Imágenes de páginas




For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good

works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.

This admirable letter seems to have been addressed to a church consisting chiefly of Gentile converts. The apostle accordingly presses upon their attention the unspeakable debt of gratitude which they owed to God, for having so graciously restored them to his favour, and made them joint partakers with the Jews of the privileges of Christianity; and concludes by exhorting them, at some length, and with the most edifying fervour, to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they had been called. One of the greatest difficulties with which the early preachers of the gospel, and particularly the apostle Paul, had to contend, was the extreme unwillingness of the Jews to recognize the claim of equality, with respect to religious privileges, put forth on behalf of their Gentile brethren. They could not bear to behold the gates of their spiritual Zion thus thrown open to the world, and mankind at large placed upon a level with themselves, the elect of God, the children of Abraham. It added greatly to their dissatisfaction, that Christianity bestowed such privileges upon the Gentiles, without even requiring of them in return to conform to the Jewish ceremonial. The rites, to which they had been accustomed to pay so much attention, were thus openly rejected as worthless. Their national pride was wounded. They burned with indignation at the thoughts that the followers of a crucified Gallilean should venture to introduce such portentous changes. They were at one time the open persecutors, at another the insidious disturbers, of the new religion. They laboured incessantly to engraft upon the simple and spiritual doctrine preached by the apostle, as many as possible of their national peculiarities, and to transform those of the Gentiles, whom he had succeeded in converting to Christianity, into Jewish proselytes. We do not, of course, mean to affirm, that this was the case universally; but, from the apostle's frequent allusions to the subject, such conduct would appear to have been too common amongst the nominal converts from Judaism. Many of the Gentiles, on the other hand, had been accustomed hitherto to regard the Jews with contempt, as a set of credulous enthusiasts. The scorn with which that haughty people had accustomed themselves to regard all that were not within the pale of their national church, was returned with interest. Such feelings, it is true, on their part, might, and probably would be, considerably affected by their conversion to Christianity; but enough of mutual jealousy would remain to prove the source of frequent misunderstandings. The management of a church, composed of such discordant materials, must have been attended with considerable difficulty. It must have been necessary to reprove Jewish arrogance, and to repress Gentile presumption. The apostle must have laboured, on the one hand, to wean his countrymen from their superstitious attachment to the ceremonial part of their religion, and to present to their minds more enlarged and liberal views of the divine government and dispensations; and, on the other hand, he must have taught the Gentile converts the propriety of respecting the prejudices of their brethren, and of accepting the favours conferred upon themselves with becoming gratitude and humility, at the same time that he exhorted them, with suitable earnestness,“ to stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ had made them free, and not be entangled again with the yoke of Jewish bondage.” All these various duties, and many others equally important to the prosperity of the several churches, do we find this highly honoured servant of Christ faithfully discharging throughout his epistles ; which contain treasures of truth, and zeal, and piety, invaluable to the attentive reader. In that part of his letter from which the text is taken, the apostle, after having reminded the believers at Ephesus, or, as some think, at Laodicea, a neighbouring city, which he had never visited, of the state of spiritual degradation from which they had been delivered, pursues his usual plan of exhorting them to ascribe that glorious deliverance not in the slightest degree to their own merits, but exclusively to the goodness and mercy of God. "For by grace,” says he, that is by favour, "are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, in which God had before intended that we should walk.”

We are invited, by these words of the apostle, in the first place to contemplate the whole Christian church as the workmanship of God. We are called upon to ascribe to him, as the great originator, all the beneficial effects which Christianity has been the means of producing, both upon individuals and upon society. And who that has examined the subject with a moderate degree of attention and candour, will deny that these effects have been most important ? Notwithstanding the number and magnitude of the obstacles by which its progress has been impeded, has it not done much towards elevating the standard both of religion and morality amongst mankind? There is, indeed, no subject more likely than this to lead a pious mind to the reflection, that“ one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” It seems, at first sight, unaccountable that Christianity should have been so long in the world, and yet have produced so limited an influence. That doctrines and precepts, which recommend themselves so strongly to the reason and feelings of man, and which were given to the world under such weighty sanctions, should be found, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, comparatively speaking so little known, and so much less acted upon in society, is truly astonishing. Let us not forget, however, what a mass of long established corruptions, philosophical, religious, political and practical, were to be removed before the influence of the Christian religion, in its genuine simplicity and purity,

« AnteriorContinuar »