« AnteriorContinuar »
This is what the Apostle hop'd and pray'd for in the behalf of these
Ephesians, upon their receiving the Gospel, and becoming Christians : that the Change of their Mind might be accompanied with a Change of their Life, and their new Principles engage them to new Practices according to them ; by which alone they could be enabled to please God, and to do things acceptable to him. All which are owing to the Light of the Gospel, and the blessed Influences of God's Holy Spirit working by it. And this will lead me, in the
Third Place, to the Rules here given by the Holy Spirit to direct our Hearts aright in the Ways of Christianity; and these Directions take up the remaining Part of this Chapter, The great general Direction to these Ephesians, is, that henceforth they walk not as other Gentiles walk'd in the Vanity of their Minds, but that they shụn all the Deeds of Darkness practis'd by them, and walk as Children of the Light, and as becometh Christians. To which end, the
Il Rule given to them, is to avoid lying, and to speak nothing but Truth in their Commerce and Communication with one another ; ver. 25. Wherefore putting away lying, Speak every Man Truth with his Neighbour, for we are Members one of another. Įying was one of the great Sins and Abominations of the Heathens, who having little or no regard to Truth, dealt, chiefly in Falshood and Deceit. 'Tis one of the Works of the Devil, who is a lying Spirit in the Mouths of all that are given to it: Te are of your Father the Devil (faith our Saviour) and the Works of your Father ye will do, for he was a Lyar from the beginning, and the Father of it. When he speaketboa Lye, he speaketh of his own, før he was the first Inventor, and is still the great Sollicitor to it. Why bath Satan filld thy Heart (faith St. Peter to Ananias) that thou mouldst lye unto the Holy Ghost? Acts 5. 3. 'Tis the Devil that puts it into Mens Hearts to fallify and utter Lyes : and therefore however you liv'd in these things whilst ye continued Heathens, yet now being Christians you must abhor and abandon them; for lying is directly opposite and provoking to the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of Truth, and desireth Truth in the inner and outward Parts. And because out of the Abundance of the Heart the Mouth speaketh, we must first cleanse the Fountạin, that the Streams issuing from it may be pure and
clean: Wash thine Heart from Wickedness, and then thy Tongue will be free from Deceit, then wilt thou speak nothing but Truth to thy Neighbour ; which should be the rather done, because we are Member's one of another : we are Members of the same natural Body, as Men; and of the fanie mystical Body, as Christians, and therefore should be true and faithful to one another.
2dly, Another Direction here given, is to avoid all rash and in moderate Anger, in the next Verses; Be angry and sin net, let not the sun go down upon your Wrath, neither give place to the Devil. This was likewise another great Sin of the Gentiles, who let loose the Reins to inordinate Paf fions, and thereby created Brawls and bloody Contentions ; but it must not be fo aniong Christians, they are to restrain and bridle their Passions by the Grace of Meekness, and to keep themselves from all sinful and excessive Anger : for though Men may be sometimes angry without Sin, yet they may never be so without a Cause neither should any small or slight thing inflame us, for nothing but great and weighty Matters are able to justify a Passion. Moreover, where there may be a just Cause of Anger, it must not rise too high, or kindle too great a Flame, but must be kept within due bounds, and not break out into bitter and contumelious Language; nor must it continue too long to bake into Rancour and Malice, but we must make all haste to fubdue that Rage, and to be reconcil'd to our offending Brother. We may not let the Sun go down upon our Wrath : that is, it must not continue to the Evening, but be remov'd before Sun-fet, lest it hinder our evening Prayer; wherein we beg Forgiveness of God, as we forgive our Brethren, Plutarch tells us of the Pythagoreans, that if any Anger or Quarrel arose among them, they were before the Sun went down to shake hands and be made friends; which is the Apostle's Lesson here to these Ephesians, not to harbour any fecret Grudges, but to suppress all causeless and inordinate Anger : And the rather, because to give way to unruly Passions, is to give place to the Devil; 'tis to suffer the Evil-one to get ground upon us, and to be led away by his wicked Suggestions. Contrary whereunto, we are here taught to be led by the Spirit of God into the Ways of Peace, Meekness, and Reconciliation, and to agree with our Adversary quickly, as becometh Chriftians.
3dly, Another Direction here given, is to avoid Theft, and to labour for an honest Livelihood, in the following words; Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his Hands the thing which is good, thar he may have to give to him that needeth. Stealing was another Sin that was rife, and commonly practis'd among the Gentiles, who having little or no sense of Property, brake down the Inclosures of Right, and invaded one another, Their Ignorance of God and his Laws led them into all the Acts of Rapine and Injustice without any Remorse, whereas these things are set in a better Light by the Goé pel, and we more clearly see the Evil and Danger of theni : and if the Heathens, who had only the dim Light of Nature and Reason to direct them, were left without Excuse in these Matters; how much more inexcusable shall we be, who beside that have the clearer Light of Revelation to guide us in them? Let none then that pretend to be Chrif tians, prove Thieves or Robbers; or if any have been found guilty of this Sin, let them reform and Ateal no more, but rather learn by their own Labour to earn their own living : for Theft is the Effect of Idleness, and the lazy Perfon hath no Way of living but by stealing; to prevent which, let them work with their Hands, if they are engag'd in any Handicraft or mechanical Employnients; or with their Heads, if they are set in higher Stations for the publick Good, that they may have fufficient not only for their own Necessities and Conveniences, but to supply the Wants of those that need.
4thly, Another Direction here given, is to avoid all corrupt Communication, which leads to all the unnatural Lusts and Uncleanness of the Gentiles : Ver. 29. Let no corrupt Communication come out of your Mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister Grace to the Hearers. Evil Communication corrupts good Manners, whereas good Discourse tends to instil Knowledg, and increase Piety. The Tongue, if employ'd aright, is the Glory of a Man ; but if us d otherwise, is a Shame and Reproach to him, being an Instrument and Incentive to nuch Wickedness. Leud Talk proceeds from a corrupt Heart, and brings on corrupt Practices, as foul Streams issue from a corrupt Fountain, and going on contract greater Foulness; and therefore our Saviour wills that our Communication be yea, yea, nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of Evil, Mat. 5. All Additions of Obscenity or
Swearing are from the Devil, and lead to him ; and therefore should be as carefully shunnid and avoided, as we flee from Poison and Infection. To all which the Apostle adds,
5thly, A Caution against grieving the Holy Spirit of God, by whom ye are seald unto the Day of Redemption ; ver. 30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, which is done by the foremention'd Vices : for the Spirit of God being a Spirit of Truth, cannot but be offended with Lying and Fall hood, as also being a Spirit of Meekness, must be displeas'd with all inordinate Paflion; being a Spirit of Justice and Integrity, cannot away with the evil' Arts of Dishonesty and Double-Dealing; and, lastly, being a Spirit of Puri. ty, is griev'd at all Impurity of Words or Actions. All which Evils being so directly contrary to the Nature and Office of the Holy Spirit, will, if persisted in without Repentance, cause him to withdraw his Grace and Presence from us. But beside these, there are two things that do more especially grieve and provoke the Holy Spirit of God; and they are, the quenching its good Motions, and the stifling and abufing its Gifts. For the
(1.) The Holy Spirit of God, either by the Calls of his Holy Word, or the secret Checks and Whispers of our own Conscience, often minds us of our Duty, and perfuades to it; it gives us to hear a Voice behind or within us, saying, This is the way, walk in it, when we are turning to the right Hand or to the left. Hence it chears and comforts us; when we go aright; and reprehends and troubles us, when we go astray. Now the hearkening to these good Motions, rejoices the Holy Spirit, and causes him to abide with us; but the turning the deaf Ear or suppressing of them, grieves and drives him from us. Again,
(2.) The Holy Spirit of God is pleas'd to bestow many Gifts and Talents upon us, for the Good of our felves and others; which if we use and employ aright to the Ends for which they are given, this Holy Spirit will be so far pleas'd as to pronounce us good and faithful Servants now, and reward us at last with an Entrance into our Master's Joy : but if we neglect or abuse them, that is, if we neither use them at all, or use them amiss; he will be so far dif: pleas'd as to deprive us of them, and not only withdraw the Light of his Grace here, but doom us to everlasting Darkness hereafter : which should make us careful to please, ånd afraid to grieve him. And that because 'tis by this Spirit that we are sealed to the Day of Redemption ; that is,
as Goods that are bought are wont to be mark'd with the Buyer's Seal or Mark, so the Spirit of God is the Seal by which we are mark'd for the purchas’d and redeemi'd People of God. Where there is an Allusion to those Places or Countries, where Men are as ordinarily bought, as any other Commodity, in which nothing is more ordinary than to set a Seal or Mark upon them, either in their forehead, or in some other part, to distinguish them from other Mens Servants. In like manner, the Servants of God are distinguish'd from others by this Seal of the Spirit : so the Apostle tells us, The Foundation of God standeth Sure, having this Seal, the Lord knoweth who are his; being hereby seala to the great Day of Redemption.
Finally, The Apostle to conclude all, exhorts these Ephefians, that all Bitterness of Spirit, all Wrath and Anger, and Clamour, and Evil-speaking be put away from them, with all Malice. All which being so opposite and displeasing to the Spirit of God, which is to direct and rule our Hearts, they should above all things labour to subdue and mortify, as contrary to the Commands of Christ, and the Spirit of the Gospela
, which they had receiv'd : Adding in the Close, that instead of those black Passions before rehears'd, they Tould be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake had forgiven them. These are some of the prime and peculiar Vertues of Chriftianity, and some of the principal Graces of God's Holy Spirit, which teaches us an universal Kindness to all Men, a compassionate Tenderness for all their Infirmities, and a ready Forgiveness of all little Injuries and Indignities; for all which Christ hath given both his Command and Example.
This is the Sum of the Epistle for this Day, wherein what St. Paul faith here to the Ephesians, he faith unto all Christians, and to us especially, who are of the Gentile Race : and therefore having by the Light of the Gospel, the Vices of the Heathens, and the Vertues of Chriftians so clearly discover'd to us, let us all learn heartily to forfake the former, and follow the latter to our Lives end: Which God grant, &c.