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by Joseph Sutcliffe
ST. PAUL’S EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.
EPHESUS, once the glory of all Asia, is now reduced to obscurity. It was built by the Amazones; and its temple, afterwards dedicated to Diana, was reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world, as stated by Ctesiphon. The city was augmented and enlarged by Androcus, son of Codrus, as is noted by Pausanias. Erostratus burned it the night that Alexander was born. Hannibal and Antiochus in this city carried on war against the Romans. It was repeatedly visited by the emperors of Rome, and enlarged and adorned with temples. Its ruin commenced when taken and pillaged by the Persians in the third century; it was also taken by the Scythians, and finally by Mahomet. Smyrna now partially enjoys the glory which Ephesus once possessed.
The Epistle of Paul to the church of Ephesus, is reckoned one of the most valuable treasures of primitive christianity. It is what Paul says of the gospel, a revelation of the mystery hid in ages past. It was written from Rome while the apostle was a prisoner there, and sent by Tychicus, a deacon, about twenty seven years after the death of Christ. So at least Baronius reckons in his Chronicum. But Usher fixes it about five years later.
The church of Ephesus had been planted by St. Paul, as Luke has stated in Acts 19:20. At the time of his writing this epistle, there were in that city many learned men, and various sects of philosophers. Some of those were Gnostics, who had crept into the church unawares, and brought moral reproach on the christian name. They were the grievous wolves who spared not the flock, and often drew away disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30. “They went out from us,” says John, “because they were not of us.” In a word, the apostle contrasts the most deplorable state of the gentile world, with the glory of the christian vocation, to be fellow-heirs with the seed of Abraham of the grace of life in Christ Jesus, according to the good pleasure of the Father from the foundation of the world.
The whole character of the epistle is sublime in thought, excellent in doctrine, rich in figure, and beautiful in expression. It is a composition so consummate in character, that no man can equal it without divine illumination.
the Sixth Week after Easter