« PreviousContinue »
The Apostle seemeth in these words, to make answer to his adversaries, which spake evil of hin, and slandered him, and by their slanders and evil speaking, did pluck many froin his doctrine, that they did not give credence to him, saying; if Paul were the ininister of God, and preached purely his Gospel, he should not have been cast in prison and in bonds ; his bonds and imprisonment do prove him to be evil, and a deceiver of the people, and that God is angry with him, or else who would have cast him in prison ? For who would cast a good inan in prison? As who should say, no man. To these, or such-like evil speakings, the Apostle maketh answer, exhorting these Ephesians not to shrink from him, or forsake his doctrine for his imprisonment, fetters, bonds, or other afflictions which he suffered, not for his fault, but for these Ephesians, and for their sakes, and for their health and salvation that he preached the Gospel of God to them, of the which they received faith and health. Wherefore he saith, that they should not be ashamed of him for his afflictions, but rather they should rejoice, for his afflictions which he suffered for their sakes, and for their profit. Of these we may see, that those that purely preach the word of God, that they suffer ofttimes imprisonment, bonds, fetters, and other afflictions, not for any other cause, but that they preach the word of God purely and sincerely.
Men should not shrink from the word of God, or esteem it the worse, or to be false doctrine, because they that have preached it have been persecuted, pu, nished, cast in prison, and put to death of the world, as malefactors, deceivers of the people, and false preachers. For other felicity let not true preachers look for in this world of carnal men, than persecution and affliction : this is the reward that they shall have here, where carnal men do rule ; but in the world to come let them look for another reward in joy and bliss, and in hope of it may be their comfort, which hope doth take away the grievousness of their miseries and painfulness of afflictions here.
Affliction or persecution proveth whether we trust surely in God, and stick to his word or no, for many there be, that for fear of punishment and afflictions, do shrink from God and his word, and bid them farewell, which believed as long as there was no persecution like to follow; as Christ saith, Mat. xiii. Many do believe for a time, but in time of tribulation they shrink, fearing more man than God, and the loss of goods of this world than the loss of heavenly riches, fearing more the loss of this present life, than the loss of the life to come. But let all such repent and amend; “ For he that loseth his life in this world for me and my Gospel (saith Christ, Mat. xvi.), in the world to come he shall find everlasting life in joy and bliss."
Ver. 14–19. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Which is the true Father over all, that is called Father in heaven and in earth, that he grant you (according to the riches of his glory) to be strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inward man, that Christ
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 the depth, and the height, and to know the love of Christ, which love yet passeth all knowledge, that ye may be filled with all manner of fulness of God.
St. Paul moveth and giveth example to all bishops, pastors, curates, and to all to whom care of others is committed, that they should pray for their flock committed to their spiritual charge; and desire of God that they shrink not from faith and from God's word, for fear of persecution and affliction, or for love of worldly goods, pleasures, or riches, which ofttimes pluck men from God and from his word ; and that they may have true faith, and continue in it, loving God above all things in this world, preferring his word above all worldly riches, honours, or plcasures. In this prayer he sheweth, that bishops and pastors have need to pray thus for their flock, yea, every one of us to pray for another, that we shrink noi from God anił his word by infidelity, unkindness, or by other sins. Also, in this prayer he sheweih, that one of us should desire another to pray for us, and to whoin our prayer should be made, not to Peter, or Paul, John, or Jaines, but to God, which is the giver of all goodness; and for what things prayers are to be made, for soine certain thing that we have need of, and that is profitable to the health of the soul ; as here it was necessary that Paul should
pray that they might continue in faith, and in the love of God, and not shrink from faith, for fear of afflictions or for love of worldly riches or pleasures. And this is to be desired of God alway, and every one should desire this of God for another, as a thing very necessary for every one.
So was the common-prayer made to God, for necessities to be obtained by prayer of God, to put away evils, that appeared to approach to men at the will of God, and when such nccessity was: the peo.. ple gathered together and desired the help of God, fasting, that their prayers should be with more devotion and more fervent, that they might escape the evil that was like to come, and fall amongst them. They fasted without meat or drink, that their prayers might be more devout; but now are true prayer and true fasting almost all put away, and our prayer and fasting are full of superstitious and feigned holiness : for what an holy fast is it to abstain from flesh, and
fill their belly with fish for flesh ? is fish more holy than flesh? Who made that holiness? If fish be more wholesome for man's body than flesh, every man can judge; I think that there be few physicians that will so say. Therefore, let us fast a true fast from all sin, and pray in faith, asking things meet to be asked for Christ's sake, and without doubt we shall obtain our desire of God; for so he hath promised the performance of our desire, and he will
perform his promise.
In that St. Paul did bow his knees to God, he sheweth the ferventness of his mind, and of his prayer to God, which was shewn ever by this exterior gesture ; of the which we may learn, that it is lawful to shew our inward hearts and mind by exterior gesture and signs, which ofttimes shew the good devotion of the heart : but in these exterior signs in praying, hypocrites do pass much them that truly pray in faith, in spirit, and in truth. Therefore, of these exterior signs, is not always the heart to be judged.
Here we may learn, that we have need of fervent prayer to God in faith that we may continue in faith, in charity, in the favour of God, and in the truth of his word, and increase in it every day more and more: which thing we cannot of ourselves without the
grace of God; of whom we have that we continue in faith, in charity, in the favour of God, which things God giveth for the most part by faithful prayer. Therefore, let us faithfully pray and ofttimes, that we may continue and increase in all goodness. But we be slack and dull to pray faithfully to God; therefore it is no marvel, if God take his grace from us and leave us to ourselves, and suffer us to follow our own carnal and sensual lusts and desires, and so to fall to all naughtiness and sin. It is a token that our faith is faint, and scarce lukewarm, yea, I fear me, it is cold and almost frozen up whole, that it bringeth forth no more good works; especially, now when it is shown so plainly what manner of works please God best, and how they should be done for God only.
In that he moveth us to pray to him, of whom all things were made, and are ruled and governed, which is our Father : he giveth us boldness, and maketh us bold to pray to him, trusting our Father will not deny to us that is profitable for us; but will be much more glad to grant our lawful petition, than we be to pray and desire of him that is for our health and salvation.
What charity St. Paul had, is here plainly shewn, in that he desired that these Ephesians might be increased in the riches of God; that is to say, in faith, hope, charity, patience, meekness, in the truth, in the spirit of God, by whom they should be made strong in faith; that they refuse no persecution, no afðiction, so that they might proinute God's glory, and the truth of his Gospel to the salvation of men. He desireth also that they might be made so strong by the Spirit in the inward man, that Christ might dwell in their inward heart by faith, rooted in charity, that bringeth forth good works of the spirit of God at all occasions given. He desireth that they might know the length, the breadth, the height, the deepness of God; that is
that they might know God perfectly, as men know a thing perfectly, when they know the length, the breadth, the height, and the deepness, and that they might have the love of God which passeth all knowledge, and that they might be fulfilled with all goodness of God. Such things, charity wisheth to others rather than any worldly goods ; and they be written to teach us what things we should desire in our faithful and fervent prayers one for ano.