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Faith, Love, Hope, and the high Prospects, to which believers are enlightened.
EPHESIANS i. 15-20.
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inherit. ance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his pow. er to usward who believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead
IN the foregoing verses, the Apostle speaks of the Ephesian believers, as being "sealed with that holy spirit of promise, which was the earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." In the words now read, he mentions two graces, which were eminent marks and characters in that holy seal, which had been impressed upon them. These were, "Faith in the Lord Jesus, and, Love to all the saints," which are ever to be considered as distinguishing signatures of the heirs of heaven, and seals of their title to the purchased possession.
The Apostle gives thanks to God for their faith and love, of which he had lately heard, and some effects of which he had formerly seen, while he resided among them.
As there were many from all parts of Asia, who at tended on his ministry, when he preached in Ephesus, It is not supposable, that he could be personally acquainted with them all; he therefore speaks of their faith and love, as having been reported to him. Be'sides: He had now for sometime been absent from them; and he foretold, that after his departure, there Would be a great defection from the faith, which accordingly happened, as we learn from his epistles to Timothy And he probably intends here to express his joy concerning those, of whom he had heard, that in these times of dangerous declension they remained stedfast in the faith. He did not, however, think them so firmly established, as to be secure in that evil day from all the power of temptation; he therefore prays, as well as gives thanks in their behalf.
What he requested was, in general, that they might have greater knowledge and clearer discernment in divine things; and, particularly, that they might know the exalted hope to which they were called; the glori. bus inheritance which was provided for them; and the greatness of that power which will work in believers, to raise them unto immortal life, as it had already wrought in raising Christ from the dead, and setting him at God's right hand in heavenly places.
I. Let us consider the things for which the Apostle commends the Ephesians: These are faith in Christ, and love to all the saints.
Faith is such a sensible, realizing belief of the gospel, in its general truth, and in its particular doctrines and precepts, as gives it à practical influence on the heart and life. It" receives the love of the truth""receives it as the word of God, which effectually works in them who believe."
different objects, they must be diverse in many of their operations. As God is an all perfect Being, love to him will express itself by an intire submission to his will-by a choice of him for our portion-by a prefer ence of his favor to every worldly interest-by a ful complacence in him as our happiness-and by a hum ble acquiescence in all his dispensations and com-.. mands. As the saints are but dependent creatures, and as they are holy in a very imperfect measure, they can. not be the objects of these high operations of love.. God only we are to love with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind. The saints we are to love. with a pure heart fervently, but not with all the heart supremely. Our love to them we must express by choosing them for our companions-by delighting in their virtuous example and heavenly conversation-by cheerfully assisting them in their spiritual interests, and meekly accepting their assistance in ours-by studying the things which make for peace and edifi cation by communing with them in instituted ordinances by bearing their infirmities by condescend ing to them in cases of difference and by seeking their profit, as well as our own, that both they and we. may be saved.
These Ephesians manifested their love to all saints. Their charity was not confined to a party to those who lived in the same city, and worshipped in the same sanctuary; but it embraced all, who in every. place called on the name of Jesus Christ, their common, Lord.
If our love consists in an attachment to a particular sect, with which we are connected in sentiment, inter-. est, or worldly design, it has nothing of the nature of Christian love. The love which regards the saints for their holy character, will regard all in whom this char acter appears, wherever they dwell, and whatever name they bear. To judge then, whether our love is sincere, we must consider its extent, as well as its effects,
II. Paul expresses his great thankfulness to God for the happy success of the gospel among these Ephe sians, After I heard of your faith and love, I cease not to give thanks.”
Her jo ced in the, honor, which rebounded to the crucified Jesus, who, having made his soul an offering for sin, now saw his seed increasing, and the pleasure of the Lord prospering in his hands. He rejoiced to think, how many immortal souls were now rescued from the power of Satan, delivered from guilt and con. demnation, and brought into a state of pardon and fafety. He rejoiced in the happy consequences, which. might ensue to others from the glorious success, of the gospel in Ephesus. He hoped, that from hence the word of God might sound forth to all around, and that the knowledge of the truth might be transmitted to succeeding ages. Here were many pious families, in which religion was maintained, and children trained, up in the admonition of the Lord. The blessed effects of Paul's preaching here might hopefully reach to mul titudes around, and descend to generations yet unborn. He rejoiced the more in their faith and love, because these were the effects of his own preaching. The good minister is pleased to hear of the success of the gospel in any place; but he feels a peculiar pleasure in see. ing the success of his own ministry. Paul had an uncommon affection for those, whom he had begotten by the gospel, and he conceived a special joy in the pros pect of meeting them in heaven. He says to the Thessalonians What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ?-Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? Ye are our glory and our joy."
If the prevalence of religion is, on so many accounts, matter of thankfulness, we should spare no pains to give it success. Not only ministers, but all Christians should labor in this glorious cause. We should all be solicitous to experience the power of religion in our
own souls, and to promote it among others, as far as our influence can extend. Ministers should labor abundantly in the work to which they are called, because it is a work, which concerns the honor of Christ's kingdom, and the salvation of men's souls. Professors of religion should so walk, that others may, by their example, be encouraged to walk with them in the way to glory. They and ministers should strive together, in their labors and prayers, for the advancement of the common cause. Heads of families by their prayers, instructions and example should support religion in their houses, and unite their influence for the general maintenance of family government and order. The happy change, which religion makes in the hearts where it is received, and among the people where it prevails, will be a powerful motive with the benevolent Christian, whether in a public or private station, to contribute his influence for its suceess.
III. The Apostle, not only gives thanks for the past, but prays for the future success of the gospel in Ephesus. "I cease not to give thanks, making mention of you in my prayers." Though he had heard much of ther faith and love, he did not consider thẻm, and would not have them consider themselves, as already made perfect; he therefore informs them, that he prayed for them, and thus admonishes them to pray for themselves, that their faith and love might still more abound.
The best Christians have need to make continual improvements. The Apostle exhorts as many as are perfect, to be likeminded with him, who" pressed toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The greater progress Christians make in knowledge and grace, the more humble they will be under a sense of their deficiency, and the more solicitous to make advances in both. There cannot be a more unfavorable sign, than great confidence in our own attainments. "If we say, we have no sin, we de