« AnteriorContinua »
ing brought into this situation to promote the cause in which he was engaged ; and the blessing of God attended his labours. By his imprisonment also he had leisure to write to the various churches among whom he had gone preaching the kingdom of God „80 and to this we are indebted for some of the most valuable of his epistles. In this to the Ephesians he took occasion from the circumstance of his imprisonment, to impress the principles and practice of Christianity upon the minds of the persons to whom he wrote. In that portion of it which is appointed by our church as the Epistle for this day, he,
First, Reminds Christians of their vocation or calling, for the purpose of beseeching them to live suitably to it; and
Secondly, Makes use of a powerful argument to enforce his exhortation.
May the Spirit of God, who directed the apostle to record this exhortation for the benefit of His church and people in all ages, apply it to our hearts; that being influenced by it, we may be led to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things,81 and may enjoy the consolations which are vouchsafed to the children of God.
First, The apostle's address to those who had received the gospel of Christ is: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk
80 Acts xx. 25.
81 Titus ii. 10.
worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. In his epistle to the Philippians St. Paul terms this vocation, the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is a calling from on high, from God, outwardly by His word, and inwardly by His Spirit. He sends His gospel to mankind by His ministers, and He applies it to the hearts of those who hear it by the power of His Spirit. Let us regard the gospel of Christ as a calling upon us from on high, to attend to the things which belong to our everlasting peace, that we may give it that consideration which we ought to do. It is also termed a holy calling: 83 It is a calling to holiness of heart and life, to separation from the world that lieth in wickedness,84 to devotedness to the service of God. None are therefore partakers of this vocation but those who are following holiness, or purity of heart and uprightness of conduct, without which no man shall see the Lord in His eternal kingdom and glory, nor shall have fellowship with Him here on earth. The unholy in heart and life are not the children of God, but the children of the wicked one; let their profession of religion be what it may. The children of God are further styled, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling 85 The object of their vocation is an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them who
82 Phil. iii. 14. 83 2 Tim. i.9. 84 ) John v.19. 85 Heb. xii. 14; ii. 1.
are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.86 Heaven is the Christian's home, to which he is looking forward as the end of his earthly pilgrimage; as the patriarchs of old looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.87 This is frequently set before believers in Christ for their encouragement. It is said to them, When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. This is stated for the purpose of leading them to set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth.88 Thus the vocation wherewith believers in Christ are called, is a high, a holy, and a heavenly calling. God is the Author of it; holiness is the way of it, the path in which all must walk who are partakers of it; and heaven is the end of it.
The walk which is worthy of this vocation is described in the two following verses.
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. By lowliness, we may understand humility of heart; by meekness, humility of conduct. The word translated lowliness, literally means, humbleness of mind. This is the first thing which true religion produces. When a man is truly convinced of sin by the operation of the Spirit of God, he is humbled before God in his heart and mind, he is lowly in his own eyes ,89 he loathes himself on account of his sinfulness; he earnestly repents and is heartily sorry
86 1 Peter i. 4, 5.
87 Heb. xi. 10.
88 Col. iii. 4, 2.
for the sins which he has committed. Until we come heart-broken to the footstool of the mercy-seat, there will be no separation between us and sin. Sin will not be detested and abhorred as an accursed thing, until we are humbled as guilty transgressors in the presence of our most holy and merciful God. There is such a thing as being afraid of the consequences of sin, without being humbled before God because of our sinfulness. Until true contrition of spirit or humbleness of mind be produced in us, there will be no forsaking of sin as an evil, or as that which is most displeasing to God; although there may be other circumstances which may prevent the commission of it in particular instances. That humbleness of mind which proceeds from the fear of God alone, is what the apostle here inculcates as suitable to the Christian vocation. And meekness, or humility of conduct, is the result of this. The apostle exhorts his dear son in the faith, Timothy, In meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves 190 and Titus, to show all meekness to all men.91 By their conduct in this respect they were to commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God;92 that the excellency of the doctrine which they taught might appear, as that which is from God; and thus a good effect might be produced by the beauty of Christian practice being exhibited to those who received their instruction. Oh! that all who name the name of Christ, 93 and "profess and call themselves Christians,” were more sensible of their obligations to the redeeming grace and dying love of their Lord and Saviour; that they might, as becomes them, be clothed with humility ; remembering that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.94 It is by lowliness of mind and meekness of behaviour, that the Christian is to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.
89 Psalm xv. 4. 90 2 Tim. ii. 25. 91 Titus iii. 2. 92 2 Cor. iv, 2. 93 2 Tim. ii. 19.
To this humility of mind and conduct, the apostle adds, With longsuffering, or patience, forbearing one another in love. As humility may be called the badge of the Christian profession, which the believer in Christ is to exhibit to all mankind; so the patience or longsuffering here commanded seems to be applicable more especially to the intercourse which the children of God have with each other. Love should prevail in the family of Christ. This was inculcated frequently, both by our Saviour and His apostles. He said, A new commandment I give unto you, That
ye another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are
94 2 Peter v. 5.
95 John xiii. 34, 35.