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to the grace of God. It is of grace, that we are brought to a knowledge of, and faith in Jesus, and are disposed to the performance of works really good. "Faith is the gift of God." The means of faith are from him: The word of revelation is not our procurement, but his gra. cious bestowment. It is by his kind influence, that we are excited to attend on the instructions of his word. It is his Spirit, that gives the word a saving power. "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works."-" By the grace of God," says St. Paul, "I am what I am." It is by the power of God, that we are kept through faith unto salvation. If we live, yet we live not by ourselves, but Christ liveth in us. If we labor, it is not by our own power, but by the grace of God which is with us.
Our spiritual services are acceptable only by Jesus Christ, not by their own intrinsic worth. Were our works ever so perfect, yet between them and the reward promised to them, there is no proportion. Therefore, though believers have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life, yet this is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1. Humility essentially belongs to the Christian temper. The believer perceives his own unworthiness, and his dependence on the grace of God. He knows he has no cause for boasting, and he feels no dispo sition to it. Where faith operates, the soul is humbled. So faith used to operate, and so it does still. They who, on the apprehension of a title to salvation, are puffed up with pride in themselves, and contempt of others, discover manifest signs of the want of gospel faith.
2. The mighty preparation which God has made for our recovery from the ruins of the apostacy, teaches us, that the human race is of great importance in the scale
of rational beings, and in the scheme of God's universal government. Though in ourselves we are unworthy of God's notice, yet he has done much for us—more than we could have asked-more than we can even think. He must, then, have some great designs to accomplish by us. His glory is in some way or other to be wonderfully displayed in us. Let us now fall in with the design of his rich mercy and grace, lest hereafter we should stand everlasting monuments of his ireful justice, against perverseness and ingratitude.
3. It infinitely concerns us to comply with the proposals of the gospel.
A salvation procured in the manner which the gospel discovers, is great and important beyond all imagination. If we neglect this, proportionably great and awful will be our destruction. If without the grace here revealed, our state would be wretched and hopeless: How dreadful must be the condition of those who reject this grace? If he who sinned against the law, fell under a sentence of death, without any mercy promised him, How sore will be the punishment of those who despise the grace and grieve the spirit of God, and tread under foot the blood of a dying Saviour?
4. Let no man flatter himself, that he is in a state of salvation, as long as he lives in the neglect of good works.
These are the fruits of that faith by which we are saved. If these are wanting, the root of the matter is not in us. The hope, comfort and joy of Christian professors, must greatly depend on their care to maintain those works, to which true believers are created, and which God has ordained that they should walk in them. They who rise to the joy of hope, on some transient religious exercises, before they have had opportunity to manifest their sincerity by the performance of religious duties, greatly dishonor religion and dangerously impose on themselves. And they who pre
sume to pronounce others in a converted state, before their faith has appeared in its works, and their repent. ance in its fruits, it is to be feared often flatter deluded souls to their eternal destruction.
5. Let us be careful, that we mistake not the nature of good works.
Works really good must proceed from a good principle-from a principle of faith. And as faith is a be lief of the gospel, so works flowing from it will be conformed to the gospel. They will be accompanied with a correspondent temper, regulated by the divine precepts, and produced by the influence of gospel doctrines. If then we believe that we are God's work. manship, let us walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, and abound in all the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Wherefore remember, that ye were in time passed Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that, at that time, ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Is rael, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.
As the Ephesian church consisted partly of Jews, and partly of Gentiles, the Apostle in this letter addresses himself sometimes to the one and sometimes to the other, separately, and often to both jointly. The passage now read he directs to the believers, "who in times past were Gentiles in the flesh." He says in the following words, "Ye, who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ." In what respects they once were afar off, he explains, in the words chosen for our text. The following part of the chapter describes their present nearness.
What is now before us is to show, in what respects these Ephesians, before their conversion to the faith of Christ, were at a distance from God; and how the description here given of their unhappy state may be applied to sinners under the gospel. VOL. III.
I. The Apostle calls upon them to remember that "they were in time past Gentiles in the flesh."
He admonishes them not to forget the dismal state of Heathenism out of which they had lately been called; but often to reflect upon it with attention and seriousness, that they might ever maintain a humble sense of their own unworthiness, and awaken in their souls thankful and admiring apprehensions of that grace which had wrought in them so glorious a change.
We are here taught that Christians, who have been the favored subjects of God's renewing grace, ought to remember their former guilty condition, and the awful danger from which they have escaped. God says to Jerusalem, after her happy restoration, "Thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed. I will establish my covenant with thee, that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done." The Apostle Paul, after his conversion to the gospel, frequently reviews, and deeply laments his former life, calling himself a blasphemer, a persecutor and chief of sinners, and he acknowledges with grateful admiration, the mercy of God, which had revealed Christ in him, and put him into the gospel ministry.
A recollection of former stupidity, impenitence and guilt keeps the Christian humble and watchful, enlivens his gratitude to God, and warms his zeal in relig ion. He is not disposed to exalt himself on account of the spiritual charge, which, he hopes, has taken place in him: He is rather inclined to think others better than himself, being conscious of greater vileness and guilt in himself, than he can discern in them. While he rejoices in the humble persuasion, that he is a new creature, he acknowledges, that by the grace of God he is what he is. He adores that grace, which has placed him under the means of salvation, and rendered these means effectual to renew his heart. He takes no