captive. Moral evil He has defeated, the difficulties and trials of this mortal life He has virtually overcome.

III. We may now turn to consider the gifts of the ascension. The blessings which come to us through the ascension are “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Observe next, that these filling blessings of the ascension are given to all the saints. Does not the first verse of our text say: “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” The Holy Spirit is the particular benediction of the ascension, and the Holy Spirit is in measure given to all truly regenerated persons. Trace all gospel success to the ascended Saviour. Look to Christ for more successful workers. As they come, receive them from His hands; when they come, treat them kindly as His gifts, and daily pray that the Lord will send to Zion mighty champions of the faith.

IV. We shall conclude by noticing the bearing of our Lord’s ascension unto sinners. “He received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also.” When the Lord went back to His throne He had thoughts of love towards rebels still. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The ascension of Christ

Having spoiled His enemies on the cross, He further makes a public triumphal show of them in His own person, which is a second act; as the manner of the Roman emperors was, in their great triumph, to ride through the city in the greatest state, and have all the spoils carried before them, and the kings and nobles, whom they had taken; and this did Christ at His ascension, plainly manifesting, by His open show of them, that He had spoiled and fully subdued them. (T. Goodwin.)

Gifts for men

It was the custom of the Roman emperors at their triumphal entrance to cast new coins among the multitudes; so doth Christ, in His triumphal ascension into heaven, throw the greatest gifts for the good of men that were ever given. (T. Goodwin.)

Ascension of Christ

Must the sun need come to us, or else cannot his heat and light profit us? Nay, it doth us more good, because it is so far off: so this Sun is gone from as, that He may give more light to us, which made Him say, “It is good for you that I go from you.” Therefore, away with this carnal eating of spiritual things. (Henry Smith.)

Diversity of gifts

Everyone hath some excellency or other in him, can we but find and improve it. God hath dispensed His gifts diversely, for the common benefit. And as, in the same pasture, the ox can find fodder, the hound a hare, the stork a lizard, the fair maid flowers; so there is none so worthless, but something may be made of him; some good extracted out of the unlikeliest. Yea, wisdom is such an elixir, as by contraction (if there be any disposition of goodness in the same metal) it will render it of the property. (John Trapp.)

Captivity captured

Two things are referred to in these words, as following from the ascension of Christ into heaven. One has reference to the manifest accomplishment of His work in the fact of His ascension; the other is a statement of what He does in consequence of that success--not resulting from it, but as the expression of His goodwill on the occasion of His success.

I. Christ overcame those special foes which He came to earth to encounter.

II. Having overcome them, He still holds them in His power. He lives now; He has taken His place before God; there He waits. He waited once before till the fulness of time came; He waits now till the appointed season comes. He has not let His prisoners free; He had not let them go out of His hand.

III. Christ bestows a special gift on men that they may share in His victory. He gave gifts in the shape of apostles, pastors, teachers, and so on, for the definite purpose of carrying on His work--the perfecting of the saints. He thus bestows, not spoils which He has gained from His enemies, but the special gift of His own favour.

IV. But one more very important thought. Who shall thus not only share with Him. The spoils, but enjoy the free gift of Christ? Why, those who follow Him. (H. W. Butcher.)

Christ’s ascension

I. The exaltation of Christ. His work was done, and therefore He ascended up on high in His official capacity.

II. The achievements of Christ. “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive.” Look at the expression “captivity.” Then it seems that the souls for whom He bled and suffered were “captives;” the prophet calls them “lawful captives, and the prey of the terrible.” “What! lead them captives again?” Some may be inclined to say, “Oh, it’s only being transferred from one captivity to another.” First, He overcomes them by grace, and then He leads them “captive” into His blessed and glorious captivity, and leads them to say, “We were in captivity to Satan’s malice once; the old serpent held us fast once, but now we are in captivity to the Lord Jesus Christ, to His love, to His sway, to His sovereignty; with His three-fold cord in our hearts, fixed and twined completely round our affections.”

III. The treasures that Christ distributes. How grand and glorious is the catalogue of the gifts He gives to believers! He has given all gifts. He never made a saving or exception of any. There is no limit to His bounty. Everything in Christianity is the free gift of God. “He gave gifts to men.” In order to condense here as much as I can, I shall classify a little, and just observe, in the first place, the first gift bestowed after His ascension. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I go away, I will send Him to you, and when He is come He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.” So that this is the first ascension gift. Oh, what an amazing gift! There is another gift that we must mention. When He “ascended up on high,” He gave the gift of imputed righteousness to those new-created souls of whom the Holy Ghost became the Teacher. (J. Irons.)

The purpose of Christ’s gifts

I. Christ gave special gifts, in order that through an endless diversity of lives and works and thoughts, we may be all united to one another in one Body, pervaded and animated by one Spirit. The first grand object in our Lord’s mind was and is union among men, union with God. As a rule we value ourselves on our diversities. And that without ever asking ourselves, “Why am I different?” God makes nothing in vain. If He has made me different from my friend in some point of character, it is surely that I may supply something in him; that he and I together may effect something for each other and for others which separately could not be accomplished.

II. The gifts of Christ to us are directed to producing in us steadiness of character through reality. We are to measure ourselves and our opportunities truly, and to get rid of self-deceptions.

1. How common it is for earnest persons to fancy that a wide gulf exists between their capacities for doing God’s service and the opportunities which He affords them! Is not this in reality a very specious form of murmuring against God? We need to use earnest prayer for nothing more than a true faculty of vision.

2. Another and very lowering habit of mind and life which interferes still more with that “steadiness through reality” of which we are in quest, is what I may venture to call “frivolity in the very discharge of earnest duty.” There are many most noble occupations which ought to have an inspiring power, that are not glorified at all by those who use them, and that seem to haw no elevating effect on them. Now, one cause of this is to be found in secret impurities of the thought and imagination of the heart. Nothing so protects a man--awful thought! from the influence of God’s Spirit; nothing so certain to prevent his acquiring that steadiness which truth of knowledge and truth of thought and of will bring with them. But second only to this in its miserable blighting effect, is to approach earnest duties in a frivolous, light, unprayerful spirit.

III. The third object of Christ in giving us gifts from heaven is, that we may grow in spiritual strength by living lives of spiritual activity. (Archbishop Benson.)

The gifts of Christ to His Church

I. The nature of the gift. It was--

1. A gift of men. Not merely a record, but a living voice speaking to living men.

2. A varied gift. Variety in unity, shown--

II. The object of the gift. “For the perfecting of the saints,” etc., shown--

1. By enabling them better to discharge their ministry. Christ’s own life of service our pattern (Matthew 20:28).

2. By edifying Christ’s body.

III. The ultimate end. “Till we all come,” etc., The end is perfect conformity to Christ, the “perfect Man.” The means--knowledge of the Son of God (John 17:3); full knowledge hereafter (Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 13:12). Practical application:

1. Consider the priceless blessing the Gospels have been. Charter of our faith (Luke 1:1-4). Christ’s own gift by His Spirit (John 14:26).

2. Are we ourselves becoming like Christ our Pattern? This the practical object. A Church of living stones--true disciples of the Master. (A. C. Hellicar, M. A.)

Jesus gives mercy

When the Duke of Argyll was taken before James II to receive sentence for the part he had taken in the rebellion in Scotland, the king said to him, “You know that it is in my power to pardon you.” The duke, who knew the king well, replied faithfully, “It may be in your power, but it is not in your nature,” and he was led forth to prison and death. It is not so with King Immanuel. He who says, “All power is given unto Me both in heaven and in earth,” is the same who says, “Him that cometh to Me I will in nowise cast out.” (R. Brewin.)

The Conqueror’s gifts

As in the Roman triumphs the victor ascended up to the capitol in a chariot of state, (the prisoners following on foot with their hands bound behind) and threw certain pieces of coin abroad to be picked up by the common people; so Christ in the day of His solemn inauguration into His heavenly kingdom triumphed over sin, death, and hell, and gave gifts unto men. (J. Trapp.)

Gifts for the rebellious

Mr. Moody tells us how his elder brother ran away from home soon after their father’s death, and the absence of the beloved boy was the perpetual grief of his mother’s heart. She waited years and years for a letter from the wanderer, but none came. Long years had rolled away, and the mother’s hair had grown grey, when, one summer’s afternoon, a sunburnt man was seen coming into the gate at Northfield. He knocked at the door. The mother went and opened the door, and invited the stranger in. He held back for a moment, until the tears started, and he exclaimed, “No, mother, I will not come in until you forgive me!” He did not stand there long. Her big motherly heart rejoiced more over the returning prodigal than over all of the boys that had never run away. Jesus keeps no sinner waiting outside His open door. The forgiveness of a lifetime’s sin is the very first boon to the hungry penitent. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)


Verse 9-10

Ephesians 4:9-10

Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended.

The eternal union in the person and work of the Redeemer

I. There was union between the greatness of Christ’s person and the greatness of His obedience. He was so great that He could not be greater. There was no possibility of His going higher. That is what Jesus Christ did in coming to the world--“He descended.” He not only assumed human nature, body and soul, into union with His Divine Person; but more than that--“He descended.” The Divine Person came down--the Divine Person was in the manger--He, the whole of Him, was made under the law.

II. There was union between the greatness of the obedience and the merits of the sufferings. Here again there must be no dividing. The sufferings without the obedience would not have been an atonement; and the sufferings and the obedience would not have given satisfaction without the greatness of the Person. And though He rendered perfect obedience in life, yet He could not be a Saviour without suffering--without shedding His blood. In hell there is suffering, but no obedience; in heaven there is obedience, but no suffering; but here, in one place, we behold both obedience and suffering.

III. There is union between the merits of the sufferings and the height of the exaltation (ascension). “He who descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens.” He could not ascend without descending first, and descending lower than the earth. All the riches of the Godhead as Creator would not pay our debt. He must give Himself as our ransom.

IV. There is union again between the height of his exaltation and his work in filling all things to the end of time: “that He might fill all things.” The Bible teaches us that He could not fill the Church without ascending up far above all heavens. Whilst here in poverty and bondage, working out our salvation, He was out of His poverty enriching those who came into contact with Him; but now He is rich in mercy, and from the throne He administers forgiveness. His great work on earth was to fill the demands of heaven; and His great work in heaven is to fill the demands of earth. From the earth He filled heaven with obedience; and from heaven He fills the earth with forgiveness. From the earth He filled heaven with satisfaction; and from heaven He fills the earth with peace. From the earth He filled heaven with atonement; and from heaven He fills the earth with holiness. (Lewis Edwards, D. D.)

The contrasted humiliation and exaltation of Christ

I. The circumstances of the Saviour’s depression from His original state.

1. The incarnation of Christ may be thus expressed.

2. This form of language may denote the death of Christ.

3. This style may be intended to intimate that burial to which He yielded.

4. The separation of the Redeemer’s Body and Spirit may be described in these words.

II. The glory of His subsequent exaltation.

1. It is in itself an absolute expression of love. To descend to all this humiliation and suffering could not be agreeable to any other end, save an achievement of mercy.

2. It justifies an expectation of surpassing benefits. Whatever was the quality of the act, it must answer to the act itself. Nothing little can it involve. If this be an errand of mercy, how great must be that mercy!

3. The act regulates and secures its own efficiency. The Messiah did not send His word to save us. From on high He did not direct the scheme of salvation. He “descended to the lower parts of the earth.” This showed His infinite intentness,

4. This act is to be regarded as of incomparable worth and excellence. Never were so combined, and never could so unite, the jealousy of the Infinite Honour and the commiseration of human woe.

III. The reciprocal influence of these respective facts. “The same” was He who bowed Himself to these indignities, and who seized these rewards. And this identity is of the greatest value. Surely it is much to understand, much to be certified, that He who was manifest in flesh--taking our very nature, seen in the relationships of our life--full of tenderness and compassion--the comforter of mourners and the friend of sinners--is none other than the Supreme over all things, guiding and administering all his prerogatives and powers to the very end for which he was incarnated and crucified. This is what the text affirms. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)

The ascension of Christ above all heavens, that He might fill all things

The ascension of Christ (His resurrection completed) sums up, according to Paul, the whole gospel, and stamps it with the seal of heaven. Aristotle tells us of Plato’s dialogues that they were but beautiful dreams without rational foundation or conclusion, ingenious stories to embody his spiritual instincts rather than to furnish a rational ground capable of sustaining the sublime hopes they seek to embody. How different this from the gospel which furnishes us with facts that are not only capable of sustaining the hopes of the world, but of inspiring hopes which infinitely transcend the highest imaginations of man’s unaided powers to conceive, and which daily in our midst prove their Divine source by quickening dead souls, cleansing polluted hearts, and breaking the chains of evil habits!

I. The ascension of Christ looked at in the light of its previous and preparatory history. That the Son of Man ascended from the deepest depth of human history and experience, from the lower parts of the earth, up above all heavens, presupposes His descent. “That He ascended, what does it imply but that He descended,” and that His original home was above the heavens? He ascends to no height from which He did not descend. In short, to use his own words, that “He came out from God and came into the world” before He could again leave the world and enter upon His inheritance of the Father’s glory. “He who was rich became poor, that we, through His poverty, might be rich.”

II. We have now to look at this fact of our Lord’s ascension in the light of its declared purpose--“That He might fill all things,” which will reveal its connection with the vaster and ever-enlarging history of the world subsequent to His leaving the earth and His being carried up above all heavens. Let us, however, briefly consider it, first of all with respect to the new heavens and the new earth; then with respect to our nature and history; and lastly, with respect to the providence and government of God--as parts of the great whole to be filled from the fulness of the ascended Son of Man.

1. With respect to the new heavens and the new earth, what may we not infer, from the ascension of Christ in the full integrity of His nature, as to the conversion, transformation, and ennobling of the material of our earthly sphere? The nature and history of His person clearly reveal the relations between heaven and earth, the material and the spiritual, God and man. We cannot for a moment look upon the transformation and exaltation of Christ’s nature as an isolated fact, or as dissociated from “the restitution of all things.” The gospel, therefore, contains a gospel for nature as well as for man, the prediction of the day when the strife of elements shall cease, when the powers of darkness shall be swallowed up of light, when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, when the tares shall no longer grow with the wheat, when creation, now so weary, shall lift up her head and rejoice in the redemption for which she groans and travails.

2. Having seen what we are taught by the ascension of Christ with respect to the new heavens and the new earth, let us now consider what we should learn from it with respect to man. For if we cannot dissociate the history of Jesus from the history of the earth, much less are we able to do so from the history of mankind. He almost always speaks of Himself as “the Son of Man.” In Jesus Christ the headship of mankind is at the right hand of God with full powers of deliverance and exaltation for all men. By His ascension our nature is endowed with an exalted fulness, and clothed with a glory becoming the Son of God. In Jesus our nature is filled with all the fulness and clothed with all the glory of the Father. And, as such, He is exalted above the heavens on our behalf, as the centre of a new kingdom--a human kingdom--“the kingdom of God and of His Christ.” It is reserved for human nature to constitute the home kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is to be set up in our nature, and to unite the innermost powers of humanity with the innermost powers of Deity. But this kingdom of God is also to be the temple of God, not merely a Divine dominion lying round about and without the immediate presence of the King, and only indirectly and mediately associated with Him, but the sphere of His household presence--His home--the very life of which will be the enjoyment and worship of Himself.

3. Having considered the ascension of Christ in its relation to the new heavens and the new earth, and also with respect to the nature and history of man, let us now look at it, briefly, in its relation to the government and providence of God. If nature is gathered up and crowned in man, and mankind are gathered tip and represented in the Son of Man, who is exalted to the throne of universal dominion, then it is clear that all things are governed and caused to work together in the interests of His kingdom, which centres in His body the Church, which is His Bride; that all things are bent to one purpose, the end to which the whole creation moves. The history of the world and man, of nature, providence, and grace, is thus seen to be one whole of many parts, in which there has been nothing parenthetic or episodical--nothing in vain, but which has been working together for the one foreseen and pre-determined end. Tempest and storm have combined with sunshine and zephyr; anarchy and rebellion have wrought with submission and order; war and peace, slavery and liberty, sickness and health, death and life have all been made to cooperate in bringing about the condition and prospects of the present hour which carries the necessary preparations, and is charged with the necessary powers for the grand consummation of the Divine purpose. The leaven works through all elements; the tree grows through all seasons; the kingdom advances with every age.

III. In the last place, we can but very briefly glance at the method and means by which this purpose, for which the Son of man; is exalted above all the heavens, is to be carried out. It is being fulfilled in many ways; all means are subordinate to this one end. That He might fill all things is the one purpose--“The one far off Divine event to which the whole creation moves.” For this the heavens watch the earth labours, the elements work, and the undesigned strife of human history is carried on. Two things are ours--preaching and prayer, alike our duty and our privilege. By these the Church of 120 very soon over ran the nations, and “turned the world upside down.” By these now will the triumphs of the Church be carried on to her final conquests. (W. Pulsford, D. D.)

Christ filling all things

I. Christ’s life was marked by changes the most unparalleled. He descended from the highest circumstances to the lowest, and ascended from the lowest to the highest again.

II. Amidst all these changes He preserved His identity: “the same.”

1. The same in being.

2. The same in sympathy.

3. The same in purpose.

III. The grand end of these changes was the spreading of the highest influence through the universe. “That He might fill all things.” “Fill all” institutions, books, intellect, hearts, with His system and Spirit. (David Thomas.)

Christ filling all things

I. How Christ fills all things. Not with His body--for as it has been well said, “Christ’s body may be anywhere at any time; but Christ’s Spirit is everywhere at all times.” Of that body of Christ--of spiritual body at all, still more of spiritual body glorified--we know, and we can know, nothing; but, as far as our faculties can reach, body must occupy definite space. How, then, does Christ fill all things”?

1. By His influence. We know that even here a person may occupy a much larger sphere than he actually “fills” with his presence. Carry on that idea of the power of extending influence infinitely, and we shall be arriving at some conception of the way in which Christ can “fill all things.” The effect of such a life and death--the beauty of that unparalleled character--the effect of that upon a world, who can estimate? How it has moulded the mind--how it has raised the tone--how it has determined the conduct of all mankind.

2. But there is more than influence, there is sovereignty and care. The queen fills her realms, and we are always conscious of the power of our queen. How much more does the royal, superintending power and love of Jesus fill the universe; There is nothing so small, that it is below it; and there is nothing so great, that it is above it; nothing independent of it; nothing despised by it.

3. By the presence of the Holy Ghost.

II. What does Christ fill? “All things.”

1. Heaven. Every spirit in heaven reflects Him. Every tongue tells of Him. Every joy is full of Him. Every holiness glorifies Him.

2. And there is a solemn sense in which Christ “fills” hell. A rejected Saviour--nothing else.

3. Christ “fills” all nature. You will miss the sweetness of nature, if you do not feel this. Christ is in the leaf and flower--in the morning blush and the evening glow--in the song of the little bird--in the loneliness of solitude--in the harmony of the landscape.

4. And providence--i.e., the ordered course of human events--it is all Christ. What is providence? The “working together” of all things for the sake of God’s people. Who administers God’s great empire with the delegated power? Christ. “He hath put all things in subjection under His feet.” Is it a sorrow? Christ “fills” that sorrow. Is it a joy? Christ “fills” that joy. And this is the true meaning of life; an inner current of Christ always running along parallel with the flow of events.

5. But, still more, the Church--“the Church, which is His fulness”--because He “fills” it. All ordinances, all gifts, all communications of the Spirit, all prayer and preaching, all our sweet worship, all our blessed sacraments, all our fellowships, all our sympathies, all our diversities, all our oneness--it is all Christ. Nothing would be real without Him. It is as He is there, that anything has power to teach, or to comfort, or to bless.

III. Why does Christ fill all things?

1. That all honours should be to Him in every degree; that all should owe all always to Him; that He should be the light and joy of the whole world.

2. That no man upon this earth should ever find any real satisfaction out of Christ. If you do, the voids will be always greater than the comforts. Other things may promise--but He is truth. Other things may trifle with you--but He loves you. Other things may please--but He “fills.”

3. That there may be always, in Christ, a fulness suited to every man’s want. If we only look high enough, there is the fountain “filled”:--a full pardon--a full Bible--a full smile--a full rest--a full life--and a full heaven.

4. And so it comes at last to pass, that, in everything, it is not the thing, but the Christ that is in it--for He so “fills,” that He becomes the thing He “fills”; and, little by little, the crust drops off--like the shell horn the fruit; or, like the covering from the blossom. The external ceases; the material falls away; the material passes; and the Christ which it contains, stands out alone--the All in all of His servants’ souls: so that we have, and desire to have, in either world, only Him! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The humiliation and ascension of Christ

I. Christ’s humiliation and descension. Christ descended according to His Divine nature, not indeed by a proper and local motion; but because it united itself to a nature here below; in respect of which union to an earthly nature, it might metaphorically be said to descend to the place where that nature did reside. And thus much for the way and manner how Christ did descend. We are now to direct our next inquiry to the place whither He descended; and for this we are to reflect an eye upon the former verse of this chapter, which tells us that it was into “the lower parts of the earth”; but what those “lower parts of the earth” are, here lies the doubt, and here must be the explication. I conceive these words in the text to bear the same sense with, and perhaps to have reference to, those in Psalms 139:15, where David, speaking of his conception in his mother’s womb, says, that “he was framed and fashioned in the lowest parts of the earth.” In like manner, Christ’s descending into the lowest parts of the earth, may very properly be taken for His incarnation and conception in the womb of the blessed Virgin. I add, that these words, of Christ’s descending and ascending, are so put together in the text, that they seem to intend us a summary account of Christ’s whole transaction of that great work of man’s redemption from first to last; which being begun in His conception, and consummate in His ascension, by what better can His descending be explained, than by His conception, the first part and instance of this great work, as His ascension was the last? So that by this explication the apostle’s words are cast into this easy and proper sense, that the same Christ, and eternal Son of God, who first condescended and debased Himself so far as to be incarnate and conceived in the flesh, was He who afterwards ascended into heaven, and was advanced to that pitch of sublime honour and dignity, far above the principalities and powers of men and angels.

II. Christ’s exaltation and ascension. As for the way and manner how He ascended, I affirm that it was according to His human nature, properly and by local motion; but according to His Divine, only by communication of properties, the action of one nature being ascribed to both, by virtue of their union in the same person. As for the place to which He advanced, it is, says the apostle, “far above all heavens.” But the words of the text have something of figure, of hyperbole, and latitude in them; and signify not, according to their literal niceness, a going above the heavens by a local superiority; but an advance to the most eminent place of dignity and glory in the highest heaven.

III. The qualification and state of Christ’s person. In reference to both these conditions He was the same--“He that descended is the same also that ascended.” Which to me seems a full argument to evince the unity of the two natures in the same person; since two several actions are ascribed to the same person, both of which, it is evident, could not be performed by the same nature.

IV. The end of Christ’s ascension “that He might fill all things.” Now, Christ may be said thus to fill all things in a double respect.

1. In respect of the omnipresence of His nature and universal diffusion of His Godhead. But yet this is not the “filling all things” directly intended in the text; for that was to be consequent to His ascension; “He ascended that He might fill all things”; it accrued to Him upon and after His ascension, not before; but His omnipresential filling all things being an inseparable property of His Divine nature, always agreed to Him, and was not then at length to be conferred on Him.

2. In the second place, therefore, Christ may be said to fill all things, in respect of the universal rule and government of all things in heaven and earth committed to Him as Mediator upon His ascension. All the elements the whole train and retinue of nature, are subservient to His pleasure, and instruments of His purposes. The stars fight in their courses under His banner, and subordinate their powers to the dictates of His will. The heavens rule all below them by their influences, but themselves are governed by His. He can command nature out of its course, and reverse the great ordinances of the creation. The government, the stress and burden of all things, lies upon His hands. The blind heathen have been told of an Atlas that shoulders up the heavens; but we know that He who supports the heavens is not under them, but above them. (R. South, D. D.)

The end and design of Christ’s ascension

1. In the first place, this term “all things” may refer to the whole series of prophecies and predictions recorded of Christ in the Scriptures; which He might be said to fill, or rather to fulfil by His ascension.

2. But, secondly, the term “all things” may refer to the Church; which sense I shall most insist upon, as carrying in it the subject matter of this day’s commemoration. Now, Christ, it seems, would not have the fabric of His Church inferior to that of the universe: it being itself indeed a lesser world picked or rather sifted out of the greater, where mankind is brought into a narrower compass, but refined to a greater perfection. And, as in the constitution of the world, the old philosophy strongly asserts that nature has with much care filled every little space and corner of it with body, there being nothing that it so much abhors as a vacuity: so Christ, as it were, following the methods of nature in the works of grace, has so advantageously framed the whole system of the Church; first, by an infinite power making in it capacities, and then by an equal goodness filling them. Now the Church being a society of men combined together in profession of Christian religion, it has unavoidably a double need or necessity emergent from its very nature and constitution. That is, one of government, the other of instruction; the first agreeing to it simply as a society, the second, as it is such a society. And it is Christ’s great prerogative to fill it in both these respects.

I. As for the time in which it was conferred, this is remarkable in a double respect.

1. In respect of the Christian religion itself, it being about its first solemn promulgation. The beginning of everything has a strange and potent influence upon its duration. And the first appearances usually determine men either in their acceptance or dislike. Had not Christ therefore ushered in His religion by miracle and wonder, and arrested men’s first apprehensions of it by something grand and supernatural; He had hindered its progress by a disadvantageous setting forth, exposed it naked to infidelity, and so rendered it first disputable, and then despised. It had been like the betraying a sublime and noble composition by a low and creeping prologue, which blasts the reputation of the ensuing discourse, and shuts up the auditors’ approbation with prejudice and contempt.

2. But, secondly, the time of Christ’s sending the Spirit is very remarkable in respect of the apostles themselves. It was when they entered upon the full execution of their apostolic office; and from followers of Christ became the great leaders of the world.

II. The manner how it was conferred (see Acts 2:2-3). This action exhibits to the world the great means chosen by God for the propagation of the kingdom of Christ.


Verse 11

Ephesians 4:11

And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.

The Christian ministry

I. From this passage we learn, that the institution of the Christian ministry--the appointment of pastors and teachers--is from God, is of Divine authority. The object which the Christian ministry is designed to effect is the conviction and conversion of sinners, and the edification and consolation of saints; but these are effects which no human, and, indeed, no created, power is able to produce. The office of the Christian ministry--that is, the institution of a separate order of men to attend, more peculiarly, to the religious instruction of others--is admirably adapted in its own nature as a means to effect the object intended, and its adaptation is evident even to the eye of human wisdom; but it was not devised by human wisdom, and it must not be judged of, or regarded, solely from its extrinsic fitness.

II. Since, then, the text informs us, in the first place, that the appointment of pastors and teachers is a Divine institution, intended to be instrumental in accomplishing certain objects, and of course deriving all its efficacy from the blessing of Him who appointed it, we shall now consider what objects it was designed to effect. For what purpose did God give pastors and teachers? It was “for the perfecting of the saints, for the edification of the Body of Christ.” The “perfecting of the saints” may here mean the completion of their number. It may also mean, making them perfect in holiness. We are further informed by the apostle, that God “gave pastors and teachers for the edifying of the Body of Christ.” “The Body of Christ” is an expression often used in Scripture to denote the Church of Christ. And the great object of this figurative mode of speaking is to represent the absolute dependence of believers upon their great living Head at all times for nourishment and strength, and, indeed, for existence or vitality, as well as the close and intimate connection that subsists between the Head and all the members--that is, between Christ and His people--and between the members with each other. The word “edify” properly means to build; and it is taken from another figurative idea, sometimes given us in Scripture, of the Church of Christ, or of true Christians in their connection with and dependence upon Christ, namely, that of a building or temple, of which Christ is the foundation, and in which all His people are represented as stones. And in this work of edification or sanctification, pastors and teachers whom God has appointed are master builders, whose great duty and privilege it is to be employed as instruments in edifying the Body of Christ--in building up the saints in their most holy faith--in carrying on the great work of which our Saviour laid the foundation while He lived upon the earth--in not only bringing men to the knowledge and belief of the truth, but also in leading them to walk in the paths of holiness--to walk in harmony and in love--and to contribute to one another’s spiritual progress.

III. We would now consider the statement which the text contains of the more comprehensive and ultimate objects for which the Christian ministry was instituted, and which the labours of pastors and teachers are intended to serve, namely, that Christians may grow up in “all things unto Him who is the Head--that they may all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man--unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And here we would notice the description the apostle gives of the direct objects and effects of the labours of pastors and teachers, namely, that Christians “speak the truth in love.” “Speaking the truth” is contrasted with being tossed to and fro like children, or carried about with every wind of doctrine; and as the appointment of pastors and teachers, with their regular and faithful ministrations, are intended by God to preserve the Church, or Body of Christ, from the latter of these, so they are also fitted to produce and secure the former. “To speak the truth” means here to hold and to maintain sound and correct views of Christian doctrine--of the great principles of the oracles of God. And this is an acquisition of great importance, lying at the very foundation of all true religion, which is built upon right views of the Divine character, and of the Divine plans and purposes with regard to the human race. But, besides this, it is also necessary that men “speak the truth in love”--that is, that their assertion and maintenance of the truth, even against its opposers, should never lead them into any violation of the great law of Christian charity and love. Not that either ministers or private Christians are bound to speak or to think more favourably of opposers of the truth than the fair and impartial examination of their conduct may seem to warrant and to require. But when our opinion is really and sincerely fair and impartial, it is no objection to it that it is unfavourable; for that must just depend upon the grounds and merits of the case. Our opinions upon all points should be exactly conformable to truth--to the intrinsic merits of the subject; but the expression of these opinions, and the conduct which they may lead us to adopt, should be at all times regulated by love. The great terminating object of the Christian ministry--and indeed of all God’s dealings with His people--is stated by the apostle in the eighteenth verse--“that we may all come in”--or rather into--“the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God--unto a perfect man--unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” This describes the state of the Church in its collective capacity--when the objects of the Christian ministry, and indeed of all other means of grace, shall have been accomplished. At present, there is nothing like complete unity of faith and knowledge. There is reason, however, to think that times are in reserve for the Church, even upon earth, when these evils shall be greatly lessened, if not altogether removed--when the Church shall indeed resemble a great and a holy Society, founded upon one rock, and that rock Christ:--devoted to the one great purpose of manifesting the glory and making known the manifold wisdom of God. But whatever degree of harmony and purity the Church of Christ shall attain upon earth, when God shall pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and introduce the glory of the latter days, certain it is that there will be a time when all His people shall come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, when there shall be nothing whatever to hurt or to offend, when His people shall be all righteous--freed from everything that may pervert either the judgment or the conduct--made perfect in holiness, and altogether restored to the lost image of their great Creator and their living Head. (W. Cunningham, D. D.)

Ministers in the Church appointed by Christ

I. A remarkable instance of our exalted Lord’s liberty to His Church in bestowing divers gifts upon her.

1. The gifts.

2. The Giver.

3. The act of donation.

4. The time to which it relates.

II. The end or design of this gift.

1. In respect of the saints, these who are in Christ already, the ministry is to perfect them, πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν. The word signifies the restoring and setting dislocated members again in their proper place. It signifies also, the perfecting and establishing them in the restored state. So the Corinthians, who by their factions and divisions were rent asunder, and as a disjointed body, are exhorted to be κατηρτισμένοι, perfectly joined together, as a joint well knit (1 Corinthians 1:10). The saints being, by reason of remaining corruption, so ready to turn aside both from Christ the Head, and from their brethren fellow members. God gave ministers to be spiritual surgeons to set them right again, and to fix them in nearer union to Christ by faith, and to their brethren in love.

2. In regard of themselves, for the work of the ministry. It is for work that they are appointed. This work, for the kind of it, is διακονία, a ministry or service, the first excluding idleness, the second excluding a lordly dominion.

3. In respect of the Body of Christ; it is to edify, viz., the mystical Body of Christ. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Service the purpose of the Church

The text is clouded by a wrong punctuation. If a single comma be dropped, so as to make the text read, “He gave some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministering,” it will clearly express what some expositors believe is its meaning, and be in harmony with what is taught elsewhere in the New Testament as to the duty which is owed by the Church to the world. “The saints” have a ministry if “the Body of Christ” is to be “edified.” The Church is not to be as a lake without any outlet--a mere glass in which the sky is reflected--but a reservoir that yields what it receives for the health of mankind. Every member has something to do. Every Christian is to be a channel of blessing to others, “even as the Son of Man came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

I. In the development of this theme let us consider, first, the disparity in circumstance and condition between ourselves and the vast multitude of our fellow men; the contrast between our and their moral experience. If there be anything approaching the truth in our oft-repeated confessions, we have entered, through Christ, upon an ample inheritance of privilege and honour and power. Our sins are forgiven; a new life has been given us; we live in God’s fellowship. “All things are yours,” says the apostle, “whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” And what deed ever conveyed riches like these? “Why am I, honest and industrious, harassed and tormented, while dishonesty thrives, and has the world, cap in hand, at its feet? Where is the evidence of the love, or the wisdom, you preach? Where even is justice? It is a bad world; and the best thought about life is, that it will soon come to an end.”

II. This brings us, second, to the principle which is expressed in the text, and on which alone these inequalities can be justified. Every variety implies in some sense superiority or inferiority. But who would wish for a mere uniformity, which would be the destruction of all that is interesting, of all that is beautiful, of all emulation, of all excellence? Who cannot see that to receive from one another and to impart to each other what we mutually lack, is a far better thing than to be born to an exact equality of advantages? Variety is essential to the proper development of society; and whilst God alone can explain why the obvious advantage is with one man, or with one class instead of another, still He takes from it all that is invidious by associating with privilege the responsibility of service. Turn, for illustration of this, to the account of the calling of Abraham. He was chosen out of the ranks of his countrymen, and out of the world of his day, for special enlightenment; to hear a Divine voice that was unheard by all others, and to realize a communion more elevated and purer than theirs. And why? Did it denote that he monopolized the Divine favour? that those who were left in the dark had no part in the thoughts and the purposes of Jehovah? On the contrary, he was elected for their sakes; in him, who was thus favoured and quickened, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. And this is always the end which God has in view in the appointment of any to superior possession and privilege. Their endowment is to bring good to the many. Every great movement in social or political life may be traced to some individual, or to some company of men, who have been privileged to originate the high enterprise. The diffusion of truth is not by the equal instruction of all men at the same moment, but by circles and schools who have found out the truth, and through whom it spreads out until it becomes the possession of all. The preference is shown to the few in the interest of the many. And it is the same in respect of the Church. Those in its fellowship are to serve; for it exists not for itself, but for man, for humanity at large; because man is comprehended in the great love of the Father and in the scope of the redemption which Christ came to accomplish. (Chas. De Witt Boardman, D. D.)

The Divine choice of ministers

For if no prince will send a mechanic from his loom or his shears in an honourable embassage to some other foreign prince, shall we think that the Lord will send forth stupid and unprepared instruments about so great a work as the perfecting of the saints and perpetual dishonour of that wicked king Jeroboam, who made no other use of any religion but as a secondary bye thing, to be the supplement of policy, that “he made of the lowest of the people” those who were really such as the apostles were falsely esteemed to be, the “scum and offscouring of men,” to be the priests unto the Lord. (Bishop Reynolds.)

Pastors needed

In the church of San Zeno, at Verona, I saw the statue of that saint in a sitting posture, and the artist has given him knees so short that he has no lap whatever; so that he could not have been a nursing father. I fear there are many others who labour under a similar disability: they cannot bring their minds to enter heartily into the pastoral care. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Charles Kingsley as a pastor

On one occasion Kingsley was visiting a sick man suffering from fever. “The atmosphere of the ground floor bedroom was horrible, but before the rector said a word he ran upstairs, and, to the great astonishment of the people of the cottage, bored with a large auger he had brought with him several holes above the bed’s head for ventilation. And when diphtheria, then a new disease in England, made its appearance at Eversley, he might have been seen running in and out of the cottages with great bottles of gargle under his arm, and teaching the people to gargle their throats as a preventive.” (Life of Charles Kingsley.)

A good pastor

Father Taylor said of a certain member of his flock who kept continually falling back into drunken ways, “He is an expensive machine; I have to keep mending him all the time; but I will never give him up.” (C. A. Barrel, D. D.)

Careless pastors

St. Francis, reflecting on a story he heard of a mountaineer in the Alps who had risked his life to save a sheep, says, “O God, if such was the earnestness of this shepherd in seeking for a mean animal, which had probably been frozen on the glacier, how is it that I am so indifferent in seeking my sheep?” (W. Baxendale.)


Verse 12

Ephesians 4:12

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

No perfection without pains

“However prodigious may be the gifts of nature to her elect, they can only be developed and brought to their extreme perfection by labour and study.” Think of Michael Angelo working for a week without taking off his clothes, and Handel hollowing out every key of his harpsichord, like a spoon, by incessant practice. Gentlemen, after this, never talk of difficulty Or weariness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The perfecting of believers

The invisible power of Christ, and His visible gifts in the Church, are in cooperation “for the perfecting of the saints.” An endless variety of ministry is provided for this end. Every Divine ministry is supplied with its measure of wisdom and of grace, from the treasury of Christ. Diversities of gifts are necessary to meet a corresponding diversity in the natures of men. Each disciple is susceptible of a development peculiar to himself; nor can his perfection be confounded with that of any other man. The perfection of a primrose is not that of a lily, nor the perfection of a lily that of a rose. God’s idea of perfection is not to make lilies into fruit trees, nor fruit trees into cedars. God will have His lily-like children to be perfect as lilies, and His cedar children to be perfect as cedars, and so on. There will be endless diversity among men, yet each perfect in his own order. The riches of Divine love and wisdom, strength and beauty, will be mirrored in the variety. “The perfecting of the saints” is not only very distinct from their conversion, or first faith in Christ; but much more important than their comforting. The Divine method of comforting is by perfecting. To comfort souls, and leave them unrenewed and disqualified for life in heaven, would be delusive and cruel. To look to Christ as the Beginner of the new life is absurd, unless we also look to Him as the Finisher. Finishing the life of faith, and perfecting men, are the same work. “The perfecting of the saints” can never be promoted by the ministry of a mere evangelist, or preacher of gospel facts. The hodman is very useful, but not as an architect. A reiterator of common places is not a teacher. The perfecting of your house must be given to other hands than the men who dig out the foundation. The grand end of the Christian ministry, as it is also the end of time, and the end of Christ’s whole work, is to perfect man, or rather to perfect humanity. (J. Pulsford.)

The edifying of Christ’s body

I. The edifying of Christ’s body consists in enlarging your views of the polluted, guilty, helpless state of fallen man.

II. Person, work, and relation of Christ to His people.

III. The freedom with which the Scriptures hold Him forth for our salvation.

IV. The privileges of believers.

V. The necessity of, and Scriptural arguments to enforce, an exemplary walk before God, the Church, the world.

VI. The sovereignty of God in the disposal of His favours.

VII. The grounds of submission to Him.

VIII. In pointing out to them their particular sins. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you,” etc. (1 Corinthians 5:1, etc.). Errors. Galatians. In putting them in mind of their future glory. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:10). (H. Foster, M. A.)

The Christian Church the body of Christ

Observe some points of importance connected with the Church as the body of the Redeemer.

I. Its visibility.

II. It is a living body.

III. As the body--the Church just exhibit Christ’s mind and character.

The body of flesh Christ had was under the control and hallowed influence of the Holy Spirit. It was the residence of the Deity. Now just so also His body the Church. It is to receive celestial influences and impressions from Christ, and then to show them forth.

1. Was Christ meek and lowly? So must be His Church.

2. Spiritual and holy? So must be His Church.

3. Self-denying and forbearing? So must be His Church.

4. Devoted and obedient? So must be His Church.

5. Compassionate and merciful? So must be His Church.

The mind, and spirit, and life of Christ, must be reflected by the Church, the body of Christ.

IV. As the body of Christ, it must carry out the purposes and will of Christ.

1. The Church must be a teaching holy.

2. The Church must be a sympathizing body.

3. The Church must be an active body.

4. The Church must be a liberal and benevolent body.

5. It must be a heavenly body.

It is of heavenly formation. He had heaven in His spirit, and words and life, so must the Church His body. (J. Burns, D. D.)

The Church Christ’s body

I. The Church is called Christ’s body.

1. All the senses are in the head for the guidance and protection of the body (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:19; John 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30).

2. The variety and respective usefulness of the members in it (1 Corinthians 12:15, etc.).

3. The infirmities to which the various members are liable.

4. The concern of one member for another (1 Corinthians 12:26).

5. Its continual increase, etc. (Ephesians 4:12-13; Ephesians 4:16).

6. Christ, as its Head, has the preeminence, etc. (Colossians 1:18).

7. Without it, Christ would not be complete (Ephesians 1:23; Hebrews 2:13).

II. The edifying of the body in ministry of the word, consists--

1. In enlarging their views of gospel truths, in their importance, connection, and use.

2. In pointing out to them their sins and errors. “it is reported commonly that there is fornication among you,” etc. (1 Corinthians 5:1, etc.). Galatians.

3. In getting before them their duty in their various connections in life. (H. Foster, M. A.)


Verse 13

Ephesians 4:13

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Development

I. Christian unity.

1. Oneness of faith.

2. Oneness of knowledge. This signifies practical acquaintance, or what you sometimes term a “saving knowledge of Christ.”

3. Oneness of aim or object. Seeking to become perfect men in Christ, full-grown men, to attain to the loftiest standard of perfection, both in strength and beauty, in the universe.

II. Christian stability. Christian men are not to be like children in weakness, credulity, waywardness, changeableness, and much else peculiar to childhood; but to be strong, robust, fixed, settled in their religious belief and manner of life, showing that their faith had so inwrought itself with the very fibre of their spiritual life as to impart moral stamina, enabling them to stand like men, and not be tossed about like feeble children. But the apostle’s figures supply something more than the thought of childish weakness. “Tossed about with every wind,” suggests the idea of a drifting, unmanageable ship, dismasted, and without rudder or compass, driven before every wind. A plight most pitiable. This suggests the thought of instability and unrest. The vessel pursues no course but such as the wind dictates, and you know how unsafe a ship master that is when it has sole command. Now Paul knew the danger of this restlessness, not only to the individual possessed by it, but the damage it might be to others. Hence he desires all Christians to be united in the grand verities of the gospel, vigorous in faith, clear in personal acquaintance with Christ, that they might have a life of uniform stability, be firm, fixed, and unwavering in mind and heart, faith and life. The doctrine, then, that comes out here is that of Christian stability, not obstinacy; steadfastness, not stupidity.

III. Christian growth.

1. Growth is gradual. Little by little is the principle on which it proceeds. A child does not become a man at one bound, a picture is not painted by the magic of a single stroke, a building is not reared by one single supreme effort, nor does the oak tree mature in a single day. “Line upon line,” layer upon layer, “here a little and there a little,” are the lines upon which all things move ere maturity and perfection are reached. Continuity, progression, development, evolution--or whatever else you may please to call it--this is the great governing law.

2. This growth is constant. Day and night, summer and winter, in storm and calm, the principle is in operation. It may appear sometimes to the good man as if no progress could be registered, he seems to himself to be putting forth no fresh blossoms, and yielding little or no fruit. And yet, those very times, that seem so unpropitious to him, may be the most successful periods of his life, his roots may be striking deeper, and spreading wider in preparation of richer foliage and fruitage in the future. Always growing--though not always giving the same outward indications of growth--this is the law of the Saviour’s kingdom.

3. This growth is silent, and imperceptible. You can neither see nor hear its actual operation. Growth is one of the most effective forces in nature, and yet the most silent.

4. The growth spoken of in the text is upward. It is “growing up into Christ the Head in all things.” Upward growth is a marked speciality of the Christian life. Aspiration is the thought. Upward, heavenward, is the Christian’s watchword.

IV. Christian cohesion. The Church is likened to the human body. A few points of comparison between the two will show the beauty and appropriateness of the figure.

1. Fitness of position and work. “Fitly joined.” So it is in the Church when it is under the entire governance of the Master, every man occupies his own place and does the work for which he is fitted by gifts and opportunity.

2. Here is compactness--“fitly joined and compacted together.” Heart, mind, sympathy, principle, motive, aspiration, and wish, so closely blended as to become one heart and one mind, “that there be no schism in the body,” but working together with the greatest order for the one purpose, the well-being of the body, and the glory of its Head.

3. Here is also mutual aid--“by that which every joint supplieth.” Helping together is the thought, every joint contributing its share so as to promote the general good of the whole body. You see the beauty of this comparison where the Church of Christ is, in its best sense, a mutual aid society, where every joint is supplying its quota of aid for the good of the whole. (J. T. Higgins.)

The reunion of Christendom

Augustus Hart’s superb description of the Rhine falls may well serve as an analogue of the reunion of the Church. “The cross streams, which had been prancing along sideways, arching their necks like war horses that hear the trumpet broke from the main stream and forced their way into it. From the valley of thunder, where they encountered, rose a towering misty column, behind which the river unites unseen, as though unwilling that any should witness the awfully tender reconcilement.” That “awfully tender reconcilement” of the long conflicting currents of Church life is even now being solemnized behind the mist of our encounters. What a yearning for unity pervades the Churches. This very desire is, in its intensity, a presage and pledge of its own fulfilment; only the spirit of love could have inspired it. He is brooding, moving on the cloudy chaos. What a perceptible giving there is in that ice of exclusiveness! (B. Gregory, D. D.)

One faith

“Some think variety of religions as pleasing to God as variety of flowers. Now there can be but one religion which is true, and the God of troth cannot be pleased with falsehood for the sake of variety.” (Bp. Horns.)

The designs of the Christian ministry

1 To bring Christians to the unity of the faith.

2. To bring Christians to the knowledge of Christ.

3. To bring Christians to the perfection of Christian character.

4. To bring Christians to the enjoyment of the fulness of Christ. (G. Brooks.)

The Church a school for heaven

I. The teachers in this school.

1. God, the great and effectual instructor of the Church.

2. The human teachers--the ushers under God.

3. The Church collectively.

II. The manuals used;

1. Conscience.

2. The Scriptures.

3. God’s providence.

III. The learners.

1. The universal race of man.

2. The private members of the Church.

3. Pastors.

4. The angels. (Dr. W. R. Williams.)

The importance of preparatory instruction for the ministry

I. The relation subsisting between Christ and the Church. Christ the Head, the Church the body.

II. The officers given by Christ for the service of the Church.

1. Apostles.

2. Prophets.

3. Evangelists.

4. Pastors and teachers.

III. The special ends for which these officers were given.

1. To instruct men for the ministry.

2. To edify the Church. (W. Roby.)

Development of spiritual life

I. The progressive development of the spiritual life.

1. Intellectual.

2. Emotional.

3. Moral.

4. Harmonious.

II. The obstacles to this development.

1. They arise from the necessary limitations of our nature.

2. They arise from indwelling sin.

3. They arise from the influence of the world.

4. They arise from the power of temptation. (G. Brooks.)

The model Man

We all have a certain ideal of manly character before our minds, formed of the elements we most admire and fain would imitate; and that ideal is very often embodied in some actual hero, living or dead. But our ideals are not seldom defective or false: our heroes fall short even of these. The poor copy we set before us has a still poorer copy made from it, in our own characters and lives. Let us aim at once at the highest mark. We may not reach it, but we shall obtain more than with any lower one. Our blessed Saviour is the absolutely perfect type of the manly character.

I. When we think of an ideal man, we think of a being with a body as the perfection of beauty in form, and movement, healthy and strong, full of capacity to do and to endure. There have been very noble minds in weak bodies; but being in such tabernacles, they groaned, being burdened. The true ideal motto is that of the Latins, mens sana in copore sano. There is every reason to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ wore such a body. As the taint of hereditary depravity did not cleave to His soul, neither did the curse of ancestral disease infect His body. He that was so obedient to law of every kind, saying: “It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,”--would faithfully observe the laws of health, as to food, air, exercise and rest--never guilty of any excess, never exposing Himself to needless injury. The purity and peacefulness of His spirit were every way promotive of bodily health. Therefore we say to those who would be like Jesus Christ,--be healthy and strong if you can be; cultivate your physique religiously, and understand your bodily system, that you may intelligently work out your Maker’s plans.

II. The second element in model manhood is strength of mind; we mean, at present, of the intellectual powers, rather than of the will or the affections. Mind is necessary to understand, to plan, to execute, to rule over Nature, ourselves, and ether men. In the case of our Saviour, goodness and knowledge were blended together.

III. The third element in manhood is strength of will The manliest man, to our thinking, is the one who stands upright on his own feet, self-poised, not leaning on anyone else, thinking out his own thoughts, making up his own mind, adhering to his own purpose, master of himself, bending all his powers to his one aim, undismayed by difficulty, conquering opposition, resolute in suffering as vigorous in action, and so victorious in the end.

IV. One more constituent of manly character is strength of heart. (F. H. Marling.)

Christ the model of the Christian life

I purpose to inquire, What, from the New Testament, was Christ’s own teaching respecting His relations to man?

1. Christ confirmed and enlarged the ethical truths which existed in His age. Whatever was just, and pure, and true, and good, from whatsoever quarter it may have been derived, and whether it was held by the Jews or by the enlightened heathen, was accepted at His hands. The moral precepts of the gospel were not originated by the Saviour when He came upon the earth. They belong to a system of natural ethics. They are the outworkings of natural laws which were made when man was made, and when the world was made. They were partly found out, they were imperfectly known, they shone dimly, before the coming of Christ; but they were unveiled at the time of Christ’s advent more perfectly, and accepted more fully, and carried back to their true source, and arranged so, with reference to their real character, as that they should become transcendently more fruitful than ever they had been in isolation and twilight under heathen civilization.

2. He delivered men from bondage to vehicles and forms of worship; not, however, that He might destroy these things, not that He might detach them from these things, but that He might deepen their sense of the truths and principles which these things had been employed to express. He taught that, whenever there was any conflict between the inward principle and any external law, or custom, or ordinance, the law, or custom, or ordinance, must go down. He taught that the physical must be subordinate to the spiritual, for whose sake it was originally created. He taught that the spirit was to be master of the flesh.

3. Our Saviour cleansed and amplified the knowledge of spiritual truth, and carried that truth far higher than it had ever gone before.

4. He added to the realm of spiritual truths most important elements which had never before been clearly known. The nature of God; the certainty of immortality, etc.

5. More important than all was the fact of the vital intercourse between God’s soul and ours.

6. Christ came, by His sufferings and by His death, to open the way for the universal forgiveness of sin, and for redemption from it.

7. The last point that I shall make in this category is that Christ taught Himself to be Divine; and that His divinity is such a true divinity as makes it proper for men to offer, and for Him to receive, all that it is possible for a human soul to give to its God. (H. W. Beecher.)

The characteristic element of the Christian life

Love was the design of the Old Testament economy as much as it is of the New. But, while they contemplate the same thing, they do so from different points of view. The economy employed by the Old Testament to bring men up spiritually into that condition in which they should live by love, succeeded only in getting men to live by conscience. Christ came under new conditions, and with new influences, and re-asserted the grand truth that the economy of God in life began with the manifestation, first, of the Divine nature. He taught men that God was love; that love was the essential characteristic element of the Divine nature; not that there were not justice, and reason, and intelligence, and many noble attributes; but that these were all enfolded in love, and that they acted under the influence of love, which was the characteristic element of divinity. Christ’s own character, also, and His peculiar life work, were manifested round about this centre of love. For by love God sent Him; and He executed the errand on which He was sent in the spirit of self-sacrificing love.

1. A true Christian has, or may have, large elements of reason and knowledge; of veneration and worship; of faith and aspiration; of activity and obedience; of earnestness and zeal; and yet not one of these, nor all of them, will make him a Christian, until the soul pours a whole summer of love round about them. Then the presence of this love in the midst of these other qualities will determine that he is a Christian. It is not knowledge that is evidence that you are a Christian; it is not a sense of duty; it is not mere outward conduct of any sort; it is the benevolent tendency of the heart; it is the soul’s sweetness and love power.

2. The peculiar Christian graces which are enjoined upon us in the Bible are all love children. Not only are they to be known by their likeness to love, but they cannot be born without love. And there is not a Christian grace that is not easy to those who love enough. I have sometimes stood and marvelled at the vastness of the water wheel that lay silent by the side of the mill, and wondered by what power it could be turned. Meanwhile there was the trickling of water through a small pipe, which fell on the far side of it, and did not stir it. At last the miller went to the gate further up, and lifted it, and the flood poured down in larger measure; and the moment enough water had flowed into it, the great slave wheel began instantly to toil and turn; and all day, and all night, and so long as the water continued to pour upon it, it ground out its treasure, singing and spilling its musical water as it rolled round. And so it is with that wheel of the soul, in its revolutions of daily life. If the stream of love pours on it abundantly, how, it revolves! How does it work out every interior fruit of the heart and life, only so that the stream of love pours on it!

3. We can trace, in the light of this truth, the progress of Christian life, or growing in grace. The test that you are growing in grace is that you are growing in more perfect moral qualities in the direction of love.

4. And as it is in the individual, so it is collectively, or in Churches. The spread of Christianity is to be measured by the spread of its distinctive spirit. As growth in conscience, or reason, is no evidence of growth in grace with the individual, so growth in these things is no evidence of growth in grace with the Church. Growth in beneficence is the test in both cases. The Church is taking possession of the world, not geographically, but in the degree in which it is able to stimulate and maintain the summer of benevolence among men. The union of Christians--and of Churches, for that matter--is to come from this characteristic spirit of love, or from nothing at all. And the aggression of the Church on the world will be victorious only when a whole Christianity brings the whole human soul to bear upon the world in the power and plenitude of love. And we are talking about the Church owning the world. Christian hearts will own the world, but Christian Churches never will. For, when we take the world captive, it will be by the subduing power of Christian love. (H. W. Beecher.)

The perfect Manhood

All Churches, all ordinances, all doctrines, all sorts of moral teachers, are ordained for the sake of making perfect men; and Christianity may be said to be, in a general way, the art of being whole men, in distinction from partial men, and make-believe men. It is not enough to say that Christianity tends to make men better. Its aim is to develop a perfect manhood. “Till we all come unto a perfect man.” And that manhood can never be reached except in Christ Jesus. We hold a nature in common with the Divine nature. When we can work out from it the accidental, the transient, the local, that which is left is strictly Divine--it is like Christ. No man can be Divine in scope and degree; but in kind he may. Every oak tree in the nursery is like the oak tree of a hundred years. Not in size, but in nature, it is just as much an oak tree as the biggest. We are not of the Divine magnitude, nor of the Divine scope, nor of the Divine power; but we are of the Divine nature. There is no picture that was ever painted, there is no statue that was ever carved, there was no work of art ever conceived of, that was half so beautiful as is a living man, thoroughly developed upon the pattern of Christ Jesus.

1. To live well for the life to come is the surest way of living well for this world. And to live rightly for this world is the surest way of living rightly for the world to come. The world is grandly constituted to develop manhood in those who know how to use it. But how base and ignoble are they who squander their manhood in this world; who pass through the most wondrously organized system of education--namely, the natural, civil, and social world--and parcel out their noble nature, as it were, for sale; who coin conscience; who suppress their spiritual nature; who dignify success in worldly things; who live, not for manhood, but for selfishness, for pride, for pitiful pelf! How does a tool or machine pass through the various shops in its construction? It goes in a lump of pig-iron. Melted and rudely shaped it is at first. It passes out from the first set of hands into the second. There something more is given to it, not of fineness, not of polish, but of shape, adapting it to its final uses. The next shop takes something from it, it may be, trimming away the clumsiness, reducing it in bulk, that it may be finer in adaptation. And, still going on from shop to shop, it passes through some twenty different sets of hands, and gains something from every single man that touches it. And it is a perfect tool or machine when it issues from the other side. This great world, my young friends, is God’s workshop. You are put in on one side, and every single shop, every single experience, is to take from you something that you are better without, or add something to you that shall fit you for use. And blessed is the man, who gathers as he goes, symmetry, shapeliness, temper, quality, adaptation, so that when he issues from the further side he is a perfect man. But what a base thing for a man to be put into God’s workshop, which was set up on purpose to make man, and come out on the other side without a single attribute of manhood. Ah 1 such wastes as there are! For a man to walk through cities and towns, and see what becomes of manhood, is enough to turn his head into a fountain of tears. It is enough to see the wastes of antiquity--the battered statues; the toppled-down columns; the fractured walls; the ruins of the Parthenon. But of all the destructions that have gone on in this world, and that are now going on every day in the great cities which are grinding and crushing out manhood, the destruction of men is the saddest. And woe be to the man that is burned, or that is crushed, and that comes out worthless, and goes into the rubbish heap of the universe!

2. I call you, young men, to a Christian life, not simply because it is the way of duty, but because it is the only way in which you can find your own selves. There are reasons springing from the eternal government of God, from the rightful authority of God, from the issues of the eternal world, why you should be Christians; but there are other reasons springing from the nature of your own soul--from your makeup. I hold that no man can be a man who is not a Christian. I hold that the true Christian is the noblest man, the strongest man, the freest man, the largest man. He is like a harp, not subjected to rude and random, touches, but handled by a skilful player. His soul is so organized and acted upon that there is melody produced from every single chord, and from all of them matchless harmonies.

3. I call you to discriminate between God’s men and the Church’s men. I do not call you to be men in the Church, or to be men according to the sects, whether they have prevailed in times past, or do now prevail. As a vine, growing in a garden by the side of the road, does not confine all its flowers and clusters to the garden side, but hangs over the wall, and bears blossoms and clusters in the road; so a man, wherever he grows, should be larger than the thing he grows in. Wherever you go, let your manhood be bigger than any human institution. It is a shame for an institution to be bigger than the man it has reared. God did not call you to be canary birds in a little cage, and to hop up and down on three sticks, within a space no larger than the size of the cage. God calls you to be eagles, and to fly from sun to sun, over continents.

4. I use this truth as a matter of criticism, to ask you to discern between the true man and the current gentleman of life. In life man has occasion for pride of gentlemanliness whose manhood has nothing in it of religion. A man must be a Christian who would be a gentleman. Christianity, as I have said, is the science of being a whole man.

5. Let me beseech you to take heed to the substitution of class character for manhood. Beware of classes and “sets.” Be larger than any class will ever let its members be.

6. Beware of the narrowness of professional character, which will be your temptation. For no profession has so many claims upon a man as mankind has. No man can afford to live for his profession, and in his profession. No man can afford, by the side of the sounding sea, to build his but on a little rivulet that runs into it, and never go down to wet his feet in the flood, or try its depths. Men need mixing. Men need to feel a sympathy with the whole of human life, Therefore, remember that you are not to be educated out from among your fellow men, but for them. (H. W. Beecher.)

How perfection is attained

Everything in the universe comes to its perfection by drill and marching--the seed, the insect, the animal, the man, the spiritual man. God created man at the lowest point, and put him in a world where almost nothing would be done for him, and almost everything should tempt him to do for himself. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian perfection a lengthy process

The process of Christian perfection is like that which a portrait goes through under the hand of the artist. When a man is converted, he is but the outline sketch of a character which he is to fill up. He first lays in the dead colouring. Then comes the work of laying in the colours; and he goes on day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, blending them, and heightening the effect. It is a life’s work; and when he dies he is still laying in and blending the colours, and heightening the effect. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian perfection is attainable

Christian perfection is attainable, from the fact that it is commanded. Does God command us to be perfect, and still shall we say that it is an impossibility? Are we not always to infer, when God commands a thing, that there is a natural possibility of doing that which He commands? I recollect hearing an individual say he would preach to sinners that they ought to repent, because God commands it; but he would not preach that they could repent, because God has nowhere said that they can. What consummate trifling! Suppose a man were to say he would preach to citizens that they ought to obey the laws of the country because the government had enacted them, but would not tell them that they could obey, because it is nowhere in the statute book enacted that they have the ability. It is always to be understood, when God requires anything of men, that they possess the requisite faculties to do it. Otherwise God requires of us impossibilities, on pain of death, and sends sinners to hell for not doing what they were in no sense able to do. (J. Finney.)

Difficulty of Christian perfection

There are things precious, not from the materials of which they are made, but from the risk and difficulty of bringing them to perfection. The speculum of the largest telescope foils the optician’s skill in casting. Too much or too little heat--the interposition of a grain of sand, a slight alteration in the temperature of the weather, and all goes to pieces--it must be recast. Therefore, when successfully finished, it is a matter for almost the congratulation of a country. Rarer, and more difficult still than the costliest part of the most delicate of instruments, is the completion of Christian character. Only let there come the heat of persecution--or the cold of human desertion--a little of the world’s dust--and the rare and costly thing is (liable) to be cracked, and become a failure. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Ministers to continue tilt the Church be perfect

I. That the office and work of the ministry is to continue till all the elect of God be fully perfected, and the Church arrive at its full growth.

1. That Christ’s presence is promised to the ministry always, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20); now this supposeth the existence of the ministry till then.

2. The sacraments are to continue till then, and consequently a ministry by which they may be dispensed. As to baptism, it is plain from that (Matthew 28:20). And as for the sacrament of the supper, it must continue till the Lord come again.

3. The Scripture holds forth public ordinances, in which the Lord keeps communion with His people, never to be laid aside till they come to glory. It is one of the singularities of the upper house, that there is no temple there (Revelation 21:22). Here they look through the lattices of ordinances, till they come to see face to face in heaven. Reasons of the doctrine. It must continue.

1. Because the ministry is a mean of the salvation of the elect. While there is a lost sinner to seek, the Lord will not blow out the candle; and while the night remains, and till the sun arise, these less lights are necessary to be continued in the Church.

2. The ministry is appointed of Christ, in some measure to supply the want of His bodily presence in the world.

3. Because their work which they have to do, will continue till then. They are ambassadors for Christ, and while He has a peace to negotiate with sinners, He will still employ His ambassadors.

4. What society can be preserved without government and governors. Every society hath its governors, and so the Church must have hers also.

II. The diversity of gifts bestowed on ministers hath a tendency to, and is designed for advancing of unity among God’s elect people, for unity is the centre of all these divers gifts. These are as the strings of a vial, some sounding higher, others lower; yet altogether making a pleasing harmony. There are many things necessary to make a compact building, such as the Church is. Some must procure the stones, some lay them; some smooth and join the wood, and altogether make a compact uniform house.

III. Whatever differences are now among the godly, yet a perfect unity is abiding them, in which they shall all have the same apprehensions and views of spiritual things. To confirm this, consider--

1. The perfect unity of the elect of God, is that which is purchased by the blood of Christ, and therefore must needs take effect.

2. This unity is prayed for, by the great Mediator, whom the Father heareth always, and whose intercession must needs be effectual (John 17:21-23).

3. The same Spirit dwells in the head and in all the members, though not in the same measure. This Spirit hath begun that union, and is still at the uniting work; and it consists not with the honour of God, not to perfect that which He hath begun.

4. The occasion of the discordant judgments that are among the people of God, will at length be taken away. There is great darkness now, in those that have the greatest share of light and knowledge.

IV. That the Church of Christ shall at length arrive at its full growth in glory, as a man come to perfect age. Then shall it be perfect in parts, every member being brought in, and in degrees every member being at its full growth. How does the heir long till the time of his minority be overpast that he may get the inheritance in his hands.

V. Then, and not till then, comes the Church to perfection, when every member thereof is brought to a perfect conformity with Christ, bearing a just proportion to Him, as members proportioned to the head.

VI. As is our faith and knowledge of Christ, so is our growth and perfection. It is the knowledge of Christ, that introduces us to the blessed state of perfection. The more we believe in, and know Christ, the nearer are we to perfection; and when these are come to their perfection, then are we at our full growth. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The saints’ meeting; or, progress to glory

Obs. 1. Teacheth us, that God hath ordained the ministry of the gospel to last to the end of the world. The ministration of the law had an end; but there is none to the ministration of the gospel, before the end of the world. Here may be given a double excellency to the gospel. It is more gracious and more glorious.

Obs. 2. This “until” gives matter of exhortation; instructing us to wait with patience for this blessed time; to be content to stay for God’s “until.” It is a sweet mixture of joy in trouble, the certain hope of future ease. We are got through the gate, let us now enter the city; wherein we shall find five principal passages or streets.

1. What? There shall be a meeting.

2. Who? We, yea, we all: all the saints.

3. Wherein? In unity; that unity.

4. Whereof? Of the faith and knowledge of God’s Son.

5. Whereunto? To a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

I. What? “meet.” The meeting of friends is ever comfortable: “When the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15).

II. Who? “We.” There is a time when the elect shall meet in one universality.

III. Wherein? “In the unity.” A perfect unity is not to be expected in this life; it is enough to enjoy it in heaven. Though a kingdom have in it many shires, more cities, and innumerable towns, yet is itself but one; because one king governs it, by one law: so the Church, though universally dispersed, is one kingdom; because it is ruled by one Christ, and professeth one faith. But that unity which is on earth may be offended, in regard of the parts subjectual to it. What family hath not complained of distraction? What fraternity not of dissension? What man hath ever been at one with himself? I would our eyes could see what hurt the breach of unity doth us. Scilurus’s arrows, taken singly out of the sheaf, are broken with the least finger; the whole unsevered bundle fears no stress. We have made ourselves weaker by dispersing our forces.

IV. Whereof? This unity hath a double reference: first, to faith; secondly, to knowledge. And the object to both these is “the Son of God.”

1. “Of the faith.” Faith is taken two ways: either passively or actively. Either for that whereby a man believes, or for that which a man believes. So it is used both for the instrument that apprehends, and for the object that is apprehended.

2. “Of the knowledge.” That knowledge which we now have is shallow in all of us, and dissonant in some of us. There is but one way to know God, that is by Jesus Christ; and but one way to know Christ, and that is by the gospel. Yet there are many that go about to know Him by other ways; they will know Him by traditions images, revelations, miracles, deceivable fables. But the saints shall “meet in the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God”; there shall be union and perfection in their knowledge at that day.

V. Whereunto? “To a perfect man.” Before, he speaks in the plural number of a multitude, “We shall all meet”; now by a sweet kind of solecism he compacts it into the singular--all into one. “We shall all meet to a perfect man.” Here lie three notes, not to be balked.

1. This shows what the unity of the saints shall be: one man. O sweet music, where the symphony shall exceedingly delight us, without division, without frets!

2. The whole Church is compared to a man; we have often read it compared to a body, here to a man.

3. Full perfection is only reserved for heaven, and not granted till we meet in glory; then shall the Church be one “perfect man.” This implies a spiritual stature whereunto every saint must grow.

Whence infer--

1. That we must grow up so fast as we can in this life, joining to faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,” etc., (2 Peter 1:5). We must increase our talents, enlarge our graces, shoot up in tallness, grow up to this stature. For God’s family admits no dwarfs: stunted profession was never sound. If a tabe and consumption take our graces, they had never good lungs, the true breath of God’s Spirit in them.

2. God will so ripen our Christian endeavours, that though we come short on earth, we shall have a full measure in heaven. We have a great measure of comfort here, but withal a large proportion of distress; there we shall have a full measure, “heapen and shaken, and thrust together, and yet running over,” without the least bitterness to distaste it. This is a high and a happy measure. Regard not what measure of outward things thou hast, so thou get this measure. (T. Adams.)

Fulness of Christ

We know a little of Christ our Saviour, but, oh! how small a portion have we seen of the fulness that is in Him! Like the Indians, when America was first discovered, we are not aware of the amazing value of the gold and treasure in our hands. (Bishop Ryle.)


Verses 13-16

Verse 14

Ephesians 4:14

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

The mature Christian

The apostle here describes the perfect man, or mature Christian, both negatively and positively.

I. The negative description.

1. Christians must not remain children. In understanding, constancy, and fortitude, they should be men.

2. Christians must not be tossed to and fro, like a ship rolling on the waves. He who embarks for the heavenly world must consider, that the ocean on which he sails is subject to changing winds and perilous storms. He must not promise himself smooth waters, soft gales, and clear skies; but go provided for all kinds of weather. The word of truth must be his compass, and faith his pilot; hope must be his anchor, and knowledge and good works his ballast; prudence must keep the watch, and sober reason hold the helm. Thus he may sail with safety in all seasons.

3. Christians must not be carried about with every wind of doctrine. False doctrines, like winds, are blustering and unsteady. They blow from no certain point, but in all directions; and they frequently, and sometimes suddenly, shift their course. They make great noise and bustle, disturb the atmosphere, and, by their violent motions, they spread confusion and ruin. Light bodies are easily taken up and driven about by every wind that blows. The gale which cleanses the wheat, disperses the chaff. The deep-rooted oak stands firm in its place, while the dry leaves beneath it are caught up, wafted around, and made the sport of every gust. So the sincere Christian, rooted and grounded in the truth, and grown up to maturity in faith and knowledge, is steadfast in his religion, whatever storms may assault him.

4. The apostle warns us that we are in danger from the sleight of men, and the cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

II. The positive description.

1. We must “speak the truth in love”; or “be sincere in love.”

2. As we must adhere to the truth, so we must “grow up in all things into Christ, who is the Head.”

Christian education

In Christian character, it may be, relatively speaking, that the moral functions--faith, hope, conscience, and love--stand higher on the scale than social affection, taste, and the lower forms of human reason; but if Christian character is to be complete, it must include them all. Suppose a painter, in painting a man’s face, should omit the hair and the eyebrows, saying, “A man can live without hair, and I paint only the important features,” and should represent simply the mouth, the eyes, and the nose; what sort of a picture would he make? Absurd as such a thing would be in art, how much more glaring would be the absurdity, in drawing the portrait of the soul, of leaving out any part of it! Religious culture carries with it everything. All the parts are required to make the whole on this ideal--Christ Jesus. I have around my little cabin in the country a dozen or so of rhododendrons. Broad-leaved fellows they are. I love them in blossom, and I love them out of blossom. They make me think of many Christians. They are like some that are in this Church. Usually they come up in the spring and blossom the first thing, just as many persons come into Christian life. The whole growth of the plants is crowded into two or three weeks, and they develop with wonderful rapidity; but after that they will not grow another inch during the whole summer. What do they do? I do not know, exactly; they never told me; but I suspect that they are organizing inwardly, and rendering permanent that which they have gained. What they have added to growth in the spring they take the rest of the season to solidify, to consolidate, to perfect, by chemical evolutions; and when autumn comes, the year’s increase is so tough that, when the tender plants that laughed at these, and chided them, and accused them of being lazy, are laid low by the frost, there stand my rhododendrons, holding out their green leaves, and saying to November and December, “I am here as well as you.” And they are as green today as they were before the winter set in. Now, I like Christians that grow fast this spring, and hold on through the summer, and next spring grow again. I like Christians that, having grown for a time, stop and organize what they have gained, and then start again. I like periodicity in Christian growth. (H. W. Beecher.)

A young man’s responsibility

Into the life of every youth there comes an hour when an irresistible instinct awakens in him the consciousness that he is no longer a child. When he realizes his own separate personality, when he begins to think, to judge, to act for himself, and when, because he has the ability, he has also the right to be self-controlled, in that hour he becomes a young man. In that hour you might liken him to that young prince of whom we read in English history, who was caught in the act of putting on his father’s crown: only with this difference, that the young man is lifting to his brow the crown that belongs to none other, but is the God-given crown of his own manhood.

I. The fact that you are no longer children involves your personal responsibility.

1. You are responsible for your body.

2. You are responsible for your mental and moral culture; for the development of your faculties; for the wise use and the strong growth of all your powers.

3. You are responsible for your influence.

4. You are responsible, in view of the future that is before you. As yet you are but spreading your canvas and sailing out of harbour. Out yonder is that great and wide sea of life that is full of perils for them that navigate therein. There are sunken rocks, there are shifting shoals, there are treacherous coasts, there are wreckers with false lights, there are sirens with deceptive songs, there are straits narrow and perilous with unimagined and tremendous difficulties; and you are responsible now as you begin the voyage of your life to prepare yourself for the difficulties that are ahead, to take chart and compass with you.

5. Remember, too, that you are responsible for your soul. You cannot ignore the fact that you come to a world where men have fallen, but where men have been redeemed.

II. The fact that you are no longer children demands a manly steadfastness of will. The inconsistency, the fickleness, the shiftiness, natural in a child, because a sign of immaturity, is out of place in those who are no longer children. The glory of young men is their strength--strength of will--the energy that turns itself to that which is good--the power to say “No” with decision, and “Yes” with concentration.

III. Because you are no longer children you are expected to be men. What is a man? What is manliness? Manliness is virtue--vir, a man; virtue, the quality of a man. Truthfulness is a virtue, therefore it is manly. Justice is a virtue; therefore it is manly. Good temper is a virtue; therefore it is manly. Whatever is virtuous is manly. Whatever is manly is virtuous; and, vice versa, whatever is not virtuous is unmanly. Talk that is not virtuous is unmanly talk; love that is not virtuous is unmanly love; life that is not virtuous is unmanly life. Be men. Be virtuous. What is manliness? It is godliness. “God created man in His own image. In His own image created He him.” God is true, God is just, God is pure, God is gracious, God is swift to forgive, God is tender to the fallen, God is the helper of the helpless. Be godly, and being godly you will be manly. But how to become manly? How to be like God? Young men, once in the history of the world God sent a man to teach us how to be men, and to be men indeed! Jesus of Nazareth was His name: Son of God and Son of man. If you would be manly, let Jesus teach you. (W. J. Woods, B. A.)

The case of deceivers and deceived considered

Here are two sorts of persons marked out by the apostle in the text, the deceivers and the deceived; the one, subtle and crafty, and full of intrigue; the other, easy and credulous, and unsuspecting; the one, supposed to have all the wiliness of the serpent, without the innocency of the dove; the other, all the tameness and simplicity of the dove, without the serpent’s wisdom. Both are blamable, though in different respects, and not in the same degree; one for abusing and misemploying their talents, and the other, for not employing them at all to discern between true and false, between good and evil. Both are accountable to God as delinquents; one for high contempt, and the other for great supineness and neglect.

I. I propose to consider the case of deceivers, or seducers, such as, by their flight and cunning craftiness lie in wait to deceive. And here it will be proper to inquire, upon what motives, or with what views, men are led thus to beguile and misguide others. The particular motives in such cases may be many; but they are all reducible to these three heads, pride, avarice, voluptuousness; that is to say, love of honour, or profit, or pleasure.

II. To consider the case of the deceived, who suffer themselves to be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. They are supposed to be ignorantly, and in a manner blindly, led on by others; otherwise, they would be rather confederates and confidents in managing the deceit, and so would be more deceivers than deceived. There are, I think, three cases which will take in all sorts of men who suffer themselves to be deceived in things of this kind.

1. Those who have no opportunity, no moral possibility of informing themselves better.

2. Those who might inform themselves better, but do not.

3. Those who might also be better informed, but will not.

III. To subjoin some advices proper to prevent our falling in with either. The best preservative, in this case, is an honest and good heart, well disposed towards truth and godliness, having no by-ends to serve, no favourite lust or passion to indulge. The evidences of the true religion, and of its main doctrines, are so bright and strong, when carefully attended to, that common sense and reason are sufficient to lead us, when there is no bias to mislead us. (D. Waterland, D. D.)

Doctrinal preaching

But there were some rising up who objected to doctrinal preaching. It was not necessary, they said, in these days; practice, and perhaps a little experience, but no doctrine. But really if you take away the doctrine you have taken away the backbone of the manhood of Christianity--its sinew, muscle, strength, and glory. Those men reminded him of Philip when he wished to enslave the men of Athens, and would have them to give up their orators. Demosthenes replied, “So said the wolves--they desired to have peace with the shepherds, but the dogs must be first given up--those pugnacious dogs that provoked quarrels. The wolves would lie down peaceably with the lambs, and delight themselves with the sheep, if only those bad-tempered dogs were hanged.” So perfect peace was promised among the sects if doctrine were given up; but depend upon it, these were, after all, the preservation of the Church, which without them, would soon cease to be … “Burn the charts; what is the use of charts? What we want is a powerful engine, a good A-1 copper-bottomed ship, an experienced captain, and strong, able-bodied mariners. Charts! ridiculous nonsense--antiquated things--we want no charts, destroy every one of them. Our fathers used to navigate the sea by them, but we are wiser than they were. We have pilots who know every sand and sunken rock, who can smell them beneath the water--or by some means find them out. Men know what’s o’clock now-a-days, we don’t want chronometers.” So they put out to sea without charts; and, looking across the waters, we may expect to witness the shipwreck of those who thought themselves so wise, and fear sometimes lest we should hear their last gasp as they sink and perish. Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Shallow Christians

I was informed by the engineer who had charge of the survey of that great treasure which Mr. Seward secured for us in Alaska, the eternal ice house of the globe, that even where summer brings vegetation, if you take a staff and drive it down in many parts two or three feet, you strike solid ice, because summer never goes lower than that. And as it is there, so it is in men--only different men are very different in this respect. In some men, if you go down six inches you strike ice; in some men you strike ice if you go down a foot; and in some men you do not strike ice until you go down two feet; but somewhere or other, in everyman, if you go down far enough you will come to a solid foundation, where summer does not reach. What we want, therefore, is tropical heat, that pierces to the very centre; and there are many in whom only heat of a very searching nature is sufficient. (H. W. Beecher.)

Growth in knowledge

As when men stand and look into the heavens with the naked eye they see some three thousand stars; as with a glass of a certain power they may see some ten or twenty thousand, and as with a larger glass they may see still more, penetrating to the infinite depths of space, so the human mind has been such that at first it could see a little of the nature of God, then a little more, then a little more, and so on, with a power of vision that has increased clear down to the present time. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 15

Ephesians 4:15

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.

Lovingly real

Although ale?theuein has in usage the special force of “expressing truth,” yet here it seems to be the expression by a whole life and conversation, and so to answer to the recent phrase--too recent to find place in a great version; the phrase of “being real.” It means the tone of true life answering to true conviction. For the apostle, with a crash of images, bids us not be infantile, and not toss and twist as the waves of opinion surge to the breath of every new system, system ever so fortuitous, ever so scheming, ever so methodically misleading; but counter to all this, bids us form a purpose of steady growth, a growth depending on our own will, a growing into Jesus Christ. Of this mystic attainment, the moral intelligible meaning at this present is: “To be real--in love”--reality in contrast to illusion, love in contrast to self-seeking. Is not this the world’s problem of life? The very epigram of ethics--“Lovingly real.” It is easy to be straightforwardly real, and show no tenderness for anyone but yourself. It is easy to express devoted interest by voice and look, and to be a dissembler. But to be real oneself and to be in love even with those that are not real and not loving, requires such an ejection of self-pleasing and self-seeking, as must be troublesome to the best, and intolerable to the most. There is an honesty of manner which, as Cicero says, makes “a brow look not so much a brow as a pledge to society, an austerity like that of an archaic bust, a massive simplicity on which an age or a kingdom might lean; yet (says he) such a man may be a deceiver from his boyhood, his spirit shrouded by his looks, and his doings by four wails.” Or the selfish may wear no disguise at all. As in a vivid portrait lately exhibited to us--“the motive of his talk was never an appeal for sympathy or compassion, things to which he seemed indifferent, and of which he could make no use. The characteristic point with him was the exclusiveness of his emotions. He never saw himself as part of a whole, only as the clear-cut, sharp-edged, isolated individual … needing in any case absolutely to affirm himself.” The feigning of the actor and the indifference of the egotist are equal, though contrasted tributes to the world’s high honour of honesty. But in neither of them is there a grain of love. Love has its tributes too. All the forms of society are penetrated and saturated with the expression and exhibition of our interest in each other. And these forms are hollow only if you choose to make them so. Genuine courtesy fills every one of them with meaning.

I. Testimony for Christ. And here we have a first application of this antithetic unity of reality and love:--Independence with considerateness, dignity with humility, self-respect free from self-consciousness, and kindness without assumption. It is reality which Christ seems to require as a first condition of our remaining within the circle of His own influences present and to come. And how effective it is! Even the rudest personal testimony, the forced-out declaration in clumsiest English of “what He hath done for my soul,” seems to clench the holdfast of the speaker, and to pierce like nails into the consciences of hearers.

II. A loving word of faithful warning to rich men.

III. Loving reality in worship. If the great antithesis of reality and lovingness is a help in the guidance of our own heart, and has a bearing on the present fast-changing relations between rich and poor, ought it not further to contribute something to our view of the modern agitations of the Church? It cannot be without significance even to an unconcerned looker-on (if the literature of the time can allow us to imagine such a person), that these agitations centre upon worship. But has not reality as much to do with the question as lovingness? For what is worship? Is it not a recognition of the truth of things, how things are in the world? Was it not so framed of old by God, has it not so been felt by man to be the most expressive, the most solemn recognition of realities unseen, of veritable relations filling all the region around man? (Archbishop Benson.)

Truth in love

Everyone here knows how much depends on the way in which a thing is done. You may do a substantially kind thing in such an ungracious manner, that the person to whom you do it will rather feel irritated, and wounded, and sorry that he needs to take any favour from you, than grateful and obliged to you. And, unhappily, there are in this world some really good and Christian people, who are so unsympathetic; so devoid of the power of entering into the feelings of others, and so regardless of the feelings of others, that when they do a kindness to anybody, and especially to a poor person, they do it in much the way in which you would throw a bone to a hungry dog. You will sometimes find a real desire to do good, alloyed with so much fussiness, so much self-sufficiency, and such a tendency to faultfinding, that so far from good being done, a great deal of mischief follows. Then, on the other side, you may have known men and women who had so much Christian wisdom, and such a gift of sympathy and tact, that even in doing a severe thing--even in finding serious fault, or declining to grant some request--they were able to make a friend for life of the person they were obliged to reprove or deny. Now, there are many ways in which a man may “speak the truth.” You may speak the truth with the view of insinuating falsehood. It was so, when the Pharisees said of our Blessed Lord, “This man receiveth sinners.” Then you may speak the truth in envy. It was so, when the Pharisees saw Christ going as a friend into the house of the publican Zaccheus; they murmured, saying “That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” It was quite true, what they said; but it was the truth spoken in envy that the poor outsider was to be brought within the fold. Then you may speak truth in pure malignity: from a desire to give pain, combined with certain coarseness of nature. It is commonly so with that class of persons who make a boast of speaking their mind, which usually consists in telling anybody something that he will not like to hear. Now, St. Paul tells us in the text how Christian people are to speak the truth. “In love.” Truth, spoken in love, has incomparably greater force to do good--to direct people, to mend people--than truth spoken in severity, even though it be spoken with good intentions. If a minister, in preaching the gospel, assume a severe, harsh, overbearing manner, then, though what he speaks be God’s truth, his chance of really doing good to those who hear him is greatly diminished. I daresay many now present are aware of the curious way in which my text was written by St. Paul himself in the language in which he wrote it. He put the things more forcibly than we have it in our Bibles; using an idiom which cannot be rendered well in our English tongue; at least in a single word. St. Paul referred to all conduct, as well as to speech. And he meant more than the mere cultivating of a truthful spirit. If we were literally, though awkwardly, to translate his words, they would be “truthing it in love”; that is, thinking, speaking, and doing the truth in love. Now let us think a little of our duty in regard to the first of the two things which are to be combined--truth and love. Let us think of what is implied by speaking and living the truth. Of course some things here are very plain. Every little child knows what is meant by speaking the truth; and anything like trying to define that simple fact would only perplex it. Yet how truly it has been said by a very thoughtful writer, that “each man has to fight with his love of saying to himself and those around him pleasant things, and things serviceable for today, rather than the things which are.” We come to difficult matters, thinking of the believer’s duty of speaking the truth. At this point of our meditation, we come to the question, To what degree is a Christian man bound to speak the truth when it will be disagreeable, in the way of finding fault? Here is a matter for that Christian prudence we must ask from the Holy Spirit. We must avoid the extreme of cowardly appearing to acquiesce in wrong for fear of giving offence: and we must avoid the other extreme of needlessly blurting out whatever is in us, regardless of the pain this may cause. Disagreeable truths are seldom in actual life spoken in love. They are sometimes spoken to the very end of mortifying and wounding; and it is no justification of one who has spoken in that spirit, that all he said is quite true. There has been such a thing as a professing Christian of high pretension saying to a gay, thoughtless young person, “Your heart is hardened: your conscience is asleep: I’ll pray for you:” saying all that (which was all quite true) in so malignant a tone, that it was as bad to bear as a blow or a stab. Ah, brethren, that is not the way to win souls to Christ and salvation!

II. Thus we are led back to the second great characteristic, which is to be in the Christian’s heart, speech, and life. That is love. And if love be the fulfilling of the Law: if faith, hope, and love be the three great Christian graces, but love the chiefest of all; we need not wonder that our truth is to be leavened with love, like everything else we do. Yes, let the two things always go together: Truth and Love. Truth, without love, will fail to do what God meant it for: and love without truth, would flatter the soul into a false peace, from which the waking would be in woe. Truth is the stern hard thing, like the bare branches of winter: Love is the softener and beautifier, like the green foliage on the summer tree. If you show that you love people, you may tell them truths that condemn them, and vet awaken no bitterness: you may show them how wrong they are, and only make them thankful to you for setting them right. Do you ask how we are to reach this love, that ought to leaven all our speaking, thinking, feeling, and being; how we are to cast out the poor enmities, jealousies, irritations, and self-conceits, that often make people speak the truth in anything but love, and hear the truth in anything but a loving spirit? The answer to that question is ready: and one plain inspired declaration is as good as twenty. Listen to St. Paul’s words: “The love of God” (and that, you know, brings along with it love to man) “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Speaking the truth in love

The Spirit in which the truth is spoken is as important as the utterance of truth itself.

I. A few illustrations of speaking the truth in love.

1. If I speak the truth in love, I shall delight in all, who exhibit that truth, even though in many things they differ from me.

2. If I speak the truth in love I shall rejoice in the exhibition of truth, even by those who are personally offensive or injurious to me. This thing Paul did (Philippians 1:15).

3. If I speak the truth in love I shall not seek to magnify myself by the utterance of the truth, at the price of the degradation or disparagement of others.

4. If I speak the truth in love I shall defend it in a loving spirit.

5. If I speak the truth in love, I shall be moved by a loving purpose in the utterance of truth. My spirit will be benevolent and my aim will be within the sphere of love.

II. Some considerations by which we maybe moved to endeavour whenever we speak the truth to speak in love.

1. Christian truth is revealed as a means of bringing us men back to love. The apostasy of man is a wandering from love. The moral restoration of man is restoration to perfect love. And Christian truth is revealed as a means of restoring us to love.

2. Christian truth is best illustrated and enforced by the voice, and by the countenance, and by the hands of love.

3. No aim or object, however important, can justify the transgression of the law which demands perfect love. If it be right to be bitter and unloving in speaking the truth, it would be right to steal or to kill for the truth’s sake.

4. Except as we speak the truth in love, we cannot expect to spread widely the knowledge of the truth. The man who speaks the truth, but not in love, may succeed in diffusing it; but he who speaks it in love will surely prosper. The one is like a man sowing good seed while a rough wind is blowing, or when surrounded by fowls, which devour it up--the other is like a man sowing when the atmosphere is calm, and no creature is near to prevent the seed falling into the ground.

5. Unless we speak the truth in love we are liable to depart from the truth. Between the state of our affections and our religious beliefs there is a close and abiding connection. Departure from love, if it be more than temporary, will involve some departure from the truth. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.

6. There are temptations incident to speaking the truth, and manifold temptations connected with much speaking, and these are best met and resisted by the power of love. He who speaks the truth is in danger of making his advocacy of the truth a personal matter--a means of exalting himself, and of serving himself, and he is in jeopardy of enlisting for his service pride and vanity; but he who speaks the truth in love, loses himself, and forgets himself, and becomes absorbed in the manifestation of the truth. Thus speaking, the speaker is to the truth, as the easel is to a painting, and as a candlestick is to a light.

7. Schism is promoted if the truth is not spoken in love.

8. We are servants of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in speaking the truth, only so far as we speak in love. Failing here, we are the servants of some sinful lust or passion. We wear the livery of truth as our professed Master, and do the work in that livery of another master, who is opposed to him whom we profess to serve. We admit that it is very difficult in some circumstances to speak in love. The anger which is aroused by contradiction, the fear of being worsted which is called into play by opposition, the desire for a creditable share of personal strength, which is awakened, with its attendant pride and vanity, unite to render it difficult. But a true and loyal Christian is not a man to put aside a duty because it is difficult. It was a difficult matter to him to repent, but he has repented; difficult to believe, but he has believed. He is the child of a Father who only doeth wondrous things. Truth needs not the service of passion, yea nothing so dissevers it as passion when set to serve it. The spirit of truth is withal the spirit of meekness. (S. Martin, D. D.)

Loyalty to truth and love to men issuing in likeness to Christ

The special object which the apostle has in view here is to warn the Ephesian Christians against error and false doctrine, capricious winds blowing about them the tricks of the theological conjuror, the craftiness of the cunning deceiver. The best security against this, he seems to think, is in the cultivation of a truth-loving spirit, and a truthful tongue. They who are themselves deceivers are, in their turn, commonly deceived, for, however suspicious and cunning they may be, falseness so twists and perverts the moral faculty, so distorts the vision, and blunts the touch, that such men will often suspect where they ought to confide, and confide where they ought to suspect. The most inveterate liars will sometimes be easily imposed upon, and believe the lie of some mere clumsy charlatan, who is, after all, far less cunning than themselves. So the blind lead the blind, and by a righteous retribution, both fall into the ditch; while he who is once on the track of truth, if he will but pursue her fair and gracious form, shall hold his steadfast course, falling neither into ditch nor quagmire, till at length he come along the shining way to the door of the Father’s house, where truth and righteousness dwell forever. A merchant, on a railway journey, happened, by good fortune, to find himself in the same compartment as Bishop Wilberforce. Turning his opportunity to account, he thus addressed the worthy prelate: “I have often, my lord, wished to ask of such a person as yourself which is the right way in religious matters; the sects are so conflicting, the roads seem so diverse--Catholicism, Protestantism, Free Churchism, and what not--that, to a plain man like me, it is difficult to know which road to take. Can you tell me?” “Nothing easier,” said the Bishop; “take the first turning to the right, and then keep straight on.” It is much to be feared that there are many who know the first turning to the right, but will not take it, or, if they take it, do not keep straight on.

I. Loyalty to truth. What a changed world this would be, and what a glorious Church, if there were no treasons, no rebellions, no wrongs against the truth.

1. Truth in the commercial world.

2. Truth in social intercourse.

3. Religious truth.

II. Love to man, in conjunction with loyalty to truth.

III. Likeness to Christ. (J. W. Lance.)

The mission of the clergy; or, the faithful preacher

I. What is the duty of the faithful preacher? The text answers, “to preach the truth in love.” What is truth? The first great truth of religion is the knowledge of God.

II. What constitutes a faithful preacher? Now some would say, preaching the truth does so. Not exactly, my brethren. For it is possible to be convinced of a thing without being very well pleased with it.

1. In the first place, whosoever will “speak the truth in love,” before all things it is necessary that he be himself “of the truth.” Your lips to be truthful must be the exponents of an indwelling Divine and deep seated love.

2. Furthermore it is necessary to truthfulness of speech, or faithful preaching, that we preach the truth in love to men’s souls.

3. But with all his faithfulness the faithful preacher must take care “what manner of spirit he is of.” True, he must “not shun to declare all the counsel of God”--true, he must “nothing extenuate” nor allow the wicked to remain in their sins, and vainly content themselves with a peace which does not belong to them. Still, on the other hand, he “must not set down aught in malice,” or preach the truth, however faithfully, with the spirit of bitterness, or sarcasm, or spiritual pride. Especially is it laid upon us, reverend brethren, to “speak the truth in love” to those who dissent from the character or convictions of our church. If we are lovers of the truth, the truth will be spoken by us elsewhere than in the pulpit: the pulpit doubtless offers a prominent opportunity of speaking the truth and enforcing its obligations with all that fervour and faith which belong to a heart that is itself in the fear of God: but true preachers of God will not rest here.

III. Why preachers should be faithful in the way I have pointed out. (W. Fisher, M. A.)

Truthful dealing

1.The text assumes that if we are Christians our daily conversation will be mainly with our fellow Christians. If our relations with our fellow Christians were only occasional, it would be vain to think that our truthful discharge of those relations could ensure growth in the whole spiritual life; but the true Christian cannot be merely in occasional and accidental contact with those who are radically united with him in Christ.

2. The blessed fruits of the fellowship into which we enter inwardly and spiritually in our union with Christ, and visibly and outwardly in our public profession of faith as members of the Christian Church, can only be manifested by truthfulness and loyalty. We are to be truthful to our profession. A profession of obedience to Christ is a profession of willingness to sacrifice ourselves for them that are His.

3. Where there is this honesty of purpose towards the brethren, we shall be sure to find candour, simplicity, and plain truthfulness in every act of life. The man who is seeking his own things, who associates with his neighbours only to make a profit of them, requires to hide his purpose by untruthfulness; but the man who knows that no Christian can venture to have an interest of his own apart from the interest of the whole Church needs no concealment. Surely, when professing Christians deal with one another in secresy and guile, they are either confessing that they have not felt the power of grace in their own souls, or they have basely doubted the power of grace in their neighbour.

4. If our actions were always pure in the sight of God and man, if our Christian life were perfect, if we were not still under the power of sin, so often intent on selfish ends, it would be easy for us to be candid and sincere to one another. The test of Christian truthfulness is to be found in its power to assert itself as the rule of our life in spite of the sins that disturb even Christian fellowship.

5. It is plain that truthful dealing in these and many other ways, is possible only if, as the apostle says, it is truth speaking “in love,” not merely that we are to speak the truth lovingly, not harshly. To live a life of open-hearted candour towards our brethren, if we have no love to Christ in our hearts, is the greatest of all hypocrisies. (W. R. Smith, M. A.)

Power of love in winning souls

A convict condemned to die was visited in his cell at different times by ministers and Christian philanthropists, who tried to awaken him to a proper sense of his condition, and to prepare him for his end; but none of them succeeded in making any impression upon him. He seemed hopelessly hardened. At last a humble but venerable preacher came, and sat down beside him, and talked so tenderly and so directly to his heart, that he broke down, and conversed freely, and exhibited signs of genuine repentance, The good man prayed with him, and left him in tears. “I couldn’t stand that,” the convict said, telling the gaoler how his visitor had dealt with him; “Why, he called himself a sinner--and said he needed a Saviour as much as I did! That wasn’t the way the others talked.”

Helpfulness of love

A famous painter at Antwerp called Quentin Matsys was in early life a blacksmith. He fell in love with a young woman, but her father refused to let her marry the blacksmith unless he painted a great picture. He knew nothing about the easel, but much about the anvil. He did not, however, give up his purpose. He studied and painted early and late, and in six months he produced his famous picture, “The Misers,” and won his wife. On his own portrait he wrote the words, “Love made me a painter.” (G. Fleet.)

Speaking the truth in love

The manner of saying a thing is of as much importance as the thing said. Apples of gold, when taken out of their pictures of silver, and hurled at your head, may become the instruments of great pain, much harm, and even murder. So words that are not fitly spoken. They may in themselves be good and true enough, but if uttered in a rude, insolent, arrogant, and offensive manner, they will probably result in evil rather than good. The question of manner is, therefore, something worth taking into consideration, equally by him whose office it is to instruct, advise, rebuke, and exhort his fellow men. For while not everyone can be like the shepherd of King Admetus, whose--

“Words were simple words enough,

And yet he used them so,

That what in other mouths was rough,

In his seemed musical and low,”

there are yet very few who, by taking heed thereto, may not cultivate an agreeable, gentle, winning manner, even though by nature they be rough and harsh. The heart is the source of the manner of speech as much as of the words. Temper and soften that; fill it with Christ’s charity. Let your words be winged by love, and their own sweetness will heal the wound they strike. (Christian Age.)

Gentleness in reproving

A skilful physician having to heal an imposthume, and finding the person to be afraid of lancing, privately wrapped up his knife in a sponge, with which, while he gently smoothed the place, he lanced it. So, when we encounter an offending brother, we must not openly carry the dagger in our hand, but with words of sweetness administer our reproof, and so effect the cure.

How to proclaim the truth

When I was a very young student, perhaps about sixteen years of age, I breakfasted with Caesar Malan, of Geneva, at Dr. John Brown’s. When the doctor told him that I was a young student of divinity, he said to me, “Well, my young friend, see that you hold up the lamp of truth to lot the people see. Hold it up, hold it up, and trim it well. But remember this: you must not dash the lamp in people’s faces. That would not help them to see.” How often have I remembered his words! They have often been of use to me. (Dr. Morrison.)

Truth, in love

“The portrait is like me, but too good looking,” was the criticism once made to an artist, which called forth the significant reply, “It is the truth, lovingly told.” (Spencer Pearsall.)

The work of Christ’s living Body

I. The nature of the Christian church as a body. No one would ever draw from the inspired pages the modern notion of the Church as composed of various self-originated societies, with conflicting creeds, diverse government and discipline, with changeful worship and ordinances, adapted to the taste or humour of their capricious founders. No. The Church presented in the Bible is like Jerusalem, “a city which is at unity in itself.” The Church is not only a society having common interests, a city with a general charter, a kingdom having one Sovereign. These comparisons do not sufficiently illustrate its unity; but it is one Body, under the direction of one Head, animated by one vital Spirit.

II. The union and communion between the ministers and members of the Church and its Divine Head.

III. The means by which the growth and extension of the Church are promoted. Like the human body, to which it is compared, the Church of Christ does not attain its growth at once, but passes through infancy and childhood to the full vigour and maturity of manhood. The growth of the Church consists not only in the advancement of its own members in faith, holiness, and love, but also in its aggressive movements upon the world, the conversion of sinners through its instrumentality, and the adding unto it of such as shall be saved. How then are we, my brethren in the ministry, to effect our part in the edification of the Church and the conversion of the world? All the duties of our high function have a tendency to these glorious ends; but preeminent among them, as if including all others, and giving to them all their efficacy, is that specially noticed in the text--“speaking the truth in love.” The truth of God must ever be held in connection with the Church of God. It is at once her support and her adornment. She is the tree of life, which bears those leaves of truth that are for the healing of the nations. But truth in all its beauty, integrity, and fair proportions, is found only in union with the Church. But what is to be the spirit of our teaching? We must not only inculcate the truth as it is in Jesus, but do it in the spirit of Jesus, which was the spirit of love. “Teaching the truth in love.” (Bishop Henshaw.)

The Head and the Body

I. Our union to Christ--“The Head, even Christ.”

1. Essential to life.

2. Essential to growth.

3. Essential to perfection.

4. Essential to every member.

II. Our individuality--“Every joint; every part.” Each one must mind his own office.

1. We must each one personally see to his own vital union with the Body, and chiefly with the Head.

2. We must be careful to find and keep our fit position in the Body.

3. We must be careful of our personal health, for the sake of the whole Body; for one ailing member injures the whole.

4. We must be careful of our growth, for the sake of the whole Body. The most careful self-watch will not be a selfish measure, but a sanitary duty involved by our relationship to the rest.

III. Our relationship to each other--“Joined together”; “that which every joint supplieth.”

1. We should in desire and spirit be fitted to work with others. We are to have joints. How could there be a Body without them?

2. We should supply the joint-oil of love when so doing; indeed, each one must yield his own peculiar influence to the rest.

3. We should aid the compactness of the whole by our own solidity, and healthy firmness in our place.

4. We should perform our service for all. We should guard, guide, support, nourish, and comfort the rest of the members, as our function may be.

IV. Our compact unity as a Church.

1. There is but one Body of Christ, even as He is the one Head.

2. It is an actual, living union of a mere professed unity, but a Body quickened by “the effectual working” of God’s Spirit in every part.

3. It is a growing corporation. It increases by mutual edification. Not by being puffed up, but by being built up. It grows as the result of its own life, sustained by suitable food.

4. An immortal Body. Because the Head lives, the Body must live also. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Head and members

There is a great fitness in the figure of the head and the members. The head is--

1. The highest part of the body, the most exalted.

2. The most sensitive part, the seat of nerve and sensation, of pleasure and pain.

3. The most honourable part, the glory of man, the part of man’s body that receives the blessing, wears the crown, and is anointed with the oil of joy and of consecration.

4. The most exposed part, especially assailed in battle, and liable to be injured, and where injury would be most dangerous.

5. The most expressive part, the seat of expression, whether in the smile of approval, the frown of displeasure, the tear of sympathy, the look of love. (G. S. Bowes.)

Oneness with Christ

The moment I make of myself and Christ two, I am all wrong. But when I see that we are one, all is rest and peace. (Luther.)

Growing up into Christ

1. Of the things into which we are to “grow up,” I should place, first, assurance--an assurance of our own forgiveness--an interest in Christ, and in all the promises. Assurance, or, which is almost the same thing, peace, is entirely a matter of “growth.” It develops like the harvest; and many seasons have to pass over it. It begins in a little seed of trembling hope, which scarcely gives a sign, or sends out one shoot. Then you go on to a feeling of faith, which comes and goes, as capricious as an April day. Then you proceed to a trust, which begins to settle itself, and to spring upward. Then that trust becomes firmer and firmer; while, in exact proportion, the life rises visibly, but feebly, higher and higher, till you reach, through much discipline, and after many pains, and perhaps only at the very last--to an unquestioning faith, and entire confidence, and a belief that has not a shadow, that He is yours and you are His--that you can lie, covenanted, undertaken for, safe forever--sure as the everlasting hills--steadfast as the throne of God; while, all the time, the richness of the fruit bears ample testimony to the depth of the root.

2. Another thing into which we “grow,” and a sure accompaniment of this increase of faith, and without which you may very justly suspect whether it is faith at all, is humility. Never think that humility belongs most to the young Christian, or to the earlier stages of the Divine Life.

3. Side by side with a deepening humility will come the exquisite grace of simplicity. Simple thoughts about truth, simple views of Christ, simple language about religion, simple manners, simple dress, simple conduct. The fine, and the showy, and the effective all belong to infancy.

4. Then another part of growth is, to “grow” out of self. They have got high up who have escaped from themselves. First, from self-indulgence; then from self-exaltation; self-consciousness. And, still higher, those who, scarcely looking into themselves at all, never seek in self what is only to be found in Christ. It was the characteristic feature of Christ Himself, that “He pleased not Himself.” Let me tell you one or two of the great secrets of “growth.” You must be happy. You wilt never grow till you are happy--happy in your own soul with God. Nothing will ever grow out of sunshine; and the sunshine of the heart is the felt smile of God. Then you must have communion with the holy, invisible things of another world. Growth is an influence from above. The higher atmosphere draws up the plants. Place yourself where the showers fall. Take in the virtue of strength through the drops of truth. And remember we “grow” from within. The heart first, the life afterwards. And use well what you have. Action is the key of growth. Therefore, the fierce winds blow over the forest--that each tree, and bough, and little spray, being moved, and shaken, the sap may the better run. Stirring things are to quicken us--that God’s grace may operate, that we ourselves, not being stagnant, but active, and busy, and diffusive--may “grow”; grow up to that great Worker, who so travailed for us all. And you must yield yourselves to the Pruner’s hand. Now there would be very little to gather in your gardens but for the dresser’s knife. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Christ the Head of the Church

Let us consider Christ--

I. As head of the body. From this union so complete, the meanest member derives benefit: separate from the Saviour, the Church is nothing; united to Him, all her members grow and thrive. But there is one very important point not to be forgotten--the sympathy of the Head and of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).

II. As the covenant-heart of the Church (see Ephesians 1:20-22). Adam was the head of the human race, and their welfare or ruin depended on his obedience or disobedience to God. Christ was chosen to be the representative or federal Head of the family of God; and “in Him they are all made alive.”

III. As Head of the Church in the exercise of his kingly authority.

IV. As the Head or fulness of divinity (see Colossians 2:9-10). What a glorious display does this give us of our Immanuel! Possessed of the fulness of the Godhead, He is at the head of creation as “Lord of all” (Colossians 1:15-18). (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Obeying the Head in all things

Patterns of the obedience which we should yield to Jesus Christ, the members hesitate not to obey the head, even to their own loss and painful suffering. Take the hand, for instance. Archbishop Cranmer stands chained to the stake. The fagots are lighted. With forked tongues the flames rise through the smoke that opens, as the wind blows it aside, to show that great old man standing up firm in the fiery trial. Like a true penitent, he resolves that the hand which had signed his base recantation shall burn first; and how bravely it abides the flame! In obedience to the head, the hand lays itself down to suffer amputation; in obedience to the head, it flings away the napkin, sign for the drop to fall; in obedience to the head, as was foreseen by some of our fathers when they attached their names to the League and Covenant, it firmly signed the bond that sealed their fate, and doomed them to a martyr’s grave. Let the head forgive, and the hand at once opens to grasp an enemy’s, in pledge of quarrel buried and estrangement gone. Would to God that Jesus Christ had such authority over us! Make us, O Lord, thy willing subjects in the day of Thy power! Ascend the throne of our hearts! Prince of Peace! take unto Thee thy great power, and reign! The one body:--Now let us, for a few moments, observe what the head does in the natural body, and then see what that spiritual Head does for His mystical body.

1. The head directs. The ends of all the nerves are gathered within that wonderful arch, the skull, which might be called the electric telegraph room of the body, communicating instantly by thought, through those fine white wires the nerves, with every part, and the most distant extremity of the body. If the Christian acts rightly, it is Christ who directs him: He “of God is made unto us wisdom”; and the Christian, feeling his ignorance, and asking for wisdom, according to the promise, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” is generally guided into all moral and saving truth.

2. The head nourishes. If the nerves are once severed, all below the part severed becomes dead, for the communication is stopped between the head and the members; and if the communication were once stopped between Christ and a member, that member would instantly become paralyzed, or die. As it is in the natural body, the limb withers, the flesh shrinks, the muscles collapse, and the man becomes a mass of bones and shrunken sinew; as I have myself for a long time visited one who was dead from the head downwards, from some such accident as this--whose hands were tied over his body, perfectly lifeless, perfectly motionless. So, if the communication only be imperfect, though not stopped, nutrition and growth are immediately impeded; the heart begins to palpitate, so that disease might be supposed to exist there; and if the leading nerves do not work, if the nervous energy be impaired, the health of the member at once becomes weakness. Christ is the Head of the body; and all the spiritual nourishment which that body receives is as directly received through its union with the Head, as the nourishment of the body is through its union with the natural head.

3. The head unites. My hand and my wrist are next door neighbours; but, near as they are, it is only through the head that they sympathize. Were the nerves separated, they would have just as much sympathy as two corpses laid in the same room. If my hand holds communion with the wrist, it is through the union of both with the head. As one hand holds communion with the other at the opposite quarter of the body, so does the nearest member, as well as the farthest. And so it is with Christians. The nearest believers are united, not by neighbourhood--for we know in this monstrous city that men may live next door to one another, and know nothing whatever of each other, and care less--but by union with Christ, the Head, the members sympathize with the nearest, as well as with the farthest, because they are both one in Christ.

4. The growth of the body depends on the health of every part; and it is this which the apostle directs our attention to, where he says, “According to the effectual working in the measure of every part”; and in this way it is that the body “maketh increase to the edifying of itself.” A healthy body is that in which each part is healthy. No part can be disordered in the natural body, without affecting the whole, more or less. The festered little finger will make “the whole head sick, and the whole heart faint,” will communicate throbs through the whole body to the brain, spread inflammation, break up sleep, take away appetite, impair digestion, bring on the flushing of fever, or the paleness of atrophy in the cheek. Growth is the result of every part of the body doing its work. Not only is the daily waste made up, and the daily loss repaired, but the body is increased by the addition of fresh particles. The food we take is incorporated, and becomes part of our wonderful body: the salts, the alkalis, the different elements in food, are all carried by the arteries and veins to the different parts, and the stream of life lands and deposits each cargo of supplies at the wharfs along the shore. The very bulb at the root of the hair is fed, and without that nourishment it would not grow. Now, this supply cannot be carried on except the head is united to the members; but it is by each joint of the body receiving its supply, and doing its work, that the body grows. The supply is received in order that the work may be done; and as the work could not be done except the supply were received, so neither will the supply be given if the work is not done. All parts have not, indeed, the same office in the natural body, but all have their own; each part has its own particular work; and the body will be healthy or not in proportion as each part does its own work. No part of the body is idle. The hand, indeed, does not support the body, like the foot; but it supplies the food, and helps it in many ways. The eye does not feed the body, like the hand; but it enables the hand to do so better. The little hidden arteries, that creep along those wonderful hollows, and valleys, and trenches in the bones, and through the skin and the flesh, cannot be seen like the veins; but they are all at work, conveying the stream of life safely and carefully along. No part is idle; each is at work; and it is by each doing its work that the body grows. “The whole body,” says the apostle, “fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint” supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body. So is it in Christ’s body the Church. Every member has its work to do--its own place in the mystical body, and its own work in that place. Now, this work is not only the work of the minister of the gospel--not the work purely of the bishop, or the elder, or the deacon. How fearful would be the witness against the nominal Christian, if this were the testimony of a servant! Now, it is by each member bearing this in mind, and endeavouring to act out his part, that the Church spreads, and grows, and acts on the world. Think, beloved brethren, what would be the effect on the world at large, if all those only who met together in this house of God every Sabbath day went forth with Christian consistency of conduct, and simplicity of motive and dependence, to exhibit the example of their Redeemer in the world on the weekdays. Think, if every part did its work with energy, what that work would be. (W. W. Champneys, M. A.)


Verse 16

Ephesians 4:16

From whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

The Church is one body of different parts

I. The Church is a unit body. It is not meant to convey the idea that the Church is in any way a material and tangible body, presented to the senses like material substance generally. It is not a body of any earthly form and figure. Our common conception of a body is a combination of particles constituting certain qualities and forces. We understand the spiritual through the analogies and symbols of the material and earthly. The Church is a holy combination of all spiritual powers and sympathies meeting in one centre and end, proceeding from the nature of Divine law and order, the relation of moral beings to one another, and the relation in which all stand to God, the spiritual Father and wise Ruler of the universe. This is the Church in its highest and purest form; it is the Church in the body of its principles, and the sympathies of its heart.

1. The unity of the Church consists in its design and service.

2. It is a unity of sympathy.

3. It is a unity of privilege.

4. It is one in relation. The Church stands related to its source and Head, to Divine order, to all intelligent beings, to itself and all belonging to its laws and blessings, to this world and the next. These are relations of privilege and responsibility, of honour and duty.

5. It is one in life and spirit.

6. It is one in likeness. The Church, as the product of one mind, carries the same Divine image everywhere, both in its laws and members. It is intended to mould the human family into the Divine likeness.

II. The Church, as one body, possesses various parts and fit organs to perform its work and conserve its existence. It is not one clumsy mechanical piece, without either parts or joints, but a body of numerous organs for the accomplishment of different services. In its spiritual constitution it is a body of various elements, for the performance of high and gracious designs. In order that these various elements may have mediums of expression to reach their intended and fit end, there must be a befitting organization of parts and suitable quality.

1. The members of the body are intended to perform the required functions for the service of the body itself. The body has to serve itself before it can be useful to others. It is, in a sense, its own saviour or destroyer. The right use of its own functions and resources is its salvation; the rejection of this is its sure death and decay. There are some powers given for its protection, there are others for its growth and vigour; there are others for its comfort and happiness, and others, again, intended for its beauty and attraction. To have a perfect body, all these must do their own work, and cooperate for a common end; and to have a healthy and happy Church, all its functions must be active in doing their own work, and united together for one holy and high end.

2. The body has relations and duties to things besides itself. The body stands related, some way or other, to all the things of earth. All the works of this world depend upon the fitness of the members of the human body to do them; so that if these were to fail, all would stop. There could be no art without the mind and the senses; neither would there be commerce, building of houses, cultivation of the field, or any other work of any kind whatever. Such is the vast importance of the members of this small body, that all in life and society depend upon their order and efficiency. So is it in analogy with the Church; all in society morally depends upon the efficiency and the right use of its means and organs. All have their work. Unity of likeness and variety of work are the two things which demand and consume the service of the one and the whole. The head, the heart, and the hand of all have work, and that as much for their own sake as that of others; and all this diversity and force are for the needful and common service of the whole. To make these different organs complete and effective, you will see at once that there are other conditions required, which may be suggested as worthy of your respect and belief.

III. All the parts in the organization of the body abe subordinate, and intended for the increase of the whole.

1. It is to be a general and complete increase of the whole body. In order to have a well-developed and equally proportionate Church, all means must be used, all functions must be exercised; thus every part is developed, so that it becomes a true counterpart of real existence, and fit for all intended for it, and demanded of it.

2. It is a conditional increase, produced by the use of means. To secure the increase of the whole body, the law of the conditions demands that all means should be used, all powers exercised, the spirit one of faith and love, the motive true and unselfish, and the activity constant and unyielding. God gives increase according to law and order; and when these things are united, never does it fail. When our life unites with Divine order, happy results always follow, and never disappoint us.

3. It is an indefinite increase. There is neither limit nor end prescribed to it. It runs down through time and eternity; it pervades the universe of rational and responsible existence.

4. The soil and quality of the increase is love. Increase in love is one towards ourselves stud the object or objects of our desire and delight at the same time. As love is the refining power of the soul, to increase in it is to advance in all that is morally pure and beautiful. It is the sweet element of happiness, and he who grows in it increases in the thing all wish and all seek. It is one of the chief elements in which we become like God, for He is love.

IV. The Church, as a body of parts, is dependent upon its representative head for its order and resources.

1. Its laws and resources are from Him. The laws given by the Head to the Church are few and natural, proceeding from the unchangeable relations of man to man, and man to God. Love to God and love to man are the great moral laws which remain in the Church forever, without declension or change, because they are essential to the relations of moral beings, and the moral universe could not exist without them.

2. From Him it receives its symmetrical proportion and harmony. The symmetry of the Church is the harmony of all its parts with themselves, with the Divine economy of the universe, and with itself, in all times and places. This three-fold symmetry it receives from its glorious Head, who is one and unchangeable.

3. From Him it receives its oneness. This gives the Church, through all times and places, unity of purpose and character. Its oneness is not in its feet, but in its Head.

4. From Him it receives light and life. As life and light are elements in importance and value above all others, so is Christ to the Church. As He is made by God the representative Head, He is made its light and life.

5. From Him it receives its beauty and attraction. A deformed head would destroy every possible beauty and attraction of the whole body. A noble head gives beauty and nobility to the whole. We look first at the head; we form our opinion of the whole from the character of the head. In its outward form the Church may appear mean and unattractive in some of its members, but the Head makes up for the whole. The Head is never out of sight; it is visible to all from all its members.

6. Its magnitude and universality are received from the Head. His greatness becomes that of the Church, by virtue of the relation existing between them. Where the Head is, the Church is represented. In the Head, the Church of earth and heaven are united; the spirit of the Head unites the present with the future, and thus gives to the Church universality in time and space.

7. The Church is indebted for its hope and high destiny to its Head. The Head lives for the body. The exaltation of the Head will be that of the body also. The Head is above all human reach; and, in connection with its Head, the body will triumph over all foes and opposition. (T. Hughes.)

Mutual dependence

I. Observe, in the first place, that all the true members of Christ are entirely dependent on Christ. Independence is the great principle of our corrupt nature--that sinful independence, that would lead the creature not to acknowledge its entire dependence on God. But let me say to such that hear me, be assured of this; the soul in that state Never can enter the kingdom of heaven.

II. But observe now, that the members of Christ are not only dependent on Christ, but they are dependent upon each other. Look at a tree; is it not so? I see the branch dependent upon its stem, as the stem is dependent upon its root; but I see little branches dependent upon the other branches, and still smaller fibres dependent upon the smallest branches. And so is it in this figure before us: “from whom the whole body,” in its parts “fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.”

III. And now consider the great object and end, for which all this takes place. It “maketh increase of the body.” That is, “the whole body” in its parts “maketh increase of the body” as a whole. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Christian work and Christian life

Christian life in the truest sense is impossible apart from Christian activity. In other words, in the Church everyone has something to do.

I. There must be a hearty conviction that because we can therefore we ought to do so. Power, you know, is a talent down to its uttermost limit, and as long as there is something which “every joint” can supply, alas for that joint’s health and life, if it fails of its function. A Christian that does no Christian work, is an anomaly. Analogy teaches this. Nature is not receptive only: nature is a bountiful giver; rendering back again, thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold, that which man entrusts to her keeping. Social life teaches the same doctrine. We cannot, if we would, do without one another.

II. All Christians have not the same work to do. Every joint is to supply something, but every joint is not to supply the same thing. It is to be according to “the measure of every part.” There is something to be done by all of us; but our work varies with our position in life. (W. G. Barrett.)

An honourable vocation for all

Very little are some of the joints and fibres; but every little helps. Who shall despise the day of small things? But for the accumulated atoms, the aggregated littles, where were the body? As the author of “Felix Holt” says, we see human heroism broken into units, and are apt to imagine, this unit did little--might as well not have been. But in this way we might break up a great army into units; in this way we might break the sunlight into fragments, and think that this and the other might be cheaply parted with. There is a latter day apologue of a gimlet that grew exceedingly discontented with its vocation, envying all the ether tools in the carpenter’s basket, and thinking scorn of its own mean duty of perpetually boring and picking holes everywhere. “The saw and the axe had grand work to do; and the plane got praise always; so did the chisel for its carving; and the happy hammer was always ringing merrily upon the clenching nail.” But for it, a wretched, poking, paltry, gimlet its work was hidden away, and very little seemed its recognized use. But the gimlet is assured, on the best authority, that nothing could compensate for its absence, and is therefore bidden be content, nay happy; for though its work seems mean and secret, it is indispensable. To its good offices, the workman is said to look chiefly for coherence without splitting; and to its quiet influences, the neatness, the solidity, the comfort of his structure may greatly be ascribed. The apologue has, of course, its practical application. “Are there not many pining gimlets in society, ambitious of the honour given to the greater-seeming tools of our Architect, but unconscious that in His hands they are quite as useful? The loving little child, the gentle woman, the patience of many a moral martyr, the diligence of many a duteous drudge, though their works may be unseen and their virtues operate in obscurity, yet are these main helpers to the very joints and bands of our body corporate, the quiet home influences whereby the great edifice, Society, is so nicely wainscoted and floored without split boards … ” John Newton said that if two angels came down from heaven to execute a Divine command, and one was appointed to conduct an empire, and the other to sweep street in it, they would feel no inclination to change employments. So again, the same robust divine affirmed that a Christian should never plead spirituality for being a sloven; “if he be but a shoe cleaner, he should be the best in the parish.” As the old servant tells Ruth in Mrs. Gaskell’s story, “There’s a right and a wrong way of setting about everything--and to my thinking, the right way is to take a thing up heartily, if it is only making a bed. Why, dear, ah me! making a bed may be done after a Christian fashion, I take it, or else what’s to come of such as we in heaven, who’ve had little enough time on earth for clapping ourselves down on our knees for set prayers?” This quaint speaker had laid to heart the lesson once for all enforced upon her, to do her duty in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call her; her station was that of a servant, and, looked at aright, as honourable as a king’s: she was to help and serve others in one way, just as a king is in another. Her parting counsel to Ruth runs thus: “Just try for a day to think of all the odd jobs as to be done well and truly in God’s sight, not just slurred over anyhow, and you’ll go through them twice as cheerfully,” besides doing them more efficiently. John Brown, of Haddingten, being waited on by a lad of excitable temperament, who informed him of his desire to become a preacher, and whom the shrewd pastor saw to be as weak in intellect as he was strong in conceit, advised him to continue in his present vocation. The young man said, “But I wish to preach and glorify God.” The old commentator replied, “My young friend, a man may glorify God making broom besoms; stick to your trade, and glorify God by your life and conversation.” As it was said of Bossuet, in the seventeenth century, that he could not walk, or sit down, or even pluck a currant, without your recognizing in him the great bishop (so asserts a modern French divine, not of Bossuet’s Church), just so the workman and the domestic servant who are animated by their Master’s spirit, distinguish themselves among their fellows by a certain air of nobility; under their blouse or their livery may be seen to shine the signal light of their aristocratic spirituelle, the image of the Most High Himself. However mean their employment, they go about it with neither disgust nor indifference; but with an intelligent interest, because, in the sight of God, and indeed in their own eyes, their occupation is on a level with that of king or emperor. (Francis Jacox.)

The Church edifying itself in love

I. The church of Christ is compared to a body.

1. The life of a body.

2. Its head.

3. The members.

4. Their unity.

5. Its nourishment.

6. The soul.

II. The imperfections of this body.

1. Its numbers.

2. Its graces.

III. The endeavours it should make for its own edifying.

IV. The fact that the more love abounds, the more will it be edified. Love--

1. Enlarges supplication.

2. Inclines to peace.

3. Produces condescension.

4. Promotes activity. (N. Vincent, M. A.)

The Church, Christ’s Body, a growing body

Concerning this growth, the apostle says--

I. It is from Christ. He is the causal source from which all life and power is derived.

II. It depends on the intimate union of all the parts of the body with the head, by means of appropriate bands.

III. It is symmetrical.

IV. It is a growth in love. (Dr. Hodge.)

The Body of Christ

The figure in the mind of the apostle is that of a human body, in its unity, in its symmetry, in its structural completeness, its framework of bones shielding the brain, shielding the eye, sheathing the life marrow in the spinal column; in the legs supporting the frame as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold, the whole wrapped in an enswathement of closely-knit, cunningly-knit muscles, ramified with countless nerves, furnished with eyes, ears, hands, feet, and all the rest:--“The whole body fitly,” etc. This is the object before the eye of the apostle as he writes of the body that grows out of Christ.

I. As a body the Church possesses visibility. For about thirty-three years, more or less, God manifest in the flesh was visible to the eyes of the world. Indeed, for that last twelvemonth of His life on earth it may be said that Palestine saw little else. Tabor in its bold isolation, Hermon with his glittering crown of snow, even Jerusalem itself, was hardly so obtrusively visible as this great, strange personage. And louder, gladder doxology never rolled up from earth to heaven than that of the whole orchestra of priests, Levites, scribes, and Pharisees, Sanhedrim, and synagogue when the body of Jesus disappeared from human view. They never for a moment questioned that this was the “end all” of the whole perplexity. Little did they dream that the withdrawal of this body only made way for another a thousand times more visible. It is time long ago that men understood and recognized this truth. They suppose that Christ is a purely historic Christ, while in fact He is a contemporary Christ. They fancy that the Body of the great Nazarene Reformer is gone forever from sight and time; while, in fact, the Church is His Body now visible to the eyes of millions. As a body, the Church of Christ is visible. Should the thought arise that the Church as a whole includes vast numbers of members who are not visible--that here and there in the world are members of the Body of whom the world knows nothing--we answer, Yes, and only part of the human body is visible. We do not see the lungs and the heart and the nerves and the blood, and yet the body is visible, and so is the Church, which is the Body of Christ.

II. As a body, the Church consists of a great variety of component parts. The constituents of a human body are very numerous, very various; and these constituents find their way to the body from every quarter of the globe. The whole round world has been laid under contribution to make up the body in which you live, move, and have your being. And is not this true of the Church which is the Body of Christ? Not a variety of temperament, not a grade of intellect, not a style of social life but has contributed to the building up of this Body of Christ. In that Body we find the learned professor, and by his side the child of illiteracy; the scientist discoursing of the plants, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that groweth out of the wall, of beasts, birds, and fishes, of meteors and stars, of Orion and Pleiades, and by his side one who hardly knows that the earth is round, and is right sure of very little else than that he is a poor lost sinner, and that Christ died to save him. One member of this Body dwells among Greenland’s icy mountains, another on India’s coral strand; one wears the black skin of the African, another the red skin of the American Indian; one the yellow skin of the Chinese, and another the tawny skin of the Malay; another still the white skin of the Caucasian; but all alike are members of the Body of Christ.

III. As a body, the Church is also characterized by a compact organic unity. It is a body “fitly framed together,” etc. This unity is a unity of Life and Spirit. The vital force that gives life to, warms, propels, acts in each believer, issues from Christ. “From whom,” etc. In a vine, however large, the same life is in every leaf and every branch, every tendril and every grape. In the whole vine there is perfect unity of life, and that life is the one vine life. This is seen in the similarity of fruit the vine produces. On the same vine you do not find here the Malaga grape, there the Catawba, and here the Isabella; but on every branch the same fruit; for they are all the product of one life. But Jesus said, “I am the vine,” etc. If any leaf on the vine can say “such a life dwells in me,” every other leaf can say the same.

1. The Church is the Body of Christ--it is His head, His brain--an organ of thought to Him. Whatever is lofty, pure, noble in the conception of the Church, in the conceptions of the believer, is due to the Spirit of Christ acting through the mind of the Church.

2. The Church is the eyes of Christ (Matthew 9:36). The Jews thought that on Calvary those pitying eyes forever closed in death. Today, after so many centuries, Jesus looks abroad through a hundred millions of compassionate eyes upon the children of men scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.

3. The Church is the feet of Jesus. How restless were those feet (Matthew 9:35). And today the Church, His Body, is going about “all the cities and villages,” etc.

4. And the Church is the hands of Jesus. How blessed the relation of membership in this Body of Christ, His work employing our thought, our eyes, our hands, our feet, our lips!

This being so, two consequences follow.

1. No member of this Body must do anything that Jesus would not have done when He was on the earth.

2. Every member of this Body of Christ must be ready, willing, anxious to do what Jesus would do in his, in her place. (William P. Breed, D. D.)

The vitality and development of the body

The figure is a striking one. The body derives its vitality and power of development from the head. The Church has a living connection with its living Head, and were such a union dissolved, spiritual death would be the immediate result. The body is fitly framed together, and compacted by the functional assistance of the joints. Its various members are not in isolation, like the several pieces of a marble statue. No portion is superfluous; each is in its fittest place, and the position and relations of none could be altered without positive injury. “Fearfully and wonderfully made,” it has its hard framework of bone so formed as to protect its vital organs in the thorax and skull, and yet so united by “curiously wrought” joints, as to possess freedom of motion both in its vertebral column and limbs. But it is no ghastly and repulsive skeleton, for it is clothed with flesh and fibre, which are fed from ubiquitous vessels, and interpenetrated with nerves--the spirit’s own sensational agents and messengers. It is a mechanism in which all is so finely adjusted, that every part helps and is helped, strengthens and is strengthened, the invisible action of the pores being as indispensable as the mass of the brain and the pulsations of the heart. When the commissioned nerve moves the muscle, the hand and foot need the vision to guide them, and the eye, therefore, occupies the elevated position of a sentinel. How this figure is applicable to the Church may be seen under a different image at 2:21. The Church enjoys a similar compacted organization--all about her, in doctrine, discipline, ordinance, and enterprize, possessing mutual adaptation, and showing harmony of structure. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The growth of the body

“The body maketh increase of itself” according to the energy which is distributed, not only through it, but to “every part” in its own proportion. Corporeal growth is not effected by additions from without. The body itself elaborates the materials of its own development. Its stomach digests the food, and the numerous absorbents extract and assimilate its nourishment. It grows, each part according to its nature and uses. The head does not swell into the dimensions of the trunk, nor does the “little finger” become “thicker than the loins.” Each has the size that adapts it to its uses, and brings it into symmetry with the entire living organism. And every part grows. The sculptor works upon a portion only of the block at a time, and, with laborious efforts, brings out in slow succession the likeness of a feature or a limb, till the statue assume its intended aspect and attitude. But the plastic energy of nature presents no such graduated forms of operation, and needs no supplement of previous defects. Even in embryo the organization is perfect, though it is in miniature, and development only is required. For the “energy” is in every part at once, but in every part in due apportionment. So the Church universal has in it a Divine energy, and that in all its parts, by which its spiritual development is secured. In pastors and people, in missionaries and catechists, in instructors of youth and in the youth themselves, this Divine principle has diffused itself, and produces everywhere proportionate advancement. And no member or ordinance is superfluous. The widow’s mite was commended by Him who sat over against the treasury. Solomon built a temple. Joseph provided a tomb. Mary the mother gave birth to the Child, and the other Marys wrapt the Corpse in spices. Lydia entertained the apostle, and Phoebe carried an Epistle. Of old the princes and heroes went to the field, and “wise-hearted women did spin.” While Joshua fought, Moses prayed. The snuffers and trays were as necessary as the magnificent lamp stand. The rustic style of Amos, the herdsman, has its place in Scripture as well as the graceful paragraphs of the royal preacher. A basket was as necessary for Paul’s safety at one time as his burgess ticket, and a squadron of cavalry at another. And the result is, that the Church is built up, for love is the element of spiritual progress. That love fills the renewed nature, and possesses peculiar facilities of action in “edifying” the mystical Body of Christ. And, lastly, the figure is intimately connected with the leading idea of the preceding paragraph, and presents a final argument on behalf of the unity of the Church. The apostle speaks of but one Body--“the whole Body.” Whatever parts it may have, whatever their form, uses, and position, whatever the amount of energy resident in them, still, from their connection with the one living Head, and from their own compacted union and mutual adjustment, they compose but one structure “in love.” (J. Eadie, D. D.)


Verse 17

Ephesians 4:17

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.

Exhortation to converts

1. Ministers of the Word must both speak, and with protestation enforce, the ways of God.

2. We must do all good things in the Lord’s power.

3. Our estate which we have in Christ must avail with us to leave oar old ways.

4. We must not spend our time after grace as we did before.

5. Such as are called to faith, must not be like the world.

6. To walk after our vain minds is heathenish.

7. All the courses which the natural man can devise are vain. (Paul Bayne.)

Kept from mental vanity

A German writer says that the king’s daughter had a very learned man come every day to instruct her in the sciences. He was very weak and sickly, dwarfed and deformed. One day the king’s daughter said to him, “How is it that you, a man with so much intelligence and such a wonderful intellect, should have such a miserable body?” The teacher made no answer, but he said, “Bring us some wine.” The order was given, the wine was brought, and they drank it. He said, “This is very pleasant wine; in which kind of vat do you keep it?” She said, “In an earthen vat.” “Oh,” he said, “it is strange that in such a beautiful palace as your father has he should have wine in an earthen vat. Why don’t you put it in a gold or silver vat?” The king’s daughter said, “So it shall be.” One day the learned man was teaching the king’s daughter, and he said, “I am weary--bring me some wine.” The wine was ordered. He tasted it; it was sour. He said, “This is miserable wine. What is the matter with it?” She said, “I cannot understand it, for we have the wine in a golden vat.” “Ah!” he said, “that’s what’s the matter with it; that’s what has spoiled and soured it. Now,” he said, turning to the king’s daughter, “I will explain why God puts my mind in such a miserable body. Had He put my mind in a body that was golden, beautiful, and imposing, I should have been spoiled with vanity; but He put me in an earthen vessel, and so I have been kept humble.” (Dr. Talmage.)

Vanity even in death

Danton’s last words to Samson, the executioner, were, “Thou wilt show my head to the people; it is worth showing.” (Carlyles French Revolution.”)


Verses 17-19

Verse 18

Ephesians 4:18

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the, life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

Spiritual blindness

A coward never knows what the ecstasy of courage is; and if you ask me why, my reply is, that he has not that in him by which he can know it. A man hearing a magnificent symphony of Beethoven says, “I would give more for ‘Yankee Doodle’ than for a thousand such symphonies.” Why? Because he has not that in him by which he can appreciate Beethoven’s music. A man says in regard to a magnificent work of art, “I would rather see the sign that hangs over the door of the tavern in our town than any picture that Raphael ever painted.” Very likely he would. That sign is just coarse enough for him to understand; and he has not that in him which would enable him to interpret the paintings of a great master. Many men would rather read a ballad than Milton’s “Lycidas” or “Comus” or “Paradise Lost.” (H. W. Beecher.)

The immorality of the heathen

We are environed by an invisible, Divine, and eternal world. It does not lie far away from us in the remote future, but surrounds us now as the starry heavens surround the common earth, There is a faculty in us which, when inspired and illuminated by the Spirit of God, enables us to see it. When once that world is revealed to us our whole conception of human duty and of human destiny is changed. We discover that the pleasures and pains of this brief and transitory life, its poverty and its wealth, its honours and its shame, are of secondary importance, that there is a kind of unreality in them all, that they are external to us, that they are rapidly passing away. In this life indeed it is impossible for us not to be affected by them; and they have their place in the discipline of our righteousness. But our horizon has widened, and we see beyond them. We discover that it is only the larger world which has been revealed to us by Christ that is real and enduring; and that compared with its august and glorious realities “things seen and temporal,” are but passing shadows. We see that the true life of man is the eternal and Divine life by which he is related to what is eternal and Divine; that the true honour, the true wealth, the true wisdom, the true happiness of man are found in that eternal and Divine kingdom. But Paul says that heathen races are living among things seen and temporal, not among things unseen and eternal. The faculty by which they should be brought into contact with what is real and enduring, is impaired, so that it mistakes shadows for substances, dreams for realities: they “walk in the vanity of their mind.” And as no light reaches them from the infinite and eternal world, they are “darkened in their understanding.” Darkness and death go together. Man was so created that the root of his perfection is in God. But where the knowledge of God is lost the life of God is lost. Heathen men are living in regions of moral darkness, in which the life of God cannot be theirs. They are separated, estranged, “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.” But the ignorance is not a mere intellectual defect involving no moral fault; they are “alienated from the life of God … because of the hardening of their heart.” Their increasing moral insensibility was the real cause of their ignorance; and their ignorance and moral insensibility were the causes of their alienation from the life of God. What kind of men they had become through this hardening of their heart Paul describes in words which it is not possible to read without a sense of horror. They were “past feeling.” They had ceased to he sensitive to the obligations of truth, of honesty, of kindness, of purity; and to the guilt of falsehood, of injustice, of cruelty, of sensual sin. They committed the grossest vices, and were conscious of no shame. Their imagination was no longer fascinated by the beauty and nobleness of virtue. No sentiment of personal dignity checked the indulgence of the foulest and most disgraceful passions. They had no reverence for the purer and loftier traditions of better times. They were untouched by the censure and scorn of the wiser and nobler of their contemporaries. All the inducements that draw men to virtue and all the restraints that hold them back from vice were destroyed. They were “past feeling.” Their sin was therefore gross and habitual. They were not betrayed into sin, against their better purposes; they were not merely overcome now and then by the violence of their passions; they were not mastered by some malignant power, against which they struggled in vain; nor were their worst excesses followed by any remorse. They sinned deliberately and without any protest from their reason or their conscience, or any purer and more generous affections in their moral life. “They gave themselves up”--it was their own act, done with set purpose and with the consent of their whole nature--“they gave themselves up to lasciviousness”--to a life in which there was a wilful, reckless, wanton defiance of all moral restraints. Vice, by their own choice and intention, was not to be an occasional incident in their life, it was to be their main business, the employment at which they were to “work”; and as some men have an insatiable desire for money, these men had an insatiable desire for every kind of impurity, “they gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” It is a horrible picture. But Paul was describing the men among whom he had lived and among whom the Christians at Ephesus were living still. The morality of the Greek cities of Asia Minor was so base and so foul that we wonder that the fires of God did not descend to destroy them. Is it surprising that with such a moral environment the Christians at Ephesus, who a few years before had been heathen men themselves, required the ethical teaching contained in the later chapters of this Epistle? (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Christians must live above the world

To ourselves the ethical condition of the Ephesian Christians is profoundly suggestive, perhaps I ought to say that it is very alarming. English society is free from the gross, the sensual, the brutal vice which infected the great heathen cities of Asia Minor. There is a strong public sentiment on the side of truthfulness, honesty, temperance, purity, industry, self-control, kindliness, and public spirit. We inherit these virtues from our parents; we have been disciplined to them by all the complex influences that have contributed to form our character. In a very true sense they are natural to us, and we practise them without effort. And so it is assumed that when a man receives the life of God there is no reason for any great change in his moral habits. There may be defects of temper which have to be corrected, and in some of the details of moral conduct we may recognize the necessity for amendment; but if he has lived among good moral people he takes it for granted that in working out his own salvation he has to think almost exclusively of his spiritual life; his moral character is already what it should be. He attends public worship more frequently than before; secures more time for private prayer, for religious thought, for reading the Bible and other religious books; he tries to increase the fervour of his love for God and the steadfastness of his faith in God; he takes up some kind of religious work. About moral discipline he thinks very little. About the necessity of reconstructing his whole conception of moral duty, adding to it new elements, resting it on new foundations, he thinks still less. The results of this grave error are most disastrous. The ideal of the ethical life is no higher in the Church than it is in the world. But if the morals of the Church, as a whole, are not distinctly in advance of the morals of society as a whole, if when a man becomes a Christian his moral life is not governed by nobler laws and inspired with a new generosity and force, the power of the Church will be seriously impaired, and its triumphs will be only occasional and intermittent. At times a great passion of religious enthusiasm may enable it to count its converts by thousands; but the fires of enthusiasm soon sink, and for its permanent authority the Church should rely on steadier forces. In heathen countries, although the morality of Christian converts may be grossly defective, it is in advance of the morality of the mass of their fellow countrymen. The darkness of their old life is about them still, but their faces are towards the light. In countries described as Christian there should be the same difference between the morality of those that are in Christ and the morality of those that are not. The revelation of the Divine love and the Divine righteousness, of our kinship to God, of the glorious immortality which is the inheritance of all that have received the Divine life, should ennoble our ideal of every moral virtue, and should inspire us with a more ardent passion for moral perfection. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Ignorance of religion

It’s ignorance of the price of pearls that makes the idiot slight them. It’s ignorance of the worth of diamonds that makes the fool choose a pebble before them. It’s ignorance of the satisfaction learning affords that makes the peasant despise and laugh at it; and we very ordinarily see how men tread and trample on those plants which are the greatest restoratives, because they know not the virtue of them; and the same may justly be affirmed of religion, the reason why men meddle no more with it is--because they are not acquainted with the pleasantness of it. (Anthony Horneck.)

Ignorance of a depraved heart

But there is another sort of ignorance which is not an ignorance of an empty understanding, but of a depraved heart; such an ignorance as does not only consist in a bare privation, but in a corrupt disposition; where the understanding is like that sort of blind serpents, whose blindness is attended with much venom and malignity. This was such a blindness as struck the Sodomites; there was darkness in their eyes, and withal villany in their hearts. (Dr. South.)

Guilty ignorance

There is also an affected ignorance, such a one as is contracted by a wilful neglect of the means; and this is not excusing but condemning … In the midst of light to be in darkness; for an Israel to have an Egypt in a Goschen; this is highly provoking, and may justly cause God to lay hold on vengeance. (Dr. South.)

Innocent ignorance

Is any father so cruel, or hard hearted, as to disown and cast off his son, because he is a fool? No; an innocent ignorance excuses from sin, both before God and man; and God Himself will own that maxim of equity, “Ignorantia excusat peccatum.” (Dr. South.)

Different kinds of ignorance

Ignorance may be distinguished into five kinds; human, natural, affected, invincible, proud, and puffed up.

1. Human.

This is not sinful, as in Adam not to know his nakedness nor Satan’s subtlety; as in the angels, and even Christ, as man, not to know the latter day.

2. Natural.--The ignorance of infirmity, incident to man’s nature since the Fall.

3. Affected ignorance (see John 3:19).--These shut their ears when God calleth; and, being housed in their security, will not step to the door to see if the sun shines. This ignorance, if I may say so, doth reside rather in their affection than understanding part.

4. Invincible ignorance.--When God hath naturally darkened the understanding by a sore punishment of original sin.

5. A proud ignorance.--Whereof there is no hope, saith Solomon (Proverbs 27:1). The other is invincible, indeed this more invincible: a fool is sooner taught. (T. Adams.)

Natural ignorance

We read of an ancient king, who being desirous to know what was the natural language of men; in order to bring the matter to a certain issue, made the following experiment:--He ordered two infants, as soon as they were born, to be conveyed to a place prepared for them, where they were brought up without any instruction at all, and without ever hearing a human voice. And what was the event? Why, that when they were at length brought out of their confinement they spake no language at all, they uttered only inarticulate sounds like those of other animals. Were two infants in like manner to be brought up from the womb without being instructed in any religion, there is little room to doubt but (unless the grace of God interposed) the event would be just the same. They would have no religion at all: they would have no more knowledge of God than the beasts of the field, than the wild ass’s colt. Such is natural religion l abstracted from traditional, and from the influences of God’s spirit. (J. Wesley.)


Verse 19

Ephesians 4:19

Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness.

Past feeling

There are two great extremes into which persons fail with regard to Christian feeling. There are some whose religion seems to consist in feeling only. But remember that if your feeling is not based on solid acquaintance with Scriptural truth, it will rise like a bubble, and be as beautiful in its colours, but burst as easily. On the other hand there is religion without feeling Some persons seem to think all emotion, or warmth, or fervour, is enthusiasm, and settle down satisfied with a cold reception of Christian truth.

I. The importance of Christian feeling. One of the great points of contrast between the people of God and the wicked.

1. The godly man feels sorrow for sin.

2. The godly man feels the emotion of love.

3. The godly man is filled with joy.

II. Suggestions for those anxious on the subject.

1. The feelings, however warm, can never justify, and the want of feeling does not prevent justification.

2. If you want to be made to feel, you must lose no time in going near to the Father’s throne.

3. Remember always that feeling is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that you cannot work yourself up to it. (The Clergymans Magazine.)

Spiritual insensibility

In the wilds of North America, amid vast prairies and trackless woods, there lived, through many centuries, the race of the Red Men. Encroached upon from all sides, hemmed in by settlers from Europe, and defrauded of their ancient territories, that race of men has almost disappeared from the face of the earth. They were a race of hunters; unsettled, cruel, and deceitful; yet not without many features of character which gave them a peculiar interest. Their hospitality was inviolate; and the stern gravity of their manners deeply impressed the stranger. But there was one thing about them, in particular, which they cultivated with especial care, and which was matter of especial pride: this was their power of absolutely repressing the slightest outward exhibition of feeling. If they were glad, they never looked it; if the most awful misfortune befell them, it wrought not the least change on their iron features and their impassive demeanour. From his tree-rocked cradle to his bier, the Indian brave was trained to bear all the extremes of good and evil, without making any sign of what he felt. If he met a friend, the dearest friend on earth; or if he was being tortured to death at the fiery stake; he preserved the same fixed, immovable aspect. And you could not please him better than by believing that he was as completely beyond all feeling as he seemed; for he set himself out as “the stoic of the woods,” as” a man without a tear.” And, indeed, it is curious to think how much, in this respect, the extreme of civilization and the extreme of barbarism approach one another. Greek philosophy centuries ago, and modern refinement in its last polish of manner, alike recognize the mute Oneida’s principle, that there is something manly, something fine, in the repression of human feeling. A Red Indian, a Grecian philosopher, an English gentleman, would all be pretty equally ashamed to have been seen to weep. Each would try to convey by his entire deportment the impression that he cared very little for anything. And there is no doubt at all, that it might be unworthy of the grown-up man, who has to battle with the world for his family’s support, were his feelings as easily moved as in his childish days, or did his tears flow as readily as then. Even the gentleness and freshness of womanly feeling would hardly suit the rude wear of manhood’s busy life. And it must be admitted, that the highest pitch of heroism to which man has ever attained, as well as the vilest degree of guilt to which man has ever sunk, has been attained, has been sunk to, by the putting down of natural feeling. The soldier volunteering for the forlorn hope, must do that as truly as the desperate pirate who spreads his black flag to the winds. And yet St. Paul was right when he wrote those words of the text. When he was speaking of people who had become hopelessly and fearfully bad, who had broken through every restraint, who had flung off every obligation; he was quite right to mention, as something symptomatic of their case, that they were “past feeling.” They were thoroughly hardened. You could make no impression upon them. That was the most hopeless thing about them. Yes, brethren, St. Paul was right. It is one of the last and worst symptoms of the soul’s condition, when feeling is gone. You know that it is sometimes so also with the body. Sometimes when disease has run a certain length, there is nothing which looks so ill as an entire cessation of pain. For that may indicate that mortification has begun, and so that all hope is at an end. So with spiritual insensibility; for that is arrived at by most men only after a long continuance in iniquity: and that is an indication which gives sad ground for fearing that the Holy Spirit, without whom we can never feel anything as we ought, has ceased to strive with that hardened soul--has left that obdurate heart alone. Yet we must not imagine that our text describes a state of matters which can only be found among the most degraded and abandoned of the race. I believe, on the contrary, that our text names a spiritual condition which is too common a condition; a condition to which we have all a strong tendency; a spiritual condition which we must all daily be striving and praying against. We all run a great risk of becoming so familiar with spiritual truths, as that we shall understand them and believe them without feeling them; without really feeling what their meaning is, and without that degree of emotion being excited by them that ought to be excited. You may remember what a faithful and zealous minister tells us, of a conversation which he had with an aged man in his parish, a respectable decent man, who bore an unstained character, who never was absent from church or sacrament. That zealous minister, in his parochial visitation, went to that respectable man’s house, and there, addressing him and his family, he told simply of the salvation that is in Christ, and urged those who listened to a hearty acceptance of it. The minister finished what he had to say, and when he left the house his friend accompanied him; and when they were alone together, said something like this: “Spend your time and strength upon the young; labour to bring them to Jesus: it is too late for such as me. I know,” he said, “that I have never been a Christian. I fully believe that when I die I shall go down to perdition; but somehow I do not care. I know perfectly all you can say; but I feel it no more than a stone.” And that man, we are told, died with the like words on his lips. He had lost the springtime of his life; he had missed the tide in his affairs that might have borne him to heaven: his heart had, under the deadening influence of a present world, grown hard and unimpressionable; and, saving only God’s irresistible Spirit, there was no use in anyone speaking of religious things to such as him. Oh, past feeling! Past feeling! Not past it in the mere sentimental sense in which the poet tells us that “it is the one great woe of life to feel all feeling die”; not past it in that mere sentimental sense in which youth has a freshness of feeling and heart which tames down, which passes away with advancing years; not past it merely in that sense in which as we grow older we grow less susceptible, less capable of all emotion; not past it merely in the sense, that when the hair grows grey, and the pulse turns slower, the tear flows less readily at the gospel story, and even at the table of communion we miss somewhat of the warmth of heart and the vividness of thought which we felt in earlier days; but “past feeling” in that saddest sense, that religious words fall with little meaning on the ear, and with no impression at all upon the heart: “past feeling” in that saddest sense, that now to all spiritual truths, to all expostulation and all entreaty, to God’s abounding mercy, to Christ’s blessed sacrifice, to the hopes of heaven and the fears of perdition, the understanding may indeed yield a torpid, listless assent; but the heart is stone! (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

The story of the unarousable

These words were used as descriptive of certain persons a good while ago; but they are a striking photograph of some people in this day. You and I have known them--men sensitive on all other things; but, so far as the subject of religion was concerned, accurately described by my text: “Past feeling.” It does not require much to arouse the emotions of an audience on a great many subjects. If a nation be in peril and the subject be patriotic, you know how the hats go up and the handkerchiefs wave from the galleries, and the reporter taking down the speech interlards his notes with “applause,” “vociferous cheering,” “cries of hear, hear.” I heard a Frenchman sing the “Marseillaise Hymn” on the Champs Elysees in Paris on the day when the German guns were thundering at Sedan, and I shall never forget the enthusiasm of the singer or the enthusiasm of the audience. It required but little to stir them. So, also, if upon a public occasion, it is proper to recite the virtues of the dead, it is like when on a summer morning at sunrise you shake a tree heavily laden with glittering dew. But you know as well as I do that, if the subject be deeply religious, while there are many earnest countenances in an assemblage, and some are broken down with emotion, there are those who by their manner and by their look excite the suspicion that they have gone down into the condition spoken of by the text: “Past feeling.” I remember some years ago going through a medical museum, in Philadelphia, with a very learned surgeon, and he pointed to me under the glass cases, the splintered bones, and the cancerous protuberances, and the fractured thighs, and he said: “What beautiful specimens they are.” I thought if that man had to endure the agonies that those things suggested, he would not have thought they were such splendid specimens. My dear friends, there are those who coolly philosophize about the splintered, cancered, and fractured souls of men, but if the Spirit of God would come upon them and they could see it was their own condition, that they were diseased, and leprous, and broken, and death struck, they would stop philosophizing so placidly, Some years ago, when John Hawkins was speaking in Greene-street Church, New York, showing the condition of an inebriate, a man rose up in the gallery and cried out: “That’s me!” The truth went right to his heart. And, my dear friends, if tonight, while I speak, the Holy Spirit of God would show all those of you who are yet unforgiven and unchristian your true condition, there would be an outcry on the right and an outcry on the left, and above me and beneath me, and my voice would be drowned out, and I should have to stop in the services because of the praying, and the repenting, and the weeping--thousands of voices filling the air with the cry: “That’s me! that’s me!” And yet, I suppose, there are people in the building tonight who suppose I exaggerate. They have no appreciation of their peril. Eternal consumption having seized upon their vitals, they think themselves in perfect health. I remember riding from Geneva to Chamouni, and the driver of the diligence--we were being drawn by six horses--gathered the reins in one hand, and with the other lifted his hat, and bowed very low. I looked to see what he was bowing to. It was a cross at a gate post. I could not but admire the man’s behaviour. Oh! my friends, if we could really understand how much that symbol of Christ’s suffering means, the whole world would bow in obeisance, nay more, it would burst into tears of repentance. I was in a meeting in the Fourth Ward, New York, one night last summer, and the city missionary was commending Christ to the sailors. There was a German who seemed to take the truth to himself, and when the leader of the meeting said; “Christ died for you; is there any of you that feel it?” this man sprang to his feet and cried: “Me! me!” Why, my friends, if you could appreciate what Christ has done and suffered in your behalf, you could not be stolid and indifferent. (T. de W. Talmage, D. D.)

Past feeling

Truly, there are no colours in human language dark enough wherewith to describe this state. Conceive of a person standing amid this present world, all whose senses have, one by one, been utterly destroyed; on whose sightless orbs the sun shines in vain; whose ear receives no intelligence from the world without; whose hand feels not; whose tongue is dumb; in whom every sense is gone, while yet his soul, living and conscious in itself, is imprisoned in his body! How awful, how unspeakably awful, would be such a living death! And yet what would be such a condition as compared with that of him who stands amid eternity in like manner, dead in all his spiritual sensibilities to the influences of God and the realities of heaven--dead in all the spiritual faculties which were given to him for his knowledge and his happiness, and only stung forever with the vague, terrible consciousness that he is dead and lost to all the influences of God’s mighty and most merciful Spirit? It is truly a state so awful, even in the thought of it, that it seems almost impossible. And yet this is nothing more than the condition to which, the text informs us, every man--you and I--may bring himself.

I. The progress of the soul to spiritual insensibility is not one that can be entered upon without an internal struggle and a feeling of painful emotion. There is a consciousness, an instinct, in every human breast that man is to live a life beyond this present; that the service of Christ is both his duty and his interest; that he can only attain to eternal joy by becoming worthy of heaven; while at the same time he feels, from the witness both of conscience and of revelation, that he cannot depart from God without forfeiting all happiness for his immortal soul. No man, therefore, can determine to take the latter course without a feeling of alarm and sorrow.

II. The soul’s progress to the condition of “being past feeling” is a gradual one. Its final state of insensibility is not attained until after many awakenings and many relapses. It is often a long while ere a man becomes incapable of being aroused at times to seriousness and consideration. Only, it requires continually a stronger excitement to produce this result; and each time his feelings are less and less acute and effective. After each relapse, he is not the same man that he was before. The death frost has struck in deeper and nearer to the seat of life. He is harder to be aroused, and less sensitive when he is aroused. And so he goes on, step by step, awakening less and sinking more, until at last he begins to wonder how it could ever be that he once felt alarmed about his soul. Or else it may be that when, having enjoyed to satiety the present world, he would endeavour to be religious for the selfish purpose of gaining the future one also, he finds he has no power to be religious. He has no longer the sensibilities in whose right exercise consists religion. He has all along turned his back upon God and heaven, and travelled down and down all the frozen steps of indifference, until now, when at last he would return, he finds himself with a yawning eternity before, and an impassable wall of ice behind. His long outraged spiritual sensibilities are dead.

III. The progress we are considering is a deceptive one. No man expects to lose his soul. If a man knew that beyond a certain fixed and evident point he could not be saved, he would doubtless be careful to observe more closely his place upon the scale of life and death. But there is no such evident point, and hence he has no irresistible exterior evidence of his spiritual situation. His heart, within, moreover, acting under the same delusion, tends to keep up the same deception. The soul is borne along by so equable and smooth a movement, that at no point is the sinner sensible how far gone he is from God. Should you ask him at any period concerning his condition, he will confess, indeed, that all is not right, that his conscience is not satisfied; but he will say that he does not intend to put off the subjection of himself to God forever--it is only for a season; and he does not think it will be any more difficult to “repent and be converted” hereafter than it is at present or has been before. True, he admits that there is a difference between his religious feelings now and some time ago, but he supposes it is only the novelty of his first serious impressions wearing off; and this, he argues, is only what he should naturally expect. Moreover, his transient seasons of spiritual sensibility, instead of being used as opportunities of return, are made to strengthen his delusion, being interpreted as evidences that he is still capable of emotion. He thanks God that he is not morally dead yet; and therefore he concludes that he can venture to delay a little longer in carelessness and sin. His very resolution hereafter to repent thus blinds his eyes to the process of decay that is constantly going on in his heart. (Wm. Rudder, D. D.)

The road to spiritual insensibility

There is the man who but as yesterday stood amid the brightness and purity of dawning life. His heart was tender and sensitive to the influences of the Spirit as the strings of a harp to the breathings of the wind. Perhaps pious parents instructed him in the Word of truth, and by their watchfulness and their prayers not only kept alive, but increased the flame of natural piety in his breast. The thought of God could subdue him into deepest reverence. The love of Christ could cause his young heart to throb with a quicker pulse and fill it with an ardent gratitude. The hope of heaven could illuminate his mind with a deep, undefined delight. And so he passed from childhood to youth. And then began the fierce contest between the evil that was in his nature and the good which summoned him to overcome that evil. It would have been comparatively an easy matter for him to have decided then, and devoted himself forever to the service of his God. But he determined--not, however, through indifference to heaven or daring rebellion against God--first to make trial of the world, tits conscience and his heart protested, but he hushed them with the plea that it was only for a season. Thus, without any outbreak of iniquity, without greatly offending man, he glided on to maturity. His life was generally upright and correct. His fellow men called him honourable. His friends loved him for his love. But he had not yet truly, sincerely chosen Christ, nor had the Spirit as yet forsaken him. He was visited from time to time, and again and again, by the power of the grace of God. The loving hand of Christ roused him from his dangerous slumber, and the voice of Christ warned him of duty and judgment and eternity; and for each time he was filled with alarm. Conscience was heard again. He felt the necessity of repentance. He was not fit to die, and he knew that he was not, and shrank from death; but then that dread event seemed to him no nearer now than it did in his youth, and it seemed that repentance could be no more difficult at some future period than at the present. So he once more smothered conscience and sensibility, and went on as he had done before. Afflictions came, disappointments came, but their effect was only for a moment, and he crushed his feelings to indifference again. And so he lived, and passed on to white old age, repulsing and grieving the Spirit of God, outraging his own nature, until the Spirit left him and he could feel no more. Had such an end been foretold him formerly as the result of such delay as he then meditated, and such indifference as he then practised, he would have plucked out his right eye and cut off his right hand rather than delayed for one hour the submission of his soul to God. But now the acceptable time is passed, and the sun is setting; the shadows of the night are gathering around his soul; the power to feel is gone, his moral nature is benumbed, his intellect is clouded; he cannot repent, and without a fear, without a hope, he waits the summons to pass from his probation to his recompense. (Wm. Rudder, D. D.)

Degradation of the heathen

The Greek word signifies to “grieve out,” to have done with grieving over one’s actions, so that all sense of shame is lost. This is a fearful trait of character, and marks, with unerring skill, the polytheism of the heathen. Read their literature, and observe how deeply immoral the best and purest of their writers were; look at the monuments of the Greeks and Romans in general--look at the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and think how scandalous and shameless the public manners of the nation must have been; or enter a heathen temple in India, where the gods are to be worshipped, and you behold at the present hour the abominations of Venus, Baal, and Astarte. Shame is one of the first feelings of childhood, as well as one of the strongest of our manhood, and when we have become able to extinguish it, our condition is morally hopeless. The beautiful and the good can attract us no more. Hence the natural consequence was the next step in the climax, viz., “They gave themselves over unto all lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” A fearful picture, truly! Every word is emphatic, and shows the dominion which sinful habit had acquired over them. It was their own act; they gave themselves over to it. Sin is a fearful master; it increases its dominion over us with all the rapidity of a burning fire. Every indulgence enlarges the appetite, and makes repentance more improbable and more difficult. Such were the Gentiles as Paul saw them, and described them with a master’s hand. Hence the necessity of a Divine Revelation to teach, and a Divine Deliverer to redeem. The Day star has arisen to chase away the darkness and the dangers of the night. It may be objected to the apostle’s description of heathenism--that it is exaggerated, and even contrary to the innate principles of human virtue and rectitude. Bur the proper answer to this is--

1. it is yet to be proved that there are innate principles of virtue in man--I admit innate capacities only--and till this is done, we may hold by the words of Paul in this matter.

2. I mentioned already that the literature and monuments of the heathen, ancient and modern, are remarkably corrupt and abominable.

3. I add that the wise men and philosophers taught sentiments of the grossest impiety and vileness, so that, as Origen says, “In committing adultery and whoredom, they did not think themselves violating good manners.” Among the refined and civilized Greeks, theft was dishonourable only when the thief had not sufficient adroitness to conceal it. The great philosopher of Athens taught Aspasia the arts of seduction. The wise men of heathenism had hardly any perception of the beauty of truth. Whitby collects some of their maxims on this subject. Menander lays down the rule, “that a lie is better than a hurtful truth”; Proclus asserts that “good is better than truth”; Darius, in Herodotus, teaches, “When telling a lie is profitable, tell it!” Plato allows you to lie as much as you please, if you do it at the proper time, for, as Maximus Tyrius asserts, “there is nothing decorous in truth, save when it is profitable, and sometimes a lie is profitable, and truth injurious to men.” These specimens will be sufficient to justify the apostle in his awful denunciations of the crimes and corruptions of the heathen world. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Sin hardens man

When men have long taken a custom of sinning, they grow hardened and senseless, as the highway doth by being often trod upon, or as a labourer’s hand grows hard by constant labour. And so sin becometh familiar to them, and they become “past feeling,” and are “given up to work uncleanness with greediness.” (R. Baxter.)

The loss of moral sensibility

The chief danger of the poison called nightshade is its tendency to deprive the stomach of sensibility, and so to render the most powerful antidotes of no avail. Exactly like this is the effect of long continued evil habits. Those who are governed by them lose all moral sensibility. Nothing will work upon them. They are “past feeling.” Seeing, they see and do not perceive, and hearing, they hear and do not understand. The conscience becomes as it were “seared with a hot iron.” In that state, applications which before would have made it start and tremble, fail to move it. (R. A. Bertram.)

Past feeling

An old man took a little child up into his arms and put his fingers into the abundant curls of his sunny hair, and said, “Oh, dear child, while your mother sings to you and tells you about Jesus, think of Him and trust Him.” Grandpa, said the little boy, “don’t you trust Him?” “No, dear,” he said, “I might have done so years ago, but my old heart has got so hard, nothing ever touches me now.” And the old man dropped a tear as he said it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The man in the iron mask

It has long been a mystery who was the man in the iron mask. We believe that the mystery was solved some years ago, by the conjecture that he was the twin brother of Louis XIV, King of France, who, fearful lest he might have his throne disturbed by his twin brother, whose features were extremely like his own, encased his face in a mask of iron and shut him up in the Bastille for life. Your body and your soul are twin brothers. Your body, as though it were jealous of your soul, encases it as in an iron mask of spiritual ignorance, lest its true lineaments, its immortal lineage, should be discovered, and shuts it up within the Bastille of sin, lest getting liberty and discovering its royalty, it should win the mastery over the baser nature. But what a wretch was that Louis XIV, to do such a thing to his own brother! How brutal, how worse than the beasts that perish! But, sir, what art thou if thou doest thus to thine own soul, merely that thy body may be satisfied, and thy earthly nature may have a present gratification? O sirs, be not so unkind, so cruel to yourselves. But yet this sin of living for the mouth and living for the eye, this sin of living for what ye shall eat and what ye shall drink, and wherewithal ye shall be clothed, this sin of living by the clock within the narrow limits of the time that ticks by the pendulum, this sin of living as if this earth were all and there were nought beyond--this is the sin that holds this City of London, and holds the world, and binds it like a martyr to the stake to perish, unless it be set free. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 20-21

Ephesians 4:20-21

But ye have not so learned Christ.

The Christian method of moral regeneration

The Christian method of moral regeneration includes three distinct processes.

1. The renunciation of the previous moral life. The ethical change was not to be partial, but complete. But this complete moral revolution is not accomplished either by one supreme effort of our own will, or by any momentary shock of Divine power. It is a lifelong and painful process.

2. The constant renewal of the higher and spiritual life by the power of the Spirit of God. The “spirit,” which is that element of our life which comes to us direct from God, restores to the “mind” its soundness and health, the clearness of its vision, and its practical force and authority. In this high region of our nature Paul finds the springs of moral regeneration. Strength as well as light comes to us from invisible and eternal things; from the immeasurable love of God, from the glory of His perfection, from the knowledge that He is our comrade in every conflict with sin, that He is troubled by our defeats, and rejoices in our victories, from the hope of dwelling forever in His eternal peace and righteousness and joy. But if we are to be under the constant control of that spiritual universe by which we are environed, there must be a constant renewal of the spiritual life. It is not enough that, once for all, we have been born of God. The Divine life given in the new birth must be fed from its eternal springs, or the stream will soon run shallow, will cease to flow, will at last disappear altogether. The constant renewal of the spiritual life is the work of the Spirit of God; but we are not the merely passive subjects of His grace. It is our duty to “be renewed.” We are required to form the moral and spiritual habits which render possible, and which secure, the fresh access from day to day of Divine inspiration. There should be an habitual remembrance of the power and goodness of the Spirit, whose coming has more than compensated for the loss of the earthly ministry and visible presence of Christ. There should be habitual trust in Him as the Giver of light, of strength, of joy, and of righteousness. There should be habitual prayer for His teaching and His strong support. We should think much of God, and our thoughts of Him should be determined and controlled by the revelation of Himself in Christ. We should “mind”--“not earthly things”--but things heavenly and Divine; for our citizenship is in heaven, our riches, our honour, our blessedness, our home, are there.

3. The appropriation of the righteousness and holiness of that new and perfect humanity which God created in Christ. Christ is the prophecy of our righteousness, as well as the sacrifice for our sins--the prophecy, not merely the example or the law, of our righteousness; for He came down from heaven to give the very life of God to man, and in the power of that life all righteousness is possible. The prophecy has been fulfilled in every generation since He ascended to the Father, and in every country in which the Christian faith has been preached. The Lord Jesus Christ announced that He had come to give to the human race a new and diviner life, and strength to achieve a diviner righteousness. And we see that those great words have been accomplished. He has originated a new and nobler type of moral character, and a new and nobler religious faith. He Himself has been the root of the new ethical and spiritual life which has revealed its strength and its grace in Christian nations. His own unique perfection has been repeated, in humbler forms, in the lives of innumerable saints. The Vine has sent forth its branches into all lands, and men of every variety of civilization and of culture, of every variety of moral temperament and moral character, have illustrated the characteristic qualities of Christ’s own righteousness. In Him a new humanity was created. He is the Head of a new race. We ourselves are conscious that through Him we have passed into the Kingdom of God, are under the authority of its august and eternal laws, and that if our union with Him were more intimate we should have strength to achieve an ideal perfection. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

True learning

I. Our lesson.

1. Learning Christ is

2. It includes several forms of knowledge.

II. How we have not learned it.

1. So as to remain as we were before. Unchanged, and yet at peace.

2. So as to excuse sin because of His atonement.

3. So as to feel a freedom to sin because of pardon.

4. So as even to commit sin in Christ’s name.

5. So as to reckon that we cannot conquer sin, and so sit down under the dominion of some constitutional temptation.

6. So as to profess reverence for His name and character, and then think little of the truth which He reveals.

III. How we have learned it. We know the truth, and know it in its best light.

1. As directly taught by His own self, and by His own Spirit.

2. As distinctly embodied in His life and character.

3. As it relates to Him and honours Him.

4. Consequently, as it is in Him. Truth is in Jesus, indeed and of a truth, for in Him everything is real.

5. Consequently as it works a total change in us, and makes us like to Him in whom truth is embodied. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Thorough reformation

He exhorts not to an outward reformation of their converse only, but to that truth and sincerity of sanctification, which the doctrine and power Of grace in Christ teacheth and worketh in all true Christians: “If so be,” saith he, “ye have learned the truth as it is in Jesus.” Which doth not, as other doctrines of philosophers, etc., teach you to put off the evils of your outward converse only, and to put on a new conversation over an old nature, as a sheepskin over a wolfish nature; he that doth no more falls short of that truth of grace which Christ requires; but it teaches principally to put off the old man, as the cause of all the evils in the outward converse; and that is his meaning, when he saith. “As concerning the outward converse put off the old man,” without which it is impossible to reform the converse. (Thomas Goodwin.)

Learning Christ

To make a profession of religion is comparatively easy--and that on many accounts.

1. Because the secret doings of a man are known only to himself.

2. Because a man’s doings, which are known to his family, by reason of the partiality and kindness of the members of that family, do not become known to many besides.

3. Because those who make a profession are so numerous that they have a family feeling for one another, and are always ready to help one another.

4. The heart of man aids a mere profession.

I. Those who have learned Christ properly, and not as the hypocrites, have learned their need of Christ. Do you feel your sins to be a burden, too heavy for you to bear?

II. Those who learn Christ properly, to the salvation of their souls, learn the worth of Christ. He obeyed the law for us; He died on the cross for us; He endured the wrath of God for us. Who can estimate the worth of all He did and suffered?

III. Those who have learned Christ to the saving of their souls have learned the design of Christ. That design was to prepare a people for His Father.

IV. Those who have truly learned Christ are conscious of new desires. The glory of God is now their aim and ambition.

V. Those who have learned Christ properly will be deeply interested in the glory of Christ. (H. Allen, M. A.)

Scholars of Christ

In the school of Jesus Christ it is not always the oldest or the cleverest who are the best scholars. In other schools the scholar must be naturally clever, or, at least, most industrious, if he is to gain a high place, and win a prize. In Christ’s school there is a place and a prize for the dullest, and he will succeed very well if only he wants to learn. I want you all to come to Christ’s school today, old and young, clever and dull, and to hear some of the lessons which that school teaches.

I. We must learn to hate our own sins. Like David, like St. Peter, like every penitent, when we think of the past we abhor ourselves, and sit down among the ashes of humiliation.

II. We must learn to know our own weakness, and our need of a saviour. The world will not give us that lesson.

III. Another of the lessons we must learn is to conquer ourselves. The world gives a great many instructions about conquering difficulties, beating down obstacles, overcoming enemies; but it is Christ’s school alone which can show us how to conquer ourselves. You have probably noticed the change in a young country lad after he has enlisted for a soldier, and gone through his drill. Whereas he was a high-shouldered, slouching, ungainly figure, now he has learnt to carry himself like a soldier, he has conquered the old bad habits which he acquired by lounging in the lanes, or plodding along the furrows. My brethren, we have all got our bad habits, our ugly tempers, our sharp tongues, our discontented feelings, and it is only the drill of Christ’s soldiers, and the teachings in Christ’s school, which will make us get the better of them. And we shall learn in Christ’s school to be brave. The world’s school can teach us a certain kind of courage, but not the highest, nor the best. The world can teach us how to resent an injury, not how to forgive one. It is in Christ’s school only that true heroes are made. The world can make such soldiers as Caesar, or Napoleon, but the school of Christ alone can make a Havelock or a Gordon. I have read of a poor boy who came to school with a patch on his clothes. One of his schoolmates singled him out for ridicule and insult; and the boy answered: “Do you suppose I am ashamed of my patch? I am thankful to a good mother for keeping me out of rags, and I honour my patch for her sake.” All the noble army of martyrs, of every rank and kind, learnt the secret of their courage in the school of Christ, and have left us an example to follow. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Learning Christ

There is, then, somewhere, a school where Christ is taught, and Christ is learnt. There are a great many schools where Christ is not taught; where almost everything is taught except Christ; where religion is taught, but it is not Christ’s; where even Christ is taught, but it is not the Christ of the Bible. Where, then, is the school of Christ? What is it? How is the instruction carried on? Who is the teacher? What are the lesson books? What is required of the scholars? How are they classified? What do they pay? Are there prizes? First, it is obvious, that if it be a school, the attainment of the knowledge which is taught there must be progressive, and whoever the teacher may be, there is required, on the part of the learner, earnestness, patience, fag. For it is a school. You say, “But it is hard work.” True; but the work wants doing.

1. In this school, who is the Master? Christ; only Christ. “The Master!” Not a master--“The Master.” In this school, then, of sacred lore, the one and only Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ. There are human instructors, such as the Sunday school teacher, or a pious friend, or a parent, or a minister: but only as Christ is in them, and uses them. May not the cause why you have made no better progress be this, that you have not sufficiently recognized this fundamental principle?--for observe the line of thought how it runs on. You see the position is absolute. You must have “heard Him, and been taught by Him.

2. How? What are the lesson books in that School of Christ? Of course, chiefly the Bible. For we have two words, a Living Word, and a written Word; and the written Word is the visible embodiment of the Living Word. It is when the Living Word is felt in the written Word, that the written Word becomes God’s Word indeed. But Christ can, and does, make everything His representative teacher. A providence--an object in nature--He is there: and therefore it can teach. He who can see and learn Christ anywhere, can see and learn Christ everywhere. The whole world becomes the primer.

II. Now, what is taught in this school? I answer, primarily, and in one word, Christ. The Teacher Himself is the subject. We have the highest authority for saying, “In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” Therefore, really to know Christ, is to know all things--all things that may serve our present peace, our present holiness, and our happiness forever. For observe, the whole Law embodied itself in Christ. He kept it for us, even to the law of death. There lies our safety. All nature--with all its beauties, and all its grandeur, and all its hidden mysteries--is the work of Christ. It is the mind of Christ; it is the development of Himself. So that no man knows creation till he knows the mind of the Creator. We shall best know the kingdom if we know the King! O wonderful and happy school! where the Infinite and All-loving and Almighty Teacher pours Himself into the learners, and as He does so, opens their understanding to understand it; softens their hearts to receive it; strengthens their memory to retain it; and enables their lives to exhibit it. O wonderful and happy school! where Omnipotence gives the will, the capacity, and the power to know and do what Omniscience teaches.

III. What are the prizes? The great reward--in this school of Christ--is that every learner, as he advances, is placed nearer and nearer to his Master’s side. He becomes more conscious of his Master’s love. These are the rewards now. What by and by? “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The schools of Christ

It is a remarkable expression--“Learning Christ.” We learn a science, or we learn a language, or we learn a subject--but what is it to learn a person? We do not learn a person by hearing about him, or reading about him; we must know him. Now remember, that to “learn” implies effort, study, perseverance, progress. You do not learn by intuition. You do not learn by simply being told a thing. There must be patient earnestness. Now I wish to inquire, What are the schools in which Christ is most taught?

1. And I say first, and emphatically, the nursery. Perhaps in no part of our lives have we truer views of Christ than the views of our early childhood. The Scriptures is made for childhood. Even before a child can understand anything, it can understand Jesus. It is the basis of a good education. It meets a child’s intellect. It draws out a child’s thoughts. It is a child’s philosophy.

2. The next best school, perhaps, is affliction. Life is more still. The day is not so crowded. The heart is more open. We are more impressible to holy lessons.

3. But affliction will not do much if it do not lead us to a further and most important school, the school of our own closet, By three teachings we chiefly learn Christ--prayer, the Bible, and meditation. If either be wanting we shall miss our lesson.

4. Another school of Christ and an eminent one, should be this place. What is this pulpit for but to teach Christ? All our theology begins and ends there. Christ the basis--Christ the sum and substance--Christ the end and object--of all true knowledge. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

As the truth is in Jesus.

Truth in Jesus

The portion of our text on which we would fix mainly your attention is, the description of truth as made known by revelation. Now, we shall take truth under two principal divisions, and compare it as it is in Jesus with what it is out of Jesus. We shall refer, first, to those truths which have to do with God’s nature and character; secondly, to those which have to do with man’s condition.

I. We turn, then, to the truths which have to do with the nature and character of God. We begin with the lowest element of truth, namely, that there is a great First Cause, through whose agency hath arisen the fair and costly fabric of the visible universe. But take the truth of the existence of a God as it is out of Jesus, and then take that truth as it in Jesus, and let us see whether in the two cases the same truth will not bear very different aspects. Apart from revelation, I can believe that there is a God. I look upon the wonder workings by which I am encompassed; and I must sacrifice all that belongs to me as a rational creature, if I espouse the theory that chance has been parent to the splendid combinations. But what can be more vague, what more indefinite, than those notions of Deity which reason, at the best, is capable of forming? The evil which is mixed up with good in the creation; the disordered appearances which seem to mark the absence of a supreme and vigilant government; the frequent triumph of wickedness, and the correspondent depression of virtue; these, and the like stern and undeniable mysteries, will perplex me in every attempt to master satisfactorily the unity of the Godhead. But let me regard Jesus as making known to me God, and, straightway, there succeeds a calm to my confused and unsettled imaginings. He tells me by his words, and shows me by his actions, that all things are at the disposal of one eternal and inscrutable Creator. Putting forth superhuman ability, alike in the bestowment of what is good, and in the removal of what is evil, He furnishes me with the strictest demonstration that there are not two principles which can pretend to hold sway in the universe; but that God, a Being without rival, and alone in His majesties created whatsoever is good, and permitted whatsoever is evil. Thus, the truth, the foundation truth, of the existence of a God takes the strength, and the complexion, of health, only in the degree that it is truth as it is in Jesus.

II. Let us turn, now, from the nature of God to His attributes. We take, for example, the justice of God. We night obtain, independently on the scheme of redemption, a definite and firm-built persuasion, that God is a just God, taking cognizance of the transgressions of His creatures. What, then, shall we do with this truth of God’s justice? We reply, we must make it truth as it is in Jesus. We send a man at once to the cross of Christ. We bid him gaze on the illustrious and mysterious Victim, stooping beneath the amazing burden of human transgression. We ask him whether the agonies of the garden, and the terrors of the crucifixion, furnish not a sufficient and thrilling demonstration that God’s justice, when it takes in hand the exaction of punishment, does the work thoroughly--so that no bolt it too ponderous to be driven into the soul, no offence too minute to be set down in the reckoning? So, then, we may count it legitimate to maintain that the truth of God being a just God is appreciated truth, and effective truth, only in the degree that it is truth as it is in Jesus; and we add, consequently, new witness to the fact, that the definition of our text describes truth accurately under its influential and life-giving forms. We may pursue much the same line of argument in reference to the truth of the love of God. We may confess that he who looks not at this attribute through the person and work of the Mediator, may obtain ideas of it which shall, in certain respects, be correct. Yet there is no property of the Creator concerning which it is easier to fall into mistake. We have no standard by which to estimate Divine affections, unless one which we fashion out of the results of the workings of human. So that, whilst we have not before us a distinct exhibition of God’s love, we may fall naturally into the error of ascribing an effeminate tenderness to the Almighty, and reckon, exactly in proportion as we judge the love amazing, that it will never permit our being given over to torment. Hence, admitting it to be truth, yea, most glorious and blessed truth, that the creature is loved by the Creator, this truth must be viewed through a rectifying medium, which shall correct the distortions which a depraved nature produces. Now, we maintain again that this rectifying medium must be the person and work of the Saviour. In other words, we must make the truth of God’s love truth as it is in Jesus, and then, at one and the same time, we shall know how ample is the love, and be guarded against abusing it.

III. We proceed, further, to affirm, in reference to the condition of man, that truth, if rightly understood, or thoroughly influential, must be truth as it is in Jesus. Man’s moral disability is not to be described, or understood, theoretically. We want some bold, definite, and tangible measurements. But we shall find these only in the work of Christ Jesus. I learn the depth to which I have sunk, from the length of the chain let down to updraw me. I ascertain the mightiness of the ruin by examining the machinery of restoration. Thus the truth of human apostasy, of human corruption, of human helplessness, how shall this be truth understood and effective? We answer, simply through being truth as it is in Jesus. We add, that the law of God, which has been given for the regulation of our conduct, is a wonderful compendium of truth. There is not a single working of wickedness, be it the lightest and most secret, which escapes the denouncements of this law; so that the statute book proves itself truth by delineating, with an unvarying accuracy, the whole service of the father of lies. But who knows anything of this truth, unless acquainted with the law as expounded and fulfilled by Christ? Christ in His discourses expanded every precept, and in His obedience exhibited every demand. Knowledge of the law would crush a man, if unaccompanied by the consciousness that Christ obeyed the law in his stead. So that truth as it is in Jesus, this is knowledge, and this is comfort. And, finally, for we must hurry over ground where there is much which might tempt us to linger, look at the context of the words under review, and you will find that truth, as it is in Jesus, differs from truth, as it is out of Jesus, in being a sanctifying thing. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The truth in Jesus learned by His disciples

I. Let us glance at the truth in Jesus.

1. The life of Jesus opposed and contradicted that which was false and wrong; and in this respect the truth was in Jesus. Ask ye me--“And what was false and wrong?” We answer, Christ scarcely found anything true and right. Himself was in perpetual collision.

2. Jesus embodied the truth of truth’s symbols. Certain ordinances from the day of Abel were symbols of truth. Jesus Christ was that which these symbols signified. There had been offerings for sin--the blood of bulls and of goats--of lambs and calves--the ashes of heifers. These sacrifices were the figures of the true. He abolishes old carnal sacrifices by being Himself the real sacrifice. And thus the truth of Sacrifice is in Jesus.

3. Jesus spake truth--that which, on account of its importance to man, is The Truth. This will appear in the following circumstances.

II. Let us show what cannot be learned by those who have only heard and been taught by Christ.

1. Nothing childish can be learned of Christ. And the becoming a little child does not mean becoming weak and little. What Christ here enforces is modesty, teachableness, candour, simplicity, freedom from lawless ambition, a loose hold of surrounding objects.

2. A shifting and accommodating creed is not learned of Christ. His doctrines are not like inconstant, changeable gusts of wind, or even like steady trade winds. They are light, not wind--knowledge of truth arising in the midst of the darkness of ignorance, and shining brighter and brighter unto day.

3. Pious frauds are not learned of Christ. Truth is in Jesus; and ye have not learned to use artifice, cheating, and deceit in religion, if ye have heard and been taught by Him.

4. A literal and carnal interpretation of Christ’s laws is not learned of Christ.

5. Truth framed according to system is not learned of Christ.

6. Nothing contrary to the God-like can be learned of Christ. The doctrines Christ taught were Divine. The works Christ performed were Divine. The life Christ lived was Divine. All notions and ideas received from Him are light of God’s light. The character which His influence forms is in the likeness of God. The course of conduct which He marks out is an embodiment of the will of God. (S. Martin, D. D.)

Learning Christ changes the nature

If you have learned Christ as the truth is in Him, you have so learned Him as to put off the old man and to put on the new. Faith works by love, even as the tree has both its leaf and fruit. And as if a tree should be changed from one kind to another, the leaves and fruit should likewise be changed; as if a pear tree should be made an apple tree, it would have leaves and fruits agreeing to the change made in it; so man by faith having his heart purified, made a tree of righteousness, he has his leaves and fruits; leaves of profession, fruits of action. So again, a man, as a new tree set into and growing out of Christ, bears a new fruit, he converses in holiness and newness of life. Thus you see how those that are faithful are also saints, because by faith their heart is purified, their profession and conversation are sanctified. (P. Bayne.)

The school of Christ

The direct and immediate purpose of these words is to show the irreconcilable contradiction between a course of life, such as that of other Gentiles, and the Christian discipline and instruction which these Ephesian believers had received.

I. It is here distinctly affirmed that the living voice of Christ Himself is our teacher. “Ye have heard Him. The New Testament everywhere represents Christ as still working and teaching in the world. He has pledged Himself to send that teaching Spirit of truth, in whose coming He Himself comes, and all whose illuminations and communications are imparting to us the things of Christ.

II. Those who are in Christ receive continuous instruction from Him. “And have been taught by Him.” These words seem to imply the conditions and the gradual process of Christ’s schooling. His teaching is not one act, but a long, patient discipline.

III. The theme of the teaching is the teacher. “Ye have not so learned Christ.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Effects produced on the character by reception of the truth as it is in Jesus

I. If we have learnt the truth as it is in Jesus it has at once taught us to renounce all dependence on any works of our own, and at the same time put us on a course of holy action.

II. “The truth as it is in Jesus” is at once a source of great anxiety--and to the same person, on a more intimate view of it, of great consolation.

III. The truth as it is considered in Jesus, produces a very great humility of mind, and at the same time, a new and elevated sense of dignity. Nothing produces such humility of mind, so permanent and universal in its operation, as the reception of “the truth as it is in Jesus.” Hence, then, the real Christian begins to enlarge the view of his own dignity; he considers himself as born to immortality. And being now reconciled to God, and being made a member of Christ and heir to His promises, he feels in himself a new sort of worth and value.

IV. “The truth as it is in Jesus,” whenever it takes place in the heart, is a source of real happiness. It is a light-giving truth; it not merely enlightens the understanding, but it touches the sensibilities of our nature; it comes into contact with the sensitive part of our frame; it produces a goodness of heart, and peace and tranquility of mind, and an elevation of hope, that no other system produces.

V. If we are partakers of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” we shall be united in heart and affection with all those that embrace the same truth. This truth has an uniting quality. It binds together in the ties of amity all its disciples. It produces such a change in the character that it qualifies them for the closest degree of intercourse and friendship. (F. J. Judkin.)

Need of distinctive Christly teaching

The longer you live, if you keep in a healthful spiritual atmosphere, the more deeply you will feel the utter unreality, and blankness of help or comfort, of all religious teaching which is not saturated through and through with Christ, with special Christian doctrine: the more deeply will you feel the moral paralysis of all moral truth, but truth as it is in Jesus. The living, experimental Christian will turn away from all that is not such, just (though the similitude be homely) as an animal rejects the food which does not suit its nature. “I don’t say,” will be the living Christian’s feeling, “I don’t say but all that may be true; but it is not the truth for me!” And I do not mean Christ merely; but Christ as seen in the great Atonement. When one hears a great deal about the beauty of Christ’s character; and about His sympathy with us; and about looking to Him as our Example; but nothing of His atoning sacrifice and His regenerating Spirit; I refuse to receive that as gospel truth, the truth as it is in Jesus! I revolt, as much as any from the stupidity of those who would count how often Christ’s Name occurs in a discourse; as if that were a test how far the discourse is leavened by His Spirit. But I remember how one, chief among apostles, said to dear friends, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness: But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)


Verses 20-24

Verse 22

Ephesians 4:22

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.

Morality the basis of piety

A Christian life, here, is regarded as it were from the latent similitude of raiment. As a beggar puts off his rags--his tattered and torn habiliments--and is clothed like an honoured man; so we are to put off the old man and his deeds--clothing, as it were--and put on the new man, created in righteousness and true holiness. Or, as one that has been in an infected port must lay aside the garments that have in them the seed of disease, and be clothed afresh, so that he shall neither carry it for himself, nor contagion for others; so we are to put off the old, and put on the new. But you will observe that there are in this passage which I have read inculcations of certain fundamental morals, as precedent to the full work of God in the soul. Truth, in opposition to lies; honesty, in opposition to craft and stealing; purity, in opposition to all manner of corrupt desires; general integrity and uprightness--these are inculcated as the indispensable prerequisites of Christian life. Taking them in their inverse order, by “purity” I understand the dominance in the soul of the higher affections and sentiments over the lower appetites and passions. It is the term that antagonizes with a life of lust and of salacious desire. We mean by “purity,” the predominance of the affections and of the moral sentiments. By “fidelity,” one means, in a general way, the absolute faithfulness of men to trust reposed in them--that tendency in a man which makes it sure that he will be faithful in his relations to others, and in all his trusts. By “honesty,” I mean righteous, equitable dealing in all relations between man and man--not what the law requires, but what is, according to man’s best light, right between man and man. By “truth,” is meant the inward love of that which is, and the disposition to use the truth of fact and the truth of relation, just as they are, in all our representations among men. These qualities must exist in controlling strength in every worthy character. As it is in the matter of truth, so it is in the matter of honesty. “Is he an honest man?” Oh! I do not think he would steal.” “But is he an honest man? Would he knowingly take advantage?” “Well, it is not for me to say.” It’s for you to say. You have said it. Not to be able to say the contrary is to say that. And are there not hundreds of thousands of men who hold their heads up very well as they move in society, who are for the time being prosperous, and of whom those that know them say, “They will take every advantage they can; they need watching; they need all that the Church gives them, and all that the customs of society give them, to keep them from dishonesty.” A man’s reputation always tracks him, and follows him; and if it is in him to be dishonest, it is in ether people to know it. Your reputation is only the shadow that your character throws. Now, on character and reputation a man’s prosperity depends in this world, largely. The man who has the goodwill and the good nature of the men among whom he lives, of the society in which he dwells, is like a craft that has the wind astern, and is helped thereby. Truth, honesty, fidelity, and purity win confidence. And there is this capital for a young man. These qualities, too, simplify the working forces of life. A crafty, plotting man always has a tangled skein in his hand. He has to think, “What did I say yesterday?” and he forgets. He has to think, “Let me see; did I, or did I not, cheat on this or that occasion?” A dishonest man has to keep a journal, or he will be perpetually running across his own tracks. No man’s memory is good enough journal for such a purpose as that. Men are made safe, too, by these simple and sterling virtues. He certainly is safe, who, whether he be at the top or at the bottom, alike is prosperous; but when a man’s prosperity turns largely upon his actual manhood, his manhood does not depend upon his relative position in regard to wealth. There is the man of the Island, Garibaldi, just making the ends meet; just gaining his raiment and food; refusing bribes, refusing gifts, refusing all overtures of greatness that are in the lower sphere; a man that lives with a magnificent ambition of patriotism and a perpetual sacrifice of himself. When all the stuff that we can call men in our day--the buyable, the bribable, stuff--is washed away in the sewer, such men as these will stand, and their names shall be held in everlasting remembrance. The memory of the wicked shall rot. The name of the righteous shall shine brighter and brighter until the very perfect day. In application of these views and reasonings I remark--

1. How few can stand an examination on these fundamental points, if they take the law of God as their light and their test!

2. Not, less, perhaps more, is required of women than of men. Their relations to society, their relations as wives and mothers, make it peculiarly desirable that they should be fountains and models of virtue.

3. These simple moralities, in our circumstances in life, and under the temptations which are brought to bear upon us, will necessitate a determined battle. Some men conquer easier than others. I believe in hereditary tendencies. Men like gilded characters and silvered characters; but they do not like gold nor silver in character. And there is a prevalent impression that a man stands in his own way if he is too rigorous. You shall hear it said, “What does a man want to be such a fanatical fool for, as to always tell the truth? What is the use of a man’s breaking his own back by being so honest as that? Great are the forces that are ready to pull you down; but if you did but know it, greater are they that are for you than are they that are against you.” (H. W. Beecher.)

Putting off the old man, and putting on the new

I. The apostle’s description of holiness. It is putting off the old man, or the corrupt nature so called, which hath spread its influence throughout the whole man, the soul (Ephesians 4:17-20), and the body (Romans 6:13; Romans 6:19); and which, like a man, consists of various parts. The deeds of the old man are very vigorous and strong, though old: mighty deeds (Galatians 5:19-22; Ephesians 4:25-29); each member acts its part: unbelief, like the heart causing the blood to circulate through the whole body, influences all the other members: pride produces contention, contumely, strife, etc.; self-will leads to murmuring, disobedience, presumption, etc. This must be put off: the metaphor is borrowed from an old worn-out or unclean garment, which we would cast off with abhorrence. We must also be “renewed in the spirit of our minds,” in the faculties of the soul, by obtaining an enlightened understanding, rectified will, pure and well-regulated affections. We must “put on the new man,” a new creature: so called because it influences the whole man, soul and body (text, and 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 6:20). And it consists of different parts--the soul in which God dwells, and which He animates, influences, directs, actuates, commands (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22; Romans 8:9-14; the body and its members (Colossians 3:12-17; Galatians 5:22); holiness, righteousness, viz., faith, humility, self-denial, love, meekness, gentleness, patience, etc. The deeds of the new man, are all vigorous, strong, active. It is “the image” of God, “created” by Him, “renewed in knowledge.” This must be put on as a “robe of righteousness.”

II. The importance of taking this advice of the apostle. If we take it not, our Christianity is but a name or profession, and will only render us more guilty. We cannot glorify God, as being unlike to Him, and at enmity with Him. Nor can we set a good example, and thereby edify others, for the corrupt tree will “bring forth corrupt fruit.” We cannot be happy ourselves, for this old man is corrupt, like an old, threadbare, ragged, and dirty garment, which cannot cover us, which exposes us to shame, and is offensive, hurtful, encumbering, and entangling. All the evil dispositions of it are productive of misery. Its lusts or desires are foolish, unreasonable, violent, insatiable, deceitful; promising, but not yielding satisfaction. We are not fitted for, and cannot enter heaven without the new man.

III. How to attain this holiness. It is the gift of God: He “creates” it; but not without our cooperation; He works on us as upon rational creatures, not superseding but directing and assisting us in the use of our faculties, and has appointed certain means to be used by us. We are to “hunger and thirst after righteousness”; and in order to this, should consider frequently, nay continually, the nature and necessity of it, our want of it, the great worth of it, God’s willingness to give it, and cultivate a spirit of prayer. (J. Benson, D. D.)

That ye put off the old man.--

Putting off

I. Christian life begins with renunciation. “Put off concerning the former conversation--the old man”--the corrupt self that has been fostered under the influence of worldly, carnal views.

1. This renunciation must be profound. “The old man,” i.e., our former unconverted self. We must be careful that we do not confound this personal repudiation with any ecclesiastical rite or relationship. The purity demanded of us is inward, spiritual, moral. It is one thing to stand right with the Church, to be blameless concerning its ordinances, to be acknowledged by its authorites, to be fortified by its sacraments; it is another thing to renounce sin and embrace righteousness before Him who is a Spirit, and who judgeth not according to the outward appearance, but according to the heart.

2. This renunciation must be complete. The “old man” is the personification of our whole sinful condition before regeneration, and the “old man” is not to be maimed, some fragments of the mutilated personality to be rejected, some to be retained, but he must be crucified, killed, put away once and forever. There must be, as we have seen, the thorough rejection of evil in our heart, even the evil we have loved longest and best. People sometimes say, “Well, there is nothing wrong in the thing itself; no harm in the thing itself.” Now “the thing in itself” is a fine theme for metaphysicians, but such a phrase may seriously mislead in practical life. What do we know about things in themselves? The theatre, intoxicating drink, cards, music, fiction, and a hundred other things--we know nothing of these things in themselves; we only know them relatively, the company into which they bring us, the influence they exert upon us, the habit of mind they tend to foster. Do not stay to determine what things are in themselves, inquire only what is their influence upon you, direct and indirect, and if that influence be not altogether pure and helpful, let such things go; be more afraid of sin than of puritanism.

3. This renunciation must be immediate. Daniel said to the king, “Break off thy sins by righteousness” (Daniel 4:27). Our sins are not to be tapered off, or rounded off, but broken off short and sharp. It may be a dangerous thing suddenly to change our physical habits, but there is no danger in suddenly changing our bad habits for good ones; the danger is not to change them suddenly.

II. The success of our Christian life largely depends upon the thoroughness of the renunciation in which it begins. Putting off comes before putting on, and we can only put on the new man in the measure of the depth and determination with which we have put off the old. If there is any defect in our renunciation, it will infallibly betray itself, and greatly hinder us.

1. On the completeness of such renunciation depends our future health and soundness of spirit. If our repentance does not go deep, if the grace of God does not search and purify the very grounds of our life, we shall never enjoy soundness and strength. If any of the vicious element is left, it will work and spoil the sweetness of our soul.

2. On the completeness of this renunciation depends our future freedom and happiness. It is essential to the freedom and peace of our life that we should break utterly with the world.

3. On the completeness of this renunciation depends the full attainment of spiritual beauty of character. Stephen Grellet, the Quaker preacher, said once to an assembly of his brethren, “You are starched before you are washed.” That is a bad thing indeed, for however much starch may be used, the original dirt will show through and disgrace the well-got-up robe. It is thus with character, as the graphic preacher taught. Some do not in conversation get rid of original weaknesses of character, and these show through raiment that the cleverest fuller has done his best to make dainty.

4. On the completeness of this renunciation largely depends our future safety. We all know people who have contracted vicious habits, who have suffered deeply in social respect, who have become linked in with a set they cannot renounce, and such people often feel, and their friends feel, that if they are ever to recover themselves and lead a new life, they must leave this country altogether and begin again with new scenes and associations; so these unfortunate ones often succeed in putting the ocean between themselves and the scene of their fall and misery, and so doing ofttimes proves their social salvation. So the safety of the new convert depends upon putting a whole ocean between his regenerate self and his old self. Whether we go to America or Australia or not, let us be sure, by God’s grace, that a great gulf is fixed between our present spirit and our past, between our new manner of life and our past, between our new manner of life and our past conversation. It has proved a fatal error to thousands not to have put away the old man as thoroughly as might be. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The new man driving out the old

How often do we see a tree well covered with the early shoots and young leaves, but yet with many of last year’s dead leaves still hanging on to the branches, intermixed with the latest and best of the summer growth, as if to remind one that even this tree, fresh in the glory of its summer clothing, was but a little while ago unsightly with dead and useless leaves. Nor will the tree rid itself of these till the full tide of sap has filled the branches with full-grown verdure, when the old leaves will drop to the earth, and no longer be cumbersome. The Christian, like the tree, bears fresh leaves of a new heart, and even the good fruit of a godly life, and seems at first to be all but faultless; but how often, on nearer view, do evil ways, bad habits, and wicked passions, come to view, and disfigure the beauty of the Christian man or woman, so that companions are reminded of the late winter of an unrenewed life, of the remainders of evil old leaves not yet all stripped off or blown away by the breath of the Divine chastisement. Nor will the Christian stand in perfect clothing, and without any evil thing, till the Divine influence has permeated every part of the soul, and driven from it the remaining traces of the old Adam. (Austen.)

Religion and human nature

Some years ago, the great country of India was in a ferment of wild rebellion against British rule. During that time of rebellion most sad evils were introduced into the nation; the national spirit and sentiment were debased, and vile passions let loose for rioting. That rebellion was crushed; our Queen was set upon the throne, and peace was proclaimed. But the evils which that rebellion had brought in have not even yet been removed. It has taken the direct labours of a succession of India’s governors, and the indirect efforts of a multitude of India’s friends, to root out some of those evils, and restore to their power some of the old obediences and virtues. It is thus with our nature. The rebellion of the soul brought evils upon it and into it; and when, for any one of us, the king of grace is restored to His throne, there is yet hard work to do to crush out these relics of evil, and free our natures from their degrading influence. And this is the work to which we are called upon the admission of our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

The old man

By this figure we understand the depravity of man.

I. His dwelling place. Sin has its seat in the heart. Every disposition to evil comes directly from the heart. The body is but the machine of the man” Depravity is in us, dwells in the secret place of the temple.

II. His disposition. Loves darkness, thirsts after the gratification of every evil desire; hates the light, turns with loathing from the light of purity, whether seen in man or God. And he is subtle--deceives those in whom he dwells, so successfully that they disbelieve in his presence.

III. His influence. Pervades every part of the man. Sears the conscience, affects the will, defiles the passions, perverts the mind, hinders the body.

IV. His achievements. At his instigation every vile deed was done that defaces the page of history.

V. His longevity. In the hearts of some he will dwell forever. The lost sin on, although they suffer as they sin. In the case of believers, though put off, still he will seek to gain his old ascendency, or be the cause of bitterness until they reach the grave. In conclusion: Let each ask

Deceitful lusts

These lusts are “lusts of deceit,” inasmuch as they seduce and ensnare under false pretensions. And they are numerous, for present gratification is the absorbing motive of the old man. There is the lust of gain, sinking into avarice; of power, swelling into ruthless and cruel tyranny; of pleasure, falling into beastly sensualism. These lusts have the mastery of the old man, and, whether more gross or more refined, they are not the less the manifestations of moral corruption. Every strong passion that fills the spirit to the exclusion of God is a “lust.” It may be a lust of proficiency in mental, physical, political, or mechanical science, but if it engross the soul, it is a result and characteristic of the old man. Alas I this deceit is not simply error. It has assumed many guises. It gives a refined name to grossness, calls sensualism gallantry, and it hails drunkenness as good cheer. It promises fame and renown to one class, wealth and power to another, and tempts the third onward by the prospect of brilliant discovery. But genuine satisfaction is never gained, for God is forgotten, and these desires and pursuits leave their victim in disappointment and chagrin. “Vanity of vanities,” cried Solomon, in vexation, after all his experiments on the summum bonum. “I will pull down my barns, and build greater,” said another, in the idea that he had “much good laid up for many years,” and yet, in the very night of his fond imaginings, his soul was required of him. Belshazzar drank wine with his grandees, and perished in his revelry. The prodigal son, who for pleasure and independence had left his father’s house, sank into penury and degradation, and he, a child of Abraham, fed swine to a heathen master. Chalmers felt literary ambition to be in itself a lust of the old man, and a hollow vanity, till it was chastened and sanctified by the grace of God. The pretentious delusions of the old man must be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Putting off sin

As the beggar puts off his rags, as the master puts off his bad servant, as the porter puts off his burden, as the serpent his slough, or as the captive maid, when she was to be married, put off the garments of her captivity (Deuteronomy 21:18). (J. Trapp.)

Sin a deceitful lust

It hath many secret ways of insinuating; it is like a Delilah; it is like Jael to Sisera. Sin is a sweet poison, it tickleth while it stabbeth. The first thing that sin doeth is to bewitch, then to put out the eyes, then to take away the sense and feeling. As Joab came with a kind salute to Abner, and thrust him under the fifth rib, while Abner thought of nothing but kindness, so sin comes smiling, comes pleasing and humouring thee, while it giveth thee a deadly stab. (Anthony Burgess.)


Verse 23

Ephesians 4:23

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind

Renewal in the spirit of the mind

The renewal takes place not simply in the mind, but in the spirit of it.
It is the special seat of renewal. The mind remains as before, both in its intellectual and emotional structure--in its memory and judgment, imagination and perception. These powers do not in themselves need renewal, and regeneration brings neither new faculties nor susceptibilities. The organism of the mind survives as it was, but the spirit which inhabits and governs it is entirely changed. The ruling and motive power is renovated. The memory, for example, still exercises its former functions, but on a very different class of subjects; the judgment still discharging its old office, is occupied among a new set of themes and ideas; and love retaining all its ardour, attaches itself to objects quite in contrast with those of its earlier preference, and pursuit. The change is not in mind psychologically, either in its essence or in its operation, neither is it in mind, as if it were a superficial change of opinion, either on points of doctrine or of practice; but it is “in the spirit of the mind,” in that which gives mind both its bent and its materials of thought. It is not simply in the spirit, as if it lay there in dim and mystic quietude; but it is “in the spirit of the mind,” in the power which, when changed itself, radically alters the entire sphere and business of the inner mechanism
. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The progressive renewal

It is only living things that grow; and all living things do grow. Be it the lichen that clings to the rook, or the eagle that has her nest on its craggy shelf, or man that rends its heart with powder and draws the gold from its bowels--from the germ out of which they spring, they grow onwards to maturity; in the words of my text, they “increase more and more.” These words are as true of spiritual as of natural life. According to heathen fables, Minerva the goddess of wisdom and daughter of Jupiter, sprung full-grown and full-armed from her father’s head. No man thus comes from the hand of the Holy Spirit, in sudden, mature, perfect saintship. There is nothing in the spiritual world which resembles this: no, nor even what the natural world presents in the development of the insect tribes. During their last and perfect stage, in the condition, as it is called, of the imago, be their life long or short, they undergo no increase. So soon as the green worm that once crawled on the ground and fed on garbage, bursting its coffin shell, comes forth, a creature with silken wings, to roam in the sunny air, to sleep by night on a bed of flowers, and by day banquet on their nectar, it grows no mere--neither larger nor wiser; its flight and faculties being as perfect on the day of what may be called its new birth, as when, touched by early frosts or drowned in rain, it dies. Here, indeed, we have a symbol of the resurrection body as it shall step from the tomb; in beauty perfect, in growth mature; to undergo henceforth, and through eternal ages, neither change nor decay. It is otherwise with the renewed soul. Before it, in righteousness, and knowledge, and true holiness, stretches a field of illimitable progress--upwards and onwards to what it shall be forever approaching, yet never reach, the throne of God. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The new and the old nature

There are a great many men who are like one of my roses. I bought a Gloire de Dijon. It was said to be one of the few ever-blooming roses. It was grafted on a manetti stalk--a kind of dog rose, a rampant and enormous grower, and a very good stalk to graft fine roses on. I planted it. It throve the first part of the summer, and the last part of the summer it grew with great vigour; and I quite gloried when the next spring came, in my Gloire de Dijon. It had wood enough to make twenty such roses as these finer varieties usually have; and I was in the amplitude of triumph. I said, “My soil suits it exactly in this climate; and I will write an article for the Monthly Gardener, and tell what luck I have had with it.” He I waited and waited and waited till it blossomed; and behold! it was one of these worthless, quarter-of-a-dollar, single-blossomed roses. And when I came to examine it I found that it was grafted, and that there was a little bit of a graft down near the ground, and that it was the manetti sprout that had grown to such a prodigious size. Now, I have seen a great many people converted, in whom the conversion did not grow, but the old nature did. (H. W. Beecher.)

Renewal more than repair

A builder was called in to repair some houses. The contract stated that any doors, window sashes, etc., which should be renewed would be paid for. The work proceeded, certain door panels, window frames, and sashes proved to be imperfect and decayed. The defective panels, beadings, and pieces of framing were made good. In due course the painting, graining, and finishing work was completed. I was present when the work underwent examination. The builder’s account had been rendered, and an item appeared of so many pounds for renewing doors, sashes, etc. “Certainly not,” said the architect on being appealed to; “to repair is one thing, to renew quite another.” In vain the builder expostulated. How well I remember the architect’s words--“No, sir, your contract comprehends all repairs. Go and get your dictionary and see what the word renew means. Had you taken away the old doors and window sashes, and brought new ones, we would have paid you for them. Such in the meaning of the terms of your contract, and no amount of repairing will renew that which is old.” (Henry Varley.)


Verse 24

Ephesians 4:24

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Putting on

Observe--

I. That Christian life begins in renunciation, but does not finish there. It is a great mistake to imagine that Christian life ends with renunciation, or that renunciation constitutes the sum of that life. Great, however, as that mistake may be, it very largely prevails, and works much mischief. It is felt that Christian life is chiefly occupied with sacrifice and resistance; what we forego is the main matter, the great idea being that of renunciation throughout. Out of this negative view, constantly set forth and exaggerated, sprung great evils.

1. One unfortunate result of this view of Christian life is disappointed experiences. It is no uncommon thing to find Christian people with a sense of disappointment in the life they are striving to live; they do not experience all the satisfaction and joy the New Testament obviously promises. A lady told the present writer, that on returning from India with her little daughter, when the cliffs of England first came into view she lifted the child to catch sight of the welcome land. The child had heard much, of course, of England, of its wonderful scenes and stories, and seeing the cold coast in the grey mist, she was much disappointed and murmured, “Is that England? It does not look much!” No; England does not look much from that particular point of view; you must land; you must penetrate it; you must wander on the banks of the Wye, by the lakes of Cumberland, on the hills of Derbyshire; you must see the ferns and flowers of Devonshire; the gardens of Kent, the orchards of Gloucestershire, rivers, mountains, parks, landscapes, cities, cathedrals; and then England will grow upon you, and you shall acknowledge the half has not been told. Many are similarly disappointed with religion, simply because they have not gone on to realize its treasures and blessings. They have understood that Christianity means renunciation rather than appropriation; and whilst they have given up the false and base, whilst they have left the far country and returned to their fatherland, they have known little more than its grey cliffs, and feel the sense of keen disappointment. For all that we give up for Christ’s sake, a new world opens to us of fresh interests, activities, and pleasures, and this world we must forthwith claim and realize. We put off not that we may be found naked and comfortless, but that we may put on--put on beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

2. Another unhappy result of this negative view of Christian life is found in poverty of character. It is not enough that we are free from old vices; we must put new virtues in their place, equally living and bold; and we suffer when this view is not fully entertained. Carlyle has a pregnant passage on this subject: “Washington is another of our perfect characters, to me a most limited uninteresting sort. The thing is not only to avoid error, but to attain immense masses of truth.” There are many such as Washington--perfect characters so far that they refuse evil and avoid error, and yet limited, uninteresting, because they have not gone on to attain fulness of knowledge, depth of feeling, strength and richness of character. Simply to renounce error and evil will leave us neutral characters, without attractiveness or force; we must attain immense masses of truth, immense masses of purity, immense masses of kindness, immense masses of whatever is lovely and of good report. As in the springtime the old withered leaves are expelled by new buds and replaced by unfolding blossoms, so the old evil characteristics of our life must be rejected and supplanted by the new radiant graces and joys which spring from the Spirit of God renewing the spirit of our mind.

3. Another unhappy result of this negative view of Christian life is found in many painful lapses. The Christian life begins with renunciation, but renunciation leading to possession--possession of higher and nobler qualities and characteristics. The ground is cleared of the thorn, that the green fir tree may disport itself; of the brier, that the fragrant myrtle may fill the air with sweetness; and if the fir and myrtle do not speedily spring forth, the wild growths of the wilderness again shoot and bear their fruits of bitterness.

II. That the good of the Christian life is the assumption of sublimest character. We are to aspire to a Divine moral likeness, to be “perfect, even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Some say they cannot believe in God, the God of the Bible, because He is only “a magnified man.” Well, and what special difficulty is there if that were so? What is a true man? The best we know! and that magnified can be no bad thing. What could be more admirable than the genius of Shakespeare indefinitely magnified, the charity of Howard, the righteousness of Paul, the gentleness of John? We might have the conception of a worse God than that; could we easily have a better? What about God being a magnified man, if man is first a minified God? Here is the truth: there is more of the Spirit of the Universe in us than some think. We were made in the image of God, our nature in its depths bears the likeness of God, and it is our calling to strive until we put on that glorious personality which after God’s image is created in righteousness and holiness. But where shall we acquaint ourselves with this “new man,” so utterly glorious and Divine? The truth for us is “the truth as it is in Jesus,” and all the glorious features of our great ideal are definite in Jesus Christ. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The new man

I. New thoughts. Formerly chaos; now light.

II. New motives. The glory of God and the welfare of fellow man take the place of selfish and sinful motives. Order and beauty dislodge confusion and fruitlessness.

III. New dispositions. The blood of Jesus has washed away the corrupting inclinations of the heart.

IV. New enjoyments. The surroundings are new, the experiences are also new, and consequently the heart has new joys. The new man is immortal. (The Weekly Pulpit.)

Moral renewal

I. The great purpose of the gospel is our moral renewal.

II. This moral renewal, is a creation in the image of God.

III. This new creation has to be put on and appropriated by us.

IV. The means of appropriating this new nature is contact with the truth. (Homiletic Hints.)

Spring clothing

At this season of the year many living things around us are daily putting on a new appearance. The grass, which, dining the winter, has worn the dullest green, is now putting on the brightest verdure. The shrubs, which have been clothed in raiment of leaden hue, are now putting on their beautiful garments. The trees, which put off their foliage for the dark and cold months of winter, are now again putting on their new and shiny leaves in harmony with the lengthened days and with sunny skies. Seeds and roots, which, during many weeks, have been hid in the soil, are putting off the old man of the unquickened and undeveloped state, and are putting on the new man of germ life, and of plant life, and of bloom life. The effect of all these changes around us is to produce corresponding changes in the spirits, and in the health, and in the habits of the people. This extends to things both small and great. All, who have the means, lay aside the raiment which spring suns show to be threadbare and soiled, and attire themselves in clothing which will bear the manifestation of light; while those whose poverty prevents such changes, try to make all things new, by making all things clean. The changes to which we refer in the vegetable kingdom, are the result of newness of life. Under the influence of vernal light and heat, the seed germinates, the sap rises in the shrub, and in the tree, and circulates through every branch, and bough, and stem; and the improved appearance of all things in the vegetable kingdom, is the result of an increased power of life. The changes, too, which men make at this season are partly the result of an increase in the animal spirits and in physical energy. No such changes as those we have been speaking of, pass however upon that which is artificial. The grass, and the shrubs, and the trees, in the landscape of the painter, change not with the season. The true Christian has a new man to put on. The mere formalist, like a stuffed animal, or like an artificial flower, or like a painting from the life, is now what he was in the beginning. There can be no change, no satisfactory change even in the outer life, just because there is no religious or spiritual vitality in the soul. The new man which, according to this precept, we are to put on, and which is of God, is, as the very words indicate, outside the man. The reference here is not to the inner man which God alone sees, but to the outer man, which is the only part of our being that our fellow men can see. There are precepts which require attention to the inner man, as for example, “Keep thy heart with all diligence,” and it is useless to attend to the outer man, unless we give first and commanding attention to the inner man; but the outer man--the character which a Christian has among his fellow Christians, and which he has in the world--is of immense moment--of such immense moment that God gives us directions like the text, “Put on,” He says, “the new man.” Now, the outside man consists, as you well know, of words, looks, demeanour, behaviour, actions, the company which a man keeps, the occupation he adopts and pursues, the connections he forms, his pleasures and recreations, and especially his habits. Well, this outside man, we say again, is of importance, for this is the only part of the man that is really seen--by his fellow men. Hereby, therefore, is the man judged, judged in the Church, and judged in the world. The influence of a man upon his fellows, and the services he renders them, are dependent entirely upon the outward life. And then, this new man is to be put on in connection with a new heart and with a renewed heart. Sometimes, when men are describing hypocrisy, or describing conduct which they resent, they say of certain behaviour, “it is put on.” Now there is a putting on which is of course sinful and to be deprecated, but there is a putting on which becomes a duty. The artiste in the theatre puts on a certain attire for the sake of acting, for the sake of mere play. But a man in ordinary circumstances, puts on raiment for the sake of covering, for warmth and health, for convenience and preservation of life. Now, because some clothe themselves in peculiar attire simply for the purpose of play, we do not condemn the putting on of suitable clothing for the purposes of work. Just so with reference to outward character. There is an outward character which it is the duty of every man to study. If a man neglect his outward character, he is decidedly committing sin; he is breaking such distinct and positive commandments as that which we are now considering--“put on the new man.” But then this new man is to be put on in connection with a new heart and with a renewed heart. Now the characteristic of the new man is, of course, godliness, and its distinctive features are righteousness and true holiness. Hence, following the text, you find the words, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The apostle names some of the things in which this righteousness and true holiness consist. It is very remarkable that he should mention such things as he does here speak of. For example, he goes on to say, “Putting away lying, let every man speak truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another,” recognizing truthfulness as a part of righteousness and true holiness, and lying as the opposite of righteousness and true holiness. Again we find him saving, “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Now, you know, brethren, that there are people who think that righteousness and true holiness consist principally in making prayers, and in coming to places of worship, and in taking the Lord’s Supper, and in tallying godliness and religion from morning to night; and you find that such people will lie, and they will not blush when charged with lying; you find they will Steal and even justify theft; you find they will walk in a path that many an upright worldly man will not dare to put his foot upon. Now, all these cursed opinions, with their hellish fruit, require to be driven away. People sometimes justify the retention of that which Paul calls the “old man” by saying, “Such a thing is my habit, or my temper, or my temperament, or my constitution, or my nature”; but you know this is no justification for continuance in evil. It is absurd to talk about evil feelings being your temper or temperament, or constitution, or nature; you, Christian, are a new creature, and there is a new man to put on. Others justify the repression of very much that is within them by saying “I feel it, although I do not express myself. I am kind to that man in heart, but I do not show it.” Look here, what does our text mean? “Put on the new man.” If God has changed that heart of yours, turned out the wrath and enmity, and put kindness there, you must put on the new man. It is of no use, though you may have kind feelings within, to show on the outside the angry man; you must show on the outside the kind, considerate, and compassionate man. Then, we say again, what have you in daily wear as spiritual attire? Do you speak of religious subjects in the same tone, and in the same phrases, and with no more intelligence, sagacity, and feelings, than you did, say ten years ago? Does your countenance show only as much interest in spiritual things as when you first gave heed to them? Is your walk through life upon the same incline as when you first moved heavenward? (S. Martin, D. D.)


Verse 25

Ephesians 4:25

Wherefore, putting away lying.

Lying

I. Lying is an abominable habit.

1. To lie is diametrically opposed to truth, therefore to the whole Diving law, and not to one commandment only, as other sins.

2. Truth is a perfection of the Godhead, while lying is the sin of the devil.

3. Lying is very detrimental to human society. The greatest blessing in the world is the intercourse--the communion--of man with man. If this blessing be taken away, the whole world would be turned into chaos. Such would be the inevitable result, if all men were addicted to lying; and it is partly so now.

II. Lying is a habit which is punished here on earth.

1. Telling lies degrades a man in the estimation of his fellow men. If a lie were not a foul blot in a man, why are even bad men so cautious not to be caught in a lie?

2. God will punish the liar (Psalms 5:7).

3. If God hates and punishes lying so severely, how great will be His hatred of perjury, which is lying confirmed by oath! The confirmation of testimony by oath has been ordained by God Himself (Deuteronomy 6:18). An oath is for confirmation. For men it is the end of all controversy. It follows that the perjurer, as far as in him lies, abolishes the last means of ascertaining the truth. Shall not God avenge? (Zechariah 5:4.) (J. B. Campadelli.)

Christian truth

I. This precept assumes a preliminary condition: “putting away lying.” This touches the root of the matter. It points to the entire and thorough abandonment and renunciation, not in outward speech only, but in the inmost heart, of all falsehood. You put away the thing that is false, all false dealing in your inmost mind and spirit with any person or any thing. We must connect this with what goes before. At Ephesians 4:22, we are exhorted to put off the old man, which is corrupt after the lusts of deceit, i.e., to put away the lusts of deceit in which its corruption consists. Here we are assumed to put away the deceit itself to which the lusts belong, and by means of which they wield their corrupting influence.

II. The injunction itself. The condition and the precept are closely connected. And the connection is natural. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. If there is no falsehood in the heart, it may be anticipated that there will be truth in the lips. And the converse holds good. So far, generally, the connection here indicated is clear enough. I am persuaded, however, that this is not all. Bear in mind what putting away falsehood really means. It describes a state or frame of mind, a character of the inner man, peculiar to the real Christian, the true believer. If so, it would seem to follow that by speaking truth every man with his neighbour, is meant a habit or mode of speech also peculiar to such a one. The true speaking must correspond to the putting away lying with which it is associated; out of which, in fact, it springs. They are both of them Christian graces and attainments, and not common virtues; excellences of which the renewed man is capable, but which are beyond the reach of the old.

III. The reason annexed to this precept. Christians are formed into one body, having a common Head; from whom they all derive a common life, and in whom they all are one. There are not, therefore--there cannot be, if they realize and act out this great ideal--separate interests among them. They are not isolated from one another, and independent of one another. Nor are they simply a community of individuals, voluntarily associated together for certain common ends. On either of these suppositions there might still be room for concealment and caution on many points there might be some apology for reticence and silence. But believers are a divinely constituted, a divinely created corporation. Their unity is of the Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Ghost. They are more intimately bound and knit together in one than are the limbs of man’s corporeal frame. They have absolutely, in the highest sense, all things in common. There is one body, etc. Surely, in such a society, there might be expected to be the most outspoken freedom of utterance; the fullest and frankest speaking of the truth. As members one of another, you should have no secrets to keep from one another. There ought to be no cold reserve; no jealousy; no suspicion; none of that wary prudence, that wise doubting of your neighbour, which prompts the keeping back of the truth from him, and the leaving of him in ignorance or in error. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

On truth

Not only is the Second Person in the adorable Trinity revealed to us as the Son and the Word of God, but He is also exhibited as the archetypal Verity. “I am the truth,” saith our Lord of Himself, and when He was made flesh He dwelt among men, “full of grace and truth.” That inherent attribute which had been in God from the beginning, which had been exercised in the beneficent act of creation (for “all His works are faithful”), was in the last days shown forth to mortal eyes in the lowly guise of the Carpenter of Nazareth, as their God in truth and in righteousness (Zechariah 8:8). Now if truth be thus--not only a part of that righteousness in which God constituted all things--but actually a form and mode of the Divine Being Himself; if it be, not only that, in which God caused all things to be according to their law, but the manifestation of Himself in His Blessed Son; it will follow that anything contrary to this truth will be of the most abominable nature. If truth be the exhibition of the Son of God Himself, we shall not wonder at the whole constitution of the world being founded in it. The condition on which society holds together is perfect truth. The nearer we approach to perfect truth in any society, the more perfect is the credit, and the more sure is the basis on which that society stands.

I. The opposite of truth is a lie; and in order to get at our duty on this head, it may be well to inquire into its nature and kinds. The common division of lying is into pernicious lies, those that are said with an evil intent--officious lies, those that are said to screen a fault or with other less culpable object--and lastly, lies of jesting, which may be dismissed in one word of the apostle--that they are--“not convenient,” being at best of a very low style of wit, and always dangerous. But I think that a fuller and more complete distinction of these may not be without advantage.

1. The first and most heinous of all lies are those that are perpetrated in religion. A falsehood concerning God is the worst form of this sin.

2. And connected with this--is the heinous iniquity of what are called “pious frauds,” where a religious system is propped up by deceit of any kind, false miracles, false legends, and the like.

3. The next most heinous form of deceit is the lie of malignity, where a falsehood is told with the deliberate purpose of injuring the happiness of another. Remember you have no right to spread any report till you have taken, some means to test its authenticity. If you give currency and fresh importance to a false report, you commit a great sin, and owe a heavy debt to the person you have helped to calumniate. The law prevents our being lied out of property, but who can arrest the evil effects of backbiting? who can restore the friendship it has broken?

4. The next kind of lying is that lying for lying’s sake, which we find sadly prevalent among certain individuals and certain nations.

5. We now come to the case where the lie is told to obtain some immediate or eventual good. It is a very wide subject, because from the simple lie to serve an immediate purpose up to the difficult question of casuistry, whether a man may tell a lie to save life or reputation, the circumstances and degrees are various to infinitude. Of course we affirm broadly that a man may not tell a lie to obtain for himself any good, and that if suffering follows on telling the truth, a man must be contented to suffer. The whole question turns on this: Is there anything more valuable than the soul? if there be, you may lie to obtain it; but if God has said that He “will destroy all such as speak leasing,” it is clear that we may not commit that sin for anything which the world can give. It is staking our eternal welfare against our temporal good. The matter becomes more difficult, when the object for which a lie is told is a fine or noble one, like the faithful servant well known in Scottish history, who perjured himself before the judges to save his master’s life. Yet even here the same law of distinction comes in, which is the more valuable--this world or the next? St. Augustine maintains that you may not say what is untrue, even if that untruth were to save a friend’s life, because your friend’s temporal life is less valuable than your own eternal life forfeited by the lie. If persons in pursuit of one who has thrown himself upon your mercy for concealment, demand of you where he is, you may not deny that you have seen him, but you may refuse to answer; you may throw the pursuers off the scent by any ingenious escape, but you may not say what is untrue, even in such an extreme case. You will recollect that noble fiction in which a person of low estate refuses to save a sister’s life at the expense of a lie, and afterwards obtains her pardon under circumstances of unparalleled energy and exertion. The morality here is perfect. It is best to leave the issue of things in the hand of God, and not to do evil that good may come.

6. We next proceed to a less heinous sort of lying, that which arises from the desire to please man--the lie of polite society. Here no one is injured, very deep interests are not affected--the subjects lied about are trifles--the motives are amiable or innocent--and yet here is positive sin. A desire to shine in society may not be wrong, but it must not be compassed by such means. Or the love of society may take the shape of boastful falsehood.

7. A more excusable form is that lying which comes from fear of offending those we live with. This is the special sin of some weak natures, and belongs rather to cowardice of character than to actual deceit. It often arises from the injudicious severity of parents, and the rough discipline of a public school, or from that feeble temperament which never should have been sent there. It is as much a misfortune as a fault, and is to be met by strengthening the moral character generally, and by seeking to bring out in the disposition all those habits of self-respect, which, under the Divine blessing, give dignity to man.

8. The last and most venial form of falsehood consists in those slight inaccuracies which slip out in the haste and thoughtlessness of conversation. These can hardly be called lies, because they are not uttered with the deliberate intention of deceiving, and are intellectual rather than moral faults. Some have very incorrect memories, others have quick minds which lead them to speak before they think, or even without thinking at all. Some persons find it impossible to repeat a thing exactly as they heard it, and without conscious deceit convey a different impression in their narration. Many of strong imagination unconsciously colour facts which in other respects they rightly describe. In short, there is a large region on the confines between truth and falsehood which requires some vigilance on our parts. People should be cautious about this inaccuracy, because like all bad habits it is apt to increase.

II. And now that we have defined these different sorts of lying, let us think of their gratity and their cure. The record of the sacred Scripture is very strong against this sin. Nothing but the presence of the Blessed Truth, which is Christ Himself, in the heart, can give that pellucid and crystal soul which will bear the light at every angle. He who speaks the truth from worldly motives is only careful about that which the world censures, and in cases where the conventional morality of society allows of false vows and protestations, has no feeling about these; but the true Christian, while he is not over-scrupulous about trifles, has a conscience which ever announces the approach of fraud, for he is stayed on God, who is the immutable Truth, who cannot be deceived. (Bishop A. P. Forbes.)

On the nature of lying

I. The nature of a lie. A lie, strictly and properly so called, is such a manner of speaking, wherein, according to the ordinary signification of words, a man signifies that to another as true which he himself either certainly knows or believes to be false, and that, with a design of imposing upon him.

II. Several kinds of lies. Much needs not to be said concerning that sort of lying, which yet is of all others the most generally practised; namely, those mean ways of deceiving and over-reaching one another, which are so frequently used in traffic and bargaining. I shall proceed now to the consideration of such cases, wherein many even learned men have pleaded with very plausible reasons, in justification and defence of the use of divers manners of falsifying. And--

1. In the case of those, to whom we have openly and justly declared ourselves enemies, as in the case of a lawful and necessary war.

2. In the education of children; that is, of such as are already arrived to some, though not a perfect, use of their reason. To these, the persons I am speaking of, conceive, we are not obliged to speak the truth; not because they have no right to truth, or have lost that right by any forfeiture, but because they are not capable of receiving and judging of it; so that because they are not come to a full use of their reason and judgment.

3. The last case, wherein falsehood has been by many thought justifiable, is when some public benefit is thereby promoted; in which case they fancy they may presume upon men’s consent, that they are willing to be deceived; that they would give up their right by which they might exact truth of us, did they know the reasons that moved us to deceive them. These are the chief cases in which some have thought falsehood allowable, or at least excusable. Whether they had any just and sufficient reason to do so, will best appear by inquiring first into the nature of truth, and the foundation of our obligation to speak always what we think agreeable to it; and their applying it to the particular cases. Now they who think a lie, properly so called, to be in several cases lawful; consider truth merely as a civil compact. They look upon truth as a matter of private concern, as if one man laid upon another all the obligation he has to it, and consequently could release him from that obligation either by his fault, or his incapacity, or his consent. Thus truth becomes merely one and the same thing with justice; and falsehood ceases to be a fault, unless when it is joined with manifest injury and wrong. From hence it follows, that, since when a man has forfeited or voluntarily receded from his right to anything, it may without injustice be withheld from him; in such cases as those, according to this notion, a lie will seem to be no longer blameworthy.

But now that we are, on the contrary, really under an obligation to truth, distinct from, and independent on that of mere justice, may appear from the following considerations.

1. That every man’s conscience naturally convinces him that he is under an obligation to truth, distinct from all other considerations; so that it will not without reluctance suffer him to deceive his neighbour with a lie, even though he does not foresee any real injury or damage that will there upon accrue to him.

2. That our obligation to truth is distinct from that of merely not injuring our neighbour, appears further from this consideration, that in our notion of the supreme and most perfect Being, veracity and justice are two distinct perfections or attributes.

It remains that after what has been said, I make a practical observation or two, and so conclude. And--

1. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,” saith Solomon (Proverbs 12:22; and Proverbs 6:16. etc.).

2. As lies are thus abominable in the sight of God, so are they also to all good men (Proverbs 13:5).

3. This sin of lying tends in its own nature to the destruction of all civil society. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

The virtues which have truthfulness for their basis

The quality of truthfulness, or of allegiance to truth, in the character, extends far beyond the point of scrupulously avoiding untrue statements. A person may never tell what would usually be called a falsehood, and yet may have a thoroughly insincere, hypocritical, or artificial character.

1. And may I not mention first, as worthy of being in general avoided, the quality of dissimulation, or the concealment of our real opinions, which has been contrasted with simulation, or the pretending to be, or to think, something other than the reality. It has been laid to the charge of Cromwell that he was a dissembler, who allowed others to interpret his silence as they would, and then surprised them by acting otherwise than they expected. His most favourable biographers have defended him on the ground that he told no lies, and that being in the midst of dangerous plotters, he was unable to save himself or his cause in any other way. I will not dispute the justice of the defence, but I notice the instance as showing how men confound dissembling with falsehood, and therefore how these must border on one another; and as showing also that a high religionist like Cromwell, by his dissembling, gave colour to the charge that his religion was insincere.

2. Next to dissimulation I mention “pretence,” which implies an intentional concealment of the reality by something false or feigned offered to the inspection of others. Thus a merchant who has no capital makes a false impression on others in regard to his pecuniary ability, that he may obtain a loan of money; or a sciolist pretends to have learning, when he is ignorant; or a libertine to be moral when he is immoral; or a hypocrite in religion to be a believer or a good man when he is neither.

3. There is a less obvious kind of pretence into which we are all apt to fall, which, however, cannot stand on its defence, when tried by the laws of truth. It is what is called “cant”; a word which denotes the aping of others in expressions of feeling and opinion, by the use of set, stereotyped words which pass current in a certain circle of religion, fashion, or taste.

4. We mention next, as closely bordering on the vice of character already named, “insincerity,” especially in professions of regard and in the bestowment of praise. When a person puts on the semblance of friendship for another, expressing it in warm terms to his face, while he laughs at him behind his back, we call this hypocrisy of a black dye. But some insincere ways of making another believe that you are his friend are not so obviously wicked as this. You thus present yourself to others as ready to do for them what is beyond your intention, and when the test comes and you fail, they are wounded, and feel that they have been falsely dealt with. Most of such insincere professions are the refuges of selfishness ashamed to come to the light and putting on the forms of goodwill.

5. We pass on next to the faults of character opposed to “simplicity.” This word denoted at first the quality of being unfolded, as contrasted with that which was folded together, and so simplicity in a moral sense and duplicity are moral opposites. But the word has a wide application; when used in reference to taste it denotes the avoidance of the artificial, the overwrought, the overloaded with ornament, the pretentious. When used in reference to our purposes it denotes that two motives, as self-interest and goodwill, are not mixed in producing the same act, or that we aim at truth rather than at impression. As a moral quality it denotes the absence of guile, a character without artifice.

6. Another and a kindred fault opposed to a spirit of truthfulness is inaccuracy in representation and reports.

7. Another of the truthful virtues is “candour,” which partakes of the nature also of justice. It admits the weight of what makes against ourselves and confesses this with readiness. It acknowledges mistakes out of a spirit of fairness. In argument it gives an impartial view of the reasons urged by the opposite side. (T. D. Woolsey.)

The evil of lying

Wherein lies the evil of lying? We observe--

1. That a lie is the nearest thing possible to suicide, being a denial of the personality which God has given us, and calculated to reduce the order of God’s creation to confusion.

2. It is contrary to the nature and use of language, and the purpose of God Himself in giving us the organs of speech.

3. It makes men like devils, and destroys all confidence in human society. Two men give each other the lie, and you have a duel; one mob gives another the lie, and there is a riot; two nations give each other the lie, and you have war; our race gave God the lie in paradise, and we have the Fall--the heaven and the earth in conflict with each other. Such are the effects of a lie!

4. We add that the liar is shut out from the kingdom of heaven by the authority of God, being both by nature and practice unfitted for the heavenly home. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Various kinds of lies

There are thousands of ways of telling a lie. A man’s whole life may be a falsehood, and yet never with his lips may he falsify once. There is a falsehood by look, by manner, as well as by lip. There are persons who are guilty of dishonesty of speech, and then afterward say “may be,” call it a white lie, when no lie is that colour. The whitest lie ever told was as black as perdition. There are those so given to dishonesty of speech that they do not know when they are lying. With some it is an acquired sin, and with others it is a natural infirmity. Misrepresentation and prevarication are as natural to them as the infantile diseases, and are a sort of moral croup or spiritual scarlatina. Then there are those who in after life have opportunities of developing this evil, and they go from deception to deception, and from class to class, until they are regularly graduated liars. At times the air in our cities is filled with falsehood, and lies cluster around the mechanic’s hammer, blossom on the merchant’s yardstick, and sometimes sit in the doors of churches. They are called by some fabrication, by some fiction. You might call them subterfuge, or deceit, or romance, or fable, or misrepresentation, or delusion; but as I know nothing to be gained by covering up a God-defying sin with a lexicographer’s blanket, I shall call them, in plainest vernacular, lies.

I. First of all, I speak of agricultural falsehoods. There is something in the presence of natural objects that has a tendency to make one pure. The trees never issue false stock. The wheat fields are always honest. Rye and oats never move out in the night, not paying for the place they occupy. Corn shocks never make false assignments. Mountain brooks are always current. The gold of the wheat fields is never counterfeit. But, while the tendency of agricultural life is to make one honest, honesty is not the characteristic of all who come to the city markets from the country districts. Milk cans are not always honest.

II. I pass on to consider commercial lies. There are those who apologize for deviations from the right and for practical deception by saying it is commercial custom. In other words, a lie by multiplication becomes a virtue. A merchant says: “I am selling these goods at less than cost.” Is he getting for these goods a price inferior to that which he paid for them? Then he has spoken the truth. Is he getting more? Then he lies. A merchant says: “I paid $25 for this article.” Is that the price he paid for it? All right. But suppose he paid for it $23 instead of $25? Then he lies. But there are just as many falsehoods before the counter as there are behind the counter. A customer comes in and asks: “How much is this article?” “It is five dollars.” “I can get that for four somewhere else.” Can he get it for four somewhere else, or did he say that just for the purpose of getting it cheap by depreciating the value of the goods? If so, he lied. There are just as many falsehoods before the counter as there are behind the counter. A man unrolls upon the counter a bale of handkerchiefs. The customer says: “Are these all silk?” “Yes.” “No cotton in them?” “No cotton in them.” Are those handkerchiefs all silk? Then the merchant told the truth. Is there any cotton in them? Then he lied. Moreover, he defrauds himself, for this customer coming in from Hempstead, or Yonkers, or Newark, will, after awhile, find out that he has been defrauded, and the next time he comes to town and goes shopping he will look up at that sign and say: “No, I won’t go there; that’s the place where I got those handkerchiefs.” First, the merchant insulted God; and secondly, he picked his own pocket.

III. I pass on to speak of mechanical falsehoods. I am speaking now of those who promise to do that which they know they will not be able to do. They say they will come on Monday; they do not come until Wednesday. They say they will come on Wednesday; they do not come until Saturday. They say they will have the job done in ten days; they do not get it done before thirty.

IV. I pass on to speak of social lies. How much of society is insincere! You hardly know what to believe. They send their regards; you do not exactly know whether it is an expression of the heart or an external civility. They ask you to come to their house; you hardly know whether they really want you to come. We are all accustomed to take a discount from what we hear. “Not at home,” very often means too lazy to dress. I was reading this morning of a lady who said she had told her last fashionable lie. There was a knock at her door, and she sent down word, “Not at home.” That night her husband said to her, “Mrs. So-and-so is dead.” “Is it possible?” she said. “Yes; and she died in great anguish of mind. She wanted to see you so very much; she had something very important to disclose to you in her last hour; and she sent three times today, but found you absent every time.” Then this woman bethought herself that she had had a bargain with her neighbour that when the long protracted sickness was about to come to an end, she would appear at her bedside and take the secret that was to be disclosed; and she had said she was “not at home.” Social life is struck through with insincerity. They apologize for the fact that the furnace is out; they have not had any fire in it all winter. They apologize for the fare on their table; they never live any better. They decry their most luxuriant entertainment to win a shower of approval from you. They point at a picture on the wall as a work of one of the old masters. They say it is an heirloom in the family. It hung on the wall of a castle. A duke gave it to their grandfather. People that will lie about nothing else will lie about a picture. On small income we want the world to believe we are affluent, and society today is struck through with cheat, and counterfeit, and sham.

V. I pass on to speak of ecclesiastical lies, those which are told for the advancement or retarding of a Church or sect. It is hardly worth your while to ask an extreme Calvinist what an Arminian believes. He will tell you an Arminian believes that man can save himself. An Arminian believes no such thing. It is hardly worth your while to ask an extreme Arminian what a Calvinist believes. He will tell you that a Calvinist believes that God made some men just to damn them. A Calvinist believes no such thing.

VI. Let us in all departments of life stand back from deception. “Oh!” says someone, “the deception that I practise is so small it don’t amount to anything.” Ah! my friends, it does amount to a great deal. “Oh!” you say, “when I deceive, it is only about a case of needles, or a box of buttons, or a row of pins.” The article may be so small you can put it in your vest pocket; but the sin is as big as the Pyramids, and the echo of your dishonour will reverberate through the mountains of eternity. (Dr. Talmage.)

Commercial untruthfulness

Closely akin to the grossest form of dishonesty, comes that commercial untruthfulness of which we hear so much in the world of business. The selling of adulterated goods as genuine, the advertising of useless nostrums as specific remedies, the daily issue of prospectuses of investments offering more interest for the money than any sane and honest investment can really produce, seem, when described in simple language, undistinguishable from gross deception. And yet newspapers are full of them: every post delivers some of them. We dare not think that they are all the handiwork of cunning rogues. No; they are not. They can justify themselves by the assertion that the exaggerations of their statements are a fashion of speech, a trick of trade; that the purchaser of the adulterated goods buys at his peril, and knows, or ought to know, that he cannot have the genuine thing at so cheap a rate; that the advertisement is part of a joke; that the prospectuses, to be read at all, must be read with an amount of discount that will turn the policies into puffs, and categorical statements into probabilities or chances; that the promises of gain are not intended to deceive, but to call attention to the thing proposed; and that, at all events, it is the duty of the investor to ascertain the truth of them before he invests, or to complain only of his stupidity if he is deceived. And yet, although they who do such things must know that they are shutting their eyes to their own crime; that they do deceive the unwary; that they ruin the poor; that they tantalize and aggravate the miseries of the sick; that they take an unfair advantage, primarily, of those who cannot help themselves; still they persist, and are greatly offended if personally they are stigmatized by the name they deserve. If they do not live by deceit they live by gain purchased by deceit, and it takes a good deal of self-deceit to enable them to fancy that they can see the difference. (Bishop Stubbs.)

The palace of truth

I remember reading a story when I was a child, which struck me very forcibly even then as illustrating the deceit and wickedness of the human heart. The writer describes a place into which every person who enters is bound by a certain spell, so that they speak actually the thoughts of their hearts, whatever they be, while at the same time, they are not at all conscious of the power that influences them, or of the words they utter, but imagine they are saying what they would intend to say, in the ordinary language of the duplicity or compliment of the world. Therefore, when friends meet friends, and relatives meet relatives, while they are carrying on the farce which in too many instances they do carry on in social life, expressing, as they imagine, regret or kindness, compliments or pleasure, they are really giving vent to the genuine feelings of their heart. When they are brought into the test of the palace of truth, the mask is there torn off, and all the vain fantastic mockery of kindness, of regard, or of affection, they had once professed, is new exchanged for the genuine expression of envy, malice, hatred, or disgust, and all the other passions which really possess their breasts. Then they are manifested in their true character to each other, and consequently all these evil passions produce their natural result, in severing almost all the ties of social and domestic life. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Truth-speaking

Christians are to speak the whole truth without distortion, diminution, or exaggeration. No promise is to be falsified--no mutual understanding violated. The word of a Christian ought to be as his bond, every syllable being but the expression of “truth in the inward parts.” The sacred majesty of truth is ever to characterize and hallow all his communications. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The mutual dependence of Christians on one another forbids falsehood

Christians are bound by reciprocal ties and obligations, and falsehood wars against such a union. Trusting in one God, they should, therefore, not create distrust of one another; seeking to be saved by one faith, they should not prove faithless to their fellows; and professing to be freed by the truth, they ought not to attempt to enslave their brethren by falsehood. Each is bound up with the other, and lying recoils upon him who deviates from fact. Truthfulness is an essential and primary virtue, and the opposite vice is mean and selfish. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Social unity forbids lying

Let not the eye lie to the foot, nor the foot to the eye. If there be a deep pit, and its mouth covered with reeds shall present to the eye the appearance of solid ground, will not the eye use the foot to ascertain whether it is hollow underneath, or whether it is firm and resists? Will the foot tell a lie, and not the truth as it is? And what again if the eye were to spy a serpent or a wild beast, will it lie to the foot? (Chrysostom.)

Need of speaking the truth

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is one of the best characteristics of the Christian conversation. The reason is, “For we are members one of another”--that is, we all belong to the same body of Christ--to the same human family--to the same universe of God, and the life that pervades it all is truth, the circulating medium in the celestial corporation. In speaking lies you vitiate the blood by the infusion of a foreign, poisonous element, and, as it flows through the whole, it will weaken the whole. A hint, an innuendo, uttered in the privacy of the tea-table, may ruin the character at the distance of thousands of miles. We are wonderfully knit together in the wide-spreading, entangled, many-coloured web work of humanity; and the great bond of union is the truth, is the true one, in whom, as a centre, all that is truthful, and beautiful, and serene, find their resting place and their home! (W. Graham, D. D.)

Penalty of lying

When martial law was proclaimed in Devonshire and Cornwall in 1549, there was a miller who had been out with Arundel, and, expecting inquiry, had persuaded a servant to take his place and name. Sir Anthony Kingston, the provost Marshall, came riding up to the door one day. “Are you the miller?” said he. “If you please, yes,” was the unsuspecting answer. “Up with him,” said Kingston. “He is a busy knave; hang him up.” In vain the poor man called out then that he was no miller, but an innocent servant. “Thou art a false knave, then,” said the provost-marshall, “to be in two tales; therefore hang him”--and he was hanged forthwith.

Love of truth

A ragged little nine-year-old boy, stowed away on board a steamer bound for New York, was discovered and questioned by the mate of the vessel. The little fellow’s story was that his stepfather had smuggled him on board, so that he could get out to an aunt living in Halifax, who was well off. The mate, in spite of the lad’s sunny face and truthful-looking eyes, doubted his tale, thinking he had been brought on board and fed by the sailors, and handled the little fellow rather roughly. He was questioned and requestioned, but always with the same result. At last the mate, wearied by his persistence, seized him one day by the collar, and told him that unless he told the truth in ten minutes from that time he would hang him from the yard arm. He then made him sit down under it on the deck. All around him were the passengers and sailors of the midday watch, and in front of him stood the inexorable mate with his chronometer in his hand. When eight minutes had fled the mate told him he had but two minutes to live, and advised him to speak the truth and save his life; but he replied, with the utmost simplicity and sincerity, by asking the mate if he might pray. The mate said nothing, but nodded his head, and turned as pale as a ghost, and shook with trembling like a reed shaken with the wind. And there, eyes turned on him, the brave and noble little fellow, this poor waif whom society owned not, and whose own stepfather could not care for him--there he knelt with clasped hands and eyes upturned to heaven, while he repeated audibly the Lord’s prayer, and prayed the dear Lord Jesus to take him to heaven. Sobs broke from strong, hard hearts as the mate sprang forward to the boy and clasped him to his bosom, and kissed him and blessed him, and told him how sincerely he now believed his story, and how glad he was that he had been brave enough to face death and be willing to sacrifice his life for the truth of his word.

The power of truth

How simply and beautifully has Abd-el-Kadir, of Ghilon, impressed us with the love of truth in his childhood! After stating the vision which made him entreat of his mother to go to Bagdad and devote himself to God, he thus proceeds:--“I informed her what I had seen, and she wept; and taking out eighty dinars, she told me, that as I had a brother, half of that was all my inheritance. She made me swear, when she gave it to me, never to tell a lie, and afterwards bade me farewell, exclaiming, ‘Go, my son; I consign thee to God; we shall not meet until the day of judgment.’ I went on well till I came near Hamandnal, when our Kafillah was plundered by sixty horsemen. One fellow asked me what I had got. ‘Forty dinars,’ said I, ‘are sewed up under my garments.’ The fellow laughed, thinking I was joking. ‘And what have you got? ‘ said another. I gave him the same answer. When they were dividing the spoil I was called to an eminence where the chief stood. ‘What property have you got, my little fellow?’ said he. ‘I have told two of your people already,’ I replied. ‘I have forty dinars sewed in my garments.’ He ordered them to be ripped open, and found my money. ‘And how came you,’ he said, in surprise, ‘to declare so openly what had been so carefully concealed?’ ‘Because I will not be false to my mother, to whom I have promised I would never tell a lie.’ ‘Child,’ said the robber, ‘hast thou such sense of duty to thy mother at thy years, and am I insensible, at my age, of the duty I owe to God? Give me thy hand, innocent boy,’ he continued, ‘that I may swear repentance upon it.’ He did so. His followers were all alike struck with the scene. ‘You have been our leader in guilt,’ said they to their chief; ‘be the same in the path of virtue.’ And they instantly, at his order, made restitution of their spoil, and vowed repentance on his hand.”

Speaking the truth

During the Chartist agitation many of Kingsley’s friends and relations tried to withdraw him from the people’s cause, fearful lest his prospects in life might be seriously prejudiced; but to all of them he turned a deaf ear, and in writing to his wife on the subject he says--“I will not be a liar. I will speak in season and out of season. I will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. My path is clear, and I will follow in it.” (Alex. Bell, B. A.)

Members of each other

When the knitter has completed the sock, there is no part of it in which the yarn, in and of itself, is of great value; and yet, take away any thread of it and you leave a hole. So in life things are important not according to their individual measurement or emphasis, not according to their report to the eye or to the ear, but according to ,their relationship to the multitude. Singly they are like grains of sand, but united they are vast as the shore. The shore cannot spare its sand. Human life makes itself by its little deeds, and becomes great by the sum of all its minute things; but there is a universal contention of men to seek great things.


Verses 25-32

Verse 26

Ephesians 4:26

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

Dissuasive from anger

I. A general principle. It must keep clear of sin “be ye angry, and sin not.”

1. Unjust anger is clearly wrong.

2. Excessive anger comes under the same condemnation.

3. Personal anger is scarcely ever without sin; yet this is the character of the greater number of cases. We are angry with the person, rather than with his misconduct.

4. Selfish anger may always be suspected of sin.

II. A special rule. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

III. An awful motive. “Neither give place to the devil.” There are two characters which the devil sustains towards us: he is our accuser, and our tempter. In both these characters he gains an advantage over us by means of sinful anger.

1. It furnishes him with a charge against us. Dream not that angry words are mere idle breath: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

2. It assists his temptations of us. Everyone must know what a pitiable creature he is, who gives way to unbridled anger. Only work on his passion, and you may make him believe anything--say anything--do anything. And the man unconsciously “gives place” to his enemy. While proudly resolving not to give way to a fellow creature, whose ill-will could do him little injury, and might have been disarmed by gentleness or yielding: he throws himself into the arms of one who seizes the occasion for promoting the destruction of both body and soul in hell. (J. Jowett, M. A.)

Anger not to be sinfully indulged

I. Anger kept within its due bounds. I shall consider this as in holy anger. And there is in it--

1. A commotion of the spirit, which ariseth from the apprehension of a real injury; for if it be only imaginary it is sinful. This is necessary to stir up a man’s desire to see the wrong rectified.

2. There is hatred in it, not at the persons but at their sins, whether they be our own sins or others. In this respect it is called “indignation” (2 Corinthians 7:11). This is most desirable, when it is kept purely on this object. That is not the part where we are in hazard of excess, seeing we are commanded to abhor that which is evil.

3. There is grief in it (Mark 3:5). This naturally follows on hatred of the thing, which likewise ariseth from a just apprehension of the evil of it in a gracious soul. And from both ariseth--

4. A desire of the vindication of the right and honour of the party injured.

II. Sinful anger condemned. We are to consider it in its rise, and the passion transgressing due bounds, which makes it sinful, however short, while it lasts. Now, for clearing of what this sinful anger is, we must consider the due boundary of holy and just anger, and what is beyond these is sinful.

1. The grounds of holy anger are just and weighty, such as God’s dishonour by our own sins, and the sins of others (2 Corinthians 7:11; Exodus 22:9). It must, then, be sinful anger, when it is without a just ground.

2. The degree of holy anger is proportioned to the fault. When the anger, then, in respect of degrees, exceeds the measure of the offence, and men are carried so far beside themselves, as to turn about the cart wheel on the cummin that might be beat out with the rod, then it is sinful anger.

3. The end of holy anger which it is directed, is the glory of God and the good of our neighbour (Proverbs 13:24; John 2:16-17). Sinful, then, it must be, when it is a fire lighting on others, to make them sacrifices to cursed self, to satisfy the desires of a proud heart (Proverbs 27:25), which will never think it gets enough from others.

4. The effects of holy anger, directly and indirectly, are just and good, for the man has rule over his own spirit, and no holy affection is inconsistent with another. It fits him for his duty to God and men, as may be seen in the case of Moses praying for the people (Exodus

3. The anger, then, must be sinful when its effects are hellish, as when it breaks out in clamour and evil speaking (Ephesians 4:31).

III. The reason why the sinful passion is condemned. “Neither give place to the devil.” That is, and give not place to the devil. It refers--

1. To the rise of sinful anger. To give place to it is to admit the devil.

2. It refers to the progress and continuance of it. The more it is harboured, the devil is the farther admitted. He loves to fish in muddy water. When he has got the fire kindled, he employs his bellows to blow it up, and always to make the flame greater and greater, to the destruction of ourselves and others.

Doctrine

I. Men not only may, but ought to be angry where there is just ground for it. We know no just ground for anger but the things which are sinful. Reasons.

1. Because in that case, the love and respect which we owe to God, who is dishonoured, require it.

2. The love which we owe to ourselves or others who are injured, requires it.

Doctrine

II. Men should beware that the fire of sinful auger kindle not in their breasts. Reasons.

1. Because it is evil in itself, and dishonourable to God; being the vomit of a proud heart and an unmeekened spirit.

2. Because it is not only evil, but a mother of evil; and is not only an inlet to many mischiefs to ourselves and others, put drives men to them to act with vigour. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

Doctrine

III. If sinful anger do enter our breasts, we must endeavour to extinguish it quickly, and beware of nourishing it.

Doctrine

IV. That the admitting and lodging of sinful anger in our hearts is a giving place to the devil. For remedies--

1. Let us consider our own vileness and unworthiness, and how often we are provoking the Lord, and so turn our anger against ourselves.

2. Let us consider these things with which we are so ready to be hurried away, are the trials of our patience, and we are on our trial for heaven.

3. Let us propose to ourselves the example of the meek and lowly Jesus. “He suffered, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.” Lastly--Out of a sense of our utter inability to resist the least temptation, look to Jesus for strength, and by faith draw strength from Him. (T. Boston, D. D.)

A dissuasive from violent passion

I. Some rules to distinguish the nature and the degree of anger when it becomes criminal.

1. Man having been created susceptible of anger, to enable him to repel with courage the evil which encompasses, or to surmount with activity the calamity which threatens him, it is evident that whoever unnecessarily provokes him is to a certain degree culpable.

2. Since every impulse should be proportionate to the power of the motives which produce it, it is no less evident that all anger, and every emotion carried to excess--that is, which exceed the bounds prescribed by reason, are criminal.

3. It will also be hateful in the sight of God, when through indulgence it degenerates into hatred or malice, into resentment or a desire of revenge.

4. Anger becomes a sin of more aggravated nature, when by continual indulgence it resumes, as it were, a constitutional property.

5. Anger is always criminal, when, either in its nature or attendant circumstances, it, in any manner, is injurious to reason and religion, or involves, in its consequences, either ourselves or other men in trouble.

II. I now proceed, under the second head, to propose some considerations to engage you to regulate this passion.

1. Nothing is more indecent, disgraceful, and contemptible than the character of a passionate and violent man. Rage always supposes weakness; hence children, sick people, and women, are the most subject to it.

2. blot only is the anger of which I am speaking contemptible, odious, and criminal in itself, but it is also melancholy and criminal in its effects and consequences. A man, by frequent transports of rage, impairs his health. Add to this, that a man who is master of himself has, in all circumstances of life, an infinite advantage over a violent person. At every turn he gives some advantage to his adversary.

3. Besides, a man of an outrageous temper is almost always unhappy; he is always exposed to chagrin, occasioned by his own irritability. Rage is to the soul what fever is to the body: as a fever throws the whole animal economy into disorder, rage, in like manner, so agitates the soul as to bereave it of peace. (P. Bertrand.)

Godlike anger

I. What is the sort of anger here allowed or enjoined? Evidently it must be anger of such a sort as shall be in keeping and in harmony with the sphere in which it works, viz., the sphere of the truth as it is in Jesus, in contrast to the deceit or lie of which the devil is the father. The anger of the new man is, in one word, sympathy with God; intelligent, confiding, loving sympathy with God.

II. What are the conditions annexed to the allowance or injunction?

1. It must be sinless. Remember that anger too readily allies itself to that self-love in you which is the real root and ground, the source and spring, of the anger of the old man, which is altogether sinful, and of whatever is sinful in the anger of the new man. God’s anger, on the contrary, is absolutely holy. For He is never angry on His own account, or for injury done to Him. What makes Him angry, however it may be opposed to His nature and will, does not really touch His essential glory and blessedness.

2. It must be short. If a moment suffice for the anger of God, surely a day may be more than enough for yours. If His righteous and holy wrath endureth but for a moment, yours may well subside ere sundown. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

The warning against anger

We ought to mind this warning against anger, because if we give way to angry feelings, it will have a bad effect upon us in three ways.

I. If we give way to anger, it will interfere with our comfort. An angry man can never feel comfortable. Anger in our hearts or minds is just like a storm at sea. That storm, while it lasts, disturbs everything. As long as that storm continues it interferes, most seriously, with the comfort of all on board the vessel, which is exposed to it. Most of the passengers will be made seasick, and be obliged to go to bed, and their comfort will be wonderfully interfered with while that storm lasts. And just as a storm at sea acts on a vessel that is exposed to it, so anger acts on the soul where its influence is felt. It upsets and disturbs all our thoughts and feelings, and interferes entirely with our comfort.

II. The second reason for minding this warning against anger is because it will interfere with our duty. Suppose I should wake up some morning, and on looking at my watch to see what time it was, should find that it had stopped, and was keeping time no longer. The mainspring is not broken. It was not run down, for I wound it up last night before I went to bed. But still the watch has stopped. It will not keep time. I cannot tell what is the matter with it. After breakfast I take it to the watchmaker, and ask him to examine it, and find out what the trouble is. He opens the watch, and putting on one of his magnifying glasses, he looks carefully into it. Presently he lays it down, and says, “I see what the trouble is. A little grain of sand has got in among the works, some how or other, and that interferes with the working of the watch and makes it stop.” Then he goes to work and removes that grain of sand, and after this is done the watch goes on keeping time as usual. Now, our souls are like watches in some respects. Our thoughts, and feelings, and desires are very much like the wheels, or works of a watch. While our feelings and tempers are all right, the wheels will go on, and the watch will keep good time. But, if we give way to a wrong feeling or temper, like anger, it will be like the grain of sand in the works of the watch. It will stop them from going on, and the watch will not be able to keep time. When George IV was King of England he desired one day to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and he sent for the Bishop of Winchester to come and administer it to him. The messenger who was sent on this errand was very slow in his movements, and loitered along the way. This caused a long delay before the arrival of the bishop, and the king got very impatient about it. When the bishop came he stated that he started immediately on getting the message, but that the servant had been very slow in coming to him. This made the king angry. He rang the bell and called for the messenger. When he entered the room the king reproved him very sharply, dismissed him from his service, and told him to leave the palace at once. As soon as he was gone the king turned to the bishop, and said, “Now, my lord, we will go on with our service.” But the bishop, with great mildness, and yet very firmly, said, “Please your majesty, I cannot do that. The temper just displayed is not a fit preparation for this solemn service.” The king saw that he had done wrong, and made a suitable apology to the bishop. Then he sent for his servant, asked his pardon for speaking so angrily to him, and told him, in the pleasantest possible way, that he should keep his position in the king’s employ.

III. And the third reason for minding this warning against anger is, that it will interfere with our safety. If we do what we know is wrong; if we let the sun go down upon our wrath, and give way to anger, then we are doing that which will interfere with our safety. Our shield and armour will be taken away, and we shall be exposed to all sorts of dangers. (Dr. Newton.)

The damager of anger

The angry man is compared to a ship sent into the sea, which hath the devil for its pilot. (T. Adams.)

Description of anger

Anger sets the house on fire, and all the spirits are busy upon trouble, and intend propulsion and defence, displeasure and revenge; it is a short madness, and an eternal enemy to discourse, and sober counsels, and fair conversation; it is a fever in the heart, and a calenture in the head, and a fire in the face, and a sword in the hand, and a fury all over. It hath in it the trouble of sorrow, and the heats of lust, and the disease of revenge, and the bodings of a fever, and the rashness of precipitancy, and the disturbance of persecution. If it proceed from a great cause, it turns to fury; if from a small cause, it is peevishness; and so it is always terrible or ridiculous. It makes a man’s body deformed and contemptible, the voice horrid, the eyes cruel, the face pale or fiery, the gait fierce. It is neither manly nor ingenuous, and is a passion fitter for flies and wasps than for persons professing nobleness and bounty. It is a confluence of all the irregular passions. There is in it envy and scorn, fear and sorrow, pride and prejudice, rashness and inconsideration, rejoicing in evil, and a desire to inflict it. (Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)

Foolishness of anger

To be angry is to revenge the fault of others upon ourselves. (Pope.)

To be angry about trifles is mean and childish; to rage and be furious is brutish; and to maintain perpetual wrath is akin to the practice and temper of devils; but to prevent and suppress rising resentment is wise and glorious, is manly and Divine. (Dr. Watts.)

Short continuance of anger

The English, by command of William the Conqueror, always raked up their fires and put out their candles when the curfew bell was rung; some part of which laudable custom of those times remaineth yet, in the ringing of our eight or nine o’clock bell. Let it then mind us thus much, that the sun go not down upon our wrath; let it not carry news to the antipodes in another world of our revengeful nature, but rather quench all sparks of anger, rake up all heat of passion that may arise within us. (Spencer.)

Anger--without sin

One of the late Dr. Spencer’s parishioners in Brooklyn, New York, met him hurriedly urging his way down the street one day; his lip was set, and there was something strange in that gray eye. “How are you today, doctor?” he said, pleasantly. He waked as from a dream, and replied, soberly, “I am mad!” It was a new word for a mild, true-hearted Christian; but he waited, and with a deep, earnest voice went on. I found a widow standing by her goods thrown in the street; she could not pay the month’s rent; the landlord turned her out; and one of her children is going to die; and that man is a member of the Church! I told her to take her things back again. I am on my way to see him!”

Be angry and sin not

The easiest charge under the hardest condition that can be. He that will be angry and not sin, let him be angry at nothing but sin. (J. Trapp.)

Anger must be brief

Plutarch writeth that it was the custom of Pythagoras’ scholars, however they had been jarring and jangling in their disputations, yet, before the sun set, to kiss and shake hands before they departed out of the school. Leontias Patricius was one day extremely and unreasonably angry with John, Patriarch of Alexandria. At evening the patriarch sent a servant to him with this message: “Sir, the sun is set,” upon which Patricius reflecting, and the grace of God making the impression deep, he threw away his anger, and became wholly subject to the counsel of the patriarch. (J. Trapp.)

Anger hinders religious duties

My grandfather, who was a very affectionate, but a passionate man, one Friday fell out with his brother, and both went home in a rage. Toward evening (the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath), his wife made her preparations for keeping holy time, but noticed that he did not light the customary lamp. She addressed him, but he paced the room in silence and evident distress of mind. “See,” said my grandmother at length, “the stars are already in the Lord’s firmament, and our Sabbath lamp is still dark.” My grandfather then took his hat and staff, and with visible perturbation hurried out of the house; but in a few minutes he returned with tears of joy in his eyes. “Now, my beloved Rebecca,” cries he, “now I am ready.” He offered up the prayer, and with evident feelings of delight kindled the lamp. He afterwards made known his dispute in the morning, adding, “it was not possible for me to offer up the prayer and light the lamp before I was reconciled with Isaac” (that was his brother’s name). “But how came it to pass that you returned so quickly?” “Why,” said he, “Isaac, like me, could not rear--it was with him as it was with me--he also could not enter upon the Sabbath without being reconciled. We met each other in the street--he was coming to me, I was going to him--we fell into each other’s arms, weeping.” (Dr. Capadose.)

Anger to be speedily got rid of

If we have eaten poison, we seek forthwith to vomit it up again with all speed; and if we be fallen into any disease, we use the means we can to provide a remedy; so, likewise, when we feel any unruly motions of anger, and the fiery flames thereof be once kindled in our hearts, we must be careful to repress them, as we would be to quench the fire in our houses. (Cawdray.)

Silent anger

If anger arises in thy breast, instantly seal up thy lips, and let it not go forth; for, like fire when it wants vent, it will suppress itself. It is good in a fever to have a tender and smooth tongue; but it is better that it be in anger; for if it be rough and distempered, there it is an ill sign, but here it is an ill cause. Angry passion is a fire, and angry words like breath to fan them together; they are like steel and flint, sending out fire by mutual collision. (Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)

Anger kept too long

Anger in itself is no sin, but it has a tendency to become so rapidly if it be harboured too long. Like the manna, it corrupts and breeds worms if kept over night in the close chamber of the heart. Then it will appear in the morbid shapes of spite, malice, revenge. The Christian rule is to throw it all away before the fermentation commences. (Dean Goulburn.)

The folly of anger

The choleric man is like one that dwells in a thatched house, who, being rich in the morning, by a sudden fire is a beggar before night. How foolish is the bee that loses her life and her sting together. She puts another to a little pain, but how dearly does she pay for it. (T. Adams.)

The folly of meeting anger with anger

Like as if a man join fire to fire, he maketh the flame the greater; even so, if a man think to suppress another man’s anger by being angry himself, he shall both lose his labour, and rather increase the other man’s anger. (Cawdray.)

A mad dog that bites another makes him as mad as himself; so, usually the injuries and reproaches of others foster up our revenge, and then there is no difference between us. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Forgiveness before sundown

Forgiveness before sundown! He who never feels the throb of indignation is imbecile. He who can walk among the injustices of the world inflicted upon himself and others, without flush of cheek, or flash of eye, or agitation of nature, is either in sympathy with wrong or semi-idiotic. It all depends on what you are angry at, and how long the feeling lasts, whether anger is right or wrong. Life is full of exasperations. Saul after David, Succoth after Gideon, Korah after Moses, the Pasquins after Augustus, the Pharisees after Christ, and everyone has had his pursuers, and we are swindled, or belied, or misrepresented, or persecuted, or in some way wronged, and the danger is that healthful indignation shall become baleful spite, and that our feelings settle down into a prolonged outpouring of temper displeasing to God and ruinous to ourselves, and hence the important injunction of the text, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” No, no; I think of five reasons why we should not let the sun set before our temper sets.

1. Because twelve hours is long enough to be cross about any wrong inflicted upon us. Nothing is so exhausting to physical health or mental faculty as a protracted indulgence of ill-humour. It racks the nervous system. It hurts the digestion. It heats the blood in brain and heart until the whole body is first overheated and then depressed. Besides that, it sours the disposition, turns one aside from his legitimate work, expends energies that ought to be better employed, and does us more harm than it does our antagonist. Paul gives us good, wide allowance of time for legitimate denunciation, from six o’clock to six o’clock, but says: “Stop there!” Watch the descending orb of day, and when it reaches the horizon, take a reef in your disposition. Unloose your collar and cool off. Change the subject to something delightfully pleasant. Aye, you will not postpone till sundown forgiveness of enemies if you can realize that their behaviour towards you may be put into the catalogue of the “all things” that “work together for good to those that love God.” Suppose, instead of waiting until this evening, when the sun will set, you transact this glorious work of forgiveness before meridian.

2. We ought not to let the sun go down on our wrath, because we will sleep better if we are at peace with everybody. Insomnia is getting to be one of the most prevalent of disorders. To relieve this disorder all narcotics, and sedatives, and chloral, and bromide of potassium, and cocaine and intoxicants are used, but nothing is more important than a quiet spirit if we would win somnolence. How is a man going to sleep when he is in mind pursuing an enemy? Why not put a boundary to your animosity? Why let your foes come into the sanctities of your dormitory? Why let those slanderers who have already torn your reputation to pieces or injured your business, bend over your midnight pillow and drive from you one of the greatest blessings that God can offer--sweet, refreshing, all-invigorating sleep. Why not fence out your enemies by the golden bars of the sunset?

3. We ought not to allow the sun to set before forgiveness takes place, because we might not live to see another day. The majority of people depart this life in the night. Between eleven o’clock p.m. and three o’clock a.m. there is something in the atmosphere which relaxes the grip which the body has on the soul, and most people enter the next world through the shadows of this world. Perhaps God may have arranged it in that way, so as to make the contrast the more glorious. I have seen sunshiny days in this world that must have been almost like the radiance of heaven. Shall we then leap over the roseate bank of sunset into the favourite hunting ground of disease and death, carrying our animosities with us?

4. We ought not to allow the passage of the sunset hour before the dismissal of all our affronts, because we may associate the sublimest action of the soul with the sublimest spectacle in nature. It is a most delightful thing to have our personal experiences allied with certain subjects. There is a tree or river bank where God first answered your prayer. Some of you have pleasant memories connected with the evening star, or the moon in its first quarter, or with the sunrise. Because you saw it just as you were arriving at harbour after a tempestuous voyage. Forever and forever. Oh, hearer, associate the sunset with your magnanimous, out-and-out, unlimited renunciation of all hatreds and forgiveness of all foes. I admit it; is the most difficult of all graces to practise, and at the start you may make a complete failure; but keep on in the attempt to practise it. Shakespeare wrote ten dramas before he reached “Hamlet,” and seventeen before he reached the “Merchant of Venice,” and twenty-eight before he reached “Macbeth.” And gradually you will come from the easier graces to the most difficult. Besides that, it is not a matter of personal determination so much as the laying hold of the Almighty arm of God, who will help us to do anything we ought to do. Remember that in all personal controversies the one least to blame will have to take the first step at pacification, if it is ever effective. The contest between AEschines and his rival resounds through history, but his rival, who was least to blame, went to AEschines and said: “Shall we not agree to be friends before we make ourselves the laughing stock of the whole country?” And AEschines said: “Thou art a far better man than I, for I began the quarrel, but thou hast been the first in healing the breach,” and they were always friends afterwards. So let the one of you that is least to blame take the first step towards conciliation. The one most in the wrong will never take it. We talk about the Italian sunsets, and sunset amid the Apennines, and sunset amid the Cordilleras, but I will tell you how you may see a grander sunset than any mere lover of nature ever beheld; that is, by flinging into it all your hatreds and animosities, and let the horses of fire trample them, and the chariots of fire roll over them, and the spearmen of fire stab them, and the beach of fire consume them, and the billows of fire overwhelm them.

5. We should not let the sun go down on our wrath, because it is of little importance what the world says of you or does to you when you have the affluent God of the sunset as your provider and defender. People talk as though it were a fixed spectacle of nature and always the same. But no one ever saw two sunsets alike, and if the world has existed six thousand years, there have been about two million one hundred and ninety thousand sunsets, each of them as distinct from all the other pictures in the gallery of the sky as Titian’s “Last Supper,” Rubens’ “Descent from the Cross,” Raphael’s “Transfiguration,” and Michael Angelo’s “Last Judgment” are distinct from each other. If that God of such infinite resources that He can put on the wall of the sky each night more than the Louvre and the Luxembourg galleries all in one, is my God and your God, our Provider and Protector, what is the use of our worrying about any human antagonism? If we are misinterpreted, the God of the many coloured sunset can put the right colour on our action. (Dr. Talmage.)

Sundown

There was a very holy patriarch of Alexandria, called John. The Governor of Alexandria had imposed a tax on the city which fell with peculiar severity on the poor, whilst the rich got off with comparative ease. The patriarch went to the Governor, whose name was Nicetas, and remonstrated with him. Nicetas was furious. He stormed against the bishop, and pursued him to his own house and inner chamber, using fierce abuse. He had completely lost control over himself, so great was his anger at the prelate’s interference. John was much agitated and distressed. He waited all the afternoon, praying for a reconciliation, but not another word had he with the Governor. As the evening drew on, he became still more uneasy. He felt he could not sleep with bitterness subsisting between them. So he wrote on a slip of parchment the words, “The sun is setting,” and sent it to Nicetas, who, recalling the maxim of St. Paul, was moved to regret his violence, and he hasted to the patriarch’s residence, asked his pardon, and their broken friendship was restored. (S. Baring Gould, M. A.)


Verse 27

Ephesians 4:27

Neither give place to the devil.

The defeat to be dreaded

I. The devil strives to gain the mastery over man. He comes into actual contact with us, even against our will. He studies our character. When Napoleon entered fresh territory, he spread a map upon the ground, and upon his knees he pondered it until he made himself familiar with all its features; he knew the rivers with their bridges and fords, the villages and their position in relation to adjacent towns: he then planned his modes of attack. Our dread spiritual adversary has his wiles and stratagems. He watches his victim, acquaints himself with his constitutional infirmities, his temper, appetites, propensities; then constructs his assaults accordingly. In this collision of foeship he sternly resolves to conquer.

II. Man is to successfully resist the devil. He has the intercession of Christ, and the help of the Holy Spirit--two mighty forces.

III. The issue of the conflict.

1. If the devil gain the day, it means ruin to the soul.

2. Think of the importance of the strife, and strain every nerve for conquest. (J. D. Tetley.)

Danger of giving place to the devil

The devil is no myth nor bugbear to frighten bad children with, but a real being, and powerful. Most plausible and smooth of tongue, the devil makes the largest promises, but he is a poor paymaster. Old King Canute, the Dane, offered to make him the highest man in England who should murder his hated rival, King Edmund. The bloody deed was done, and the guilty wretch was hanged on the highest tower in London. So Satan promises to bestow upon his wining dupes anything and everything they ask, and the honour which they look for in return proves only shame, and the happiness ends in torment. “Who is the most diligent bishop in all England?” asks old Hugh Latimer, in one of his quaint sermons. “I will tell you: it is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all others; he is never out of his diocese; he is ever applying to his business. His office is to hinder religion, to set up idolatry.” It is well for us to remember that the Arch-Deceiver is the same that he always was, and he was never more to be dreaded than now. He has access to us in various ways, and he knows how to make the best of his opportunities. The devil is not omnipresent, but carries on his evil work by his countless agents. Here are some of the ways in which people give place to the devil.

1. The soul that is not filled with good thoughts and desires is left empty for the enemy to enter. One night, as St. Anthony sat in his cell, he heard a knocking at the door, and going to see who was there, he beheld a man of terrible aspect, and the monk asked, in alarm, who he was. The stranger answered, “I am Satan; and I come to inquire how it is that thou and thy disciples, whenever ye stray into sin, or any evil befall ye, lay the blame on me, and load me with curses?” St. Anthony answered, with some spirit, “Have we not cause? Dost thou not go about seeking whom thou mayest devour, and tempt and torment us?” The demon retorted, sharply, “It is false; I do none of those things of which men accuse me; it is their own fault. They allure each other to sin; they torment and oppress each other; they go about seeking occasions to sin, and then they weakly lay the blame at my door. Since God came upon earth, and was made man to redeem man, I have no arms, no dwelling place. Let men complain of themselves, not of me.” Ah, how mortifying the truth, my friends, that we as often tempt the devil as he tempts us!

2. Another way in which people put themselves in the power of the Great Adversary is by yielding to spiritual indolence. Industry and watchfulness distinguish all real Christians. As soon as they become indolent, they cease to be on their guard against the enemy of souls. Among the disciples of Hillel, the wise teacher of Israel, was one who gave himself up to idleness. The good rabbi was grieved, and resolved to cure him of it. He accordingly took him to the valley of Hinnom, by Jerusalem, where was a standing pool, full of loathsome reptiles, and covered with muddy weeds. “Here,” said Hillel, “let us rest.” “Not here,” cried the youth; “dost thou not see what poisonous vapours it exhales?” “Thou art right, my son,” replied the rabbi; “and this bog is like the soul of the slothful!” This is as true of things spiritual as of things temporal. “Because iniquity shall abound,” says our blessed Lord, “the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). “The atmosphere of sin is poisonous to everything sacred; but the first thing which it especially acts upon is love. Love is the tenderest of all plants of heaven.”

3. Another favourable opportunity which Christians too often give to Satan to do them serious mischief, is the absorbing attention which they pay to their worldly business. “I have just seen a beautiful picture,” said one business man to another, after the cares of the day were done. “What was it?” “It was a landscape. The conception is most beautiful, and the execution well nigh perfect. You must be sure to go and see it before it is removed.” “And so have I seen a fine picture today,” said the other. “Indeed! What was it?” “I received notice this morning that there was great suffering in a certain family, and as soon as I could leave my business, I went to see what could be done. I climbed up to the garret where the poor family was sheltered, and as I was about to knock at the door, I heard a voice in prayer. When it ceased, I entered the wretched apartment, and found a young merchant, whose store I had just been in, and whose business I knew to be very pressing. Yet he had left it, and spent some time in personal labours for the comfort of the sick and suffering, and when I arrived, he was praying with the family, preparatory to his taking his leave. I asked him how he could afford the time, at such a busy season, to engage in these merciful offices, and he told me that the ease of these poor sufferers had been made known to several professing Christians, who had given no heed to it. ‘It is not absolutely necessary,’ he added, ‘that I should make money; but it is necessary that the honour of Christ should be maintained.’“ I dare say you have seen some fine pictures in the attractive windows of our print shops, but have you observed one finer than this? Oh, my friends, you who, by your absorbing devotion to worldly business, are, in fact, “giving place to the devil,” I pray you take time to examine this picture well, and if you admire it, try to furnish one like it. Dr. Judson once sent for a poor Christian convert, in India, who was about to engage in some enterprize which he feared would not be for her spiritual good. “Look here,” he said, snatching a ruler from the table, and tracing a crooked, zigzag line upon the floor, “here is where you have been walking. You have been out of the path half the time, but then you have kept near it, and not taken to new roads, and you have, to a certain extent, grown in grace; and now here you stand. You know where this path leads. You know what is before you: some struggles, some sorrows, and, finally, eternal life and a crown of glory. To the left, branches off another very pleasant road, and along the air floats rather temptingly a pretty bubble. You do “not mean to leave the path you have walked in for so many years; you only purpose to step aside, and catch the bubble, and think you will come back; but you never will!” The lesson proved effectual in her case, and oh, my brethren, holding your eternal destiny in the balance, I pray God that it may not be unavailing in yours! (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Hero to resist the devil

“Neither give place to the devil.” How, then, can we most effectually resist him?

1. Think of the promises of your heavenly Father; the purpose of His eternal love; the perfect and glorious attributes of His nature, all of which are engaged in your behalf.

2. Think of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wondrous work which He has done and is still doing for you. These thoughts will strengthen your resolutions to resist the devil.

3. Prayer should be your defence in the hoar of trial.

4. Then, think finally on the cruelty, malignity, and final destiny of the devil. (W. Graham, D. D.)

One sin makes room for more

One sin keeps up the devil’s interest; it is like a nest egg left there to draw a new temptation. (T. Manton, D. D.)

By allowing one sin, we disarm and deprive ourselves of having a conscientious argument to defend ourselves against any other sin. He that can go against his conscience in one, cannot plead conscience against any other; for if the authority of God awes him from one, it will from all. “How can I do this, and sin against God?” said Joseph. I doubt not but his answer would have been the same if his mistress had bid him to lie for her, as now when she enticed him to lie with her. The ninth commandment would have bound him as well as the seventh. Hence the apostle exhorts “not to give place to the devil.” Implying, by yielding to one, we lose our ground, and what we lose he gains; and let him alone to improve advantages. The little wimble once entered, the workman can then drive a great nail. One sin will widen thy swallow a little, that thou wilt not so much strain at the next. (W. Gurnall.)

One sin inclineth the mind to more. If one thief be in the house, he will let in the rest, because they have the same disposition and design. (R. Baxter.)

On yielding to the devil

1. We may be sure of this, that the devil never means good, but always evil.

2. The more we yield to the influence of Satan, the further he will press his authority, and the more complete will be his dominion over us.

3. No one is obliged to yield to him. We can conquer if we will. (Homiletic Hints.)

Resist the beginnings of temptations

The Arabs have a fable to this effect. A miller was one day startled by a camel’s nose thrust through the window of the room where he was sleeping. “It is very cold outside,” said the camel; “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was let in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Presently the miller began to be inconvenienced at the ungainly companion he had obtained, in a room certainly net large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced, you may leave,” said the camel; “as for myself, I shall stay where I am.”


Verse 28

Ephesians 4:28

Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Divers sorts of stealing

There is the low and coarse species of stealing; there is also a refined species, which is quite as evil. The tradesman who knows that his expenditure is more than the profits of his business will cover, and yet continues to live, as long as he possibly can, on the capital and goods of his creditors, is a thief. “Let him steal no more, but let him labour,” and live, like an honest man, on the result of his labour. How many widows and elderly people in our day have been robbed of their all by joint-stock, thieving companies! We blush and fear for our country as often as we think of the lying prospectuses, the loud pretensions and the bold front (like their architecture) of our thieving gentry. Leave your fine houses, strip you of your fine clothes, and inquire by what honest labour you can serve the commonwealth, and earn your own bread. Labour is handsome, but polite thieving is dastardly, infamous. “Thou shalt not steal,” neither in the rudest, nor in the politest manner. Steal not thy neighbour’s character by private slander. If thou dislikest thy neighbour express it not, lest thou shouldst rob him of the goodwill of him who hears thee. Steal not thy neighbour’s time. If you are not concerned to fill up your own time with good works, why should you hinder another? If you steal the time of diligent man, you rob him, and the world too, of a benefit. Steal not the good thoughts of thy neighbour by occupying his attention with thy vain thoughts. Steal not the chaste affections of thy neighbour by leaving upon him the taint of thy foul passion. And before thou allowest thyself by a glance, a touch, or a word, to draw to thee the heart of any creature, inquire whether thou meanest to be true and faithful to that creature for all time? Instead of theft, every species of which is ignoble, the apostle commends to us the nobility of labouring for the benefit of others. Labour that you may have something to give. If you labour for money that money may make you great, money will degrade and ruin you. If you labour for money that you may have money to give to those who need it, you will labour temperately, and never be the slave of money. (J. Pulsford.)

Honesty in bargains

Some years ago it was proposed to the Duke of Wellington to purchase a farm in the neighbourhood of Strathfieldsaye, which lay contiguous to his estate, and was therefore a valuable acquisition, to which he assented. When the purchase was completed, his steward congratulated him upon having had such a bargain, as the seller was in difficulties and forced to part with it. “What do you mean by a bargain?” said the duke. The other replied, “It was valued at £1,100, and we have got it for £800.” “In that case,” said the duke, “you will please to carry the extra £300 to the late owner and never talk to me of cheap land again.” (Raikes.)

Theft of various kinds

I. Robbers of their neighbour’s property.

1. Almost impossible to enumerate all subdivisions of this class of men.

(a) All those who cheat in measures, weight, quality, or value of goods.

(b) Those who violate the right of their neighbour, such as the advocates of unjust lawsuits and unjust judges.

(c) Those who inconsiderately contract debt, and dishonest bankrupts.

(d) Usurers, etc.

(a) Superiors and officers who do not prevent the infliction of damages if they can prevent it.

(b) All hired men who take their pay without performing the amount of work contracted for.

(c) All who try to extort from mechanics, hired men, etc., some deduction from the stipulated wages.

(d) All dishonest finders.

(e) All idlers, squanderers, and feigned beggars.

2. Their responsibility. We read in the life of St. Medardus that, when his cow was stolen the bell attached to her neck continued ringing, although the thief hid it in a box, and then buried it in the ground, until the cow was restored to her owner. Like this bell, goods unjustly acquired cry incessantly, “Pay what thou owest!”

II. Robbers of their neighbour’s good name.

1. Different kinds of these.

2. The guilt. This is manifest, for a man’s good name is one of his most precious possessions (Proverbs 22:1).

3. The obligation of restitution it incurs is--

In regard to the object; for, who can check the notoriety of vices once divulged, who repair the damage sustained? In regard to the hearers, who, according to human nature, are inclined to believe the evil rather than the good. In regard to yourself, since you must everlastingly confess yourself to be a liar and calumniator. III..

1. Such are Robbers of God’s glory principally the robbers of souls.

2. How great is the responsibility! Eye for eye, etc. What will justice require of him who has been the means of casting into hell an immortal soul purchased at an infinite price? Soul for soul! (Venedien.)

The transforming power of truth

In Ephesus many lived by stealing. In Homer’s time, 850 B.C., theft was not discreditable, being ascribed to heroes and gods. The old Spartans taught their boys to steal; the disgrace was in being caught. In low civilizations, now, thieving is common, and in low parts of a high civilization, and, indirectly, by no means uncommon all about us. For instance, in trade, when your milkman gives scant measure, or diluted milk; when shoes are made with paper soles, goods are sold as English, for a higher price, that never saw England. In working, where workmen take six days to do that which ought to be done in three--smoke and discuss politics while paid for working. A young man steals who exhausts himself by amusement or dissipation at night, so as to be unfit for work by day; who drinks, and so confuses his brain that he cannot render fit service; whose body is weary, brain muddled, or mind filled with thoughts of other things, so he can’t render full value for pay received. Paul’s Christian teaching will push all that out. “Let the stealer steal no more.” It demoralizes the stealer. No man can long wrong his fellows without suffering most himself. It demoralizes society, is a constant drain upon the resources and strength of the honest and hard-working. It is not enough to stop stealing; that is but negative. The powers that were perverted must be used positively. The need for food and clothing is perpetual, and if a man can’t meet them by stealing, he must by working. Let this same man who lived by his wits now work. The stealer becomes self-supporting. Instead of lessening the common fund for his own support, he adds to it, if he does no more. One by one the powers will fail. Man ought to provide for the days of weakness. On the Fitchburgh road lamps are lighted before the tunnel is reached, but prepared before starting. Get ready for the tunnel of old age and poverty. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; learn of her and be wise.” Out of each harvest should come seed corn as well as food. The Christian man is there to work, not only for self-support and for wife and family--this is binding upon man as such--but beyond this, “that he may have to give to him that needeth.” The Christian motive for working, then, is to give or distribute. This should be the purpose, the aim, the end of work. Supplying of present need, preparing against future want, clothing, feeding, housing wife and children, and educating children--these motives build up civilization; but Christianity goes deeper, and claims more, puts as the motive of all labour this living principle--ministering to the needy. Some men toil and save and amass for the sake of the money! others for the power, or social standing, or luxuries money gives; others for the wife and children. Christian men ought to work and save for the simple purpose and end of giving to those who have need. Paul’s consecration to Christ shaped all his life. The captain lays his course, and crosses the ocean with Liverpool in his thought. Coal is consumed and machinery driven night and day for that one purpose. Christians on the sea of life ought to subordinate all work to this one grand purpose, “To give to him that needeth.” Some prefer to give as they get, and die poor. Some save up to endow great institutions. The purpose is the same. It is said of Peabody that he never spent more than three thousand dollars a year on himself. All that is needed is simply enough to keep the body and mind as the producing and distributing centre at the highest working point; anything more burdens and distracts. The reasons are two for this line of life.

1. It does the greatest good to the greatest number, ministers to the enjoyment of the worker by bringing self-forgetfulness--the highest point of happiness always--and helps the needy.

2. It makes life Divine, Christ-like, God-like. “God so loved the world that He gave His only- begotten Son,” etc. (O. P. Gifford.)

Stealing

Probably the most singular funeral sermon ever heard was that which the eccentric Rowland Hill once delivered in London over the remains of his favourite servant, Roger. “Many persons present,” remarked the preacher, looking around on the anxious faces turned towards him, “were acquainted with the deceased, and have had it in their power to observe his character and conduct. They can bear witness that for a considerable number of years he proved himself a perfectly honest, sober, industrious, and religious man, faithfully performing, so far as lay in his power, the duties of his station in life, and serving God with constancy and zeal. Yet this very man was once a robber on the highway.” You may readily imagine what astonishment these words produced, and amidst what profound silence the preacher thus went on: “More than thirty years ago he stopped me on the public road, and demanded my money. Not at all intimidated, I argued with him; I asked him what could induce him to pursue so iniquitous and dangerous a course of life. His answer was, ‘I have been a coachman; I am out of place, and I cannot get a character; I am unable to find any employment, and am therefore obliged to do this or to starve.’ I told him where I lived, and asked him to call and see me. He promised he would, and he kept his word; I talked further with him, and offered to take him into my own service. He consented, and ever since that period he has served me faithfully, and not me only, but he has faithfully served his God. Instead of finishing his life in a public and ignominious manner, with a depraved and hardened heart, as he probably would have done, he died in peace, and we trust, prepared for the society of just men made perfect. Till this day the extraordinary circumstance I have now related has been confined to his heart and mine. I have never mentioned it to my dearest friend.” The practice of stealing prevails in all pagan communities. You will find many curious instances of dexterity in theft in such books as “Cook’s Voyage,” and others of more recent date. We ought to learn to call things by their right names. If a poor, half-starved fellow in his shirt sleeves, shivering on a cold day, slyly takes a fustian coat worth five dollars, which is hanging out in front of a clothing store, it is spoken of by everyone as stealing, and the culprit enjoys a few years of retirement in prison to remind him of his dreadful breach of the law. On the other hand, let a so-called gentleman in broadcloth run away with fifty thousand dollars from some institution in which he had an office, and how does the world regard him? As a thief? By no means. He is only a defaulter! And yet can you see any difference between the two cases, except it be this, that the thief in broadcloth is the worst? Many acts of theft are committed out of pure thoughtlessness. Those boys who went up the river in a boat, last summer, and stopped at a watermelon patch and took a good many, and destroyed a good many more, what were they but thieves? I cannot think of a better way of applying this important subject, than to relate a little circumstance which once happened in the Sandwich Islands. A good missionary had preached a sermon on the sin of dishonesty, hoping it might not be lost upon his hearers. The very next morning, on opening the door of his bamboo hut, he was surprised to see a great many of the islanders seated on the ground, waiting for him. The missionary kindly asked why they had called upon him so early, when one of them replied, “We have not been able to sleep all night, after hearing what you said yesterday. When we were pagans, we thought it right to steal if we could do it without being found out. Yesterday you told us that God commanded people not to steal, and as we wish to mind Him we have now brought back all the things we ever took.” One man then lifted up an axe, a hatchet, or chisel, and exclaimed, “I stole this from the carpenter of such a ship,” naming the vessel; others handed back a saw or knife, and a great variety of other things, making the same candid confession. Then they insisted that the missionary should take these stolen goods, and keep them until he might have an opportunity of returning them to the owner. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Honesty and work

I. As to the prohibition, “Let him that stole, steal no more.” By this we are forbidden the use of all such means, for our own maintenance and support, as are injurious to our neighbour.

II. Thing to be considered in the text, “but rather let him labour.” We generally say that God has made nothing to no purpose; and yet, pray tell me what the rich man is made for, if his business be only to eat and drink, and spend his estate? Can you justify the wisdom of Providence in sending such a creature into the world? There is work cut out for all creatures, from the highest to the lowest; all things in nature have their proper business, and are made to serve some wise end of God.

III. I proceed now to the third thing, which is the limitation, by which we are confined to work only the things which are good, foregoing all unlawful means of supporting ourselves. From hence it follows that you must be confined to some work which may answer to the wants or desires of life. Now the things which men want are either the necessaries, or conveniences, or pleasures of life; and all trades or callings are subservient to one or other of these. The next thing to be considered is, what is the measure of this duty; whether we are obliged to labour merely to supply our own wants and necessities, or whether there be any other duties incumbent on us, which must likewise be answered by our labour and toil? This the apostle has settled in the

IV. and last place, enjoining us to labour “that we may have to give to him that needeth.” So that the end we ought to aim at by our labour and industry is to enable us, not only to support ourselves and our families, but to be contributors likewise to the wants and necessities of such as are not able to work and labour for themselves. Charity has no measure but the wants of others and our own ability. And hence it appears that by the apostle’s rule you are bound as well to thrift and frugality as to labour; and therefore, such as work hard and spend freely all they get are highly to be blamed, and may be found at last to have spent out of the poor’s stock, since by squandering their own they come at last to a necessity of living upon charity, by which means others are straitened that they may be supplied. (Bishop Sherlock.)

The purpose of work

The idle members of a community are its greatest curses.

I. The wrong idea of work.

1. It is wrong idea that work is wholly a curse, to be escaped if possible. See the folly of no work.

2. It is a wrong idea that the end of work is to amass wealth:

Is not this the Widely prevalent, if not predominant thought in our day?

II. The sight idea of work.

1. To produce something beneficial to man: “Working with his own hands that which is good:” “that which belongs to the category of what is good and honest … There may, perhaps, be also involved the notion of what is beneficial, and not detrimental to others.” A statue, a picture, a poem, a book, an article of clothing honestly made--all this is “making with our hands something good.”

2. To obtain the satisfaction of imperative personal needs.

3. To give of our superfluity to the wants of others, whether bodily or spiritual. (Clerical World.)

Earning a livelihood

It is a singular circumstance that this stealing is put in antithesis to work: as if there were a strong implication that some men do not work, and do not get an honest livelihood. Those, whatever may have been their course, who have been obtaining a livelihood in an improper way, are enjoined to obtain it in a proper way. And what is that proper way? “Labour: earn your livelihood; work with your hands that which is good.” Consider what earning one’s livelihood implies; what thought more and more, as competition makes it necessary; what ingenuity, that is schoolmaster to man himself; what patience; what faith in the future; what promptness; what punctuality; what exactness; what truth; what honesty; what self-denial. Earning a man’s livelihood in the competitions of modern society is not so easy a thing. It is that which is to be accomplished by bringing into exercise almost every one of the manly virtues: virtues on the lower plane, to be sure, but virtues none the less. The necessity of earning one’s livelihood is also an effectual guard, in the greatest number of instances, from those temptations which come with leisure; with abundance; with what are called “fortunate circumstances” in life. For, although with labour there may be rudeness, and although with the leisure which labour has there may be gross indulgence, the tendencies are towards such an equilibrium of the animal spirits and the mental condition, that it is easier for a man that works to avoid evil. Not only is he healthier--and health itself is a condition of morality; not only is he happier--and happiness is a co-labourer with virtue; but he is defended from many of those temptations which come from indolence. Not having enough to do to tire himself out heartily, has been the ruin of many and many a young man. It is a matter of great complaint, often, that one has to rise with the sun, or before it, in winter; that he hardly has time to eat; and that at night he is so tired that he is glad to seek his couch and fall asleep. There may be too much of that, to be sure; but too little of it has sent ten thousand young men to the pit. The necessity of a man’s earning his own livelihood is one of those great natural, moral educations which is established in nature. (H. W. Beecher.)

The worship of work

Let me illustrate my meaning by some examples. What can be more secular than painting, sculpture, or architecture? yet many painters, sculptors, and architects have sanctified their brush, their chisel, their mallet, by employing them in the service of God. Some have sanctified their voices by singing the gospel as much as others in preaching it. And what is more secular or earthly than money? yet many have sanctified it by employing it in the service of God and for the good of souls. Ah! it is not merely the thing we do, but the end for which, and the spirit in which, we do it, that makes it religious, or an act of worship. Now let us remember that whatever our work may be, whether we be servants or masters, God is our Employer. He has appointed our work. (W. Grant.)

A definition of industry

Industry doth not consist merely in action, for that is incessant in all persons; our mind being like a ship in the sea, if not steered to some good purpose by reason yet tossed by the waves of fancy, or driven by the winds of temptation some-whither; but the direction of our mind to some good end, without roving or flinching, in a straight and steady course, drawing after it our active powers in execution thereof, doth constitute industry. (I. Barrow, D. D.)

The joy of industry

Industry is not only the instrument of improvement, but the foundation of pleasure; for nothing is so opposite to the true enjoyment of life as the relaxed and feeble state of an indolent mind. He who is a stranger to industry may possess, but he cannot enjoy. It is labour only that gives a relish to pleasure. It is the indispensable condition of our possessing a sound mind in a sound body. Idleness is so inconsistent with both, that it is hard to determine whether it be a greater foe to virtue, or to health and happiness. Inactive as it is in itself, its effects are fatally powerful. Though it appears a slowly flowing stream, yet it undermines all that is stable and flourishing. It is like water, which first putrefies by stagnation, and then sends up noxious vapours, filling the atmosphere with death. (H. Blair, D. D.)


Verse 29

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.

Conversation

Well might the holy Bishop of Mona add to these words, “Preserve me, O God, from a vain conversation.” For this is no isolated passage (see Psalms 141:3; Ephesians 5:4; Proverbs 10:19; Matthew 12:36-37; James 3:8). How is it, then, that in that which is of all most dangerous we are least guarded? No doubt one cause of this carelessness is the difficulty of the work; but another is disbelief in its necessity. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that words are acts. To witness a good confession saves.

I. Words are acts in two ways.

1. They are results: the completion and effect of certain passions and states of feeling. When a passionate man has spoken out he is relieved; he has fulfilled his anger; and in this way words manifest a man. Being outward, they come forth, and show what was inward.

2. Words are acts, as being causes of something beyond. Effects of passion, they produce passion. They quiver on through the air; endlessly waking up harmony or discord, in regions and in generations yet unknown.

II. Rules for the improvement of conversation.

1. To learn silence, the best security. By this means persons would constantly be saved form unintentionally joining in what they really disapprove. By this also they would learn to govern their tongue. By this too they would find time for thought, and would escape vanity and unreality.

2. That they may not be gloomy and unsocial, yea, and may have the privilege of doing something more for society than merely abstaining from its faults, persons can frequently turn a conversation to objects of real interest; to higher and more improving topics.

3. But when we have once launched into conversation, we must double the guard at the gate of our mouth. We must watch that nothing be said for our own glory, nothing to the disrepute of our neighbour, nothing light or unbecoming a strict profession of religion; and, should religious conversation commence, let us not join in it, unless prudently to correct some great misstatements, and unless it be “seasonable,” i.e., when men are like to be the better for it. Not in promiscuous company; not mixed with sports, hurry, business, or with drink. And take we heed that we join a good life to our religious conversation; and never contradict our tongue by our deeds. (W. E. Heygate, M. A.)

Bad results of corrupt communications

Can we not all remember some wrong and foolish saying of our elders, which has done us harm for life? some idle tale, or joke, some passionate or irreverent word? And if we can remember some, how many have we not forgotten? Were we uninfluenced by all those foolish praises, with which men and women poison the young? Were we unhurt by all that was said of a fine spirit, or of its being manly to give blow for blow? Did we never drink in, to our injury, the worldly conversation which was not meant for our ears; conversation implying that success is the great object of life; that this world is everything; or the admiration bestowed upon the covetous and hard and irreligious, because they were noble in rank, or successful, or clever, or agreeable? Alas! sinned against, and sinning, one generation of men defiles another by its words. And words are not only acts going forward, marring God’s glory, and injuring souls; but acts affecting ourselves, turning back upon the speaker. It is wonderful how we persuade ourselves by our own words; work ourselves up; talk ourselves into anger and vanity. How often have we not thought it necessary to support one extreme statement by another until we have gone beyond the limits of moderation and of truth! How often have we not begun with mild reproof, and gone on into indignation and anger! This, indeed, is one secret of the warmth and power of great speakers. What they say carries them on farther and farther, step by step, until they get beyond themselves in zeal, fire of spirit, and high principles, so that we admire them as beings above ourselves, when all the while they are equally above themselves also, unnatural and unreal. Thus we elate ourselves, or depress ourselves: we exasperate ourselves; flatter ourselves into vanity; deceive ourselves, by our words. If a man wishes to check his evil tendencies, let him not discourse of them, except in confession, or confidential intercourse; nor be led into discourse by them. (W. E. Heygate, M. A.)

Gentlemen here

An American general was standing with his back to the fire, when a young subaltern came in, and having looked round the room, said, “Oh! there are no ladies here. I’ve such a capital story to tell you, I’m glad to see there are no ladies.--“No,” said the general, in a moment, “no, sir, there are Gentlemen.” (Colonel Everitt.)

Bury your own corruption

Corruption should always be covered and buried. If you speak it out, let it be in groans of self-loathing to God, that it may wither and die under the breath of His holiness. The root that is allowed to put forth leaf and branch, strengthens itself thereby. If you desire a root to die, suffer it not to put forth its life. Suppress, and persist in suppressing the manifestation of its life, and in due time, it will have no life to manifest. It will be a dead root. You cannot, therefore, over-estimate the wisdom of the apostle’s counsel, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” To talk of corruption is to diffuse it from soul to soul. Let your tongue be sacred to that which is innocent, beautiful, and good. Why should you not rather have a multitude of friends, in the judgment, who shall honour and bless you for the good which you did them by your tongue? For the grace which you minister to them by your tongue now, they will minister to you their love in eternity. And in eternal life, he will be richest and happiest who is loved most. (John Pulsford.)

The advantages of good discourse

I. A prohibition. Under the forbidden head we are to rank all profane, irreligious, or immodest discourses. Another sort of discourses I would here mention as forbidden by the apostle, are such as are injurious to our neighbour.

II. A positive direction. The subjects that should employ our conversation, we are told, are such as are good to the use of edifying, and which may minister grace to the hearers.

III. An exhortation.

1. I know nothing can be more justly charged with that visible decay of true zeal and piety we observe and lament in the world, than the disuse of serious and instructive discourse in conversation. It is a very great, and, in its consequences, a very fatal point gained by the libertine, when he could not prevail on men of virtue and sobriety wholly to give up their religion, yet to persuade them to confine it to the temple or the closet; to limit it to set times, to certain and those narrow bounds out of which it should be improper and ridiculous, for when once men had banished religion from so large a share of their time as is taken up in conversation, the more solemn returns of it not only grew burdensome and disaffecting from the intermission; but the vicious and profane liberties, which assumed its place in discourse, left such a stain on the minds of men, as indisposed them for the good effects of our public assemblies; and by degrees introduced in some a total disregard of all religion, and in many debased the remains of it with such a mixture of vicious habits and principles, as rendered it no better than a superficial pretence, unacceptable to God, and ineffectual to the great ends proposed in the gospel.

2. To which let me here add, that if religion were restored to its proper share in our conversations, that secret confidence of the sinner that others are as wicked as himself, though better concealed, and which perhaps is the greatest support to infidelity, would be entirely taken off.

3. Let us remember, that God is present in all our assemblies, that He remarks and treasures up against the day of our account every word and expression, and every circumstance of our behaviour in them.

4. And lastly, let it not be thought that religion is too barren or too melancholy a subject for the entertainment of a Christian. (J. Rogers, D. D.)

A rule for conversation

The abuses of speech and the faults committed in conversation are numerous.

1. Our discourse ought at all times to be free from profaneness, from speaking contemptuously of God and religion, from ridiculing things serious and sacred, from excusing, praising, and encouraging vice and immorality.

2. Another fault from which our conversation ought to be free, is immodest language.

3. In conversation, swearing is to be avoided, under which may be included curses and imprecations on ourselves and others.

4. In our conversation, lying is to be avoided, that is, an endeavour to deceive others, by making them to believe that to be true which we know or think to be false.

5. Our speech ought also to be free from railing and abusive language.

6. Our conversation should be free from slander and defamation.

7. Another defect in conversation consists in a compliance with the faults of others.

8. Another defect in conversation is to confine it to discourses which are vain, trifling, and altogether unprofitable.

9. Another fault from which our speech ought to be free, is ill-nature and pride, and that arrogance, positiveness, vain boasting, and rude contradiction which flow from these bad dispositions.

10. Another fault in conversation is garrulity, or that talkative humour which engrosses all the discourse to itself.

11. Another fault to be shunned is flattery, a fault by which we abase ourselves, and do hurt to those whose conceit and self-love we soothe and increase.

12. Another fault, in some respects like that before mentioned, is a perfidious insincerity, making great professions of esteem and friendship to persons whom we value not, and never intend to serve.

13. Lastly, there is a thing called banter and ridicule, which enters much into some conversations, and which whosoever shall condemn, runs the risk of provoking a malicious sort of people.

Let us consider, then, what are the proper subjects of our discourse.

1. There are many subjects which relate not directly to virtue and piety, and yet deserve not to be called trifles, subjects taken from our own affairs, from the common occurrences of life, from the various studies and employments which make the honest and innocent occupations of men.

2. There is moral and religious discourse which certainly agrees with the spirit of Christianity, but which the world generally dislikes and avoids as dull and unfashionable. (J. Jortin, D. D.)

Unprofitable speech

Madame Antoinette Sterling, when asked to go on the operatic stage, replied, “I cannot. I stand by every word I utter when I sing, and I feel I must to the death. It is not alone song with me--melodious sounds; it is the lesson inculcated: hope in the future, bright joys to come, the mercy of an all-wise God. I would not sing a wicked or a frivolous word before an audience for anything on earth.” (Francis Hay.)


Verse 30

Ephesians 4:30

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Grieve not the Holy Spirit

It is a very clear proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit that He can be grieved. Our text, moreover, reveals to us the close connection between the Holy Spirit and the believer; He must take a very tender and affectionate interest in us, since He is grieved by our shortcomings and our sins.

I. The astounding fact that the Holy Spirit may be grieved.

1. The loving grief of the Holy Ghost may be traced to His holy character and perfect attributes. It is the nature of a holy being to be vexed with unholiness.

2. But it is mainly for our sakes that He is grieved.

3. Doubtless also for Jesus Christ’s sake.

4. For the Church’s sake.

II. Secondly, let us refer to deplorable causes which produce the grief of the Holy Spirit. The context is some assistance to us.

1. We learn that sins of the flesh, filthiness, and evil speaking of every sort, are grievous to Him. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” In Noah’s day, the dove found no place for the sole of its foot on all the carcasses floating in the waste; and even so the heavenly Dove finds no repose in the dead and corrupt things of the flesh.

2. It appears, from the thirty-first verse, that the Holy Ghost is grieved by any approach to bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil speaking, and malice.

3. I have no doubt it greatly grieves the Spirit to see in believers any degree of love of the world. His holy jealousy is excited by such unholy love. If a mother should see her child fender of someone else than of her; if she should know that it was more happy in the company of a stranger than when in the bosom of its own parent, she would feel it a very hard trial to bear. Now, the Spirit of God gives to us believers celestial joys and abounding comforts; and if He sees us turn our back upon all these, to go into worldly company, to feed greedily upon the same empty joys which satisfy worldlings, He is a jealous God, and He takes it as a great slight put upon Himself.

4. The Spirit of God is greatly grieved by unbelief. What would grieve you more, than to have your child suspect your truthfulness?

5. The Spirit is doubtless grieved by our ingratitude.

6. And by pride we sorely grieve the blessed Spirit.

7. Another thing which grieves the Spirit is a want of prayer.

8. The indulgence of any known sin.

III. The lamentable result of the Spirit’s being grieved.

1. The loss of all sense of His presence.

2. Loss of Christian joy.

3. Loss of power.

4. Loss of assurance.

5. Loss of usefulness.

Let a Church grieve the Spirit of God, and oh, the blights that shall come and wither her fair garden!

IV. Lastly, there is one personal argument which is used in the text to forbid our grieving the Spirit--“Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” What does this mean? There are many meanings assigned by different commentators: we shall be content with the following.

1. A seal is set upon a thing to attest its authenticity and authority.

2. Once more, a seal is used for preserving, as well as for attesting.

The Eastern seals up his money bags to secure the gold within, and we seal our letters to guard the enclosure. A seal is set for security. Grieve not, then, that Spirit upon whom you are so dependent: He is your credentials as a Christian; He is your life as a believer. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Grieving the Holy Spirit

Anger begets anger; but grief begets pity, and pity is next akin to love; and we love those whom we have caused to grieve. Now, is not this a very sweet expression--“Grieve not the Holy Spirit”?

I. The love of the spirit. The love of the Spirit!--how shall I tell it forth? Surely it needs a songster to sing it, for love is only to be spoken of in words of song. The love of the Spirit.

1. Let me tell you of His early love to us. He loved us without beginning.

2. Was it not He who guided you to Jesus?

3. Since then, how sweetly has He proved His love. Not only in His first strivings, or after quickenings; but in the sequel, how much have we owed to His instruction.

4. Forget not, also, how much we owe to His consolation.

5. Remember how much He loves us, when He helps our infirmities.

6. Another token of His love, is His indwelling in the saints.

II. It is by the Holy Spirit we are sealed. The Spirit Himself is expressed as the seal, even as He Himself is directly said to be the pledge of our inheritance. The sealing, I think, has a three-fold meaning.

1. It is a sealing of attestation or confirmation. No faith is genuine, which does not bear the seal of the Spirit. No love, no hope can ever save us, except it be sealed with the Spirit of God, for whatever has not His seal upon it is spurious. Faith that is unsealed may be a poison, it may be presumption; but faith that is sealed by the Spirit is true, real, genuine faith.

2. It is a sealing of appropriation. When men put their mark upon an article, it is to show that it is their own. The farmer brands his tools that they may not be stolen. The shepherd marks his sheep that they may be recognized as belonging to his flock. The king himself puts his broad arrow upon everything that is his property. So the Holy Spirit puts the broad arm of God upon the hearts of all His people.

3. Again, by sealing is meant preservation. Men seal up that which they wish to have preserved, and when a document is sealed it becomes valid henceforth. Now, it is by the Spirit of God that the Christian is sealed, kept, preserved, unto the day of redemption.

III. The grieving of the Spirit. How may we grieve Him--what will be the sad result of grieving Him--if we have grieved Him, how may we bring Him back again?

1. How may we grieve the Spirit? I am now, mark you, speaking of those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin is as easy as it is wicked.

2. Now, suppose the Holy Spirit is grieved, what is the effect produced upon us?

3. It is a mercy to know that the Spirit of God never leaves His people finally; He leaves them for chastisement, but not for damnation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Grieving the Spirit

If we may speak it reverently of One so far above, out of the reach of all human language, the Holy Ghost is a Being with the tenderest of feelings. We all know the sensitiveness of the affections, the delicacy of thought, the exquisite accuracy of the moral touch, which are required for the sweet offices of consolation. In what an infinite measure, then, must those properties be combined in Him who is characteristically and exclusively “the Comforter” of the Church! Essentially He loves us.

1. Whenever you grieve the Holy Spirit you do then, in the first instance, cause sorrow--it is God’s own word--to Him to whom you are bound by every generous feeling to give only happiness.

2. But have you considered, further, that every time you grieve the Spirit, you weaken the seals of your own security?

3. For there are few of us, I trust, who have not long since learnt that the secret of all true comfort and satisfaction in the world, is to carry within us the sunshine of God’s love, which is peace and joy. And what is that sunshine but the unclouded indwelling of the Holy Ghost?

4. For mark it yet once more. There are four deep downward steps in the path to death: to grieve the Spirit is the first--to resist the Spirit is the second--to quench the Spirit is the third--to blaspheme the Spirit is the fourth. No one of these is ever reached but by going through that which is previous to it. Consider, therefore, first in everything you do or say--in the pleasures you allow, the friendships you form, the thoughts you indulge--how will this affect the Holy Spirit? remembering always His exceeding sensitiveness, that if you grieve Him He will leave you, till you have not feeling enough to grieve that He is gone; but if you please Him, you will more and more forever find a satisfying pleasure in Him who so graciously condescends to please Himself in you. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The grieving of the Spirit

It is a very important question--“How is the Holy Spirit grieved with us?” The great instrumentality of the Holy Ghost is conscience. Only here take care; to refuse the encouraging voices of conscience is as bad as to neglect the reproving ones. To have sinned, and to doubt the forgiveness of the sin, after you have confessed the sin, “grieves the Holy Spirit” quite as much as the sin itself. He is “Spirit,”--therefore material religion,--a materialistic view of spiritual things,--“grieves” Him. He is “the Holy Spirit”; therefore everything which trifles with holy things--irreverence, levity on religious subjects, undevout familiarity with sacred subjects, low views of God--these things “grieve” Him very much. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Grieving the Holy Spirit

There are different ways in which you may grieve a person. If the person hate you, and wish you ill, then you may grieve and vex him by taking the course which will make you good and happy. If the person be a bad person, then you may grieve him by doing what is right. What greater stimulus to duty, than this?--“Now, you will be industrious, and honest, and good; and make them all happy at home!” And what healthier consideration in an hour of temptation to do wrong, than that which comes first and most natural: “Oh, you will not do that, and break your mother’s heart!” My Christian friends, it hath pleased God, in the words of my text, to appeal to us with just that homely consideration. “Grieve not”--the words are spoken to all of us--“the Holy Spirit of God.”

I. And first, mark who it is we are asked not to grieve. You have seen how completely it turns upon the character of the person grieved, what the kind of things shall be that are to grieve him. The Person we are asked not to grieve is the Holy Spirit of God: the blessed Comforter. He is the kindest and best: He is our warmest well-wisher. And what kindness and consideration there are in the way in which the text shows us our duty I It is our own good that the Holy Spirit is desiring to work out: and we are asked not to vex Him by obstructing Him in doing what?

II. And now, looking at this precept--

1. We may be very sure that we grieve the Holy Spirit, by restraining prayer, or by heartless prayers.

2. A second way in which we shall especially grieve the Holy Spirit, by especially slighting His office and work, will be by refusing to allow Him to comfort us in sorrow.

3. There is a third way in which we shall specially grieve the Holy Spirit; and this is by resisting Him when He is seeking to lead us to Christ; by refusing to turn in penitence from sin to God; and then to grow in grace and holiness. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Grieving the Holy Spirit

I. Who, then, are they, who are told not to grieve the spirit of God? It must needs be those with whom He has already taken up His abode. We may anger a stranger, but we grieve a friend.

II. But let us consider is what ways the believing Christian may grieve God’s Holy Spirit.

1. If we give way to any sin in thought, word, or deed, we are then grieving the Holy Spirit.

2. But it is not only thus that we are in danger of grieving the Spirit of God; it is not only by what we do amiss, but by what we leave undone.

3. Another way of grieving the Holy Spirit is by neglecting those means of grace by which God is pleased, to work in our souls.

III. What are the consequences of grieving the Spirit of God?

1. We thereby become guilty of great ingratitude.

2. We also hinder our own advance in holiness and goodness.

3. And, in so doing, we lose the comforts of religion.

4. Once more: by grieving God’s Holy Spirit, we unfit ourselves for doing good to men, and so adorning the gospel. (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

The warning against grieving the Spirit

Just what the heart is to the body; what the eyes are to the head; what the mainspring is to the watch; what the steam is to the locomotive; or what the rudder is to the ship, just this, and more, the Holy Spirit is to us, in trying to get to heaven.

I. And in the first place, we ought to mind this warning, because grieving the Spirit will injure our knowledge. Of ourselves, we have no knowledge of the way, to heaven, and never could tell how to get there. It is the Holy Spirit alone who can give us this knowledge, but if we grieve the Spirit we shall never get this knowledge. Suppose that you and I were travelling through a strange country, like Switzerland. We should have no knowledge of the right way to travel in, so as to get safely through the country. And this would make it necessary for us to have a guide to show us the way. I remember when the Rev. Dr. Cooper of this city, and myself, were, travelling through Switzerland some years ago, an incident occurred which may come in as a good illustration of this part of our subject. We were stopping at an inn in the beautiful valley of Interlachen, and had made arrangements one evening to go on foot the next day over a high mountain, called the “Wengern Alp,” to the valley of Lauterbrunnen, on the other side. We had engaged a guide to show us the way, and were to take an early start the next morning. There was an English traveller staying at the same inn with us. He was travelling alone, and wanted to take the same journey. He spoke to one of the guides about going with him. But he thought the man asked too much money. They could not agree about the price; so he refused to take the guide, and said he was sure he could find the way himself. He started all by himself the next morning, a good while before us. When we had got nearly half way over the mountain our guide stopped. He pointed to a dark looking little object, far off from the path in which we were walking, and said: “There’s the gentleman who would not have a guide. He has lost his way. He never can get out of the mountains in that direction. If he doesn’t come back he’ll lose his life.” Then the guide climbed up on a high piece of ground, and putting his hands to his mouth, he called out as loudly as he could, “Come back! come back!” We could not tell whether the lost man heard him or not, or what became of him. But in refusing to take a guide to show him the way that man was injuring his knowledge, just as we do when we grieve the Holy Spirit.

II. The second reason why we ought to mind this warning is because grieving the Spirit will injure our happiness. When David was speaking of the happy effect which follows from our acquaintance with the truth of God, he said--“Blessed are the people which know the joyful sound.” This blessedness refers to the happiness which God’s people find from knowing Him. And here we see how the knowledge of God, and the happiness which springs from it, both go together. This knowledge is like a fountain; and this happiness is like the stream which flows from the fountain.

III. The third reason why we should mind this warning is because grieving the Spirit will injure our usefulness. If you are an errand boy in a store, and your duty is to carry parcels or messages, wherever you are sent, then if anything should make you lame, so that you could not walk, this would interfere with your usefulness. Suppose you have a position on one of the stations of the Pennsylvania railway. Your duty there is to watch the signals, which tell when a train is coming; and then to give notice of it by ringing a bell. And suppose that something should happen to your eyes, so that you could not see; this would at once injure your usefulness, and unfit you for the duties of your position. Or suppose that your mother is a very skilful seamstress, and is supporting her family by the diligent use of her needle. She has an attack of rheumatism, which settles on her right hand, making her fingers so stiff that she cannot use her needle. That would injure her usefulness. And it is just so with us, in trying to serve God. If we listen to the voice of the Spirit, when He speaks to us, and mind what He says, then He will show us what our duty is, and help us to do it. And that will make us useful. I have one other illustration for this part of our subject. We may call it “Sorely Tempted.” It shows us how a boy was kept from injuring his usefulness, by not grieving the Spirit, but by listening to His voice. The boy’s name was Tommy Wright. He was about fifteen years old, and the only son of his mother, who was very fond of him. Mrs. Wright had got a situation for him in a merchant’s store. When he was about leaving home to begin work in this new place, his mother said to him, “Now, Tommy, before you go, there are two promises I want you to make me.” “What are they, mother?” he asked, looking fondly into her loving face, which was always so calm and peaceful. “Promise me first, that you will always, wherever you are, no matter how busy, read one or more verses in the Bible every day; and then promise me next that you will never take a penny that is not your own.” “The first is easy enough, mother dear,” said Tommy; “but I don’t like the second at all. It seems almost like an insult. You know very well I have not been brought up to be a thief. Surely you don’t imagine for a moment that I would ever steal?” “Give me the promise, Tommy dear,” said his mother, “and I will pray for you, as you must pray for yourself, that God will give you grace to keep your word. These are terrible times that we are living in. Men who stand high in honour are often known to do very mean and dishonourable things. The fairest reputations are blighted. The city is full of snares, and I don’t know what temptations you may meet with. You will need God’s help every day to keep you from going wrong.” So Tommy made the promise, and then his mother kneeled down with him, and in her simple earnest words, asked the Lord to go with her dear boy, and help him to do his duty in the new position he was about to occupy, and to keep him from ever doing what was wrong. For some time after entering on the duties of his new position Tommy got on very well. He read every day at least one verse from the Bible. Sometimes he would read a number of verses, and occasionally a whole chapter. But after a while he began to be careless about it. Occasionally he would omit his reading in the morning, intending to do it at night, and at night deferring it till the next day. Then he would forget to pray. The next wrong step was his going with bad companions. His anxious, loving mother, up at the old farm, felt sure that he was not doing well, for his letters were few and short. But she kept on praying for him with increasing earnestness. At last he got into debt, and was at a loss to know what to do. One day he was left alone at the close of the day, in a room where there was an unlocked drawer, with a large sum of money in it, in notes and silver. Just then Satan came and tempted him. He said to him, “Why can’t you take some of this money and get out of debt? Mr. Courtney, your employer, will never find it out. And when you get your wages, if you like, you can pay it back.” Tommy made up his mind to do this. He went to the drawer and took a handful of silver; but just as he was about to put it into his coat pocket he was startled by what seemed like someone whispering in his ear. The quiet voice seemed to say “Tommy Wright! Tommy Wright! Take care! Remember the promise you made to your mother.” In a moment he put the money back in the drawer and went home. On arriving there, he went straight up to his little room, and kneeling down in great distress and with many tears, he confessed his sin to God, and asked to be forgiven. Then he prayed that God would help him to resist every such temptation in the future, and always do what was right. Now it was the Spirit of God who whispered those warning words in Tommy’s ear. He listened to the Spirit’s voice, and that kept him from doing wrong.. But if he had not minded those whispered words he would have grieved the Spirit. And then he would have gone on from one sin to another, till he lost his situation, and so he would have injured his usefulness. And here we see that the third reason why we should mind this warning is, because grieving the Spirit will injure our usefulness.

IV. The fourth reason why we should mind this warning is because grieving the Spirit will cause the loss of our souls. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God--whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” To seal the soul unto the day of redemption is to make its salvation sure. This is what the Spirit will do for those who listen to His voice. See, there is Noah’s ark just finished. God told Noah and all his family to come into the ark. They listened to His voice. They all went into the ark; and when the flood came they were saved. But suppose now they had not minded what God had said to them, and had refused to go into the ark; that would have been like grieving the Spirit; and the result would have been that when the flood came they would all have been destroyed. And so if we go on grieving the Spirit, it must certainly result in the loss of our souls. (Dr. Newton.)

On grieving the Holy Spirit

There are several ways in which more especially the Spirit may be said to be grieved. Thus, for example--

1. When His office is dishonoured. This is the case whenever the spirituality of Divine worship is called in question or practically ignored. “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

2. Again, the Spirit may be said to be grieved whenever His sovereignty is limited. The Spirit is a free agent. He acts as He will, dividing unto every man severally according to His own good pleasure.

3. The Spirit may further be said to be grieved when His prerogative is infringed. If, for example, He is to any extent defrauded of His title as the supreme and only infallible interpreter of the written Word, if, in place of seeking earnestly and humbly to be guided by Him into all truth, we seek to human wisdom or guidance for the interpretation of the inspired Word, if we forsake His guidance--this is to grieve Him.

4. Again, the Holy Spirit is grieved whenever His influence is persistently withstood. This is a case, it is to be feared, of not infrequent occurrence under the ministry of the gospel. (Bishop R. Bickersteth.)

The sin and folly of grieving the Holy Spirit

I. What is here meant by the “Holy Spirit of God,” and now He seals us to the day of redemption.

II. What is implied in grieving him, and how this is generally done.

III. The sin, folly, and miserable consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit.

1. The sin of it. It is an act of undutifulness and injustice.

2. The folly of it. It may be compared with the folly of grieving a friend, whose direction and help we continually want; a father, on whom we are dependent; a husband, without whom we cannot live happy.

3. The miserable consequences of sin. So far as we grieve Him, we remain ignorant, sinful, guilty, depraved, weak, and wretched. (J. Benson, D. D.)

Influence of, and opposition to, the Holy Spirit

I. It is here supposed that there is a Divine influence necessary to the salvation of fallen men.

II. The influence of the Holy Spirit is expressed in scripture by a great variety of phrases. Christians are said to be born of the Spirit; renewed, sanctified, and led by the Spirit; to be anointed and filled with the Spirit; and to be the temples in which the Spirit dwells. Here they are said to be “sealed” by the Spirit--i.e., the Divine image is impressed on the believer’s heart.

III. Believers are said to be sealed unto the day of redemption.

1. The sealing or sanctification of the Spirit is a necessary preparation for heaven.

2. An evidence of our title to heaven.

IV. The Spirit is grieved when we act in opposition to His influence.

V. A solemn caution against grieving the Spirit of God.

1. Indifference and carelessness in religion is opposition to the grace of God.

2. Spiritual pride grieves the Divine Spirit.

3. The Spirit is grieved when we neglect the means appointed for obtaining His influence.

4. Opposition to the strivings of the Spirit is another way in which He is often grieved.

5. There are some particular kinds of sin which are, in an eminent and peculiar sense, opposite to the work of the Spirit.

Duties relating to the Holy Spirit

I. Inquire what duties are incumbent upon us, relating to the Spirit of God. According to the general rule of interpreting negative precepts, the charge not to grieve the Spirit implies more than is expressed; it carries an obligation to a contrary duty, and that is to behave in a becoming manner toward Him.

1. He is to be owned and glorified as a Divine Person.

2. We should entertain honourable thoughts of the Spirit of God, with regard to the peculiar part He bears in the work of salvation.

3. We should be earnest in our desires and prayers for the Spirit, to all the purposes for which we need Him.

4. It is our duty to make use of all the means of grace which God has appointed and owns for vouchsafement of His Spirit.

5. We should seriously attend to all the Spirit’s motions upon our souls.

6. We should live under His influence, in such a manner as is pleasing to Him, and answerable to His holy design upon us.

7. It should heartily grieve us that the Spirit of God is so much grieved.

II. Consider the several arguments contained in our text, to enforce these duties.

1. The authority of God demands these duties to be paid to His Spirit. It is God, by the apostle, that charges us in our text not to grieve His Spirit, but to carry it well toward Him; for all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16).

2. He to whom these duties have a special reference is the Spirit of God. It is not a man like thyself, it is not thine equal, not any created Spirit, but one infinitely above thee, and above all angels and archangels; it is the uncreated Spirit of God, who is Himself God. And canst thou dare to offend and provoke, or to behave undutifully toward Him?

3. He is the Holy Spirit. His nature and will, ways and works are holy, all the tendencies of his operations are to holiness, and all their effects, where they prevail, are holiness; there is no iniquity in Him or them. With what reverence and caution then shouldest thou behave in the sight and presence of such a Holy One.

4. The nature and design of the Spirit’s work is to seal us. Hath he hitherto preserved you and engaged to preserve you still, even to the day of complete redemption? And shalt thou not carry it well to such a kind indulging Friend as this?

5. This sealing work of the Spirit is unto the day of redemption. The Spirit in His sealing work is giving you the sweetest and surest earnests of this blessed day. And is not all this happy and delightful work for you? would you do anything to put a cheek upon it?

6. If we don’t behave dutifully toward the Spirit, He will certainly be grieved. (J. Guyse.)

A fountain sealed

I. What it is to grieve the spirit. The Holy Ghost cannot properly be grieved in His own person, because grief implies a defect of happiness in suffering that we wish removed. It implies a defect in foresight, to prevent that which may grieve. It implies passion, which is soon raised up and soon laid down. God is not subject to change. It implies some want of power to remove that which we feel to be a grievance. And therefore it is not beseeming the majesty of the Spirit thus to be grieved. We must therefore conceive of it as befitting the majesty of God, removing in our thoughts all imperfections.

1. We are said to grieve God when we do that which is apt of itself to grieve; as we are said to destroy our weak brother when we do that which, he taking offence at, is apt to mislead him and so to destroy him.

2. We grieve the Spirit when we do that whereupon the Spirit doth that which grieved persons do; that is, retireth and showeth dislike and returns grief again.

3. Though the passion of grief be not in the Holy Ghost, yet there is in His holy nature a pure displeasance and hatred of sin, with such a degree of abomination, as though it tend not to the destruction of the offender, yet to sharp correction; so that grief is eminently in the hatred of God in such a manner as becomes Him.

4. We may conceive of the Spirit as He is in Himself in heaven, and as He dwells and works in us; as we may conceive of God the Father, as hidden in Himself and as revealed in His Son and in His Word; and as we may conceive of Christ as the Second Person and as Incarnate. So likewise of the Holy Ghost as in Himself and as in us. God, in the person of His Son, and His Son as man and as minister of circumcision, was grieved at the rebellion and destruction of His own people. The Holy Spirit as in us grieveth with us, witnesseth with us, rejoiceth in us and with us; and the Spirit in Himself and as He worketh in us hath the same name; as the gifts and graces and the comforts of the Spirit are called the Spirit; even as the beams of the sun shining on the earth are called the sun, and when we let them in or shut them out, we are said to let in or shut out the sun. We may grieve the Spirit, when we grieve Him as working grace and offering comfort to us.

II. Particulars wherein we specially grieve the Spirit. It is the office of the Spirit to enlighten, to soften, to quicken, and to sanctify. When we give content to Satan it puts the Holy Ghost out of office. Where the Holy Ghost hath not only set up a light, but given a taste of heavenly things, and yet we, upon false allurements, will grow to a distaste, it cannot but grieve the Spirit. Upon divers respects some sin may grieve more or less than another. As the Holy Ghost is a Spirit, so spiritual sins grieve most--as pride, envy--imprinting upon the soul, as it were, a character of the contrary ill spirit. Carnal sins, whereby the soul is drowned in delight of the body, may more grieve the Spirit in another respect; as defiling His temple, and as taking away so much of the soul. The office of the Spirit is to set out Christ, and the favour and mercy of God in Christ.

1. When we slight Christ in the gospel, the ordinance and organ of working good in us, the Holy Ghost is slighted and grieved.

2. The Holy Spirit is grieved when ye have a corrupt judgment of things, not weighing them in the right balance, nor value them according to their worth.

3. This grieves the Holy Spirit also, when men take the office of the Spirit from Him; that is, when we will do things in our own strength and by our own light, as if we were gods to ourselves.

4. Besides grieving God’s Spirit in ourselves, there is a heavy guilt lies upon us for grieving the Spirit in others, which is done many ways. First, By neglecting the grace of God in them, or despising them for some infirmities which love should cover. Contempt is a thing which the nature of man is more impatient of than of any injury. We likewise grieve the spirit of others by sharp censures, and the greater our authority is, the deeper is the grief a censure inflicteth. Again, Those that are above others grieve the spirits of those under them by unjust commands; as when masters press their servants to that which their conscience cannot digest, and so make them sin, and offer violence to that tender part. Again, We grieve the spirit of others, when those that are inferior show themselves untractable to those above them in magistracy or ministry, when they make them spend their strength in vain.

IV. What course we should take to prevent this grieving of the spirit.

1. Let us give up the government of our souls to the Spirit of God.

2. Study to walk perfectly in obeying the Spirit in all things.

3. If we would not grieve the Spirit, let us take heed of being wanting to the Spirit’s direction.

4. When the Spirit suggests good motions, turn them presently into holy resolutions. Let us not give over till these motions be turned into purposes, and those good purposes ripened to holy actions, that they be not nipped in the blossom, but may bring forth perfect fruit.

5. Let the Spirit have full scope, both in the ordinances, and in the motions stirred up by the ordinances. This is the way to make the ordinances and the times glorious, but the liberties of the gospel are contrary to the liberties of the flesh.

6. When we find the Spirit not assisting and comforting as in former times, it is fit to search the cause, which we shall find some slighting of holy motions, or the means of breeding of them.

7. Take heed of little sins, which we count lesser sins perhaps than God doth. “The Holy Spirit by which ye are sealed.” The Holy Ghost delighteth to speak in our own language.

We cannot rise to Him, therefore He stoopeth to us. The persons sealed are, first, Christ, and then those that are given to Christ. I, Christ is sealed.

1. By the Father (John 6:27).

2. He was sealed by the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in flesh, abased and exalted for us; so as His flesh is the flesh of the Son of God, and His blood the “blood of God” (Acts 20:28).

3. Sealed by a testimony from heaven of all three persons: by the Father, “This is my well-beloved Son”; by the Holy Spirit descending like a dove; by Himself to His human nature dwelling in all fulness in it.

4. In being justified in the Spirit, being raised from the dead, and “declared thereby to be the Son of God mightily with power” (Romans 1:4); and then advanced to the right hand of God, that through Him our faith and trust might be in God (2 Peter 3:14).

II. As Christ was sealed and fitted for us, so we are sealed and fitted for Christ, Many are the privileges of a Christian from this his sealing, as the use of a seal in man’s affairs is manifold.

1. Seals serve for confirmation and allowance. To that purpose measures are sealed. God is said to seal instruction (Job 33:16). Confirmation is either by giving strength, or by the authority of such as are able to make good what they promise, and also willing; which they show by putting to their seal, which hath as much strength to confirm him to whom the promise is made, as he hath will and power to make it good that hath engaged himself.

2. The use of it likewise is for distinction from others that carry not that mark. So the sealing of the Spirit distinguisheth a Christian from all other men.

3. The use of a seal is likewise for appropriation. Merchants use to seal their wares they would not have others have any right unto.

4. Again, we use to set our seal only upon that we have some estimation of. “Set me as a seal,” saith the Church in the Canticles, “upon Thy right hand” (Song of Solomon 8:6); have me in Thy eye and mind as a special thing Thou valuest.

5. Seals likewise are used for secrecy, as in letters, etc. So this seal of the Spirit is a secret work. God knoweth who are His (Revelation 2:17). “Our life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

6. Hence, likewise, the use of a seal is to show that things should be kept inviolable. Hereupon the Church is as a “sealed fountain” (Song of Solomon of Solomon 4:12). Sealing shows a care of preservation from common annoyance.

Hereupon likewise it is that sealing is the securing of persons or things sealed from hurt. “Whereby you are sealed.” Now there are divers degrees of the Spirit’s sealing.

1. Faith: “He that believes hath the witness in himself” (1 John 5:10). The seal and first discovery of election is manifested to us in our believing.

2. The work of sanctifying grace upon the heart is a seal. Whom the Spirit sanctifieth He sayeth. “The Lord knoweth who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

But how shall we know it? By this seal: “Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity,” not only in heart and affection, but in conversation; and that shall be a seal of his sonship to Him. “To the day of redemption.”

1. There is a double redemption: redemption of the soul by the first coming of Christ to shed His blood for us; redemption of our bodies from corruption by His second coming.

2. Secondly, full redemption is not yet. But there is a “day” appointed for it. Consolatory thought! “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

From the consideration of all that hath been formerly spoken of, the sealing of the Spirit to the day of redemption, there ariseth these four conclusions:

1. For the first, we may know we are in the state of grace

2. The second conclusion: We may, upon the knowledge of our present estate in grace, be assured for the time to come, for this sealing is to the “day of redemption”; that is, till we be put into full possession of what we now believe.

3. The third conclusion is this, that the Spirit doth seal us. This cannot be otherwise; for who can establish us in the love of God but he that knows the mind of God towards us? and who knows the mind of God but the Spirit of God?

4. The fourth conclusion is, that the sealing of the Spirit unto salvation should be a strong prevailing argument not to grieve the Spirit; that is, not to sin, for sin only grieves the Spirit (see Titus 2:11-12). Even the consideration of the benefits of Christ that are past, such as came with Christ’s first coming; but that is not all (verse 13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”) The second coming of Christ enforceth likewise the same care of holiness: “Our conversation is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), and not as theirs, spoken of in the former verse, whose end is damnation, whose belly is their god, who mind earthly things. No. We mind heavenly things. And these heavenly desires, from whence sprung |hey but from the certain “expectation of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile bodies”? etc. (Philippians 3:21); that is, shall redeem us fully, even our bodies as well as our souls.

Grieving the Holy Spirit

I. Let us first consider some truths which appear to be implied in the statement here made.

1. It is plainly implied that the Holy Spirit is a Person.

2. A second truth implied in the text is, that not only is the Holy Ghost a Person, but that He is a Divine and holy Person.

3. But the third thing implied in this text is, that the Spirit of God so dwells within us, as that the indulgence of angry tempers, or a walk of ungodliness and sin, will cause distress to this Divine inhabitant.

II. Now, having considered those truths which seem to be implied in the text, let us proceed to consider what is contained in the exhortation itself: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

1. And, first, wherein are we most prone to “grieve” the Spirit? Grief, in the sense of offence taken by one person against another, arises from the offering of some supposed indignity, whether in the omission of some customary respect, or in the offer of some admitted slight, or in ungrateful requital for certain benefits received, or in some open contrariety to the mind and wish of our benefactor. Thus, look at the Spirit of God in some of those gracious offices and relations which He sustains towards us. Is He the enlightener, the guide, the counsellor of man in all the parts and duties of a godly life? What greater indignity can we offer to Him than taking counsel with flesh and blood--leaving the directions of a friend, to follow the advice of an enemy.

2. But observe, secondly, the special aggravation of this grieving--“Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Now, the point of all this, you will perceive, is that sin becomes more than ever sin, when it is committed against received light and knowledge-that grief against the Holy Spirit of God becomes double grief, when we have been made partaker of His gifts already.

3. And now, brethren, look at the text as it is a tender, affectionate, fatherly appeal to your gratitude. It is asked--“If God the Spirit has done this for you, if God the Spirit will continue to do these things unto your lives’ end, how have you received Him?” (D. Moore, M. A.)

The Holy Spirit sealing believers, yet grieved by them

I. And, first, of the agent here spoken of--the Holy Spirit of God--and the peculiar office, which He is said to execute on behalf of believers. The figure used in my text--that of “grieving the Spirit”--leads us to the acknowledgment of the personality of that blessed Spirit. The use of seals to signify appropriation was a very early practice; the patriarch Judah, you know, had his seal; and ministers of state had their seals of office in very ancient times; and you read, in the Book of Esther, these words, “Write in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring, for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.” But again, under this head, I observe, that it is the office of the Holy Spirit, not merely to seal believers, by an eternal designation to God, but at times--at times, we say--as to His infinite wisdom and grace may seem fit--it is the office of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to their spirits that they are thus called. But I proceed, furthers to observe, that wheresoever this sealing to God, known at all times to Him--this sealing of appropriation from eternity--known to believers themselves, in the degree in which God sees it to be good for them--wheresoever this sealing takes place, it is always accompanied by an outward seal, by which believers are more or less discernible to the world around them. For seals, as you know, my brethren, are not merely used to signify appropriation, but are also used to make an impression. The seal stamps its own impression. And the Holy Spirit of God seals believers as His own, by making His own impression of holiness upon them--by diffusing His graces over their souls. Let us, then, consider some of the ways in which believers may be said to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”

1. Among these we may rank, my brethren, the sin of ingratitude--a sin, of which all believers are more or less guilty, and apt thereby to grieve the Holy Spirit.

2. And, again, I would observe, that the Holy Spirit is grieved by resisting His operations in the soul, by turning a deaf ear to His friendly warnings and His friendly remonstranees.

3. Again, I observe, that the Spirit of the Lord trains up believers for “redemption” in the school of affliction: and we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” when we do not endeavour, at least, to see the hand of God in those trials, and when we rebel against that rod, wherewith He chastens us for our good.

4. And, again, my brethren, I would observe, that the Holy Spirit is grieved by the indulgence of unhallowed tempers and of sinful dispositions.

5. Allow me, once more, to add” grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” by running in the way of temptation. And as to the fearful consequences of grieving Him, or of causing that blessed Agent to withdraw, what, my brethren, can be said, or what need be said? In that moment when He is withdrawn, the means of grace become useless. Our salvation, be it remembered, depends entirely upon the agency of the Holy Spirit; and to forfeit that agency is to cut off ourselves at once from all hope. (Norman Macleod, D. D.)

The sealed ones

I. The sealing. They were sealed in their sonship. Moreover, as sons, they were sealed for the purpose of separation, that they should be a distinct people, and hence the prediction concerning them was put forth in a very early period in the history of the Church on earth. Moreover, they were sealed in this secret compact between the persons of Deity for sanctification, set apart for that purpose. Now, what is the first thing that you and I should do in sealing, to keep literally to the expression? Suppose we seal a letter, or seal a will or testament, or seal any document or covenant among mortals? Why, the first thing is to melt the wax, or whatever we are about to impress. There is the efficiency, and there is a need of fire for that. My hearer, when we are baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, it is melting work. Moreover, in this sealing work there is an elevation of character--a dignity stamped upon it. You know, in olden time, when letters were written, as by Ahasuerus and others, and said to be sealed with the king’s seal, there was a dignity and importance stamped on the documents; it elevated them above the scale of the subjects of the realm, for it was the monarch’s own impression, the monarch’s own authority, the monarch’s own command and injunction. So with the Lord’s family. Just go on to mark that they are sealed apparently and manifestly, so as to be known before men. Pass on to mark that, according to my text, It is a lasting seal. Ah! there are some seals that you may break or deface--they are not lasting; but here is a seal that shall last till the day of redemption.

II. The exhortation given to the sealed ones. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” Let everything in the shape of sin be loathed and abhorred; that, although it dwells in old Adam, and sometimes strives for the mastery, it shall be crucified, mortified, put off, denied, and kept under, that the Holy Spirit may not be grieved. Again, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” by opinions which are heterodox. All those things which tend to grieve one another, to separate brother from brother, and Church from Church, and create schism in the Body of Christ, grieve the Spirit of God. (J. Irons.)


Verse 31-32

Ephesians 4:31-32

And be ye kind one to another.

The temper for the times

I. The extent of the duty enforced. It is not enough to abstain from acts of an unfriendly or hostile nature, but we should ever cherish that mild and amiable disposition which looks upon all men as friends till by their ingratitude or moral delinquency they have shown themselves to be unworthy of our friendship or good esteem.

1. One who is kindly disposed, either by nature or by grace, will be at all times ready to do a good action for another, if it should lie in his power.

2. Kindliness of disposition will be evidenced in all classes by a prevailing tone of mind which indisposes us either to think evil, or to speak evil of our neighbours.

3. We may beneficially carry out the precept of the text, by adopting a kind and courteous tone of language in all the relations of daily life.

II. The precept of the text may further be urged.

1. From the consideration of that precious love which our Saviour exhibited in dying for us.

2. From the remembrance of that supreme mercy and compassion which our heavenly Father manifests, when for Christ’s sake He freely forgives us all the multiplied sins which we have committed against Him. (F. F. Statham, B. A.)

Remedies for evil speaking

The longer I live the more I feel the importance of adhering to the rules I have laid down for myself in relation to such matters.

1. To hear as little as possible to the prejudice of others.

2. To believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it.

3. Never to drink in the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.

4. Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed toward others.

5. Always believe that, if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.

Defective kindness

The kindness of some is too much like an echo; it returns exactly the counterpart of what it receives, and neither more nor less (Matthew 5:46-47). (G. S. Bowes.)

Kindness defined

Kindness is civil behaviour, favourable treatment, or a constant and habitual practice of friendly offices and benevolent actions. (C. Buck.)

It may be defined as “lighting our neighbour’s candle by our own,” by which we lose nothing and impart something. (Anon.)

Different kinds of kindness

One man has kindness deep within him; and when the occasion comes, the rind or shell is cracked, and the kernel is found. Such a man’s heart, too long clouded, like a sun in a storm-muffled day, shoots through some opening rift, and glows for a period in glory. But there are other natures that are always cloudless. With them, a cloud is the exception, shining is the rule. They rise radiant over the horizon; they fill the whole heavens with growing brightness, and all day long they overhang life, pouring down an undiminished flood of brightness and warmth. (H. W. Beecher.)

Memory of kindness

Among the Alps, when the day is done, and twilight and darkness are creeping over fold and hamlet in the valleys below, Mont Rosa and Mont Blanc rise up far above the darkness, catching from the retreating sun something of his light, flushed with rose colour, exquisite beyond all words or pencil or paint, glowing like the gate of heaven. And so past favours and kindnesses lift themselves up in the memory of noble natures, and long after the lower parts of life are darkened by neglect, or selfishness, or anger, former loves, high up above all clouds, glow with Divine radiance and seem to forbid the advance of night any further. (H. W. Beecher.)

Origin of the word “kindness”

The very word kindness comes from the cognate word, kinned, that is, one of the same kin or race; acknowledging and reminding us of the fact that all men are brethren--all of the same blood--and therefore they should all act as brethren. All who are of the same kindred should be kind. (G. S. Bowes.)

The power of kindness

A horse passing down the street in a stage suddenly stood still, and refused to go. He put down his forefoot and became as stubborn as a mule. The driver beat him with great severity, but the animal still refused to go. Finally, a respectable person, a passer-by, picked up a little hay and put it before the horse. He ate it, and the friend kindly patted him on the neck and coaxed him. In a minute or two the stubbornness was gone, and the horse, with driver, were on their way. So let parents, masters, teachers, ministers, try the hand and food of kindness with all stubborn souls with whom they may have to do. (John Bate.)

The influence of a kind spirit

I remember once a valued friend of mine, a barrister, now passed away, who spent his Sundays in visiting an hospital. He told me that on one occasion he sat down by the bedside of one of the very poorest, the most ignorant, and, without using the word in any offensive manner, one of the very lowest men he had ever seen in his life--a man whose English, had it been taken down, would have been the most complete and perfect dislocation of the Queen’s English that he ever heard. No word seemed to be in its right place. It seemed as if that which should have been a jointed and vertebrated sentence had been separated at every joint, and thrown together anyhow. My friend was a man of the most tender spirit--a man whose tender spirit radiated from one of the most striking faces I ever saw; and I can well understand how he looked when he sat down by that poor man’s bed. He began first, as all should who visit She sick, to break ground on temporal matters, to sympathize with them on that which they can understand so well--their bodily sufferings--to show that we are not indifferent to what they are suffering as men; and then, after speaking a few kind words, he was proceeding to say something further for his Master, whom he so dearly loved, when he saw the man’s face begin to work convulsively. The muscles quivered, and at last, lifting up the sheet, and drawing down his head, he threw the sheet over his face, burst into a violent flood of tears and sobbed aloud. My friend wisely waited till this store of grief was passed, and then the poor fellow emerged from under the clothes, his face bearing the traces of tears that had flowed down it. When he was able to speak, my friend asked him--“What is it that has so touched you? I hope that I have not said anything that was painful to you. What can have moved you so much?” And as well as the man could sob out, he sobbed out these words: “Sir, you are the first man that ever spoke a kind word to me since I was born, and I can’t stand it.” (Champneys.)

The priest and the surgeon

Dupuytren was a famous surgeon, but brusque and unpolished. One day, as he re-entered his house, he found installed in the anteroom an old priest, who had long been waiting his return. “What do you want of me?” growled Dupuytren. “I wish you to look at this,” meekly replied the priest, taking off an old woollen cravat, which revealed upon the nape of his neck a hideous turnout. Dupuytren looked at it. “You’ll have to die with that,” he coolly remarked. “I thank you, doctor,” simply replied the priest, replacing his cravat, “and am much obliged to you for warning me, as I can prepare myself, as well as my poor parishioners, who love me very much.” The surgeon, who was never astonished at great things, looked upon this priest, who received his death sentence unmoved, with amazement, and said: “Come tomorrow, at eight o’clock, to the Hotel Dieu and ask for me.” The priest was prompt. The surgeon procured for him a special room, and in a month’s time the man went out cured. When leaving he took out of a sack thirty francs in small change. “It is all I have to offer you, doctor,” he said; “I came here on foot from R--, in order to save this.” The doctor looked at the money, smiled, and drawing a handful of gold from his pocket, put it in the bag with the thirty francs, saying, “It is for your poor,” and the priest went away. Some years later the celebrated doctor, feeling death to be near, bethought him of the good priest, and sent for him. He came, and Dupuytren received from him the “last consolation,” and died in his arms.

A kind deed

“Now, boys, I will tell you how we can have some fun,” said Charlie to his companions, who had assembled one bright moonlight evening for sliding, snowballing, and fun generally. “What is it?” asked several at once. “You shall see,” replied Charlie. “Who’s got a wood saw? I have.” “So have I,” replied three of the boys. “Get them, and you and Freddy and Nathan each get an axe, and I will get a shovel. Let’s be back in fifteen minutes.” The boys separated to go on their several errands, each wondering of what use wood saws, and axes, and shovels could be in the play. But Charlie was a favourite with all, and they fully believed in his promises, and were soon assembled again. “Now,” said he, “Widow M. has gone to a neighbour’s to sit up with a sick child. A man hauled her some wood today, and I heard her tell him that unless she got someone to saw it tonight, she would not have anything to make a fire of in the morning. Now, we could saw and split that pile of wood just as easy as we could make a snow man on her doorstep, and when Mrs. M. comes home she will be most agreeably surprised.” One or two of the boys objected, but the majority began to appreciate his fun, and to experience that inward satisfaction and joy that always results from well-doing. It was not a long and wearisome job for seven robust and healthy boys to saw, split, and pile up the widow’s half-cord of wood, and to shovel a good loath. And when they had done this, so great was their pleasure and satisfaction, that one of them, who objected at first, proposed they should go to a neighbouring carpenter’s shop, where plenty of shavings could be had for the carrying away, and each bring an armful. The proposition was readily acceded to; and, this done, they repaired to their several homes, more than satisfied with the “fun of the evening.” And the next morning, when the weary widow returned from watching by the sick bed, and saw what was done, she was pleasantly surprised; and afterwards, when a neighbour (who had, unobserved, witnessed the labours of the boys) told her how it was done, her fervent invocation, God bless the boys!” was of itself, if they could have heard it, reward enough.

For Christ’s sake

This is the great argument of awakened sinners, when they seek mercy at God’s hands.

I. God’s argument for mercy. He forgives us “for Christ’s sake.”

1. Let us consider the force of this motive by which God is moved to forgive sinners.

2. Pausing a minute, let us enumerate some few other qualifications of this plea by way of comfort to trembling seekers.

II. The believer’s great motive for service.

1. We begin with a few hints as to what service is expected of us.

2. A few words, lastly, by way of exhortation on this point. Clear as the sound of a trumpet startling men from slumber, and bewitching as the sound of martial music to the soldier when he marches to the conflict, ought to be the matchless melody of this word. Review, my brethren, the heroic struggles of the Lord’s people, and here we turn to the brightest page of the world’s annals! Think of the suffering of God’s people through the Maccabean war! How marvellous was their courage when Antiochus Epiphanes took the feeblest among the Jews to constrain them to break the law, and found himself weak as water before their dauntless resolve. Aged women and feeble children overcame the tyrant. Their tongues were torn out; they were sawn asunder; they were broiled on the fire; they were pierced with knives; but no kind of torture could subdue the indomitable spirit of God’s chosen people. Think of the Christian heroism of the first centuries; remember Blandina tossed upon the horns of bulls and set in a red-hot iron chair; think of the martyrs given up to the lions in the amphitheatre, amidst the revilings of the Roman mob; dragged to their death at the heels of wild horses, or, like Marcus Arethusa, smeared with honey and stung to death by bees; and yet in which case did the enemy triumph? In none! They were more than conquerors through Him that loved them! And why? Because they did it all “for Christ’s sake,” and Christ’s sake alone. Think of the cruelty which stained the snows of the Switzer’s Alps, and the grass of Piedmont’s Valleys, blood red with the murdered Waldenses and Albigenses, and honour the heroism of those who, in their deaths, counted not their lives dear to them “for Christ’s sake.” Walk this afternoon to your own Smithfield, and stand upon the sacred spot where the martyrs leaped into their chariot of fire, leaving their ashes on the ground, “for Jesus’ sake.” In Edinburgh, stand on the well known stones consecrated with covenanting gore, where the axe and the hangman set free the spirits of men who rejoiced to suffer for Christ’s sake. Remember those fugitives “for Christ’s sake,” meeting in the glens and crags of Scotia’s every hill, “for Christ’s sake.” They were daunted by nothing--they dared everything “for Christ’s sake.” Think, too, of what missionaries have done “for Christ’s sake.” With no weapon but the Bible, they have landed among cannibals, and have subdued them to the power of the gospel; with no hope of gain, except in the reward which the Lord has reserved for every faithful one, they have gone where the most enterprizing trader dared not go, passed through barriers impenetrable to the courage of men who sought after gold, but to be pierced by men who sought after souls. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Forgiveness made easy

The heathen moralists, when they wished to teach virtue, could not point to the example of their gods, for, according to their mythologists, the gods were a compound of every imaginable, and, I had almost said, unimaginable, vice. Many of the classic deities surpassed the worst of men in their crimes: they were as much greater in iniquity as they were supposed to be superior in power.

I. The first word to think about is, “for Christ’s sake.” We use these words very often; but probably we have never thought of their force, and even at this time we cannot bring forth the whole of their meaning. What does it mean?

1. It means, surely, first, for the sake of the great atonement which Christ has offered.

2. God has forgiven us because of the representative character of Christ. God for Christ’s sake has accepted us in Him, has forgiven us in Him, and looks upon us with love infinite and changeless in Him.

3. Now go a little further. When we read, “for Christ’s sake,” it surely means for the deep love which the Father bears Him.

4. God forgives sin for the sake of glorifying Christ. Christ took the shame that He might magnify His Father, and now His Father delights to magnify Him by blotting out the sin.

II. What it is that has been done for us, for Christ’s sake. “God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”

1. Pardon is not a prize to be run for, but a blessing received at the first step of the race.

2. This forgiveness is continuous.

3. It is most free.

4. It is full.

5. Eternal. God will never rake up our past offences, and a second time impute them.

6. Divine. There is such a truth, reality, and emphasis in the pardon of God as you can never find in the pardon of man; for though a man should forgive all you have done against him, yet it is more than you could expect that he should quite forget it; but the Lord says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more forever.” If a man has played you false, although you have forgiven him, you are not likely to trust him again. But see how the Lord deals with His people, e.g., Peter, Paul.

III. A point of practice. “Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Now, observe how the apostle puts it. Does he say “forgiving another”? No, that is not the text, if you look at it. It is “forgiving one another.” One another! Ah, then that means that if you have to forgive today, it is very likely that you will yourself need to be forgiven tomorrow, for it is “forgiving one another.” It is turn and turn about, a mutual operation, a cooperative service. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A forgiving spirit

God’s pardon of sinners is full and free and irreversible, all sin forgiven--forgiven, not because we deserve it; forgiven, every day of our lives; and, when once forgiven never again to rise up and condemn us. Now, because God has pardoned us, we should cherish a forgiving spirit, and be as ready to pardon others as He has been to remit our trespasses. His example at once enjoins imitation, and furnishes the pattern. And thus the offences of others are to be pardoned by us fully, without retaining a grudge; and freely, without any exorbitant equivalent; and when pardoned, they are not to be raked out of oblivion, and again made the theme of collision and quarrel. According to the imagery of our Lord’s parable, our sins toward God are weighty as talents, nay, weighty and numerous as ten thousand talents; while the offences of our fellows toward ourselves are trivial as pence, nay, as trivial and few as a hundred pence. If the master forgive the servant so far beneath him such an immense amount, will not the forgiven servant be prompted by the generous example to absolve his own fellow servant and equal from his paltry debt? (Matthew 18:23-35). In fine, as God in Christ forgives sin, so believers in Christ, feeling their union to Him, breathing His Spirit, and doing homage to His law of love, learn to forgive one another. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

The forgiveness of God

The literal meaning of the words of the text in the original is, “as God, in Christ, hath forgiven you.” This is exactly what they say, and this gives us the right idea of the forgiveness of God, of God revealing Himself in Christ. Now, God’s forgiveness in Christ does not stand alone; but must be a part of that whole revelation of God which we have in Christ. Christ came to reveal God’s fatherhood, God’s love, God’s righteousness, God’s forgiveness--all as parts of one great whole, and all for the one high purpose of reconciling men to God, of bringing back to Him in love and faith those who had sinned against Him. In each part of the whole there is the reconciling element, which gives its character to the whole. In each there is something, the knowledge of which should bring us to God in love and trust. And this in forgiveness can only be its freeness and fulness. This character pervades all that Christ teaches us about forgiveness in His spoken words: it pervades all that He exemplified in His own deeds, down to that last hour when He said, with His failing breath, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What is the object of all forgiveness? It is not to smooth over the sin, and make it of little account. It is not to remove the natural penalty or consequence from the sin, so that you may sin and yet not suffer. It is to gain the sinner; to win him back from evil to good, from the devil to God. It is for this end God forgives--forgives because of His eternal desire to save men from sin, and lead them to holiness. His forgiveness is not a new power or new aspect of character, evoked in Him by His Son’s life or death or sacrifice. It is an eternal element of His Divine nature, revealing itself to us, through Christ, in whom all His will for our salvation was revealed. To anyone capable of amendment of life, in whom the powers of the endless life are not quenched, nothing can appeal so strongly, nothing can exert so quickening an influence, as the consciousness of being freely forgiven for past errors, as the knowledge that these at least are not kept up as a barrier between him and the Father to whom he would fain return. Let us lay hold of this free and full forgiveness, brethren. Let us not be occupied with the mere selfish anxiety to be delivered from the penalty of our sin; but let us rather be filled with the earnest hope to be reconciled to our Father, against whom we have trespassed; and, through the consciousness of His goodwill towards us, to be animated with such gratitude, love, and trust, as shall strengthen us against all temptation, and restrain us from all transgression. (H. R. Story, D. D.)

Forgiving one another

“Kindness” and “forgiveness” may be, and often are, natural virtues. But you at once take them out of the natural, and elevate them into the spiritual--you Christianize them, and the old commandment becomes the new--when you make this both the reason of the exercise and the measure of the degree--“as God in Christ hath forgiven you.” Now take care that you read this verse aright. I have often heard it quoted--I have read it often in books--“as God for Christ’s sake will forgive you.” But that is not the basis from which the apostle’s argument here, and his argument everywhere, springs. “Even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” So that if you are not a “forgiven” man, the argument drops. How can a machine go, if you take out the mainspring? How can love in the heart of a man move aright, without its motive power? And what motive power can move a man to bear all he has to bear, and to do all he has to do, in such a world as this, but love? And where is love if you are not forgiven?” Nobody really knows God till he is “forgiven”; and how shall a man practise love till he knows God? Is not all love, God? Here, then, we take our beginning. As a mathematician claims a certain first principle, and assumes it is granted, and calls it his axiom, so we make it our axiom, “You are forgiven.” I cannot carry on my reasoning a single step without that. Now, in the character of this “forgiveness”--which is the elementary principle of all religion--there are three points, which I would ask you to look at in detail.

1. It was originating. I mean, it was not you went forth to it; but it went forth to you. It was ready before you thought of it. It was ready before you were born. It sought you. At the best, you can do nothing but accept it.

2. It is universal. It cannot, in the nature of things, be partial. I mean, there is no such thing as being “forgiven” for one sin, while, at the same time, you are not “forgiven” for another sin. It is all or none. The blood of Christ never washes one sin out. The robe of Christ never covers one part of a man. Everything is “forgiven.”

3. The “forgiveness” is absolute. There is not a vestige of displeasure. There is no resurrection of “forgiven” sins. They shall never be mentioned any more. They are “cast into the depths of the sea.” O brethren! what an atmosphere of love we ought all to be living in, as many of you as know Christ. What a practical rule and measure we have, by which to draw our line, every day, into thousands of little acts and thoughts. It is simply this--“How did God act to me, when He stood in a corresponding relation to me?” But I ask, Is any one of us living up to that standard? I think not. Therefore let us now look at our measurement. “You see there are three things God tells us to be: kind; tender-hearted; forgiving. I am not sure that I know the exact distinction which is intended between those three words; but, I think it is something like this:--“Kindness,” is an affectionate feeling, always going out into action. The Greek word used has something o! “using” or “serving” in it. A “tender heart,” is a soft, impressible state, which predisposes to think and act kindly. And “forgiveness” is that loving spirit, which, preferring to suffer rather than to pain, sees no fault in another because it is so conscious of its own. It is important to notice that the “tender heart” is placed between “kindness” and “forgiveness”--the keystone of the little sacred arch. Everything depends upon it--a soft, “tender” state of “heart.” Need I remind you, that everything in the world, every day, is tending to brush off the bloom, and leave the substance underneath hardened? But whoever wishes to be a real Christian must, at all times, and in all places, be jealously watchful to keep his heart “tender.” The great business of life, it seems to me, is to keep the heart “tender.” But how is it that we are not all “kind,” “tender,” and “forgiving”? There are many causes; but they resolve themselves into one--pride! pride! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Forgiveness, for Christ’s sake

“What great matter,” said a heathen tyrant to a Christian while he was beating him almost to death--“What great matter did Christ ever do for you?” “Even this,” answered the Christian, “that I can forgive you, though you use me so cruelly.”

The necessity of a forgiving spirit

In the Middle Ages, when the lords and knights were always at war with each other, one of them resolved to revenge himself on a neighbour who had offended him. It chanced that, on the very evening when he had made this resolution, he heard that his enemy was to pass near his castle, with only a very few men with him. It was a good opportunity to take his revenge, and he determined not to let it pass. He spoke of his plan in the presence of his chaplain, who tried in vain to persuade him to give it up. The good man said a great deal to the duke about the sin of what he was going to do, but in vain. At length, seeing that all his words had no effect, he said, “My lord, since I cannot persuade yon to give up this plan of yours, you will at least come with me to the chapel, that we may pray together before you go?” The duke consented, and the chaplain and he kneeled together in prayer. Then the mercy-loving Christian said to the revengeful warrior, “Will you repeat after me, sentence by sentence, the prayer which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught to His disciples?…I will do it,” replied the duke. He did it accordingly. The chaplain said a sentence, and the duke repeated it, till he came to the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.” There the duke was silent. “My lord duke, you are silent,” said the chaplain. “Will you be so good as to continue to repeat the words after me, if you dare to do so: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us’?” “I cannot,” replied the duke. “Well, God cannot forgive you, for He has said so. He Himself has given us this prayer. Therefore you must either give up your revenge or give up saying this prayer; for to ask God to pardon you as you pardon others is to ask Him to take vengeance on you for all your sins. Go now, my lord, and meet your victim. God will meet you at the great day of judgment.” The iron will of the duke was broken. “No,” said he; “I will finish my prayer. My God, my Father, pardon me; forgive me as I desire to forgive him who has offended me; ‘lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.’” “Amen,” said the chaplain. “Amen,” repeated the duke, who now understood the Lord’s Prayer better than he had ever done before, since he had learned to apply it to himself. (Preachers Lantern.)

Power of forgiveness

Some years ago a missionary was preaching in a chapel to a crowd of idol-loving Hindoos. He had not proceeded far in his sermon when he was interrupted by a strong native, who went behind the desk, intending to knock him down with his stick. Happily the blow aimed at the minister fell on his shoulder, and did him little, if any, injury. The congregation of hearers were, however, very angry with the offender, and they seized him at the very moment he was attempting to escape. “Now, what shall I do with him?” said the missionary to the people. “Give him a good beating,” answered some. “I cannot do that,” said he. “Send him to the judge,” cried others, “and he will receive two years’ hard labour on the road.” “I cannot follow your advice,” said the missionary again, “and I will tell you why. My religion commands me to love my enemies, and to do good to them who injure me.” Then turning to the man, he said, “I forgive you from my heart; but never forget that you owe your escape from punishment to that Jesus whom you persecuted in me.” The effect of this scene upon the Hindoos was most impressive. They wondered at it, and, unable any longer to keep silence, sprang on their feet and shouted, “Victory to Jesus Christ! Victory to Jesus Christi” (J. Pulsford.)

Complete forgiveness

It was said of Archbishop Cranmer, that the way to have him as one’s friend was to do him an unkindness.

Conquered forgiveness

Samuel Harris, of Virginia, shortly after he had begun to preach, was informed by one of his debtors that he did not intend paying him the debt owed “unless he sued him.” Harris left the man’s presence meditating. “What shall I do?” said he, for he badly wanted the money. “Must I leave preaching and attend to a vexatious lawsuit. Perhaps a thousand souls may perish in the meantime.” He turned aside into a wood and sought guidance in prayer. Rising from his knees, he resolved to hold the man no longer a debtor, and at once wrote out a receipt in full, which he sent by a servant. Shortly after the man met him, and demanded what he meant. “I mean,” said Harris, “just what I wrote.” “But you know I never paid you,” replied the debtor. “True,” Harris answered; “and I know you said that you never would unless I sued. But, sir, I sued you at the court of heaven, and Christ has entered bail for you; I have therefore given you a discharge.” “But I insist matters shall not be left so,” said the man. “I am well satisfied,” replied the other; “Jesus will not fail me. I leave you to settle the account with Him at another day. Farewell!” This operated so effectually on the man’s conscience that in a few days he came and paid the debt. (H. T. Williams.)

John Wesley had a misunderstanding with his travelling companion, Joseph Bradford, which resulted in his saying overnight that they must part. In the morning Wesley inquired of him, “Will you ask my pardon?” “No,” said Bradbury. “Then I will ask yours,” said the great preacher. This broke Bradbury down, who melted under the speech and wept like a child. (Life of Wesley.)

A Christian’s forgiveness

After the death of Archbishop Tillotson a bundle of libels was found among his papers, on which he had written--“These are libels; I pray God forgive the authors, as I do.”

Forgiveness and restoration

I call to mind an occasion when the son of a Christian man was guilty of an act of disobedience in the home. Hearing of it, the father quietly but firmly said, “Son, I am pained beyond measure at your conduct.” “How well,” said that father, “I remember his return from school at mid-day, his quiet knock at the study door, his clear tremulous utterance, ‘Father, I am so ashamed of myself by reason of my conduct this morning.’ Refuse to restore him!” said that father. “Unhesitatingly I confess that I never loved my boy more than at that moment, nor did I ever more readily implant the kiss of forgiveness than at that instant. Refuse to restore him: disown him, have him leave the house, take another name, say that he had no place in the family--not my child!” What blasphemy against humanity is this! And shall we dare to attribute such conduct to the Holy Father in heaven, “who spared not His own Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all?” (Henry Varley.)

Power of kindness

I have read that one of Dr. Guthrie’s admirers was an old Scotch judge, who contributed a large sum to build a new church. But when the doctor left the Established Church, with the Free Church party, the judge was so much displeased that he ceased to call on him, and even refused to recognize him in the street. Twice the good doctor lifted his hat on meeting, but the judge gave no sign of recognition. The doctor said cheerily to himself, “One more lifting of the hat, my lord, and then we are quits.” One day a woman called at Dr. Guthrie’s, begging for a seat in his church. The doctor said it was impossible to obtain one; all were engaged, and more than a score of applicants were waiting for a vacancy. She pleaded hard, but he saw no way to help her. At length she mentioned that she was housekeeper for Judge “That changes the case,” said the doctor. “I would like to do him a favour for all his kindness to me in past days. You shall have a seat in my own pew.” The woman left, after a profusion of thanks. The next morning there was a knock at the study door, and the judge entered. He came to thank the doctor for the kindness to his housekeepers after his own shabby behaviour, and to beg pardon for his foolish anger.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 4:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ephesians-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.


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