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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Ephesians 5

 

 

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Verse 1

Ephesians 5:1

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.

Imitators of God

The apostle urges us to give and forgive. If ye be imitators of God, give, for He is always giving.

I. Consider the precept here laid down--“Be ye imitators of God, as clear children.”

1. I note upon this precept, first, that it calls us to practical duty. In this instance there can be no cavil at the too spiritual, sentimental, or speculative character of the text; there can be no question as to the eminently practical character of the exhortation--“Be ye imitators of God, as dear children,” for it points to action. “Be ye imitators”--that is, do not only meditate upon God, and think that you have done enough, but go on to copy what you study.

2. Next, this precept treats us as children, treats us as what we are; and if we are lowly in heart we shall be thankful that it is worded as it is. If you are not His children you cannot imitate Him, and you will not even desire to do so.

3. Observe next, that while it thus humbles us, this precept ennobles us; for what a grand thing it is to be imitators of God! It is an honour to be the lowliest follower of such a Leader. Time has been when men gloried in studying Homer, and their lives were trained to heroism by his martial verse. Alexander carried the Iliad about with him in a casket studded with jewels, and his military life greatly sprung out of his imitation of the warriors of Greece and Troy. Ours is a nobler ambition by far than that which delights in battles; we desire to imitate the God of peace, whose name is love. In after ages, when men began to be a less savage race, and contests of thought were carried on by the more educated class of minds, thousands of men gloried in being disciples of the mighty Stagyrite, the renowned Aristotle. He reigned supreme over the thought of men for centuries, and students slavishly followed him till a greater arose, and set free the human mind by a more true philosophy. To this day, however, our cultured men remain copyists, and you can see a fashion in philosophy as well as in clothes. Some of these imitations are so childish as to be deplorable. It is no honour to imitate a poor example. But, oh, beloved, he who seeks to imitate his God has a noble enterprize before him: he shall rise as on eagle’s wings. O angels, what happier task could be laid before you?

4. While it ennobles us, this precept tests us.

5. While it tests us, this precept greatly aids us. It is a fine thing for a man to know what he has to do, for then he is led in a plain path because of his enemies. What a help it is to have a clear chart, and a true compass! Creatures cannot imitate their Creator in His Divine attributes, but children may copy their Father in His moral attributes. By the aid of His Divine Spirit we can copy our God in His justice, righteousness, holiness, purity, truth, and faithfulness.

6. Another blessing is that it backs us up in our position; for if we do a thing because we are imitating God, if any raise an objection it does not trouble us, much less are we confounded. He who follows God minds not what the godless think of his way of life.

7. This precept is greatly for our usefulness. I do not know of anything which would make us so useful to our fellow men as this would do. I have heard of an atheist who said he could get over every argument except the example of his godly mother: he could never answer that. A genuinely holy Christian is a beam of God’s glory, and a testimony to the being and the goodness of God.

8. A close imitation of God would make our religion honourable. The ungodly might still hate it, but they could not sneer at it.

II. Secondly, I invite you, dear friends, as we are helped of God’s Spirit, to weigh the argument. The argument is this, “Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” First, as children. It is the natural tendency of children to imitate their parents: yet there are exceptions, for some children are the opposite of their fathers, perhaps displaying the vices of a remoter ancestor. Absalom did not imitate David, nor was Rehoboam a repetition of Solomon. In the case of God’s children it is a necessity that they should be like their Father; for it is a rule in spirituals that like begets its like. I say to any man here who bears the name of Christian and professes to be a child of God, either be like your Father or give up your name. You remember the old classic story of a soldier in Alexander’s army whose name was Alexander, but when the battle was raging he trembled. Then Alexander said to him, “How canst thou bear the name of Alexander? Drop thy cowardice or drop thy name.” Be like Christ, or be not called a Christian. The argument, then, is that if we are children we should imitate our Father; but it is also said “as dear children.” Read it as “children beloved.” Is not this a tender but mighty argument? How greatly has God loved us in that He permits us to be His children at all.

III. Next, I desire to suggest encouragements.

1. God has already made you His children. The greater work He has Himself done for you; that which remains is but your reasonable service.

2. God has given you His nature already. It only remains for you to let the new nature act after its own manner.

3. The Lord has given you His blessed Spirit to help you.

4. The Lord allows you to commune with Himself. If we had to imitate a man, and yet could not see him, we should find it hard work; but in this case we can draw nigh unto God. You know the Persian story of the scented clay. One said to it, “Clay, whence hast thou thy delicious perfume?” It answered: “I was aforetime nothing but a piece of common clay, but I lay long in the sweet society of a rose till I drank in its fragrance and became perfumed myself.”

IV. Certain inferences.

1. God is ready to forgive those who have offended Him.

2. God is an example to us, therefore He will surely keep His word. He must be faithful and true, for you are bidden to copy Him.

3. Another inference--only a hint at it--is, if you are told to be “imitators of God, as dear children,” then you may depend upon it the Lord is a dear Father.

4. Lastly, when the text says, “Be ye imitators of God,” it bids us keep on imitating Him as long as we live: therefore I conclude that God will always be to us what He is. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The deity of believers to imitate God

I. We are required to imitate God.

1. We were originally created in the Divine image and likeness; and it is God’s design to restore us to it.

2. Several things must precede this.

3. There are some great and important points in which we never shall resemble God--in which it would be impiety even to attempt it.

4. Still there are several points in which we may, and must, resemble God.

II. The manner in which this is to be accomplished.

1. There is God’s part in this matter. He must give us grace; and He has promised to do so.

2. Our part.

Followers of God

First, if we are followers of God, we have perfect trust in Him, “we know in whom we have believed.” Next, if we are His followers, we must expect to be led sometimes into a path of sorrow and trial. Then again, if we are followers of God, we must expect to pass through the wilderness of temptation and self-denial. Again, we are bidden to be followers of God, “as dear children.” What does that imply? Surely it means obedience, simplicity, purity. Then, following God, as dear children, means purity. The child who goes out with his father feels it a privilege and an honour, and so he is washed and clean, and wears his best clothes. My brethren, if we are followers of God, we shall strive to keep ourselves pure. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Following God

I. The duty enjoined--“Be ye followers of God.” The word “follower” does not merely mean one in the retinue--an attendant. It means more--an imitator. It is applied to those who personate others, and appropriate their looks, manners, and gait. From the original word we have our English translation, “mimic,” which, although often used in a ludicrous sense, here is to be understood in a very solemn and important signification. Wherein then can we imitate God?

1. In character. So far as revealed to us, we may imitate the character of God.

2. In desire. We may be actuated by the same desires as actuate the Almighty.

3. In feeling. God hates sin. To follow is more than to profess. It is carrying into action the principles of Christian life. It must be--

II. The plea by which it is urged--“as dear children.”

1. Children will follow their parents from love and respect.

2. Children will follow their parents from a desire to gain their approval.

3. Children follow their parents in order that they may fit and prepare themselves, when grown up, for the same sphere and position of life. So with the Christian. He is looking forward to the period of his maturity when he shall be like his. Father in heaven. (Preachers Analyst.)

The duty of imitating God

Let us illustrate the spirit in which the exhortation before us ought to be obeyed.

1. The spirit, therefore, in which such men ought to comply with the exhortation is, in the first place, the spirit of reverence and humble subjection to the Divine law.

2. But, I observe, that the spirit expressed in the text--the spirit in which we should comply with the exhortation, is the spirit of grateful, cheerful compliance with the will of God, as dear and beloved children. The love of children to an earthly father is always conjoined with admiration of the virtues of the father, and a desire to imitate him.

3. In the last place, the spirit in which the exhortation ought to be obeyed is the spirit of humble dependence for grace from God to help us. The spirit or disposition of children is the spirit of conscious weakness and dependence. (P. McFarlan, D. D.)

Christians must resemble God

I. Wherein we are to resemble Genesis The context mentions one thing in particular, viz., pardoning and forgiving the wrongs done us by others. We need not confine our thoughts, however, to that only. In Scripture we are pressed to follow God in two things--in holiness and mercy. Well, then, let us now state the matter.

1. Negatively. This following and resembling of God standeth not in His natural, but moral perfections. God doth not say, Be ye strong, as I am strong, or, Be ye happy, as I am happy; but, Be ye holy, as I am holy; merciful, as I am merciful. Our loss by sin is more in point of goodness than of power and knowledge.

2. Positively. The chiefest excellencies are--

2. He hath given us the example of Christ, or God in our nature, who came for this end and purpose, that we, who cannot fathom the unsearchable depth of the Godhead, might see the Divine perfections shining forth in the human nature of Christ, who was the character and express image of His Divine glory (Hebrews 1:3): Christ was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). They that cannot directly look on the sun may see the motion of it in a basin of water. To express an image, there must be similitude or likeness, and a means of deduction or conveying the likeness.

II. What provision God hath made that we may be followers of Him.

1. He hath given us His Word to stamp His image upon our souls.

2. He hath given us the example of Christ, or God in our nature.

3. He hath given us His spirit to change us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). None else is able to renew us to the image of God, there being such an averseness in man’s heart, which cannot be cured by our bare thoughts.

III. I prove the point by these reasons.

1. This image of God was our primitive glory and excellency. “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26).

2. This is the effect, of our new creation and regeneration; for it is said (2 Peter 1:4), that to us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the Divine nature, Nothing so like Him as the new creature.

3. This is that which we hope shall be completed in heaven, and therefore it must be endeavoured here. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2; Psalms 17:15). The heaven that we look fro’ is such a vision as maketh way for assimilation, and such an assimilation to God as maketh way for complete satisfaction and blessedness in Him.

4. We must not omit the argument of the text--“as dear children”; wherein two things are considerable.

1. The relation. Ye are children. Children usually resemble their parents, either by nature, in the lineaments of their face, or by institution and education, in the quality of their minds. It may fail there, but it always holdeth good here; for none are God’s children but those that are like Him.

2. The love that accompanieth and goeth along with this relation--“as dear children.”

1. Get a due conception of God.

2. Esteem these things as amiable. We can neither praise, nor love, nor imitate, what we do net esteem. Is holiness the glory of God? and will you either scorn it in others, or neglect to get it yourselves?

3. Desire God to change your natures, that you may bear the image of the heavenly One (1 Corinthians 15:49).

4. Bewail your imperfections, and come nearer to your Pattern every day. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Imitators of God in wisdom and power

I. The imitation of God’s wisdom. It is written--I take one example--it is written, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father”; they, therefore, who are studying the Son under the Father’s teaching, are in the most direct way imitating God Himself in the matter of knowledge. Again, we may imitate God in the knowledge of human nature.

II. The imitation of God in power. This would seem, like the other, to be almost an unintelligible precept till we begin to ponder it more thoughtfully. Then we must be struck with several passages of Scripture which represent power as one of the characteristic Christian endowments, as when St. Paul says, “Ye received not a spirit of fear, but ye received, when ye became Christians, a spirit of power”; or our Lord, “that ye receive power, in that the Holy Ghost is come upon you”; or St. Paul again, “I can do all things,” or, more literally, “I have strength for all things, through Christ which enableth me”; or St. John in the opening verses of the Apocalypse, “He hath made us kings”; “I appoint unto you a kingdom as My Father hath appointed unto Me.” We must dismiss altogether the first idea of power as a selfish or personal ascendency over a multitude of subjects or inferiors. If we examine it we shall find that the power in which we are to be imitators of God consists in two things--the one a power over ourselves, and the other an influence over others, both alike due to the same cause--the ever-present help and strength of the Holy Spirit. We are forever misreading and miscalling power. We look for it, we seem to see it, in some form or other of the self-strength. We call a man powerful who by the force of intellect, or of eloquence, or of station, can overbear his opponents, enthral his hearers, or make a nation bow down to him. In all these workings of power it would be ridiculous, it would be irreverent, to see any approach, however infinitely distant, to the imitation of God. But it is otherwise when we come into successful conflict, however insignificant may seem to be the form of it, with God’s one foe, which is the power of evil. And yet once more, and finally, the imitation of God’s power in conquering a sin passes on into the imitation of God’s power in the exercise of influence. That marvellous word influence, which is the flowing in into one soul of a mysterious something out of another soul; is it not the very highest of God’s operations and power? Is it not that which quickens dead men out of the sleep of death? Is it not that which changed Saul of Tarsus into the blessed apostle and evangelist St. Paul? Is it not that which even in these late days of the earth is every day bringing some new wicked rebel into the gracious obedience of Jesus Christ? Is it not just that flowing in of the Holy Spirit into the spirit that is in man? And is there any exercise of God’s power quite so wonderful as that? (Dean Vaughan.)

Following as children

This figure of following may be drawn from any of several sources. A soldier follows his leader; and sometimes in Holy Scripture following is set forth by that figure. Scholars, also, according to the Oriental method of instruction, where the teacher walks in some shaded garden, follow their instructor. The Rabbi, in Palestine, with a band of disciples, moved from village to village, teaching the people; and so this, too, is a Scriptural figure. But the image we have here is that of little children following after their parents; and no picture could be more charming than that which rises to the imagination of everyone who has been blest in his childhood’s home--the figure of little children watching their mother, running after her if she leaves the room, crying for her, clinging to her, asking to be lifted by her, dependent, seeking their own little liberty always within the scope of her eye. Now, we are to “follow God as dear children”; and He, therefore, is to be to us of necessity a Father, or we cannot follow Him as children. If, to our conception, therefore, He is a God of fate, whose decrees are fitful coercions: if our conception of God is that of one in whom is all power, and all will, and a rightful wilfulness, it is impossible for us to follow such an ideal of God as dear children. Or, if He be to our imagination intellectualized into an abstract God of perfect purity, with such a revulsion from evil, and discord, and sin that he cannot for a moment tolerate it in the universe, but sits conscious of His own everlasting purity, demanding purity in everyone inexorably, you cannot follow such an aspect of God as dear children. A child can follow a smiling mother or a benignant father; but you cannot persuade a child to follow a stern-browed stranger, nor anyone that stands in the attitude of a judge, whose face is clothed with frowns. Children flee from such a face. It is not in nature that they should be attracted to it. We may follow God by veneration, by a worshipful emulation; but it must be in such a way as dear children can follow. For there are, or have been, I doubt not, to every one of us, moments in which the goodness of our mother and the superiority of our father have acted back upon us, and we have been made to feel how inferior we are to them; and we look up to them, and we rejoice in that greatness which maker us feel how inferior we are. And so, a loving child of God may rejoice in his own sense of abasement and inferiority, because he loves God; and out of love there may come veneration, humiliation, and prostration of soul. The whole system by which men are meant, through a sense of their own sinfulness, to be humble and prostrate before God, is not only derogatory to the supreme idea of manhood, but is degrading to the sense of man; and men who are all the time looking at their own imperfections and sins, and studying them, and, as it were, stewing them in their own consciousness, and living upon a perpetual sense of their inferiority--such men are not wholesome-minded. That is not the way that dear children live at home. You would not let them. As little as you have of the Divine nature in you, you are conscious that that could not be the proper aspect of the experience of children at home; and that, if they love you and feel the warmth of your love, they cannot forever be abiding in a morbid consciousness of their own weakness, imperfections, and misdoings. There must be the upspring of hope, and faith, and trust, and love, or the child cannot be a dear child at home. And still less is fear compatible with following God as dear children. There is a filial fear. There is nothing more solicitous than love. The child, anxious to please, looks with waiting expectancy to see if its task has pleased father or mother. The child that is learning to write, or that is studying art, and, making sketches, brings them to the teacher or to the parent, comes with a kind of trembling apprehension lest they should not be approved. That is honourable. That has the approval of affection itself, and it is ennobling. But the fear of anger, the fear of penalty, the fear of our own suffering and loss, is admirable only in very remote degrees, and occasionally, when other motives fail. And yet, there is a filial fear, a love fear, which not only is permissible, but is honouring and uplifting. (H. W. Beecher.)

Two methods of imitating God

There are two ways of imitating a person; the one making that person our model, the other our example. The first does the exact deeds, lives in the same way, dresses in the same colours, without regard to the differing circumstances; and this always leads to error. The other way is to imbibe the same spirit, to have the same character, and thus do what our example would have done in our circumstances. Almost nothing is said of what things Christ did as a boy, or how He lived, lest we make Him only a model. But we are shown His spirit of obedience, and goodness, and growth, that we may take Him for our example. (S. T. S. Nonich.)

Imitators of God

Literally: “Become ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.” These words may be regarded as indicating the great subjective object of our lives. God’s purpose concerning us is to conform us to the image of His own blessed Son. Our purpose concerning ourselves in our own life and conversation should be to become “imitators of God as dear children.” Man was originally created in the image of God; but observe, in His image potentially rather than actually--just as the child is the image of the man, or, as we may say, the acorn contains potentially the image of the oak, inasmuch as it contains within itself that which will develop into the oak. Man was made innocent and pure, and so far in the image of God. But the positive attributes and qualities which are God’s highest glory, and by which His glory is to shine forth through humanity, could not be exhibited till man had been submitted to a probation. Jesus Christ not only died, but lived--lived a life of perfect and complete obedience--in order that by that life He might bring within our view the image of God displayed in a truly perfect man. Thus the Divine image lost in the Fall has been restored to humanity in all the completeness of its moral beauty in the Incarnation, and as we contemplate it we learn to admire it, and become enamoured of it. In that revelation we have an opportunity of seeing both what God is and what man is designed by Him to become. As we have endeavoured to show, then, we need to have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the object to be imitated, in order to imitate it; and then, when this is granted, we need carefully to study it. You cannot imitate the productions of a great painter unless you give your whole attention to that painter’s style. It is not sufficient for you to have a general idea of the characteristics of his genius; you have to study the details of the works of art proceeding from his pencil; and only when you have made yourself acquainted with the various peculiarities of his style and the features of his work, are you in a position to become an imitator of that painter. And as with painting, so with every other art: we all know this. My friends, it is even so with our spiritual life. If we are to become imitators of God, as dear children, we first need to have a model set before us in such a form as that we can comprehend it, and next we need to study the model so set before us. And we have reason to thank God that the Divine model is brought down within reach of our finite powers of contemplation. If God had never been incarnate, and if Jesus had not come down to show Him to us, we might have been left to barren speculations about the Divine character and attributes, as were the ancient heathen philosophers. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself; but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.” And this is surely the true answer to that dreary doctrine of the incomprehensibility of the Absolute--preached some time ago by an eminent thinker amongst ourselves, a Christian philosopher of no small repute--a doctrine which, if carried to its ultimate and practical issue, must be destructive alike of all true religion and morality. It was advanced by this author that because God is absolute, He is unknowable by the finite, and because He is unknowable, therefore His moral qualities may be totally different in kind from all that we understand by terms employed to indicate them; that the “justice” of God, for example, may be a totally different thing from what we understand as justice, and His goodness a totally distinct thing from what we understand as goodness, and so on with each moral attribute in particular. This position, as I have said, seems to me subversive of all true morality, while it strikes at the root of all reasonable religion. For if God’s qualities are different in kind from what I understand by the terms employed, why may not the greatest criminals be nearer the standard of Divine perfection than the worthiest of mankind? And how is it possible for me to admire, love, and, above all, trust a Being, of the nature of whose moral attributes I know practically nothing? Atheism itself were a relief as against the possibility of having to deal with such an unknown God. But the answer to such an appalling deduction of a pitiless logic is to be found in the fact that the perfections of the Absolute are presented to us in a concrete form in the Person of Jesus Christ. As we gaze upon Him we see what God is, and what He desires us to think and know of Himself. And we find here that God’s moral perfections are identical in kind with those qualities which we recognize as such, and after which we aspire; that the justice of God is the same as that which we understand by the word justice; that the love, the purity, the truth, the faithfulness, which we regard as attributes of Deity, are the same in kind, though fuller in degree, as those virtues which bear these names amongst ourselves. For we observe that never were these so perfectly exhibited as in the life, character, and teaching of Him who completely revealed to us the image of God. Let me say, therefore, do not trouble yourselves because God seems so vast that you cannot comprehend Him, or because His attributes are so infinite that your imagination cannot grapple with them. Do not allow yourself to lose hold of the Divine Personality in the attempt to recognize His infinity. But to become closely acquainted with this model, and to be able to imitate it, we need not only to have it, but to study it. And hence the necessity of the careful, painstaking contemplation of the Christ of the Gospels. But to have the Model and to study it is not all that is required to render our imitation of God in Christ all that it should be. We must be careful not only to imitate the one true Model, but to imitate it in the proper way. And the true evangelical method of imitation is indicated to us in these suggestive words, “Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” It is in the nature of things that the child should imitate its parent. As a matter of fact, children for the most part do imitate their parents. The child of a carpenter will probably never be happier than when he can get a hammer and a few nails and make as much noise with them as possible, while he is endeavouring to imitate the skill of his parent, although with very poor success. The child of the soldier will naturally select the toy sword or gun or a noisy drum for its plaything. The child of the clergyman will delight in addressing an imaginary congregation, or perhaps a congregation of chairs and stools, with much vehemence, if with no great amount of intelligence. But why multiply illustrations? It is a fact we are all familiar with, that the child imitates the parent, not because it is constrained to do so, but because it finds a pleasure in doing so, and that just because it is, as we say, its father’s own child. We may learn a great deal from this. The child receives a certain disposition by his hereditary relationship with his parent, and this disposition has a tendency to exhibit itself in his future conduct. How important it is, then, that in our own personal experience we should watch over all within us that seems to come from God--watch over it with such care as the horticulturist would expend on some lovely flower--some rare and beautiful exotic in his greenhouse. These holy aspirations and purer instincts of which we are conscious have been introduced to our nature by Divine grace; they come not of earth, they have their home in the very heart of God Himself; and hence as tender exotics they need to be guarded and protected against the cold breath of the blighting frosts of this wintry world of ours, which would kill and destroy if possible every flower of Paradise. Give place at once to all that you have reason to believe comes from God, and respond at once to those inward impulses and instincts which are of a Divine origin. These are the motives of sonship, and by surrendering ourselves to these we shall fulfil the direction of our text, “Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” But there is something more than this suggested to us by the words. It is not merely that there are certain hereditary instincts which descend from the father to the child, but it is also the tendency of the close relationship which exists between the son and the father to strengthen these instincts, and to develop them into habits of life. In the first place this relationship usually evokes on the part of the child a feeling of admiration for the father. A little boy naturally thinks his father the greatest man in the world. If the Queen of England were introduced into his home, he would regard her as altogether a less important person than his parents. There is nobody so great in the eyes of a little child as his father or mother; and it is well that this should be so. And if we are the children of the Most High God, is it not more natural still that our whole being should be under the influence of a feeling of admiration for the great Father of spirits, from whom we derived our existence originally, and from whom we have received that new spiritual life--that life by virtue of which we live indeed? This feeling of admiration yields an additional stimulus to those instincts of imitation to which I have already referred. With what interest does the little child look on while his father engages in his ordinary employment. What a wonder of skill it all seems to him! And this admiration prompts those unskilful little hands to attempt an imitation, however feeble. I cannot help thinking that it is possible for us to exhibit in our spiritual experience something like a servile imitation of God, when we only endeavour to imitate Him because we think it is our duty to do so, and we may bring punishment upon ourselves if we do not endeavour to fulfil this our appointed task. This servile imitation must lead us into the region of mere legality, and when this is the case our imitation will be a travesty rather than a copy; for when this is our motive one essential characteristic of a true imitation will necessarily be absent--the element of joyous spontaneousness which makes the imitation so specially well-pleasing in the great Father’s eyes. If therefore we desire the true imitation of God let us see to it that we imitate Him as children, and as dear children. But, as I have said, imitation requires to be carried out in detail, and we have to study the work imitated in all its various parts if we would produce anything really resembling it. In the present passage, however, St. Paul calls attention to some of the more prominent features of the Divine character, in respect of which we are to be imitators of God; and we will confine ourselves to a very brief consideration of these. First he speaks of that kindness and tenderness which were so characteristic of Jesus Christ: “Be ye kind,” he says, “one to another, tender hearted.” It is not enough that we should abstain from being unkind. There is scarcely anything in the life of Jesus that impresses us more than this. As He goes through the world, amidst all its sickening sights and sounds, He never seems to lose His quick sensibility. The next feature of the character of God mentioned here is His Divine readiness to forgive--“Forgiving one another, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” This leads us to the third point in which St. Paul teaches us here to imitate God as revealed to us in Jesus; and it is the grandest feature of all in the Divine character that is brought before us here. Nay, rather it is the common element in which all other perfections meet; for “God is love.” “Walk in love,” exclaims the apostle, “as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” Kindness lies on the surface of our lives, and has to do mainly with our outward manner and conduct; but love is of the heart, its domain is within, where it lifts us from our native selfishness, and developes the Divine. It is the genial warmth of that life blood that floweth forth from the heart of God into ours, and makes us live indeed! Of love we can say no less than St. John has said of it: “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him”; for “God is love.” It is the very essence of Deity, and he who has most of it imitates God the best. Walk in love. Well, how shall we do it? How shall we become imitators of God in this respect? We cannot create love by a mere effort of our will; but we may expose ourselves to influences favourable to its development; we may foster and cherish it, or we may check and hinder it--a thing which I fear too many Christians do. The instincts of love naturally exist within those who are born of God, because we inherit the Father’s characteristics; and the disposition to feel a new love for all with whom we have to do is an instance of that hereditary imitation to which I have already referred. But love grows, and is developed by exercise. If instead of checking these early impulses we encourage them, and go on to love, not “in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth,” our disposition to love will be strengthened by loving deeds and words performed or spoken in obedience to the instincts of love. We may foster love negatively also by watching against the narrowing instincts of selfishness, or against anything that tends to render us self-absorbed, for charity seeketh not her own; and to seek our own is to strangle the life of love at its very birth. It is well, too, ever to endeavour to look at the lovelier side of human character, for most men have a lovelier side, and in Christian men this is the Divine element. The mention of Christ’s gift of Himself brings us to the last point referred to here in which it is possible for us to imitate God. Let us become imitators of God in self-sacrifice. For self-sacrifice, wonderful to say, would seem to be the law of the Divine benevolence. Be imitators of God in this. Selfishness is no attribute of Deity, though for Him all exist. He fulfils His will in His creatures by making them partakers of His own blessedness, and nothing less than this will satisfy Him. Men seek for greatness in self-assertion, in pushing their own fortunes, and advancing their social status. But the Divine secret of true greatness lies in self-denial and self-forgetfulness, in the willing and cheerful surrender of our own rights and comforts and pleasures for the good of others. (W. H. Aitken, M. A.)


Verses 1-6

Verse 2

Ephesians 5:2

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Walking in love

I. I gather out of these words something calculated to touch the heart.

1. There are many of our fellow creatures who have found but little love from man. To them this would have been a cold, cheerless place. To them the love of God, revealed in the gospel, comes as a strange and startling thing. It transforms life when thoroughly realized and embraced.

2. There are others who have known the value of human affection, and have lost it. A dark cloud has settled down upon their once happy homes and hearts. The gospel announces that all they have lost, and far more, they may find again in Christ. When anyone shall not only hear it, but grasp it--not only understand it, but try it--then life will wear a new aspect, and under the influence of Christ the whole soul expands.

II. I find here something to satisfy the conscience. What should we do in the presence of our sins, if we had no such truth as this to trust to?

III. I find here something to regulate life.

1. Walk in love as in an atmosphere of bright sunshine, bathing your soul in a consciousness of God’s love for you. It is your privilege, let it be your joy.

2. Walk in love as an apparel. It is a beautiful sight to see a man clothed with humility. It is a cheering sight when you look at a servant of Jesus in the armour of light, and a worshipper of God in the garments of salvation. It is a glorious sight when you see a holy man putting on zeal for a cloak. But above all these things put on charity or love, for it is the bond of perfectness. In this world of sorrow the Christian should be conspicuous for love. It was the prominent feature in Christ; it should be prominent in Christ’s followers.

3. Walk in love, as the appointed path in which God would have His children found. The walk of love will lead you into ways which you never once thought to find. It often turns aside from the more crowded thoroughfares of life, and runs through scenes where sorrow and shame have crept out of sight to weep and endeavour to forget. But there are some of the keenest experiences of human joy to be found in this lowly path. To stand, e.g., in the presence of despair, and watch how hope begins again to brighten a brother’s eye; to whisper some holy truth in the ear of grief, and then receive the rich reward of a smile of thankfulness; to put the cup of cold water to the parched lip, and then listen to the gurgle of a new joy as some poor sufferer drinks down what refreshes soul and body both--oh, this comes only in the lanes and the by walks of the path of love. Sometimes the path descends into the darker regions of trial and temptation, when the believer himself needs sympathy; and I know nothing more sweet, nothing more soothing, than in such an hour of one’s own sorrow to experience the sympathy which Christ shows in the tenderness of His insight into all our need, and to feel that the world is better than we thought it to be when some brother man comes in the warmth of his own regenerated heart and testifies that all is not cold, all is not barren. But sometimes the walk of love rises among the upland scenery of grace and godliness, and then, when we climb from height to height of God’s great mystery of redemption, as we look down and back upon all the way in which goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our life, as we look around on the vastness and variety and beauty and blessedness for which our Father has given us an eye and a heart, and as we look above into that cloudland overhead and up to those greater worlds of glory which enable us to think what the universe must be and what the great Governor of that universe can do, why then the walk of love rises into a sublimity which a man can feel but cannot describe, and the climax upon earth is reached, and beyond it nothing further can go till this winged soul of ours shall have broken the silver cord that tied it to the body, and found the expansion of her wing feathers causing her to sear away into the presence of God, where are fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore. It is a great bright world that is yet known to few. Some have landed upon its shore--a great continent of joy. They know but the fringe of flower and fruit which the search of a few short days has found. But go through the length and breadth of the land, wander among its hills and valleys, drink of the deep fountains of love, swim over its inner seas, and you will never again return to the haunts of sin and the ways of shame, for the love of the higher and the purer and the more perfect will swallow up every meaner passion, and absorb every fainter light, and the passion, the privilege, the prerogative, the pleasure of the sinner saved by grace, is to walk in love. (John Richardson.)

The duty of walking in love

The doctrine is that Christ showed so much love in giving Himself for a propitiatory sacrifice to God for us, that thereby all true Christians are bound to walk in love.

I. Let me open the example and pattern here set before us. And there I begin--

1. With the principle--“Christ also loved us.” That was it which moved and inclined Him to so strange an undertaking as to die for our sins.

2. The act--“He gave Himself for us.” Where you have the giver, the gift, and the parties interested.

II. The nature of the duty thence inferred, or what it is to “walk in love.” To walk in love signifieth not one act or two, but the perpetual tenor of our lives; our whole life should be an exercise of love. But what love doth He mean? Either love to God and Christ, or love to men? I answer--I cannot exclude the former totally, for these reasons.

1. Love to men is of little worth unless it flow from love to God.

2. Because it is a genuine product of this great love of Christ to us: “We love Him because He loved us first” (1 John 4:19). To God Himself; we beat back His own beam and flame upon Himself first, and then to all that belong to Him.

3. Because not only the direct improvement of the love of Christ, but so much of the Christian life dependeth on the love of God, that it should not be excluded when we are discoursing of it (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The sense of this love should work in us certainly a great fervour of love to God, that may level and direct all our actions to His glory, and make us study to please Him. Well, then, if we take it in this sense, how are we to walk in love?

I answer--

1. That love is to be at the bottom of all our actions and duties, that our whole religion may be but an acting of love, “Let all your things be done with charity” (1 Corinthians 16:14). If we pray, let us act the seeking love; if we praise God, let us act the delighting love; if we obey God, let us act the pleasing love.

2. Let us walk in love, all will be nothing else; but let us continue constant to the death in the profession of the Christian faith; for vehement pure Christian love casteth out all fear in danger. If we love Christ, we will run all hazards for His sake.

III. I come now to show you how we are bound to do so by the example of Christ’s love. And here I shall show you that it is both a motive and a pattern.

1. It is a motive to excite us to love Him, because the great thing that is remarkable in Christ’s giving Himself as a sacrifice for us is love. You may conceive it by these considerations.

2. It is a pattern which we should imitate.

(a) The kind of the love; it was a love of souls.

(b) The greatness and degree of this love. We must be ready to lay down our lives for the Church of God.

Use

1. This love of Christ must be firmly believed.

2. It must be closely applied for our good and benefit, till we are duly affected with it, so as to make suitable returns to God; partly by devoting ourselves to Him (Romans 12:1), and partly by rendering our thank offerings of charity towards others (Hebrews 13:17). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The nature, properties, and acts of charity

I. “Loving our neighbour” doth imply that we should value and esteem him: this is necessary, for affection doth follow opinion; that is not amiable, which is wholly contemptible; or so far as it is such.

II. Loving our neighbour doth imply a sincere and earnest desire of his welfare, and good of all kinds, in due proportion: for it is a property of love, that it would have its object most worthy of itself, and consequently that it should attain the best state whereof it is capable, and persist firm therein; to be fair and plump, to flourish and thrive without diminution or decay; this is plain to experience in respect to any other thing (a horse, a flower, a building, or any such thing) which we pretend to love: wherefore charity should dispose us to be thus affected to our neighbour. We should wish him prosperous success in all his designs, and a comfortable satisfaction of his desires; we should wish him with alacrity of mind to reap the fruits of his industry; and to enjoy the best accommodation of his life.

III. Charity doth imply a complacence or delightful satisfaction in the good of our neighbour; this is consequent on the former property, for that joy naturally doth result from events agreeable to our desire. Charity hath a good eye, which is not offended or dazzled with the lustre of its neighbour’s virtue, or with the splendour of his fortune, but vieweth either of them steadily with pleasure, as a very delightful spectacle.

IV. Correspondently, love of our neighbour doth imply condolency and commiseration of the evils befalling him: for what we love, we cannot without displeasure behold lying in a bad condition, sinking into decay, or in danger to perish; so, to a charitable mind, the bad state of any man is a most unpleasant and painful sight. Is any man fallen into disgrace? charity doth hold down its head, is abashed and out of countenance, partaking of his shame; is any man disappointed of his hopes or endeavours? charity crieth out alas, as if it were itself defeated; is any man afflicted with pain or sickness? charity looketh sadly, it sigheth and groaneth, it fainteth and languisheth with him; is any man pinched with hard want? charity, if it cannot succour, it will condole; doth ill news arrive? charity doth hear it with an unwilling ear and a sad heart, although not particularly concerned in it. The sight of a wreck at sea, of a field spread with carcasses, of a country desolated, of houses burnt and cities ruined, and of the like calamities incident to mankind, would touch the bowels of any man; but the very report of them would affect the heart of charity. It doth not suffer a man with comfort or ease to enjoy the accommodations of his own state, while others before him are in distress; it cannot be merry while any man in presence is sorrowful; it cannot seem happy while its neighbour doth appear miserable: it hath a share in all the afflictions which it doth behold or hear of, according to that instance in St. Paul of the Philippians: “Ye have done well, that ye did communicate with (or partake in) my afflictions”; and according to that precept, “Remember those which are in bonds, as bound with them.”

V. It is generally a property of love to appropriate its object; in apprehension and affection embracing it, possessing it, enjoying it as its own; so charity doth make our neighbour to be ours, engaging us to tender his case and his concerns as our own; so that we shall exercise about them the same affections of soul (the same desires, the same hopes and fears, the same joys and sorrows), as about our own nearest and most peculiar interest. So charity doth enlarge our minds beyond private considerations, conferring on them an universal interest, and reducing all the world within the verge of their affectionate care; so that a man’s self is a very small and inconsiderable portion of his regard.

VI. It is a property of love to affect union, or the greatest approximation that can be to its object.

VII. It is a property of love to desire a reciprocal affection; for that is the surest possession and firmest union which is grounded on voluntarily conspiring in affection; and if we do value any person, we cannot but prize his goodwill and esteem. Charity is the mother of friendship, not only as inclining us to love others, but as attracting others to love us; disposing us to affect their amity, and by obliging means to procure it.

VIII. Hence also charity disposeth to please our neighbour, not only by inoffensive but by obliging demeanour; by a ready complacence and compliance with his fashion, with his humour, with his desire in matters lawful, or in a way consistent with duty and discretion.

IX. Love of our neighbour doth imply readiness on all occasions to do him good, to promote and advance his benefit in all kinds.

X. This indeed is a property of charity, to make a man deny himself, to neglect his own interest, yea to despise all selfish regards for the benefit of his neighbour. To him that is inspired with charity, his own good is not good, when it standeth in competition with the more considerable good of another; nothing is so dear to him, which he gladly will not part with on such considerations.

XI. It is a property of love not to stand on distinctions and nice respects; but to be condescensive, and willing to perform the meanest offices, needful or useful for the good of its friend. He that truly loveth is a voluntary servant, and gladly will stoop to any employment for which the need or considerable benefit of him whom he loveth doth call. So the greatest souls, and the most glorious beings, the which are most endued with charity, by it are disposed with greatest readiness to serve their inferiors.

XII. Charity doth regulate our dealing, our deportment, our conversation toward our neighbour, implying good usage and fair treatment of him on all occasions; for no man doth handle that which he loveth rudely or roughly, so as to endanger the loss, the detriment, the hurt or offence thereof. Wherefore the language of charity is soft and sweet, not wounding the heart, nor grating on the ear of any with whom a man converseth; like the language of which the wise man saith, “The words of the pure are pleasant words”; such as are “sweet to the soul, and health to the bones”; and, “The words of a wise man are gracious.” Such are the properties of charity. There be also farther many particular acts, which have a very close alliance to it.

1. It is a proper act of charity to forbear anger on provocation, or to repress its motions; to resent injuries and discourtesies either not at all, or very calmly and mildly.

2. It is a proper act of charity to remit offences, suppressing all designs of revenge, and not retaining any grudge.

3. It is a duty coherent with charity, to maintain concord and peace; to abstain from contention and strife, together with the sources of them, pride, envy, emulation, malice.

4. Another charitable practice is, being candid in opinion, and mild in censure, about our neighbour and his actions.

5. Another charitable practice is, to comport with the infirmities of our neighbour; according to that rule of St. Paul, “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves”; and that precept, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

6. It is an act of charity to abstain from offending, or scandalizing our brethren. (I. Barrow, D. D.)

Christ’s love

But how doth it appear that Christ loves us?

1. By amorous expressions. Read His love songs and see how affectionately He sets out the beauty of His beloved (Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:3, etc.).

2. By His thoughts. Thoughts and affections are mutual causes one of another. Thoughts give life to affection, and affection begets thoughts. Christ’s thoughts of us are many and high. He had thoughts of love to us from eternity, and we were never one moment out of His mind since then (Isaiah 49:15).

3. But this flame, where it is, cannot be confined to the breast and thoughts, but will break forth into action. And so does the love of Christ appear to us, by what He has done for us. He has made us rich, fair, honourable, potent, yea, one with Himself.

4. The love of Christ appears by what He has given us; His love tokens. Whatever we have, for being or well-being, spring from His love. Take a survey of heaven and earth, and all things therein; and whatever upon sure grounds appears good, ask it confidently of Christ; His love will not deny it. But we are not yet come to the height of Christ’s love. These unspeakable, inconceivable, unsearchable favours are but streams or drops of love; Christ has given us the fountain, the ocean: these are but sparks and beams; He has given us the sun, the element of love. The love of Christ gives us interest in the glorious Trinity. And now, what is there in heaven and earth that the love of Christ has not made ours?

5. Take an estimate of the love of Christ from His sufferings. Consider how and what He suffers by us, with us, for us.

But further, to set out this love of Christ, consider some properties by which the Spirit describes it.

1. Christ loves us freely. He loved us when we had neither love nor beauty to attract His affections.

2. It is unchangeable (John 13:1). No act of unkindness or disloyalty of ours can nonplus it.

3. It is an incomprehensible love (Ephesians 3:19).

1. Consider whom he loves. How unfit, unworthy, unlovely.

2. How Christ loves man.

Christ’s sacrifice

1.He gave. Gifts are expressions of love. We judge of love by the quality or value of the gift. Now, what did Christ give?

2. He gave Himself, nothing less than Himself; and that is more, incomparably more, than if He had given all the angels in heaven, all the treasures on earth for us; more than if He had given all the works of His hands. The small dust of the balance is as nothing to the universe, and the universe is as nothing compared with the Son of God.

3. How did He give Himself? He did not give Himself as we are wont to give, nor did He give Himself as He gives other things. He gave Himself, not in the common way of giving; but, as the text shows, His giving was an offering of Himself. “He gave Himself an offering for us.” But then--

4. How did He give Himself as an offering for us? There are several sorts of offerings mentioned in Scripture. Offerings that were not sacrifices. Such were the persons and things which were devoted or dedicated unto God for the service of the tabernacle and of the temple. Thus the vessels and utensils given up and set apart for the service and ministration under the law are called offerings (Numbers 7:10), and those offerings are specified (verse 13, etc.). Silver chargers, bowls, and spoons; and not only things, but persons are called offerings when set apart; for thus the legal ministry (Numbers 10:10-11; Numbers 10:13). The other sort of offerings were sacrifices, such as were offered so as to be consumed and destroyed, and to be deprived of life, if they were things that had life. So that there is a great difference betwixt these offerings: the former were offered so as to be preserved, the latter were offered so as to be killed or consumed. For that is the true notion of a sacrifice; it is an offering daily consumed. And such an offering was Christ, such an offering as was a sacrifice, as the text shows. He gave Himself to be sacrificed for us. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” Christ offered Himself a sacrifice of expiation for His people.

To give you distinctly the evidence which the Scripture affords for this great and fundamental truth, take it in these severals.

1. “He offered Himself” (Hebrews 7:27); “He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:28).

2. “He offered Himself a sacrifice” (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:26).

3. He offered Himself a sacrifice of expiation.

Christ’s sacrifice

I. Christ’s sacrifice was voluntary. There was no external compulsion brought to bear upon Christ which He could not have successfully resisted; but with an entire concurrence of His will, He gave Himself up.

II. Christ’s sacrifice was vicarious. It was in the room and place of others--of us all. His sufferings, though voluntary, were, in this sense, necessary to accomplish the end He had in view.

III. Christ’s sacrifice was of infinite valve and sufficiency. He gave Himself.

IV. The sacrificial dedication of Christ for man was perfectly pleasing to the father. (Dr. Drummond.)

The sacrifice of Christ

Let us consider--

I. The interposition of Christ on behalf of His people: “He hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.”

1. He is represented as our Priest. The offering of sacrifices, unquestionably had its origin in the earliest ages of the world. This mode of worship may be traced back, not only to the era of giving the law from Sinai, but to the days of the ancient patriarchs. Its Divine origin is not less evident than its antiquity. We read, indeed, of the practice, before we read of the precept enjoining it; but from the former, we may fairly infer the latter. Since, then, the offering of sacrifices was enjoined by the Supreme Lawgiver, and was practised in the Church from the beginning, for what end was it appointed? What could move the eternal Majesty to require that sacrificial oblation should, for so many ages, form an essential part of His worship? My brethren, ye know the sublime explanation! Ye know that it was to prefigure the offering up, in the fulness of time, by Jesus Christ.

2. Christ is also represented as the sacrifice of His people. Let us, then, contemplate this stupendous sacrifice. In it we behold a sacrifice at once perfectly suitable, and infinitely valuable. Christ, I say, in giving Himself, gave a sacrifice that was perfectly suitable. Being independent, His life was entirely at His own disposal; being a partaker of flesh and blood, He was allied to His people, and was thus qualified to make satisfaction in the same nature that had offended; and, being at the same time supernaturally conceived and born of the Virgin, He was exempt from the penalty which Divine justice had attached to the violation of the first covenant, and immaculately pure--and was thus altogether fitted for being a true and proper sacrifice in the room of His people. But the sacrifice which Christ gave was not only perfectly suitable, it was also infinitely valuable; for, mark the force of that wonderful expression, “He gave Himself.” It was not simply His blood, or His life, or abstractly His human nature, but Himself that He gave an offering and a sacrifice for us. We now proceed to consider--

II. The satisfaction and delight with which this interposition of Christ on behalf of His people is regarded by God. His sacrifice is to Him “for a sweet-smelling savour.” In this expression the allusion is clearly to the wine and oil, or rather, to the precious perfumes that were wont to be sprinkled on the sacrifices under the law, in order to counteract the offensive savour of that bloody service. The apostle represents the fragrance of such sweet perfumes as arising to God from the propitiatory sacrifice of His beloved Son, to intimate the supreme satisfaction and pleasure which He has in that sacrifice. When the magnificent work of creation was finished, Jehovah is represented as resting from all His work which He had made, and surveying it with delight. But from no part of creation, even although retaining its original purity and loveliness, does there arise so sweet and grateful a fragrance to Him as from the altar of the Saviour’s sacrifice. If you inquire on what grounds that sacrifice is so peculiarly and supremely delightful to God, the following considerations may serve to illustrate the subject: It is a sacrifice of God’s own appointment; it is in itself a sacrifice of transcendent worth and efficacy; and it is in consequence of these things the means of eternal salvation and happiness to countless thousands of His immortal creatures, and the source of glory to Himself in the highest. (W. Duncan.)

Christ’s redeeming love

I. The love of Christ, as the source of our redemption.

II. The sacrifice of Christ, as the means by which our redemption was accomplished.

1. It is evident from these words that we had incurred some penalty which we must have endured personally, had not the love of Christ induced Him to interpose on our behalf.

2. But the text intimates that Jesus Christ did interpose on our behalf, and “hath given Himself for us.”

3. Our text intimates that it was the person of Christ which rendered His sacrifice efficacious, and that because “He gave Himself for us.” His substitution was acceptable to God, and available to the salvation of man.

4. The text intimates that this offering and sacrifice was acceptable to the Father to whom it was presented, for it is said to be “a sweet smelling savour” to Him.

III. Walking in love, as the effect which this redemption is intended to produce.

1. Let us walk in love to Christ.

2. Let us walk in love to Christians.

3. Let us walk in love to all mankind. (J. Alexander.)

Christ’s sacrifice, a sweet-smelling savour

I. In the first place, let us consider, that as the offering and sacrifice, the burnt offering and burnt sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ is especially “a sweet-smelling savour” to God.

1. Consider the dignity of His Person.

2. Look at the purity of His sacrifice. Look at the faith that never gave way; look at the patience that never was exhausted; look at the courage that never flinched; look at the love that never wasted; look at the zeal for God that was always on fire; look at the tenderness for poor, perishing, lost and ruined sinners.

3. Look we at the work itself--look we at those for whom He was all this.

II. But observe the many proofs that have been given and are still given, that this sacrifice is “a sweet-smelling savour “ before God. Four thousand years before that sacrifice was offered, there came forth the first promise in all its fragrancy. Whence that cry of victory--“It is finished”? Why was it the stone was rolled away? why did the body ascend? why did the Conqueror go up? why did the Spirit descend? why was it, on the Day of Pentecost, that the timid became brave, that blasphemers stood forth as real penitents before God? Why was all this? Because the sacrifice went up as a “sweet-smelling savour,” and a descending Spirit was the mark of God’s infinite and eternal approval of it. But, beloved, perhaps now the savour of it has passed away. More than 1,800 years have passed away since it was offered. Kingdoms have risen and fallen since then. But the fragrancy of that offering has in no sense passed away. It has not lost one iota of its acceptance before a holy God. But, beloved, there is one point more in reference to this sweet savour--it will cast its fragrancy throughout eternity. It fills heaven with its odour.

III. And now let us consider a few practical bearings of our subject.

1. In the first place, if all this be true, then how awful is that man’s state, that can hear of this atonement and find fragrancy in everything else except that one thing that is fragrant before God! The things that God hates he can delight in.

2. Let me give one word of tender caution to those whose conscience has been awakened by the blessed Spirit to feel a real concern for salvation. If they go to other sacrifices, they have still to seek sweetness elsewhere. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Christ’s sacrifice

I. The design of the Saviour’s interposition. “He gave Himself a sacrifice for us.” He had given us many things before. He had given us the sun to cheer us, the air to brace us, the rain to refresh us, and made the earth to bring forth and to bud; and at last He gave us Himself. He gave Himself for us long before His incarnation; and “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

II. The acceptableness of the sacrifice. “An offering and sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savour.” Go back to the time of the flood. Here we are informed that “Noah builded an altar unto the Lord,” and offered sacrifices; “and the Lord smelled a sweet savour: and the Lord said, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake.” So God delighted in the sacrifice of His Son, and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” You may be reconciled to a servant, and you may admit him to a place in your house; still it may not be easy to admit him to a place in your affections. But we never can be so dear to God as when clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and sprinkled with His precious blood.

III. The principles that actuated him. “He loved us, and gave Himself for us.” That which cannot be known perfectly may be known preeminently.

1. His love is magnified in His gift.

2. It is magnified in the greatness of His sufferings.

3. It is magnified because He was acquainted with every part of His sufferings before He engaged to suffer.

4. It magnifies His love because we were unworthy of its exercise.

5. It magnifies His love because He did not wait to be asked. He did this not only without our desert, but without our desire.

6. It magnifies His love by the number of blessings to be derived from it.

IV. We have now to draw some inferences from this subject.

1. What is enjoined? “Walk in love.” Strive to excel in it. We read of men walking in pride. He is lofty; he swaggers as he walks; he answers those beneath him roughly. Pride is his region; it is the air in which he breathes. So is it with love: you are not only to walk in love, but to live in it.

2. For whom is this enjoined? It is to be exercised towards Himself.

3. To whom is this enjoined? “Walk in love.” It was to the Ephesians. But are you blameless here?

4. How is it enjoined? “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.”

The love of Christ

As God is incomprehensible in His eternity, His power, His immensity, His knowledge, and His wisdom; so is He in His love.

1. The first thing which strikes us as wonderful in this love of God is, that it should have sinners as its objects.

2. Another thing which is incomprehensible in the love of Christ to sinners is, that among men, all of whom were equally lost and helpless, it should select a certain number as its objects and leave all the rest under condemnation and depravity, as they were before.

3. A third characteristic of the love of Christ is its degree of intensity, which is unparalleled.

4. As this love did not originate in time, but, from eternity, the delights of the Son were with the children of men; so it will never have an end.

5. The love of Christ to His people is manifested by the revelation which He has made for their instruction; by all the institutions of His Church for their edification; and by all the dispensations of His providence, whether afflictive or prosperous. But, especially, the love of Christ toward His chosen people is evinced by the gift of His Spirit, the Comforter, to abide with them forever.

6. Finally, the love of Christ to His disciples is tender, condescending love. He deals with them as a mother with a child; carries tern in His bosom, and gently leads them in the right way. (A. Alexander, D. D.)

The voluntariness of Christ’s death

His love was antecedent to His shedding His blood, and our being washed in it. Love renders any work delightful.

I. Propositions for explaining it.

1. The Father’s appointing Him to be a sacrifice, doth not impair His own willingness in undertaking. The Father is said to send Him and deliver Him (John 3:34; Romans 8:32). The Father is said to deliver Him, because the first motion of redemption is supposed to arise from the will and motion of the Father; yet the love of Christ was the spring of all mediatory actions, and His taking our nature on Him; and therefore He is no less said to give Himself, than the Father is said to give Him to us and for us. His engagement was an act of choice, liberty, and affection.

2. The necessity of His death impeacheth not the voluntariness of it. Many things are voluntary which yet are necessary; there are voluntary necessities. God is necessarily yet voluntarily holy.

II. Wherein this voluntariness of Christ’s death appears.

1. He willingly offered Himself in the first counsel about redemption to stand in our stead.

2. The whole course of His life manifests this willingness. His will stood right to this point of the compass all His life. Many enter the lists with difficulties out of ignorance, but the willingness of our Saviour cannot be ascribed either to ignorance or forgetfulness.

III. Why this voluntariness was necessary.

1. On the part of the sacrifice itself. He was above any obligation to that work He so freely undertook for us. Nor could He be overruled to anything against His own consent.

2. Necessary on the part of justice.

3. Necessary in regard of acceptation. Christ’s consent was as necessary as God’s order. In vain had we hoped for the benefit of a forced redemption.

IV. Use.

1. The way of redemption by a sacrifice was necessary.

2. The death of Christ for us was most just on the part of God. Christ did willingly submit to, God might justly charge upon Him as a due debt.

3. How wonderful was the love of Christ!

4. How willingly then should we part with our sins for Christ, and do our duty to Him! (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The love of Christ seen in His best gift

I. Christ giving Himself for us, is the utmost which He could devote to our service and to our use. He does employ, for the use and service of those who trust in Him, all things. He hath all things under His feet, all things that are in heaven and on earth. If Christ see that an angel can serve one of His disciples, He gives some angel a commission to serve that disciple. Here is a case of self being given. Not the purse only; not the hand merely, or the eye, or the ear, in an occasional service; but the whole being. And, in this sense, Christ gives to His disciples Himself. In giving Himself for us, Christ gives us all that pertains to His original nature; the Divine qualities of His nature as the manifested God; His knowledge, His wisdom, His power; all that is involved in His goodness, and He gives the qualities of His woman-born nature, as the Word made flesh. For example, His sympathy. ‘Moreover, in giving Himself for us, Christ gives us all that pertains to His position as Lord of all.

II. But, brethren, He gave Himself for a special purpose--“an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” He gave Himself for us--what to be? If we only wanted teaching, He would have given Himself as a teacher. If we only wanted leading, He would have given Himself to us as a leader. But a starving man wants something more than instruction about food, or information about digestion, or instruction as to the laws of life and death; and a criminal who is under a capital sentence wants something more than discussions about rewards and punishments, or about human governments and human laws; and if anything is to be done for sinning man, you must do something more than present to him a teacher. If you are sick, you do not send for your medical attendant to give you, at the side of your sick bed, a lecture on anatomy or physiology. You want the medical man to do something for you as well as to say something to you. And Christ gave Himself, not to be my teacher, or nay leader chiefly, but, in the first instance, He offered Himself to be a sacrifice.

III. Now, “herein is love”; not self-love, but outloving love; not the love that is shut up within a man, as wafer in a sealed fountain, but the love that flows forth from a being as water from an open spring. “Herein is love”; not complacent love, the love of delight in another because that being is delightsome, but benevolent love. “Herein is love”; not merited love; but undeserved love. “Herein is love”; not expected love, but surprising love. “Herein is love”; not love of friendship, but mercy, and compassion, and pity. “Herein is love”; not ordinary love, but unequalled love, love to which there is no parallel, and to which there never can be. Brethren, there are just two things more I want to say to you.

1. This love of Christ is our refuge. The heart of Christ is the refuge we need.

2. The love of Christ is our refuge, but this love is also our pattern. We are to love as Jesus loved. I do not wonder at people saying this is impossible. It does seem impossible, and it would be utterly impossible, if we were required to attain to such love at once, but we are to grow into it. If you were unacquainted with the oak, and a full-grown tree were pointed out to you, and if you were then shown an acorn, and were told that out of that little thing would spring forth the monarch of the forest, you would not believe the statement, or you would say, if this happen it certainly will be a miracle, (S. Martin, D. D.)

The sweet-smelling sacrifice

I. That in His redeeming work the self-sacrificing love of Christ reached its climax--its last and highest point.

II. That this self-sacrificing love of Christ was not intended to produce any change in God, but rather to affect the relations and the destinies of our humanity.

III. That in this self-sacrificing love of Christ there was something peculiarly acceptable and well-pleasing to God.

IV. That it is only as man is brought to replace his dependence on God through the mediation of Jesus Christ as the Helper and Redeemer of our race, that he can rise into the enjoyment of the great salvation. (R. Ferguson, LL. D.)

The acceptableness of Christ’s death

The sacrifice of Christ was acceptable to God and efficacious for men.

I. I shall premise two things for the explication of it.

1. God was not absolutely bound to accept it for us. He might have rejected every sacrifice but that of the offender.

2. As the acceptation of it depended upon the will of the Lawgiver and Rector, so the acceptableness of it depended upon the will of the Redeemer. The merit of His death depended not upon His mere dying, or upon the penal part in that death, but upon His willing obedience in it, in conjunction with the dignity of His person; without this, He might have breathed out His soul without being a victim.

II. That this sacrifice is acceptable to God and efficacious for us will appear in several propositions.

1. God took pleasure in the designment and expectation of it.

2. The highest perfections of God’s nature had a peculiar glory from this sacrifice. All His perfections, not discovered before to the sons of men, are glorified punctually according to His intentions and resolves for their discovery. Not a tittle of His nature which was to be made known to the sons of men, but is unveiled in this sacrifice to their view in a greater glory than the creatures were able to exhibit Him.

3. Compare this sacrifice with the evil for which He was sacrificed, and which had invaded the rights of God, and the sweet savour of it will appear, as also the efficacy of it.

4. It is so acceptable to God, that it is sufficient sacrifice for all, if all would accept of it, and by a fixed faith plead it.

5. The effects of this sacrifice show the acceptableness of it to God. As the effect of Adam’s disobedience demonstrates the blackness and strength of his sin, so the fruit of this sacrifice evidenceth the efficacy of it.

What was it that rendered this sacrifice acceptable to God, and efficacious for us?

1. The dignity of His person.

2. As the dignity of the person, so the purity of the sacrifice renders it fragrant to God, and efficacious for us.

3. The graces exercised in this sacrifice rendered it fragrant in the account of God.

III. Use.

1. If this sacrifice be acceptable to God, it is then a perfect oblation.

2. All popish doctrines of satisfaction, and all resting upon our own righteousness and inherent graces, are to be abandoned.

3. It is a desperate thing to refuse this sacrifice, which is so sweet to God.

4. It administers matter of comfort to the believer. It is a comfort to a diseased hospital that a physician is chosen and accepted by the governors that is able to cure every disease; it is no less a comfort to a guilty soul that there is a sacrifice sufficient to expiate every sin.


Verse 3

Ephesians 5:3

But fornication, and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.

The sin of impurity

Consider the hatefulness of this sin.

I. By its inner nature.

1. This sin, however loathsome in the sight of God and of human nature transformed by His grace, is nevertheless most seductive to the lower fallen nature of man. As a check to it, God has implanted in us the noble sense of shame, so that the Christian, who has not returned like a dog to his vomit, abhors whatever is unchaste.

2. It is repugnant to the higher nature of man. Man--the image and likeness of the Triune God--by his impurity reviles

3. It is an abomination before God.

II. Its consequences.

1. Ruin of earthly happiness. Lewdness works destruction

2. Ruin of the soul.

3. Eternal damnation.

Forbidden sins

I. To fix the sense. First: The manner and degree of forbidding--“Let it not be once named among you.” You will think this over-strict; and how can it be reproved if it be not named? But let us consider the sense.

1. The apostle speaketh thus to express the height of detestation; for things that we utterly detest we will not name. “Never let these foul practices get the least admission among you.”

2. Some sins are more catching than others; the very mention of them may revive and stir the motions of them in an unmortified heart. And uncleanness and fornication are of this nature, because they tend immediately to please the flesh; other sins more remotely.

3. There is a naming of these things which is very sinful, and that two ways.

Secondly, the reason--“As it becometh saints”; that is, Christians or believers; all of them are saints, or should be saints.

1. Some are so only by external dedication and profession; as by baptism they are set apart for God as a clean and holy people.

2. Others are saints by internal regeneration, as sanctified and renewed by the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). Now these things are contrary to the disposition and spirit of saints, or to the holy, new, and Divine nature which is put into them.

II. What purity and cleanness of heart belongeth to Christians. In the Scripture they are everywhere described by it, “With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure ‘“ (Psalms 18:18); “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3); “Surely God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalms 73:1); “Separate yourselves from the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17); and in other places. Let us see what obligations lie upon us to be clean and pure.

1. We are consecrated to the service of a holy God.

2. We profess the most holy faith; this obligeth us also, whether we took to the laws of God, which are the rule of our duty, or the promises of God, which are the charter of our hopes.

3. Because of our present communion with God and service of God.

III. The special impurity that is in such sins, so that holiness must be forsaken, or else these vices so opposite to holiness. What special impurity is there in those sins?

1. They defile the body, and are contrary to the dignity of the body, as it is a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost, or an instrument to be used for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 6:18).

2. Uncleanness corrupts and defileth the mind; for it turneth it from the true pleasure to the false, and that procured on the basest terms of downright sin against God.

What need we have to work in Christians a greater abhorrence of fornication and uncleanness, because it is a common sin and a grievous sin.

1. It is a common sin; and then it is time to cry aloud and spare not, when persons, both single and married, make so little conscience of this duty.

2. It is a grievous sin. We will endeavour to touch them in the tenderest part that is left, viz., fear. “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Men think it a small matter to satisfy nature, but God will find them out both here and hereafter. There fell in one day twenty-three thousand for this sin (1 Corinthians 10:8). It unfitteth for every holy duty. Holy and sacred things never can be seriously received by sensual minds and hearts. Caution to young men that are not yet taken in the snare. Keep yourselves at a great distance from and great abhorrence of this sin. Therefore, first, avoid occasions (Proverbs 5:8). Advice to all Christians. Upon all occasions, think what will become saints. Let the consciousness of your dedication to God be ever upon your heart. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Sinful lusts must be abhorred

When Venice was in the hands of the Austrians, those alien tyrants swarmed in every quarter; but the Venetians hated them to the last degree, and showed their enmity upon all occasions. When the Austrian officers sat down at any of the tables in the square of St. Mark, where the Venetians delight on summer evenings to eat their ices and drink their coffee, the company would immediately rise and retire, showing by their withdrawal that they abhorred their oppressors. After this fashion will every true Christian treat his inbred sins; he will not be happy under their power, nor tolerate their dominion, nor show them favour. If he cannot expel them, he will not indulge them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Evil of covetousness

Beware of growing covetousness; for, of all sins, this is one of the most insidious. It is like the silting up of a river. As the stream comes down from the land, it brings with it sand and earth, and deposits all these at its mouth; so that by degrees, unless the conservators watch it carefully, it will block itself up, and leave no channel for ships of great burden. By daily deposit, it imperceptibly creates a bar which is dangerous to navigation. Many a man when he begins to accumulate wealth, commences at the same moment to ruin his soul; and the more he acquires, the more closely he blocks up his liberality, which is, so to speak, the very mouth of spiritual life. Instead of doing more for God he does less; the more he saves, the more he wants; and the more he wants of this world, the less he cares for the world to come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Covetousness decried and yet practised

About the time that the Apostle Paul was denouncing the sin (of covetousness) in his Epistle to Timothy, Seneca was decrying the same evil, and composed his Ethics; but, as if to show the impotence of his own precepts, “he was accused of having amassed the most ample riches”--a circumstance which, though not the ostensible, was no doubt the real, cause of his finally falling a victim to the jealousy of Nero. (Harris.)


Verse 4

Ephesians 5:4

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Unseemly conversation

“Filthiness”--impurity of act or speech, “foolish talking,” and “jesting,” are to disappear as completely as covetousness and the grosser vices. They are “not befitting”; they do not harmonize with the character, the prerogatives, and the destiny of saints. “Foolish talking” is the talk of a fool, of a man that is insensible to the graver aspects of human life. The great discoveries of God and of eternity, of our own present relations to God and of our future glory, which have come to us through. Christ, exert their power on the mind as well as on the heart and on outward conduct. They give a certain intellectual nobleness even to uncultivated and simple men. They inspire self-respect and dignity. As the pride of the Roman people was justly offended when they saw an emperor descend into the arena with charioteers and gladiators, so the finer feeling of the Christian Church is justly offended when Christian men indulge in buffoonery and play the fool. This is “not befitting.” It should have no place among Christian people, and to find pleasure in such folly is also below the dignity of those who live near to the throne of God. In condemning “jesting” Paul does not mean to insist that the conversation of Christian men should be always grave and serious. The mind needs rest as well as the body. There is a time to play as well as to work. Amusement has its legitimate place in the intellectual life; and if the mind is subjected to an incessant strain its strength will be broken down. The bright flashes of wit and the pleasant gleams of a kindly humour may be as beautiful and as harmless as the play of the sunlight among the trees or on the ripples of a mountain stream. The “jesting” which Paul describes as “not befitting” is the kind of conversation that reaches its perfection in a civilized, luxurious, and brilliant society which has no faith in God, no reverence for moral law, no sense of the grandeur of human life, no awe in the presence of the mystery of death. In such a society, to which the world is the scene of a pleasant comedy in which all men are actors, a polished insincerity and a versatility which is never arrested by strong and immovable convictions are the objects of universal admiration. The foulest indecencies are applauded, if they are conveyed under the thin disguise of a graceful phrase, a remote allusion, an ingenious ambiguity. There is a refinement to which, not vice itself, but the coarseness of vice, is distasteful, and which regards with equal resentment the ruggedness of virtue. This is the kind of “jesting” that Paul so sternly condemns. It is destructive both of faith and morality. The tongue was made for nobler uses. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Against foolish talking and jesting

It may be demanded then, what the thing we speak of is, or what this facetiousness doth import? To which question I might reply as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a man, “It is that which we all see and know”; anyone better apprehends what it is by acquaintance, than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale: sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound; sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an objection; sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense; sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture passeth for it; sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness giveth it being; sometimes it riseth from a lucky hitting on what is strange, sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose; often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by), which by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto.

I. 1. Such facetiousness is not absolutely unreasonable or unlawful, which ministereth harmless divertisement and delight to conversation. For Christianity is not so harsh, so envious, as to bar us continually from innocent, much less from wholesome and useful pleasure, such as human life doth need or require.

2. Facetiousness is allowable when it is the most proper instrument of exposing things apparently base and vile to due contempt. When sarcastical twitches are needful to pierce the thick skins of men, to correct their lethargic stupidity, to rouse them out of their drowsy negligence; then may they well be applied.

3. Facetious discourse particularly may be commodious for reproving some vices and reclaiming some persons (as salt for cleansing and curing some sores). It commonly procureth a more easy access to the ears of men, and worketh a stronger impression on their hearts, than other discourse could do. Many whose foreheads are brazed and hearts are steeled against all blame, are yet not proof against derision.

4. Some errors likewise in this way may be most properly and most successfully confuted; such as deserve not, and hardly can bear a serious and solid confutation.

5. This way is also commonly the best way of defence against unjust reproach and obloquy. To yield to a slanderous reviler a serious reply, or to make a formal plea against his charge, doth seem to imply that we much consider or deeply resent it; whereas by pleasant reflection On it we signify the matter only deserves contempt, and that we take ourselves unconcerned therein.

6. So easily without care or trouble may the brunts of malice be declined or repelled. This way may be allowed in way of counterbalancing and in compliance to the fashion of others. It would be a disadvantage unto truth and virtue if their defenders were barred from the use of this weapon; since it is that especially whereby the patrons of error and vice do maintain and propagate them.

7. Furthermore, the warrantableness of this practice in some cases may be inferred from a parity of reason, in this manner: if it be lawful (as by the best authorities it plainly doth appear to be), in using rhetorical schemes, poetical strains, involutions of sense in allegories, fables, parables, and riddles, to discoast from the plain and simple way of speech; why may not facetiousness, issuing from the same principles, directed to the same ends, serving to like purposes, be likewise used blamelessly?

8. I shall only add, that of old even the sagest and gravest persons (persons of most rigid and severe virtue) did much affect this kind of discourse, and did apply it to noble purposes.

9. In fine, since it cannot be shown that such a sportfulness of wit and fancy doth contain an intrinsic and inseparable turpitude; since it may be so cleanly, handsomely, and innocently used, as not to defile or discompose the mind of the speaker, not to wrong or harm the hearer, not to derogate from any worthy subject of discourse, it cannot well absolutely and universally be condemned; and when not used on improper matter, in an unfit manner, with excessive measure, at undue season, to evil purpose, it may be allowed. It is bad objects, or bad adjuncts, which do spoil its indifference and innocence.

II. 1. All profane jesting, all speaking loosely and wantonly about holy things (things nearly related to God and religion), making such things the matters of sport and mockery, playing and trifling with them, is certainly prohibited, as an intolerably vain and wicked practice. All injurious, abusive, scurrilous jesting, which causelessly or needlessly tendeth to the disgrace, damage, vexation, or prejudice in any kind of our neighbour (provoking his displeasure, grating on his modesty, stirring passion in him), is also prohibited.

3. I pass by that it is very culpable to be facetious in obscene and smutty matters.

4. All unseasonable jesting is blamable.

5. To affect, admire, or highly to value this way of speaking, either absolutely in itself, or in comparison to the serious and plain way of speech, and thence to be drawn into an immoderate use thereof, is blamable.

6. Vain-glorious ostentation this way is very blamable.

7. Lastly, it is our duty never so far to engage ourselves in this way, as thereby to lose or to impair that habitual seriousness, modesty, and sobriety of mind, that steady composedness, gravity and constancy of demeanour, which become Christians. We should continually keep our minds intent on our “high calling,” and grand interest; ever well tuned, and ready for the performance of holy devotions. (I. Barrow, D. D.)

Impurity in speech

I. That Christians should make great conscience, not only of their actions, but their words also; for after the apostle had dissuaded them from all uncleanness and filthiness in practice, he addeth, “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient.” We must make conscience of our words for these reasons.

1. We are not absolute proprietors and possessors of our own selves; our tongues are not our own to speak what we please. Exempt any one faculty or member from the jurisdiction of God, and you disown His authority and interest in you, and open a floodgate to let in sin and wickedness into the world. We are not left to run at random in our ordinary discourse, to say and utter what we think good.

2. As we had our tongues from God, so we are accountable to Him for the use of them; and therefore will our actions not only be brought into the judgment, but our words and speeches also (Matthew 12:36-37).

3. Words do much discover the temper of a man’s heart.

4. Because our tongue is our glory: “Awake, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp” (Psalms 57:8), “My heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth” (Psalms 16:9). Compare Acts 2:26 : “My heart is glad, and my tongue rejoiceth.” So Psalms 30:12 : “That my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent”; that is, my tongue. But why is our tongue called our glory? For a double reason, both which are pertinent to the case in hand.

5. Because our speeches are regarded by God, and therefore you must consider, not only what is fit for you to utter and others to hear, but what is fit for God to hear.

6. Because the well ordering of our words is a great point of Christianity, and argueth a good degree of grace (James 3:2).

II. In making conscience of our words, we should specially take heed of filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting.

1. Filthiness is when we speak of obscene things in an obscene manner without any respect to modesty and Christian gravity or sobriety.

2. The next word is “foolish speaking.” This hath so many branches, that it is hard to reckon them up; as--

(a) Because it suiteth not with the seriousness of religion, which is the wisdom of God;

(b) it suiteth not with the mortified estate of sincere Christians;

(c) because it shutteth out better discourse, and so converse with others is rendered unprofitable. Omission of good is caused by it.

(d) Because it argueth great emptiness, that we have not a good treasure within us (Matthew 12:35), or have not hid the Word in our hearts (Psalms 119:11), or not taken care that it might dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16).

3. We come now to the third sin enumerated, “and jesting.” Here we must state this matter. Is all jesting unlawful and misbecoming Christians?

In the use of it all due circumstances must be observed; as--

1. In the matter. It is a dunghill mirth that must have somewhat unclean to feed it.

2. For the manner. It must be harmless to others, not making sport with their sins or miseries (1 Corinthians 13:6).

3. For the measure. Not excessive wasting the time in vain, especially not habituating the mind to levity; that is scurrility when men accustom themselves so to vain jesting that they cannot possibly be serious; they can as well be immortal as serious.

4. For the time. Not when God calleth us to mourning or more serious employments should it be taken in hand.

5. The end and use must not be forgotten. Our great end is to serve and glorify God, and everything that we do must have respect to it, and be proportioned by it.

III. One special means of checking such sins is to consider how much they misbecome Christians; for the apostle saith no more but “they are not convenient,” or do not agree with that state of grace into which we profess to be called. For three reasons this will hold good.

1. Because there are four affections which serve to draw us from and guard us against sin--fear, shame, grief, and indignation. The guilt of sin causeth fear; the stain, shame; the unkindness, sorrow; unsuitableness, indignation. Awaken this, and sin cannot have long entertainment in the heart. Therefore it is enough to a serious Christian: It is not convenient.

2. The unsuitableness mindeth us of our dignity, as being admitted to communion with God. Therefore to talk of filthiness with that tongue which is to be employed in speaking of God, and to God, is a most indecorous thing.

3. This striketh at the root of the temptation. Many think filthiness, foolish speaking, and jesting to be a great grace to them, and affect the reputation of wit at such a rate that they forget honesty. No; these are not an honour and a grace, but a blemish and a blot.

IV. That a Christian cannot want mirth as long as he hath such abundant cause to give thanks. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Foolish talking and jesting

“Foolish talking and jesting,” than which nothing is more common in the world, are to be held in disesteem by all Christians. They should look upon themselves as a new order among men. Christ redeems us from the shallow mirth of the world, which is the mirth of folly, to the joy of wisdom, which is the joy of God, and which fills heaven, and will fill eternity, with delight and song. (J. Pulsford.)

Dangers of jesting

It is dangerous to jest with God, death, or the devil; for the first neither can nor will be mocked: the second mocks all men at one time or another; and the third puts an eternal sarcasm on those who are too familiar with him. (J. Beaumont.)

Tart jests

Jests too tart are not good; bitter potions are not for health. An offensive man is the devil’s bellows to blow up contention. (J. Beaumont.)

Personal jesting

Whosoever will jest will be like him that flourishes at a show--he may turn his weapon every way, but not aim more at one than another. It is very unsafe to sling about this wormwood: some noses are too delicate to bear the smell. Some are like tiled houses, that can admit a falling spark; yet others are like dry straw, that with the least touch will kindle about your ears. (J. Beaumont.)

A sting in the jest

A jest should be such that all shall be able to join in the laugh which it occasions; but if it bears hard upon one of the company, like the crack era string, it makes a stop in the music. (Owen Felltham.)

Evil of jesting

Solon, who was always willing to hear and to learn, and in his old age more inclined to anything that might divert and entertain, particularly to music and good fellowship, went to see Thespis himself exhibit, as the custom of the ancient poets was. When the play was done, he called to Thespis, and asked him if he was not ashamed to tell so many lies before so great an assembly. Thespis answered, it was no great matter if he spoke or acted so in jest. To which Solon replied, striking the ground violently with his staff, “If we encourage such jesting as this, we shall quickly find it in our contracts and agreements.” (Plutarch.)

Foolish talking to be accounted for

The story is well known of the person who invited a company of his friends that were accustomed to take the Lord’s name in vain, and contrived to have all their discourse taken down and read to them. Now, if they could not endure to hear the words repeated which they had spoken during a few hours, how shall they bear to have all that they have uttered through a long course of years brought forth as evidence against them at the tribunal of God? (Scott.)


Verse 5

Ephesians 5:5

For this we know, that no whoremonger nor unclean person.

Soul idolatry excludes men from heaven

There are thirteen acts of soul worship; and to give any one of them to anything besides the God of heaven is plain idolatry, and those idolaters that so give it.

1. Esteem. That which we most highly value we make our god; for estimation is an act of soul worship.

2. Mindfulness. That which we are most mindful of we make our god.

3. Intention. That which we most intend we make our god; for to be most intended is an act of worship due only to the true God; for He being the chief good, must be the last end.

4. Resolution. What we are most resolved for we worship as God.

5. Love. That, which we most love we worship as our god; for love is an act of soul worship. To love and to adore are sometimes both one. Love, whenever it is inordinate, is an idolatrous affection.

6. Trust. That which we most trust we make our god; for confidence and dependence is an act of worship which the Lord calls for as due only to Himself.

7. Fear. If you fear others more than Him, you give that worship to them which is due only to God.

8. Hope. That which we make our hope we worship as God; for hope is an act of worship. Those that make their own righteousness the foundation of their hope, they exalt it into the place of Christ, and honour it as God; and to honour anything as God is evident idolatry.

9. Desire. That which we most desire we worship as our god; for that which is chiefly desired is the chief good in his account who so desires it; and what he counts his chief good, that he makes his god.

10. Delight. That which we most delight and rejoice in, that we worship as God; for transcendent delight is an act of worship due only to God; and this affection, in its height and elevation, is called glorying.

11. Zeal. That for which we are more zealous we worship as our god; for such a zeal is an act of worship due only to God; therefore it is idolatrous to be more zealous for our own things than for the things of God.

12. Gratitude. That to which we are most grateful, that we worship as God; for gratitude is an act of worship.

13. When our care and industry is more for other things than for God. No man can serve two masters.

Argument

1. Such idolaters are not in covenant with God. It is the covenant of grace alone which gives right and title to the kingdom. Those that are not in covenant have no title to heaven; and those that have no right nor title to it, shall have no inheritance in it.

2. Such idolaters are not yet born again, are not yet converted; and without the new birth, no inheritance in the kingdom; those only are heirs of this kingdom who are born of God, who are born again. Try whether you be guilty of this soul idolatry or no.

And to stir you up to this examination, let me premise these two things, the danger and secrecy of this.

1. The danger. It is a sin will endanger your loss of heaven, make it exceeding difficult, or altogether impossible. If one should tell you of some mischievous person lurking in your house, with an intent to murder you, or set your house on fire, etc. The apostle tells you of something more mischievous; that which is more dangerous, and nearer to you; that which will endanger the loss of an inheritance, of a kingdom.

2. The secrecy of it calls for diligent search. Nothing more common or more concealed. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

No inheritance for the unclean in God’s kingdom

1.That there is a kingdom of God. This notion implieth, on God’s part, His sovereign authority and right to command; and on our part, both duties and privileges.

2. There is no entrance into this kingdom but by coming into the kingdom of Christ.

3. The title or right to the privileges of Christ’s kingdom is by way of inheritance. “If a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:7; and Romans 8:17), “If sons, then heirs, joint heirs with Christ.”

4. By the tenor of the Christian doctrine it plainly appeareth that whoredom and all uncleanness excludeth men from this inheritance.

It appeareth plainly by these particulars--

1. Because it is contrary to that covenant by which all enter into Christ’s kingdom.

2. Because of God’s express exclusion. Surely they are excluded from this inheritance whom God excludes and Christ excludes (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

3. From the heinous nature of the sin. It is a sin of great atheism and great infidelity.

4. It is idolatry. Primary idolatry is when Divine honours are given to any creature. But howls whoredom and uncleanness idolatry? Because by it men are addicted to some base thing which they prefer before God. “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4-5). Because they have not that spirit that should fit them and make them meet for heaven.

6. This exclusion is so absolute and peremptory that it admits no exception but that of sincere repentance, which is both a change of heart and life. No other repentance is true but a quitting and leaving these sins before they leave us.

Three things are apt to deceive you.

1. Some trouble for these sins while you go on still to commit them.

2. The next thing that will deceive you is some faint resistance or striving against sin, but it groweth upon you.

3. That which will deceive you is a hope to cry God mercy upon your death beds; and so, after an impure life, men hope still to go to heaven. (T. Manton, D. D.)


Verse 6

Ephesians 5:6

Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

A caution and a commination

I. A caution against error.

1. That we may not deceive ourselves. Frequent warnings are given against this self-flattery (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 John 3:7; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7). Men do what they can to live securely and undisturbedly in their sins, and to guard their hearts against the apprehension of all danger and punishment.

2. That we may not be deceived by others. There were false teachers in those early days, that countenanced profane and licentious Christians; some that taught fornication was an indifferent thing, or at least no such great matter, or not so dangerous.

II. A denunciation of God’s wrath

1. The evil denounced, “The wrath of God cometh”; meaning by “wrath,” punishment from God, who is angry and displeased with these sins.

2. The meritorious procuring cause, “For these things,” fornication, uncleanness, and such like gross sins. God is not severe upon ordinary failings and frailties, but these sins are of another nature.

3. The persons upon whom this vengeance cometh; it shall light upon “the children of disobedience.”

I. What are the vain words or pretences by which they usually harden their hearts?

1. That God will not call them to an account, or punish them for their sins. If you think He will not, it is because He hath no right, or no power, or no will to do it. You cannot say no right, because man is His creature, and therefore His subject. You cannot say no power, for our life is in His hands.

2. That God will be merciful to them; though they sin against Him, they shall notwithstanding escape well enough; that He will not be severe against His creatures. But you reflect but upon one part of God’s nature, His mercy, without His holiness and justice, and so fancy an unreasonable indulgence in God.

3. That they are Christians, and by external profession have received the faith of Christ. But the name will not save you without the power (2 Timothy 2:19).

4. That none is perfect, and the rarest saints have fallen into as great faults, and so are persuaded that these gross sins are but frailties and human infirmities. If David fell, why may not I? was an old excuse in Salvian’s time. Did not they smart grievously for these sins? and was not their repentance as remarkable as their fall?

5. Others say they are justified, and depend on the righteousness of Christ. You may, if you have a right to it; but “He that doeth righteousness is righteous” (1 John 3:7). Where Christ is made righteousness, He is also made sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).

6. That if they be in an unjustified state for the present, they hope they shall repent at last, and then they will leave off their sins, and cry to God for mercy. But you live in fiat disobedience to God for the present, whereas the Holy Ghost saith, “Today,” etc. (Hebrews 3:7).

7. That they do make amends for a course of sin in one kind by abounding in other duties. But God will be obeyed in all things. These are some of the sorry fig leaves by which men hope to cover their nakedness, those sandy foundations upon which they build their hopes.

II. The reasons how it cometh to pass that such gross self-flattery can possess their minds. Though it be as plain as noonday that they that live in gross sins shall be damned, yet the most profane have good thoughts of their condition.

1. The causes lie in themselves; as--

2. The devil joineth with our self-love, and lulleth us asleep in our carnal security and abuse of grace (Genesis 3:4-5).

3. He stirreth up instruments, that, with the charms of false doctrine, he may hinder the sight of sin and fears of judgment, and strengthen the hands of the wicked (Jeremiah 23:17).

Let no man deceive you.

1. It is sure you are not justified while you are yet in your sins.

2. How much God is concerned to right Himself, the honour of His providence, and the truth of His Word, against such as flatter themselves in their sins (Deuteronomy 29:19-20). It should doter us from wilful and heinous sins to think of the wrath of God that shall come upon those that live in them. First: It is a powerful motive; for God’s wrath is very terrible.

Consider--

1. The intension of this wrath. It is compared to a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). It is a fire that burneth, not only to the ground or the surface of the earth, but to the lowest hell (Deuteronomy 32:22).

2. As to extension; the wrath of God compriseth all those evils which are the fruit of sin, be they bodily or spiritual, in life or death, or after death.

Secondly: It is a kindly motive. That is a question whether it be so or no; therefore let us state the matter.

1. We are principally to avoid sin as sin, and as displeasing to God (Genesis 39:9).

2. We must abstain from it, as it will bring down wrath and judgment upon us. So God urgeth this argument (Ezekiel 18:30).

3. The poena damni, to fear the punishment of loss, is out of question. A man cannot love God and not fear the loss of His favour.

4. The poena sensus, the punishment of sense, is necessary also to quicken men to their duty, and to guard their love, and to show that God doth not make little reckoning of sin (2 Corinthians 5:11).

5. The effect which it must produce is not such a fear as driveth us from God, but bringeth us to Him; not torment, and perplexity, and despairing anguish (1 John 4:18), but flight and caution.

6. Punishments on others are for our warning. When God’s judgments are upon others for sin, His hand is to be observed with great reverence; as David (Psalms 119:119-120). To teach us in what rank to place principles of obedience.

There are several principles by which men are acted and influenced.

1. Some are false and rotten; as custom: “As I have done these so many years” (Zechariah 7:3). Vainglory: “To be seen of men” (Matthew 6:1). Rapine: “To devour widows’ houses” (Matthew 23:14). Envy (Philippians 1:15-16).

2. Some are more tolerable; as the hope of temporal mercies (Hosea 7:14).

3. Some are very good and sound; as when duties are done out of obedience to God, upon the urgings of an enlightened conscience, without the bent of a renewed heart; for a regenerate man obeyeth, not only as enjoined, but inclined. The principle is sound in the other, but the heart is not fitted.

4. Some are rare and excellent; as when we love God, not only for His benignity, but holiness, and eye our reward for His sake, and love the glory of God above our own happiness, and can subordinate the happy part of our eternal estate to His glory (Romans 9:3). That their condition is of all most miserable who are not only sinners, but stubborn and obstinate in their sin.

The wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.

1. Who are the disobedient? It may be said of two sorts--First of all, men in their natural condition with respect to the law: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7). And, secondly, of those that refuse the gospel: “In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel?” (1 Peter 4:17), viz., those that will not submit themselves to God, or be persuaded to forsake their sins. Now, as to the disobedient sinners.

1. They are slaves to sin (Titus 3:3).

2. They are of the devil’s party (Ephesians 2:2).

3. They are rebels to God (Job 24:13). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Children of disobedience

I. Who are children of disobedience.

1. Those who are not only sinners, but stubborn, obstinate, and ignorant sinners; such as are prone to all evil, and are not only indisposed, but averse from all good.

2. This good is either to be determined by the light of nature or the light of the gospel.

3. This obstinacy and disobedience is aggravated.

4. This disobedience, the longer it is continued, the more it is increased.

II. The misery of their condition. It is either matter of sense or matter of faith; of sight, because of present judgments, or foresight, because of the threatenings of the Word.

1. It is matter of sight, as God doth inflict remarkable judgments on obstinate sinners in this life, to teach His children to beware of their sins. These judgments are either spiritual or temporal.

2. It is matter of faith and foresight. And so by this wrath of God is meant eternal destruction, which cometh upon them for their disobedience, which is a sin of the highest nature, and a chief cause of their damnation. At death they feel the sad effects of it (1 Peter 3:19-20).

III. Why this should deter God’s people from being partakers with them. Here I shall inquire

1. What it is to be partakers with them.

(a) By counselling (2 Samuel 13:5).

(b) By alluring and enticing (Proverbs 1:10).

(c) By consenting (1 Kings 21:19).

(d) By applauding or flattering, and lessening the sin (Romans 1:32).

(e) Conniving, contrary to the duty of our place (1 Samuel 3:13).

2. Why the wrath of God should deter us from this.

Use--

1. To show us that we are not to be idle spectators of God’s judgments on others, but judicious observers and improvers of them. Observe here--

First, The use and benefit of observing God’s providences is great in these particulars.

1. To cure atheism (Psalms 58:11).

2. To make us more cautious of sin, that we meddle not with it.

3. To humble us, and make us more earnest in deprecating the wrath of God, and suing out our pardon in Christ. We see sin goeth not unpunished. Alas! if God should enter into judgment with us, who could stand? (Psalms 143:2).

4. To make us thankful for our mercies and deliverances by Christ, that, when others are spectacles of His wrath, we should be monuments of His mercy and grace. Were it not for the Lord’s pardoning and healing grace, we had been in as bad a condition as the worst (Romans 11:22). Secondly, the manner of making these observations. This is needful to be stated, because men are apt to misapply providence, and to sit as a coroner’s inquest on the souls of their neighbours, and so rather observe things to censure others than for their own caution.

Rules concerning the observation of God’s providences towards others.

1. Certain it is that judgments on others must be observed. Providence is a comment on the Word, and therefore it is stupidness not to take notice of it. They that will not observe God’s hand shall feel it. If we will not take the warning at a distance, and by others’ smart and rebuke, there is no way left but we ourselves must be taught by experience. He that will plunge himself into a bog or quagmire, where others have miscarried before him, is doubly guilty of folly, because he neither feareth the threatening, nor will take warning by their example and punishment. Observe we must (Amos 6:2).

2. This observation must be to a good end; not to censure others, that is malice; or justify ourselves above them, that is pride and self-conceit, condemned by our Lord Christ (Luke 13:2-5).

3. In making the observation we must have a care that we do not make providence speak the language of our fancies. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Evil effects of bad company

We are informed by chemists that one grain of iodine will give colour to seven thousand times its own weight of water. One indulgence in bad company is enough to communicate much of its contagion to your moral being. If you handle pitch with your bare hand it will adhere for days or weeks, so the connection which you may form with bad company, will pollute you in a way which a whole life may not suffice to remove. (John Bate.)

Reproving evil company

The Rev. John Elliot was once asked by a pious woman who was vexed with a wicked husband, and bad company frequently infesting her house on his account, what she should do? “Take,” said he, “the Holy Bible into your hand when bad company comes in, and that will soon drive them out of the house.” (K. Arvine.)


Verse 7

Ephesians 5:7

Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Fellowship with evil doers

I. Illustrate this fellowship in wickedness.

1. Not to oppose, in many cases, is to embolden transgressors, and to be partakers with them.

2. We have more direct fellowship with the wicked when we encourage them by our example.

3. They who provoke and incite others to evil works have fellowship with them.

4. They who explicitly consent to, and actually join with sinners in their evil works, have fellowship with them.

5. To comfort and uphold sinners in their wickedness is to have fellowship with them.

6. There are some who rejoice in iniquity when they have lent no hand to accomplish it.

II. Apply the apostle’s arguments.

1. One argument is taken from the superior light which Christians enjoy.

2. Another argument is taken from the grace of the Holy Spirit, of which believers are the subjects.

3. The apostle teaches us that the works of darkness are unfruitful.

4. This is a shameful fellowship.

5. If we have fellowship with sinners in their works we must share with them in their punishment. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

The children of God should not be partakers with others in their sins

The marrow of this truth lies in knowing how and in what ways we may be in danger to be partakers of other men’s sins.

1. By practising the like evils. The apostle seems especially to intend this. Commit not the like sins; act not like the children of disobedience. If ye be imitators of them, you are in some sense partakers with them; and so the Lord may justly punish you for them.

2. By concurring. And this in divers ways.

3. By occasioning the sins of others. When we give others occasion to sin, and that may be done many ways.

4. By causing. He that is the cause of another’s sin, partakes thereof, not only as an accessory, but many times as a principal. Now, one may be the cause of another’s sin many ways.

He that is a countenencer of others’ sins, is a partaker of other men’s sin; and that sometimes of sins past, sometimes of future sins. Now, ye may countenance the sins of others, and so be accessory to them, many ways.

6. By not hindering sin. He that hinders not others from sinning is in danger thereby to partake of their sins. He that hinders not others from doing evil, does the evil himself; is guilty of, accessory to it.


Verses 7-14

Verse 8

Ephesians 5:8

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

The children of light and their obligations

I. The degradation from which believers have been raised. A state of wretchedness resulting: from ignorance to God and disobedience to His will.

II. The nobility to which believers have been advanced. The light of truth has shone into their hearts, and exposed to view all the abominations, all the depravity, that lay concealed in the dark chambers of imagery within. They have learned to know not only themselves, but also God and Jesus Christ, “whom to know is life eternal.” They are now united to the Lord, and are of one spirit. Christ dwells in them, and they in Him.

III. The duties devolving on those who are “light in the Lord.”

1. They are required to walk as children of light; to prove their descent, to show what family they belong to; to act according to the light bestowed, the knowledge attained; to keep themselves unspotted from the world, undefiled by the surrounding contagion.

2. They are bound to “prove what is acceptable unto the Lord”--to test what is well pleasing unto Him. This can only be known by the revelation of His will, oral or written.

3. They are forbidden all fellowship with the fruitless works of darkness. (J. DArcy Sirr, D. D.)

The past and the present: an incentive to acceptable walking

I. Their former state. “Darkness”--the darkness of heathendom. Such was the state of all men by nature. The state of nature is a state of “darkness”; and I may say of every unregenerate man, “thou art darkness.” And if this is true of our view of nature in its best form, what shall we say of the life of sin? Utter darkness! everything darkness! Our Lord says, “he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth;” and the apostle describes them as “wandering stars”; going from bad to worse, and from worse to worse, from one sin to another, from one error to another. But there is another description of this state of darkness, besides this: we say, that a state of unbelief is a state of darkness.

II. Their present condition. “Light.” A very strong expression. It is not said, “ye have some light”; it is not said, “there is some light in you”; but it is positively declared, “ye are light.” Of course, this can only be taken in a modified sense; because how little is the light that any of the saints of God have! We see only through the “unveiled face.” “We see as in a glass darkly”; “we know in part.” Alas! how little do we know of the glory of the Saviour in His person! how little do we know of the perfection of the Saviour! how little do we enter into the glory of the atoning blood! how little do our souls enter into the “sweet savour” of that sacrifice! and how little we realize the perfection of that Perfect righteousness, which is “unto all and upon all them that believe”! How little do our spirits enter into the deep and unutterable fulness that there is in Jesus! And yet, though our light be so feeble, still it is “light.” He never despises that light that comes from the work of the Holy Ghost in the soul of man; however feeble, however faint, He never despises it. Oh! for a word of tender caution; do you never despise it either.

III. The exhortation. “Walk as children of light.” If you ask for a simple view of their “walking as children of light”--I would say first of all it is to walk in the brightness of that light: to walk in the light of God’s precious gospel, to walk in the light of God’s perfections, to walk in the realizing view of His pardoning mercy, to walk in the light of His adoption, to walk as righteous ones, righteous in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Surely the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun.”

2. He “walks as a child of light,” beloved, as he walks in the purity of that light. Observe, this is an essential part of the subject--it is the very subject for which the apostle introduced it; “ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth): proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” My dear hearers, we are to “walk as children of light”--only be you thankful and grateful for being thus brought into the light. To be brought into the light, to one that once was blind, would be one of the first things that would fill his heart with joy. What were ye once? I am persuaded too, beloved, that if we are “children of light,” we shall rejoice that others be made to “walk in the light” of that same gospel; we shall rejoice to diffuse, as far as in us lies, that gospel around us. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Unconverted sinners are darkness

But what is it to be in darkness? What is this unconverted state that the Holy Ghost so often calls darkness? Take it in these four particulars. To be in darkness is

The Scripture by darkness ordinarily expresses some or all of these. When an unconverted state is called darkness, we are to understand by it a most sinful and miserable state. The misery of an unconverted state is so great, as even this darkness will discover it. Let us follow the metaphor a little, the better to discern it.

1. Darkness is uncomfortable. So is the state of an unconverted sinner. Who would not be weary of his life upon earth, if the sentence of continual darkness should pass upon it? Alas! more miserable is thy condition if unconverted, because the want of spiritual light is a greater misery than the want of sensible light.

2. Darkness is dangerous. He whose way lies near snares and pits, who is to pass over precipices, rocks, the brink of dangerous gulfs, and has no light to direct him, every step is the hazard of his life. No less dangerous is the way of man ever since sin entered into the world. So many snares has Satan laid, so many pits has he digged, so near we walk to the brink of the bottomless pit, as without light we cannot make one step in safety.

3. Darkness is fearful. We read of the “horrors of darkness“ (Genesis 15:12). What more apt to engender fears than darkness, when dangers are on every side, and nothing visible that may afford confidence! So the state of nature. The condition of a sinner unconverted is a fearful condition. He is encompassed with terrors on every side; such as, if he were sensible of them, would dash all his mirth and carnal jollity. Those whom the Lord has enlightened to see the dreadfulness of that state, they wonder that such can sleep quietly, or take comfort in any enjoyment, while they are not converted.

But who are those that are in darkness? How shall we know whether we be in this unconverted state?

1. Who walk in the ways of darkness? The children of light do not walk in the paths of darkness. You may know your state by your way; ways of wickedness are ways of darkness: so Solomon: “The way of the wicked is darkness” (Proverbs 4:19). He that walks in any way of known wickedness, be it drunkenness, etc., neglect of ordinances, etc., he is in darkness. “By their fruits ye may know them.”

2. Those that want spiritual discerning. He that has eyes and sees not, it is plain he is in darkness; what else should hinder his sight? So they that have the same understanding, the same faculty of inward sight with others, and yet perceive not that in spiritual things, that those discern who are savingly enlightened, it is evident that spiritual darkness overshadows their souls.

3. Those that act not for God. The things of God are at a distance from every unconverted man; he sees not, he knows not how to go about it.

4. Exhortation, to those that are converted, brought out of the woeful state of darkness; let this stir you up to joy and thankfulness for your deliverance. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

Light in the Lord

“For God who commanded … not of us.” We hear much in these days about the electric light. It is much more brilliant than the old-fashioned lamps. I was looking at one the other day, and noticing particularly that the “candles,” as they are called, are only black, ugly pieces of charcoal. Nothing more. As I looked at them I could not but wonder that things which by their nature were so black, could, when connected with the mysterious power which causes the flame to glow, give out such wonderful light. Truly the light is not in them. It is the unseen but mighty power working in them and through them that enables them to be useful. A tiny flaw may break the connection and stop the light--disconnected for one instant from the source the light dies instantly, and utterly.

Change of state demands change of life

In the words we have--

1. An antecedent.

2. A consequent, or an argument and an inference.

First: The antecedent, or argument, is taken from their present compared with their past estate, what they are with what they were.

1. The grace received--“Ye are light”; that is, filled with the light of wisdom and holiness. But can it be used of any mere man liable to such imperfections?

2. The author of this grace--“In the Lord”; that is, Christ; for there is but “one Lord,” as well as “one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5-6); and whatever good we have, we have it from Christ and in Christ.

I. Let me speak of the two opposite states, “darkness” and “light,” and there show you that the carnal estate is an estate of darkness, and the renewed state is a state of light.

1. The carnal estate is an estate of darkness. So the apostle telleth the Ephesians, Ye were not only darksome, but darkness itself, for the greater vehemency of the expression.

2. The renewed estate is an estate of light. Light is a quality pure and unmixed, and implieth both knowledge, holiness, and happiness. Knowledge, as it discovereth all things; holiness, as it is pure, and can shine on the filthiest dunghill without any stain; felicity, as it is the smile of heaven upon the earth.

II. That there is a mighty change wrought in them who are called out of one estate into the other.

1. They have a different principle. All things work according to their nature; as fire ascendeth and water descendeth; fishes go to the water, and beasts keep on dry land; it is according to their nature, and that principle of life which they have. The saints have a Divine nature: “Whereby ye are made partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

2. As the internal principle of our operation is unlike, so the external rule of our conversations are quite different, viz., the will of God revealed in the word, which they study to know and obey: “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10); “Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (verse 17); “That ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

III. That it is good often to compare those two estates, and to consider what we are by nature and what we are by grace. First: That we ought frequently to reflect on our former woeful estate. Reasons there are for this.

1. To magnify the riches of God’s mercy in our deliverance from that woeful estate. We wonder at it more when we compare both together (1 Peter 2:9).

2. That we may admire His power in the change (1 Corinthians 6:11).

3. To keep us humble (1 Corinthians 15:9; 2 Corinthians 12:7.

4. It makes us more compassionate to others, we having once had as blind a mind and hard a heart as they (Titus 3:2-3).

5. It makes us more watchful. A man who has escaped a dangerous disease or surfeit is very careful not to lapse into it again.

6. It quickens us to greater fruitfulness for time to come. Was I so zealous for sin, and shall I not do so much for God (Romans 6:19)? Since we set out so late, let us mend our pace.

7. It maketh our conversion more evident and sensible, and so quickeneth us to thankfulness and praise.

8. It increases our confidence and hopes of eternal life. He that could take us with all our faults, and love us, and pardon us, and heal our natures, and reconcile us to Himself, will He not give us eternal life after we begin to obey, love, and serve Him in our measure? (Romans 5:9-10).

9. It puts an argument in our hands against sin (Romans 6:20-21). Secondly: We ought to remember what we were by nature, so as not to deny what we are by grace (Romans 6:17).

IV. This change must be manifested by a suitable conversation: “Walk,” etc. Children of the light may refer to the dispensation we are under, or the grace we have received by it.

1. The dispensation we are under, as those that live in the clearness of gospel light are children of the day. Ye are not of the night; walk as children of light, that have the light of the gospel, or becoming that most holy religion which Christ hath taught us.

2. The grace received by it. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Darkness and light

I. This verse is typical of the Christian religion. It is the appeal which the preacher to Christian hearers has to make in very varied forms and at various times all through his ministry. Advent and Lent, the special times appointed by the Church for doing it, in order to ensure its being done. But it is a work for every time; and every mission or other time of revival is a form of doing it.

II. The words are used as symbols.

1. Light a good thing; needful for our bodily health; needful for our sustenance by the fruits of the earth; without light we could not live.

2. Without light we could not work. We may put forth strength, but cannot direct it.

3. Darkness a bad thing--hurtful if continued, and destructive to animal and vegetable life. In the night crimes of violence are committed; it is their congenial home.

III. Light therefore means goodness and darkness sin.

1. Light to the soul is when all its powers are directed consciously to right ends, i.e., to holy living, to the worship and the glory of God. Darkness, when either it knows not that right end, or, knowing it, deliberately chooses something else as its purpose.

2. Contrast in these respects between the Christian and the pagan world.

IV. Earnest and practical. The personal question, the great question for us all.

1. Are you in the darkness or in the light?

2. With all your Christian privileges you should be in the light. Do you prove that you are so by love to God, watchfulness over yourself, tenderness of conscience? No mere words will be acceptable as a proof. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” On the other hand--

3. Whatever your profession of religion, and whatever your privileges, if you are contented with sin--willingly enduring it, not anxious to overcome it in your own soul and in the souls of others--then you are still in the darkness.

4. Be not satisfied to remain so. Make an effort to break your chain by the help of Jesus. (S. J. Eales, M. A.)

Learning to walk

I suppose that all you boys and girls think that you know how to walk. You would laugh at the idea of being taught how you are to use your legs now, as you were when you were babies. Well, we will see. You all know how to walk along the country lanes and turnpike roads, but if you were to go to London for the first time, you would find that you did not know how to walk. I have sometimes seen a countryman in one of the crowded streets of the City of London, trying to make his way along, and every minute he would run against some passenger, and get in the way of another, till the busy city folks were quite angry with him. There is a particular way of walking in crowded streets, and, like everything else, it has to be learned. But there is another kind of walking which has to be learned. We hear a great deal about that in the Bible. St. Paul has much to say about how we ought to walk, and he was not writing to little tiny children, but to grown up men and women. Now there are only two roads on which we can walk. One is the broad road which leads to destruction, the devil’s road. It seems easy to travel on it at first, but it grows harder and rougher as we go on, for “the way of transgressors is hard.” You know what the other road is? The King’s highway, the narrow path which leads to life eternal, God’s way, of which He says, “Walk ye in it.” Here are some plain rules for you, my children, which will show you how you ought to walk through life as God’s children, as children of light.

1. Then, keep to the right. You will often see these words printed up in the crowded streets of great cities. Your own conscience will tell you what is right, and whenever there are two ways for you to go in, the right or the wrong, be sure to keep to the right.

2. The next rule I give you is, keep your eyes open. If you were to walk along a road with your eyes shut, you would soon stumble or fall, or wander out of the right path; but if you keep your eyes open, you see the rough places over which you might stumble, and the muddy places where you might splash your clothes with dirt, and you can see the finger post showing you the right way. Well, in walking along the path of life you will need to keep your eyes open. There are dangerous places, over which you will stumble and fall, unless you watch for them carefully; there are temptations, like muddy pools, which will stain your white robe, and make it foul, unless you avoid them. If you keep your eyes open, you will see God’s hand directing you, and you will find that He has placed many finger posts to show you the right way. The Church is one finger post, the Bible is another, your teachers are all pointing out to you the right road.

3. My next piece of advice to you is, push your way. There are sure to be difficulties in your path. You can do one of two things, you can wait for the difficulty to be removed, or you can push your way through it. In large towns, where there are great public buildings, such as banks and offices, you often see a heavy door leading into the building, and on it is written the one word, “push.” Now, suppose you wished to enter that building; you might pull at that door for hours and not open it; you might ring the bell, or call to someone to open, but everybody would be too busy to listen. There would be only one thing for you to do, you must push, then the door would open. So it is with all difficulties: “where there’s a will there’s a way”; if you push against the door which is blocking your way, it will open.

4. Take another word of advice, when you meet with your enemy, fight. I don’t mean an earthly enemy, and I don’t mean fighting with your fists. As you walk along the roads of life, your enemy, the devil, will often stand in the path to injure you, to turn you out of the way, “Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.” The ancient Greeks, who were the most famous soldiers of old times, carried a shield in battle. To lose this shield and leave it behind, was the greatest disgrace which could happen to them. When a soldier was killed, or badly wounded, his companions laid him on his shield, and carried him out of the fight. I have read of a Greek mother, who said to her son as he was going to the battle, “Either return with your shield or upon it.” That meant, “Either conquer or die.” My children, it would be very sad for us to have to say, after we have met with temptations to sin--“I have returned again, but I have left my shield behind.”

5. Last of all, take this rule if you would walk rightly, mind the crossings. In London streets it is very difficult and dangerous to cross the road sometimes. If you are not very careful, and quite accustomed to it, you may be knocked down, and run over: or you may take the wrong turning, and lose yourself. So it is with life, we have to cross over a difficult crossing very often, and there is a great crowd of temptations and sins all around us, and if we are not very watchful, we shall be knocked down and run over by some of those temptations. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Walk as children of light

I. Attend to the character applied to the heirs of grace. “Children of light,” as opposed to the “children of darkness.”

1. On account of their celestial extraction.

2. It denotes their spiritual illumination.

3. It signifies the purity of their hearts.

4. It refers (o the sanctity of their conduct.

5. It means that they have an inheritance of this description in heaven.

II. The apostle’s exhortation--“Walk as children of light.”

1. Shine in your conduct towards your minister. Hold him in high reputation. Submit to him, Pray for him. Receive his advice. Provide for him.

2. Shine one towards another. Cultivate unanimity. A spirit of forbearance. Help each other. Preserve a high esteem one for another, and seek to have your affection increased. Conduct yourselves towards each other with the strictest fidelity.

3. Shine in your conduct towards all around you in the world.

III. Improvement.

1. Be circumspect.

2. Be humble.

3. Take care of an implacable spirit.

4. Be steady in your profession.

5. Take the Word of God for your guide.

6. Pray that your minister may be faithful. (The Pulpit.)

Light in the Lord

Light denotes several things in Scripture.

1. Spiritual knowledge. Light and knowledge are terms of the same import (2 Corinthians 4:6). Light to discover God in Christ savingly, and to discern the things of God spiritually.

2. Purity and holiness. Sin and corruption is expressed by darkness, holiness and purity by light. In this sense the most holy God is called Light (1 John 1:5), spotless and perfect holiness, in whom there is not the least impurity. And in reference to us (verse 7), such a light as this is life, spiritual life, which consists in the principles of holiness and purity.

3. The favour of God, and the consequent of it, joy and comfort. The favour of God, the manifesting of His loving kindness, is frequently expressed by the light of His countenance (Psalms 4:6), the issue of which is joy and gladness (verse 7). Light and joy explain one another (Psalms 97:11). That which is light in the first clause is joy in the latter.

4. Glory and happiness. Heaven, the seat of it, is described by light (1 Timothy 6:16). It is called the inheritance (Colossians 1:12).

Use 1. If those that are converted be light, etc., then those that are not converted are not light in the Lord. This necessarily follows by the rule of contraries. They may be light in appearance, or in respect of natural endowments, or moral accomplishments, or in the account of others, or in their own conceit and apprehensions, but they are not light in the Lord; and this shows the misery of an unconverted state, and it is useful to take notice of it more particularly. If they are not light in the Lord--

Use 2. by way of examination. Hereby ye may know whether ye be converted. Every convert is light in the Lord; those, therefore, that are not light in the Lord are not converted; these are so conjoined, as he that knows the one may conclude the other. Examine, then, whether ye be light in the Lord, if ye would know whether ye be converted. In order hereto observe these particulars:

Heat, as philosophers tell us, is an inseparable property of celestial light. We see a concurrence of these in fire; indeed, there may be an appearance of light where there is no heat, as in glow worms, but where there is any real light, there is some degree of heat more or less. Answerably, they that are light in the Lord are zealous for the Lord, eager in following Him, ardent in love to Him and desires after Him, fervent in spirit in serving Him.

Use 3. Consolation to those that are converted. If thou art a convert thou art light in the Lord, and this light discovers thy condition to be safe, comfortable, glorious, durable.

Walk as children of light

I. What is it to be children of light? It denotes several things.

1. Descent. They are called children of light who are of the Father of lights. Christ, the light of the world, is formed in them.

2. Propriety.

3. Destination. 1 Samuel 20:31, one who is near to, worthy of, destined to, death; so children of light, because ordained to it.

4. Residence. They abide in the light.

5. Constitution. Their minds, hearts, affections, are of a lightsome, i.e., a spiritual and heavenly temper; spiritual light in their minds, holiness in their wills, joy, delight, hopes of glory in their hearts.

6. Obligation. Those that are converted are in this sense children of light, because they are obliged to walk as those that are enlightened from above; to walk holily, to be followers of God as dear children. There are strong engagements laid upon them, they are bound by covenant thus to walk.

II. What is it to walk as children of light?

1. To walk at a distance from darkness (verse 11); from sin, which is the work, which is the cause of all those woeful things which the Holy Ghost expresses by darkness. “What communion has fight with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). He speaks of it as a most absurd, incongruous thing, that those that are light should mingle with darkness. Every degree of darkness is contrary to fight; so every sin, small or great, open or secret, is opposite, contrary, altogether unbeseeming the blessed relation of a child of fight.

2. To walk boldly; to be herein followers of God as dear children. How followers of God? The apostle tells us (1 Peter 1:15-16), the light of holiness should shine in the fives of those that are Christ’s; holiness both exercised and diffused. Walking denotes motion and activeness.

3. Exemplarily. Children of fight must walk so as to be fight unto others, and this in divers particulars.

4. Cheerfully. Being children of light, they are children of joy. That is their portion, they are all Barnabases, sons of consolation, and should walk accordingly.

If it be inquired how we may walk as children of light?

1. Walk not according to opinion. This can have no better ground than vain opinion, which Moses followed not, when he “chose rather to suffer,” etc., and “accounted the reproach of Christ,” etc. (Hebrews 11:25-26). He had not respect to common opinion, but to something else; nor did the apostle regard it, but something of another nature (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

2. Follow the light of the Word fully. Make use of it to discover the whole will of God concerning the duty of His children, that you may comply with it, and order heart and life by it. Decline no part of it, whatever it be.

3. Walk above the world and earthly things. Children of light are clothed with the sun; the moon, the world is under their feet (Revelation 12:1). It has no high place in their minds or hearts; riches, pleasures, honours, and respect are thrown down in their thoughts, and cast out of their affections, they are not the design of their lives; the world is their footstool everywhere, and serves, does not command them.

4. Walk in the sight of heaven. Children of the fight are the “children of the kingdom,” heirs of heaven and glory, begotten again to an inheritance, etc. And that is one reason why they are called children of light, because they are heirs of the inheritance of the saints in light. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

Light in daffiness

I was in a darkened room, that I might observe the effect produced by the use of what is appropriately called “luminous paint.” A neat card, on which the words “Trust in the Lord” were printed, rested upon the bookcase, and shone out clearly in the darkness. The effect fairly startled me. It was the first time that I had seen this simple but interesting effect. How remarkable that, if from any cause the light of sun or day failed to rest upon the card, its luminousness gradually declined, but returned when the sun’s action infused fresh light! Truly, we also, if hidden from the face of our Lord, cease to shine. “Ye are light in the Lord: walk as children of the light.” (Henry Varley.)

Children of light

That deep-lunged, red-blooded preacher, Sydney Smith, used to throw open the shutters to the morning sun, saying, “Let us glorify the room!” Both conscience and temperament led him, also, to insist on flooding the dark places of the moral world with cheerfulness, which is the sunshine of the spirit. Thus he constantly advocated the wisdom of what he called “short views” of life. It was obvious, he thought, that the larger part of our worries and perplexities came from the anticipation of evils. He insisted that if we were happy now, or at least not miserable, or even not overborne by the trouble of the hour, we might logically infer--nay, we should even make it a duty to suppose--that tomorrow, or next week, or next year, would also bring its balance of compensation and resistance. Every substantial grief or danger, he used to say, was accompanied by twenty shadows, and most of these are of our own making.


Verse 9

Ephesians 5:9

For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.

The fruit of the Spirit

1. The author, the Holy Spirit.

2. The fruits of His sanctifying operations enumerated, “All goodness, and righteousness, and truth.”

This is the conversation that may be called “Walking as children of the light.”

1. The apostle, for example’s sake, mentioneth some parts of the holy life, not to exclude, but imply the rest; for there is a secret “and such like” understood. When he saith, “This is the fruit of the Spirit,” you must not think it is all. When we bring a sample of a commodity we bring a little to show the quality of the rest, not as if that were all we had to sell: so these graces are mentioned, but not to exclude the rest.

2. He instanceth in such cases as concern the second table, kindness, justice, and fidelity, as is usual in such cases. The world is most capable of knowing and approving these things, but they suppose higher graces; for all our goodness, justice, and truth must come from love and obedience to God, and faith in Christ, as their true and proper principle, or else they are but moral virtues, not Christian graces (Job 1:1; Luke 23:50).

3. These are spoken of as in combination. We must not so follow after one as to neglect the other.

4. I observe that there is a note of universality joined to the word goodness. “All goodness,” to show this is of chief regard, and that we must not be good in one sort or kind only, but “fruitful in every good work (Colossians 1:10). A Christian should he made up of goodness; his very constitution and trade must be goodness.

5. I observe that these are called fruit, not only by a Hebraism, who are wont to express the works of a man by the term “fruit”; for man is, or should be, a tree of righteousness; but there is a distinction: Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:22, now the “works of the flesh” are manifest, but “the fruit of the Spirit”; so also here compare the text with verse 11, “Unfruitful works of darkness.” But why is it called “fruit”? Partly to show it is the native and genuine product of the Spirit in our hearts, as fruit groweth on a tree; and partly to show that sin is an unprofitable drudgery, but holiness is fruit.

6. All these graces, and duties consequent, are fruits of the Spirit.

7. He speaks of habits, not of acts. When the soul is thus constituted it is hard to do otherwise.

8. These are ascribed to the Spirit for two reasons.

Having made this way, I come now to propound a particular point.

1. That the Spirit which we receive by the gospel worketh all goodness in the hearts of believers.

I. What is goodness? I answer--Goodness is either moral or beneficial.

1. Moral goodness is our whole duty required by the law of God, whatever is just and equal for us to perform (Deuteronomy 30:15).

2. There is beneficial goodness, which is a branch of the former, and implieth a readiness to do good to others to the utmost of our capacity; for all good is communicative of itself (Hebrews 13:16).

II. That this is the fruit and product of the Spirit by the gospel.

First: What the gospel doth to promote this goodness in the world.

1. By the laws and precepts of it, or the duties it requireth; it requireth us to be good and to do good.

(a) As to God, the great duty is love; that we should love Him, and obey Him as our rightful Lord and chief good and happiness.

(b) To do good to men (Galatians 6:10). We cannot take delight in all, for some are an offence to the new nature which is in us; but we must do good to all, and seek their happiness. We cannot take pleasure in sinners, but yet must do them good. Suppose they have disobliged us, yet enemies are not excepted (Matthew 5:44).

2. By the discoveries it maketh. The greatest, truest, and fullest prospect of God’s goodness to mankind we have in the gospel. There “the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared” (Titus 3:4).

3. The examples it propoundeth to our imitation, not mean and blemished ones, such as we may find among our fellow creatures, but the high and glorious examples of God and Christ Himself.

4. The arguments by which it enforceth this goodness, or the rewards and encouragements which it offereth, which is the supreme blessedness or the chief good.

Secondly: Upon what grounds we may expect the Spirit to cooperate herewith.

1. Because God worketh congruously, as with respect to the subject upon which He worketh, so with respect to the object by which He worketh. The subject is the heart of man, and therefore He “draweth us with the cords of a man” (Hosea 11:4). The object is the gospel, a good word, or the good knowledge of God, and therefore a suitable means to work goodness in us. There we have good precepts and good promises, and an account of God’s wonderful goodness and love in Christ; and “therefore the fruit of His Spirit is in all goodness.”

2. The Spirit produceth this effect as a witness of the truth of the gospel, which being a supernatural doctrine, needed to be attested from heaven, that the truth of it might be known by the mighty power of God which doth accompany it, working in our hearts effects suitable to the tenor of the word. Whatever doctrine can change the soul of man, and convert it to God, is of God, and owned by God.

3. That thereby God may signify His peculiar and elective love to His people. When He worketh all goodness in their hearts by His Spirit, they come to discern that He loveth them by a special love.

4. God maketh an offer of His grace to invite us to seriousness in attending on this gospel. He excludeth none in the offer, and therefore we must not exclude ourselves. That one choice fruit of the Spirit wrought in the children of light is righteousness.

I. What is righteousness? Sometimes it is taken as largely as holiness, for that grace which doth incline us to perform our duty to God and man; for there is a righteousness even in godliness, or giving God His due honour and worship (Matthew 22:21). More strictly it is taken for that grace which doth dispose and incline us to give everyone his due, and is a branch of that love and charity which is the sum of the whole second table (Romans 13:7-8). To evidence which--First: What is the office and part of justice and righteousness? To seek the peace and welfare of the several communities and societies in which we live, or in preferring the public good before our own.

2. To give to every man his due; to use faithful dealing in all the duties we owe to others, or in all actions wherein we are employed and entrusted by others.

3. Fidelity in our relations is another part of justice; for all these relations imply a right which is due to others. So we must be just to superiors and inferiors.

Secondly: To what a height Christianity advanceth these things.

1. Because it deduceth things from a higher principle, the fixed principle of a nature renewed by Christ. There are in it three things --

2. Because it measureth and directeth things by a more perfect rule than the law of nature. Our rule is God’s Word, which is a more pure and perfect rule than so much of the law as remaineth written upon man’s heart after the Fall.

3. Because it referreth them to a more noble end, which is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

II. That this is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It must needs be so, because it suiteth with His office and personal operations. The Spirit is to be our guide, sanctifier, and comforter. As our guide, He doth direct and enlighten our minds; as our sanctifier, He doth change our hearts; and as our comforter, He doth pacify and clear and quiet our consciences. Now this fruit of righteousness is conducible to all these ends, or agreeable with these offices.

III. It is a choice fruit of the Spirit.

1. Because it conduceth so much to the good of human society.

2. Because of the many promises of God, both as to the world to come and the present life.

3. That to make a Christian complete in his carriage towards men, to goodness and righteousness there must be added truth. Let me inquire here--

I. What is meant by truth? Sincerity or uprightness in all our speeches and dealings with men. But because integrity of life, and uprightness in our commerce and dealings with others, is a great branch of righteousness, therefore here we must consider it as an opposite to falsehood or a lie in speech; yet not excluding either godly sincerity, which is the root of it: “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (Psalms 2:6); or internal integrity and righteousness (Jeremiah 5:1). The matter of a lie is falsehood, the formality of it is an intention to deceive; the outward sign is speech. Gestures are a sign by which we discover our mind, but an imperfect sign; the special instrument of human commerce is speech. Now there is a two-fold lying--a lying to God, and a lying to men.

II. Why must it be made conscience of by the children of light, or those who are “light in the Lord”? I answer For these reasons:

1. Because it is a sin most contrary to the nature of God, who is truth itself; it is not only contrary to His will but to His nature: Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” He can do all things, but He cannot lie.

2. Because when God was incarnate, and came not only to represent the goodness of the Divine nature, but also the holiness of it as a pattern for our imitation, Jesus Christ, this God incarnate, was eminent for this part of holiness, for sincerity and truth (1 Peter 2:22).

3. Nothing maketh us more like the devil, who is a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies (John 8:44).

4. It is a sin most contrary to the new nature wrought in the saints, and seemeth to offer more violence to it than other sins.

5. It is a sin most contrary to human society.

6. Lying is a sin very hateful to God, and against which He hath expressed much of His displeasure. A lying tongue is reckoned among those six things which God hateth (Proverbs 6:17).

7. It is a sin shameful and odious in the eyes of men. The more common honesty any man hath, the further he is from it, especially the more he hath of the spirit of grace (Proverbs 13:5).

III. Why this must be added to goodness and righteousness.

1. Because they cannot be preserved without it.

2. The life of goodness and righteousness lieth in truth, and so they cannot be thoroughly exercised unless truth be added. Sincerity runs through all the graces. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The connection between a gracious state and a holy life

The scope of the text is to show that there is a necessary connection betwixt a gracious state and a holy life; which are so joined by the appointment of God, and the nature of things, that they cannot be put asunder. The reasoning is founded on that fundamental maxim of practical Christianity, that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Light, abides, acts, and produceth fruit in all the children of light, in all those who are light in the Lord. It is by the communion of His Spirit that we receive of His influences to make us fruitful. The Spirit uniting the soul to Christ, the fountain of light and life, it immediately partakes of the light and life, as a candle is lighted by a burning lamp touching it; but the candle, separated from the lamp, would continue to burn, as having in itself that which feeds the flame. But the creature is empty in itself, and therefore must be fed continually from Jesus Christ, by the communion of His Spirit maintaining the bond of union betwixt Christ and the soul, and taking of Christ and giving to it. So that if it were possible that the Spirit should once totally depart from the child of light, and the union be broken, that moment he would return to his former darkness. Now the fruit of the Spirit, thus abiding and acting in the children of light, is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth; therefore it necessarily follows, that they that are light in the Lord, will walk as children of light. We are now--

2. To consider what is said of this fruit of the Spirit. “It is in all goodness,” etc. There is an ellipsis here of the copulating. Our translators supply the word, “is.” Some versions supply the word, “consists.” Whatever be supplied, that seems to be the sense, namely, that the fruit of the Spirit consists in all goodness, etc. Thus we read (Colossians 1:10) of being fruitful in every good work. The fruit of the Spirit is not only in some goodness, righteousness, and truth--though many deceive themselves with parcels and shreds of these things--but it is in all goodness in one’s self and to his neighbour; in all righteousness towards man; in all truth with respect to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. And these things are interwoven one with another, in the fruit of the Spirit. The goodness is true, and jostles out no sort of righteousness or justice, communicative nor distributive, remunerative nor punitive. The righteousness is true and good; from right principles, motives, and ends. So is the truth, as it is here distinguished, proceeding from a good principle. Meanwhile, this extent of the fruit of the Spirit is to be understood not in a legal, but an evangelical sense; of a perfection of parts, not of degrees.

Lastly. Let us show how these are the fruit of the Holy Ghost in the children of light. They are so in three respects.

1. He implants them in the soul, giving it a good, righteous, and true inclination and propensity, agreeable to the holy law, according to that, “I will,” saith the Lord, “put My law into their minds, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.”

2. He preserves these graces when implanted (1 Peter 1:5), without which they would die out. And--

3. He excites, quickens, and brings them forth to action, in the heart and life of the children of light (Song of Solomon 4:16). (T. Boston, D. D.)

The fruits of the Spirit, the same with moral virtues

I shall briefly explain the importance of these three words, “goodness, and righteousness, and truth”; and then proceed to make some observations from the text.

I. Goodness. And what that is, the apostle takes it for granted that everybody knows; he does not go about to define it or explain it, but appeals to every man’s mind and conscience to tell him what it is. It is not anything that is disputed and controverted among men, which some call good, and others evil; but that which mankind is agreed in, and which is universally approved by the light of nature, by heathens as well as Christians; it is that which is substantially good, and that which is unquestionably so. It consists in the following particulars, viz., obedience to our superiors and governors, and a conscientious care of the duties of our several relations; sincere love and charity, compassion, humility, peace and unity, abstaining from wrath and revenge, and rendering good for evil; these are unquestionable instances of goodness, and pass for current among all mankind, are on all hands agreed to be good, and have an universal approbation among all parties and professions, how wide soever their differences may be in other matters. The other two fruits of the Spirit which are added in the text, “righteousness and truth,” which respect likewise our conversation with men, more especially in the way of commerce, are rather parts or branches of goodness, than really distinct from it. I now proceed to make some observations.

1. That the “fruits of the Spirit” are real and sensible effects, appearing in the dispositions and lives of men. The apostle here speaks of what is visible in the lives and conversations of men; for he exhorts Christians to “walk as children of the light”; now walking is a metaphor which signifies the outward conversation and actions of men. For religion is not an invisible thing, consisting in mere belief, in height of speculation, and niceties of opinion, or in abstruseness of mystery. The Scripture does not place it in things remote from the sight and observation of men, but in real and visible effects; such as may be plainly discerned, and even felt, in the conversation of men; not in abstracted notions, but in substantial virtues, and in a sensible power and efficacy upon the lives of men, in all the instances of piety and virtue, of holy and excellent actions.

2. That these “fruits of the Spirit,” here mentioned, “goodness, and righteousness, and truth,” are of an eternal and immutable nature, and of perpetual and indispensable obligation.

3. That moral virtues are the graces and “fruits of the Spirit.” So that grace and virtue are but two names that signify the same thing. Virtue signifies the absolute nature and goodness of these things; grace denotes the cause and principle by which these virtues are wrought and produced, and are preserved and increased in us; namely, by the free gift of God’s Holy Spirit to us.

4. That since these very things which are called moral virtues, are in their nature the very same with the graces and “fruits of the Spirit,” therefore they are by no means to be slighted as low and mean attainments in religion, but to be looked upon and esteemed as a main and substantial part of Christianity. They are called “the fruits of the Spirit”; that is, the natural and genuine effects of that Divine power and influence upon the hearts and lives of men, which accompanies the Christian religion; or the happy effects of the Christian religion wrought in men by the immediate operation and assistance of the Holy Spirit of God, which is conferred upon all Christians in their baptism, and does continually dwell and reside in them, if by wilful sins they do not grieve Him, and drive Him away, and provoke Him to withdraw Himself from them. (Archbishop Tillotson.)

Righteousness in all things

Just as the quality of life may be as perfect in the minutest animalculae, of which there may be millions in a cubic inch, and generations may die in an hour--just as perfect in the smallest insect as in “behemoth, biggest born of earth”; so righteousness may be as completely embodied, as perfectly set forth, as fully operative in the tiniest action that I can do as in the largest that an immortal spirit can be set to perform. The circle that is in a gnat’s eye is as true a circle as the one that holds within its sweep all the stars; and the sphere that a dewdrop makes is as perfect a sphere as that of the world. All duties are the same which are done from the same motive; all acts which are not so done are alike sins. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


Verse 10

Ephesians 5:10

Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

The rule of the saint’s life

Darkness implies ignorance, for in deep darkness, where no object is recognizable, movement becomes impossible; as, for instance, in the plague of darkness sent upon smitten Egypt of old, we are told that none moved out of their place for three days. It implies suffering and sadness, and is one of the most familiar images which we unconsciously use to represent our times of sorrow (I was going to say, unconsciously repeating the image), the dark times of our life. But it implies also depravity and crime, for evil hides in the darkness, and has a natural sympathy with it. Who, then, are they who are said by the apostle to be dark? Are they the unlearned and untaught in human knowledge, in contrast with the wise and eloquent of the world? Evidently no. The word is palpably applied to all who are not Christians--those whom he describes in a preceding chapter of the same letter as dead in trespasses and sins. On the contrary, however, all converted men, all true Christians, all real believers in Christ Jesus, are not only enlightened but are light. That they are enlightened we shall all readily admit, for God hath shined in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. But the special lesson which is impressed here goes further. It is that they are light--that there is a positive power of light planted within them, capable both of guiding themselves and of being reflected upon others. It is not their own light primarily or meritoriously, but it is the light of God in Christ.

I. I ask your attention to the principle involved. It is that the law of a Christian life is to be found in that which is acceptable to God. In other words, our characters and conduct are not to be regulated by the bare outward letter of the law, but by something further. The result of the lesson is no doubt to raise greatly the standard of our Christian life; and who will deny that we need to raise it; who will not be conscious of the abyss of difference between ourselves and the apostles, between what we are, and that model of what we ought to be, contained in the Word of God?

II. But from the principle we must pass on to the practical application. How are we to prove what is acceptable to God? What, then, is the test? It is at least three fold.

1. There is the test of the Word of God, that sure rule by which everything else must be measured. But I do not mean the letter of the Word only, its direct, positive precepts. It is unnecessary to speak to you of these; whatever they command is of course right, whatever they forbid of course wrong. But I mean the indirect test of the Word. Does any given pleasure, or pursuit, or habit bring us into closer harmony with the Spirit and the mind of God? Then it is acceptable to God. Does it put us out of tune with it, and make it more difficult to keep the plain command? Then it cannot be acceptable to God.

2. The test may be found in the effect which any given course or habit has on our habits of devotion, and the soul’s loving communion, through the Word and through praise and prayer, with its Father in heaven.

3. Beyond this, I believe there is in a soul in a state of spiritual health, where the reason follows God’s teaching, where the affections find supreme delight in Him, and where the conscience is sensitive to inconsistency, an instinctive sense of what is right and wrong, a feeling on which aught dishonourable to God jars and is at variance, just as a harsh discord in the midst of a sweet harmony may offend the ear which is not skilled enough to detect its nature. (E. Garbett, M. A.)

Proving what is acceptable to the Lord

I. The act: “proving.” So to prove as to approve and practise.

II. The object: “that which is pleasing, or acceptable, to the Lord.” There is a difference between things.

1. Some things utterly displease God, as sin (2 Samuel 11:27).

2. Some things are not displeasing unto God, as all natural and indifferent actions, which are not forbidden, but allowed by Him (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

3. Other things are commanded by Him as a positive law, but have no natural goodness in themselves, setting aside God’s command.

4. There are some things which do most please God, as things eminently good are acceptable to Him in the highest degree; as, for instance, faith in Christ is pleasing to God, but a strong faith is more acceptable than a weak, which needeth props and crutches (John 20:29). That proving what is acceptable to God is one great duty which belongeth to the children of light.

I shall explain this point by these considerations--

1. Our great end and scope should be to please God, and be accepted with Him.

2. We please God by doing what He hath required of us in His Word. There are certain things evident by the light of nature which belong to our duty; these must not be overlooked (Micah 6:8). The things there mentioned are evident by the light of nature. That we should carry ourselves justly towards men, and with reverence and obedience to the Divine majesty, is evident by the light of nature, as well as Scripture. But the revelation that He hath made of our duty to us by the Word is more clear, full, and certain.

3. If we would know God’s mind revealed in His Word, we must use search and trial. δοκιμάζοντες, “proving,” noteth great diligence and care that we may know the mind of God; for it greatly importeth us, and we are often pressed to it: “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (2 Thessalonians 6:21). If we see but a piece of money that hath the king’s image stamped upon it, we bring it to the touchstone to see if it be right: do so with doctrines and practices, bring them to the law and to the testimony, see how they agree with God’s Word (1 John 4:1).

4. We must search and try, that we may walk as children of the light. The night was made for rest; the light is not given us for rest and idleness, but for work. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Believers must please God

The business of a Christian upon earth is not an independent one; he is not acting on his own account, but he is a steward for Christ. What if I compare him to a commission agent who is sent abroad by his firm with full powers from his employer to transact business for the house which he represents! He is not to trade for himself, but he agrees to do all in the name of the firm which commissions him. He receives his instructions, and all he has to do is to carry them out, his whole time and talent being by express agreement at the absolute disposal of his employers. Now, if this man shall lend himself to an opposition firm, or trade on his own account, he is not true to his engagements, and he has to bear the responsibility of his acts; but so long as he acts for his firm, and does his best, his course is an easy and safe one. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Entire consecration to God

That eminent ornithologist, M. Audubon, who produced accurate drawings and descriptions of all the birds of the American continent, made the perfection of that work the one object of his life. In order to achieve this he had to earn his own living by painting portraits, and other labours; he had to traverse frozen seas, forests, canebrakes, jungles, prairies, mountains, swollen rivers, and pestilential bogs. He exposed himself to perils of every sort, and underwent hardships of every kind. Now, whatever Audubon was doing, he was fighting his way towards his one object, the production of his history of American birds. Whether he was painting a lady’s portrait, paddling a canoe, shooting a raccoon, or felling a tree, his one drift was his bird book. He had said to himself, “I mean to carve my name amongst the naturalists as having produced a complete ornithological work for America,” and this resolution ate him up, and subdued his whole life. He accomplished his work because he gave himself wholly to it. This is the way in which the Christian man should make Christ his element. All that he does should be subservient to this one thing, “That I may finish my course with joy, that I may deliver my testimony for Christ, that I may glorify God whether I live or die.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 11

Ephesians 5:11

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Renunciation of evil ways

1 Those in whom there is the light of grace and true knowledge must not walk in evil works, nor communicate in them.

(a) By provoking to sin.

(b) By commanding.

(c) By counselling.

(d) By consenting.

(e) By carelessness to prevent sin.

(f) By not repressing sin when it has entered.

(g) By applauding sin.

(h) By not testifying against sin.

2. The ways of sin bring no good to those that walk in them.

3. Those who walk in light must reprove and convince those who walk in evil. (Paul Bayne.)

The duty and manner of Christian reproof

I. God’s people, His children, are a reproving light. They are called out of darkness into marvellous light, that they might reflect the, light of Him who hath “called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.” But, beloved, there is another quality in light, there are many others indeed, but this one especially here to be noted, which is, that there is a detective and a reproving quality in light. We know not the beauty of an object but as the light unfolds it; we know not its faultiness, we see not its defects, they are to us unknown without the light; but the light reveals them. The Lord’s people are especially called to stand; not merely as a reflecting light, not merely as a diffusing light, but as a reproving light, reproving the “darkness “ around them. Whatever there is in a believer peculiar to him as a believer, is a light that reproves the world. Is it the life that he has, the life of faith? It is a reproving light to the world. If we look to the love of the believer, or what he loves; he loves Christ. In this love of Christ we shall see that he is a reproving light to the world. But especially do we see this in the quality of a believer’s happiness. When a child of God is enabled by the Spirit of God to realize clearly his adoption; when he can look up with humble hope and believing confidence, and say, “My Father!” when he knows something of the power of this truth, that communion with God, submission to God, and obedience in the ways of God is the very highest element of real enjoyment; when it speaks peace to him and quiets him in the midst of all his troubles, and dries up his tears--oh! what a reproving light is this oft to the world that lieth in darkness. He says, “I see the effects; I see a real principle, I know not whence it comes, but I see a positive amount of happiness, I have never seen anything like it before. I have seen a man in wealth, but his wealth did not make him happy; I have seen a man in poverty, but his poverty did not make him miserable; I have seen him in health, he saw no brightness in health save only as he was enabled to ‘live to God’; I have seen him in sickness, and in sickness I have seen him peaceful, he knew that joy, that ‘peace that passeth all understanding’; I have seen him in death, I have seen him when called to die, ‘ready to depart’--‘to me to live,’ he said, ‘is Christ, to die is gain’; and I have seen him in the last article of death, but death had no sting, he was enabled to rise above it by faith in Christ Jesus, and say, ‘O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?’”

II. But, observe now, secondly, they are placed in the midst of these unfruitful works of darkness. Ah! dear hearers, we have but poor notions of sin. Every sin is that which deserves God’s wrath; it has death for its wages, and eternal misery, if unrepented of, for its consummation. Therefore, confine not your minds to gross sins merely, since all sins are the works of darkness. Why are they called unfruitful? I have no doubt that it has especial reference to this darkness, as the very cause of barrenness. Yet, beloved, the saints of God are placed in the midst of these “unfruitful works of darkness”; why is it? Could not the Lord God have delivered them and translated them at once to their eternal home? Could He not in the case of Israel of old have taken them to Canaan at once without taking them through the waste howling desert? Who denies it? But should you ask wherefore He does it not, we see it typically unfolded in the eighth of Deuteronomy, at the fifteenth and sixteenth verses--“Who hath led thee through a great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might humble thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.” See, then, wherefore they are placed in the midst of a dying world; see wherefore they are surrounded by these “unfruitful works of darkness”; see the great end and object, it is not the result of chance, it is the appointment of infinite wisdom, tenderness, goodness, and love.

III. But, beloved, observe now “the exhortation that is given--“have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Now, observe, it is not said, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful workers of darkness,” never will you meet with a precept of that kind in God’s Word, we must needs go out of the world if we try. But there is more than this in the precept--“but rather reprove them.” Here we come to one of the most difficult paths in the believer’s walk. There are many ways in which the believer is called upon from time to time to reprove the “works of darkness.” By diffusing the truth. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Avoidance of sinful works

That the children of light should live in a perfect abhorrence of, and stand at a great distance from, the unfruitful works of darkness.

I. For the object. We have a general and unlimited expression, “The unfruitful works of darkness.” But what they are we may collect from the context, “Uncleanness, fornication, evil concupiscence,” etc.; and (Romans 13:12-13) the apostle reckoneth up other things. These and such like heathen practices are such as the apostle intendeth.

1. They are called “works of darkness” for these reasons--

There is a three-fold light.

2. These are said to be unfruitful by a μείωσις, that is, damnable; as Hebrews 13:17, “That is unprofitable for you.” The meaning is, hurtful and pernicious; however, the expression is emphatical. These works produce not only no good fruit, but certainly bring forth evil fruit, and prove bitterness in the end. Mere evil, as evil, cannot be the object of choice; there is some fruit or benefit expected in all that we do, but sin will never make good its word to us.

II. The acts of our duty about it; and they are two.

1. That we must have no fellowship with them in evil. To understand that, we must consider how many ways we have fellowship with them.

(a) If we counsel, persuade, allure, or entice others to sins. These are Satan’s decoys, who being ensnared themselves, draw others into the net.

(b) By commanding that which is evil. This is the sin of those that have power over others; as David commanded Joab to set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire from him, that he may be smitten and die (2 Samuel 11:15).

(c) By consenting, though we be not the principal actors; as Ahab (1 Kings 21:19).

(d) By abetting, aiding, and assisting in the conveyance of the sin; as Jonadab assisted Amnon in getting an occasion to satisfy his lust on his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:5).

(e) By applauding, approving, or praising the sin, which is the guise of flatterers (Romans 1:32).

(f) By carelessness to prevent the sin: “I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (1 Samuel 3:13). So that a culpable omission may make us accessory to their sin.

2. The other duty is, “But rather reprove them.” Now reprove we may by deed or word.

III. The reasons of the point.

1. Because there should be a broad and sensible difference between the children of light and the children of darkness.

2. This difference is discovered by those actions that are proper to either state; for actions are agreeable to their principle, and in actions must this difference be expressed, or how is it visible? Both show forth the influence of an unseen power, both the children of God and the children of the devil, the children of light and children of darkness.

3. This distinction is to be kept up on the part of the godly, and so conspicuously held forth, that they may either convince or convert the wicked.

4. The children of God are fitted and prepared for this, to abstain from sin (1 John 3:9).

5. The inconveniencies are great that will follow if God’s children should have any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; our pretended communion with God will be interrupted (1 John 1:6-7).

To press the two duties in the text.

1. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”; that is, do not join or partake in the sins of the carnal world, though they seem to be authorized by vulgar and common practice. To this end remember--

2. “But rather reprove them,” by deed and word.

Evil company is deadly

My father once had two Irishmen digging a well, and they dug about five days and then they were paid some money and went off and drank for about a week. When they came back ready for work they uncovered the well and asked for a candle. They got the candle and tied a rope round it and let it down in the well, and when it got near the bottom it flickered and went out, and Pat said, “We can’t go down there, there is death down there.” And they went away and got some dry brushwood and built a fire in the well, and thou let down the candle again, and it burnt all right. Before you go into some places, my dear friends, put your light, that is, your God, your preacher, and your Bible down and see how they look. (S. Jones.)

Evil is to be avoided

The pilot of a United States revenue cutter was asked if he knew all the rocks along the coast where he sailed. He replied: “No; it is only necessary to know where there are no rocks.” These words suggest a deep moral and spiritual truth. Sermons, lectures, and books abound on the temptations which lie along the life course of the young to eternity. Over the most dangerous ones are lifted the solemn notes of repeated warning.

Fellowship defined

What is fellowship? It is more than sympathy, although that is the core of it. It is sympathy expressed or manifested in such a way as to draw others toward you in the bonds of brotherhood. Fellowship is making men feel that they are fellows with you; that they are your brethren; that they are related to you; that they are a part of your person, as it were. (H. W. Beecher.)

No association with rebels

In the rebellion of 1798, the rebels took prisoner a little drummer of the king’s troops, and they desired him to beat the drum for them. The little boy laid his drum on the ground and leaped into it, smashing the parchment into atoms. “God forbid,” said he, “that the king’s drum should ever be beat for rebels.” The ruffians piked the little hero, but they could not obliterate the remembrance of a deed worthy of a place in the noblest records of courage, loyalty, and fidelity--an example which, if it were imitated in a spiritual sense by the Christian, would best illustrate the fulfilment of the apostle’s exhortation here. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Christians must maintain their rank

Matthew Wilks once rode by coach with a young nobleman and a female passenger. The nobleman entered upon an improper conversation with the coachman and the woman. At a favourable opportunity Mr. Wilks attracted his attention, and said, “My lord, maintain your rank!” The reproof was felt and acted upon. Let the Christian ever maintain his rank. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christians must be consistent

A distinguished Christian lady was recently spending a few weeks in a hotel at Long Branch, and an attempt was made to induce her to attend a dance, in order that the affair might have the prestige bestowed by her presence, as she stood high in society. She declined all the importunities of her friends, and finally an honourable senator tried to persuade her to attend, saying, “Miss B., this is quite a harmless affair, and we want to have the exceptional honour of your presence.” “Senator,” said the lady, “I cannot do it, I am a Christian. I never do anything in my summer vacation, or wherever I go, that will injure the influence I have over the girls of my Sunday school class.” The senator bowed, and, “I honour you; if there were more Christians like you, more men like myself would become Christians.”

The “unfruitful works of darkness” to be looked for in our own hearts

To dwell on the works of darkness which were done in ancient Greece and Rome would be very unprofitable. What pen would dare to write, what eye endure to read, the things which are done all the year round in Paris and London? No villager need wander from his own village, in order to find works which will not bear the light. Indeed we need not go any whither exploring, we need not leave our own door; we may find within our own breasts more than enough to humble us. Let each of us sit still, and keep watch for a while in the silent house of his spirit: he will find things transpiring there which will suggest self-abhorrence, and clothe him with shame before God. Not only the kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of darkness also is very nigh unto us, and comes without observation. Let us watch and pray, that we may have grace and strength enough to disown the inward imagery, with which it seeks to fascinate and pollute the heart. Let us hold no fellowship with the thoughts which it stirs in us. Let us drag thorn before the light of God, that they may be made manifest, and reproved there. (J. Pulsford.)

The Christian as a reformer

I. Negative. “Have no fellowship.”

1. All and every kind of intercourse with evil-doers is not included; for we are commanded to rebuke, and this implies some intercourse. Besides, we are exhorted to do good unto all men, as we have opportunity.

2. All friendly intercourse with even gross sinners is not prohibited. Our Saviour sat at meat with publicans, and sinners, and Pharisees; and Paul instructs Christians how to conduct themselves when invited to a feast by an unbeliever.

3. All business intercourse is not interdicted. In 1 Corinthians 10:25, permission, and even advice is given.

4. The discharge of the relative duties which arise out of the family relation is not included in the prohibition.

5. Civil connection with wicked governments is not forbidden. Subjection to rulers is permitted and directed by the precept of Paul, in Romans 13:1. Joseph held office under the despot of Egypt. Daniel did likewise under the kings of Babylon and Persia, and while so doing was greeted by the angel with the title, “well-beloved.”

6. Not all ecclesiastical connection with wrong-doers is forbidden.

II. Having seen that there are some things which are not to be understood as the fellowship forbidden, let us inquire in what it does consist.

1. It plainly includes the direct commission of sin.

2. It occurs in the support of others in the commission of wrong, when we employ them or supply them with the means of some iniquitous purpose.

3. Iniquity is fellowshipped when wrong is justified as right; when sweet as called bitter, and bitter sweet; when darkness is called light, and light darkness.

4. The same thing takes place when men support wrong on the whole. This is done by endeavouring to produce an underestimate of the wrong itself; or by urging its necessity or expediency, as if Providence compelled us to sin.

III. Let us now consider our positive duty as enjoined in the text. A proper understanding of the word “reprove” will furnish us with a clue to guide us to this end. The term implies an appeal to the understanding of the evil-doer--to convince him by proving that his course is one of wickedness and folly--to arouse his sense of right, and not to irritate his sensibility to obloquy and scorn. (E. C. Pritchett.)

Influence of bad company

What you learn from bad habits and in bad society you will never forget, and it will be a lasting pang to you. I tell you in all sincerity, not as in the excitement of speech, but as I would confess and have confessed before God, I would give my right hand tonight if I could forget that which I have learned in evil society--if I could tear from my remembrance the scenes which I have witnessed, the transactions which have taken place before me. You cannot, I believe, take away the effect of a single impure thought that has lodged and harboured in the heart. You may pray against it, and by God’s grace you may conquer it, but it will, through life, cause you bitterness and anguish. (J. B. Gough.)

Power of bad company

Bad company is like a nail driven into a post, which, after the first and second blow, may be drawn out with little difficulty; but being once driven up to the head, the pincers cannot take hold to draw it out, but which can only be done by the destruction of the wood. (St. Augustine.)

Christian conduct in worldly company

A pious officer of the army, travelling through the Mahratta country, was asked by Judge D--, a religious gentleman, to accompany him to a public dinner, at which the commanding officer of the district, with all his staff, and various other public characters, were expected to meet. “I expressed a wish to be excused,” says the officer, “as I had no relish for such entertainments, and did not think that much either of pleasure or profit was to be derived from them.” His reply was: “While I feel it my duty to attend on such an occasion, I certainly have as little pleasure in it as you have. But there is one way in which I find I can be present at such meetings, and yet receive no injury from them. I endeavour to conceive to myself the Lord Jesus seated on the opposite side of the table, and to think what He would wish me to do and to say, when placed in such a situation, and as long as I can keep this thought alive on my mind, I find I am free from danger.”

A law against bad company

An ancient historian, mentioning the laws which Charondas gave the Thurians, says: “He enacted a law with reference to an evil, on which former lawgivers had not animadverted--that of keeping bad company. As he conceived that the morals of the good were sometimes quite ruined by their dissolute acquaintance; that vice was apt, like an infectious disease, to spread itself and extend its contagion, he expressly enjoined, that none should engage in any intimacy or familiarity with immoral persons; appointed that an accusation might be exhibited for keeping bad company; and laid a heavy fine on such as were convicted of it.”

The child of light and the works of darkness

I. What is forbidden. “Fellowship.” This may be produced in several ways.

1. By personally committing the sins described, or by joining with others in bringing them about.

2. By teaching wrong-doing, either by plain word or by just inference.

3. By constraining, commanding, or tempting; by threat, request, persuasion, inducement, compulsion, bribery, or influence.

4. By provoking, through exciting anger, emulation, or discouragement.

5. By neglecting to rebuke, especially by parents and masters misusing their office, and allowing known evils in the family.

6. By counselling, and advising, or by guiding by example.

7. By consenting, agreeing, and cooperating.

8. By conniving at sin: tolerating, concealing, and making light of it.

9. By commending, countenancing, defending, and excusing the wrong already done; and contending against those who would expose, denounce, and punish it.

II. What is commanded. “Reprove.”

1. Rebuke.

2. Convict.

3. Convert.

III. Why it is commanded to me? It is especially my duty to be clear of other men’s sins.

1. As an imitator of God and a dear child (verse 1).

2. As one who is an inheritor of the kingdom of God (verses 5, 6).

3. As one who has come out of darkness into marvellous light in the Lord (verse 8).

4. As one who bears fruit, even the fruit of the Spirit, which is in all goodness, righteousness and truth (verse 9).

5. As one who would not be associated with that which is either shameful or foolish (verses 12, 15).

If our fellowship is with God, we must quit the ways of darkness.

IV. What may come of obedience to the command. Even if we could see no good result, yet our duty would be plain enough; but much benefit may result.

1. We shall be clear of complicity with deeds of darkness.

2. We shall be honoured in the consciences of the ungodly.

3. We may thus win them to repentance and eternal life.

4. We shall glorify God by our separated walk and by the godly perseverance with which we adhere to it.

5. We may thus establish others in holy nonconformity to the world.

Let us use the text as a warning to worldly professors. Let us take it as a directory in our conversation with the ungodly. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Evil fellowship

A member of his congregation was in the habit of going to the theatre. Mr. Hill went to him and said, “This will never do--a member of my Church in the habit of attending the theatre!” Mr. So-and-so replied that it surely must be a mistake, as he was not in the habit of going there, although it was true he did go now and then for a treat. “Oh!” said Rowland Hill, “then you are a worse hypocrite than ever, sir. Suppose anyone spread the report that I ate carrion, and I answered, ‘Well, there is no wrong in that; I don’t eat carrion every day in the week, but I have a dish now and then for a treat!’ Why, you would say, ‘What a nasty, foul, and filthy appetite Rowland Hill has, to have to go to carrion for a treat!’ Religion is the Christian’s truest treat, Christ is his enjoyment.” (Charlesworths Life of Rowland Hill.”)

Rebuking evil doers

On one occasion, travelling in the Portsmouth mail, Andrew Fuller was much annoyed by the profane conversation of two young men who sat opposite. After a time, one of them, observing his gravity, accosted him with an air of impertinence, inquiring, in rude and indelicate language, whether on his arrival at Portsmouth he should not indulge himself in a manner evidently corresponding with their own intentions. Mr. Fuller, lowering his ample brows, and looking the inquirer full in the face, replied in measured tones: “Sir, I am a man that fears God.” Scarcely a word was uttered during the remainder of the journey. (Memoir of Andrew Fuller.)


Verse 12

Ephesians 5:12

For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

Sinful deeds

The practices of the unconverted heathen are set forth by a double brand--

1. They are done of them in secret.

2. It is a shame to speak of them, there is such a turpitude and filthiness in them. So that in these words may be observed--

For the first I shall observe that all sense of right and wrong, good and evil, is not wholly extinguished in the heart of man; for here the unbelieving Gentiles, though they did abominable things, yet they did them in secret, which showeth some relics of natural conscience and shame in them.

1. Naturally we apprehend a difference between virtue and vice, good and evil; for we apprehend the one as culpable and evil, and the other as honest and commendable.

2. This apprehension is most sensibly betrayed by our affections of shame and fear.

3. This apprehension produceth different effects in the godly and wicked. We have an instance in the text. In the unconverted it produceth hypocrisy, in the converted shyness and abhorrence of sin. In the unconverted pagan Ephesians it produced hypocrisy; they did seek to hide what they would not avoid. Though the things were abominable, and had the marks of nature’s dislike and improbation upon them, yet they committed them in secret; as many a man’s heart reproacheth him, yet he goeth on still in his sins, and if he may commit them secretly, without being seen by others, they think themselves safe and secure, and for the present out of gunshot. But here is another sort of men intimated in the text; the apostle, and those like-minded with himself, all children of light, that abhor these deeds of darkness, are ashamed to mention what others are not ashamed to practise. Unbelievers have but a spark of conscience left; they know their practices are abominable, but they do them in secret. These are so far from committing these things, that they count it a shame to speak of them, or to hear them spoken of by others, it cannot be done without blushing.

1. To show us the evil of sin. Two things in the text discover that.

2. It shows how impudent and desperate in sin they are, and how much they have outgrown the heart of a man, and lost all feelings of conscience, that “declare their sins as Sodom, and hide them not” (Isaiah 3:9).

Men grow not to this impudence at first, but by several degrees they lose the apprehension of evil of sin.

1. Satan suggests to us some sin, to which he finds us by nature prone, and which he seeks plausibly to insinuate as profitable and pleasant (James 1:14).

2. This suggestion, if it be not presently resisted, breedeth in our minds a certain delectation. It is sweet in his mouth, and he hideth it under his tongue.

3. Delight moveth the lust or concupiscence, and draweth out and engageth our consent (Joshua 7:21).

4. This impelleth and urgeth the will to action: “And lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin” (James 1:15).

5. The act being finished, unless the sinner be corrected by God, or awakened by His Spirit, breedeth security: “Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).

6. Security inviteth us to continue in the sin, as also to make no conscience of other sins (Deuteronomy 29:19-20).

7. This continuance and living in sin taketh away the sight and odiousness of it, and produceth hardness of heart and blindness of mind (Hebrews 3:13).

8. This induration and excecation, this blindness and hardness of heart, is at first partial, concerning this or that sin; but at length general, concerning all sin; and this begetteth that horrid impudence that men are past all shame.

9. That it is the folly and madness of sinners that know the filthiness of sin to commit it secretly, and think themselves secure if they may escape the eye of man.

I shall prove it--

1. From the evil of secret sins; although to be a bold and open sinner is in some respects more heinous than to be a secret and private sinner, because of the dishonour to God, the scandal of others, and impudence in the sinner himself.

2. It is folly and madness, because God loveth to discover it. Our Lord telleth us (Luke 12:2).

Exhortation, to press you to three duties.

1. Take more care to get your sins pardoned than hidden: “He that hideth his sin shall not prosper; but he that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). We seek to hide our sins from the world, from ourselves, and from God.

2. Study more to approve yourselves to God than to be concealed from men. Godly simplicity and sincerity will be our comfort (2 Corinthians 1:12).

3. Humble yourselves, not only for open, but secret, sins (Psalms 19:12). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Too bad for sight

There is a museum at Naples in which are placed the multitudes of curious things found in the two old cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum, when they were dug out. It was found that there were things too foul, too horrible for Christian eyes to contemplate. These have been placed in a room apart, and people are not allowed to go into it without special permission from the authorities. Think what must have been the condition of society when foulnesses of this sort were exposed unblushingly before all eyes, in the streets, on the walls of the chambers, before children from their earliest infancy. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

Old sins require patience

I feel grieved when I hear or read of people who can stand up and talk about what they used to do before they were converted very much in the way in which an old seafaring man talks of his voyages and storms. No, no; be ashamed of your former lusts in your ignorance, and if you must speak of them to the praise and glory of Christ, speak with bated breath and tears and sighs. Death, rottenness, corruption, are all most fitly left in silence, or, if they demand a voice, let it be as solemn and mournful as a knell. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 13

Ephesians 5:13

But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light.

The light of Christianity reproving the world

In the text we have--

1. An assertion--“But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light.”

2. The proof of it--“For whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”

1. An assertion or proposition, where two things are to be considered.

2. The proof is taken from the common nature of all light, natural and sensible, or spiritual and intellectual--“Whatever doth make manifest is light.” Natural light maketh manifest things proper to it; so doth spiritual light things that belong to its sphere, things morally good or evil. That the light of Christianity, shining forth in the Word of God and the lives and actions of Christians, is a great means of reproving and convincing the world. That this light shineth forth both in their words and deeds.

3. This then is that which we are to make conscience of, that our light may be a reproving light to the wicked and carnal world; and that for these reasons--

It informeth us of divers truths.

1. That though by the light of nature we have some sense of the turpitude of sin, yet we have not a perfect knowledge of it; the light of Christianity giveth us that.

2. It informeth us that some general sense of the shamefulness of sin will not break the power and force of it. To persuade us to get light. It is a shame to be ignorant of our necessary duty. If a man be asked whether he can paint or carve, he may answer without shame, I am ignorant; that skill is not necessary; but if he be ignorant how to love and please and serve God, then he is brutish, like the horse or mule, that hath no understanding. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Light reproves sin

A colonial governor of the Bahamas, who was about to return to England, offered to use his good offices to procure from the Home Government any favour the colonists might desire. The unanimous reply was as startling as the demand for the head of John the Baptist in a charger: “Tell them to tear down the lighthouses; they are ruining the prosperity of this colony.” (The people were wreckers.) (W. C. Church.)


Verse 14

Ephesians 5:14

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

A call to slumbering souls

I. The character of those addressed.

1. If you allow yourself in the practice of known wickedness, your conscience is asleep.

2. If you live in the customary neglect of self-examination, you are in a state of slumber.

3. If you have never been in any degree affected with a sense of your guilt, and of your dependence on the mercy of God in Christ, you are among those who are asleep.

4. If you have no conflicts with sin and temptation, you are in a state of slumber.

5. The prevalence of a sensual and carnal disposition is a sign of spiritual death.

6. Stupidity under the warnings of God’s word and providence, indicates such a state of soul as the Scripture compares to sleep.

II. Apply the call.

1. This awakening must suppose and imply a conviction of your sin, and a sense of your danger.

2. This awakening from sleep, and arising” from the dead, implies a repentance of sin and turning to God.

3. They who have awoke from their sleep and risen from the dead will experience the properties, and maintain the exercises of a holy and spiritual life.

III. The encouragement--“Christ shall give thee light,” shall shine upon and enlighten thee.

1. This may be understood as a promise of pardon and eternal life on your repentance.

2. The words farther import God’s gracious attention to awakened souls, when they frame their doings to turn to Him. The call is, Awake, arise from the dead, repair to the Saviour. Say not, “We are unable to discern the way.” Christ will shine upon you and give you light. Say not, “We are unable to rise and walk.” He will meet you with His grace. Arise, He calleth you. He will guide your steps. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

Awake

I. Images of the sinner’s state.

1. Sleep. This state, though usually benign and refreshing, is sometimes one of great danger. The traveller who sleeps when exposed to excessive frost, the sailor who sleeps upon the mast, are examples.

2. Darkness. This is emblematical of ignorance, error, and iniquity, and especially of the want of any certain prospect for the future.

3. Death. The insensibility, powerlessness, and immovableness of the corpse are an awful representation of the sinner’s state.

II. Representations of the sinner’s need.

1. Awakening.

2. Enlightening.

3. Raising to life.

The ministry of our Lord Jesus affords us many and striking instances of the exercise of a Divine power in these ways.

III. A revelation of the sinner’s hope.

1. A Divine command: Awake! arise! There is something for man to do in order that he may enjoy the blessings of the gospel.

2. A Divine promise: Christ will enlighten thee. (Clerical World.)

The Church aroused

I. The state of mind into which a Christian may sometimes get.

1. The insidious character of it,

2. What is the evil itself? It is an unconsciousness of one’s own state, and a carelessness of such a kind as not to want to be conscious of it. The man takes everything for granted in religion. He seems, too, to be perfectly immovable to all appeals. The best argument is lost on a sleeping man, and then this slumbering spirit spreads itself over everything else. There is a heartlessness in the manner in which everything is gone about.

3. Now, two or three words upon what makes this evil of Christians being asleep a great deal worse.

4. What is it that sends us to sleep?

II. Christ’s message to those of His people who are asleep.

1. Jesus speaks this in love. He would not say “awake,” were it not the kindest thing He could say to you. Sometimes a mother’s love lulls her child to sleep, but if there is a house on fire the mother’s love would take another expression and startle it from its slumbers; and Christ’s love takes that turn when He says to you, “Awake! Awake! awake!”

2. It is His wisdom as well as His love that makes Him say it. He knows that you are losing much by sleeping.

3. It is a voice, too, which you ought to own, for it is backed up by the authority of the person from whom it comes.

4. It is a voice which has been very often repeated. Christ has been saying, “Awake! Awake!” to some of us many hundreds of times. You were sick, were you, a few months ago? That was Christ, as it were, shaking you in your sleep, and saying, “Awake, My beloved, awake out of thine unhealthy slumbers!”

5. A personal cry--“Thou.” Not, “Awake all of you”; but, “Awake thou!” Shall I pick you out one by one?

6. He puts it very pressingly in the present tense. “Awake! awake now.” Not a few years hence, but now. This moment.

III. The promise with which Christ encourages us to awake--“Christ shall give thee light.” What means this?

1. Instruction.

2. The light of joy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the Spiritual Light

I. The characters here addressed. “Asleep,” “dead”--expressions applicable to the natural state of man.

II. But to such the gracious invitation is given--“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” This invitation or command, very naturally divides itself into two branches--the external call of the gospel, and the internal call of the Holy Spirit.

III. The promise that is made--“And Christ shall give thee light.” We have already observed, that sin has darkened the understanding, depraved the affections, and rendered us insensible to every form of moral worth. It is altogether the result of Divine power, therefore, to enlighten the understanding, to purify the heart, and to bring us into subjection to the obedience of Christ. In closing our discourse, we observe--

1. That none will be able to urge, at the last clay, that they were compelled to sin, or prevented from forsaking it, by the providential arrangements of God.

2. Nor can you say that you have not sufficient means and opportunities for obtaining the blessings of redemption.

3. None will be able to say that they humbly, earnestly, and perseveringly sought the assistance of the Holy Spirit, without obtaining it.

4. Neither can you plead your inability to obey God, as an excuse for continuing in sin. (A. Gilmour.)

The sinner called

1. These words plainly suppose the person to whom they are addressed, to be in a state of darkness. For “they who sleep,” as the apostle elsewhere observeth, “sleep in the night.” “He that followeth not Christ walketh in darkness,” because the light of life shineth no longer upon his tabernacle.

2. The text plainly intimates to us that the sinner, or man of the world, to whom it addresses itself as to one sleeping, is in a state of insensibility. For no sooner has sleep taken possession of anyone, but forthwith all the senses are locked up, and he neither seeth, heareth, smelleth, tasteth, or feeleth anything. Present the most finished and beautiful picture before the eyes of a person asleep; he sees no more of it than if it was not there.

3. It appears from the text before us, that the world is in a state of delusion; for such is the state of them that sleep. And to what can the life of many a man be so fitly compared, as to a dream? “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” And first, the sincere penitent, who really and truly turns from sin to righteousness, and from the world to Christ, passes from darkness to light. Secondly, the sinner, by repentance, is brought out of a state of insensibility into one of sensibility. Thirdly, the penitent is translated from a state of delusion to a sound judgment and right apprehension of things, from shadows to realities: even as one awaketh from the romantic scenery of a dream, to behold all things as they really are, and to do his duty in that station in which God has placed him. (Bishop Home.)

Of the state of spiritual death and the misery thereof

First: The miserable state of the unregenerate, represented under the notions of sleep and death; both expressions intending one and the same thing, though with some variety of notion. The Christless and unregenerate world is in a deep sleep; a spirit of slumber, senselessness, and security is fallen upon them, though they lie exposed immediately to eternal wrath. Just as a man that is fast asleep in a house on fire, and whilst the consuming flames are round about him, his fancy is sporting itself in some pleasant dream; this is a very lively resemblance of the unregenerate soul. But yet he that sleeps hath the principle of life entire in him, though his senses be bound, and the actions of life suspended by sleep. Lest, therefore, we should think it is only so with the unregenerate, the expression is designedly varied, and those that were said to be asleep, are positively affirmed to be dead; on purpose to inform us that it is not a simple suspension of the acts and exercise, but a total privation of the principle of spiritual life, which is the misery of the unregenerate. Secondly: We have here the duty of the unregenerate, which is to awake out of sleep, and arise from the dead. And the order of these duties is very natural. First awake, then arise. Startling and rousing convictions make way for spiritual life; till God awake us by convictions of our misery, we will never be persuaded to arise, and move towards Christ for remedy and safety. Secondly: But you will say, if unregenerate men be dead men, to what purpose is it to persuade them to arise and stand up? And that this is the state of all Christless and unsanctified persons, will, undeniably, appear two ways.

1. The causes of spiritual life have not wrought upon them.

2. The effects and signs of spiritual life do not appear in them; and therefore they are in the state and under the power of spiritual death.

1. If all Christless and unregenerate souls be dead souls, then how little pleasure can Christians take in the society of the unregenerate! Certainly ‘tis no pleasures for the living to converse among the dead. It was a cruel torment, invented by Mezentius the tyrant, to tie a dead and living man together. The pleasure of society arises from the harmony of spirits, and the hopes of mutual enjoyment in the world to come; neither of which can sweeten the society of the godly with the wicked in this world.

2. How great and wholly supernatural, marvellous, and wonderful is that change which regeneration makes upon the souls of men! It is a change from death to life: “This My Son was dead and is alive again.” Regeneration is life from the dead (Luke 15:24). (J. Flavel.)

Conviction

Conviction is the first step in the new life. It is essential to conversion, as the action of winter is necessary to the growth of spring.

I. Conviction is produced by the power of the truth.

II. Conviction awakens the guilty conscience.

III. Sometimes conviction is transient. A mere play on the feelings cannot produce a permanent change.

IV. There are instances of special means used to produce conviction. St. Paul’s conversion.

V. Conviction is genuine when salvation is sought. The gaoler at Philippi.

VI. Conviction sometimes comes too late to save. Belshazzar. Dives. (The Weekly Pulpit.)

Men asleep and dead in sins, called to awake

I. The state we are here supposed to be in by nature.

1. A state of sleep. This implies--

II. The exhortation given to such. God calls thee by His Word; by His ministers, whom He raises up, qualifies, and sends forth, chiefly for this end; by His providence, affliction, health, adversity, prosperity, the sickness or death of friends and relations; by His Spirit, which enlightens thy mind, awakens and informs thy conscience.

III. The gracious promise made to those who take the exhortation. “Christ shall give thee”--

1. The light of knowledge as to Divine things.

2. The light of comfort and happiness.

3. The light of life. (I. Barrow, D. D.)

Our natural state, and its remedy

I. What the text calls us to believe.

1. That our natural state is a state of darkness. Light in the external world is the element or medium by which we see other objects. Darkness precludes light, not by extinguishing the sense, but by rendering it useless. Three gradations may be stated, three degrees of darkness, as it affects the soul and its perceptions.

2. A state of sleep. This is more than darkness. The man who is asleep has his senses sealed; not his sight merely, but his other senses. External objects are to him as though they were not. All that lies beyond this life and its interests is veiled from his view, and might as well not be. But while his senses are suspended, his imagination is awake and active. The more insensible he is of that which really surrounds him, the more prolific is his fancy in ideal objects. His life is but a dream. His illusions may be of a pleasing and agreeable nature; that will only make the awakening more dreadful. It is related by one of those who witnessed and experienced a late explosion, that when it occurred he was asleep, and that his first sensation was a pleasant one, as though he had been flying through the air. He opened his eyes, and he was in the sea! May there not be something analogous to this in the sensations of the sinner who dies with his soul asleep, and soars, as he imagines, towards the skies, but instantaneously awakes amidst the roar of tempests and the lash of waves upon the ocean of God’s wrath?

3. A state of death.

4. A state of guilt. Alienation from the love of God.

5. A state of danger. Exposed to the wrath of God.

II. What the text calls us to do. The real ground of men’s indifference to this matter is their unbelief. They do not really believe what they are told as to their state by nature. Where this faith really exists, it shows itself in anxious fears, if not in active efforts. The soul’s first impulse is to break the spell which binds it. But this it cannot do; in itself it is helpless. Hence the exhortation has added to it the necessary promise--“Christ shall give thee light.” Repentance and faith are conditions of salvation; but the Author of our salvation is the Giver of repentance, the Author and Finisher of our faith. God forgives us freely if we repent and believe, but we can just as well make expiation for our sins, as repent and believe without Divine assistance. But (it may be asked) will not this doctrine tend to paralyze the efforts of the sinner for salvation? And what then? The more completely his self-righteous strength is paralyzed, the better. No man can trust God and himself at once. Your self-reliance must be destroyed, or it will destroy you. But if, by a paralysis of effort, be intended a stagnation of feeling, and indifference to danger, I reply that this doctrine has no tendency to breed it. Suppose it should be suddenly announced to this assembly that a deadly malady had just appeared, and had begun to sweep off thousands in its course; and that the only possibility of safety depended on the use of a specific remedy, simple and easy in its application, and already within the reach of every individual, who had nothing to do at any moment but to use it, and infallibly secure himself against infection. And suppose that while your minds were resting on this last assurance, it should be authoritatively contradicted, and the fact announced, with evidence not to be gainsaid, that this specific, simple and infallibly successful, was beyond the reach of every person present, and could only be applied by a superior power. I put it to yourselves, which of these statements would produce serenity, and which alarm? Which would lead you to fold your hands in indolent indifference, and which would rouse you to an agonizing struggle for the means of safety? I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say. Oh, my friends, if there is any cure for spiritual sloth and false security, it is a heartfelt faith in the necessity of superhuman help. The man who makes his helplessness a pretext for continuance in sin, whatever he may say, does not really believe that he is helpless. No man believes it till he knows it by experience.

1. Light dispels that blindness of the heart and affections which disables us from seeing the true qualities of spiritual objects. That which before seemed repulsive becomes lovely; that which was mean is glorious. That which was pleasing or indifferent is now seen to be loathsome. The beauty of holiness and the ugliness of sin are now revealed in their true colours. Nor is this all. The light which beams upon us not only rectifies our views of what we law before, but shows us what we never saw.

2. Light, then, is the remedy; but how shall we obtain it? It must be given to us. If it comes at all, it comes as a free gift.

3. Christ alone can give it. This world, to the believer, is a dark, perplexing labyrinth, and in its mazes he would lose himself for over were it not that ever and anon, at certain turnings in the crooked path, he gets a glimpse of Calvary. These glimpses may be transitory, but they feed his hopes, and often unexpectedly return to cheer his drooping spirits. Sometimes he is ready to despair of his escape, and to lie down in the darkness of the labyrinth and die. But as he forms the resolution an unlooked for turn presents a distant prospect, and beyond all other objects, and above them, he discerns the cross and Christ upon it. Look to Christ then! look to Him for light to dissipate your darkness, to arouse you from sleep, and to raise you from the dead. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Christ the Light Giver

That the great intent of Christ in the gospel is to call people out of their woeful estate by sin into the marvellous light of His salvation. This is the great truth here represented; and to clear it up to you--

I. Observe how woeful and dangerous the present case of carnal unregenerate men is. It is represented to us under the notions of spiritual sleep and spiritual death; which I shall speak of both generally and apart, and then conjointly and together. First: To speak of them generally, and apart.

1. They are asleep in sin, whereas the regenerate are awakened (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6). Here, then, is their misery upon the first account, they sleep in sin; and a great misery it is.

2. The next notion is spiritual death; for we are bidden to “Arise from the dead,” which showeth this sleep is deadly (Ephesians 2:1). How are we dead? Two ways--

Secondly: Let us speak of these terms conjunctly; the one helpeth to explain the other. When we hear that man sleepeth in sin, possibly we might be apt to be conceited that man’s heart is not so corrupt as it is, and are ready to say of it, as Christ did of the damsel whom He raised to life, “She is not dead, but sleepeth” (Matthew 9:24). Therefore we must take in the ether expression to help it. We do not only sleep in sin, but are dead in trespasses and sins. So, on the other side, when we hear that we are in the state of the dead, we may misconceive of God’s work in conversion, and press the rigour of the notion too far, as if He wrought upon us only as stocks and stones; therefore we must take in the other expression; we sleep in sins. Life natural is still left us; there is reason and conscience still to work upon, though we are wholly disabled from doing anything pleasing to God; that is to say--

1. We have reason. Thou art a man, and hast reason, and therefore art to be dealt with by way of exhortations. God influenceth all things according to their natural inclination, as He enlighteneth the world by the sun, burneth with fire, so he reasoneth with man.

2. We have conscience (which is reason applying things to our case), and can judge of our actions morally considered with respect to reward and punishment, and accuse or excuse as the nature of the action deserveth (Romans 2:14-15).

3. That we have a natural self-love and desire of happiness (Psalms 4:6), “There be many that say, Who will show us any good?” (Matthew 13:45-46). So that, though we are dead, so as to do nothing savingly and acceptably, yet we must remember that we are also asleep, ignorant, slight, careless, do not improve our natural reason, conscience, and desires of happiness to any saving purpose, and will not mind things. Both together giveth us a right apprehension of our woeful condition by nature, that we are corrupt, and so are said to be dead; and senseless and secure, so we are said to be asleep, mindless of our danger and remedy.

II. The manner of our recovery out of this wretched estate.

1. In the general, it is by calling of us. “Awake, arise” (see 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14).

2. More particularly, the order of this calling is set down in the text, in these two injunctions, “Awake,” and “Arise from the dead.” We are reduced and brought home to God two ways--either

III. The next thing is, what a blessed estate Christ calleth them into; He doth not only rescue them out of the power of darkness, but “He will give them light.” Many things are intended hereby.

1. By light is meant the lively light of the Spirit, or a clear affective knowledge both of our misery and remedy.

2. Light is put for God’s favour, and the solid consolation which floweth from thence (Psalms 4:6-7).

3. It implies eternal glory and happiness, to which we have a right now, and for which we are prepared and fitted by grace. A tender waking conscience is a great mercy, whereas a dead and stupid conscience is a heavy judgment; for then neither reason nor grace is of any use to us; we can neither do the functions of a man or a Christian while we are asleep. First: “Awake thou that sleepest.”

Consider these motives--

1. Doth it become any to sleep in your ease, while you know not God to be a friend or an enemy? yea, when you have so much reason to think that He is an enemy to you, for you are enemies to Him by your minds in evil works (Colossians 1:21).

2. You sleep in that ship that is swiftly carried to eternity, and are just upon the entrance into another world: “Lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping” (Mark 13:36).

3. Yon have slept out too much precious time already: “The time past of our life may suffice us” (1 Peter 4:3).

4. Thou hast been long and often called upon. If God had not sought to awaken you, you had the better excuse: “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of sleep? yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” (Proverbs 6:9-10).

5. Now is your time and season: “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame” (Proverbs 10:5). To lose time is sad, but to lose the season worst of all, and a season that bringeth profit as well as labour, as harvest doth.

6. Others care for their souls, and are hard at work for God; their diligence should awaken us (Acts 26:7).

7. The devil is awake, and will you sleep? (1 Peter 5:8).

8. If nature were well awake, it would disprove your courses as much as religion. Secondly: “Arise from the dead”; that is, be converted to God; for the voice of Christ doth not only conduce to awaken us, but to raise us from the dead (John 5:25). Look about you, then; entertain serious thoughts of getting out of a state of sin into a state of grace.

Take two motives to quicken you to this--

1. Better never be awakened if still we continue in our sins, for this aggravateth them (John 3:19).

2. Better never rise in the last day if we be not raised from the death of sin.

Inattention to warning

It is said of birds that build in steeples, being used to the continual ringing of bells, the sound disquiets them not at all; or as those that dwell near the fall of the river Nilus (Nile), the noise of the water deafens them so, that they mind it not. Thus it is that the commonness of the death of others is made but, as it were, a formal thing: many have been so often at the grave, that now the grave is worn out of their hearts; they have gone so often to the house of mourning, that they are grown familiar with death; they look upon it as a matter of custom for men to die and be buried, and when the solemnity is over, the thoughts of death are over also; as soon as the grave is out of their sight, preparation for the grave is out of their mind: then they go to their worldly business, yea, to coveting and sinning, as if the last man that ever should be were buried. (Caryl.)

Insensible to Divine influence

The person here spoken of is first said to be asleep; and surely this gives the idea of one who may be surrounded by danger without knowing it; may be approached by enemies without perceiving it; may have the assassin’s blow aimed at his heart without attempting to repel it. In like manner, those by whom he is best loved may watch beside his pillow, and he is unconscious of their presence. “A feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined,” may be spread before him, yet his appetite is not awakened; riches and honours may be placed within his reach, yet his hand is not stretched forth to grasp them. And why? Because he is asleep. His eyes are closed, his ears are dulled, his senses are locked up by the power of slumber; and forgetfulness of his best interest, and inattention to outward objects, have come upon him. And thus is it with the unconverted man. He is surrounded by dangers which he heeds not; by enemies whom he regards not. The murderer of souls has struck at his heart and he has made no resistance. He may be active in worldly matters, and eager for worldly objects; but he has no eagerness, no activity for spiritual concerns. Wrath, and that eternal, is even now pursuing him; the bottomless abyss has yawned at his very feet, and is ready to engulph him; the thunders of the law are pealing forth their denunciations against him; and this immortal being remains heedless and unconcerned when there is but one step between him and the lake of fire. And there is an eye of love watching over him for good; there is a voice of mercy appealing to his soul; there is the marriage supper of the Lamb spread, and he is invited thereto; there are the unsearchable riches of Christ placed within his reach, with this encouraging inscription, “Ask, and ye shall receive”; yet he hears not the voice which cries, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved”; he sees not the bleeding form which stands between us and the stroke of Divine justice; the famished wretch hastens not to taste the feast; the beggar’s hand is not put forth to lay hold on the boundless treasures. He is asleep; and feels not, sees not, hears not, knows not these things. And yet he is often not devoid of strong feeling with respect to the things of this world; nor destitute of regard for the decencies of life. He may find, or think he finds, happiness in this very forgetfulness of God; nay, in his own way, he may make a profession of religion, and have a dreamy prospect of salvation to be hereafter received. He thinks that he may now give his faculties to earthly objects and to self-indulgence, that he may offer to God the service of the lip whilst his own passions and inclinations receive the adoration of the heart; and he flatters himself that he is happy now, and that he shall, unconverted and separated from the love of God as he is, be happy in His presence eternally. Alas! how delusive is this dream, springing as it does from the sleep of carnal security. When for a moment he thinks seriously, he finds himself not really happy, and when that hour comes in which the unawakened sinner shall be called into the presence of his Judge, where shall be all the joys either on earth or in heaven, which he promised to himself? “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty; or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he is faint and his soul hath appetite.” His anticipations were but a dream, founded on self-delusion, and ending in bitter and irretrievable disappointment. (Bishop Ryle.)

Light

It is a remarkable illustration of the truth that material phenomena are designed to convey to us lessons of spiritual realities, that the language in common use to describe the latter is that of the former. For example, in this sentence we have the expressions “sleep,” “death,” “light.” All these are material conditions or things. Probably none of these symbolical expressions for spiritual things is so frequently used as that of light. Without entering into the disputed question as to the source whence this quotation is taken, whether it be a free adaptation of a passage in the book of the prophet Isaiah or whether (as some imagine) a fragment from some ancient Christian hymn, we can refer to not a few passages in the Old Testament in which a right spiritual condition is described as being a condition of light. In the New Testament, which is a record of the advent of Him who is the source of spiritual light, these passages are still more numerous. He is heralded as the Dayspring from on high who shall give light to them that sit in darkness. He is declared to be a light to lighten the Gentiles. He claims for Himself that He is the Light of the world. In Him is light, and they who receive of Him are no longer darkness but “light in the Lord,” for in Him “the darkness is past and the true light now shineth.”

1. Light was the first creation of God. His first recorded word is, “Let there be light.” Proceeding out of this creation of light comes all other creation until the end is reached and man is made in the image of God. In like manner light is the first creation of the gospel, which is the re-creation of the world.

2. Light needs no evidence of its presence. It proves itself. To the blind, indeed, it has no existence, and no explanation of it can make them understand it. But to such as have eyes to see, the presence of light makes itself known at once. The gospel light commends itself by its own light to those who are possessed of a clear spiritual eyesight.

3. Light is given in order that we may see where we are and amidst what surroundings we are placed. Apart from the gospel of Christ we can possess no, true view of life; we are overwhelmed by unsolved mysteries.

4. Light exists not merely that we may rejoice in the revelation of which it is the author, but that we may walk in it.

5. “God called the light, day,” and the day is given for work. “Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening.” “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day, the night cometh when no man can work.”

6. Darkness is always fruitless (verse 11) while light is fruit-producing. The fruit of the light (for such is the true reading of verse 9, which is recognized in the Revised Version) is in goodness, righteousness, truth. Light is a necessary element in the formation of the fruit of a tree or a plant. Such if deprived of light becomes barren. How true a picture of the human soul upon which the Light of Life is not shining! (Canon Vernon Hutton.)

The Awakener is in every sleeper

God would not mock man by bidding him to “awake” out of death, and to arise to a new life, if the Awakener were not in the very midst of his soul to help him. God calls man from within himself. “The Resurrection and the Life” stirs in him, saying, “Arise from the dead!” and the man is already at the dawn of the heavenly life. As sunrise pricks the sleeper, and says to him, Arise! even so the hour cometh when the dead soul hears the voice of the Son of Man, and, hearing, lives. The gentleness of the Divine love opens a new day within the man, and ten thousand noiseless arrows penetrate and startle his soul. They are the life glances of the Quickener, to which the inner man responds, trembling in the pangs of the new birth, and, at the same time, blessing God with unspeakable gladness that he is alive from the dead and an heir of heaven. It happens daily that after the light has penetrated the eyelid of the sleeper, he recognizes it for a moment, turns himself, closes his lid, and sleeps again. Take heed, lest after the arrows of Christ, which are gentler than the light, have wakened your soul, you do not sleep on in death. (J. Pulsford.)

Christ our Light

The motto of the Northcotes is, “The Cross of Christ is my Light.”

A light needed

A man is out on a night that is as dark as pitch--a lamp is placed in his hand to guide him on his journey. Instead, however, of taking advantage of the light the lamp affords, the man says, I do not require this lamp; I know every step of the way; I will trust to my own judgment. That man, in a certain sense, does his best; he strives to keep the beaten track, and for that purpose he moves carefully and cautiously along. When, however, he makes a false step and tumbles into a ditch, or falls over a precipice, no one dreams of saying, “Poor fellow! he could not help himself, he did his best.” The man did not do his best. Had he done his best, and not been rash and foolhardy in refusing to avail himself of the lamp, he would have escaped the wounds and bruises that now burden him. (P. Robertson.)

Christ our Light

Christ is our only defence at the last. John Holland, in his concluding moment, swept his hand over the Bible, and said: “Come, let us gather a few flowers from this garden.” As it was eventime he said to his wife: “Have you lighted the candles?” “No,” she said, “we have not lighted the candles.” “Then,” said he, “it must be the brightness of the face of Jesus that I see.” (Dr. Talmage.)


Verse 15

Ephesians 5:15

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.

Circumspect behaviour

I. The duty--“Walk circumspectly,” i.e., diligently, carefully. The phrase imports such a caution and exactness in our Christian conversation, as resembles that which men use when walking on the top of a precipice or the summit of a building, where a small misstep would endanger a fall, and a fall would be fatal.

1. Walk circumspectly, that you may keep within the line of your duty. Religion is not an extended plain, in which you may walk at large, and turn to any point without passing its limits; but a strait and narrow path, in which you must pursue one steady course without diverting to either side.

2. Walk circumspectly, that you may escape the snares in your way. Your greatest security lies in watchfulness and prayer, lest you enter into temptations. If they meet you, resist them; but your first care must be to avoid them.

3. Walk circumspectly, that you may wisely comport with the aspects of Providence. The beauty of religion, yea, religion itself, greatly consists in the correspondence of your temper and behaviour with your existing circumstances. In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider.

4. Be circumspect, that you may do every duty in its time and place.

5. Walk circumspectly, that your good may not be evil spoken of.

II. The reason--“The days are evil.” The Christian, while he dwells on earth, may say, “The days are evil”--

1. Because he finds in himself much disorder and corruption.

2. Because he is exposed to various afflictions.

3. Because there are many adversaries.

4. Because iniquity abounds. Much need there is that he should “walk circumspectly.” (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

Admonitory counsels

I. The course against which we are counselled. Not to walk as fools. The ungodly walk as fools--

1. As they have no rule of conduct.

2. As they have no direct or distinct object in view.

3. As they walk often presumptuously and without fear of danger.

4. As they act without regard to their real welfare.

II. The course which is recommended for our adoption.

“To walk circumspectly, as wise.” Now this is just the opposite of the walk of fools. In doing this--

1. We must walk by a wise rule.

2. We must possess the spirit of wisdom. Now this must come from above (see James 3:17).

3. We must imitate the divinely recorded examples of wisdom.

4. We must walk and keep company with the wise. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Wise walking

I. In the first place, here we see the true character of the family of God. They are called wisdom’s children: “Wisdom is justified of her children.” We do not deny that in the family of God there is oftentimes great weakness of character; that they make oft mistakes as to doctrine; and yet, compared with their wisdom, there is no wisdom upon earth. They are wise in the things of God; they are wise in the concerns of eternity; and compared with that wisdom, all the wisdom in this world is folly. These are they that know Christ; and to know Him is life eternal. These are they that know what sin is. These are they that know the great secret of holiness. These are they that know the way to a throne of grace. These are they that know where the treasury is, and the door to it; that Jesus is the treasury, and that He has opened the door by His own precious blood. These are the men who know how to meet trouble: that trouble that scares a worldly man.

II. But now observe, these are exhorted to walk wisely. As I said before, the wise man may oftentimes walk unwisely. We see it in the histories in the Bible; we see it in the biography of God’s saints. “See that ye walk circumspectly”: accurately. The worldly man lives at random. Sometimes his will leads him, his caprice, his fancy, his passion; sometimes he guides himself, sometimes others guide him. The apostle exhorts the wise to walk accurately; according to the rule of God’s Word, according to the rule of an enlightened conscience, and according to the rule of a filial, Joying heart. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The Christian urged to greater circumspection

I. The Christian’s duty. Every person familiar with the Bible knows that the term walking, applied to the Christian, signifies his habitual temper and deportment. The word here rendered “circumspectly,” in the original Scriptures suggests rather the term “accurately,” agreeable to a prescribed rule; and the translators of the Bible have adopted the word “circumspectly,” inasmuch as no one can walk accurately, or correctly, without looking about him, and carefully too. It is the part of fools to be heedless, taking their steps without care, insensible of their danger.

1. Christians should walk judiciously; impelled by principle rather than by feeling.

2. Christians should walk correctly or accurately according to the prescribed rule.

3. Christians should walk prudently, mindful of consequences.

4. Christians should advance cautiously, apprehensive of danger, and guarding against it.

5. Christians should walk diligently, improving every favourable opportunity.

II. The arguments which enforce it.

1. We plead the obligations of a religious profession. Many, indeed, are called Christians, but we refer to those who profess themselves not merely nominal but real Christians.

2. The solemn and express engagements into which many have voluntarily entered, present a second argument. Surely, Christians, your own acts must be binding.

3. The anxiety Christians must feel for the credit of religion, and for the honour of the Saviour, is a most powerful motive urging them to greater circumspection.

4. A regard to his relative usefulness is another consideration urging the Christian to greater watchfulness.

5. The positive injury to others, which invariably results from a flagrantly inconsistent profession of religion.

6. We urge upon the Christian, as a final motive to greater circumspection, a due regard to his own personal interests. His peace, his comfort, and even his safety are alike involved in it. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

The Christian’s walk

Reasons to evince the necessity of this circumspect walking. First: We have a strict rule, that doth not yield the least allowance and indulgence to sin. Secondly: What a holy God we have for our witness, approver, and judge, who will one day call us to an account! Thirdly: A great obligation to our strict obedience, as we are children of the light.

1. Surely there should be a great and broad difference between them and the children of darkness.

2. Because the more light and knowledge a man hath, the more he is bound to take heed to his ways, that his practice may be according to his light.

3. They are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 3:15). They should be a copy and pattern to others to invite them to the heavenly life by the strictness and seriousness of their conversations. The same honour is put upon you that was put upon the star at Bethlehem, to be guides to Christ. Therefore you are to be more exemplary, which cannot be without circumspection.

4. Because there are many snares and dangers; as in a chessboard, we can hardly move back or forth but we are ready to be attacked. In all the businesses, affairs, and comforts of this life, we are apt to miscarry. Yea, sometimes there may be a snare in our duties (1 Timothy 3:6). Now they that are not circumspect are sure to miscarry. He that hath his eyes in his head, and looketh about him, may escape (Proverbs 1:17).

5. blest Christians have but a weak heart, that is apt to lead them aside into some unbecoming practice. Our heart is most in danger, and therefore we have need to look to ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:12).

6. Consider how many guards God hath set upon man, who is apt to fly out upon all occasions. There is an external guard, the magistrate, who is to watch for thy good (Romans 13:4).

7. Because there are so many spies upon us, who may make an ill use of our failings. I shall instance in three--Satan, wicked men, and weak brethren.

Of reproof.

1. Of those that scoff at strictness and accurate walking. These scoff at that which is the glory of that religion which they do profess, that which God aimed at, that which Christ purchased, that which the Spirit worketh. Can a man keep at too great a distance from sin? But it is preciseness and fond scrupulosity. So did the conversations of Christians seem to the old pagans (1 Peter 4:3-4).

2. It reproveth them that think men are more nice than wise, that we make more ado than needeth when we press men to a constant watchfulness and serious diligence in the heavenly life. Oh, consider, we have slippery hearts, and live in the midst of temptations, and are to approve ourselves in the sight of a holy God, who expecteth to be glorified by us.

3. Some slight strictness as a thing out of date, since they know their liberty by Christ. Alas! all the doctrines of grace do enforce it, not lessen it (Titus 2:11-12). There are some grazes necessary, and some practices.

First: For graces which are necessary, such as these--

1. Watchfulness, and heed that nothing unseemly pass from us. Those that are rash and indeliberate, and live at haphazard, can never walk accurately: “He that hasteth with his feet, sinneth” (Proverbs 19:2).

2. The fear of God: “They walked in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31). This is a grace never out of season (Proverbs 23:17).

3. Diligence, that we may both remove impediments of good and avoid occasions of evil, that you may take an accurate inspection of your whole life and conversation. Frequently examine your ways, whither they tend (Proverbs 4:26-27).

4. A tender conscience. Make conscience not only of gross sins, but lesser escapes. Do not wittingly tread one hair’s breadth out of the way, nor run into any sin, much less live in it, be it never so small and profitable in the esteem of the world (Proverbs 7:2). The eye is offended with the least dust.

Secondly: Helps by way of practice.

1. Fix your end; for when the end is fixed, the means may be the better suited; it shineth to us all the way along: “If thine eye be single, thy whole body is full of light” (Matthew 6:22); “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee” (Proverbs 4:25). We should mind all things with respect to our end.

2. Take an account of the way you walk in: “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies” (Psalms 119:59; Lamentations 3:40).

3. Seek a good guide. Use much prayer to God, that He may direct you (Proverbs 3:5-6).

4. Renew your covenant, and often engage yourselves afresh to this strict and holy walking, because the strength of former resolutions is soon spent: “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Thy righteous judgments” (Psalms 119:106).

5. Season the heart with strict principles. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Wise walking

There are many points of folly to be avoided.

1. Be not in a hurry to judge God’s providences.

2. Do not mock at sin. Fools make a mock at sin; whereas sin is the only thing to be feared.

3. Set not your affections upon worldly things.

4. Be not slow to receive the verities of faith.

5. Be not foolish in regarding mysteries. (J. Stratten.)

Wary walking

It used to be said of old that all roads led to Rome, because she was the capital of the world. And nowadays, in the most remote country place in England, you will find a road which leads to London. But all roads do not lead to heaven. Some foolish people like to believe that they can travel anyway they please, and yet reach heaven at last. They love to imagine that they can hold to any doctrine, however false and extravagant, and set up a gospel of their own, and yet find the way to heaven. Let us think of some of the rules by which we must walk in the narrow way.

1. We must walk humbly. It is a narrow way, remember, and if we walk with our heads lifted up by pride, we shall miss our footing, and slip from the path. The gate, too, is strait, or narrow. It is like one of those low-pitched, narrow entrances which you may still see in old buildings, and which were common once in all our ancient towns. A traveller could not get through those gates unless he bent his head, and bowed his shoulders.

2. If we walk along the narrow way, we must not overload ourselves. There are some burdens which we must bear, but the dear Lord, who laid them upon us, will give us strength to carry them. It is the burden of the world’s making which will hinder us. We see a man who wants to walk in the right way, who hopes to pass through the narrow gate, who has so loaded himself with worldly things that he goes staggering along, till he is like one escaping from a shipwreck, who tries to swim ashore with all his money bags, and is sunk to the bottom by their weight. Sometimes people, coming home from abroad, bring with them a quantity of smuggled goods, and their clothes are all padded with laces, and other ill-gotten gear. What happens? They are stopped at a narrow gate, and stripped of all their load before they are permitted to return home. So, my brothers, if you would pass the gate which leads home, to the rest which remaineth for the people of God, you must not overload yourselves with this world’s gear. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Christian circumspection or exactness

It is no uncommon thing to hear persons commended for their regular and circumspect way of living, viz., with respect to their diet and exercise, and other things that belong to their bodily health; whilst few are taken notice of, esteemed and honoured for a higher sort of regularity and circumspection, such as relates to their immortal souls, and the concerns of a better life. Here many are content to be remiss and superficial, and make it the least of their study to be exact.

I. I begin with the first observable, the general important duty incumbent on us, “See that ye walk circumspectly.” The remark, then, upon this first clause of the text is this, that a Christian’s life is a life of the greatest accuracy and exactness. A Christian is one that is not like other men, he surpasses the common condition of mankind.

1. This exact and circumspect walking is not singularity and affectation. It is no fantastic opposition to the common usages and received customs of mankind, if they be in themselves lawful and innocent.

2. This exactness in my text favours nothing of over-nice fear and superstition, in which many place a great part of their religion. St. Paul tells us, he was of the strictest sect of religion, meaning that of the Pharisees. But that strictness and exactness were afterwards undervalued by him as trifling and childish.

3. Neither doth this duty imply any pharisaical boasting and ostentation of strictness. That proud and arrogant sect before mentioned used to glory in their great severity of life, or rather in the mere appearance of it.

4. This exact living doth not import any fond rigour and austerity over the body, as some have imagined.

5. This strictness or exactness of life doth not contain in it any notion of merit and supererogation.

6. This circumspect and exact walking doth not speak complete perfection and absolute freedom from all sin.

II. To further and advance you still in this great and weighty affair, I will proceed in the next place to tell you positively wherein this exactness or circumspection, which the apostle commends to you, doth consist.

1. It is opposed to idleness, neutrality, and indifferency, and consequently is an act of Christian zeal and vigour. He must shake off all coldness and indifferency, and prosecute religion with the warmest emotions of mind, with the most ardent zeal and liveliness.

2. This strict and accurate walking is opposed to partiality, and so doth denote universal obedience, and having respect unto all the Divine law. There is no exactness without a rule or square, and that is the Word of God. Now this universal respect unto God’s laws (wherein the Christian circumspection is so much seen) requires of us and strictly obliges us to these three things:

3. This Christian duty of exact walking is opposed to our giving of scandal and offence to our brethren, and consequently commends to us a wary and cautious deporting of ourselves before those we converse with. This is circumspection in the true and precise notion of the word. It supposes persons to look about them, and to take good notice of things, and weigh well what they do, and before whom they act.

4. This duty in my text is opposed to hypocrisy and formality, and so it engages us to be sincere and cordial in whatever we do.

5. He that would acquit himself to be an exact walker, must more mind the things that are substantial and essential in religion, than those that are merely circumstantial and accidental. Religion doth not consist in puncto, its exactness is not placed in petty and mean things.

6. This Christian exactness is opposed to apostasy and backsliding, and so it obliges us to increase every day more and more in holiness, to abound in grace, and to persevere in the ways of goodness.

7. This most accurate and strict life of a Christian, is no less than an aiming and endeavouring after perfection.

III. To excite you to this Christian exactness and circumspection which I have been insisting upon, I pray let these following considerations be entertained by you:

1. Think how strict the principles and rules of Christianity are, and accordingly what great improvements were intended by them. The institution of the gospel designed as for greater perfection than ever was attained by the ceremonious Jew, or the most accomplished Gentile.

2. Besides the doctrine of Christianity and the design and purpose of Christ in it, I may adjoin the most holy, exact, and exemplary life of our blessed Master, and on this consideration I may urge you to a wary and circumspect walking; for the life of a Christian should be no other than a conformity to the life of Christ. We are to follow His steps, and to reckon His actions to be our pattern.

3. Consider how great helps and assistances God is pleased to afford you, and you will conclude it reasonable to walk with great exactness and strictness. The cruel and unmerciful taskmasters in Egypt pressed the Israelites to make brick, but would not give them their allowance of strait. We deal with no such hard master.

4. Think with how many dangers you are every moment environed, and you will be concerned to walk circumspectly, to tread cautiously, to live orderly and regularly. This world is hung about with snares, beset with various temptations, and the spirit of darkness, that great enemy of God and our souls, is ever plotting and contriving our ruin.

5. Set before you, and often seriously represent to your thoughts, the everlasting rewards of heaven. I cannot apply the common story of the Limner better than here. That famous artist was wont to take up a great deal of time in finishing his pictures and portrays, whereas others of that profession made quick dispatch, and had soon done their work. He, being asked why he was so long at his, and why so curious and exact? gave this short answer, “I paint for eternity,” i.e., I do my work so that all future ages shall applaud me, I design myself a perpetual reward of fame. Did we but consider that every line we draw in our lives, every stroke we make, every enterprize we undertake, is for eternity; if we seriously thought of this, we should be more accurate and exact, more laborious and industrious, in all that we do. We are those that draw and limn for eternity, we labour for that which endureth to everlasting life; therefore we cannot be too long and tedious about our work, we cannot be too diligent and exact about it.

6. Let me add this one consideration more, that an exact and exemplary life is the best (if not the only) way you can take to work upon others, to amend the sinful world, to reclaim men from their follies, to win them to the embracing of religion and holiness, which I doubt not you think is a design well worth your prosecuting. (John Edwards, D. D.)

Christian wisdom or prudence

Having dispatched the first observable in the text, which was the grand duty incumbent on us, viz., that “we walk circumspectly,” I proceed now to the particular instances of this duty, and they are “Christian wisdom” and “redeeming the time.”

1. I say, we may more eminently convince the world that we have obtained to Christian wisdom and prudence by our being of a humble and meek spirit. There is nothing looks so unbecoming in a person that professes godliness as pride.

2. Make a visible proof of your walking wisely by being of a peaceable and quiet, a loving and charitable temper, and that, first, among yourselves, secondly, towards all men. Let your first care be that you disgrace not religion by falling out among yourselves.

3. Though you ought to maintain a loving and sociable converse with the world, yet Christian wisdom directs you to abhor and avoid all intimate commerce and friendship with such as you know to be professed enemies to virtue and godliness, and are openly profane, and refuse to be reclaimed from their abominable practices.

4. Show your godly wisdom in your strict observing of the second table as well as the first. Your duty to God must never exclude that which you owe to your neighbours, for in discharging both you serve God.

5. Let your prudence be seen in your perfect vanquishing of earthly-mindedness and covetousness.

6. Walk not as fools, but as wise, by living contentedly and cheerfully in whatever state of life it pleaseth the Divine Providence to place you. Serve God and be joyful, is a Christian’s motto. He hath learnt to live by faith, which is ever accompanied with rejoicing.

7. Discover your Christian prudence and wisdom by being always more strict and severe to yourselves than you are to your neighbours.

8. Show your Christian prudence (and in that your circumspection) in being cautious in the use of lawful and innocent things.

9. Let our spiritual care and wisdom be seen in our not making ourselves guilty of other men’s sins.

The application of all shall be in these two particulars:

1. Be deterred from all appearance of wickedness and vice.

2. Be encouraged to a holy and godly life.

Think you have reason to be deterred from all manner of vicious practices on this double consideration:

1. Lest the ways of God be evil spoken of, and consequently that God himself be dishonoured thereby.

2. Lest others be drawn to imitate your ill example. (John Edwards, D. D.)

Cautious exactness

There is a grace too little thought of, which, nevertheless, belongs eminently to a Christian man. Let not any man think lightly of it, as though it were a mere heathen virtue. I mean, a cautious exactness. It is this of which the apostle is speaking in my text. For so it would be most literally translated, “See that ye walk accurately, or exactly.” Now, it is certain that he who would be accurate in action, must first be a man accurate in thought, and that especially in thoughts about God. If a man allow himself inaccurate views about religion, how can we wonder that the life, which is, after all, but the reflection of every man’s mind, be inaccurate too? Now, in close connection with this accurate holding of truth, let me earnestly impress upon you the necessity of the accurate performance of the daily duties of your own closet. Four things you have always to do when you are in your own room alone with God: to read God; to read self; to bring self to God; and to bring God to self. Let each have its own little space; and let each be done with exactness of thought. Who can wonder if all irregularities grow up into that mind which is not disciplined in spiritual duties? Or, what profit can there be in a flung prayer; or in jumbled thoughts as you read the Bible? With this foundation, then, of the exactness of the knowledge of truth in your minds, and with very measured, punctual prayers, let a man go forth. But as he goes forth, let him still carry with him the thought, that the outer life always follows the inner life, and that, before there can be correctness of action in any matter, there must first be strictness of feeling; and that, after all, in everything the motive is the determining consideration. Therefore, in this, as in everything else, the Christian has to guard and study most what is secret and unseen by men. He must accustom himself, by daily efforts, to think accurately. He must be always a man keeping the tight rein of his affection. He must always be practising, and habituating his judgments. He must go up and down the chambers of his own heart, and be always setting his own heart in order. He must “walk circumspectly” with his inner man. He must make a covenant with his eyes. He must prevent a rising desire when it first springs up. He must chasten himself in his inner thoughts. He must be within what he wishes to appear to be without. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Christian prudence

The prudent man, in the world’s estimation, is one who walks circumspectly; who goes through life, as the saying is, with his wits about him; with his eyes open to mark every opportunity; ready to spread his sail to every wind; one who does not rashly commit himself, but rather stands aloof and studies others, and uses the results for his own advantage. Prudence, or providence, for the words are the same, implies a power to overlook the pressing temptation of the present, for the weighty advantage of the future--that which glitters and deceives, for that which is solid but less attractive. Now, all this is our guide and pattern. What they do for corruptible advantages, we are to do for an incorruptible. What they do and submit to for a self whose interests terminate here, we are to act and to suffer for one whose welfare is not bounded by time. Yet how far are we from acting with the prudence that they do. Careless about the high interests before us, we let time flit by, and opportunities pass unheeded. We do not study the aspect of the days in which we live, nor ask ourselves what care they especially demand that we may be effective for good; and so the gospel is losing ground, and unbelief is coining in like a tide upon us, and men’s lives are losing their Christian character, and evils of unmeasured magnitude must follow, if we do not awake in time to spiritual wisdom. I will first remind you that we Christians were certainly never meant to be thus remiss and insensible; that Christ came to redeem and renew us in every legitimate faculty and every salutary use of it. The redemption of Jesus Christ was wrought to comprehend man’s whole nature, and man’s whole history; there is no lawful advance of mankind, no wholesome invention, which it may not; include in its instruments for God’s glory, and by neglecting which it does not lose space and power for its work; no symptom of the state of men’s minds and of society, which it ought not to turn to account for its high purposes. We need to walk circumspectly, brethren, both in belief, and in practice. Belief is a state of mind made up of the results of persuasion, and the influence of habit. And this latter is very much affected by the society among which we move in life. So that any prevailing character in the views and thoughts of an age is sure to be reproduced more or less in each individual man’s belief. Let us pass on now to practice. Here, too, we most deeply need wary and circumspect walking, as to both the good and the bad habits and influences around us. There can be no doubt that we live in an age of much practical good. The infirmities, miseries, and ignorances of humanity are more noticed and more cared for than in any previous age. We have numerous institutions calculated to teach the ignorant, to reclaim the fallen, to help those who need help. Well, then, our question today is, are we Christians walking prudently, with regard to all this machinery for good? Are we making the most of it for God and for our own eternal happiness? And if not, how may we do so? Strive to do what thou canst do well, and to serve where thou canst serve with a pure conscience; but aim not at duties which thou canst; never thoroughly perform, and at offices which thou canst not satisfactorily fill. If we are walking circumspectly, can we avoid hearing such voices as these sounding about us? if we are not fools but wise, shall we not admit them to a place in our counsels, and in the formation of our plans in life? (Dean Alford.)

Wise Christian method

It was the safety of Methodism, and the secret of its success, that in its first rise among the knot of men in Oxford who banded themselves together for security in the midst of ungodliness and vice prevailing all around them, they soon learned the lesson of combining the two elements and conditions of a right Christian mode of life; walking circumspectly, strictly by rule, methodically arranging and rigidly observing a definite plan of spiritual life; and yet doing so, not foolishly, as if they were to be the slaves of their own arrangements; but; wisely, with a wise common sense, and intensely Christian regard to the evil days on which their lot had fallen, and the urgent need of their redeeming the time, grasping and improving the opportunity. It was this that made Methodism a power; not a new retreat and home for recluse spirits and souls sick of sin and of the world; but a new source of blessed influence in a dry, cold age; a mighty agent for the revival and regeneration of a Christianity that had fallen upon, and, alas! yielded itself up to what were, truly evil days. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Wise conduct of life

Life is a voyage in a frail boat upon a dangerous sea, a sea washed by mighty currents, liable to awful storms, torn with sunken reefs, bound by iron shores. If the captain be wise and watchful, if his crew be under due control, if his anchors be strong, his chart correct, his compass true, his vessel taut, he may safely ride out the hurricane, and safely reach the haven where he would be. But, ah! if he leave her to drift with mutinous sailors, false chart, damaged compass, rent sails, untended helm, what shall be the end but a dismantled hulk upon the surging waters, or a desolate wreck upon the lonely shore? Is life, with all its tremendous realities, a thing less dangerous? If the fool’s ship will not be ruled by the rudder, must it not be ruled by the rock? (Archdeacon Farrar.)


Verses 15-21

Verse 16

Ephesians 5:16

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

On redeeming the time

I. Directions.

1. We must redeem time by sincerely repenting of sin and devoting ourselves immediately to the great business of life.

2. We must redeem time by considering the various ways in which we have wasted it, and avoiding them for the future.

3. We must redeem time by forming a wise and judicious plan for the regulation of our conduct, and firmly and conscientiously adhering to it. The immortal Alfred, one of the best of kings that ever filled the British throne, divided his time into three portions, allotting eight hours to sleep, recreation, and meals, eight to public business, and eight to private study and devotion; and by constantly adhering to his plan, he accomplished the works and acquired the wisdom which have excited the admiration of posterity. Dr. Doddridge adopted nearly the same plan, and by that means he was enabled to educate so many young men, to preach so frequently, and to leave the world those various writings which have enlightened the minds and aided the devotion of multitudes. Colonel Gardiner always set apart two hours in the morning for devotion, and if his troops had to march at six o’clock he rose at four to commune with God, and like his Divine Master prepare for arduous duties by fervent prayer.

4. We must redeem time by forming habits of activity and diligence. It requires great labour to improve time as it comes--what then must it require to redeem it? Should a husbandman or mechanic have lost any time in his work, he redeems it by extra exertion; in like manner should we redeem the time which we ought to have spent in serving God and preparing for eternity.

II. Reasons.

1. The merciful purpose for which time is granted, and the greatness of the work which we have to perform.

2. Because the period in which we can redeem time is not only very uncertain, but may be extremely short. The goldsmith gathers up every particle of gold. The very least which he can discern he deems too valuable to be lost. Can you, then, willingly suffer the loss of your precious moments, when worlds on worlds cannot buy one of them back again? Many who are now on the bed of death or passing into eternity, would part most gladly with all the wealth they have amassed, and all the fame they have acquired, for another year, or another month. While time lingers for you, improve it. Conscientiously set apart its hours as they come to the highest purposes.

3. We should redeem time because of the eternal consequences which will result from the use we make of it. As our time is given us by God, He will call us to account for the way in which we have spent it. Every day therefore brings with it an awful responsibility. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Redemption of time

To redeem is to reclaim by price, or recover by labour, that which has been lost or alienated; or to preserve by prudence that which is in danger. A metaphor taken from the practice of merchants, who observe the favourable seasons of buying and selling, of making profits and repairing losses, who keep regular accounts of their expenses and gains, and often inspect their affairs, to know whether their interest is in progress or decline.

I. It is here supposed that time is precious.

1. It is precious, because we have much business on our hands; business which relates, not to our bodies only, but to our souls; not merely to this life, but to the whole duration of our existence.

2. It is precious, because it is short and uncertain; and our work must be done soon, or it never can be done at all.

3. It is precious, because part, and with many, the greater part of it is gone already. What remains is increased in value, as it is contracted in length. We had none to waste at first; we have need to be frugal now.

II. We must regain the time which is lost. Time past, indeed, cannot be recalled. Each moment, which flies off, is gone forever, and will return no more. Like the wind, it passeth away and cometh not again. But we do the best we can toward the recovery of lost time, when we reflect with sorrow on follies past, and resolve to be wise in future.

III. We must use prudence to save, and diligence to improve, the time that remains. In vain you pretend to lament your past folly, unless you apply your heart to wisdom. Godly sorrow will work in you carefulness.

1. Enter on your work speedily.

2. Attend to your work with diligence.

3. Guard against the things which rob you of your time.

(a) well chosen;

(b) wisely timed;

(c) moderately used.

This attention to seasons is no less necessary in the work of your salvation.

1. Youth is the most promising season. Then the work is most easy, and attended with fewest obstructions; and then there is the fairest prospect of Divine concurrence. If that season is past with you, take the present; for the future is uncertain, and the difficulty of your work and the indisposition to attempt it will increase by delay.

2. The time of health is more favourable than a time of sickness; for you are now more capable of intense thought and persevering application, and better able to prove your sincerity.

3. There are some tender seasons, when the conscience is awakened, serious sentiments impressed, and good resolutions excited. Improve these seasons.

4. There are seasons friendly for particular duties. For your daily devotions, choose the hours when your mind can be most free from the occupations of the world, that you may attend on God without distraction. If you would advise or reprove a friend, take a time when you can speak to him in private; when you feel your own mind affectionate, and think his to be calm and tender; when you can address him inoffensively, and he may hear you dispassionately. Also in doing works of charity, observe opportunities.

5. Wisely divide your time among your various duties. Lawful things will become criminal in you, if they occupy your time so far as to exclude other things of greater importance. The duties of religion are consistent with each other, and may be made to harmonize in practice. If they interfere, it is because you throw them into confusion, and your time into disorder. Distribute your seasons properly, and arrange your works prudently, and you will find there is a time for everything. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

Redeeming the time

First: In the duty there is the act and the object. Both must be explained.

1. The act, buying; or, as we render it, “redeeming.” Well, then, what is the meaning of “redeeming the time,” or buying the time? The term is proper to civil contracts, but is here applied morally.

2. The object--“the time.” The word properly signifieth the season and opportunity, but yet it is the usual word for time in Scripture, for to a Christian all time is season. Time in general is but short: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short” (1 Corinthians 7:29). But the season or opportunity, which is the flower of time, is shorter; therefore this must not be slipped: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10).

Secondly: The reason by which this duty is enforced--“Because the days are evil.”

1. For the meaning of the phrase.

2. The force of the consequence.

I. The commodity or thing to be bought. The word signifieth time and season, the general and particular opportunity.

1. Time.

2. The season: buy it, whatever it cost you. The season of receiving good and of doing good.

II. The use we must put it to when we have gotten this commodity into our hands. It is a precious commodity; you should never let it go but for something better than itself. There are two great ends, the glorifying of God, and the saving of our own souls. Thirdly: I shall now proceed to the encouragements to the bargain to redeem time and season. First: Let me press you to redeem the time.

1. Too much time hath been spent already (1 Peter 4:3).

2. We are to be accountable to God for time.

3. That time is only yours which is spent well, in pleasing God, and doing good; for that time is bought and redeemed which otherwise is lost to you. We lose all that time which is not spent in the love and service of God.

4. Time is not ours to dispose of at pleasure. A Christian, when he giveth up himself to God, he giveth up everything that is his to God. My time is not mine, but Christ’s. It is sacrilege to rob God of what is consecrated to Him.

5. Time is a precious commodity, worth the looking after. The devil values it; if he can cheat you of your time, he can cheat you of your souls; for when conviction is strong, and all your prejudices are borne down, and his outworks taken, excuses and self-flatteries vanish. The last thing that he is loath to let go is time; his game is to cheat you of today, and so of the next day. God saith, “Today” (Hebrews 3:13); and the devil saith, Not today, but at a more convenient season; as Felix put off Paul (Acts 24:25).

6. The present time is the best: “I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments” (Psalms 119:60). Ludovicus Cappellus telleth us of a Jewish rabbin, who being asked when a man should repent, answered, One day before his death; that is, presently, this day; it may be your last in the world: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

7. You have no time bug what may be serviceable for some good use. There is no time wherein thou dost not enjoy some blessing to provoke thee to thankfulness, or hast not some sin to be mortified, or some good work to be done. We have a great deal of work to do in a short time.

8. We have much work to do, therefore let us spend it in matters that most concern us. We all complain of the shortness of time, and yet everyone hath more time than he useth well. We should rather complain of the loss of time than the want of time. In the general, use time well. If it be short, do not make it shorter by your negligence and improvident misspending of it. A thing that is hired for a while, it is a loss to us if it be not used and employed; as a horse that is bargained for if he be kept idle, or money taken up at interest. So it is with time lent us by God for a while; we pay dear for it if we use it not, and improve it not for God. It is good to see what advantage we make of time daily. One could say when he heard the clock strike, Now I have another hour to answer for.

9. The slight price we are to give for time. You part with nothing but what is better lost than kept; with a little ease of the flesh, vain pleasure which passeth away as the wind, a little worldly profit, which at death will be of no use to thee. Now these are of no worth in comparison of time. 10. The necessity should quicken us, because there are many things which are apt to steal away and engross our time, and therefore must be redeemed; as--

Secondly: Why we must redeem the season.

1. Because all things are beautiful in their season. It is said that the good man “is like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psalms 1:3). Now, fruit in its season is a carriage answerable to all providences (Matthew 9:15).

2. Because the season may soon slip out of our hands (Galatians 6:10). Take and seek all occasions of doing good. To take the season relates to the necessities of others; to seek the season relates to our own capacity and ability; both together bind the duty stronger on us. We must not defer a benefit. Some are like hogs, good for nothing till they are dead; they will not part with anything till they are incapable of the use of it any longer. So for exhorting (Hebrews 3:13). So for serving public good (Acts 13:36). They that mind to do good in the world engage themselves in a warfare, and the loss of our season is no small part of the enemy’s conquest.

3. This is wisdom. Some are wise in time, others too late; as the foolish virgins; they saw a necessity of getting oil into their vessels, but it was too late (Matthew 25:10). But the godly make much of time before it is lost.

4. The foresight and provision of the creatures may shame us. God will not only teach careless men by His prophets and messengers, but by His creatures. There is a great deal of morality lieth hid in the bosom of nature if we had the skill to find it out. In this business of redeeming the time we are sent to the pismire (Proverbs 6:6-8).

5. Most of the calamities of the world come for not observing and improving the season (Ecclesiastes 8:6).

I. Reproof of several sorts of men.

1. Of them that wilfully spend their time vainly, either in doing nothing, or doing what they should not, or in doing evil.

2. It reproveth them that delay their conversion and return to God; as those invited to the marriage supper did not deny, but delay (Matthew 22:1-46).

3. Reproof to fallen believers, who do not take the next advantage of recovering themselves by repentance. The longer sin continueth unmortified or unpardoned, the more dangerous is your case. A candle, as soon as the flame is blown out, sucketh light and is re-enkindled; but when it is grown cold and stiff, it requireth more ado.

4. It reproveth those that withstand the special seasons of grace, when God’s arms are most open to receive us. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Redeeming the time

Literally to comply with this exhortation of the apostle, is not in our power. Sooner may we stop the revolutions of the orbs of heaven, and arrest the sun in his course, than recall the years that are past, the days that are gone, or even the moment which but now is vanished. But by quickening our pace in our Christian course, and increasing our industry in every good work, we may, in some sort, retrieve the losses of past time, and make up for our former tardiness and waste of life. This is the duty to which the apostle exhorts; and a very solemn duty it is upon us erring and accountable beings. To the discharge of it, we have as strong motives as can affect the human mind. Time in itself is the gift of God, produced for us by His continual agency; and, therefore, not to be wasted or abused. It is by the power of the Deity that we are upheld in being. Again: The importance and magnitude of the business of life gives infinite value to every moment of it. Evidently, to exercise faith and exhibit obedience, to purify our nature and to acquire Divine habits, with a view to an immortal existence beyond the grave, is the primary object of our present being. Once more: We should be moved to obey the apostle’s exhortation by the solemn consideration that we are accountable for our time. Life is the first, the greatest, and most wonderful talent with which we are entrusted. Nor is it given to us merely for our sport. It is something which we are to use for our own benefit and our Maker’s glory. And this leads me to observe, further, that we should be engaged to this duty, and excited to very great fidelity in it, by a sense of the goodness of God in yet prolonging our days. Finally, we should be induced to an immediate compliance with this apostolic exhortation, by reflecting upon the uncertainty of life; and that the longer we defer the duty, the more complicated and arduous will be the task. (Bishop Dehon.)

Redeeming the time

Bishop Morton, of Durham, lived to a great age (ninety-eight), and few men made better use of their time, for he was never idle. He was often up at his devotions and study before four o’clock, even after he had reached fourscore years; yet he seldom went to bed till after ten, and then had always a man servant to read some book to him till such time as sleep overtook him. When he travelled in his coach, he took care not to lose that time from study, carrying with him always some portion of his library. (Memoirs of Bishop Morton.)

“As you cannot overtake Time, the best way is always to be a few minutes before him.”

Redeeming the time

I. The value and power of time. God’s estimate of it very high. The one gift He gives His creatures sparingly. Millions of flowers, gems on the fingers of Nature, burning on every landscape. But not so does God give time: only one moment at a time, and never that until the previous one has been taken back. Also, we may see the power of time from the lives of men who have carved their way from obscurity to fame. They achieved their success entirely from perseveringly employing spare moments wasted by others. And time is irreparable; once gone you cannot recall it, be your grief never so deep and your regret never so unfeigned.

II. The importance of redeeming and how to do it. Time equally given to all; so all have the same responsibility. He that has a soul to be saved from eternal death need not have one idle moment. He that has a heaven to win, has enough to do to occupy all his time. They redeem their time who employ it--

1. In gaining useful knowledge.

2. In doing good to others.

3. In employing it for the purpose of gaining an honest livelihood.

4. In prayer and self-examination to make the heart better.

5. In seeking salvation, and endeavouring to do the will of God.

There are several temptations to waste time which we should avoid.

1. The allurements to sinful pleasures and amusements.

2. Novel reading.

3. Temptations to ambition, spending time in self-aggrandisement.

4. Dissipation.

5. In wild and visionary plans.

6. Luxurious indulgence in dressing, eating, drinking, and overmuch sleep.

Determine, then, to redeem your time by--

1. Usefully employing it.

2. Methodically employing it.

3. With an eye to God’s judgment day employing it, rescuing each opportunity from the chains of sloth, ease, and listlessness. (G. T. Dunney, M. A.)

Redeeming the time

What is the “time” meant there? How can we in any way “redeem” this “time”? The question may be answered by considering our state and relation to the present, and the invisible worlds. “Time” has been defined as “the consideration of duration, the measure of it, as set out by certain periods, and marked by certain measures.” Time is but a fragment of eternity, and we obtain the best idea of it, perhaps, from the revolutions of heavenly bodies, as the sun, moon, and stars, although it is difficult to make clearer by philosophy the intuitive idea we all have of its relations and fleeting nature. The clearest idea may be given of time, to a thoughtful mind, by one standing on the banks of a mighty river; he beholds the flowing waters glide along in a powerful volume, taking complexion from all things round; he views the floating bubble, the fallen leaves, the scattered branches of trees, or various boats or living beings constantly borne away; he stands rapt in contemplation, not knowing what is above or what is below his vision, but he finds all life and time hero imaged, vividly, and all rapidly pass away into the vast ocean of eternity. Time, however, has only reference to man. To the omniscient God all periods, beings, circumstances, and seasons, are present and alike. This results from the perfection of the Divine nature. But time has an important relation and bearing to man. It means the period of his life; his opportunities of doing evil or good; a trust and a talent confided to his care. In the apostle’s exhortation there is embodied a fine metaphor, taken from the practice of enterprizing merchants, who diligently look for the proper season of buying and selling; and who deny themselves, or readily part with their own mere pleasure for the sake of gain or property. Wisdom and skill thus combine with perseverance in obtaining the best goods for the best market and profit. Thus the Christian seizes old Father Time by the forelock, and uses every lawful opportunity for promoting his own spiritual happiness and the eternal welfare of his fellow men: this is what Christianity positively demands; and this is what the true Christian delights to do.

I. The merchant redeems or improves the time. We behold him employ his capital wisely, and find him sedulously attentive to all his worldly interests, so arranging all his business and regulating all the affairs of traffic that he knows how he stands in the world. What a lesson may the Christian learn from him I Ought he not to know in what state he stands before God? Ought he not to examine carefully whether his spiritual concerns are safe--declining or improving?

II. The farmer redeems or improves the time. See how carefully he prepares the seed and the ground, early and late in season. His watchfulness is ever alive, his cares never cease, while he looks for the dew and air and light of heaven to bless his fields with abundance and joy. Here, again, is a lesson for the Christian. For sowing Divine truth in the mind and doing good in the world is but acting as the farmer does in his fields. Sow broadcast and constantly the seeds of holy truth. Seize upon time, and redeem it from the world to God.

III. The philosopher, student, or statesman redeems or improves the time. No man ever rose to any eminence who did not wisely employ time. Our narrow space of days is so brief, that we must treasure well its moments. It is prime wisdom to use time as the gift of God. Behold the pale student with his books; often by the midnight lamp he ransacks tomes of the ancient or illustrious dead: see, though the sober light of thought settles on his cheek, though hectic fever fills his veins, and may flush his damp brow, yet he never tires in the pursuit of important knowledge. Thus the philosopher tests, by science and reason, the mysteries of nature, and with noble perseverance he draws forth some secret into the full daylight of knowledge; and thus the wise statesman studies the complicated webs of political or moral life, and penetrates with the keen eye of sagacity the undercurrents of human government, and the bearings of moral action. No student of books, nature, or men, is satisfied unless he adds daily to his stores of knowledge. Hence he is an economist of time. If even one day has borne no fruit of advancement to his hope, he sighs over lost opportunity, and exclaims, with the Roman Emperor, “I have lost a day!” And yet he has only tasted, not exhausted, the springs of knowledge! Other fields possess intellectual treasure; other Alps command a purer heaven! The purest philosophy, the noblest study, the highest statesmanship, are those which the Christian is invited to spend his life in mastering and acquiring!

IV. The Christian redeems or improves the time. We can behold this from the life of a consistent child of God. He lives not for himself, but for Him who died for him and rose again. All his thoughts and actions are regulated by the standard of Divine truth. The discipline of his heart and the duties of life are referred to this sacred test. (J. G. Angley, M. A.)

Admonitory counsels for the closing year

I. The subject to which we are directed. That is to “time.”

1. Consider its true character.

2. Consider its value.

3. Consider the brief portion which is allotted for our service.

4. Consider the right application of time.

II. The course recommended. Redeem--recover, buy back. This we may do in a certain sense--

1. By saving all the time we can.

2. By cherishing activity and diligence.

3. By regarding first the most momentous subjects.

III. The motives assigned--“Because the days are evil.”

1. They are uncertain in their number.

2. They are days of temptation and sin.

3. They are liable to be interrupted by infirmity and sickness. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Reasons for redeeming the time

1.Redeem the time, for time is very precious. Nothing is so valuable as time. Not all the gold in the universe--not all the hoards of ages--can purchase a single moment.

2. Redeem the time on account of the momentous consequences which depend on our use of it. These consequences are an eternity of woe, or an eternity of bliss.

3. Redeem the time, for the time is short. What are the longest lives? “My days,” says Job, “are swifter than a post: they are passed away as the swift ships; as the eagle that hasteth to her prey.” “What is your life?” says St. James; “It is but a vapour which appeareth for a time and then vanishes away.” Time is short, and the work we have to do is great. How important it is to “redeem the time.”

4. Redeem the time, for when it is once past it cannot be recovered. If we chance to lose a valued treasure, is may be found again though it be buried in the depths of the sea. It is not so with time. Not all the entreaties of eternity will bring back a single moment of time. It is a vessel dashed in a thousand pieces which can never be repaired; it is as water spilt upon the ground which can never be gathered up again.

5. The last reason I shall urge why we should redeem the time, is that it is not our own. Woe to that idle servant who neglects to improve and to trade with the talents given him to traffic with. (J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

The use of opportunity

The apostle bids us “buy up” out of the market what we can never purchase so cheaply again--what, in fact, we can never buy again at any price. The lesson is--use opportunity, and use it thoroughly while you have it. Go read the old weird myth of the Cumaean Sibyl. She wrote her predictions upon leaves, and laid them at the entrance of her cave. Those who consulted her were compelled to exercise the greatest care and caution, lest the wild wind should take up the leaves, and scatter and displace them, destroy their arrangement, break their connection, and turn the clear oracles into inexplicable enigmas. That was a mythological lesson on seizing opportunity. Again, according to the familiar Roman legend, a Sibyl came to the palace of Tarquin II bearing nine volumes, for which she demanded a high price. Her offer being declined, she went away, and burned three of the precious books. Returning, she offered the remaining six, but asked for them the same price which she had demanded for the nine. Again her proposition was rejected, and again she departed and committed to the flames three more volumes. Once more she came back, bearing the last three, and refusing any less sum for them than that by which all might once have been bought. Tarquin, startled by this strange conduct of the merciless Sibyl, advised with his augurs, and bought the books, which proved the invaluable “Sibylline Verses”; but the chance of purchasing those priceless sister volumes was forever lost. Buy up opportunity!” Your privileges will never be offered so cheaply again. Each time life’s Sibyl comes to us her precious treasures are diminished in number, and relatively increased in value. Each time she has less to offer, and asks a higher price for each opportunity that remains. So comes Time’s stern, relentless Sibyl, until she herself finally disappears, and Time and her opportunities are no morel (A. T. Pierson.)

Redeeming the time

1.In the first place we may be exhorted to redeem our time from the power of indolence. Those who have accomplished much in the world have learned the happy art of redeeming these fragments, just as the goldsmith spreads his apron and saves all the filings of gold, which, little in themselves, when ran together form something of great value.

2. Again, we may be exhorted to redeem time from its misapplication. It is said of a wise man that, being in company with some learned friends and philosophers, from whose society he had expected great profit, but finding that their occupation was gaming and their discourse trifling, he took out his tablets, and for an hour or two noted down their words, which he afterwards read to them, whereat they were so ashamed that they threw aside their cards and sought to pass their time more profitably.

3. But a third point for our consideration is the redeeming a larger portion of our time for the immediate concerns of the soul and the service of our God. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

Redeeming the time

I. In these words we have a figure most expressive, both of the condition in which our hours by nature abe, and of that in which by grace they should be. Time is represented as in captivity. We are bidden to redeem it as from bondage. Those hours which are given us for the trial of our hearts, for the exercise of our souls through grace unto salvation; those hours are too commonly enslaved to the pursuit of mere worldly objects. They are devoted to the service of Mammon, laden with the fetters of tormenting care, dishonoured in the base indulgence of sensual pleasure, or in the vain pursuit of frivolous amusements.

II. Many reasons might be urged with force for our thus redeeming the time. We might argue that it is scarce, dealt out to us in single moments, poured forth as it were drop by drop, like a precious gift, of which it would be too much for us to possess more than one particle at once. But the special reason given by St. Paul is that “the days are evil.” Bad times are not times for indolence, extravagance, or amusement. “The days are evil.” Therefore work harder in your spiritual work. “The days are evil.” Therefore enjoy less of earthly pleasure, that you may enjoy more of bliss in heaven hereafter.

III. You have now seen how time is in captivity, and what is meant by redeeming it. You have heard also the force of the apostle’s argument why you should ever labour so to do. In what remains, I shall set forth some plain practical rules for so doing.

1. One very important rule towards redeeming the time is this, that you avoid all waste of it, and so make the most of what time you have.

2. Next to a diligent frugality of time comes the right allotment of its parts, the due proportioning of its several employments.

3. And observe further, that these things, however proper in their place, must not engross, as they are apt to do, too much of our time.

4. Lastly, in all these holy offices, and in all the duties of life, be watchful. Time steals on smoothly, but swiftly. If you would stay it for good, watch. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)

On redeeming time

I. What we are to redeem. Time.

1. Its nature. It differs from eternity as space differs from infinity.

2. Its value.

II. What is implied in redeeming time and how this may be done. The word used alludes to the custom of merchants and traders, who buy up the articles they know to be of value, and what they know they can turn to good account. But where may we buy up time? Where is it to be met with? In the hands of sin, wickedly and madly employed. At what price may we buy it? To buy it out of the hands of sin, we must part with our sins, our lusts, and passions; out of the hands of amusements, pleasures, worldly ambition.

III. For what purpose time should be redeemed. Not to hoard it up as misers do their gold, nor to spend upon ourselves; but that we may use it for our spiritual and eternal profit, for our instruction, conversion, renovation, for the glory of God, and the good of others.

IV. The reason of this advice, and the wisdom of taking it. (J. Benson, D. D.)

Redemption of time

I. What makes it so supremely important to redeem time?

1. Its connection with eternity. Time is the seed of eternity.

2. So much time has gone by, and cannot be recalled. A dying English queen cried, “A world of money for an inch of time!”

3. Because of the worth of the work that is given us to do in it. What would be said of a farmer idling his time while his fields lay uncultivated, or a general occupied with trifles when the enemy was in the camp?

4. The special reason given in the text--“Because the days are evil.”

II. Mark how this redemption of time can be accomplished.

1. Take the exercise of the responsibility to God. Begin with heartfelt prayer. Seek to know the value, and to obtain strength for performing the duty. We must begin with God if we are to prosper. Even all our strength put to the wheel will not move it; the work will break down because the power is insufficient. But God will give what we need (Deuteronomy 33:25; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13-19).

2. Having begun to lead a new life in the exercise of prayer, and in the life that prayer brings out for us to live, remember another important rule, viz., to keep the great end of life before us. We are either sinners lost in sin or saved by grace. If lost in sin, the work given us to do is, “Believe,” etc. We look to the Saviour as the object of our love, and we go to Him as the source of our strength. One brings the brightness and the other brings the power.

3. Another rule for us to remember as redeemed and saved sinners, is our responsibility, and the one object of our life, viz., “To me to live is Christ,” etc. Let us turn our eyes on Him. If we suffer our hearts to wander from that centre we immediately become palsied creatures, living for no earthly object or value at all. In conclusion, let us remember, in the exercise of this life, that He who died for us has a claim on the best of our time and the whole of our heart. (Charles Bridges, M.A.)

The value of time

It was a saying of Charles V, “I have spent my treasure, but that I may recover again; I have lost my health, but that I may have again; but I have lost a great many brave soldiers, but them I can never have again.” So other temporal blessings may be lost and recovered again; but, if the term of life wherein you should work for heaven be once lost, it is past all recovery; you can never have another season of grace for your soul. (T. Watson.)

Time, its loss, and its redemption

I. How time is lost.

1. By idleness.

2. By excessive amusements.

3. By unprofitable talk.

4. By exclusive attachment to worldly pursuits.

5. By positive wickedness.

II. How is time to be redeemed?

1. By guarding against its loss.

2. By acting according to rule or method.

3. By specially attending to the parts of our time that are most precious.

4. By being habitually engaged in doing good.

III. Why is time to be redeemed?

1. Because it is short and uncertain.

2. Because the work to be done in it is important.

3. Because the days are evil. (G. Brooks.)

The redemption of time

I. Why time should be redeemed.

1. It is the most choice and precious thing in the world.

2. When once passed, it never returns.

3. It must be one day accounted for.

4. The shortness and uncertainty of human life.

5. Because of the work we have to do, and the difficulty of doing it.

6. Because we have already lost so large a proportion of the time allowed us.

II. How it may be redeemed.

1. Observe a method in the distribution of your time.

2. Be moderate in your recreations.

3. Cut off, as much as may he, unnecessary visits.

4. Examine, every evening, how you have spent the day. (Bishop Horne.)

Redeeming the time

There was once a young shoemaker, who became so much interested in politics, that his shop was filled with loungers, talking, and discussing, and disputing about one thing and another from morning till night; and he found it often necessary to work till midnight to make up for the hours lost in talk during the day. One night, after his shutters were closed, and he was busy on his bench, a boy, passing along, lout his mouth to the keyhole, and mischievously piped out, “Shoemaker, shoemaker, work by night, and run about by day.” “Had a pistol been fired off at my ear,” he said, “I could not have been more startled. I dropped my work, saying to myself, ‘True, true; but you never shall have that to say of me again.’ I never forgot it. To me it was the voice of God, and it has been a word in season throughout my life. I learned from it not to leave till tomorrow the work of today, or to be idle when I ought to be working. From that time I turned over a new leaf.” This shoemaker was Samuel Drew, who subsequently wrote on the “Immortality and Immateriality of the Soul.” Wise investments:--From the year 218 to the year 212 B.C. for ancient Rome the days were evil. A fierce and warlike invader was in the land; the army of the Commonwealth had been twice defeated by him with terrible loss; and, finally, there came a day in which the proud Roman people suffered the humiliation of seeing their very capital reduced to a state of siege. Hannibal’s army lay encamped against it. Outside the walls, where the children had played and the citizens had lounged, foreign standards were waving in the breeze. On the very spot where, in days of security and peace, the busy fair had been held, and the gay booths had plied their brisk trade, foreign sentinels challenged the passer-by. It was while affairs were in this state that the Roman senate took a remarkable step. They put up to public auction a piece of ground outside the walls on which at that very moment the invading general’s tent was standing, and the ground was forthwith purchased by a senator. Now you will see at once the wisdom of the senate’s action. You will perceive that no more politic or statesmanlike stroke could have been played. For what would the immediate result of such action be? Why, to give heart and hope to every man, woman, and child within the city walls. Their leaders, the people would argue, were evidently but little disturbed by what had happened. Evidently they regarded Hannibal’s action as mere bravado. The enemy would never set foot within the gates--very soon he would be compelled to raise the siege and retreat in haste. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what did happen. But why do I speak of it now, and what has all this to do with “redeeming the time”? Well, it furnishes us with a very good illustration of what the apostle means when he uses these words. For the expression, “redeeming the time,” may more accurately be rendered, “buying up the opportunity, because the days are evil.” Now this is just what the senate did. The opportunity (a very great opportunity) was in the hands of the foe. The prestige of the victor in two bloody engagements; of the besieger of a strong, proud city, was all on his side. Then, by a master stroke, the Roman Fathers “bought up the opportunity,” so to speak, from Hannibal; wrested it out of his hands, and secured a moral victory. (J. B. C. Murphy, B. A.)

The purchase of opportunities

A better rendering would be, “Buying up the opportunity, because the times are hard.” But no mere translation can fully convey the idea St. Paul had in his mind. The picture or parable suggested by the Greek is this. Here stands a wise and wary merchantman, keen for spiritual traffic and gain. Like Milton, he has fallen on evil times; on “bad times,” as men of business would say. The days drag slowly by, bringing him few means of moral culture, rare occasions in which he can trade with his talents and make them more. But, at last, as the caravan of Time moves tardily by, among the captives in its train he espies an opportunity such as his heart has long craved. He leaps at it, seizes it, redeems it, i.e., pays a price for it, and makes it his own. This seems to have been the conception, the picture, in the apostle’s mind. And thus he defines the Christian attitude toward Time. Its days and hours are for the most part in bondage to vanity and corruption. We are to watch them as they pass by, keen and prompt to rescue them from their bondage, to set them free by devoting them to the service of God and man, to purchase any precious opportunity they may bring with them, whatever it may cost us. There are many reasons why we should take and maintain this attitude.

1. Opportunities are only too apt to slip by unrecognized. Even the wisest of us is hardly wise enough to recognize his opportunities till they are past. As a rule our days are samely and monotonous. There is not sufficient difference between them to awaken attention and inspire hope. Our days, moreover, come to us masqued for the most part, so that even when they bring us a great opportunity, we do not recognize its greatness at the time, and therefore do not seize upon it and improve it as we should if we knew its worth. The current of our life is often turned by seeming trifles, which we assume to be quite incapable of seriously affecting it. When the crises of our life occur, when the great opportunities come to us, which come so seldom, they are hidden from us by a multitude of subsidiary accidents and occurrences. If there were no God above us, ruling even the accidents of life for our good, and working out the counsels of His will even when we let our wills drift on the tide of chance or drive before the waves of impulse, what would become of us all?

2. These opportunities, critical as they are, when once they are gone, can never be recalled. The occasion once lost, can never be recalled. Says Plato, “It is quite clear, quite clear, that if a person lets the right moment for any work go by, it never returns. For the thing to be done does not choose, I imagine, to tarry the leisure of the doer.” Our past neglects should lend new force and urgency to the apostolic injunction, “Redeem the time,” and make our obedience to it more prompt and vigorous. Today we may listen to the Divine voice to which yesterday we were deaf. Today we may renounce those hurtful passions and lusts which ought to have been renounced long ago. Today we may begin to grasp occasions as they rise, and to do the duty we have often thought of doing, and even talked of doing, but have not done.

3. But if we set ourselves to seize and redeem present opportunities, we shall need to remember that they are only to be redeemed at a certain cost. In St. Paul’s view these opportunities were as captives which the days led by in chains; and to redeem a captive we must pay a price. We can avail ourselves of no occasion of serving God and man except as we rouse ourselves to labour and self-sacrifice. And these sacred opportunities, like the Sibylline books, both rise in price and grow fewer every time we refuse to purchase them. If it be hard to subdue passion and the cravings of irregular desire today, it will be harder tomorrow, should we leave the hours of today unimproved. If it would cost us much to do what we know to be the will of the Lord today, it will cost us more every day we neglect our duty.

4. Finally, the apostle warns us that when the times are hard, we should be the more eager to redeem the opportunities they bring us. Hard and evil times, indeed, bring opportunities of a special value, not only because they are scarce, but also because they have a great intrinsic worth. Nay, more, hard times, sorrowful times, times of temptation and difficulty, are themselves opportunities of preeminent value. Then, if ever, we have a chance of showing of what stuff we are made, of testing and proving the sincerity, the genuineness, of our religious life. Too often we forget that every provocation, wrong, loss, hardship, is an opportunity to be redeemed; that it is sent by God even though it comes from men; that He tasks our strength to test our character, to teach us what we really are, to wake us up from any delusion into which we have fallen about ourselves. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Thrift of time

It is the counsel of reason, as well as of inspiration, which bids men do with their might whatsoever their hand findeth to do. The value of time is what few men ever adequately learn; and the number is still smaller of those who ever learn to improve it to the best possible advantage. Dr. Johnson was once asked how it was that the Christian fathers, and other voluminous authors of former days, ever found leisure to fill so many large folios with the productions of their pens. “Nothing is easier,” said he; and then he proceeded to make a calculation, by which he showed that an author who should write no more than one octavo page in a day would easily be able, in thirty or forty years, to produce works as extensive as those of Jerome, Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, or Baxter. Mr. Gladstone is one of the best living illustrations of the truth of his own words, addressed to the students of Edinburgh University as its Lord Rector. He said to them: “Thrift of time will repay you in after life with a usury of profit beyond your most sanguine dreams; while the waste of it will make you dwindle, alike in intellectual and moral stature, beyond your darkest reckoning.” (Christian Age.)

Time veiled

One’s vocation is never some far-off possibility. It is always the simple round of duties that comes with the passing hour. Someone has pictured the days as coming to us with their faces veiled, bearing only the commonest gifts in their hands; but when they have passed beyond our recall the draped figures became radiant, and the gifts we rejected are seen to be treasures fit for kings’ houses. No day is commonplace, if we only had eyes to see its splendour. There is no duty that comes to our hand, however homely, but brings to us the possibility of kingly service. There is opportunity for the most ordinary people to make their years beautiful. There is room in life’s common relations for noblest heroism. (Christian Age.)

Wasted opportunities

If a girl who had been strolling in the parks or pastures before breakfast came in laden with bunches of primroses and violets, with cowslips for bracelets, with daisies for brooches, and dandelions for earrings, you would not reprove her, or consider that she had forfeited a splendid chance: what was there better than these fair blossoms? But now, if every pebble in her ramble had been a diamond, or a topaz, or an amethyst, and yet she came in with nothing but these fading blossoms, what would you say to her then? Would you not; exclaim, “Silly, stupid girl! you have missed a fortune; you have despised treasures”? And what shall we say of ourselves if we occupy ourselves with worldly vanities, or scramble on anyhow in idleness, when God has strewn our path with what should enrich us for heaven? We might have gathered wisdom, which is above riches: we might have gained God’s favour; we might have adorned ourselves with virtues and graces; we might have imitated Mary in her choice; but we let the whole train glide by us without seizing on a single gem. (Anon.)

Definition of time

Time is a continual over-dropping of moments, which fall down one upon the other, and evaporate. (Richter.)

Economy of time

How many minutes have you to spare? Five, ten, fifteen? Much may be done with them. We have heard of a young man who perused a History of England while waiting for his meals in a boarding house; we have heard of a mathematician who is said to have composed an elaborate work when visiting with his wife, during the interval between the moment when she first started to take leave of her friends, and the moment she had finished her last words. (E. P. Hood.)

Employment of time

“We all complain,” says the philosopher Seneca, “of the shortness of time; and yet we have more than we know what to do with. Our lives are spent either in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.” Alfred the Great was one of the wisest, the best, and most beneficent monarchs that ever swayed the sceptre of this realm; and his example is highly memorable. Ever hour of his life had its peculiar allotted business. He divided the day and night into three portions of eight hours each; and though much afflicted with a very painful disorder, he assigned only eight hours to sleep, meals, and exercise; devoting the remaining sixteen, one half to reading, writing, and prayer, and the other to public business. So sensible was this great man that time was not a trifle to be dissipated, but a rich talent entrusted to him, for which he was accountable to the great Dispenser of it! We are told by historians that Queen Elizabeth, except when engaged by public or domestic affairs, and the exercises necessary for the preservation of her health and spirits, was always employed either in reading or writing; in translating from other authors, or in compositions of her own. Gassendi, the celebrated philosopher, was perhaps one of the hardest students that ever existed. He generally rose at three o’clock in the morning, and read or wrote till eleven, when he received the visits of his friends. He afterwards at twelve made a very slender dinner, at which he drank nothing but water, and sat down to his books again at three. There he remained till eight o’clock; and after having eaten a very light supper, he retired to bed at ten. Among the ancient Indians there were a set of men called gymnosophists, who had a great aversion to sloth and idleness. When the table were spread for their repasts, the assembling youths were asked by their masters in what useful task they had been employed from the hour of sunrise. One, perhaps, represented himself as having been an arbitrator, and succeeded by his prudent management in composing a difference between friends. A second had been paying obedience to his parent’s commands. A third had made some discovery by his own application, or learned something by another’s instruction. But he who had done nothing to deserve a dinner was turned out of doors without one, and obliged to work while the others enjoyed the fruits of their application. (Knowles.)

The season of mercy

Neglect not the seasons of mercy, the day of grace, because opportunity facilitates the great work of your salvation; it is much easier to be done in such a season than it can be afterwards: an impression is easily made on wax, when melted, but stay till it be hardened, and if you lay the greatest weight on the seal it leaves not its impression upon it. Much so it is with the heart, there is a season when God makes it soft and yielding, when the affections are thawed and melted under the Word; conscience is full of sense and activity, the will palpable: now is the time to set in with the motions of the Spirit; there is now a gale from heaven, if you take it, and if not, it tarries not for man, nor waits for the sons of men: neglect of the season is the loss of the soul. (J. Flavel.)

Opportunity

Time is deservedly reckoned among the most precious mercies of this life; and that which makes it so valuable are the commodious seasons and opportunities for salvation which are vouchsafed to us therein. Opportunity is the golden spot of Time. If time be a ring of gold, opportunity is the rich diamond that gives it both its value and glory. (J. Flavel.)

That the wisdom of a Christian is eminently discovered in saving and improving all opportunities in this world, for that world which is to come

God hangs the great things of eternity upon the small wires of times and seasons in this world: that may be done, or neglected in a day, which may be the groundwork of joy or sorrow to all eternity. There is a nick of opportunity which gives both success and facility to the great and weighty affairs of the soul, as well as body; to come before it is to seek the bird before it be hatched; and to come after it, is to seek it when it is fled. (J. Flavel.)

The mystery of time

That great mystery of Time, were there no other; the inimitable, silent, never-resting thing called Time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent like an all embracing ocean tide, on which we and all the universe swim like exhalations, like apparitions which are and then are not. This is forever very literally a miracle--a thing to strike us dumb; for we have no word to speak about it. (Carlyle.)

Time, a treasure

An Italian philosopher expressed in his motto, “that time was his treasure”; an estate, indeed, which will produce nothing without cultivation, but which will always abundantly repay the labours of industry, and satisfy the most extensive desires, if no part of it be suffered to lie waste by negligence, to be overrun with noxious plants, or laid out for show rather than use. (Dr. Johnson.)

Redemption of time

Our moments slip away silently and insensibly; the thief steals not more unperceived from the pillaged house. And will the runagates never stop? No: wherever we are, however employed, time pursues his incessant course. Though we are listless and dilatory, the great measurer of our days presses on, still presses on, in his unwearied career, and whirls our weeks, and months, and years away. Is it not, then, surprisingly strange to hear people complain of the tediousness of their time, and how heavy it hangs upon their hands? To see them contrive a variety of amusing artifices to accelerate its flight, and to get rid of its burden? Ah! thoughtless mortals! Why need you urge the headlong torrent? Your days are swifter than a post, which, carrying despatches of the last importance, with unremitted speed scours the road. They pass away like the nimble ships, which have the wind in their wings, and skim along the watery plain. They hasten to their destined period with the rapidity of an eagle, which leaves the stormy blast behind her, while she cleaves the air, and darts upon her prey. Now the day is gone, how short it appears! When my fond eye beheld it in perspective, it seemed a very considerable space. Minutes crowded upon minutes, and hours ranged behind hours, exhibited an extensive draught, and flattered me with a longer progression of pleasures. But upon a retrospective view, how wonderfully is the case altered! The landscape, large and spacious, which a warm fancy drew, brought to the test of cool experience, shrinks into a span, just as the shores vanish, and mountains dwindle to a spot, when the sailor, surrounded by skies and ocean, throws his last look on his native land. How clearly do I now discover the cheat! May it never impose upon my unwary imagination again! I find there is nothing abiding on this side eternity. A long duration, in a state of finite existence, is mere illusion. Hark! what sound is that? In such a situation every noise alarms. Solemn and slow it breaks upon the silent air. ‘Tis the striking of the clock--designed, one would imagine, to ratify all my serious meditations. Methinks it says, Amen, and sets a seal to every improving hint. It tells me that another portion of my appointed time is elapsed. One calls it, “the knell of my departed hours.” ‘Tis the watchword to vigilance and activity. It cries in the ear of reason, “Redeem the time. Catch the favourable gales of opportunity. Oh! catch them while they breathe; before they are irrecoverably lost. The span of life shortens continually. Thy minutes are all upon the wing, hastening to be gone. Thou art a borderer upon eternity, and making incessant advances to the state thou art contemplating.” May the admonition sink deep into an attentive and obedient mind! May it teach me that heavenly arithmetic, of numbering my days; and applying my heart unto wisdom! (Hervey.)

The flight of time

Refusing to hear anything from me, or take anything from the physician, he lay silent, as far as sudden darts of pain would permit, till the clock struck. Then he with vehemence cried out, “Oh! Time! Time! it is fit thou shouldst thus strike thy murderer to the heart. How art thou fled forever! A month! Oh, for a single week! I ask not for years, though an age were too little for the much I have to do. So much the worse. ‘Tis lost! ‘Tis gone forever!” (Life of Rochester.)

Value of time

As every thread of gold is valuable, so is every minute of time. (J. Mason.)

Fragments of time

As in money, so in time, we are to look chiefly to the smallest portions. Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves. Take care of the minutes, and the hours and years will take care of themselves. Gold is not found in California for the most in great masses, but in little grains. It is sifted out of the sand in minute particles, which, melted together, produce the rich ingots that excite the world’s cupidity. So the spare pieces of time, the shreds, the odds and ends of time put together, may form a very great and beautiful work. Hale wrote his “Contemplations” when on his circuits. Dr. Mason Good translated Lucretius in his carriage, while, as a physician, he rode from door to door. One of the chancellors of France penned a bulky volume in the successive intervals of daily waiting for dinner. Doddridge wrote his “Exposition” chiefly before breakfast. Kirke White studied Greek, went over the nouns and verbs, as he was going to and from a lawyer’s office. Burney learned French and Italian while riding on horseback. Franklin laid the foundation of his wonderful stock of knowledge in his dinner hours and evenings, while working as a printer’s boy. In the Palace of Industry there were several curious specimens of art, wrought by humble individuals out of such fragments of time as they could secure from their regular occupations. Oh, the preciousness of moments! no gold or gems can be compared to them. Yet all have them; while some are thereby enriched, and others leave themselves in poverty. The wealth of time is like gold in the mine--like the gem in the pebble--like the diamond in the deep. The mine must be worked; the pebble ground and polished--the deep fathomed and searched. (J. Stoughton.)

The value of time

Time is life’s freightage, wherewith some men trade and make a fortune; and others suffer it to moulder all away, or waste in extravagance. Time is life’s book, out of which some extract wondrous wisdom; while others let it lie uncovered, and then die fools. Time is life’s tree, from which some gather precious fruit, while others lie down under its shadow, and perish with hunger; Time is life’s ladder, whereby some raise themselves up to honour, and renown, and glory; and some let themselves down into the deeps of shame, degradation, and ignominy. Time will be to us what, by our use of the treasure, we make it; a good or an evil, a blessing or a curse. (J. Stoughton.)

Time as seen in old age

I who squandered whole days heretofore, now husband hours and minutes; thus, when the glass begins to run low, I will not spend what remains in trifles. At the end of the lottery of life, our last minutes, like tickets left in the wheel, rise in their valuation; they are not of so much worth, perhaps, in themselves, as those which preceded, but we are apt, with great reason, to prize them more. (Bishop Atterbury.)

The shortness of time

Time’s a hand’s breadth; ‘tis a tale;

’Tis a vessel under sail;

’Tis an eagle in its way,

Darting down upon its prey;

’Tis an arrow in its flight,

Mocking the pursuing sight;

’Tis a short-lived fading flower;

’Tis a rainbow on a shower;

’Tis a momentary ray

Smiling in a winter’s day;

’Tis a torrent’s rapid stream;

’Tis a shadow; ’tis a dream;

’Tis the closing watch of night,

Dying at the rising light;

’Tis a bubble; ’tis a sigh;

Be prepared, O man, to die.

(Quarles.)

Redeeming and improving of time

I. To show in general what it is to redeem the time.

II. To set before you the particular manner of redeeming the time.

III. To offer you the reasons of it. And as to that particular reason or motive adjoined here by the apostle, I will treat of that by itself, when I have dispatched this part of my discourses on the words.

IV. I will present you with those practical inferences which this doctrine affords.

I. The first thing I undertake is, to give you a more general account of this apostolical injunction, and to acquaint you what it is to redeem the time.

II. I am to propound to you the particular manner of redeeming the time; and this cannot be said in fewer and more comprehensive words than these, that we take care to spend every day well; and if you ask me how this is to be done, I answer, It may most effectually be done these three ways.

1. By beginning every day well.

2. By proceeding in it accordingly.

3. By concluding it in a like manner.

4. Remember to be cautious in respect of your recreations.

No man can pretend to redeem his time who is not exceeding careful here. Wheat a great portion of time is spent by some persons in foolish sports and pastimes, as they call them.

5. I add this as another excellent way of redeeming the time; see that you retire from the world very often, abandon all company, and be alone. Company devours time excessively, and your greatest company keepers are the worst managers of time.

6. When you go abroad take care of this, that you do not mix yourselves with evil companions; be very circumspect as to the persons you converse with; never think you can redeem time, if you be careless as to this particular, for a wonderful deal of time is lost (and the person too often) in unprofitable and sinful society.

7. If you would redeem the time, busy not yourselves about mean and trifling matters, but mind those things which are great and worthy.

8. To sum up all in few words, make it your great care to employ all the time you have, and that very well. Let no opportunity of doing good be omitted. As I have showed you how you ought to begin, and to continue every day of your life; so it remains, that I let you know what it is to conclude the day well.

And this must be done--

1. By serious reflection and meditation. Sit down in good earnest, and recollect the passages of the past day. Let every evening be the audit of the day’s actions.

2. Conclude the day with solemn acts of repentance.

3. Endeavour, as much as in you lieth, to make your peace with the offended Majesty of heaven, by humbly begging forgiveness of your sins through the satisfaction and atonement of Christ Jesus the Redeemer. And yet now it will be requisite to tell you that the work is not yet at an end. Religion takes care of the night as well as the day. It is not to be thought that the night was made altogether for sleep. It may sometimes be improved to the same pious ends which the day is. The holy psalmist is our pattern here, he “remembered God upon his bed, and meditated on Him in the night watches” (Psalms 63:6). And he professes thus of himself, “When I awake, I am still with Thee” (Psalms 139:18). But I would give you a further view of this duty by acquainting you with this, that there are some particular seasons and opportunities of our lives, which are more especially to be improved and redeemed. Thus the days of youth are to be secured with a more than ordinary diligence, because the whole sequel of a man’s life doth very often depend upon them. Also, the days of bodily health are another special season, which we are engaged to improve to the utmost. This also I commend to your thoughts, that the day of peace and prosperity and the fruition of the good things of this life is another seasonable opportunity of doing our duty with great alacrity and vigour, and of omitting nothing that may tend to our everlasting welfare. But, above all, the day of grace, and of God’s offering the means in order to it, is a season which you are to attend to with the greatest care. How do you know but that this holy Dove, like that of Noah, if you let it go from you once and again, may never return back to you? Jerusalem missed her day, she let pass her opportunity, and that caused the merciful Jesus to weep over her, and to lament her destruction.

III. According to my propounded method I proceed to show you how reasonable it is that we should redeem the time. You will find this to be a most rational performance when you have considered of these following things.

1. The inestimable value of time.

2. The brevity and uncertainty of it.

3. The impossibility of recalling it.

4. The end and design of God’s intrusting us with it.

5. The account we must give for it.

I read of Amasis, an Egyptian king, that he made an order, that every man should once a year give a particular account how he spent his time, and in what way he lived. My brethren, there is a day coming, when you must all give an account of your time; all your time must be reckoned for at the great and general audit of the world.

IV. I proceed to the application of all that hath been said; take it in these three particulars.

1. Those are to be rebuked who have misspent their time.

2. Let us beg of God to forgive us the misspente of our time.

3. Be exhorted for the future to redeem it. (John Edwards, D. D.)

The worse the times are the better should we be

1. The reasonableness of this proposition will appear, in regard of God, who is pleased to stand by us in the worst times, and therefore we are obliged to stand up for Him.

2. In regard of those whom we live amongst, we are concerned in the worst times to look most carefully to our lives and conversations. For in such a season as this we may light on a happy opportunity of converting others, and of reforming the world by our exemplary behaviour.

3. In regard of ourselves, it is our concern in evil times to walk strictly and circumspectly, and to be very exact in our lives. Because

Improvement of time

Boyle remarks “that sand grains are easily scattered, but skilful artificers gather, melt, and transmute them to glass, of which they make mirrors, lenses, and telescopes. Even so vigilant Christians improve parenthetic flagments of time, employing them in self-examination, acts of faith, and researches of holy truth; by which they became looking glasses for their souls, and telescopes revealing their promised heaven.” Jewellers save the very sweepings of their shops because they contain particles of precious metal. Should Christians, whose every moment was purchased for them by the blood of Christ, be less careful of time? Surely its very minutiae should be more treasured than grains of gold or dust of diamonds. (S. Coley.)

Value of time

Melancthon noted down the time lost by him that he might thereby reanimate his industry and not lose an hour. An Italian sculptor put over his door an inscription intimating that whosoever remained there should join in his labours. “We are afraid,” said some visitors to. Baxter, “that we break in upon your time.” “To be sure you do,” replied the disturbed and blunt divine. Time was the estate out of which these great workers, and all other workers, carved a rich inheritance of thoughts and deeds for their successors. (Smiles.)

Value of time

It is related of the Duke of Wellington that he made an appointment with a city dignitary to meet at a certain hour on London Bridge. The dignitary was five minutes late, and finding the Duke watch in hand and angry, pleaded, “It is only five minutes, your grace.” “Only five minutes!” he replied; “five minutes unpunctuality would have, before now, lost me a battle.” Next time the city magnate took care, as he thought, to be on the safe side. When the Duke appeared he greeted him rather triumphantly, “You see, your grace, I was five minutes before you this time.” “Shows how little you know time’s value,” said the old Field Marshal. “I am here to the moment. I cannot afford to waste five minutes.” (Sunday at Home.)

Time lengthened

A venerable lady was once asked her age. “Ninety-three,” was the reply. “The Judge of all the earth does not mean that I shall have any excuse for not being prepared to meet Him.”

Time to be seized and used

On the outer wall of one of the towers of Beverley Minster is a quaint old dial with the pregnant legend, “Now, or When?” A simple question it asks, silently, yet continuously--in the morning, at noon, at the setting of the sun--of all the dwellers in that place, of all the strangers that come there, of all the passers-by; a simple question, yet one deep in its suggestiveness.

Time and its loss

“You have made us lose a whole hour,” said a gentleman to a lad as he came into a room where an important committee was meeting. “Beg pardon, sir, that is impossible,” said the youth, taking out his watch; “I am only five minutes late.” “Very true,” replied the other, “but there are twelve of us here, and each one of us has lost five minutes; so that makes an hour.” (Thain Davidson.)

Time not to be spent in frivolous amusements

On his way to Marengo Napoleon stopped at the door of the barber’s shop and asked his former hostess if she remembered a young officer named Bonaparte once quartered in her family. “Indeed I do, and a very disagreeable inmate he was. He was always either shut up in his room” (at study), “or if he walked out he never condescended to speak to anyone.” “Ah! my good woman,” Napoleon rejoined, “had I passed my time as you wished to have me, I should not now have been in command of the army of Italy.”

Time saved from sleep

General Henry Lee once observed to the chief, “We are amazed, sir, at the vast amount of work that you accomplish.” Washington replied, “Sir, I rise at four o’clock, and a great deal of my work is done while others are asleep.”

Value of time

One morning, when Benjamin Franklin was busy preparing his new paper for the press, a lounger stepped into the store and spent an hour or more looking over the books, etc. Finally taking one in his hand, he asked the price. “One dollar.” “One dollar!” said he. “Can’t you take less than that? No, indeed; that is the price.” Another hour was nearly passed, when the lounger said, “Is Mr. Franklin at home?” “Yes, he is in the printing office.” “I want to see him.” The boy immediately informed Mr. Franklin that there was a gentleman in the store waiting to see him. Franklin was soon behind the counter, when the lounger, book in hand, addressed him thus, “Franklin, what is the lowest you can take for this book?” “One dollar and a quarter.” “One dollar and a quarter! Why, your boy here said I could have it for one dollar. True,” said Franklin, “and I could have better afforded to take a dollar than to have been taken out of the office.” The lounger seemed surprised, and wishing to end the parley of his own making, said, “Come, Mr. Franklin, what is the lowest you can take for it?” “One dollar and a half.” “A dollar and a half! Why you offered it yourself for a dollar and a quarter!” “Yes,” said Franklin, “and I had better have taken that than a dollar and a half now!” The lounger paid down the price and went about his business (if he had any), and Franklin returned to the printing office.

Value of time

Mr. W.M.F. Round relates how, in 1871, being engaged in a series of sketches of eminent Frenchmen, he wrote to Carlyle, asking for the name of an authority, and requested a single line to be enclosed in a directed envelope. In reply he received four pages of valuable information. Some time after, Mr. Round was in London--or, rather, in Cheyne Row--and saw his benefactor for the first time. He was in company with a friend who knew Carlyle, and who told him that Mr. Round was too modest and grateful to trespass on his time, upon which Mr. Carlyle made the following characteristic remark: “No man can trespass on my time who comes for anything, or who can take anything of use away. Only those who come for the less than nothing of looking at me are unwelcome. Come in.”


Verse 17

Ephesians 5:17

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

On the excellence and utility of the truths contained in the gospel

The will of God, which determines the whole extent of our obligations, is principally unfolded to us in the doctrines and moral precepts which are delivered in the sacred Scriptures. It is expedient, therefore, to explain to you, from the pulpit, these Divine oracles, by showing you, first, their superior excellence to all other instructions; secondly, the inestimable advantages which they are capable of producing in securing your peace and happiness.

I. As man was created to be eternally happy in the clear and perfect knowledge of the infinite perfections of the Divine Being, there is naturally inherent in the mind of each individual an insatiable thirst after knowledge. But, my beloved friends, if human wisdom be unquestionably a valuable and precious acquisition, certainly the knowledge of those truths to which religion invites our attention must be incomparably more estimable. Yet, inconceivable as it may appear, it is an undeniable truth that many amongst us, while they give themselves to the pursuit of inferior attainments with indefatigable application, will scarcely devote one moment, without reluctance, to the gaining of a proficiency in that sublime and noble science which the fountain of all knowledge pours out so liberally before them. What a lamentable degradation of our mental faculties!

II. The value, moreover, and the excellence of any science, is generally, and very justly, estimated by its utility, by its tendency to promote our interests and advantage. On this account the arts which are calculated to add to the convenience and increase the happiness of society, the arts which tend to cultivate and embellish human life, are held in peculiar esteem, and encouraged by every mark of public approbation. Considering, therefore, the doctrines of Christianity in this point of view, we discover, at the first glance, that they stand eminently superior to every other knowledge which can possibly be acquired. The information which they impart regards whatever is dear and interesting to us in time and eternity. They furnish us with arms for our defence against every enemy that seeks our destruction, and secure us against every danger which surrounds us. (J. Archer.)

Wisdom is necessary to accurate walking

That wisdom and a good understanding of the will of God is necessary to accurate walking or ready obedience.

I. Before I give you the reasons, let me state the point as it lieth in the text.

1. That every man that hath a tender conscience would be accurate and exact in his obedience to God, not contenting himself with a slight tincture of Christianity, but looking into every creek and turning of it, that he may in no point be lacking and defective in his duty. Now this cannot be without much wisdom and knowledge; therefore here, when the apostle presseth them to “walk circumspectly,” he presently addeth, “Not as fools, but as wise.”

2. We have no sure rule to walk by but the will of God.

3. This will is revealed to us in His Word. There our duty and our happiness is clearly stated (Psalms 119:105).

4. This word we need thoroughly to understand, otherwise how shall we know our duty? (Proverbs 19:2.)

5. This understanding must not be idle, but reduced to use and practice. A readiness to serve God in God’s way bringeth us soonest to a knowledge of God’s will. The Word was not given us to try the acuteness of our wits in disputing, but the readiness of our obedience in practising.

6. This reducing what we know to practice is our wisdom. Knowledge is never right but when wisdom goeth along with it.

II. The reasons why much wisdom and a good understanding is required of Christians.

1. That they may resemble God, and discover His perfections to the world.

2. That there may be a due impression of His word upon us, which is all wisdom; and if we understand it and improve it, it must needs make us wise also; for the impression is according to the nature of the seal; and so the new creature must needs be the wisest creature on this side heaven.

3. The great danger of ignorance, or the evils that come from the want of spiritual wisdom.

4. The incredible delight and peace it begets in our souls.

5. The properties of this knowledge and wisdom show the necessity of it.

1. Is of reproof to divers sorts of persons who live in ignorance, or countenance ignorance upon several pretences.

2. Is to press us to get this knowledge and understanding of God’s will. The apostle speaketh to children of light; and none of us know so much but we may know more.

6. Get a more practical knowledge. Knowledge is for use, not an idle speculation. As a gallant and a physician cometh into a garden, one looketh upon the colour and beauty, the other upon the virtue and use of herbs and flowers: “For if, these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). A practical Christian is more ready to serve and please God every day. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Understanding God’s will is true wisdom

That this is true wisdom appears thus.

1. It brings us to that frame of mind with which God is pleased (Isaiah 66:2; Romans 7:7-11).

2. It points out a certain way of escaping the misery due to us as sinners (1 John 5:11-13; Hebrews 6:17-18).

3. It gives that view of God which excites us to love and give ourselves to Him (1 John 4:9-10; 1 John 4:19).

4. It removes the fear of death and the grave.

5. It gives the best ground of submission to the trials of life.

6. It lays the strongest restraints upon sin, which is our disgrace and misery.

7. It shows us that all our enemies are under Divine control.

8. It puts into our hands the best Weapons of defence (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

9. It assures us that God will soon set all matters right (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). If so, how foolish and ungrateful are the neglecters and despisers of this will of God. Let us pray and study to know this will of God. (H. Foster.)

Value of wisdom

If the mountains were pearl, if every sand of the sea were a diamond, it were not comparable to wisdom. Without wisdom a person is like a ship without a pilot, in danger to split upon rocks. The price of wisdom is above rubies. The ruby is precious stone, transparent, of a red fiery colour. It is reported of one of the kings of India, he wore a ruby of that bigness and splendour that he might be seen by it in the dark; but wisdom casts a more sparkling colour than the ruby; it makes us shine as angels. (J. Watson.)

Eight marks of folly

If you would know such as are wise above sobriety you shall discern them by these marks:--

1. They have all the talk, wheresoever they come, like parrots.

2. They contemn others, like the Pharisees.

3. They spurn at them which tell them of their fault, like Abner.

4. They jump with Caesar, like the Herodians.

5. They turn with the time, like Demas.

6. They seek their own credit by the discredit of others, like the enemies of Paul.

7. They love to hear their own praise, like Herod.

8. Above all things they would have their own will, like Jezebel.

Whensoever these eight marks meet there is a wise man and a fool; a wise man in his own conceit, and a fool in proof: these are the wise men of the north, and the philosophers of England. (Henry Smith.)

Submission to the will of God

There is a memorable passage in the history of St. Francis that may throw light on this subject. The grand rule of the order which he founded was implicit submission to the superior. One day a monk proved refractory. He must be subdued. By order of St. Francis a grave was dug deep enough to hold a man; the monk was put into it, the brothers began to shovel in the earth, while their superior, standing by, looked on, stern as death. When the mould had reached the wretch’s knees St. Francis bent down, and, fixing his eyes on him said, “Are you dead yet? Is your self-will dead? Do you yield?” There was no answer; down in that grave there seemed to stand a man with a will as iron as his own. The signal was given, and the burial went on. When at length he was buried up to the middle, to the neck, to the lips, St. Francis bent down once more to repeat the question, “Are you dead yet?” The monk lifted his eye to his superior, to see in the cold grey eyes that were fixed on him no spark of human feeling. Dead to pity and all the weaknesses of humanity, St. Francis stood ready to give the signal that should finish the burial. It was not needed; the iron bent; he was vanquished; the funeral was stopped; his will yielding to a stronger, the poor brother said, “I am dead.” I would not be dead as these monks to any man. The mind and reason which I have got from God Almighty are to bend implicitly and blindly before no human authority. But the submission I refuse to man, Jesus, I give to Thee--not wrung from me by terror, but won by love; the result, not of fear, but of gratitude. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)


Verse 18

Ephesians 5:18

And be not drunk with wine wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.

The sin and folly of drunkenness

This precept follows very naturally what he has said about the necessity of wisdom. For even a wise man when he is drunk becomes a fool; the light of reason and of conscience is quenched, and the blind impulses of his physical nature are left without control. Some men take drink in excess to deaden their sensibility to trouble, to lessen the pain of distressing memories or distressing fears. With them it acts as a opiate. But Paul was thinking of those who drink to excess because intoxication, at least in its early stages, gives them excitement. It exalts the activity both of their intellect and of their emotion. Thought becomes more vivid and more rapid. The colours of imagination become more brilliant. Their whole physical nature becomes more animated. The river of life, which had sunk low and had been moving sluggishly, suddenly rises, becomes a rushing flood, and overflows its banks. This is the kind of drinking which betrays men into violence and profligacy. “Be not drunken with wine,” for in drunkenness there is “riot,” dissoluteness, release from all moral restraint. The craving for a fuller, richer life, for hours in which we rise above ourselves, and pass the normal and customary limitations of our powers, is a natural craving. Paul indicates how it should be satisfied: “Be not drunken with wine wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit.” Forsake the sins which render it impossible for the pure and righteous Spirit of God to grant you the fulness of His inspiration; keep the channels open through which the streams that flow from Divine and eternal fountains may find their way into your nature; and then the dull monotony of life will be broken, and hours of generous excitement will come. The gray clouds will break, and the splendours of heaven will be revealed; the common earth will be filled for a little time with a great glory. Harmonies such as never fell on mortal ear will reach the soul. The limitations which are imposed upon us in this mortal condition will for a time seem to disappear. Your vision of eternal things will have a preternatural keenness. Your joy in God will be an anticipation of the blessed life beyond the grave. And, looking back upon these perfect hours, you will say, whether we were in the body or out of the body we cannot tell. But some men drink, not so much for the sake of personal excitement, as for the sake of good fellowship. They never drink much when they are alone; and when they are in company they drink to excess because, as the heat of intoxication increases, it seems to thaw and dissolve all reserve; conversation flows more freely and becomes more frank; mind touches mind more closely; lives which had been isolated from each other blend and flow in a common channel. Perpetual isolation is as intolerable as perpetual monotony. We were not made to live a separate and lonely life. This is the secret of our delight in listening to a great orator addressing a great assembly. If it were possible for him to touch the same heights of eloquence when speaking to us alone, we should be less moved. We like to lose our individuality in the crowd; sharing their thought, our own thought becomes more vivid; sharing their passions, our own passion becomes more intense. It is hard to explain the mystery; but we are conscious of it; the poor and narrow stream of our own life flows into the open sea, and the large horizon, and the free winds, and the mighty tides become ours. We have all known the same delight while listening in a crowd to a great singer or a great chorus. The craving for this larger life in the society of other men is as natural as the craving for excitement; and Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that instead of trying to satisfy it by drinking with other men they should satisfy it by common worship and by sacred song. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Drunkenness

Drunkenness, though in general disallowed among the heathens, was admitted in their Bacchanalia, as an expression of gratitude to the god who gave them wine. This pagan rite the apostle seems to have in his mind here.

I. The nature and extent of this vice. Various degrees of intemperance: the highest degree is such an indulgence as suspends the exercise of the mental and bodily powers. But there is sin in lesser degrees also. If by the indulgence of your appetite, you unfit your hefty for the service of the mind, or your mind for the service of God; so waste your substance, as to defraud your family of a maintenance, or your creditors of their dues; become enslaved to a sensual habit, and fascinated to dissolute company; are diverted from the duties of religion, or the business of your worldly calling; awaken criminal desires and excite guilty passions; stupify your conscience, extinguish the sentiments of honour and banish the thoughts of futurity; you are chargeable with a criminal excess.

II. The guilt and danger of this vice.

1. It is an ungrateful abuse of God’s bounty.

2. It divests the man of his native dignity, and sinks him below the brutes.

3. It is injurious to the body, as well as the mind.

4. It consumes men’s substance.

5. It destroys conscience.

6. It generates other vices--impure lustings, angry passions, profane language, insolent manners, obstinacy of heart, and contempt of reproof.

7. It has most lamentable effects on families.

8. The Scripture abounds in the most solemn warnings against this sin.

9. This sin must be renounced, or the end of it will be death. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

To be filled with the Spirit, the best defence against a besetting sin

I. The solemn caution. Those here addressed were the saints of God. Yet they needed this exhortation. The best of saints need to be cautioned against the worst of sins. There are the seeds of all evil in them. No previous consistency of walk, no deep experience, no holy acquaintance with God, no near walking with God, can give them the least security. But besides this, there are constitutional temptations. Some persons are constitutionally tempted to anger, some are tempted to vanity, some are tempted to worldliness in its excess of folly, some are tempted to untruthfulness, and oh! there are some who are tempted to drunkenness constitutionally. But besides this also, there are circumstances that oftentimes throw a man in danger here. Noah was, for aught I know, weary and tired as a husbandman; and by his inexperience, too, of the effects, he was overcome with drunkenness. We find in the case of Lot, in his secret retirement, there was in his circumstances that which exposed him to danger.

II. Observe now, secondly, the exhortation, the encouraging exhortation: “be filled with the Spirit.” I conceive there is in the expression that which would imply the power of the Spirit to fill the soul of man. Or rather the expression is--“Seek to be filled in your understandings, in your memories, in your consciences, in your will, in your affections, seek to be ‘filled with the Spirit.’“ Now let me point out some few of the blessings that result from this communication of the “fulness of the Spirit,” in all His holy influences, to our souls. First of all, let us look at Him as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. So I read in the first of Ephesians, and the seventeenth verse. Look at the Apostle Peter before the day of Pentecost. How dark his perception of the Atonement, how little did he see of what Jesus came into the world for! I talk with some men, many of whom, I doubt not, are truly converted to God; yet Christ is in the background, I see so little of Him. They talk of God; there is something about their creed that is so Jewish; they speak so much more of God, than of God in Christ. There is so little of the great work of the incarnate One, so little of realizing the strength of the covenant “ordered in all things and sure.” Oh! beloved, to be filled with the Spirit of wisdom is the highest wisdom. But let us look at the subject in another point of view. I find in the eleventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and the twenty-fourth verse, it is said of Barnabas, “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith.” So, when we are filled with the Holy Ghost, we are filled with faith. Ah! who can describe the blessing of being filled with faith? To see everything in the light of God’s countenance; to see everything in the light of a Saviour’s fulness. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The wine Divine

In saying: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit,” St. Paul recognizes a pressing human appetite, or want. He not only perceives the necessity for wholesome gladness of heart in his disciples, but admits the encouragement of special moods or seasons of cheerfulness. It is impossible for anyone to stand always at the same spiritual level. There are mysterious risings and fallings of the mental barometer. The soul has its periods of high and low pressure. We are the subjects of many influences which we cannot command. And yet there are some at our disposal. The apostle indicates an “elevation” of which we are the conscious agents, when we set ourselves to counteract depression or to kindle a fresher thrill of cheerfulness. That is a legitimate desire. It is recognized by the Church itself in the appointment of thanksgiving days and special services--when we are summoned to show our gladness in a livelier strain. There are seemingly two distinct means for inducing cheerfulness. One is material, or bodily: the other mental, or spiritual; and the lesson before us is that one is temporary, imperfect; the other finally effective, being eternal. St. Paul instances wine as an example of the former. It is either a transitory stimulant, legitimate in its temperate use, or it overshoots the mark, leading to excess, or riot. There are several kinds of “material” relief which excite, deaden, regulate our bodily functions. And this affords the most obvious illustration of what the apostle here means to teach. It cannot, e.g., really drown dull care. Care dies hard. A material stimulant may do much, may help nature over a crisis. But man has troubles of mind as well as of body. And these constantly present difficulties, complications, which baffle the prescriber of drugs. Who shall minister to a soul diseased? Beneath the surface of beneficent science are sores and sorrows which have been caused by no grave offence against, or neglect of, the laws of health. They have come from a perception that the conscience has been defied, or perhaps they have grown from some seeds of distracting doubt, from some seemingly insoluble difficulties, social, intellectual, which makes him who feels them go mourning all the day long. Who shall tell the trouble and the hindrances over which we want to be helped, or above which we want to be lifted by some kindly and exhilarating influence? It is in meeting this desire that we must come to realize the two great sources of cheerfulness. The Spirit of God alone can fit the needs of the spirit of man. There is something special in this strengthening, healing, and cheering gift. It is the juice of the true vine, the new wine of the kingdom of heaven. Here we reach the great transforming power in the world. The knowledge of this is the support and recovery of man’s life. He does not refuse, nor affect to despise, the material adjuncts of this existence. He does not put aside the flour of wheat because Christ is the true Bread. He sees no wrong in a right use of every creature of God. But his innermost and safe joy, his secure and trusted moods of exultation, come from the Spirit, the mysterious Spirit of God, which is our Father’s special gift to us His children upon earth. In that is the true buoyancy of life. (Harry Jones, M. A.)

Not wine, but the Spirit

I. The prohibition. I know it requires much courage, and much firmness of purpose in many cases to refuse the inducements, and to give a denial to the temptation to indulge in excess in drink. For instance, we are told it is fashionable to drink; if you don’t drink freely you are not a man of the world; you are a strange, unsocial misanthrope; you are not fit for blending with society. I am not going to say that fashion has no place; I know fashion has a place; but fashion has no right to meddle with morals. Besides, I say, after all, it is not fashionable to be drunk: I say, after all, that although instances of intoxication are lamentably numerous, the instances of sobriety, thank God, are a vast deal more so. Then, again, it is said that to drink freely is almost a necessary passport to a knowledge of the world. How people abuse language!

II. The injunction.

1. In order to our being “filled with the Spirit,” we must be aware of the magnitude of this blessing.

2. This supposes, also, that we have a relish for the blessing.

3. In order to being “filled with the Spirit,” you must make room for Him.

4. In order to be “filled with the Spirit,” you must be the subject of the same ardent desire which is expressed in many parts of Scripture.

5. In order to be “filled with the Spirit,” we must yield ourselves to His influence--we must give ourselves up to the guiding of His agency. (J. E. Beaumont, D. D.)

A warning against intemperance

I. The matters put in opposition to each other, which are both things and actions. The things are “wine” and the “Spirit”: the actions, being “drunk with wine,” and “filled with the Spirit.” First: The things: these two are put in opposition--

1. To check the temptation. The sensual pleasure which men find in wine enticeth them to excess. There are higher pleasures men should be taken up with, namely, the joy of faith and a delight in holiness.

2. To show the difference between the holy societies or meetings of the faithful, and the dissolute feasts of the heathens in honour of their idols.

3. Because of the analogy between wine and the Spirit; they are often proposed in Scripture as correspondent, or as having some likeness in their operations; as wine cheereth and exhilarateth the spirits: “It maketh glad the heart of man” (Psalms 104:15); so the Spirit filleth the soul, and exhilarateth it. Only in this fulness there is no excess: “Drink abundantly, O beloved” (Song of Solomon 5:1). And in this mirth there is no dissoluteness; when we are filled with the Spirit, it is no corruptive joy, but perfective, such as strengtheneth the heart: “The joy of the Lord is your strength “ (Nehemiah 8:10). But what is it to be filled with the Spirit? The phrase is taken two ways--

II. The inconsistency of the one with the other; to be drunk with wine is inconsistent with being filled with the Spirit.

1. They that are filled by the one are acted by a contrary principle.

2. This contrary principle hath such an influence on them, that the Spirit of the gospel hath no place in them.

The sin of intemperance

There is in the vice of intemperance that kind of dissoluteness which brooks no restraint, which defies all efforts to reform it, and which sinks lower and lower into hopeless and helpless ruin. This tremendous sin is all the more to be shunned as its hold is so great on its victims, that with periodical remorse there is periodical inebriety, and when the revulsion of a throbbing head and a sickening depression passes away; new temptation excites fresh desires, and the fatal cup is again coveted and drained, while character, fortune, and life are risked and lost in the gratification of an appetite of all others the most brutal in form and brutifying in result. There are few vices out of which there is less hope of recovery--its haunts are so numerous, and its hold is so tremendous. As Ephesus was a commercial town and busy seaport, its wealth led to excessive luxury, and Bacchus was the rival of Diana. The women of Ephesus as the priestesses of Bacchus danced round Mark Antony’s chariot on his entrance into the city. Drunkenness was indeed an epidemic in those times and lands. Alexander the Great, who died a sacrifice to Bacchus, and not to Mars, offered a prize to him who could drink most wine, and thirty of the rivals died in the act of competition. Plato boasts of the immense quantities of liquor which Socrates could swill uninjured; and the philosopher Xenocrates got a golden crown from Dionysius for swallowing a gallon at a draught. Cato often lost his senses over his choice Falernian. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Drunkenness to be avoided

I. I am to enter upon the apostle’s dehortation, or prohibition--“Be not drunk with wine.” For the right understanding of which I premise this, that wine is one of the good creatures of God which He hath given for the use of men. And He hath given it for these three considerable purposes.

1. To the inhabitants of those places where it grows, for part of their ordinary drink. For God hath so constituted the nature of man’s body that he stands in need of drink as well as of meat.

2. Wine was given to cherish and refresh us when we are weak and languishing.

3. As wine is given to cure the infirm and fainting, so likewise to cheer and delight the sound and healthy. It is lawful to drink it not only for necessity, but sometimes for pleasure. Wine, without doubt, was given us by our gracious Benefactor to delight the taste, and refresh the palate, especially when sorrow and trouble clog the mind, and begin to oppress and weigh it down. As drinking, so sobriety may be abused. Men may effect those mischiefs by their abstaining from immoderate drinking, which they could never be able to do if they drank extravagantly. Generally the shrewdest contrivers and executors of mischief are those who are not addicted to intemperance: and their very sobriety renders them the more able to do harm. And yet I cannot say that this sort of men are wholly free from drunkenness; for it is possible they may be drunk even with their sobriety, i.e., with the conceit of it; they may be intoxicated with pride and arrogance, or with spite and malice, or with a heady confidence of success in their evil enterprizes. They may, as the prophet speaks, “stagger, but not with strong drink, and be drunken, but not with wine.” That which makes this sin is, first, the not restraining of our extravagant desire and appetite, which I mentioned before, and, secondly, the actual gratifying and satisfying of our desires. Which brings me to the next thing observable, viz., the reason of the apostolical dehortation, expressed in those words, “wherein is excess”: as much as to say, Re not drunk with wine, because there is a strange excess attends it. This is the genuine meaning of this clause of the text.

Now, in drunkenness there is excess not only formally, but causally (to speak in the language of the schools). It is both excess in itself, and the cause and origin of many other excesses.

1. The first evil of drunkenness is that injury which is done to the body by it.

2. This is a vice which injures not only the bodies but the estates of men. A drunkard is a spendthrift: the extravagant drinker is profuse and lavish.

3. A sottish course of drinking injures the name and reputation, no less than the bodies and estates of men.

4. The intemperance of the tongue usually attends that of the brain. Drunkenness first sets the tongue a going, and then soon makes it run too fast.

5. Wrath and fury, slaughter and bloodshed, are the cursed fruits of drunkenness. “Strong drink is raging,” saith Solomon (Proverbs 20:21).

6. Lust and lewdness, whoredom and fornication, are the frequent attendants of extraordinary drinking.

7. Among the direful effects and consequences of extravagant drinking this must not be omitted, that the soul and all its faculties are corrupted and debauched by it.

False notions are drunk in with the wine: undue and unbecoming apprehensions are entertained. Let us hear what men say for drink.

1. It is good nature and friendship, they say, to sit and drink, even till they can drink no more.

2. They say that it is for company and good fellowship’s sake that they drink sometimes to immoderation.

3. Others defend their immoderate draughts after this manner; We are persons well bred, we cannot be so rude and unmannerly as to refuse our glass when it comes to our turn.

4. Some excuse their drunkenness by saying, “It is to put away melancholy.”

5. There are those who defend their immoderate drinking, especially of wine, by the serviceableness of it, to exalt their parts, and to make them witty.

6. There is another excuse made by some men, which, though it be not worth the answering, yet that I may remove all the pretences of drinking men, I will say something to it. They are no common drunkards, they say, and when they exceed in drink, they do not, like others, spend their money, but are drunk gratis. They cannot afford to indulge so costly a vice, but they only take these opportunities when they may have wine at others’ charges.

7. There is another great objection or pretence of drunkards yet behind, which is this, they happen to be in the company of these persons who engage them to drink healths, and these going often round, and there being an obligation on them to pledge their next neighbour, and to drink cup for cup, they are sometimes unhappily overcome of the liquor which presents itself so fast to them. In the last place, I am to offer to you some proper means and helps whereby you may effectually extirpate this odious vice.

They are such as these:

1. Weigh this express command of God in the text, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.”

2. Consider the dreadful woes that are denounced against this sin. Read with trembling (Isaiah 5:11).

3. Consider that this vice is condemned even by those that are guilty of it. There is not a drunkard that breathes but at one time or other is cast by his own verdict, he passes sentence against himself.

4. That you may do so, learn to relish the pleasures of religion and holiness. Re acquainted with the excellency of virtue and goodness, understand the intrinsic worth of these.

5. That you may cast off this abominable vice, and stifle your excessive delight in intemperate drinking, and in that mirth which attends it, sit down, and seriously think of the distresses and miseries which your brethren labour under, in one part or other of the world.

6. That you may effectually abandon this vice, be careful to avoid all the occasions of it. (John Edwards, D. D.)

Christians invited to partake of the Spirit freely

I. What we are to understand by being “filled with the spirit.”

1. By “the Spirit, the Spirit of truth, of life, of grace, of might, of wisdom and revelation, of Father and the Son, we are baptized, often termed the Holy Spirit, the eternal Spirit” here, is meant that Divine Agent, in whose name, as well as in those of the holiness, the Comforter, the Spirit of God, of Christ. But observe, not His extraordinary gifts, which in no age are necessary to salvation, and were chiefly bestowed in the early ages, for the good of others, are here meant; but His ordinary influences, which are necessary to salvation (see verses 19-21; Galatians 5:22-23).

2. The expression, “filled with,” or by, “the Spirit,” supposes there to be a sufficiency in the blessed Spirit, and His influences, to fill our souls, to supply all our wants, to satisfy our desires, and help our infirmities. We are in darkness, and need illumination, instruction, and direction; He is the Spirit of light, truth, wisdom. We are in want of consolation; He is the comforter. It imports our partaking of His influences and fruits in a large and plentiful manner; not indeed “without measure”; in this tense Christ only had the Spirit: nor so as to admit of no increase; thus we shall hardly have the Spirit in heaven. But so as to have every power and faculty of the soul subject to the authority, and under the influence of the Spirit; to have His influences rendered more mighty and operative in us, producing their proper and genuine effects; as greater light, life, power, purity, comfort, strong faith, a fully assured and confirmed hope, fervent love, an uniform meekness and patience, a full conformity to God, and close and constant communion with Him; filling us with all his fulness (Colossians 1:9-11; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 7:37); making us taste great sweetness and delight in Him, so as to aspire after full perfection (Philippians 3:13-14).

II. Why this is made a matter of exhortation to us. Because of--

1. The desirableness of being filled with the Spirit.

2. The attainableness of it.

3. Something being incumbent on us, in order to it. We must make use of the appointed means.

III. The obligations which lie upon us, as Christians, to aim at being filled with the spirit. The clear revelation we have concerning His agency, beyond all which was given in former ages of the Church, lays us under strong obligations to desire to be filled with His influences. The dignity of His person should make us ambitious of such a guest, when He is willing to dwell with us. He is no less than the Spirit of God, as our soul is the spirit of man (1 Corinthians 2:11). His relation to Christ obliges us (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6). Our relation to Christ will be most clearly proved and manifested by His Spirit dwelling with us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Thus we shall be vessels of honour, sanctified and made meet for the Master’s use. (Anon.)

Filled with the Spirit

The command, “be filled with the Spirit,” is virtually an injunction to pray more fervently for enlarged spiritual communication, and to cherish those influences already enjoyed. Not only were they to possess the Spirit, but they were to be filled with the Spirit, as vessels filled to overflowing, with the Holy Ghost. This is the contrast. Men are intoxicated with wine, and they attempt to “fill” themselves with it: but they cannot. Wine cannot fulfil their expectation--they cannot live habitually under its power; its fumes are slept away, and new indulgences are craved. The exhilaration which they covet can only be felt periodically, and again and again must they drain the wine cup to relieve themselves of despondency. But Christians are “filled” with the Spirit, whose influences are not only powerful, but replete with satisfaction to the heart of man. It is a sensation of want--a desire to fly from himself, a craving after something which is felt to be out of reach, an eager and restless thirst to enjoy, if at all possible, some happiness and enlargement of heart, that usually leads to intemperance. But the Spirit fills Christians, and gives them all the elements of cheerfulness and peace--genuine elevation and mental freedom--superiority to all depressing influences, and refined and permanent enjoyment. Of course, if they are so filled with the Spirit, they feel no appetite for debasing and material stimulants. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Grace expels vice

If there is any single vice which a man desires to eject from his character, or from another’s, he can accomplish the end finally and completely, and only, by letting in the corresponding grace. Sin, in every form of its indulgence, is to be looked upon as an intoxication. Let him therefore introduce into the blood vessels of his soul a counter-stimulant. Let him intoxicate himself with love, and joy, and peace, the fruit, as it were, of the True Vine, and there will be no possibility of intrusion from lower sources, because no room will remain for them. And it follows from the same principle that a Christian must apply more and more to spiritual sources as life goes on. The spiritual capacities enlarge with time. And the same amount of devotion will not fill them now as filled them a year ago. He must pray more, seek after godliness more, covet the best gifts more. The tendency of the experienced Christian often is to relax devotional habits and live on a grace that is past. He has reached a high level and his religion has become, as it seems to him, self-acting. But stagnation is all the more perilous because it is high. There is no smaller measure for the grace that is to be in him than this--he is to be filled with the Spirit. He defrauds himself of what he might possess and imperils all he has by seeking to live on less. The surplus must be made up from earth. And every minutest crevice left unfilled by good must, by the law against vacuum, be filled by something worse, something which must adulterate and may ruin at last the whole. (H. Drummond.)

Not spirits, but “the Spirit”

The human mind cannot be void. If it have not the light of true wisdom, it will have the light of fallacies. Fleshly baits are not the temptations by which superior men are caught. Their understandings must be flattered. They must be decoyed by facts, and the science of things patent to their senses. You shall be leaders in the world of thought, “you shall be as gods,” you shall open men’s eyes to the reality of things. Beware of the strong drink of sense-bound intellectuality. Neither be drunk with the soul spiritualism. “The Spirit will fortify both your bewitching magnetic ether of spiritualism. “The Spirit” will fortify both your understanding and your heart against all spirits, whether of the visible or the invisible world. “The Spirit” is our only safe inspiration. There is, moreover, not only a calmer power, but a greater variety in the one Spirit of God, than in all the spirits which lead captive the human soul. God is not sparing in the ministration of wholesome excitement. Every new morning is a genial, delightful excitement. The seasons are an ever-changing round of excitement. Lore and marriage are joy from heaven, in earthly cups. Family life is God’s wine of fellowship all the year round. Every meal is a pleasurable excitement. Birthdays and feasts are special indulgences and celebrations of the excitement of home life. The verdant glory of the earth, the tranquil heavens, and the works of our divine poets and musicians, are excitements worthy of heaven. The gospel of our eternal hopes is the feast which crowns all; and the congregation in church, made up equally of friends and strangers, is a wonder of fellowship and a most pure joy of love. What a depth of sweetness, what serene gladness, what a variety of inspiration there must be in that One Spirit, whence all our innocent and noble excitements spring. The martyrs found an intensity of spirit quickening on the boundary between life on earth and life in heaven; not only proving that “death is abolished,” but that all the joys of our earthly life are but poor shadows going before our eternal human delights. Drop your burdens, forget your labours and sorrows, and soar above the dull plains of mortality, in a Divine exhilaration. (J. Pulsford.)

Christians must be filled with the Spirit

I. The reasons why Christians are so strictly bound to be filled with the Spirit.

1. That we may answer the great and rich preparations of grace which the infinite love of God hath made for us by the merit of Christ and the promises of the gospel.

2. Because of their necessity.

3. That the glory and excellency of our religion may appear.

II. The means how we come to be filled with the Spirit. Certainly--

1. It is from God, who is the author of all grace: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ “ (2 Corinthians 5:18).

2. That God doth it through Christ the Scripture also witnesseth: “Which He hath shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:6).

3. That this frame of heart is wrought in us by the Spirit or Holy Ghost that came down from heaven, is evident also in Scripture. 4, It is given us by the gospel, for that is called “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2).

5. The gospel worketh two ways--

6. If any have this power and Spirit of the Lord Jesus, it is the mere favour of God: if any want it, it is long of themselves.

7. One of the means is prayer. Christ hath taught us to pray for the Spirit (Luke 11:1-13). None so fatherly as God; no gift so necessary as the Spirit. (T. Manton, D. D.)


Verse 19

Ephesians 5:19

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Sacred music

I. The design of music in general. Singing is no less natural to mankind than speaking. They are naturally disposed to speak, because they wish to communicate their thoughts, and they are naturally disposed to sing, because they wish to communicate their feelings. Speaking is the natural language of the understanding, and singing is the natural language of the heart. We always use words to express our thoughts, but we do not always use words to express our feelings. These we can clearly and forcibly express by simple sounds. How often do we see this exemplified in the case of little children! Before they are capable of speaking, or even understanding a single word, they can express their joy and sorrow, their love and hatred, and all the variety of their feelings, by merely varying the tones of their voice. This language of the heart grows up with every person, and would be as commonly used as the language of the understanding, were it not restrained by the force of example, or by the sense of propriety. Accordingly we find that music has always been much more in use among those people, who have been left to follow the mere dictates of nature, than among others who have been governed by the customs and manners of civil society.

II. The design of sacred music in particular. General music becomes particular when it is applied to one particular purpose. The first purpose to which mankind naturally apply music is to cheer and exhilarate their spirits. The design of another kind of music is to inspire men with a spirit of courage, fortitude, and patriotism. This is the music of the army. But the great design of sacred music is to awaken and express every holy affection of the heart towards God.

III. Let us next inquire, what is necessary to render sacred music the most useful in religious worship.

1. That sacred music should be constructed with great simplicity.

2. It is highly proper that sacred music should be connected with poetry, in order to promote private and public devotion. Melodious sounds have only a mechanical operation on the mind; but when they are united with appropriate language, they produce a moral effect. The apostle directs Christians not only to sing, but to sing in psalms, or hymns, or spiritual songs. This is always proper in devotional music, which has immediate reference to God, who is the only proper object of religious worship. How absurd would it be, for instance, to celebrate the birthday of Washington by mere music, without any ode or hymn adapted to the occasion! And how much more absurd would it be to celebrate the character, the works, and the ways of God, by mere music, without using any psalm or spiritual song, to bring those great and glorious objects into view! There can be no religious affection without the perception of some religious object. Some part of the Divine character or the Divine conduct must be seen, in order to exercise any right affection towards God. And since it is the sole design of sacred music to excite or express devout and holy affections towards the Divine Being, it should always be connected with some significant and appropriate language, either in prose or poetry.

3. Sacred music should not only be connected with words, but adapted to their sense, rather than to their sound. When music is adapted to the mere sound of words, it can serve no other purpose than to please the ear; but when it is adapted to the proper meaning of a psalm or hymn, it not only pleases the ear, but affects the heart. It is here that both composers and performers of sacred music are most apt to fail. How often do composers appear to pay more regard to the sound than to the sense of the words which they set to music!

4. Sacred music can never produce its best effect unless it be performed with true sincerity. There ought to be a perfect concord between the music, the words, and the heart. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

How we may make melody in our hearts to God in singing of psalms

1. The singers.

Christians.

2. The song itself. Three divisions.

3. Some aver that these several speeches mentioned in the text, answer the Hebrew distinction of psalms. But I may add, Are not all these several species mentioned to prefigure the plenty and the joy which is reserved for the saints within the veil, when they shall join in concert with the glorious angels in singing their perpetual hallelujahs to their glorious Creator?

3. The manner of singing. Our text saith, “making melody”; with inward joy and tripudiation of soul; if the tongue make the pause, the heart must make the elevation.

4. The master of the choir, the preceptor. That is, the “heart.”

5. The end of the duty--“To the Lord.” Our singing must not serve our gain, or our luxury, or our fancy; but our Lord. The several parts of the text being thus opened, they may be set together again in this Divine and excellent truth: In the ordinance of singing, we must not make noise, but music; and the heart must make melody to the Lord. In this service we must study more to act the Christian than the musician. We must sing David’s psalms with David’s spirit.

I. We will show the Divine authority of this ordinance.

II. We will show the sweetness of it.

III. The universal practice of it.

IV. We shall show the honours God hath put upon this ordinance.

V. And then come to the main case.

VI. And make application.

I. For the first: we shall show the divine authority of this ordinance.

1. From Scripture precept. And here we have divers commands laid upon us, both in the Old and New Testament. David, who among his honourable titles obtains this, to be called “the sweet singer of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1)--he frequently calls upon himself: “I will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalms 7:17). And sometimes he calls upon others: “Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him, talk ye of all His wondrous works” (1 Chronicles 16:9). Nay, sometimes He summons the whole earth to join in this duty: “Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation “ (1 Chronicles 16:23; Psalms 68:32). And holy Hezekiah--he propagated this service (2 Chronicles 29:30). Nay, in their times when the royal majesty was lodged in Judah, singers were a peculiar office enjoined constantly to sing the praises of the Lord (1 Kings 10:12). And Jehoshaphat “appointed singers “(2 Chronicles 20:21). Nay, and Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and Ethan, men eminent and holy, were employed in this holy service (2 Chronicles 5:12). But why should I light a candle at noon day? Thus this harmonious service was most usual and most acceptable in the times of the law.

2. From Scripture argument. And I shall only take out one shaft out of the whole quiver. I shall use one argument among many, which is this, namely, we always find this duty of singing psalms linked to and joined with other moral duties (Psalms 95:1; Psalms 95:6; James 5:13).

3. From Scripture pattern. Moses both pens a psalm, namely, the ninetieth; and sings a holy song, and Exodus 15:1-27. is the record of it. So David tripudiates in the practice of this delightful service (Psalms 104:33).

4. From Scripture prophecy. Divers prophecies in the Old Testament concerning this ordinance in the New. So in Psalms 108:3; upon which Mollerus observes, that in that text David pours forth ardent prayers and wishes for the kingdom of Christ. And so divines observe that the first and second verses of Psalms 100:1-5 are prophetical: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” To which may be added that pregnant prophecy recorded in Isaiah 52:8.

II. We may take notice of the sweetness of this duty. Singing is the soul’s jubilee, our spiritual recreation, the shout of the heart, our tuning of our hallelujahs, the sweetest solace of a sanctified soul.

1. Singing is the music of nature (Isaiah 44:23; Psalms 65:13).

2. Singing is the music of ordinances. Augustine reports of himself, that when he came to Milan and heard the people sing, he wept for joy.

3. Singing is the music of saints.

4. Singing is the music of angels (Job 38:7; Luke 2:13).

5. Singing is the music of heaven (Revelation 15:8).

III. The universal practice of this duty. It has been practised--

1. By all varieties of persons.

As singing is not too low for kings, so not too choice for subjects. The whole multitude sometimes engaged in the harmony: “Then Israel sang this song” (Numbers 21:17). The people’s voice may make melody, as the lesser birds contribute to the music of the grove, their chirping notes filling up the harmony.

2. In all ages. This service of singing to God was soon started in the world. Moses, the first penman of Scripture--he both sung a song and penned a psalm, as we hinted before. In the Judges’ times, Deborah and Barak sang a triumphant song ( 5:1-2, etc.). During the time of the kings of Judah, the Levites sang the praises of God in the sanctuary. A little before the captivity, we find the Church praising God in singing (Isaiah 35:2). In the time of the captivity, Israel did not forget the songs of Zion, though they were in Babylon (Psalms 126:2). After their return from captivity, we soon find them return to this joyous service (Nehemiah 7:1). Their long exile had not banished this duty. Towards the close of their prophet’s prophesying, the Church is again engaged in this part of God’s worship (Zephaniah 3:15; Zephaniah 3:17).

3. In all places. Moses praiseth God by singing in the wilderness, throughout Exodus 15:1-27. David practises this duty in the tabernacle (Psalms 47:6); Solomon in the temple (1 Kings 10:12); Jehoshaphat in the camp (2 Chronicles 20:21); Christ and His apostles in a particular chamber (Matthew 26:30); and Paul and Silas in an uncomfortable prison (Acts 16:25). We may say of singing, as the apostle speaks of prayer: “I will,” saith he, “that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8).

4. In all conditions.

5. By all sexes. Miriam sings a song to God, as well as Moses (Exodus 15:21). Rivet well observes, “God is the Lord of both sexes.” Women, though they are removed by apostolical command from the desk or pulpit, yet they are not debarred the choir, to join in that harmony where God’s praises are elevated.

IV. And now we come to speak of that honour which God hath put upon this heavenly duty. And this will appear in three things; namely--

1. God hath honoured this duty with glorious appearances. This we find upon record in 2 Chronicles 5:13.

2. With eminent victories (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

3. With evident miracles (Acts 16:25-26).

V. And now I come to the main case, how we may make melody in our hearts to God in singing of psalms.

1. We must sing with understanding. We must not be guided by the tune, but the words, of the psalm; we must mind the matter more than the music, and consider what we sing, as well as how we sing.

2. We must sing with affection. Love is the fulfilling of this law. It is a notable saying of St. Augustine: “It is not crying, but loving, that sounds in the ears of God.” The pretty child sings a mean song; but it delights the mother, because there is love on both sides.

3. We must sing with real grace. This the apostle admonishes us (Colossians 3:16). It is grace, not nature, sweetens the voice to sing. We must draw out our spices, our graces, in this duty.

4. We must slug with excited grace. Not only with grace habitual, but with excited and actual. The musical instrument delights not but when it is played upon. The clock must be plucked up before it can guide our time; the bird pleaseth not in her nest, but in her notes; the chimes only make music while they are going. Let us therefore beg the Spirit to “blow upon our garden, that the spices thereof may flow out,” when we set upon this joyous service (Song of Solomon 4:16). God loves active grace in duty; that the soul should be ready trimmed, when it presents itself to God in any worship.

5. We must sing with spiritual joy. Indeed, singing only makes joy articulate; it is only the turning of bullion into coin; as the prophet speaks to this purpose (Isaiah 65:14). Singing is only the triumphant gladness of a gracious heart, a softer rapture.

6. We must sing with faith.

7. We must sing in the Spirit.

8. Purify thy heart.

9. Neglect not preparatory prayer.

1. Those who despise this ordinance do not consider the holy ends of this duty; namely--

2. Nor do such consider the rare effects of this duty, namely, of singing to the Lord: and they are--

3. Nor do such consider the sweet allurements which draw us to this duty. And if we inquire what it is that puts us upon rejoicing in God by singing, I shall tell you--

I. This checks those who scruple this ordinance. Surely this must proceed from the evil one, turning himself into an angel of light.

II. Let this check those who suspend and neglect this heavenly ordinance.

III. This likewise checks those who formalize in this duty; who act a part, not a duty. They make a noise, and not music; and more provoke the eyes, than please the ears, of God. Bernard makes two conditions of grateful singing.

1. “We must sing purely, minding what we sing; nor must we act or think anything besides; there must be no vain or vagrant thoughts; no dissonancy between the mind and the tongue.

2. “We must sing strenuously, not idly, not sleepily or perfunctorily.”

IV. Let us get an interest in Christ. If we are not in Christ, we are certainly out of tune. The singing of a sinner is natural, like the singing of a bird. But the singing of a saint is musical, like the singing of a child. We are accepted in Christ in this offer of love. Therefore let us get into Christ: He can raise our voice in singing to a pleasing elevation.

V. Let us sometimes raise our hearts in holy contemplation. Let us think of the music of the bride chamber. There shall be no cracked strings, displeasing sounds, harsh voices, nothing to abate or remit our melody; there shall be no willows to hang up our harps upon. (J. Wells, M. A.)

Music in the Bible

This is but one of hundreds of passages in which the inspired writers, both of the Old and the New Testaments, dwell on the sacredness of music. “Joy and gladness shall be found therein,” says David of the redeemed Zion, “thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” Music is in our Lord’s parable the fit sign of joy for the returning prodigal. “Is any merry,” says St. James, “let him sing psalms.” Not only the psalms which we have just been singing, but it is not too much to say that even the whole Bible rings with music. There is an heavenly music in it and an earthly music. For in the very beginning when the earth was made we are told that “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” And in the very beginning of the gospel also, when the gospel was revealed, there was with the herald angel “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” And as music is the earliest, so is it the last glimpse we have of heaven, when, before its azure curtain was closed forever to mortal eyes, we see myriads of angels shouting Hallelujah; and “harpers harping with their harps,” and the redeemed in their countless multitudes as with “the sound of many waters, and as with the voice of great thunder,” “singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.” And so, too, from first to last, there is in the Bible an abundance of earthly music. In the fourth chapter of Genesis, you have the first instruments invented by Jubal--“the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” In the thirty-first chapter of Genesis you have the first choir, when Laban says that he would have sent Jacob away with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp. And after that the whole Bible thrills with song. There is Miriam with her timbrels shaken over the rolling waves which have drowned the enemies of God. There are the silver trumpets of the new moons and the solemn feast days. There is David with his psalms, now sad as the wail over Saul, and Jonathan lost upon the mountains of Gilboa; now rapturous as the paeans which tell of the triumph of the Lord. There are the Levites in their white robes on the temple steps, the one choir singing aloud, “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord,” and the other replying as with thunderous antiphone--“for His mercy endureth forever.” The exiles march home from Babylon with rivers of music; the disciples break forth into hymns after Pentecost; our Lord and His apostles sing a hymn before that last walk under the olive trees to the Garden of Gethsemane; Paul and Silas, their backs bleeding with Roman rods, turn their prison into an edeum, and God gives them songs in the night. Even in the Epistles, as far back as these early days of Christianity, we find more than one fragment of the earliest Christian hymns. And lastly, the Apocalypse, as Milton said, “shuts up the stately acts of its awful tragedy, and fitly concludes the whole volume of Scripture with a seven-fold chorus of Hallelujahs and harping symphonies.” (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Music in nature

There is, indeed, little of what can be accurately called music in nature, for music is the Divine prerogative of human and angelic beings, and nature furnishes only the rude elements of music, the uncut diamonds, as it were, of sound. We may, indeed, say that the winds of God make music under the blue dome of His temple, “not made with hands”; music, sweet sometimes and soft as the waving of angel wings, or weird as when it sweeps the wild moors and mingles the multitudinous murmurs of the withered heather bells, or awful as when it roars among the mountain pines. And you may say that the sea makes music; now in the ripples that flash upon the shore, and now in the bursting of its stormy billows. And you may say that the thrush and the nightingale make music, or the lark when it becomes a singing speck in the summer heaven. And so the poets have sung of the music of nature; but, my brethren, the music is not in these outward things; where they sound to us like music it is because we are “making melody” of them in our hearts; happy for us if that melody be always “to the Lord.” It is thus that David says, “Praise the Lord upon earth: ye dragons, and all deeps; fire and hail, snow and vapours: wind and storm, fulfilling His word,” etc. Yet David knew that the music of heaven and earth was in itself deep silence. It was only the music of the cosmos, the music which the beauty and order of the universe awaken in the heart of man, and none had ever heard it, though the Jewish legend said that Moses was solely sustained by that music of the spheres when he spent those forty days upon the mount of God. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Music in the life

The man who makes melody in his heart to the Lord will make it in his life. “Making melody.” What is melody? Is it not the arrangement of notes, the sequence of the same or different sounds, so following one another as to give us pleasure? Unless there be melody in your hearts there will be no true music, neither Christmas music, nor Lenten music, nor Easter music, in your worship. Believe me, we may be able to make little music, or none at all, with our hands or our voices; but oh! what music we can make of the sweet, solemn, sacred human life of every one of us! And how beautiful is a musical life; but how many of us spoil it!

“How sour sweet music is when time is broke

And no proportion kept.”

So is it with the music of men’s lives. When do we “break the time”? When there is no rhythm, no due order, no regulated sequence in our lives; when “reckless youth makes rueful age”; when we waste, squander, defile, throw away our early years, and are never able to be again what once we might have been; when we have sudden pauses and backslidings, and breaks and stoppings short in the wholesome continuity of righteous purposes and righteous actions; above all, when we sacrifice the vast future to the fleeting present; when we sell our eternity for a little hour--ah! then we ruin the melody; for we “break the time.” And when is there “no proportion kept”? Is it not when some evil passion or some base desire utterly subdues and masters us, raises above the rest its dominant and screaming voice, makes of our lives a foolish and fussy egotism, or a harsh and agonizing jar? Ah! what broken music there is in the individual character of many of us. When the unruly wills and affections of sinful men snatch up in their lives each its several instrument, or when they lay their tainted and raging hands upon the sacred strings; pleasure, with its corrupt under song; pride, with its jangling cymbals; hate, with its fierce trumpet; malice, with its ear piercing fife. What horrible discord there is in the lives of the drunkard, the cheat, the gambler, the debauchee! You have all heard of that point on the strings of the violin, which, if touched, produces a harsh and grating dissonance called the wolf note. Alas! how often do we hear in our own lives, and in the lives of others, that hideous jarring wolf note--the wolf note of envy, of virulent hatred, of vile, selfish lust, from the stringed instrument of what should be a man’s sacred life! Only, my brethren, if there be melody in your hearts to the Lord can you make life and death and the forever one grand, sweet, song. For the potentiality of music is everywhere. The heart of every one of you is a harp of God. Yield it to the music of furious passions, and it will disgust and horrify; but let it be swept by the Holy Spirit of God, and it will give forth Divine and solemn sounds. Then, lastly, for the music of life harmony is no less necessary than melody. We must learn the united chorus no less than the individual hymn. The sounds of our lives must not only be sweet in themselves, but they must be subordinated to each other. If melody be the due sequence, is not harmony the due inter-relation of sounds? the combination of different sounds uttered at the same time, but so related to each other as to give us pleasure? A self-willed musician, one who only cares to hear his own voice, one who from carelessness or from vanity will introduce his own eccentric or special variation, one whose voice is always ringing false or falling flat, does not he ruin the harmony and so spoil the chorus? Where there is not God’s peace in the life, where selfishness rules in place of self-denial, where pride asserts itself at the expense of considerateness, where violence overleaps the barriers of law, there, for the music of life’s sweet and solemn chorus, you have got the screeching discords of anarchy and an anticipated hell. As the hideous sounds of war break up the unity and spoil the chorus of nations, so the quarrels, hatreds, envies, selfishness of individual men, spoil God’s choir of human society. These it is which keep us out of tune with heaven. When the breath of the Holy Spirit of God breathes through the organ of noble natures, then, indeed, the world hears music as Divine as it is rare; but when a man has nothing to offer to that high influence of the Holy Spirit of God but the “scrannel pipes” of an individuality which he has degraded by egotism and by mean alms, then all his life becomes a lean and flashy song. There can be no harmony in ourselves, no harmony in societies where there is no melody in our individual lives. Only by self-repression, by obedience, by humility, by purity, by common sympathy, can we get that music which one day shall be when the sound of every several voice, of every several instrument in God’s great orchestra of human communities is dominated over by the Divine keynote--shall I sadly say by the last chord of heavenly love. So, and so only, can any one of us hope to be joined to that choir, visible and invisible--

“The noble living and th’ immortal dead.

Whose music is the gladness of the world.”

But we can all strive to be like Christ, and Christ is the music of the world. In Him only do music, chorus, worship find their meaning. Only in unison with Him can you hope for individual melody or for harmony. The time for perfect music, the time when these discords which we hear all around us shall cease to be in all the world--that time is not yet. We may hope that at some day it shall be. We may hope that He who died for the world will, we know not how, in some way or other, at last make life’s broken music whole. It is the nature of evil to perish, it is the nature of good to live forever; it partakes, and it alone partakes, of God’s eternity. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Let joy overflow in song

Joy in God opens a thousand gates at once. There are gates in the heart, gates in the mind, gates in the nerves and muscles of the body, and gates in the atmosphere, which may be either open to Heaven’s tide of sweet influence, or shut against it. Unbelief and gloom shut the gates: hope and joy open them. But the gates are very secret, and when heaven is pouring itself in, whether upon souls in their closets, or upon congregations, no one suspects how, or by what channels, the tide has come. The joy in God, of a single soul in private, may let loose a blessing that shall run round the whole earth in its mission of comfort, and carry in its glance the break of day to numberless sad hearts. In the world, the Divine life finds prose enough; but in himself, every child of God is a new Divine poem and temple of psalmody. The understanding is not able always to appreciate the melody which is made unto the Lord, in the inmost chambers of the soul. The understanding misjudges it, and calls it groaning, because it has no ear to hear the purest music of the heart. “Blessed are they that mourn.” God joys with singing, and rests in His love, over His mourners. In the “bitterest cry of His best beloved: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” the Father hears the midnight singing in the morning to all broken hearts. (J. Pulsford.)

Thomas Fuller on his voice

Old Thomas Fuller, who was as noted for his quaintness as for the wisdom of his remarks, had a defective voice; but he did not refuse to praise on this account. “Lord,” he said, “my voice by nature is harsh and untunable, and it is vain to lavish any art to better it. Can my singing of psalms be pleasing to Thine ears, which is unpleasant to my own? Yet, though I cannot chant with the nightingale, or chirp with the blackbird, I had rather chatter with the swallow than be altogether silent. Now what my music wants in sweetness, let it have in sense. Yea, Lord, create in me a new heart, therein to make melody, and I will be contented with my old voice, until in due time, being admitted into the choir of heaven, I shall have another voice more harmonious bestowed upon me.” So let it be with us. Let us ever sing in the same spirit and in the same joy and hope.

Psalm singing a gospel ordinance

1. A duty prescribed, and that is, “singing of psalms.”

2. It is amplified, and set forth in its parts or necessary branches, outward and reward.

(a) The subject matter, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

(b) The actions conversant about it--

(i) Speaking;

(ii) singing.

Doctrine: That singing of psalms is an ordinance of God’s worship under the gospel.

I. Before I come to prove it, let me observe something out of the words, to fix and state the duty. Observe that singing of psalms is made to be a fruit of being filled with the Spirit.

II. Having thus stated the duty as it is here recommended to us, I shall here prove--

1. That it is a clear and unquestionable duty.

2. That it is a delectable duty.

3. That it is a very profitable duty. It is a profitable ordinance.

Use 1. To show us what a good God we serve, who hath made our delight a great part of our work. God is much for His people’s pleasure and holy joy.

Use 2. To show how much we overlook our profit when we deal slightly in this ordinance. It is a means, as other duties are, not a task; and a means to make our lives both holy and comfortable; therefore let us not contemn it. The same graces which are necessary for other parts of worship, which we make greater reckoning of, are necessary here also. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Nature and office of sacred music

I. The design of public worship may be learned from the word “worship” itself. Good etymologists are agreed that it is composed of the noun “worth” and the suffix “ship,” forming worth-ship; contracted, “worship.” The verb “to worship,” accordingly, signifies to ascribe worth. John describes an act of worship, when he represents the elders falling down before the throne and saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power.” Worship essentially consists of holy emotions inspired in the soul by the contemplation of God. Worship is complete when these emotions are expressed in the most natural and suitable form.

1. There is in the constitution of our nature a necessity for the expression of emotion. We cannot subdue expression any more than we can subdue emotion.

2. Audible worship is enjoined.

3. We have Divine example. Jesus prayed audibly. He sang with His disciples at the Holy Supper.

4. We have example furnished by the apostles in their writings, and in the records of early Church historians, and profane writers.

5. We have the continued example of the early Church for centuries, and the unbroken observance of vocal worship by the universal Church unto this day.

6. There is, however, a reason for audible worship that is alone decisive. Without audible prayer and praise, there can be no social worship.

II. What part does music perform in this worship? We have seen that worship is the expression to God of holy affections. Music is the highest form of emotional utterance, and therefore becomes a necessary instrument of worship. The child sings as naturally as it talks--it often sings before it can speak. Man everywhere has made for himself the art of song, however rude and imperfect. Religious emotion is the highest that fills the soul. Its inspiring source is the grandest, the sublimest, the only perfect, the infinite object of contemplation. Religious feeling, therefore, demands the most expressive form of utterance. The worship which consists of the speaking forth to God of oar highest and holiest affections, must have the service of song.

III. Social worship is the expression to God of common affections by united worshippers, and the utterance of feeling by one to another.

1. Preparation is needful to the proper employment of this part of worship. If you do not meditate upon God as He is revealed, your soul will.

2. The psalms and hymns that we sing should express correct thought and true feeling, and we should use such of these as truthfully express our own sentiments and emotions. To remedy the evil of untruthful singing, the hymn book should be made a study.

3. Sacred music should be simple and familiar.

4. All the worshippers should unite in the singing. (J. T. Duryea.)

The song of the heart

But whilst we believe that there is some expression of joy and praise which God peculiarly desires, and which in His Word is called “singing,” yet we shall fall into most serious and fatal errors, unless we strictly understand what is principally meant by the term. And here our text will altogether assist us. It must, first, be an expression of joy having the heart as its source of utterance. “Making melody in your heart,” says Paul. But this “singing” must not only come from the heart, and a new heart too, but it must also come from a believing heart in a particular state’s state of joy. The very term indicates the required temperament of the soul. Singing implies gladness. “The ransomed of the Lord,” says the prophet, “shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting icy upon their heads.” True, there are such things as dirges; but the Christian must never attempt them. His work is “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” But, yet further, this song of the heart must have for its constant and invariable theme its Lord and Redeemer. Music is often very varied. You will often find page after page of notes all as different and widely distinguished each from each as possible. There are a thousand chords, and runs, and combinations, and movements; and yet all are variations on one short air, included perhaps in two or three lines. Just so with your Redeemer. He must be your theme, running through all the variations of business, or pleasure, or domestic cares. But, lastly, in this song you must remember, that it is only the Spirit who can teach you either the love of spiritual music, or its true expression. “Man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.” So many tears, so many evils, so many sins around us--oh! what a place for song! Not Babel’s stream, all lined with willows, was half so unsuitable a place as this wilderness of a world, Not they that led the chained captive of Judah from his dear home were half so unreasonable in their demand for melody, as are men who can expect songs from the sin and trouble-choked sons of Adam. How can we sing the Lord’s song? We are in a strange land, and a land of darkness and sorrow. Yea, we ourselves are voiceless and tuneless as the dull clay itself. Sin has taken away our faculty of song, and sorrow has put us out of heart for music. What can we sing? We can mock song it is true; we can excite ourselves to an unnatural and bacchanalian imitation of melody. Paul alludes to something of this kind, when he says, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” As though he had said, “Go to the true source of joy; drink in the spirit of song from Him who is the Lord of bliss; be filled with the Spirit; and avoid the false, excited, drunken mirth of the world. It is only music created by the fumes of wine, and doomed to expire in weeping and wailing.” What a delusion is such mere noise! What a counterfeit of the heart’s music! We had intended to show you that this music must not be confined to the heart, though it must commence there. You must let others hear it, and be cheered by its cadence. “Speaking to” or among “yourselves,” says Paul, “in psalms.” He makes his meaning still clearer in a parallel passage. “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Your singing must always be designed to influence others. (D. F. Jarman, M. A.)


Verse 20

Ephesians 5:20

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thankfulness to God

I. The duty here enjoined is to give thanks. Thankfulness is such a sense of favours received from, and of obligations due to, a benefactor, as disposes us to make suitable acknowledgments and returns.

1. A grateful heart retains the impression of past mercies.

2. Gratitude sees a real value in God’s blessings.

3. A sense of our unworthiness enters into the essence of thankfulness.

4. In the exercise of gratitude, we shall improve God’s favours to the ends for which He bestows them.

5. Gratitude delights to express its feelings and sentiments.

6. Thankfulness studies a suitable return. God’s goodness should lead us to repentance. When favour is shown us we should learn righteousness. His mercies should persuade us to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. His disinterested love should awaken in us sentiments of benevolence to our fellow men.

II. Consider the character of that Being to whom our thanks must be supremely directed. God is the Father of the universe, and the Giver of all the blessings which we receive, and which we behold around us.

1. To Him we must give thanks; for all things are His.

2. To Him we must give thanks; for He has given us all things richly to enjoy.

3. To Him we must give thanks; for His goodness is free and disinterested.

III. We are required to give thanks always to God.

1. We ought to be always in a habit of thankfulness, and in a readiness for actual thanksgiving, whenever providence calls us to it.

2. Thanksgiving should find a place in all our stated addresses to God.

3. All special favours should be distinctly observed and acknowledged.

4. We should be thankful in every condition.

5. We should never cease to give thanks.

IV. The matters for which we are to give thanks. “All things.” Personal blessings. The benefits of civil society, Religious privileges.

V. The medium of our access to God in this duty--“The name of Jesus Christ.” God putteth no trust in His saints; the heavens are not clean in His sight. How much less man that is a worm; man that is a sinner! We are not worthy to speak to Him in praise for the benefits which we receive; much less to ask of Him farther benefits; least of all to receive the benefits which we ask. We are, therefore, directed not only to pray but also to give thanks in the name of Christ. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

The duty and scope of thanksgiving

There are few duties which the Bible enjoins in terms of so large a requirement as the duty of thanksgiving. It must be true that to the Christian the causes of gladness always exceed the causes of melancholy; so that, in times the darkest and most adverse, the Christian has greater cause to rejoice than to be downcast. In the first place we will examine our text as enjoining thanksgiving as a duty; in the second place, as proposing “all things,” with no exception whatsoever, as the subject matter of that thanksgiving; “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I. Now it cannot be necessary that we should speak at any great length on the duty of giving teases. It would seem to have been determined in every age and by every nation, that ingratitude is so execrable a thing, that to be unmindful of benefits demonstrates an unworthiness which disqualifies for all the intercourses of life. Yet, strange it is, we have the spectacle forced on us continually, of men who would blush to be thought ungrateful to their fellows, utterly unconscious that they owe anything to God, and untouched by the numberless benefits which they are every moment receiving at His hands. How are we to account for this? There are two reasons, we think, to be given for this phenomenon. The first is the practical atheism which loses sight of a first cause, and idolizes second causes; the second is the repugnance there is in our nature to the owning itself dependent.

II. But the duty of thanksgiving will be yet more evident when we have to consider, in the second place, the subject matter of gratitude. We are directed by the apostle to give “thanks for all things”; and it were easy, and it would be a pleasing occupation, to bring before you a long and wide catalogue of benefits, and to summon you as each separate act of beneficence passed under review, to “praise the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever.”

1. Look then, first, at the small or everyday mercies. If you would apply a microscope to an everyday mercy, you might discover in it, as in the atom or the water drop, the very same demonstration of the presence of the Omnipotent, as in the surprising interposition which has marked some great crisis in your life; and, therefore, you are only giving a melancholy proof of the feebleness and short-sightedness of your nature, if you so cast up benefits under the divisions of great and small, that you think any too trivial to claim the tribute of your thanksgiving. It costs God (if we may use such an expression) the same labour to build the world as the atom, the same love to give the moment’s breath and the empire’s dowry; and if it be for the love shown that we render thanks, we owe, therefore, the same amount, whether the instance of mercy be rare and almost unexampled, or whether it be of daily and even momentary occurrence. Besides, it ought to be evident, on the least reflection, that the common and daily benefits of life are usually the greatest and the most valuable in their nature. Oh! it is a cold and withered heart that lies in that man’s breast, who requires a miracle before he will recognize a mercy. Life is one perpetual miracle. But you must, I hope, be satisfied that you owe God thanks for what men count small and everyday mercies; do you not also owe Him thanks for what they count evils? If not, then you would be grateful for food, but not for medicine. But the “giving thanks always for all things,” this it is which we would specially press upon your attention. We have comparatively no fears of your not giving thanks on great occasions and for signal mercies; what we fear is a habit of overlooking little and everyday things, and not feeling them to be cause for praise. And then, observe the concluding words of our text, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our prayers and our praises must alike be presented in and through this all-prevailing name. In themselves they are weak and polluted, but purified with His merits they rise with acceptance and find favour with God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our argument in asking, and should be our incentive in thanking. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The deity of Christian thanksgiving, and the period and manner in which it is to be performed

I. Let us consider the duty enjoined--thanksgiving--“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father.” He is the object of all religious worship, and to Him all our thanks are supremely due. I say supremely, because it is not unlawful to give thanks to others. Children should be thankful to their parents; and the poor and the needy should be thankful to them that afford them relief. For though men are but instruments, they are instruments--and they are voluntary instruments. You never thank the ox and the horse for the behests you derive from them, because you know they are destitute of knowledge and design; but men are influenced by motives, and actuated by choice; yet we are to look above them to God, who is the fountain of all good and blessedness. For, who gave these instruments their capacity? Who placed them in our way and within our reach? Who endowed them with power to help us, and inspired them with inclinations to bless us? “He maketh His sun to shine on the evil and on the good,” “and His paths drop fatness.” Two things must here be observed:--

1. Thanksgiving is frequently confounded with praise; but they are distinguishable. We praise persons for excellency of character and conduct. We give thanks for favours received from them, and obligations we are under to them. The essence of praise is admiration; the essence of thanksgiving is gratitude.

2. And you must have observed that, when the apostle speaks of thanksgiving, he does not mean only the use of the words--“Words are but air.” The verbal expression is nothing, unless corresponding views and feelings proceed, and corresponding actions follow it. You would not wish a man to thank you if he were senseless of his obligations. If he should commend and applaud you, and then do everything in his power to injure you and to offend you. And yet how much of this hypocrisy has God continually to meet with from His creatures, and even many professors of religion!

II. How this duty is to be performed.

1. It is to be done in the name of Christ. It is His intercession on our behalf that renders our supplications accepted in the Beloved, and by His much incense which purifies our hearts. Thus, as Peter says, we “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” And therefore, says the Apostle Paul, “Let us offer by Him the sacrifices of God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

2. Again, as we are to do this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, so we are to do it always. What, then, does the apostle mean when he says, “We are to give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father.” Thanksgiving should always be found in our addresses to God. You are not to adore and praise God in His house only, but also in your own. You are not only to worship Him on the Sabbath, but during the week: indeed, the week is to show in you what the Sabbath does for you. And it is a poor devotion indeed, that does not survive the sanctuary, and that is brushed out on Monday morning along with the dust of the place. It can intend, also, nothing less than perseverance; “Holding fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end”; not “growing weary in well-doing,” and not becoming cold after your first fervours in religion.

Now, in order that you may have this praying frame--this readiness for thanksgiving always--and feel these excitements to it, there are three things essentially necessary.

1. The first is, deep self-abasement. You will always find the proud ungrateful.

2. The second is--it will be necessary for you, if you would live in this praying frame of mind, to be careful to observe and mark the loving kindnesses of the Lord. According, as David says, “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.” And Mr. Flavel remarks, that “He who observes providences shall not want providences to observe.”

3. The third is, to keep these things in remembrance; for, if they are forgotten, they can no longer sway or influence you; and therefore, says David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” First pair.

You are to give thanks for natural and spiritual mercies. Second pair.--You are to thank Him for ordinary and extraordinary mercies. There are some remarkable instances of the Divine interposition in their favour, in a way of providence or of grace. These are like the red-letter days in the calendar of life. These may be considered as the masterpieces of providence, either in our protection or our deliverance: either in our support or our comfort. At the same time we must not forget that “His mercies are new every morning,” and that “He daily loadeth us with his benefits.” Third pair.--You are to thank God for positive and preventive mercies. From how many unknown evils as well as known, have you been preserved ever since you have had a being! Fourth pair.--You are to give thanks for public and private mercies. You are embarked in a vessel, the safety of which is your safety too. Fifth pair.--You are to bless God for personal and relative blessings. In how many lives, is your whole life bound up! There is the wife of your choice--there are the children of your love. Sixth pair.--You are to bless God for present and future mercies. The seventh and last pair.--You are to give thanks unto God for your sweet and for your bitter mercies. (W. Jay.)

The duty of thanksgiving

I. The substance of the duty.--“To give thanks”; or, rather, “to be thankful.”

1. It implies a right apprehension of, and consequently a considerate attention unto, benefits conferred. For he that is either wholly ignorant of his obligations, or mistakes them, or passes them over with a slight and superficial view, can nowise be grateful.

2. This duty requires a faithful retention of benefits in memory, and consequently frequent reflections on them. For he that is no longer affected with a benefit than it incurs the sense, and suffers not itself to be disregarded, is far from being grateful; nay, if we believe the philosopher, is ungrateful in the worst kind and highest degree. “He that falsely denies the reception of a benefit, and he that dissembles it, and he that doth not repay it, is ingrateful; but most ingrateful of all is he that forgets it.”

3. This duty implies a due esteem and valuation of benefits; that the nature and quality, the measure and quantity, the circumstances and consequences of them be well expended; else the gratitude is like to be none, or very defective. For we commensurate our thankfulness, not so much to the intrinsic excellency of things, as to our peculiar estimations of them. In such manner ought we diligently to survey and judiciously to estimate the effects of Divine beneficence, examining every part, and descanting on every circumstance thereof: like those that contemplate some rare beauty, or some excellent picture; some commending the exact proportions, some the graceful features, some the lively colours discernible therein. There is not the least of the Divine favours, which, if we consider the condescensive tenderness, the clear intention, the undeserved frankness, the cheerful debonairity expressed therein, hath not dimensions larger than our comprehension, colours too fair, and lineaments too comely for our weak sight thoroughly to discern; requiring therefore our highest esteem and our utmost thanks. They are immense, innumerable, unconceivable, and unexpressible. But still--

4. “Giving thanks” imports that benefits be received with a willing mind, a hearty sense, a vehement affection.

5. This duty requires due acknowledgment of our obligation, significations of our notice, declarations of our esteem and good acceptance of favours conferred.

6. This duty requires endeavours of real compensation, and a satisfactory requital of benefits, according to the ability and opportunity of the receiver.

7. True gratitude for benefits is always attended with the esteem, veneration, and love of the benefactor.

II. The object and term to which it is to be directed. To this God, to this great, to this only Benefactor of ours, we owe this most natural and easy, this most just and equal, this most sweet and pleasant duty of giving thanks.

III. I proceed now to the third, the circumstance of time allotted to the performance of this duty, expressed by that universal and unlimited term, “always.”

1. Hereby is required that we do often actually meditate on, be sensible of, confess and celebrate the Divine beneficence. If God incessantly demonstrates Himself gracious unto us, we are in all reason obliged frequently to confess ourselves grateful unto Him.

2. “Giving thanks always” may import our appointing and punctually observing certain convenient times of performing this duty; that is, of seriously meditating on, and affectionately acknowledging the Divine bounty. Instance of the Jewish sacrifice, rendered by the Greek translators, “the continual sacrifice.” As that sacrifice, being offered constantly at a set time, was thence denominated continual, so perhaps may we, by constantly observing some fit returns of praise and thanksgiving, be said “always to give thanks.”

3. But farther, “giving thanks always” may import a vigilant attendance on this duty, such as men bestow on their employments, of which, though the actual prosecution ceases, yet the design continually proceeds; just as we say, such an one is writing a book, or building a house, though he may at the present time be occupied by some other employment; because his design never sleeps, and his purpose continues uninterrupted. This term “always” necessarily implies a ready disposition or habitual inclination to give thanks, ever permanent in us; that our hearts, as David’s was, be fixed always, that is, fittingly prepared and steadily resolved to thank and praise God.

5. Lastly: “giving thanks always” imports that we readily embrace every opportunity of actually expressing our thankfulness: for so in some places of Scripture, what is enjoined to be done continually, is in others only required to be done on all opportunities. It is true that no time is unfavourable: every moment we receive favours, and therefore every minute we owe thanks. We should be like those trees that bear fruit (more or less) continually; but then more kindly and more abundantly when more powerfully cherished by the heavenly warmth. When any fresh, any rare, any remarkable benefit happens to us; when prosperous success attends our honest endeavours; when unexpected favours fall as it were of their own accord into our bosoms.

IV. The matter.--“For all things.”

1. We are to give thanks, not only for great and notable benefits, but for the least and most ordinary favours of God: though indeed none of God’s favours are in themselves small and inconsiderable. Men are wont to bless themselves, if they receive but a transient glance from a prince’s eye; a smile from a great personage; any slender intimation of regard from him that is in capacity to do them good. What is it then to receive the least testimony of His goodwill, from whom alone every good thing can be expected.

2. We are to render thanks, not only for new and present benefits, but for all we have formerly, all that we may hereafter receive.

3. We should bless God, not only for new, rare, extraordinary accidents of providence, but for the common and daily benefits and indulgences thereof.

4. We should give thanks, not only for private and particular, but for public benefits also, and for such as befall others.

5. We are obliged to give thanks, not only for pleasant and prosperous occurrences of providence, but for those also which are adverse to our desire, and distasteful to our natural sense; for poverty, sickness, disgrace; for all the sorrows and troubles, the disasters and disappointments, that befall us. We are bound to pay thanks, not for our food only, but for our physic also (which, though ungrateful to our palate, is profitable for our health): we are obliged, in the school of providence, not only for the good instructions, but for the seasonable corrections also vouchsafed unto us (whereby, though our senses are offended, our manners are bettered).

6. Lastly, we are obliged to thank God, not only for corporeal and temporal benefits, but also (and that principally) for spiritual and eternal blessings. I should conclude with certain inducements persuasive to the practice of this duty.

I. First, therefore, we may consider that there is no disposition whatever more deeply radicated in the original constitution of all souls endued with any kind of perception or passion, than being sensible of benefits received; being kindly affected with love and respect toward them that exhibit them; being ready with suitable expressions to acknowledge them, and to endeavour competent recompenses for them. Even the worst of men retain something of this natural inclination, and the very brute creation gives evidence of it.

II. The second obligation to this duty is most just and equal; since we are in all reason indebted for what is freely given, as well as for what is lent to us: for the freeness of the giver, his not exacting security, nor expressing conditions of return, doth not diminish, but rather increase the debt: this enlarged on.

III. Thirdly, this is a most sweet and delightful duty: as the performance of it proceeds from good humour and a cheerful disposition of mind, so it feeds and foments them both. Prayer reminds us of our imperfections and wants; confession of our misdeeds and bad deserts; but thanksgiving includes nothing uneasy or unpleasant, nothing but the memory and sense of exceeding goodness. Other considerations may be briefly added: viz., that this duty is of all others most acceptable to God and profitable to us, inducing Him to bestow more, and qualifying us to receive it. (I. Barrow, D. D.)

The duty of giving thanks

That thanksgiving to God is a great and necessary duty becoming all Christians.

I. To open the duty. Here is--First: The substance, or act of it--“Giving thanks.” Praise relateth to God’s excellencies, thanksgiving to God’s benefits. There is a two-fold thanksgiving.

1. Of time. “Always.” How is this possible?

2. The matter for which we are to give thanks--“For all things.” The same extent of the matter we may see in a parallel place (1 Thessalonians 5:18), “In everything give thanks.” This universal particle comprehendeth all kinds of mercies, spiritual and temporal mercies. He that is not thankful for the smaller mercies disposeth himself to a stupid carelessness and insensibility of the greatest mercies: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11.) A suspected leaky vessel we try with water first, and then with wine. Besides, they all came from the same love, the greater and smaller mercies (Psalms 136:25). Ordinary mercies are our constant diet (Psalms 68:19). Extraordinary mercies are our cordials in a fainting fit (Psalms 77:10).

Though we do not simply give thanks for the evil, yet we may give thanks for the good that is mixed with them; that is to say--

3. The object to whom this religious worship is to be tendered--“To God and the Father” (so Colossians 3:17).

4. The manner or means--“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why must thanksgiving be made in Christ’s name?

II. How necessary, profitable, and becoming Christians this duty is.

1. How necessary a duty it is appeareth--

2. How necessary a duty it is appeareth by the great profit that cometh of it.

3. How necessary a duty it is appeareth because it prevents many sins.

Use 1. Is it such a duty? Then take heed of impediments and enemies to thankfulness.

Use 2. Is our thanksgiving right?

The duty of giving thanks to God

I. In the first place, I would have you notice that St. Paul speaks of giving thanks “unto God and the Father.” The person described under these two titles is of course one and the same, but the thoughts which belong to the two titles are very different; the name of God may be said chiefly to testify of power, that of Father chiefly of love; it is because God has allowed Himself to be addressed as “our Father,” that we can draw nigh to Him with fall assurance of faith.

II. Next observe, that thanks must be given to the Father “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This throws a remarkable light upon the nature of thanksgiving. Our natural feeling would (I think) be this, that if we came to ask any favour or mercy at the hands of God, we should rightly do so in the name of Him, through whom alone our petitions can be granted, but that the same thing would hardly hold good, if we came to pay the tribute of praise and thanksgiving to God; in asking we should feel that we needed a mediator, in giving (however small our gift might be) we should scarcely imagine that the same need existed. And yet, according to St. Paul, the need is the same in both cases; even our thanks must be offered up through Christ; we do not make God our debtor by such offerings; whether we ask or whether we pay tribute, it is we who are the gainers, and for both the one purpose and the other we need the righteousness of Christ, to make our approach to God’s mercy seat acceptable.

III. But again; St. Paul in the text gives a very wide range to thanksgiving, when he speaks of “giving thanks for all things.” All the dispensations of God should be regarded as the acts of a Father, and therefore as demanding our thanks. I know the difficulty of realizing this state of mind; a time may perhaps come, when we shall be able to look back from our place of rest upon the way by which God hath led us, and when we shall be able to see that in all its turns and twistings (so far as they were the result of God’s leading, and not due to our own perversity), and in all its darker passages, in its roughest as well as its smoothest portions, it was indeed “the right way,” and all demands our gratitude to Him, who led us by a way that we knew not.

IV. There is one other expression in the text which deserves notice, and to which a remark applies similar to that just now made upon the expression “all things.” St. Paul says, “giving thanks always”; the word “always” is sufficiently strong and comprehensive in itself, and becomes additionally so by being joined to the words “all things.” “Giving thanks always for all things” is obviously as comprehensive a charge to give thanks as could possibly be devised; and I wish to remark that the peculiar force of the word “always” seems to be this, “under all circumstances.” St. Paul is not intending (I think) so much to enjoin an unceasing course of thanksgiving, as to warn us against allowing our thankfulness to depend upon our own state of mind, or upon the prosperity or adversity of our outward condition. (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

Common mercies

The first thanks of a redeemed creature will always be for Christ. But Christian thankfulness shows itself in joyous acknowledgment of all gifts, great and small. And it finds a new call to its exercise in the fact, that the lesser gifts have their origin in the love which gave us the greatest, and came to us through that greatest Himself. The range of Christian thankfulness becomes, in this way, very wide. “For all things”--for little mercies as well as great mercies--for the gospel first, but also for the humblest truth which enlarges the mind; for things in heaven and things on earth; for whatever is related to our growth and well-being; for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the fire which warms us, and the earth which is the bountiful food grower for us all. “All things.” Showers and streams, flowers and trees, bird and beast and creeping things, the wide sea and the lofty hills, sunshine and starlight, light and darkness, clouds and rainbows, waxing and waning moons, seasons and days. “For all things.” For things of discipline as well as things of nutriment, for toil and the hardness which toil works, for hunger and cold, for sickness and sorrow, for death itself, for mercy and also for judgment, for riches and also for poverty, for peaceful calm and also for purifying storm. “For all things.” For friends and privileges and just laws and liberties; for our native land and our memories of heroic ancestors; for Christian principle and the Christian Church; for life and strength and reason; for our bodies fearfully and wonderfully made; for our place in society, our opportunities for good, our means of usefulness, our knowledge, insight, and growth; and for faith, hope, and charity in ourselves and others.

I. In a country like ours, we could make no selection of common mercies in which the blessings of employment were left out. We are a nation of workers. In our offices, workshops, and studies; at our crafts, domestic duties, and professional tasks, we are all supposed to have some employment. Labour itself is a blessing. It is employment. And anyone who knows the misery of the state indicated by the words “out of employment,” also knows the greatness of the blessing. In its results it is worse than bodily disease. It is the sure destruction of self-respect and courage. The joy of life perishes at the roots, and despair commences its evil reign. One of the directest blessings of labour is its healthiness. Other things being equal, it is the busy who are healthy. Idleness enfeebles both mind and body. Movement, activity, fulfilment of tasks--this is the law for every creature made by God. Neglect of this law is death. Another element in this blessing of work is its honourableness. Since work implies service, it is a beneficent endowment that it is honourable. And this is an attribute in all work, in work of the hand as well as work of the mind. When our Maker appointed us to labour, He made labour one of the dignities in His kingdom. A working man is one of God’s noblemen. His queens are working women.

II. The last of the mercies I undertook to set before you is home. And I will begin by naming the homeliness of home. In my home I am at ease, and free to be myself. I am neither merchant, nor student, nor craftsman, nor politician. I am simply a member of the home circle, a citizen of “that country which every man loves.” It is a world whose courtesies are those of love. It exacts no etiquette except that which expresses the heart. How entirely it surrounds us. We are born into it, we die in it. We frequent it day and night; we are in it from infancy to old age. We rise in the morning, and find it filled with friendly faces; we retire for the night from amidst a group of the dearest we have. Every way it is a comfort to us. It is our shelter from the weather, our banqueting house, our hospital and place of rest. Next to its homeliness, in matter for thankfulness, is the seclusion of home. Above my summer hut one year was a mountain stream, which I often visited. Rising far up in the marshy hollows of the mountains, it made its way by steep and frequent plunges to the sea. Sometimes it leapt from crag to crag, brawling in a confused way over the sudden breaks of rock in its march. Sometimes it flung its waters in a mass on a lower shelf with an angry clash. At one point it came trailing down the face of the glistening rock behind; at another it tumbled and splashed in fantastic pools within its bed. But here and there, in its descent, it came to solitary spots, quiet basins of stone, where all the hasting and furious turbulence was at an end. And the stream that leapt and churned higher up, lay still as a sleeping child. What those quiet pools were to the life of that mountain stream, home is to the ordinary life we lead. The one life wrestles and leaps onward in endless unrest, the other dwells in calmness and peace. Home is a blessing so common, and we have been all our days so familiar with it, that few realize the full riches of blessing which it is in our life. But there is a blessing in our homes greater than either its seclusion, or comfort. Some of the best discipline of life is there. Home has functions which point to eternity. It is a school to instruct us in the knowledge of God. A revelation of God older than the Bible shines in the home. The parables of the fireside are as Divine as those of Christ. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” As we learn the secrets of that pity in the heart of our earthly father we become acquainted with God. A mother’s love is a Jacob’s ladder by which we ascend to the love of God. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” What surrounds us from our infancy is a vision and prophecy of God. (N. Macleod, D. D.)

Praise in death

James Hervey, when Dr. Stonehouse saw him for the last time, about two hours before he expired, pressed upon the doctor in the most affectionate manner his everlasting concerns, telling him “here is no abiding place.” Stonehouse, seeing the great difficulty and pain with which he spoke, desired that he would spare himself. “No,” said he, “doctor, no. You tell me I have but a few moments to live. Oh let me spend them in adoring our great Redeemer … ” He then expatiated in the most striking manner upon these words of St. Paul, “All things are yours.” He then paused a little, and with great serenity in his countenance quoted those triumphant words, “‘Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’ There, doctor, is my cordial. What are all the cordials to the dying compared to the salvation of Christ?” In his last moments he exclaimed two or three times, “Precious salvation!” and then, leaning his head against the side of the easy chair in which he sat, he shut his eyes and fell asleep. (Romaine.)

Praise at all times

Praise is the believer’s help in his trials, and his companion after trial. Jehoshaphat’s army sang praises before the battle. David sang praises in the cave; Daniel, when the trap was set for his life, prayed and gave thanks three times a day as usual: and Jesus, when He would raise Lazarus, first lift up His heart in thanks to the Father; and before He went to supper, first sang a hymn. So is praise also our solace after trial. Music is sweetest when heard over rivers, where the echo thereof is best rebounded by the waters; and praise for pensiveness, thanks for tears, blessing God over the floods of affliction, makes the sweetest music in the ears of heaven. (A. Fuller.)

A day of thanksgiving

A person being once cast upon a desolate island, spent a day in fasting and prayer for his deliverance, but no help came. It occurred to him then to keep a day of thanksgiving and praise, and he had no sooner done it than relief was brought to him. You see, as soon as he began to sing of mercy exercised, the exercise of mercy was renewed to him. The Lord heard the voice of his praise. (C. Nevins.)

Varieties of praise

The psalmist speaks of singing to the name of the Lord, blessing, extolling, thanksgiving, exalting. Just as the stem which is full of sap throws out many branches, so the believer who is full of a spirit of praise will give vent to it in many different forms. (P. B. Power.)

The music of the Christian life

Every Christian life is like a psalm. Just as in those grand old Hebrew psalms you may hear different voices; as you may hear, now the broken voice of the broken and contrite heart as it sobs out its confession of sin, and now the soft cooing as of the infant falling asleep in perfect peace upon its mother’s bosom; just as you may hear, now the dull groan of anguish wrung from the heart almost overburdened with sorrow, and now the peal of laughter, as of one who is bounding over the mountain side, breathing God’s pure air, and rejoicing in God’s glad sunshine; as you may hear, now the sharp cry of pain as of a soldier who has been hit by the archers, and now the shouts of triumph rising from the throats of those who have been victors in the fight; and yet in all the psalms, running like an accompaniment, you may detect the perpetual sense of God’s nearness and of God’s love: so we shall not fail to find many varied experiences in the Christian life, some joyful and some painful--many voices in one psalm; and yet, if that life is what it should be, the accompaniment of every experience will be the music of a thankful heart.

1. Thankfulness is the harmony of contentment and aspiration.

2. Thankfulness is the harmony between the deep sense of obligation, and the joy of perfect freedom. (W. V. Robinson, B. A.)


Verse 21

Ephesians 5:21

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Submission one to another

I. In the first place, observe the necessity of the precept. Pride is the great besetting sin of our fallen nature. In our unregenerate state it rules, reigns, and tyrannises; and in our regenerate state, it still harasses, entangles, and tempts us in all we do. Some are proud of their learning, and some of their ignorance. Some are proud of their intellect, and some of their stupidity. Behold then, the necessity of the precept. What is it leads men, beloved, to that insubordination as to ranks in society, that is so very manifest in the present day? What is it leads men to pull down their superiors? What makes men behave so unsuitably to their equals? What makes men look down so on their inferiors? It is the pride of our hearts.

II. But observe, secondly, there is not only a necessity for this precept, but there is an especial suitableness in it. These are addressed as servants of Christ. What a Master! Why, His whole life was one submission; it was subjection to the work and will of God. Observe, even in His intercession, in His exaltation at the right hand of God, it is according to the will of God. And let me remark this one thing more; not only was our Lord one exhibition of subjection to God His Father, but He was subject unto His parents. More than that, He was subject in a sense to His very disciples. Look into that twenty-second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Oh! blessed truth! may we have grace to learn it out! “There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”

III. Now see the extent of the precept. Many seem to say that it means submission to the “powers that be”--those in authority, them that have the rule. But that is not the meaning of this passage; and I cannot see any reason to think so for one moment. It takes it in, certainly; it necessarily includes submission to those who are above us; to him who is our superior in age, our superior in position in the Church, our superior in gifts, or our superior in grace. It takes in submission from the wife to the husband; from the children to the parent; and from the servant to the master. But it includes more; for it includes the duty of submission on every part. It is mutual; it is universal; it not only belongs to one party, but it belongs to all; so that each one of God’s children shall feel the solemn obligation there is for subjection to those around him. What! does this break in on the different ranks of men? By no means. Does this bring the world into confusion? Masters still remain masters; servants still remain servants. Still, the command--“be subject to the powers that be,” “give honour to him to whom honour is due,” is a precept for us to obey. Here, then, we have to consider the respectful and affectionate bearing ordered and enjoined by this portion of God’s Word to all, without distinction; to those our superiors, to those our equals, and to those who we think beneath us. But observe, why is it added, “in the fear of God”? Is not this a motive? Is not self-consideration enough to give us a motive? This man has many infirmities, manifest infirmities; but how little do I know how much grace he receives from the Lord, hour by hour. Perhaps I should take my place at his feet, instead of placing him at my feet. How little do I know how soon he may have to bear my infirmities? How soon may he have to take up my burden! My dear hearers, yet the great motive here is, submitting “in the fear of God.” All these things are motives; yet this motive is especially remarked--“in the fear of God”--as under His eye; remembering, “Thou God seest me.” (J.H. Evans, M.A.)

Mutual condescension

In the words observe--

1. The connection or dependence; for the construction is continued from that clause, “Be filled with the Spirit, submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” The construction is the same. The Spirit’s influence is necessary for the duties of our relations, as well as the duties of worship.

2. The substance of the duty--“Submitting yourselves one to another.” The exhortation is to mutual submission, keeping the order set by God.

3. The manner of performance--“In the fear of God”; that is, so as they would approve themselves to God, who is the author of all order in every community and society of mankind; and to Him we must give an account as our proper Judge (1 Peter 1:17).

That mutual condescension to one another in the duties of our places and relations doth very much become those who are filled with the Spirit.

I. I shall inquire wherein this mutual condescension doth consist? I answer--It may be considered with respect to ecclesiastical, or civil, or economical power.

1. With respect to ecclesiastical power, which must be determined by the nature of that community for which it serveth.

2. There is political or civil power, principally greatness and authority in the civil state. This is the Lord’s ordinance, and must be submitted to for God’s sake (1 Peter 2:13-14).

3. There is economical power; that of the husband, parent, master. There are duties which belong to these relations. Well, then, this submission is by discharging the duties we owe to each relation. But why is this called submission?

II. The graces which are necessary for this, to submit ourselves one to another. It is required that we be filled with the spirit. But I answer--

1. Love, which is the cement of human society; for where love reigneth, there will be mutual service and submission (Galatians 5:13).

2. Humility, which is opposite to fastidiousness, disdain, and contempt (1 Peter 5:5).

3. “The fear of God,” that is in the text. Now this “in the fear of God”--

2. To check our pride, that we may not be ashamed to serve our neighbour in love.

3. To bridle and curb excess of power.

III. I am now to prove that this is an unquestionable duty.

1. It is required in Scripture (Galatians 5:13).

2. I prove it by example. I shall first produce the example of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 13:3; John 13:5).

3. Now I shall give you the reasons of this duty.

1. To prevent contempt. Human nature is incapable of bearing it. Whatsoever rank we are in, we should not despise others, but acknowledge the gifts of God in them.

2. Because there are none living whom God alloweth only to live to themselves. We are all bound to promote the common good.

3. Submitting ourselves to one another is required for a supply of mutual necessities. We lack something that the meanest have; if they have strength for labour, others have wisdom and conduct for government. There must be a contemperation; if some are fitted to serve, those that have wealth should bless God that He hath put them into such an able condition to hire their service; if some have wisdom to contrive, others have elocution to recommend a good design; both must serve one another in love.

4. Because of equality; the equity of this mutual submission is built upon a double equality.

1. The actual equality of all men by nature.

2. The possible equality in the course of God’s providence.

1. To show how much the Christian religion befriendeth human societies; for we owe duties one to another in our several stations. It is neither injurious to princes nor subjects, but it commandeth everyone to do good according to his calling.

2. Where the fear of God is rooted in the heart of any, it will make him tender and careful of his duty to man, and from a right principle and motive, and in a right manner, and to a right end. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Submission for a common cause

When a Scottish chieftain desired to summon his clan, upon any emergency, he slew a goat, and making a cress of any light wood, seared its extremities in the fire, and extinguished them in the blood of the animal. This was called the “Fiery Cross,” or the “Cross of Shame,” because disobedience to what the symbol implied inferred infamy. It was delivered to a swift and trusty messenger, who ran full speed with it to the next hamlet, where he presented it to the principal person, with a single word, implying the place of rendezvous. He who received the symbol was bound to send it forward, with equal despatch, to the next village; and thus it passed with incredible celerity through all the district which owed allegiance to the chief. At sight of the Fiery Cross every man capable of bearing arms was obliged instantly to repair to the place of rendezvous. He who failed to appear suffered the extremities of fire and sword, as indicated by the bloody and burnt marks upon this warlike signal. (Sir Walter Scott.)


Verses 22-24

Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord.

Relation of husband and wife

1.For the duly--“Submit yourselves.” Subjection in the general on God’s part noteth the subordination of one creature to another according to His wise disposal, as the imperfect to the more perfect, and this for the good of both; for it is so ordered, that in all relations comfort and duty shall go together. On our part it is a ready inclination to obey this order set by God; for every creature must know his place, and be content with the order wherein God hath set him. According to this order, submission is required of the wife towards her husband; though she is not to be subject as children to their parents, much less as servants to their masters.

2. The persons--“To your own husbands.”

3. The manner how it is to be done--“As unto the Lord,” i.e., Christ.

Let me show you--

I. Wherein it consisteth. To speak briefly of it, this subjection lieth in two things--in reverence and obedience.

1. In reverence, which is both inward and outward.

2. Obedience: that is showed in many things.

II. The grounds and reasons.

1. The law of nature written by God’s own finger in the hearts of men. We read of those who were heathens, that they enacted a law and decree: “That every man should bear rule in his own house; and that all the women should give honour to the husband, both great and small” (Esther 1:20; Esther 1:22). Indeed, both anciently and to this very day, great is the power of the husbands over their wives in Persia. Now, shall heathens see that which Christians do not?

2. God’s ordination, which a holy heart dareth not disobey. Now, God hath expressly commanded it in His word in the text (so Colossians 3:18).

3. The natural imperfection of the woman. The apostle calleth her “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Abilities of mind are not ordinarily so strong in her as in the man; and they have fewer opportunities than man hath for perfecting their natural parts; and they are not so able to provide for themselves, modesty not permitting them to go up and down in the world.

4. The manner and order of the creation. The woman was made after man, out of man, and for man. God formed man first, and then the woman out of him, and for man’s good (see 1 Timothy 2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

5. From the woman’s being first in the transgression; for this is a part of the sentence: “He shall bear rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).

6. The inconveniences that would ensue if this subjection were taken away. There must be order in every society, without which there followeth division, and thereupon confusion; and a house divided cannot stand.

Use 1. Is reproof to several sorts.

1. Of all those frothy and profane wits who scoff at women’s subjection, and make it a matter of unsavoury mirth. See how misbecoming Christians this is, partly as it is a duty required by God.

2. It reproveth those that dispute against it by manifold cavils; but no reasoning must be allowed against a plain and known duty. Therefore, to prevent these disputes, let me lay down two conclusions--

3. It reproveth them that have no reason to allege but their own imperious and peevish humour causeth them to live discontentedly and disobediently in this relation.

4. It reproveth those husbands that by their own default lose their authority and dignity, and are themselves causes that their own power is lessened and diminished, either by their intemperance, behaving themselves as beasts rather than men, that they are altogether unfit to judge what is meet and good for the family. It is true the husband is to govern, not by fear, but by love. He is the image of Christ in governing His Church, and the wife is not a slave, but a meet help; but this love should not be a snare to him. And it is true the wife should not be despised, for God saith to Abraham, “Hearken to the voice of Sarah.” But there is a difference between hearkening to good counsel, and swallowing a temptation, and being driven to evil by the woman’s imperiousness.

Use 2. Is to exhort wives to submit to their own husbands.

1. The impediments.

2. Motives.

(a) It takes away the reproach of the gospel: “Obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:5). That Christian religion may not be thought to impose anything contrary to moral virtues.

(b) That gainsayers may be won to God: “Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). (T. Manton, D. D.)

A wife’s obedience

Mary, wife of Prince William of Orange, and the heir-apparent to the English throne, was asked what her husband the Prince should be if she became Queen. She called in her husband, and she promised him he should always bear rule; and she asked only that he would obey the command of, “Husbands, love your wives,” as she should do that, “Wives, be obedient to your husbands in all things.” (Littles Historical Lights.)

The terms “husband “and “wife” defined

Did you ever hear the word “husband” explained? It means literally “the band of the house,” the support of it, the person who keeps it together, as a band keeps together a sheaf of corn. There are many married men who are not husbands, because they are not the band of the house. Truly, in many cases, the wife is the husband; far oftentimes it is she who, by her prudence, and thrift, and economy, keeps the house together. The married man who, by his dissolute habits, strips his house of all comfort, is not a husband; in a legal sense he is, but in no other; for he is not a house-band; instead of keeping things together, he scatters them among the pawnbrokers. And now let us see whether the word “wife” has not a lesson too. It literally means a weaver. The wife is the person who weaves. Before our great cotton and cloth factories arose, one of the principal employments in every house was the fabrication of clothing: every family made its own. The wool was spun into thread by the girls, who were therefore called spinsters; the thread was woven into cloth by their mother, who accordingly was called the weaver, or the wife: and another remnant of this old truth we discover in the word “heirloom,” applied to any old piece of furniture which has come down to us from our ancestors, and which, though it may be a chair or bed, shows that a loom was once a most important article in every house. Thus the word “wife” means weaver; and, as Trench well remarks, “in the word itself is wrapped up a hint of earnest, indoor, stay-at-home occupations, as being fitted for her who bears this name.” (Anon.)

The submission of the Christian wife

I. Jesus is the head of His Church.

1. But observe, He is also her governing Head. He has the sole guidance, and direction, and control of her.

2. But He is also her protecting Head.

II. The submission which the Church is enjoined to give to her Head, is the pattern of the subjection which Christian wives are commanded to give their husbands. But what is the nature of the subjection? I know it has its basis in affection; but yet it goes beyond that; it has its basis in the principle of allegiance. The Church owes Christ its allegiance. He is her rightful Lord.

2. But observe, it is the submission of dependency. The Church is essentially dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, then, is the true principle of that subjection, that submission which the Lord enjoins on every Christian wife: to rely upon, and to confide in, the power, wisdom, and love of her husband. To receive from him that which supplies her family with all things needful; and to receive it meekly from him too. To seek her happiness in his smile and in his presence; and to mourn for his absence, and to long for his appearing. To go to him for counsel in difficulties; to give up her own pleasures, and yield up her own will.

III. The extent and limit of this subjection--“In everything.” Not in some things, but in all things; “in everything.” Some of you may say, beloved sisters in Jesus--“In things pleasant I find it not difficult.” Yes, but in things painful. Some of you may say, “In great things I would yield.” Yes, but subjection in little things; in little things; in “everything.” You may say, “When we are alone together, I dare not refuse; but suppose it is in public, then my will goes another way.” In public you are commanded to submit. “Yes,” but you may say, “in things that relate to himself of course I submit; but in things that relate to myself, of course I may act for myself.” For yourself? “In everything,” even as regards yourselves. Yet there is a limit. Is there not a limit? Yes, blessed be God, there is a limit in the very text before us. Observe the twenty-second verse: “as unto the Lord”; no further. Act up to it, but go not beyond it. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Duties enjoined upon the wife

I. Subjection. Look at--

1. The creation--woman was made after, out of, and for, man.

2. The Fall--the woman occasioned it.

3. The history of woman. Does not everything point to her subordination?

II. Reverence.

1. In words--speaking of, to, or before her husband.

2. In actions.

III. Meekness.

IV. Modesty--not adorning herself with dress.

V. Economy and order in household management--freedom from extravagance.

VI. Attention to all that concerns the welfare and comfort of the children, if there be any. For this purpose she must be a keeper at home. (J. A. James.)

Reason for the wife’s subjection to the husband

The words contain a reason of the foregoing precept, both of the matter and manner of the duty. Why subject to their “own husbands”? Why “as unto the Lord”? The reason is taken from the resemblance which the husband carrieth in family government to Christ. In them observe three things--

There is a similitude, though not an exact equality in the case. In handling of this Scripture we must first speak of Christ’s relation to His Church, and then of the husband’s relation to the wife; for first we must consider the pattern before we can state the resemblance. That Jesus Christ is the Church’s Head.

1. Oneness of nature between Him and the Church; for head and members suit. The Church hath such a Head as carrieth conformity with the rest of the members. He and we have one flesh; and so the Godhead, that was at such a distance from us, is brought down in our nature that it might be nearer at hand, and within the reach of our commerce.

2. It implieth an eminency; for the head is the most eminent part of the body. As it is the noblest, so nature hath placed it nearest heaven. The very situation doth in a manner oblige the other parts to show their reverence. So Christ is the Head of She Church, infinitely of much more worth than the Church, as being the only-begotten Son of God.

3. The head is the most illustrious throne of the soul; not only the seat of nerves and senses, but of the memory and understanding: so there is in Christ a fulness of perfection, enabling Him to do all the duties of a Head to such a great and necessitous body as the Church is (Colossians 2:3).

4. It implies authority and power to govern. His excellency giveth Him fitness, but authority, right to rule and govern the Church; to appoint officers, and to make laws that shall universally bind all His people (Matthew 28:18-19).

5. It implies strict union between Him and the Church, such as is between the head and members in the natural body; which union is brought about externally by confederation, or visible owning the covenant, and professing faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.

6. Thence there resulteth a communication of influences.

7. It implies sympathy with His members; there is none of them hurt but it redoundeth to Him (Acts 9:6).

Use 1. If Christ be Head of the Church--

Use 2. Let us make conscience of those duties which this relation bindeth us unto; for if Christ be our Head, we must subject ourselves to Him, and live by His laws.

Use 3. Is comfort to those that are in so near a relation to Christ. He is not only a governing Head, but a quickening Head; giveth life, and strength, and growth (Ephesians 1:22).

II. I come now to handle the second title, “He is the saviour of the body.” He must do the part of a Saviour as well as a Head; and His dominion over the Church is exercised in procuring her good and salvation. Here I shall show you--

First: The nature of it will be known by several distinctions.

1. The notion of a saviour is doubly applied--First, to him that preserveth that which is already made, that it may not perish and return into nothing, or to him that recovereth a thing that is lost out of a state of perdition.

2. That salvation is positive and privative.

3. Salvation is either temporal or eternal.

4. Eternal salvation is either begun or consummate. Salvation begun is attributed to the grace vouchsafed to us in this life; as the grace of justification or sanctification.

5. There is a typical saviour and a real Saviour. The people of God of old were mostly acquainted with the typical salvation.

6. There are some inferior helps or subordinate instruments which are called saviours; but the Saviour, or the original author of all salvation, is Christ.

Secondly: The manner, or the ways and means by which Christ doth accomplish it.

1. By way of satisfaction, because He sayeth us from the guilt of sin, the curse of the law, and the eternal wrath of God, which are the lets and hindrances of our salvation, and could not otherwise be removed by us. So we are said to be saved by His blood (Romans 5:9).

2. By His merit, because He procureth to us the favour of God, and a right to all those blessings which are bestowed on the children of God.

3. By way of efficacy and power, because by His Spirit He doth effect and work in us all those things which belong to salvation.

Use 1. Let us come to Christ for salvation if He be a Saviour; for this is His office. All men would be saved, why then is there no more resort and recourse to Christ?

2. Let us believe the truth of this salvation, and how worthy it is of our deepest thoughts (1 Timothy 1:15).

3. Embrace this salvation in Christ’s own way, and upon His own terms.

4. Leave not this way till you have the evidence in yourselves (1 John 5:8; 1 John 5:10). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The supreme authority of Christ

I. As the Head, Christ is the life of the Church. Head and heart are essential to life of body--latter, blood centre; former, nerve centre. The mere animal life is connected with the heart; but all belonging to higher life depends on head. Paralyze the brain, and all the characteristic features of the life of man fail. Illustrate by the old manner of execution, severing head from body. To keep the head is to keep life; to lose the head is to lose life.

1. This is true of each individual member of the Church. No life as a mere member; no life save as he comes into relation to the head.

2. It is true of the united life of the Church. The harmony that is in the body is only secured through the common share in the life of the Head.

II. As the Head, Christ is the guide of the Church.

III. As the Head, Christ bears the rule in His Church. He alone has the right to make laws for us; and He alone has the right, the power, to preside over their execution. (The Weekly Pulpit.)

The greatness of Christ

The greatness which the apostle commends to Christian wives, is expressly the greatness of Christ. It is His glory and joy to be subject to the Father. “I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me.” “I do always those things which please Him.” There is nothing servile in the meek subjection of a wife to her own husband. The very contrary: it is her crown of beauty. She is counselled to clothe herself with the dignity of Jesus. Moreover, the woman who has married wisely, and who respects her own marriage, puts on authority and walks in freedom, just in proportion as she is subject to her husband. The body can in no other way walk in power and freedom, than by being subject to its own head. The earth is beautiful so long as she is directly subject to her own sun. She no sooner enters upon the path of independence than she becomes cold and gloomy. The more complete her subjection, the greater is her freedom, and the more she sings and rejoices. In like manner, wives will find that subjection to their own husbands is the very law of their freedom and joy. Not only the wife’s reverence, but her love, for her husband, inclines her in this direction. Wherein a wife hesitates to be subject to her husband, she must lose the sense that she is his wife. By an independent course of action, she virtually separates herself, asserts her self-sufficiency, and ceases to respect her wifehood. If she only knew it, the path of subjection, appointed of God for the Christian wife, is an inestimable opportunity and privilege. Therein she will find the most favorable condition possible, for the growth and development of her eternal beauty. On no account let her look upon subjection to her husband as having its end in time. It is a sacred thing. The root of it is in Christ, the flower thereof is in eternity. The hidden wisdom, and the love and beauty of God are being embodied in her daily meekness. “The Lord lifteth up the meek.” “He will beautify the meek with salvation.” Home is the wife’s empire, and she is exhorted to reign there, not after a vulgar or worldly manner, but after a heavenly manner. Her free and loving subjection is a perennial means of grace. She renders it indeed to her husband, but “as unto the Lord.” Many fair appearances are deceitful; but the beautiful deportment of a Christian wife is even more beautiful within than without. Jesus hides Himself under the veil of her quiet habit. By her own obedience she rules her household. There is an air of majesty about her. Steadfast in piety, and self-possessed, an atmosphere of unknown power encircles her. Her husband may, or may not, appreciate her sovereign humility. The Lord notes it. In His sight it is an ornament of great price. It is fragrant to the angels. Her thousand private acts, lost to common observation, are written in heaven. Many an excellent wife, buried in deepest obscurity, and withal, sorely tried, is yet sweetly fulfilling her course. Her fair monument, all unknown to herself, is being built in the presence of the Lord. Pure-hearted woman! she will do her husband nothing but “good all the days of her life.” He may “safely trust in her,” as in the quicker soul of his soul, the secret heart of his heart. (J. Pulsford.)

The manner of wifely subjection

Here the apostle inferreth the conclusion from the foregoing argument. In the proposal of this conclusion two things are considerable--

1. The manner how this subjection is to be performed--“As the Church is subject to Christ.”

2. The extent; unlimited, “In everything”: that is, in everything that is lawful and belonging to her duty.

1. Let us state the nature of the subjection of the Church of Christ.

2. Give the reasons of it. In stating the subjection to Christ we must consider--

First: The foundation is Christ’s authority. The primitive sovereign is God; the sovereign by derivation is Christ the Mediator, in His manhood united to the second person in the Godhead. He is Lord, not as Creator but Redeemer, which kind of authority accrueth to Him by His own merit and purchase (Romans 14:9). Concerning it observe two things--

1. It is superadded to the former sovereignty and dominion, which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost had as Creator. This new dominion and sovereignty is not destructive Of the former, but accumulative.

2. This authority and dominion which the Redeemer is possessed of is comfortable and beneficial to us; and the end and effect of it was our cure and recovery. Secondly:--The nature of this subjection. It consisteth of two things--

Thirdly: The properties of this subjection and obedience.

1. It is a willing subjection and obedience: “Thy people shall be a willing people in the day of Thy power” (Psalms 110:3). They voluntarily submit themselves to the Son of God as their Prophet, Lord, and Sovereign.

2. It is a thankful subjection and obedience. The design of God in the work of redemption was to lay a foundation of the highest thankfulness; therefore the obedience to our Redeemer must be a thankful obedience. A mere law, as a law, requireth obedience; but a benefit, as a benefit, requireth thankfulness. Join both notions together, and then you will see it is a thankful obedience we are called unto.

3. This subjection must be constant unto the death (Revelation 2:10).

4. Our subjection must be dutiful, and with great reverence.

5. Our subjection must be universal and unlimited, having respect to all His commandments (Psalms 119:6 and Colossians 4:12). It is not enough to do some things required by Christ, but the Church must be regulated by Him in all things. If we would be contented with a little of Christ, we should soon despatch our business. The world will yield to a little of Christ; they will prize His name when they neglect His office; they will embrace the outward form of His religion when they hate the power: they will value and esteem and desire His benefits, but they despise His laws; they will attend upon external duties, but neglect private or inward acts of grace; they will seem to acknowledge the general duties, but as to particulars questioned or assaulted in the age they live in, they desire to be excused; but a gracious heart reverenceth everything that carrieth the stamp of Christ upon it, and in everything desires to submit to Him.

II. I shall give the reasons of it; though they be evident already in stating the nature of this subjection, yet I shall add more.

1. Because obedience is the best impression or stamp of our religion upon us.

2. This obedience is the qualification of those that, shall have benefit by Christ. That is evident in the same chapter: “He is the Author of eternal salvation to those that obey Him” (verse 9).

On the contrary, vengeance is threatened on those “that obey not the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

1. Consider whom it is we call you to obey: Jesus Christ, who--

2. Consider wherein we are to obey Him; in things just and equal. He only lays necessary laws upon us.

3. Consider why this obedience is required. Christ doth not rule us for our hurt and ruin, but for our conduct. His conduct and government is to lead us to eternal life, and when you disobey Him, you forsake your own happiness.

Use 1. To persuade the people of God to live in a more perfect and exact obedience to His will.

1. It is more perfidious for you to disobey Him, that have given up yourselves by a serious covenant made with God, renouncing sin, and devoting yourselves to the will of God (1 Peter 1:14).

2. You have received the sanctifying Spirit, and begun this work (1 Peter 1:22). Others offer violence to their duty, but you to your nature.

3. You make a profession of being in relation to Christ as your Lord, and therefore you should live in a strict obedience to His holy will (Luke 6:46).

4. You know what the will of God is more than others, and therefore, if you disobey it, you will be beaten with many stripes (Luke 12:47).

5. You have found Him a Saviour; and therefore you should not stick to obey Him as a Lord. We have seen the pattern; Christ the pattern of the husband’s preeminence, the Church the pattern of the wife’s subjection. Now it is easy to accommodate these things.

First: The husband is the head of the wife.

1. As the head is more eminent than the rest of the members Of the body, so there is an eminency and superiority in the husband because of his sex! “The head of the woman is the man, and the Head of the man is Christ, and the Head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Man is superior in dignity and authority, as the head is above the body.

2. As the head hath power over the body to rule it and direct it, so it noteth his authority and power of government.

3. As the head is the seat of the senses and understanding, so the husband should be furnished with some complete measure of knowledge and prudence (1 Peter 3:7).

Use 2. Direction to husbands.

1. They ought to resemble Christ, whose image they bear--

2. If the husband, by being the head of the wife, bear Christ’s image, then this image must not be defaced nor despised.

Secondly: The wife’s subjection--“As the Church is subject to Christ.” Where observe the manner--

1. A righteous subjection, not a slavish.

2. A willing subjection, not grudging.

3. A dutiful subjection. (T. Manton, D. D.)


Verses 22-33

Verses 23-32

Verses 25-27

Ephesians 5:25-27

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church.

The love of Jesus for His Church

I. The chosen Church, the object of the Saviour’s love.

1. Observe what this Church was by nature. Sinful.

2. Nay, more, this Church of Christ is made up of persons who are actually defiled by their own transgressions.

3. The kind of love which Jesus bestows on His Church is that of a husband.

II. The work which love seeks to accomplish in its gracious designs. Since the Church is not fit for Christ by nature, He resolved to make her so by grace. When the text says, “He gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it,” is there not allusion here to the double cure of sin? But what is the outward instrumentality which Christ uses? The text says, “With the washing of water by the Word.” The Word of God has a cleansing influence.

III. The loved one as she is perfected. “Glorious.” What must a glorious Church be? There is one lamp; well, that is very bright, very pleasing: you like to have it in your room; but think of all London illuminated to the very top of the cross of St. Paul’s, and what an idea you then have of brightness. Now, one glorified Christian is a lamp. Think, then, of all heaven, with its domes of glory lit up with ten thousand times ten thousand companies of blood-bought spirits, whom Jesus Christ has taken up--a glorious Church! One flower is very sweet. I smell its perfume. But I walk into some vast conservatories, into some gentleman’s garden, acres in extent, and there are beds of flowers, the blue, and scarlet, and yellow. I see the verbena, the calceolaria, and the geranium and many others, all in order, and in ranks. Oh, how glorious is this! Those undulating lawns, those well-trimmed hedges, those trees so daintily kept, all growing in such luxuriance. One flower is sweet, but a garden! a garden! who can tell how sweet this is! So, one glorified saint is one of God’s flowers, but a glorious Church is Christ’s garden. A drop of water may be very precious to a thirsty tongue, but a river full of it! Children are pleased, when for the first time in their lives they sail across some little lake, but how surprised they are when they come to the deep and rolling sea, which seems without shore or bottom. Well, so pleased am I at the very thought of the glorious Church. But do observe what is said of her. She is to be “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” “Without spot”--that is much; but you see spots can be taken off. The face is washed, and the spot comes out. The garment is thoroughly cleansed, and there are some chemicals and acids applied, and the spots can be got out.

IV. And lastly, the loved one is to be presented. It is said, He is “to present her to Himself.” Every day Christ presents His people to His Father in His intercession. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ’s love for the Church

I. In stating and defining this love, I will take notice--

1. Of the general nature of it.

2. The degree.

3. The effects.

First: The general nature of love is the delectation and complacency of the heart in the party loved, from whence followeth a desire of their good, and a seeking and promoting of it to the uttermost of our power. So the husband must love the wife, that his heart may cleave to her, and take delight in her; as it is said: “The young man had a delight in Jacob’s daughter” (Genesis 34:19).

Secondly: The degree.

1. There is a common love which belongeth to believers of either sex, as brothers and sisters in Christ (John 13:34).

2. It is alone, which in some respects exceedeth that we owe to our parents and other near relations (Genesis 2:24).

3. It carrieth it higher yet. They ought to “love their wives as their own bodies; for he that loveth his wife, loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:28).

4. As Christ loved the Church. The husband for his pattern of conjugal love is referred to Christ, partly for the degree of his love, and partly for the kind of it.

Thirdly: The effects of it.

1. Delight in her presence and company; not suffering himself to be separated from her for any long time, unless it be for necessary cause. Those that find more pleasure in converse abroad than at home certainly do not heartily love one another, though no filthy and prohibited act should ensue from this liberty which they take.

2. The second act or effect of love is, to direct and instruct in all things that belong to this life and a better, for therefore he is called “a head”; and the office of the head is to guide the body.

3. In providing all things necessary for them that conduce to health, food, and raiment, and that according to the decency and decorum of their estate; for herein they imitate the care and providence of Christ, who hath provided all things for His spouse; food for their souls, garments of salvation to cover their nakedness, healing grace to cure their distempers. So must the husband do for his wife.

4. In a care to preserve and defend her. As Abraham of Sarah (Genesis 20:1-18).

II. Let us now see by what reasons this is enforced.

1. The order of the creation. We pleaded that before for the woman’s submission, that she was made out of man, after man, and for man. We plead the same argument now for the husband’s duty of love to her; for the apostle urgeth this in the same chapter (1 Corinthians 11:11-12).

2. It is a relation of love, instituted by God for that very end and purpose.

3. Reason will tell us how much the husband is bound to love her that hath in a manner forsaken all the world, father, and mother, and all her relations, to cleave to her husband, and to share with him in all conditions until death, although she were free before the contract. Surely common gratitude will suggest that a recompense of true affection is due to her for this; otherwise men are unthankful, unholy, and without natural affection, which is the worst character can be given to them.

4. The interest and comfort of the married estate will also persuade it. While love is kept up, all things go on sweetly; but as soon as love faileth, presently everything is out of order and out of joint; for when once they begin to disaffect the persons of each other, all matrimonial duties are stabbed at the heart.

Use 1. To reprove that which is contrary to this love, bitterness and harshness of carriage: “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter to them” (Colossians 3:19). The gall was taken out of the sacrifices offered to Juno, as Plutarch witnesseth. This is seen--

1. Partly in a froward disposition, when men are offended for light causes or small provocations, and, like fine glasses, broken as soon as touched.

2. In sharp words and contumelious language, which leaveth such a grudge and such averseness in the mind as is not easily forgiven. Certainly such bitter speeches must needs destroy all love and breed an unquiet life.

3. Churlish deeds also show this bitterness.

Use 2. To persuade to this love.

1. Choose one that is amiable. Prevention is better than cure.

2. Marry not till you be sure you can love entirely.

3. Love not as bare husbands, but as Christians.

4. Avoid giving offence.

5. Exercise patience.

Make conscience of your duty, and God will give you strength. Secondly: Now I come to Christ’s love; in which we have--

There are solemn notions by which Christ’s death is set forth--a ransom and a sacrifice.

(a) A ransom: “And gave His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

(b) As a sacrifice, a mediatorial sacrifice: “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10; Ephesians 5:2). Great love it was, if we consider--

1. The giver, Jesus Christ, God over all, blessed forever, to whom nothing can accrue from us: “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11). When He foresaw what it would cost, and what He should give, He said, “It is enough.”

2. The gift--He gave Himself: “We are not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Son of God” (1 Peter 1:18).

3. “For us,” whom He after calleth into a Church (Romans 5:6-8). Oh, let us be blessing God for this love, and show our thankfulness both in word and deed.

The glory of the Church

I. Christ’s love for His Church. Love which has in it no element of evil is always a very beautiful, tender, and impressive thing. Whether it is the love of the babe for her doll, or the love of the older children for the babe, or the blessed love of the mother for all her children, it is still the same exquisite, joy-giving sentiment. It is a rose of the same loveliness and fragrance whether it bloom amid the splendours of royal gardens or in the cottager’s door yard; it is the nightingale which sings in the night the same song for prince and peasant. Who can read without increased tenderness in his heart the story of the mother who, overtaken by a terrible storm in the Alps, sat down at last in the snow, bared her own tender bosom to the storm, and wrapped her cloak carefully around her babe? The storm raged on, and the poor mother, stripped of her heavy outer garments, died; but the babe was found alive, and greeted its deliverer with a smile. There are deeds of power which elicit more boisterous applause, but there are none which more invoke what is holiest in our nature than these exhibitions of conspicuous love. But, conspicuous and beautiful as these examples are, we feel when we read this text, and others to the same effect, that Christ’s love for His Church is something transcendent--something unparalleled. We sometimes think the night is glorious, and so it is, with the moon shining in her full splendour; but when the sun rises the moon fades away into the intenser light. So does the love of Christ outshine all other love. The text makes concerning this love but this simple record, He loved the Church, “and gave Himself for it.” The record is brief, but it is enough; we know from it that the love was infinite. The Alpine mother did much, and suffered much for bet babe; but there was a little possibility, and, therefore, a little hope, that some good monk would come that way and save both her and her babe alive; and even had she formally resolved on death for the infant’s sake, it would have been but a finite sacrifice. The father did much for his boy when he dashed into the burning house to rescue him; but that was frenzy, the transient ecstasy of love, and it was for his own boy, not for a stranger, much less an enemy. But Christ’s love for His Church was a deliberate plan, not entered upon in an hour of frenzy, but in calm counsel in the eternal sunshine of heaven, and it was executed through slow-going years of persecution, that the very men who lacerated Him with whips, and thorns, and nails, might be washed in the blood they shed, and come thereby to the “fellowship of the firstborn.”

II. The character of the Church which Christ thus loved. The Church is described in the text by the general word “glorious”: and more particularly by the terms “cleanse and sanctify it with the washing of water by the Word”; and “not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth has a glorious character.

1. She has a glorious origin--is a child of heaven. She “was not born of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Her Father is a Spirit, and this child has, in this respect, her Father’s character. Her beauty is not material, like the beauty of a flower; it is spiritual, like the beauty of the archangels. Her power is not material, like that of the mountain oak, which, though it defies the tempests of a century, wanes at last from decay; her power is of God, and is like God, not in extent, but in kind: it is spiritual power, and defies all time and change.

2. She has a glorious history. Sometimes it has been a history of persecution, and sometimes of victory; and it is difficult to tell which virtue is most conspicuous, her fidelity in persecution or her meekness in triumph.

3. Now at length the Church is glorious in power--in the power which comes of wealth; in the power which comes of learning and literature; in the power which comes of numbers, and of numbers organized; in the power which comes of many edifices and splendid architecture; in the power which comes of elegance, and wealth, and refinement in private life. God grant that this power may not decay through disuse, nor make itself a curse by being perverted I

4. The Church is glorious in her universal adaptations.

III. The destiny of this glorious and much loved Church. My text says, “That He might present it to Himself.” The figure used is evidently that of an oriental wedding. The bridegroom has a friend, called a paranymph, whose duty it is to find him a bride, to secure an introduction, to prepare for the nuptials, and to be in close attendance on the wedding night. St. Paul evidently has in his mind the figure of a marriage. But Christ is to be His own paranymph, “that He might present it to Himself.” This is a favourite figure with Christ and His disciples. He is the Bridegroom and the Church the bride. Just when the nuptials are to be celebrated we do not know, but the entrance of this glorious Church upon her glorious destiny as the Lamb’s wife is to be an event before which all other nuptials shall be as the glimmer of a candle in the light of a midsummer sun. John had a glimpse of the sublime scene in his wondrous vision on Patmos; and as the angel opened out this scene of unparalleled magnificence, this destiny of infinite sweep and indescribable glory, it was more than the spirit of the enraptured seer could endure. He perhaps saw himself in that Church; he, one day a poor fisherman on the shore of Tiberias, now an exile from his native land, he should be there; the shout of the archangel and the trump of God should salute his ear: the rider of “the white horse,” the Man of the nameless name, with eyes “like a flame of fire” and “vesture dipped in blood,” should come even to him; he should be at His wondrous marriage supper. It was more than he could endure. He fell adoring at the angel’s feet; the visions had so intensified the glory of the angel himself that John thought it had been God. But the angel said, “See thou do it not. Worship God.” This, then, is to be the glorious destiny of this glorious Church--she shall become the bride of the Lamb. The purest thing on earth shall marry the King of kings and Lord of lords. The bride shall live with her Husband, and be under His protection forever. (J. H. Bayliss.)

Christ’s love to His Church

I. The fact. “Christ loved the Church.” I would begin by remarking that the Church of God--the reality of a true Church--is a thing quite unknown to the world. The world talks about Churches, the glory of a Church, and the beauty of a Church; but it does not know what a Church is; it has no true perception of what a Church of Christ is. If there be any gleaming of light upon the point, so far as it sees it, it dislikes it, hates it, despises it. We fully acknowledge that the Church of Christ is just like its Author; it has “no form nor comeliness” in the eyes of the world, and “no beauty that men should desire it”; and so, like Himself, it is “despised and rejected of men.” It has no outward splendour; it has no earthly glory; it has nothing in it, wherefore men should gaze, look at it, bow before it. But who can describe, notwithstanding, its true glory, and the love that Jesus has to it? He loved it in all eternity. Language seems altogether to fail in describing the love that Jesus has to His Church. It seems exhausted. Does an eagle “bear her brood upon her wings”?--not only to teach them, and not only to nourish them, but to protect them, so that the arrow that toucheth them must touch her, and come through her, before they can be destroyed. This is the figure that sets forth His love to His Church. Does a father “pity his child,” when others can hardly bear with him, “remembering that he is but dust”? It is the very figure that sets forth the love of Jesus to His Church.

II. The proof He has given of His love. He “gave Himself for it.”

1. Who it was that gave Himself. No mean person, no ordinary individual, no common being; but the Son of God.

2. What it was that He gave. It was not His mere tears, nor groans, nor sighs: though the Lord Jesus was “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He gave Himself--His whole self. He gave His Deity, He gave His humanity; He gave the whole of His Person as God-Man; all that was in man to suffer, and all that was in God to merit. And this He gave freely.

3. And now observe, for what it was that He gave Himself. We find it in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians--He “gave Himself for our sins.” Two or three remarks, and I close. Here is a door of unutterable consolation opened to us, in the midst of a world of desolation. I see the blessed Jesus giving the most unspeakable proofs of His love. But another door opens: it is the door of solemn inquiry. If the Church of God is so dear to Him, what do you and I for the Church of God? (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Christ’s love to the Church

I. The love of Christ to His Church. “Christ loved the Church.” What else than love could have selected, pardoned, purified, and redeemed the Church? What other feeling could have stooped to such guilt, and raised it to such glory? As a Divine love to a creature so far beneath Him, what matchless condescension there is in it! It is a love of the sinner, but it attempts no compromise with his sin. “Christ loved the Church,” and He walked in that Church in the radiance of love. Thoughts of love nestled in His heart; words of love lingered on His lips; deeds of love flew from His arm; and His steps left behind them the impress of love. It threw its soft halo over His cradle at Bethlehem, and it fringed with its mellow splendours the gloom of the cloud under which He expired on Calvary. It gave edge to His reproofs, and pathos to His invitations. It was the magnet that guided Him in all His wanderings. It bound Him to the cross and held Him there, and not the iron nail that pierced His hands and His feet. It thrilled in His bosom, and glistened in His eye. Yes: “Christ … love,” said the dying philosopher, “Jesus Christ--love--the same thing.”

II. The sacrifice as the expression and result of love. In the stead of the Church He died, to deliver her from death, the sentence which so righteously lay upon her.

III. The nearer purpose of his love and death. That death not only affects our state, but also tells upon our character. He died to sanctify the Church. Not only does He originate the change, but He sustains it; for He “abides” within us. What He commences, He still fosters and perfects.

IV. The ultimate end and result. With what delight and satisfaction will we not now contemplate the ulterior purpose of these preliminary arrangements--“That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” How noble such a destiny--perfect restoration and felicity. The nuptial figure is still continued, and the allusion is to the presentation of the bride to her husband. That presentation does not take place till he can look upon her with complacency. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Christ’s love for the Church, and our duty as members of it

What a broad scope of thought is embraced in these few words! The Church militant, labouring, suffering, upon earth? the Church cleansed, purified, glorified, in heaven! The apostle, at a single glance, seemed to see it all. And--

I. First, I remark, that we should love the Church.

II. Again: We should not only love the Church but labour for it. The word itself suggests the idea of unceasing effort and self-sacrifice. But it is not enough to love the Church and to labour in its behalf, we must likewise be willing--

III. To suffer for it. There is no great difficulty in avoiding unpleasant differences with the world, if we do nothing to thwart and oppose it.

IV. Once more. Every true child of God should be willing, if need be, to fight for the Church. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Christ’s love for the Church

I. The Church’s polluted condition without Christ.

II. Christ’s love to the Church.

1. The antiquity of it (Jeremiah 31:3).

2. An active and operative love (Galatians 1:4).

3. A real and sincere love (Hosea 2:4).

4. An entire and undivided love (John 17:26).

5. A lasting and constant love (John 13:1).

III. The evidences of this love.

1. He established and perfected the Church before God (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

2. By bringing her into a state of union with His person (1 Corinthians 6:15).

3. He thoroughly justifies her by His blood and His righteousness:

4. He animates her by the grace of His Holy Spirit.

5. His love constrainedly operates in her heart.

6. He does it by the instrumentality of His word.

7. The administrations of His appointed ministers.

8. In remarkable providences, at some times.

9. By painful afflictions at others.

10. But especially by His Spirit, in, and by all things.

IV. The effects of this wondrous love.

1. Glorious from its nature and worth (Malachi 3:17).

2. Glorious from the estimation in which God holds her (Deuteronomy 32:9).

3. Glorious from her connection (John 17:22-23).

4. Glorious, because she is free from spot, wrinkle, and the slightest mark of blemish.

This appears from--

1. The wisdom which directs--Christ.

2. The righteousness which justifies--Christ’s.

3. The perfection of her sanctification--Christ.

4. By her complete and eternal exemption from every charge of all her enemies, even by Christ.

Inferences--

1. How completely this demolishes all ideas of human merit.

2. And secures to Jesus Christ all the glory of our salvation. (T. B. Baker.)

Marriage and the heavenly Bridegroom

Adhering to the arrangement of topics in the text, we will speak first of the wife’s duty of obedience and then of the husband’s duty of love.

I. “Order is heaven’s first law.” Every portion of the universe knows its own place, and fulfils its proper function. There can be no happiness amongst mankind without due subordination. A state of society is impossible without this. So the apostle says, “Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” On the knowledge of each one’s true place and the rendering by each of what is due to others, the welfare both of nations and families depends. St. Paul, after laying down the general principle of mutual submission, illustrates and enforces it in the case of wives. They are to “submit themselves to their own husbands as unto the Lord.” This submission is based on the fact that God has made man the head of the woman. Whatever may be said--and much may be said justly of woman’s rights--this fact of the man’s headship remains, and ever will; established both by nature and revelation, by God’s works and God’s Word. There are features in which woman is very superior to man. The fact remains--that man, as such, is generally the stronger both in body and will. This indicates where authority should reside. Where two or more persons are concerned occasions arise when there must be precedence. Both cannot go first when only one can go at a time. What shall be the law? Among nations and in families authority and power must go together. For what is authority without power to enforce it? The inspired apostle urges as an additional argument that man was created before the woman, but that woman sinned before the man. “I suffer not a woman to usurp authority over the man. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:12-13). The true glory of all things is the accomplishment of the end for which they were designed. The highest honour of every living creature--of men and of angels--is that each occupies aright his own proper sphere--develops his own proper functions--and does not aim at being something else, and doing what appertains to another. Woman, therefore, dishonours and disfigures herself when she attempts to occupy the place of man--aping his dress, his occupations, or his authority; just as a man would make himself contemptible if, laying aside his proper dress and functions, he were to array himself in womanly garments, affect feminine manners, and occupy his time in the details of the household, and the cares of the nursery. The ivy has its beauty, as it gracefully twines around the oak; but were it to become stiff and rigid, and ape the robustness and strength of the tree to which it clings, while it would never become an oak, it would lose all its own special charms. Let it still cling there--following the oak’s growth, leaning on it, finding its stability and life in it, while it clothes the oak’s strength and ruggedness with grace and beauty. This submission does not mean subservience, the denial of a woman’s individuality, the having no opinion or wish of her own, and properly urging it. No true man would value his wife for ceasing to be herself. Instead of a companion and counsellor she would only be his echo or his shadow. And this submission will be a delight, when rendered, not only from a consideration of the laws of nature, or the express precept of the Bible, but from that love which is the best bond and guarantee of order; that love without which the marriage relationship should not be formed; that love which renders obedience a luxury, and which itself is the fulfilling of the law. On the other hand, if husbands love their wives as Christ also loved the Church, authority will be divested of all austerity.

II. If the husband is to maintain his just authority, so also is he, and in the first instance, bound to make Christ’s love for the Church the model of his own. Other motives are superadded. Love to a wife is love to one’s self, and neglect or unkindness towards her is as unnatural on the part of a husband as if he inflicted injury on his own body. “He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” If the standard of the wife’s obedience is high, equally so is that of the husband’s love: in both cases it is Christ--obedience as to Christ; love, as that of Christ. The relation of Christ to the Church as the heavenly Bridegroom is seen in His love to the Church, His gift to the Church, His treatment of the Church, and His ultimate purpose towards the Church.

1. The love of the Heavenly Bridegroom to the Church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church.” Love is the foundation, the cement, the glory of marriage. There is no true marriage in the absence of it. So, the love of Christ is the origin and the abiding cause of His connection with the Church.

2. The Bridegroom’s gift. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” Gold and jewels and costly array are given to a bride. But what are all these in comparison to the bridegroom himself, when the marriage is one of affection? So Christ gave Himself; a donation which infinitely transcends all the universe besides. In personal fidelity and devotion husbands should love their wives, “even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.”

3. The Bridegroom’s treatment of the Church. “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” The greatest glory of the universe is God, and our greatest glory is our resemblance to God. Christ can do no greater work for us and in us than promoting such resemblance. This He does by the sanctifying influences of the truth through the operation of the Holy Spirit, which is compared to the cleansing of the body by water. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean.” So giving himself to his wife, the husband should ever watch over and promote her health and comfort of body, her peace of mind, her purity of heart, her religious, spiritual, and eternal welfare: “even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it.”

4. The Bridegroom’s ultimate purpose. “That He might present it to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Let us learn these practical lessons:

1. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church. As the Church is subject to Christ so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

2. Christians, the Bride of Jesus, do not frustrate His gracious purpose by wilful sin. Seek the cleansing of His atoning blood and the daily baptism of His Holy Spirit.

3. Obey Christ “As the Church is subject to Christ.” Obey His laws, honour His authority, imitate His example.

4. Delight in Christ. Think of His love. Respond to it. Exult in it.

5. Anticipate with holy rapture the heavenly espousals; and “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Newman Hall, LL. B.)

Marriage and holiness

Philip Henry’s advice to his children with respect to their marriage was--“Please God, and please yourselves, and you will please me”; and his usual compliment to his newly married friends--“Others wish you all happiness. I wish you all holiness, and then there is no doubt but you will have all happiness.”

Sanctified marriage

Rev. Robert Newton, the Wesleyan pulpit orator, and his bride, began their married life by retiring twice each day to pray with and for each other. This practice they kept up, when opportunity served, to the end of life. When an old man, Mr. Newton remarked, “In the course of a short time, my wife and I shall celebrate the jubilee of our marriage; and I know not that, during the fifty years of our union, an unkind look or an unkind word has ever passed between us.”

A man cannot love his wife too much

A gentleman informing Rowland Hill of the sudden death of a minister’s wife happened to say, “I am afraid our dear minister loved his wife too well; and the Lord in wisdom has removed her.” “What, sir!” replied Mr. Hill, with the deepest feeling, “can a man love a good wife too much? Impossible, sir! unless he can love her better than Christ loves the Church.”

Lord Lawrence and his wife

The following appears in the “Life of Lord Lawrence,” published by Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co.:--“Lord Lawrence married after his return to England, at the end of a long and tedious illness, and he was warned that it was death to go back to India. His answer was, ‘If I cannot live in India, I must go and die there’; and the newly married couple sailed accordingly. The marriage proved a very happy one. Mrs. Lawrence constantly acted as her husband’s adviser and amanuensis, she seldom left his side, and her company became almost indispensible to him. A story is told of them, long afterwards, when they had come back to settle finally in England. Lady Lawrence had left the room; and twice in the course of a few minutes her husband asked what had become of her. ‘Why, really, John,’ said one of his sisters, ‘it would seem as if you could not get on for five minutes without your wife.’ ‘That was what I married her for,’ he answered, simply.”

“The Church loved, washed, presented

A pearl of dew will not hold the sun, but it may hold a spark of its light. A child by the sea trying to catch the waves as they dash in clouds of crystal spray upon the sand cannot hold the ocean in a tiny shell, but he can hold a drop of the ocean water. And in this sense the apostle exhorts, “Love, even as Christ also loved.”

I. The love of Christ. In human love we perceive much to be admired, but in that of God there is a something which eludes our grasp when we endeavour to fathom it, and battles our conception as we try to find it out. God only knows the love of God.

1. The Divine love is sovereign and supreme. All the attributes of God are glorious, but one shines above the rest and seems to gather up into itself all the others, viz., love. God is love.

2. The practicalness of Christ’s love. It was not a mere sentiment; it led him to give Himself--the most precious gift that could be offered--for man. Christ was not only a preacher, but a sacrifice; He not only talked, but died.

II. The sublime design of Christ’s love. Christ loved the world before ever there was a Church in it, and determined out of the very ruins of the Fall to build up for Himself a Temple worthy of being inhabited by Himself. You remember when Edward I received a wound one day from a poisoned dagger, his wife, Eleanor, sucked out the poison, venturing her own life to save her husband’s. Even so, when humanity had been stung by the foul and deadly serpent, sin, Christ came forth and volunteered to extract the poison, although the effort cost Him His life. He sacrificed much, in order to show His love for the race who had rebelled and become polluted by sin. And herein is the mystery of godliness.

1. Christ loved the Church because He had determined to effect upon it a mighty transformation. He saw the possibilities of human nature, and the resplendent future to which it was heir by His grace.

1. Cleansing.

2. Presentation to Himself.

He has sought His beloved, and redeemed her from the bondage of sin--redeemed her by no less a price than that of His own most precious blood. He has espoused and called her His, even here, and now, watching over her with fond affection, and supplying all her wants. But the grand presentation day will dawn by and by--the glorious manifestation of the Church, which is His bride. And as on earth there is often jubilation and pomp attending the nuptial feast, so shall the marriage of the Lamb be the signal for untold joy and unutterable splendours amongst the ranks of the heavenly host. And, moreover, as the earthly bride is exalted to the same dignity, and enjoys the immunities and wealth of her husband, so the Church will share the honours and glories of her Husband and Lord. Impossible! do you say, that such can be the destiny of the often poor, despised, and persecuted Church? Ah, brethren, it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. The day of presentation has not yet come--the day of maturity, perfection, and bloom; but come it shall! When the gardener buries the cold, rough, apparently dead bulb in the damp mould, you might in your ignorance be tempted to say, “There, now, that is cast aside, and will never be heard of more.” You have not, however, long to wait, ere a magnificent flower springs from the unsightly bulb, a flower fit for presentation, perchance, in the palace of royalty itself. Thus has it been, and thus will it be, with the Church. Full often she has been cast down, and trodden under foot, and despised by the nations, who thought they had buried her in oblivion. But no, she has ever sprung again into renewed life and beauty, like the fair flower of which I spoke, and the time of her presentation will be by and by. Nothing can hinder it. He who hath formed His people for Himself controls all adverse as well as auspicious influences; and having set His heart upon His chosen, they shall be His for evermore. (J. W. Atkinson.)

A glorious Church

I. The Church is glorious even now.

1. Glorious in its foundation (Ephesians 2:20).

2. Glorious in its progress, Although the storms of persecution have beat upon it, yet doth the building rise. Like the ark on the wild waters, it hath safely outridden the fury of every storm till now, nay, hath only been landed on its firm Ararat of rest by the very force of the revolutionary wave.

3. Glorious in its ever-growing empire.

4. Glorious in power in the power which comes from wealth, in the power which comes from learning and literature--in the power which comes of numbers, and of numbers organized--in the power which comes of many edifices and splendid architecture--in the power which comes of elegance, and wealth, and refinement, in private life.

II. The Church will be more glorious yet on the day of presentation.

1. Glorious in position, immunities, and honour. Though now often poor, despised, and persecuted, she shall then be proclaimed the Lamb’s wife, and be lifted up to sit with Christ on His throne.

2. Glorious in holiness and purity.

3. Glorious in bliss. If pure it must also be happy; for only the pure can be truly glad. Heaven is a very gladsome and blessed place. Its trees are green forever. Its rivers and seas are clear as crystal. Its music is an eternal symphony. Its light is brighter than the sun--it is the light of purity and bliss. (J. W. Atkinson.)

The pattern of love

I. How Christ loved His Church.

1. A love of choice, and special regard.

2. A love of unselfishness.

3. A love of complacency.

4. A. love of sympathy.

5. A love of communion.

6. A love of unity.

7. A love of immutable constancy.

II. How He proved His love.

1. He gave Himself to His Church by leaving heaven and becoming incarnate that He might assume her nature.

2. He gave Himself throughout His life on earth by spending all His strength to bless His beloved.

3. He gave Himself in death; the ransom for His Church.

4. He gave Himself in His eternal life; rising, ascending, reigning, pleading; and all for the Church of His choice.

5. He gave Himself in all that He now is as God and Man, exalted to the throne, for the endless benefit of His beloved Church.

III. How we should think of it. It is set before us as a love which should influence our hearts. We should think of it--

1. In a way of gratitude, wondering more and more at such love.

2. In a way of obedience, as the wife obeys the husband.

3. In a way of reverence. Looking up to love so great, so heavenly, so perfect, so Divine.

4. In a way of holiness. Rejoicing to be like our Holy Husband.

5. In a way of love. Yielding our whole heart to Him.

6. In a way of imitation. Loving Him, and others for His sake. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Conjugal love

“Let all things be done in love,” saith the apostle. If all thy actions towards others, then, much more all things that concern thy wife, should be done in love. Thy thoughts should be thoughts of love; thy looks should be looks of love, thy lips, like the honeycomb, should drop nothing but sweetness and love; thy instructions should be edged with Jove; thy reprehensions should be sweetened with love; thy carriage and whole conversation towards her should be but the fruit and demonstration of thy love. Oh, how did Christ, who is thy pattern, love His spouse! His birth, life, and death were but, as it were, a stage whereon the hottest love imaginable, from first to last, acted its part to the life. It was a known, unknown love. Tiberius Gracchus, the Roman, finding two snakes in his bed, and consulting with the soothsayers, was told that one of them must be killed; yet, if he killed the male, he himself would die shortly; if the female, his wife would die. His love to his wife, Cornelia, was so great, that he killed the male, saith Plutarch, and died quickly. (George Swinnock.)

The final glory of the Church

I. In describing the future condition of the Church, the apostle has evidently in his mind two previous states of it--its original state when lying dead in trespasses and sins, and its subsequent earthly state, when separated from the mass of the ungodly and partially redeemed.

II. He points out the causes to which it is to be ascribed. Of these he mentions four.

1. The first is the love of Christ. He “loved the Church.”

2. The next is the sacrifice of Christ. He “gave Himself for it.”

3. Hence the apostle goes on to bring before us the Holy Spirit as a third source to which the Church must ascribe its future holiness.

4. And how does the Holy Spirit carry on this cleansing process? The text shows us, and its answer to the question reminds us of the fourth means of our sanctification--the Word of God. “The washing of water,” is “by the Word.”

III. We have to go on now to our last point--the great end for which all these means of holiness are brought into operation. It is, we are told, to “sanctify and cleanse” the Church. But why is the Church to be thus sanctified? What is the ultimate object aimed at in this cleansing? All terminates in this one blessed end, that Christ, in the great day of His triumph, may “present the Church unto Himself a glorious Church.” Nothing dishonours, brethren, but sin; nothing but sin is really shameful. Now take sin from the soul, and you have removed from it everything that can degrade it. We may go farther--the chief glory of God is the holiness of God. His purity is His brightest attribute. His power and immensity strike us more, for our minds are debased, we have lost the perception of that which is most elevated in its character--moral greatness; but go up into heaven, or rather read the language of heaven as we find it in the Bible--power and majesty are both extolled in it, but this is the one great subject of adoration in heaven, in the very world where all the Divine greatness is most fully manifested--the purity of Jehovah; and this the song which, next to the song of salvation, rises most constantly in its splendid courts--“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” No wonder then that the Church will be “a glorious Church”; the likeness of God will be put on her the image of Godwill shine in her; that attribute of Divinity, which is the perfection of Divinity, will be her crown. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

The bride of Christ

That love is the initiative of everything. We did not love Him; but He loved us. We did not choose Him; but He chose us. Just as afterwards, in the copy, the man is not loved first, but the woman. The man’s love is the cause; the woman’s love is the consequence. The woman’s love is reflected love. But His love was intense. It had no beginning, and it had no bounds. It was so great that He actually loved us to the death. Christ, then, having loved us, and chosen us, and died for us, and given us life, preceded next to make us fit and worthy for the high position to which He destined us. For this end two things were necessary. First, we must be relieved of our old guilty defilement. Our souls must be “washed” from the past. The Jews had what they called “the bridal bath.” So Christ did away with the previous guilt, and its consequence, and our sins were as though they had never been--for they were expunged! “When I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live … Then I washed thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.” Of this “washing” the laver of baptism is the emblem. It prefigures it; it assures us of it; it is intended to be its channel. But it is evident that the forgiveness of past sins, and the removal of their stains, is not all that is necessary for the Church--that it may be “the bride of Christ.” There must be also real and actual purity and holiness. Now comes the final purpose. What is it all for? Loved; chosen; pardoned; rid of all past guilt; washed; sanctified; clothed; beautified:--what is the Church? “Glorious.” “A glorious Church, not having”--that is, “not having “ as God sees us in Christ--“not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” “Glorious” she is--for the glory which God has given Him--which is the Holy Ghost--Christ has given us! “Glorious” she is--for she reflects the face, and the unity, and the glory of her God! “Glorious” she is--from rays of light of heavenly beauty upon her! “Glorious” she is--for God is glorified in her! “A glorious Church!” And why--again we ask--why so glorious? That Christ may “present her to Himself”--Himself to Himself--who made her for Himself, that Himself might enjoy her forever and ever. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The final state of the redeemed

In this verse we have the last end of our redemption by Christ, the perfection and consummation of our sanctification in the life to come. In setting forth of which take notice--

1. Of our nearness to Christ, “That He might present it to Himself”; that is, assume or take us home to live with Him, and abide always in His presence.

2. The effect of this union and nearness, which is--

(a) Negatively, “Not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” A spot is in the garments, a wrinkle is in the flesh; and then follow the general words, “Or any such thing.” Neither with filthy garments, nor with shrivelled flesh, nor blind, nor lame.

(b) Positively, “But that it should be holy, and without blemish,” perfectly pure, and exempt from either blemish or blame, for the word signifieth both; and the allusion is to a spouse that excelleth in beauty and comeliness. That the final end of our redemption is that we may be presented at the last day glorious in pretty and holiness.

1. Of the final end of our redemption; and there--

2. That we enter into this everlasting estate by being presented to Christ; for in the text it is said, “That He may present it to Himself,” that is, as the bride to the bridegroom, that the marriage may be consummated. In the Scripture there is a three-fold presentation spoken of--

(a) To Himself;

(b) To God.

3. I observe in the text, that those who are presented to Christ, and by Christ to God, is His Church, and is a glorious Church.

4. I observe that the principal glory of the Church lieth in its purity and holiness. “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory” (Jude 1:24). It must needs be so; for--

5. This purity and holiness shall then be exactly complete.

While we are in the world, neither is the whole Church perfect, nor particular believers. Now, let us go on to the uses.

1. To exhort you often to think of this estate. Oh, that our hearts were exercised more about these things!

2. Let us improve it.

A holy and glorious Church

I. As regards the earthly state. Here the holiness of the Church is but comparative and imperfect: and this in two respects; because there is a mixture of bad and good, of godly and ungodly, of true believers with the insincere and hypocrites; and because even the good themselves, even the best, are but partially good, are never entirely cleansed from all defilement of sin, though they are redeemed from its penalty, and delivered from its tyrannical dominion.

II. We thus come to treat of the second state of the Church in the course of its holy progression, that to which the faithful are removed on their departure from this world. Very few are the notices of this intermediate state, between death add the judgment day; but we are taught to look upon it as a place of entire deliverance from trouble and sin.

III. There is, indeed, another state, in which the Church will be yet further advanced in blessedness; having been made perfect in holiness, it will be made perfect in happiness and glory: and this will be the consummation of the promise in the text, “That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church. (J. Slade, M. A.)

The presentation of a glorious Church

I. The first regards the presentation of the Church--“That He might present it to Himself.” Now, in the Scripture, my brethren, we find a three-fold presentation of believers spoken of.

1. The first of these presentations is what we call personal; and this is made by themselves. Of this the apostle speaks when he admonishes the Romans, saying, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” In the experience of every believer there is a solemn scene in which he has acknowledged God’s claims; has asked, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” and has said, with resolution and zeal, Lord, I am Thine; save me. Other lords besides Thee have had dominion over me; but henceforth by Thee only will I make mention of Thy name. To Thee I dedicate Myself. My understanding is Thine, to know Thee; my will, to choose Thee; my heart, to love Thee; my conscience to fear Thee; my memory, to retain Thee. Thine are mine eyes, to behold Thy glory; mine ears, to hear Thy voice; my tongue, to show forth Thy praise; and my feet, to walk in Thy ways. Thine is my time, and my substance, and my influence; and if I had the innocency of Adam in paradise, the meekness of Moses, the faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the fervour of Paul, the perfection of angels, they should be equally, they should be mere Thine, than these poor imperfect offerings which I now present.

2. The second of these presentations we call official; and these are made by ministers. This is what the apostle means when in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he says, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” And again, in his Epistle to the Colossians, he says, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Ministers have a charge. It is, to endeavour to bring souls to Christ.

3. The third we call Divine. And this is here intended. And the presentation here unquestionably regards a future day that day for which all other days are made; and which is more than once so emphatically called “the day of Christ.” This presentation is a very peculiar one, for you see, it is by and to the very same Being. “That He might present it to Himself.” It is by Him--He presents it; and it is to Him. How is this? By Him; for He shall present them. But when it is here said that He will “present it to Himself,” it implies some present distance or absence--a want of some present recognition and acknowledgment. And so, while they are at home in the body, they are absent from the Lord. Indeed, there is now a connection and a communion between them; but the distinction is rather this: He is now with them--hereafter they will be with Him. And then, you see where they will be presented with this exceeding joy: “before the presence of His glory”: that is, His glorious presence. You see also in what state they will be presented with exceeding joy before His presence. He will present them “blameless.”

II. This brings us to the second part of our subject; which is, the glory of the Church. “A glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Here Paul tells us, that the Church then presented will be glorious; and he also reminds us wherein that glory will principally consist. We must review both these. You are ready to ask perhaps, “Is not His Church glorious now?” It is. It is not a glorious Church indeed in the eyes of the world, for the world knoweth them not; they are often, like their Lord, “despised and rejected of men”: but they are glorious in the eyes of the Lord. But though the Church is now “glorious,” and “more glorious than the mountains of prey,” yet its glory is partially prevented and obscured now. It is so by the thinness of its numbers. Its glory is now partially prevented and obscured by intermixtures. The lilies are among thorns; the tares are among the wheat. It is now also partially prevented and obscured by their outward condition. They are now often poor; then they shall “possess all things.” Above all, the glory of the Church is now partially prevented and obscured by moral infirmities. Wherein this glory of the Church will then principally consist. And according to the apostle it is this: “He will present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Here we may remark four things very briefly.

1. Let us dismiss these explanatory notes by first asking whether you will be found among the saints, in this glory everlasting?

2. Christians, well should the prospect that we have been imperfectly opening, animate and comfort you.

3. Then it should soothe you under the removal of those who sleep in Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples, who were sorrowing, “If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go to the Father, for My Father is greater than I.”

4. Then, lastly, how are we bound to the Saviour who has destined such glory for us, and is now preparing us for it! (W. Jay.)


Verse 30

Ephesians 5:30

For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

Membership in Christ’s body

I. The nature of membership with the body of Christ.

1. Members of the Church of Christ are such nominally and professedly. The Church is a visible organization--“a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid”--“the light of the world,” which must shine wherever it exists. Membership in Christ’s body supposes that we have been baptized, and are in the habit of receiving holy communion; also that we obey the laws, regulations, and discipline which have been made for the orderly government of the Church.

2. To be a member of the body of Christ implies that we are such spiritually and sincerely--in the homage of our minds, the devotion of our lives, and the affections of our hearts.

3. To be a member of the body of Christ implies pardon and regeneration.

II. The importance of becoming members of the body of Christ.

1. Membership with the visible Church of Christ is necessary in order to the existence and perpetuity of the Christian Church. A Church naturally supposes members, just as the whole supposes parts; there must be members, or there can be no Church.

2. Membership with the visible Church of Christ is necessary in order to a right understanding of some very important passages in the Word of God. The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.

3. Membership with the body of Christ is necessary in order to the full and entire performance of one’s religious duties.

4. Membership with the body of Christ is necessary as it may help to assist us against our spiritual enemies.

5. Membership with the body of Christ is necessary to give some proof of our attachment to Jesus Christ and His cause.

6. Membership with the body of Christ is necessary if you consider the spiritual benefits to be derived from it. (P. Cooper.)

Members of Christ’s body

I. The doctrine. A difficult subject, liable to misrepresentation and abuse.

1. The apostle is speaking of believers only.

2. We must put away all sensual and carnal ideas from the consideration of this subject. It is a spiritual union that is here spoken of.

3. We must put away from the consideration of this subject all narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Now let us notice that the text conveys to us three ideas, as characteristic of the relation in which the Church stands to the Redeemer, viz.,

II. Duties resulting from this relation.

1. Love.

2. Reverence.

3. Obedience. (Dr. Raffles.)


Verse 31

Ephesians 5:31

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

Husbands and wives

Marriage is the most dignified, honourable, and helpful relationship into which we can enter.

1. It is a relationship of mutual sympathy.

2. It is a relationship of mutual sacredness. There is no authority which can constrain into marriage, and there is none which of itself can dissolve the tie.

3. It is a relationship of mutual honour.

4. It is a relationship of mutual responsibility. (W. Braden.)

The mystery of marriage

I. The counsel that God had about Adam’s marriage with Eve.

1. The Lord made Adam before He thought of a wife for him.

2. Among all the created things God could not find a help meet for Adam.

3. God, in blessing Adam, blessed her afterwards to be made.

II. The creation of the woman out of the man.

III. The marriage itself.

1. God brought the woman to Adam.

2. When brought, he consented and owned her.

IV. The consequence of Adam’s marriage.

1. A union.

2. A rule for all time--that the wife cleave to her husband. (T. Goodwin, D. D.)

Qualities of a good wife

An old author says, “A good wife should be like three things, which three things she should not be like.

1. She should be like a snail, to keep within her own house; but she should not be like the snail, to carry all she has upon her back.

2. She should be like an echo, to speak when spoken to; but she should not be like an echo, always to have the last word.

3. She should be like a town clock, always to keep time and regularity; but she should not be like a town clock, speak so loud that all the town may hear her.”


Verse 32

Ephesians 5:32

This is a great mystery.

The mysteriousness of religion

It is in a discourse upon marriage that the apostle introduces these remarkable words; but it is unnecessary that we connect them with the original context; they may be detached from it and treated by themselves as containing a great and interesting truth. Just observe. The Apostle Paul is brought to acknowledge that something which he had just been announcing was very mysterious; he does not attempt to deny or explain away the mystery; he leaves it in all its greatness, and in all its obscurity; but then he adds, “I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” As much as to say, “There is no reason for any surprise at there being mystery. When discourse turns on such subjects as Christ and the Church, mystery is to be expected, mystery is not to be avoided.” Here, then, opens before us a great and important subject of discourse. Do men object to us that there are mysterious things bard to be understood in Christianity? What course are we to take with these objectors? Are we to extenuate the mysteries, and try to make them seem less, as though we were ashamed of them, and felt that the gospel would be improved by their absence? Not so. We ought rather to glory in confessing and proclaiming them, considering it a sufficient answer to every objection that we are speaking “concerning Christ and the Church.” It is not for us to make Scripture less mysterious than the Almighty has made it.

I. Look, for instance, at Christ as born of a pure virgin in a stable at Bethlehem. The incarnation of the Son of God is not one of those facts which lose their mysteriousness through being examined and pondered. Familiarity may indeed make us less alive to its wonders; but the more we consider, the more must we be amazed.

II. But the apostle mentions the Church as well as Christ, and forasmuch as it is the union between Christ and the Church as typified by marriage which led him to express himself in the words of our text, we must briefly see whether there be not mystery--mystery to be thankfully acknowledged, not timidly concealed--in regard to true believers as well as their Divine Lord. Indeed there is mystery. That through such a system as the Christian there should be produced in believers that holiness without which there can be nothing of the oneness between Christ and the Church which marriage supposes--this indeed seems hardly to have been expected, and is not easily to be explained. We are nowise surprised that there should be so vehement an outcry as to the probable tendencies of the gospel; that those who preach as the alone mode of salvation the resting wholly on the merits of another, should often be regarded as advancing a tenet which strikes at the root of all moral energy. Now, in conclusion, we trust that you will thoroughly understand under what point of view the mysteries of the Bible should be regarded by the Christian. These mysteries are not to be shrunk from or concealed, as though Christianity would be the better for their removal; they should rather be gloried in and thankfully acknowledged, as though Christianity would fall to bits if they were taken away. It is the tone which we admire in our text, the frankness of the confession, the avoidance of all controversy. “This is a great mystery.” “I do not attempt to deny it,” says the apostle; “I do not wish to evade it. How can there be other than mystery when I am speaking ‘concerning Christ and the Church’?” But, my brethren, what is mystery now may not be mystery always. “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then we shall know, even as also we are known.” It must be that with our present imperfect faculties and limited capacities we are incompetent to the understanding much of the revelation which God has given us of Himself, but we shall understand more hereafter if we persevere to the end in fighting the good fight of faith. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christ the husband of the Church

There is a story in Fox’s Book of Martyrs of a woman who, when she came to be tried for her religion before the bishop, was threatened by him that he would take away her husband from her. “Christ,” was her reply, “is my husband.” “I will take away thy child,” said he. “Christ,” said she, “is better to me than ten sons.” “I will strip thee,” said he, “of all outward comforts.” And again came the answer, “Yes, but Christ is mine, and you cannot strip me of Him.” (Baxendales Anecdotes.)

The dignity of matrimony

Every blessing of Christianity springs from the union between the Son of God and mankind. This union was inaugurated when God took human nature and thus made it His own, when He became flesh for us, and dwelt among us; and it is continued in His intimate union with the Church, which is His body. It is by this union that Christ confers all graces.

1. In His union with the Church God gives Himself to men, and men give themselves to God. Matrimony should correspond with this idea (Genesis 2:24).

2. In the relations between Christ and the Church we admire perfect unity. This ought also to characterize Christian matrimony.

3. Unity involves indissolubility (Matthew 19:6).

4. Another consequence of unity is the reconciliation of authority and obedience.

5. Forbearance. Christ bears patiently all our imperfections, infirmities, and sins. In a similar manner married people should bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ; as the members of the same body bear the infirmities of one another.

6. The objects to be attained by the union of Christ and His Church are the honour of God and the sanctification of men. The objects of matrimony are the same--the honour of God, the sanctification of the married couple, of the family, and of others who see their good works. (Bishop W. E. Ketteler)
.

Church life

The true Church of Christ is in intimate union with Christ Himself. It is indissolubly joined unto Him, vitally connected with Him, and, I must add, it is altogether His possession, His servant. When it is in sound and healthy condition, it is in profound and active sympathy with Christ in all His purposes and works; and when it appears in all its beauty and grace, it is in full conformity to the mind of Christ.

I. The mutual love of the Church. This is the grand characteristic of believers: love in active exercise, love expressed in word and deed. In order to love, there must be knowledge or acquaintance.

II. The worship of the Church. The seat of worship is the heart. And the believer cannot neglect the exercise of private or secret worship. Then, those whom God has set in families should have a home altar, around which morning and evening the whole household should gather. As to the worship of God’s house, it is your privilege to be partakers of it, and you are under a solemn obligation to observe the ordinances of the sanctuary.

III. The work of the Church. This work is two-fold--edifying believers, and converting sinners.

IV. The finances of the Church.

V. The spiritual tone and temper of the Church. (A. G. Maitland, M. A.)

The wife a helper

Dr. Payson, meeting an irreligious lady whose husband was trying to serve God, addressed her thus: “Madam, I think your husband is looking upwards--making some effort to rise above the world towards God and heaven. You must not let him try alone. Whenever I see the husband struggling alone in such efforts, it makes me think of a dove endeavouring to fly upwards while it has one broken wing. It leaps and flutters, and perhaps rises a little way; and then it becomes wearied, and drops back again to the ground. If both wings cooperate, then it mounts easily.”

A wife’s kindness

It is related in the life of William Hutton that a countrywoman called upon him one day, and told him that her husband behaved unkindly to her, and sought other company, often passing his evenings from home, which made her feel very unhappy; and, knowing Mr. Hutton to be a wise man, she thought he might be able to tell her how she should manage to cure her husband. “The remedy is a simple one,” said he; “but I have never known it to fail. Always treat your husband with a smile.” The woman expressed her thanks, dropped a courtesy, and went away. A few months afterwards she waited on Mr. Hutton with a couple of fine fowls, which she begged him to accept. She told him, while a tear of joy and gratitude glistened in her eye, that she had followed his advice, and her husband was cured. He no longer sought she company of others, but treated her with constant love and kindness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 5:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ephesians-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.


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