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EPHESIANS 111. 14-21.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height ; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask and think, according to the power that worketh in us ; to him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, word without end. Amen.
CHRISTIANITY is the religion of devotion. Prayer is her appropriate work. Every division of our preceding discourses, therefore, calls on us, now that we are bringing them to a conclusion, to a solemn act of supplication and praise to Almighty God.
A sense of the magnitude of the blessings we hope for in the universal conversion of the world, together with a view of our own sinfulness and feebleness, and of the small comparative progress already made, may dictate petition. A sense of the divine character, and promises engaged for the completion of the scheme of redemption, may dictate praise. Nor can we find a more comprehensive and sublime example of devotion, than in the words which I have read.
The apostle is animating and consoling his Ephesian converts by the consideration that they were now fellow citizens of the saints and of the household of God, and formed a part of that one universal spi. ritual Temple and Church which was being “built on the foundation of apostles and prophets; Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;" and which was rising up and increasing continually by the accession of new converts, to be ultimately, in the most extensive sense of the term, “the habitation of God through the Spirit.”
To aid in advancing this great result, he prepares for pouring
out the most fervent supplications on their behalf; “For this cause,” thus he begins in the first verse of this chapter, “I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles”—for though he could not, as formerly, go from place to place, to establish the Churches, he could yet pray for them, prisoner as he was at Rome. He then pauses after these introductory words, to interpose some remarks, in his usual exuberant manner, on that spiritual temple of which he had being speaking, and for which his prayers were to be poured out—the “ mystery hidden from ages and generations,” he tells them was now developed. “ The Gentiles were fellow heirs.” The unsearchable riches of Christ were preached” among them. “ The manifold wisdom of God” was thereby displayed to the heavenly world.' They were
i See Sermon II.
“not to faint,” therefore, on account of his imprisonment and other “ tribulations” for them, which, in such a cause, was rather a topic for their joy and glory” before God. He then resumes in our text the words which he had interrupted, in the first verse, “ for this cause ;" ? and proceeds to an act itself of fervent prayer and adoration, in which he implores for them all the blessings they needed, in order to a full participation of the privileges of the Spiritual Church, of which they were now members—the power of the Holy Ghost; the abode of Christ in their hearts; well-grounded love ; and an apprehension of the prodigious extent of the love of Christ-and this in union with “ all saints" of “ whatever nation, kindred, or tongue.”
He thus ascends to the main object of his supplication, that they and the rest of the universal Church might be filled, in a higher sense than the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon ever was, with all the fulness of the divine and beatific inhabitation.
This brings him to the thanksgiving, with which he concludes his act of devotion, and in which he adores Almighty God as able far to surpass all his and their petitions on this subject, and even the thoughts of those who framed them; and to whom glory throughout all ages was to be offered by Christ Jesus in this one spiritual Church, for all the riches of mercy and love by which it was founded and completed.
The apostle's act of devotion, then, divides itself, as all his solemn prayers do, into two parts-supplication, and praise ; and one arising from the other. The first will lead us to implore all, and more than all the blessings we have been adverting to in our preceding discourses; whilst the second will teach us
1 Ver. 1-13.
? The whole prayer is connected by these resumed words with Chap. ii, ver. 19-22; and Chap. ij. ver, 1,
where to look for the fulfilment of our remaining most fervent desires, and to whom to present our offerings of praise.
May God--the God of salvation, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, vouchsafe to assist us in this devotional close of our series of discourses.
I. In considering the supplications of the text, we must first notice the final object of the apostle, “ That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God;" or, as he expresses in an earlier verse, “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
There is, indeed, in the ever-blessed God, a fulness of incommunicable perfections, of natural attributes, and unapproachable divinity, which no one without the most daring presumption can ever aspire after. Infinite power, infinite knowledge, infinite wisdom, infinite sovereignty-the omniscience, the omnipresence, the self-existence, the eternity of God, it would be a sin even to aim at partaking of. This was the essence of the first transgressions; angels fell by pride, man fell by pride. It is the essence of all sin now.
Man presumes to be like God. He rises up against God, he will not submit to him, nor obey his will. He is a self-sufficient, perevrse, rebellious creature.
But there is in God, also, a fulness of moral perfections and felicity, which he deigns to communicate, in some faint measure, to his creatures. There is such a thing as our becoming in this sense, as St. Peter speaks, “partakers of the divine nature;" of our being “ born of God,” and “born from above," as our Savior teaches us ; or being God," as St. John, by receiving some rays of the moral glories, perfections, and favor of the Almighty.
The fulness of God in this view_as to his bene.
volence, his mercy, his compassion, his truth, his purity, his justice, his wisdom, his holiness, his happiness, may be, in some inconsiderable degree, derived to us. Some drops may overflow upon us, as it were, from the inexhaustible fountain of the divine holiness and joy, which, small as they are compared with the ever-blessed One from whom they proceed, may constitute a fulness and pleni. tude as respects our narrow capacities of reception. This is the end of man, his ultimate rest, his felicity, the source of repose, the full blessedness of which his natural and moral powers are capable.
There is, indeed, nothing which man now feels more perpetually and painfully than the insufficiency of the creature to render him happy. Nothing now fills his heart. The world, sin, pleasure, knowledge, science, success in his pursuits, all leave a void. And even the faithful servant of Christ individually is ever sensible in himself of imperfec. tion, of distance from God the source of felicity, of feeble faith, love, hope, peace, joy ; whilst he sees in the Church, also, faintness of affection, contentions, se. parations, prejudices, imperfect knowledge, schisms, heresies, apostacies, and the narrow limits of Chris. tianity itself
. “Even we,” saith the apostle, “which have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves,” (as well as - the creation" which is groaning and travailing in pain together) waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.”
But when the universal Church, and each indi. vidual Christian shall be “ filled with all the fulness of God," the insufficiency and vanity of the creature will be felt no more, the imperfections of our present attainments will be supplied, the tide of holiness and peace will flow through every soul; and some faint irradiations of the divine perfections and happiness will be reflected on uş.