Page images
[blocks in formation]


temple in the Lord:

[of his Church.

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (B)


(B) Ver. 1-22. St. Paul describes what the Ephesians were by nature, and what they were made by grace.-By nature the Ephesians, as, indeed, all mankind, were dead in trespasses and sins; buried in the pleasures of vice, and the absurdities of idolatry. But he who had raised our Lord, in a literal sense, from the dead, and exalted him to his own right hand in glory, had, by his Holy Spirit, raised them from their graves of ignorance and lust-had quickened them, through their union to him, and virtually exalted them to sit and reign with him in heaven; that is, he had begun in them a work of grace, which was to terminate" in glory everlasting." In this account, two or three circumstances demand our attention.

1. The depths of human guilt and misery, commonly comprised under the term Original Sin, which is defined, in the ninth Article of the Church of England, to be "the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit, and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation." Original sin naturally leads to actual sins; for our spiritual death is not of that nature as to destroy moral action, or human responsibility. The active mind of man devoid of grace, will only multiply transgression; and what the apostle elsewhere says of females (1 Tim. v. 8), " She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth," is equally true of the other sex; and never was the trade of criminal pleasure carried to a greater excess than among the Ephesians. And not only were they sunk into sensuality, but also into infidelity and even atheism. "The Ephesians, in common with other Gentiles (says Mr. Hall),

are described as being, previous to their conversion, without God in the world—that is, without any just and solid acquaintance with his character, destitute of the knowledge of his will, the institutes of his worship, and the hopes of his favour; to the truth of which representation, whoever possesses the slightest acquaintance with pagan antiquity, must assent: nor is it a fact less incontestible, that while pagan, human philosophy, was never able to abolish idolatry in a single village, the promulgation of the gospel overthrew it in a great part (and that the most enlightened) of the world." (Modern Infid. p. 80.)

2. That regeneration, conversion, aud sauctification, are alone and peculiarly the work of God. "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." And notwithstanding we have so repeatedly recurred to this truth, and shown it to be the foundation doctrine of the church of England, and of Christ, we cannot refrain from quoting one other short but pointed passage from "The Homily of Salvation :"

This faith the holy Scripture teacheth us: this is the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion; this doctrine all old and ancient authors of Christ's church do approve; this doctrine advanceth and setteth forth the true glory of Christ, and beateth down the vain glory of man; this, whosever denieth, is not to be accounted for a Christian man, nor for a setter forth of Christ's glory; but for an adversary to Christ and his gospel, and for a setter-forth of men's vain glory."(Hom. p. 21. Oxf. edit. 1810.)

3. Not only are regeneration and justlfication works of grace, but the whole process of human salvation; and no part more so than the great work of reconciliation


or, as the idea of the apostle expresses, the very point where the prophets and the apostles, the Old and New Dispensation, meet; and it is the foundation or security of the whole; for if the key-stone were removed, the whole building would fall in rains," See Congreg. Mag. 1826, p. 696.

Ver. 21. Fitly framed-this may allude to Solomon's temple, of which all the stones were shaped and fitted before they were brought together. 1 Kings vi. 7. So all the stones of the heavenly temple are fitted, by the Holy Spirit on earth, before they are raised to heaven.


Paul the apostle]



FOR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

[ocr errors]

![of the Gentiles.

5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as

it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

6 That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel:

7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

8 Unto me, who am less than the

EXPOSITION-Chap. II. Continued.

and atonement, as thus expressed:-"Ye who were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Here seems, as Dr. Doddridge remarks, to be an evident allusion to the privilege of those Israelites, who having been under any ceremonial pollution, were cleansed from their guilt by the blood of atonement, and so had free liberty of entering the temple and conversing with God, on which account they are called a people near him." (Ps. cxlviii. 14.) It is added, " He is our peace, who hath made both one;" that is, who hath reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to himself, and to each other; " and hath broken down the middle wall of partition;" alluding to the wall that separated the two courts of the Jews and Gentiles in the temple. "Having abolished in (or by) his flesh, the law of the commandments contained in (the Mosaic) ordinances; to make in himself of twain, one new man;" that is, to form by the union of Jews and Gentiles, one mystic body, even the Christian church. "And that he reconciles both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby;" that is, the enmity of both to God, and to each other. Here we must always remember, that the

first motion of reconciliation comes from God, who, though the offended party, provides the atonement necessary to satisfy his justice; and even condescends, by his word and ministers, to beseech sinners to be reconciled unto him. Even Christ himself, “who is our peace," came down and preached peace personally to the Jews; and ministerially, by his apostles to the Gentiles: and both being formed into one house, or household, and built on one foundation, "grow up," as it were, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, into a sacred temple, an habitation for the Most High himself.

4th and lastly (though not so placed in our chapter), the scheme of redemption no less secures the interests of holiness and good works, than it does the glory of God's free grace. "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Can any thing be more strongly expressed? "Ordained to good works," and new-created, expressly to enable us to perform them! Will any man after this say, that the doctrines of grace are unfriendly to good works?


CHAP. III. Ver. 1. For you Gentiles.-There is no doubt but the persecuting spirit of the Jews, which led to all Paui's suflerings, was kept up chiefly by his zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles. See Acts xxi. 28.

Many commentators include verses 2 to 13 within a parenthesis, and read, "For this cause, &c. I bow my knees:" but we see no necessity for this, if, with Doddridge and Macknight, we supply the verb am, thus-"I Paul [am] the prisoner of Jesus Christ," &c.

Ver. 2. If-Doddr.since." Mackn. "seeing." Ver. 3. By revelation.-See Acts ix. 15, 16; xxii. 21, &c.—I wrote afore.-Marg. " a little before." 'This, some think, refers to what Paul had said in the preceding parts of this epistle" I have written

afore;" namely, chap. 1. 9, 10; ii. 11, &c.

Ver. 5. Which in other ages was not, &c. - "It was known long before, that the Gentiles should be added to the church; but it was not known that they should be" heirs of the same inheritance," &c. Doddridge.

Ver. 6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, &c.-Macknight renders this more literally," Joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers," & that is, the Gentiles are united with the Jews in all their privileges.

Ver. 8. Less than the least.-(Gr. Elackisteteres.} Dr. Goodwin thinks he might here have some re ference to his Roman name, Paulus, which signifies little; as also to the smallness of his person. See Exposition and Note on 2 Cor, x, 1.

The mystery of]


least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

10 To the intent that now unto the rincipalities and powers in heavenly laces might be known by the Church he manifold wisdom of God,

11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our ord:

12 In whom we have boldness and ccess with confidence by the faith of im.

13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint ot at my tribulations for you, which your glory.

14 For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus hrist,

[their conversion. 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16 That he would grant you, ac cording to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ;

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21 Unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (C)



(C) Ver. 1-21. The mystery of the conrsion of the Gentiles (in whose cause Paul 18 now suffering) opened and explained. . Paul recommends himself to the affecons of the Ephesians, by informing, or ther reminding them, that he was now a isoner, on account of his strong attachent to their cause, as Gentiles, and for the ercise of his ministry among them. This vine mystery, namely, that the Gentiles ould be admitted to be fellow heirs, and

partake on equal terms of all the blessings of Messiah's kingdom, had been revealed to him immediately by Jesus Christ himself; from whom he had received a special commission to publish it to the heathen world, and in the publication of which he was supported and succeeded by "the effectual working" of God's Holy Spirit. In the sequel of this chapter the apostle speaks, 1. Of himself, and of the high privilege bestowed upon him, in constituting him the apostle of the Gentiles; and, 2. Of


Ver. 9. And to make all men see-Literally, "to ighten all men, that they may see."The fel ship of the mystery-that is, of God's mercy to Gentiles; and instead of revealing these docnes to a select few only, as in the Pagan mystes, they were to be revealed to all nations, and to classes of mankind; even though hitherto kept ret, and hidden, as it were, in the bosom of the mighty from the foundation of the world; i. e. m eternity, for thus ancient are all the purposes God (see ver. 11); even of him who created all ngs by Jesus Christ. Some critics, indeed, inpret this, not of the creation of our system, but the regeneration of mankind by the gospel. But s agrees not with the context; for to say the mysy immediately referred to had been kept secret m the first promulgation of the gospel, is dictly contrary both to the fact and the design of the ostle.

Ver. 12. In-by, or through whom we have boldness.-Doddr. "freedom of speech."-By the faith of him-i. e. by faith in Christ.

Ver. 14. Of our Lord Jesus Christ.-These words are wanting in some ancient MSS. and Versions; but neither their insertion nor their omission at all affects the sense.

Ver. 15. Of whom-i. e. of God the Father.— Is named.-Mackn. " denominated." The Jewish writers call heaven the upper, and earth the lower, family of God.

Ver. 17. Rooted and grounded.-Mackn. "Firmly rooted and founded."

Ver. 19. Filled with all.-Hammond, "Unto all." "Suggesting (says Dr. Pye Smith) the sublime conception of an approximation to the supreme perfection which is begun by religion now, and shall be ever growing in the holiness and bliss of the future state." Messiah, vol. i. p. 48.

[blocks in formation]

the glory of the dispensation committed to his hands.

1. St. Paul speaks of himself as less than the least of all saints; to express which idea, he coins a word of peculiar modesty, in which there is no doubt but he refers, as in other cases when speaking of himself, to his former persecution of the saints, when he was, as he calls himself in another epistle, 66 a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious." (1 Tim. i. 13.) On this circumstance we may remark, that good men, after their conversion, ought never to forget what they were before.

"How different (says the pious Dr. Watts) is our common behaviour from that of holy Paul! When we think of self, we are ready to raise our thoughts beyond all measure, and aggrandize our ideas to a vast and shameful degree, as though we stood as fair, and as large, and as high, in the eyes of our fellow-worms, as we do in our own eyes. Vain imaginations!wretched self-flattery-and foolish pride! We take the least of syllables, the least of letters [I], and swell and amplify it (if I may so speak), to fill a page, or to spread over a whole leaf, and we scarcely leave a scanty margin for all other names to stand in." (Humility of St. Paul, p. 2.)

But to return to our apostle: 2. we must briefly notice the end and object of his mission, which Dr. Chandler and other commentators think, is here spoken of in allusion to the temple and worship of Diana. There treasures were hidden of great value; and mysteries were practised, known only to the initiated and to the officiating priests; but in the gospel are mysteries and treasures infinitely more va

luable, which, indeed, had long been hidden in the secret counsels of the Almighty, but were now to be publicly declared to all men; and not to men only, but to angels, who in the churches of Christ listen with pleasure, to learn the manifold wisdom of God-that is, the wisdom which is displayed in his gospel. (See 1 Pet. i. 12

St. Paul entreats his Ephesian friends not to be at all discouraged at hearing f his suffering affliction, or persecution, on their account; since he gloried in sufferings for Christ's sake, and wished them to do the same. For his part, he was neither anxious to avoid, or be delivered from them; but only that they might be instrumental to promote the glory of God, and the sal vation of men: and, for the Ephesians, his prayer was, that they might be strength ened, comforted, and enlightened, by the Spirit of God; that being planted in Christ, and founded on him, they might be deeply rooted in love to God, and, as he elsewhere states it, grow up into a spiritual building -"a habitation of God through the Spirits that is, into a spiritual temple filled with the glory of God in all its beauty, and in all its communicable fulness, that their minds might be enlarged, so as, in great measure, to comprehend the love of Christ, which is indeed, in its utmost extent, in comprehensible; and to be filled with all the fulness of God, which is infinite and inconceivable.

"Now to the God, whose power can do
More than our thoughts or wishes know,
Be everlasting honours done,
By all the church, through Christ his Son."


CHAP. IV. Ver. 5. One baptism.-It has been disputed whether this be intended of water-baptism, or the baptism of the Spirit; but we see no reason to separate what our Lord Jesus has joined together,

John iii. 5. "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. See our Note on that passage.

[blocks in formation]

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teach


12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ :

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ :

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16 From whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the

[moral virtue.

body unto the edifying of itself in love.

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man,which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

[ocr errors]


Ver. 8. Wherefore he saith-i. e. David, in Psalm Ixviii. 18-23.He led captivity captive.-Marg. a multitude of captives.' Or it may mean, he led captive those who had carried others captive. See Col. ii. 15; and compare Judges v. 12.-Gave gifts.-The Psalm just quoted says, "received;" but they were received only to bestow.

Ver. 9. Lower parts of the earth-i. e. the grave. Ps. Ixiii. 9.

Ver. 10. Far above all heavens.-Not only the material heavens which we behold, but also above the celestial beings which reside in God's immediate presence. See chap. i. 20, 21; Phil. ii. 10.—That he might fill all things-i. e. with his presence; as chap. i. 23. Marg. "Fulfil all things," namely, which were predicted of him. So St. Bernard; but Mackn. thinks this does not so well agree with what immediately follows

Ver. 11. He gave some, apostles-i. e. he gave gifts suited to all the different classes; as in ver. 8.

Ver. 12. For the perfecting-i. e. for the furnishing, or fitting up of holy men for the work of the ministry. See Doddr. Note (b).

[blocks in formation]

Ver. 14. By the sleight of men.--Doddr. thinks this refers to the dishonest practices of gamblers; or perhaps it may refer to the tricks of jugglers.

Ver. 16. Filly joined, &c. See Col. ii. 19.

Ver. 18. Blindness.-Marg. "hardness;" because. blindness is often occasioned by a hard skin growing over the sight of the eye. See Marg. of Rom. xi. 7.

Ver. 21. If so be that-Doddr. "Forasmuch as"ye have heard him-namely, Christ, in his word. Ver. 24. True holiness.-Marg. " holiness of truth," which is an evident Hebraism.

Ver. 26. Be ye angry, and sin noti. e. refrain from all sinful passions: be angry rather at the sin than at the sinner; and let not your anger be unduly protracted. Mr. Ward informs us, that "one of the apartments in the houses of some rich men [in India] is appropriated to a curious purpose, viz. when any of the members of the family are angry, they shut

« PreviousContinue »