The Epistle to the Ephesians

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{tcl47}tcl46}tcl45}tcl44}tcl43}tcl42}tcl41}tcl40}tcl39}tcl38}tcl37}tcl36}tcl35}tcl34}tcl33}tcl32}tcl31}tcl30}tcl29}tcl28}tcl27}tcl26}tcl25}tcl24}tcl23}tcl22}tcl21}tcl20}tcl19}tcl18}tcl17}tcl16}tcl15}tcl14}tcl13}tcl12}tcl11}tcl10}tcl9}tcl8}tcl7}tcl6}tcl5}tcl4}tcl3}tcl2}tcl1}Ephesians  •  1.4 hr. read  •  grade level: 6
Chap. 1
WE must introduce our meditations on this epistle by recurring a little to the ways of God from the beginning, because there is a wonderful unity in His counsels, and the whole volume sets its seal to the divine thought: " Known unto God are all His works from the beginning." Therefore, when we come to a scripture like this, it is well to pause and look about us, and see its relation to previous scriptures. If I come to a merely moral scripture, such as " Let him that stole, steal no more," I may take it and use it at once, and alone; but when it is a doctrinal or prophetic scripture, which opens the divine mind, I have to ask how it is introduced, and what is to come after it, because we are to be fraught with divine intelligence-" We have the mind of Christ."
The epistle to the Hebrews unfolds the heavens, and speaks of heavenly calling, putting you in company with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but it does not open the mystery of the Church. The epistle to the Ephesians opens the mystery of the Church, but does not keep you in company with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are advancing, and we are called to distinguish between the heavenly calling, and the calling of the Church. So there is a fitness in considering the epistle to the Hebrews before the epistle to the Ephesians.
Now, why do I say the epistle to the Hebrews opens the heavenly calling I Because it associates you with Noah, Abraham, Moses, &c. The earth, at the beginning, was given to the children of men. What did they do with it?
They forfeited it. Then, what did God do with them? Well, he opened heaven to them! He gave them the earth to enjoy; they soiled and lost it by sin. " Well," said He, " I '11 open heaven to you." This is one way in which the grace of God abounds!
What should I say if one who, when I had abused the gift which he put in my hand, put a better gift in my other hand I This is God!
Was not Adam brought back to God, and Enoch taken to heaven'? I have no doubt that Abraham had the heavenly calling. They looked for a better country; " that is a heavenly." Moses was carried up to Pisgah to bear witness of it. Enoch bore witness of it, and Elijah in a later dispensation. From the beginning there has been heavenly calling, but not Church calling. So when the apostle comes to address the Hebrews, who were brought from. a Jewish root, he talks of heavenly calling, but does not go beyond it. When he comes to address himself to the Ephesians, once a Gentile people, the worshippers of the goddess Diana (but apart from all Jewish connections) he unfolds the mystery of the Church-the richest thing in the counsels of God. Let me say another thing. How did God unfold His purposes in the earth? He knew a family in the loins of Abraham. They flourished into a nation in the book of Exodus; then, under judges and prophets; but they did not ripen to the culminating point of glory till God put them under a king. He goes on from step to step, till the elect family flourished under Solomon into a kingdom. So it is with His heavenly purposes. It is not till the apostleship of Paul is set up that they unfold in the bright culminating point of the Church. God is always consistent in His ways. Let the earth be the scene of His activities; we find them unfolding till they reach the palmy days of Solomon. In His heavenly purposes we follow on, till we see the Church at the highest point in creation-" The fullness of Him that filleth all in all." So it is impossible not to stand and say: "Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"
Now, having prefaced thus, we stand before the epistle to the. Ephesians. It is desirable to come up to this writing with intelligence. Here we are listeners in heavenly scenes to the same kind of thing as we saw in earthly scenery.
Let me remind you of a passage in Col. 1:2525Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25): '" the dispensation of God which is given me for you, to fulfill the word of God "-or, "to fill it out." To fill out the revelation of God-a magnificent commentary of Paul on his own ministry. Was it not left to Solomon to display the closing purpose of God in the earth by heading it with a throne 2 It was left to Paul to reveal, in his ministry, the bright magnificent point of the heavenly mysteries. We are brought up by him to the headship of Christ.
The apostle begins by addressing all the faithful in Christ Jesus. He steps over the Ephesians. So that we are all called to learn these things. " Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." This could not be said of the patriarchs. " In heavenly places " they would have been associated with us; but these are blessings in company with Christ.
Then, having put you in this peculiar place, he unfolds the divine roll of blessings to you. First, chosen in Him before the world was. Those high privileges began before the foundation of the world. Could I say that properly of Abraham 1. Certainly he was chosen before the foundation of the world, but you are chosen "in Him." The divine purposes rested in a peculiar way on a peculiar people. Then, predestination always follows on election. Election touches the person; predestination the place or condition: " Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.... He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." Now; is not that a peculiar form of adoption I Do. I believe that Adam was a son of God? Indeed I do. Do I believe that he was " accepted in the Beloved "I No; I do not.
Do I believe that angels are sons of God I Indeed I do. Do I believe they are " accepted in the Beloved"? No; I do not. So that here again is a peculiarity. It is an adoption of the highest order. We have the joy and liberty of the Beloved's sonship. He goes on to say, " In whom we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Why, to be sure, that is a thing of course. Who would think of asking a person up in heavenly places, "Are you forgiven I" Did you ever observe, in the parable of the prodigal son, that the father never says he forgives him? How could he How could he frame his lips to say, " I forgive you "? You and I ought to walk in the sunshine of our calling in such a way as to assume forgiveness, as a thing at the foot of the hill, while we are up at the heights. Let the music and dancing, the ring and the shoes, tell me I am forgiven. So the father treats the prodigal, and so the Spirit treats us in Ephesians 1. Yet the soul is constantly busying itself about forgiveness, when it should be viewing the magnificence of its calling in Christ. There is a style in Love, that love could never rid itself of The father would have wept to say, " I forgive you.' Would not you be ashamed to tell one coming back in sorrow, confessing his fault, " I forgive you"? Talk of a father, on the neck of his weeping, penitent child, saying, " I forgive you!" How little we know of the ways of love! Now, to go on. He abounds towards us in all wisdom and knowledge, having opened to us the bosom secret-all things gathered together in Christ. That is a secret never made known before. In the prophet Isaiah we get a beautiful picture of the millennial earth; but do we ever get the millennial heavens with Christ at their head? Was it ever said by Isaiah, that all things in heaven and earth should be headed up in the Glorified Man l " In whom also we have obtained an. inheritance." We are heirs with Him. Was that ever unfolded before? And till the inheritance comes, we get the Holy Ghost. We get Him here under two titles-a seal, and an earnest. A seal of present salvation; an earnest of future inheritance. When I look at the place of the Holy Ghost, in the mystery of redemption, it is -wonderful to see the official glories that attach to Him here on earth. In the epistle to the Hebrews, we have the official glories of Christ. Here we are called to witness the official glories of the Holy Ghost in this dispensation. What a blessed, glorious thing -to take the secrets of the divine bosom, and make them known to us! To seal us by His presence as possessors of present salvation, and to be the earnest of our inheritance! Ah, it is wonderful! I could not move a step in company with a soul not pregnant with the blessedness of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, being the One with whom we have to do. " The purchased possession " here is the whole scene- the whole creation. It is purchased, but not yet redeemed. The blood of Christ has purchased the creation as well as you; but it is not yet redeemed, and while in that condition you have the Holy Ghost as an earnest. When it is redeemed, you will be the heir of it. Are you redeemed yet? You are purchased, but you wait for the adoption; to wit, the redemption of your body, and that you will never get till God puts forth power as well as blood. The Apocalypse is the display of redemption; the gospel is the display of purchase; but the purchased thing is not redeemed till God puts forth power to rescue it from the hands of the destroyer. At verse 15 the apostle ceases to be a teacher, and becomes an intercessor; and you will find that he never in prayer pulls down what as a teacher he had built up. You will sometimes hear people asking God to love them. I could never make such a prayer as that; I am to pray for a deeper sense of His love. Paul does not ask God to give them this, and the other; but he asks Him that they may have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened. Oh for a better heart to know these things! but to ask God to love me, to make me a co-heir with Christ, to appoint me to heavenly places in Him / I will make a prayer much more humbling than that, I am so blessed in my calling; so poor in my enjoyment/ If God has lit a candle, I will not ask Him to light it, but to take the film from my eyes, that I may see what He has done, what this magnificent purpose is, and the power that has brought us there. So he prays that you may have an eye to discern the brightness of the heavenly glory, and the resurrection-power that has conducted you from such ruins to such glories.-AMEN.
WE have reached the second chapter, but we must look back at the first to resume the course of our thoughts. We were observing that we must distinguish between the heavenly calling and the Church calling. The Church has heavenly calling; but it does not follow that all who have heavenly calling have Church calling. Heavenly calling arose from divine disappointment in the earth. The earth was given to Adam. Adam forfeited it, and the Lord then takes His elect to heaven.
The thought introduces you to the idea of relief.
The Lord found another way to bless His elect. If the earth is lost, where will He put His saints? The blessed God of all grace says, "I know how I will dispose of them; I will put them in heaven." The Lord never merely repairs a breach; He brings a better thing out of the ruin. So, the forfeiture of the earth opened heaven, and the heavenly man finds himself in a better place than if he had never lost the earth The two dealings of God with the earth are in government and in calling out, strangership and citizenship alternately. Citizenship, when God is dealing with and settling the earth; strangership, when God is calling people out of it. He has now called the Church into strangership. That is the way to introduce our thoughts to the present dispensation. We see how God takes His present dispensational attitude. The earth is polluted; and God has put upon, Himself to take His people to heaven. It is a dispensation of intense strangership. But the Church is something more than that. Moses, Abraham, etc., were taken to heaven as witnesses of heavenly calling. Chapter 1 of this epistle introduces a new thought. We are not only in heaven, but in Christ in heaven. See how full the chapter is with the word "in." We are blessed in heavenly places in Christ-accepted in the Beloved. God has chosen us in Him. In whom we have obtained an inheritance. We are raised in Christ. Seated in Him in heavenly places; and when the world has told its story, you will find yourself a co-inheritor in Christ. That is a new thing; that is the body of Christ. That is one peculiarity of the Church.
Let me call your thoughts a little aside. We see in the argument of the Galatians, Abraham brought into our company. And in the argument of the Hebrews, Abraham is brought into our company. Not so in the Ephesians. This is the divine accuracy of the Holy Ghost. In Galatians, we do not get the Church; we get sonship and heirship. I do not doubt that Abraham was as perfect as I am; but the moment the Spirit unfolds and displays the body of Christ, Abraham has no place in the argument. We lose sight of him. I see you and myself; but not Abraham. Is there not a meaning in these distinctions? Can I put myself in the presence of three such august witnesses to the mind of Christ, and not see these things?I have no warrant for saying that Abraham takes a place in the Church Now, let me just ask you, Are you prepared for this 7 Is there any analogy in the divine dealings? I think there is-By-and-by, the Lord will fill the whole face of the earth. All nations will bow to His scepter. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. But is that all I get in the millennial earth 1 No; I get the has gone up to heaven, and the sword has gone to the Gentile. Has the glory ever come back 1 It has; not to
accompany the sword of Caesar, but shrouded in the humiliation of the man of Nazareth The sword had failed to keep the earth in order. We know where the glory dwells. It has not accompanied the sword of Caesar, as it did the sword of David and Solomon. The glory is as much apart from the sword now, as when it went up before Ezekiel, and the sword went to the Gentile. The powers that be, are not ordained of Jesus; they are ordained of God as God. Power belongs to God in His supreme place. Jesus expresses God brought into certain conditions and relationships. All dignities belong to Jesus in title; but we could not look at Him yet and call Him King of kings, and Lord of lords. The epitome of the Remnant's religion is, " Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things that are God's." In a theocracy, Caesar and God are together. Now, I must recognize God's domain, and Cæsar's domain. I must take knowledge of the confusion, and not say that the glory is returned to link itself with the sword; or, He who said, " Who made me a ruler or a judge," would have been a very different person in this world.
Do you and I detect the unity and variety of the divine volume? It is a beautiful whole, but infinite in variety.
Thus, having seen our attitude, we are entering on the second chapter. We are let down a little here, but only to take up an important truth; to see out of what we are called. The chapter distinguishes itself into three parts. From verse 1 to verse 7, we have the subject of death and life; from verse 7 to verse 10, we have the subject of good works; and from verse 10 to the end, distance and nearness.
What manner of people were we when God took us up to baptize us into the body of Christ? Our condition was death-a profound moral ruin. What is the verdict that lies on us? " Dead in trespasses and sins;" but, then, what condition are we brought into by Christ The contrast is very fine. It is life of the highest order that has been imparted to us. We are linked with Christ Himself. How suitable, having shown us our high calling in the first chapter, to show us in the second the place out of which we were called! Our death-estate in nature could not be lower; our life-estate in Christ could not be higher.
Another subject is good works, and I am charmed with the beauty of it. Not of works, lest any man should boast."
As far as good works could have been the ground of boasting, they are shut out by God; but you are created of God in such a way that you must be bringing them forth. John's epistle shows us the same thing; our very new creation secures them.
Then, to the end of the chapter, we get the subject of alienation and nearness. This is just like death and life. Two things attach to us-in our own person, either death or life; in relation to God, either alienation or nearness. I look at myself, and see death in me; but as to life, I have been quickened with the highest form of life a creature could enjoy. So, by nature, nothing could be more distant than my alienation-" No hope, without God in the world." Essentially cut off from Him, my nearness now in Christ is ineffable. It could not be more perfect. It is right we should have low thoughts of ourselves; but the value of Christ rests upon every stone of the temple. The whole temple is built in the Lord; and then, when built, what other glory is put upon it 1 The Holy Ghost dwells there.
Thus, we have disposed of the first two chapters. The first unfolds our position in Christ; the second draws us aside to look at ourselves. He shows me first, in my own person, dead-then in alienation from God. Then he reverses it, and shows me what manner of life I have got, and what manner of nearness I have got;. and there is not a single feeble thought in it. Have you feeble thoughts? They belong to nature. They are not the breathings of the Holy Ghost, They are not the counsels of God touching you. He is not weak when He delineates your condition in nature. He is equally strong when Hs delineates your condition in Christ Jesus,
Chapter 3
We will now read from the opening of chap. 3. to chap. 4. 16. When we meditate on such a scripture as the epistle to the Ephesians, we ought to take care that knowledge be not over-valued; that we do not give it a disproportionate place. When Nicodemus came to the Lord to inquire into heavenly secrets, He turned him back from being a mere enquirer as to heavenly objects, to begin with himself. So Paul refused to bring out the mystery to the Corinthians, because of their low moral standing. So we ought to approach Ephesian truth rather cautiously, looking at our own moral condition. The Lord's dealing with Nicodemus was morally of one character with Paul's dealing with the Corinthians. So there is a moral title to breathe Ephesian atmosphere, or else we might get giddy on such heights. We must tread softly, not timidly, as if they were not our own. These deepest secrets of the bosom belong to us; but the vessel is to be fitted morally to receive them.
Now, we were distinguishing, in the first chapter, between the heavenly calling and the calling of the Church; and, in the second chapter, we were looking at our death and life condition, and our alienated and near condition. In entering on the third chapter, we resume the mystery. Did you ever see a moral 'beauty in this chapter being a parenthesis? It has struck me a good deal, the mystery being a parenthesis, that it should be here unfolded in a parenthetic chapter.
Here we get the Church more largely opened out to us. Paul was the depositary of this mystery, and he got it by revelation. You will say he got everything by revelation; and so he did, as he tells us in Galatians. Where does Paul date his apostleship? From Christ in the flesh? No; from Christ in Glory. Where the other apostles? From Christ in the flesh-the Lord walking down here. But Paul never knew Christ in the flesh. So specific was his calling, and so specific the truth committed to him. By revelation, then, the mystery was made known to him. Now, why does he say, " In few words "1 Why, if he had spent chapters on it, it would have been but few words. If all that the Lord had done had been written, the world itself would not contain the books that should he written, John tells us, in a note of admiration. Just so; this thing was so magnificent that to spend chapters on it would have been but few words. You and I want to find these notes of admiration in ourselves. They are very suited to us. " He made known unto me the mystery-which in other ages was not made known-that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs," not with the Jews merely, but with Christ. The body will have Jews in it; but still it is characteristically Gentile. So he loses sight of the Jews, and tells the Gentiles that they are fellow-heirs with Christ.
Here we have a new kind of inheritance-to be of the same body, and fellow-heirs with the Son of His love; not Gentiles grafted on a body of Jews. " Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints." This is characteristic. The Jews were taken up, because they were the least of all nations. You were taken up, because you were a poor uncircumcised distant Gentile, with no hope or God; and Paul was taken up because he was less than the least of all saints. He takes the beggar from the dung-hill. That is the way of God. Now, what was the operation of the mystery " To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." This reminds us of Col. 1:2525Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25). Paul's ministry came " to fill out the word of God." You will say: Will you put it above the ministry of Christ? Indeed, I do, dispensationally. The ways of God shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. What light we stand in! We are in the light as God is in the light. The multiform variegated wisdom of God is now told out in all its forms of beauty. That which I now get is high calling into fellowheirship-one body with the Lord of glory. I have reached the very head itself; and sit down in sight of the coronation of Christ and His elect. So I have completed it; I have reached the manifold wisdom of God. Then He comes down a little, " In whom we have boldness and confidence by the faith of Him." How He loves to put that foundation under our feet! If we are in the light where God dwells, we are in the citadel of strength which God has erected. It would not do to be in the light, if we were not surrounded by the citadel.
The apostle now becomes a suppliant, as he did before in chap. 1. Having again rehearsed the mystery, he becomes, in verse 14, a man of prayer for us. In chap. 1. he prays to the God of our Lord Jesus; and he prays that you may know the glory that awaits you, and the strength that is conducting you there; and he prays to the God of our Lord Jesus.
Here his prayer is, that you may know the love that has destined you there; and he prays to the Father of our Lord Jesus. His heart instinctively turns itself to the Father's bosom, which is the source of all our eternal blessedness. " Out of thy heart Thou didst it," as David says. And does not your heart instinctively dictate this distinction, as you find yourself in prayer with God in glory, the Father in love, and Christ in salvation l When I think of glory and strength, I am in company with the God of the Lord Jesus. When I think of love, I am in company with the Father of the Lord Jesus. These are evidences in the Book that address themselves to the conscience. Scripture is a great self-evidencing body of light. Then he makes his prayer. One little word we must pause on-"Of whom the whole family," etc. Critics say a better translation is, "every family," and I accept it from the whole context.
I believe there are to be households in heaven, as well as on earth. I believe, when I take an intelligent view of the coming millennial heavens, I see various families, as well as on the millennial earth. I see principalities, thrones, dominions; and I see the Church as the body of Christ, carried and seated above all. There may be, as was quoted before, " The noble army of martyrs," " The goodly fellowship of the prophets." There may be a patriarchal household, and a prophetic household in the world to come; but the Church of the living God, in company with her Head, will be there above all.
It is a fine thing to read astronomy and geography after this manner!
There will be a heaven, by-and-by, studded with the sons of God-with morning stars! and there will be no jealousies or envyings among them.
We want largeness of thought; and largeness of thought need not take us out of accuracy of thought.
Having closed this parenthetic chapter, and its parenthetic purpose, we are entering the fourth chapter. He resumes what he was saying in chap. 3. 1: " I, therefore, the prisoner of the. Lord." That again is characteristic, that the Church should have her high calling told out from a prison in Rome. If we walked a natural path, and died a natural death, we should go from prisons and stakes to Christ in glory. The saint should be an unresisting witness against the world. The world thinks separation from it an insult; and it will not be insulted without revenge. So Paul unfolds the mystery from the gloomy dungeons of Rome. The Church is a martyred thing on the earth. Now he tells us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We should be cherishing that temper of soul that makes us in honor esteem one another. What a beautiful casket in which to deposit such a treasure! "All lowliness, and meekness, with long-suffering." In the moral history of Christendom, pride has broken that casket. Then he shows what the unity of the
Spirit is, which we cannot destroy. We may break the casket, and expose the treasure; but we cannot break it. Do we come from north, south, east, and west, Jews and Gentiles? When we sit down together, it is in one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
We must pause a little on the verses that follow. Suppose I say, " We must look back to Genesis 3" You may answer, " These are very distant scriptures, both locally and in the material." But there is a beautiful connection between them. In Gen. 3 we see the victory of the serpent, and the ruin of man. In Eph. 4 we see the conquest of Christ, and the redemption of man. It is the undoing of the mischief of Gen. 3 Satan made man a drudge on the earth, and a captive to his lusts. The Lord comes to make the devil and his hosts His captives. There is a magnificent moral opposition in this. And what has He done with the old captive 7 He puts him in a more wonderful place than that out of which Satan took him. When He comes to make the hosts of hell His captives, He will let them learn what He can do with him that was once a captive. He has made us independent of everything. We are not only made proof against the deceiver; but we grow up by resources given us. The Church grows up with energies deposited in herself. He makes captivity captive, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, shows what He is about to do with that poor thing that the serpent once ruined. The story is reversed since Gen. 3 We get the captivity of man, and the glorification of man. There the doctrinal part ends. Now how shall our souls deal with it? Shall we be prepared for such magnificent disclosures of God's mind? Are they too weighty for us? I have often felt it so. Intercourse with men on the footstool is so pleasant; but that arises from a quantity of the human mixing with that which should be unmixed. So he prays that we might be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man. The human mind is not able to measure these things. If my heart were opened
to the sense of what the Lord Jesus is, I should say, " Nearer, my Lord, to Thee; nearer to Thee." The footstool may be very pleasant, but, " nearer to Thee!" That Christ may dwell in my heart, and not the scene around me; and that I may know His love, which passeth knowledge.
Chapter 4
I observed that the doctrinal part of the epistle closes at chap. 4. 16. We will read to the end of the chapter. Let us just retrace the doctrinal teaching of the epistle. The first grand characteristic we are given about the calling of the Church is, that it is a calling in Christ. So we find in chap. 1. the word in abounds. " Seated in heavenly places in Him; " "Accepted in the Beloved," etc. And it is not only present possessions in Christ, but our interest in Him was before the world began ( v. 4), and after the world closes. ( v. 11). You will tell me all the ransomed rest on sovereignty; and so they do; and the very angels too who kept their first estate; but the character of the Church; election is, that it is not mere abstract election, but election " in Him," and you never leave Him.
The Church finds herself in closest connection with Christ from before the foundation of the world till the glory after the world has run its course. This is the first thought about the Church. These things are not predicated of Israel. It is the peculiar calling of the Church to be linked and bound up with Christ. Then this Church has been " hid in God." It was, so to speak, God's bosom secret. The secret that lay nearest to His heart, and deepest in His counsels.. We do not find the election of the worthies of old spoken of in that way of mysterious beauty and intimacy. It was hid in God from all ages up to the ministry of Paul. The epistle to the Ephesians is an instance of accumulation of language. Language grows on the thoughts of the Spirit Himself.
Will you tell me, if your soul is bubbling up with some commanding thought, that you will not tell it out again and again, multiply words about it, and even become eloquent For the heart, not the head, is the parent of eloquence. That is the style of the Spirit in bringing out this secret in this epistle. We get " the praise of His glory; " and " the riches of the glory; " and " the praise of the glory of His grace; " and "the exceeding riches of His grace." So in chap. 2., when He comes to show those who are the objects of this calling. When He shows their death-estate, description after description is given of them; and when you are brought to see your nearness, again the Spirit multiplies descriptions of what you are.
The consummation of revelation waited on Paul's ministry, the Gentile apostle. When he brought out this secret, it was the last in the revelation of God, and it was the crown of all the divine purposes. Let me refer you to a little analogy; how did the work of the old creation proceed? One thing after another was created in its beauty, and man came at the last. He was put in the garden; and what was his condition there He was at home there; but when the cattle were brought up to be named by him, he was not only at home in his own proper place, but he gets the lordship of everything before him, He was in his dominions. Was that all? There remained a thing behind, and that thing was the chief est. He had everything before he got the woman. It was the last thing revealed, and the tip-top of his happiness. It opened his lips. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Adam was happy before, but he was not abounding. When the woman was given to him, it was the height of his joy. So we ought to be prepared for the Church waiting for the ministry of Paul. I should be prepared for the last ministry bringing out the richest thing in the counsels of God.
I get the same thing in the story of Jerusalem. When Israel went into Canaan, the sword of Joshua reduced the land to their possession. So it went on in the days of the Judges; and in the days of King Saul they still remained in. possession; but all that time Jerusalem was a Jebusite city, all through that season this favored spot, this chief spot in the land-this queen, destined to fix the eye of God -was in the clutches of the Gentile; and it was not till the days of David, God's own king, that it became the chief absorbing center of everything in the land: the sanctuary, the throne, the place where the tribes went up. It was the chiefest of everything, and it came last. Do we not get there an image of Ephesian truth? God delights Himself in analogies. What are parables but divine analogies I And so, in the very end of the Book, we see the woman reappearing as the last and chiefest. The victories have been won-the kingdom seated in dignity; the very last thing in the Book is the revelation of the Church coming down to show herself in her beauty. (Rev. 21) So I am prepared to listen to Paul without charging him with arrogancy when he says he fills out the word of God.
Again, the revelation of the Church is the richest display of God in grace, glory, and wisdom. The calling of Israel was a rich display of Him. Be it so. God cannot put His hand to anything without displaying Himself thus. But when we come to listen to the mystery of the Church, the body and bride of Christ, we are instructed to know that grace in its glory, in its riches, in its exceeding riches, has been manifested, and manifested in the face of creation; in the hearing and seeing of principalities and powers in heavenly places; and there is a simplicity about all this, Does magnificence touch simplicity I It would not be simply divine, if it were not unutterably glorious. If it lay deepest in the divine mind, it was most full of grace, glory, and wisdom. Principalities and powers shall hold their breath while listening to the story that the calling of the Church is rehearsing, NOW, what are its titles? There remained a thing and the bride; and what do they mean I The body is the expression of this-that the Church is set in the highest place of dignity. As the bride, she is set in the nearest place of affection. As the body of Christ, occupying the chiefest point in dignity, all that is in this world, and in that which is to come; will be beneath her. He will be seated above all; and the Church, which is His body, is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. As the bride, she will be in the nearest place of affection. You cannot be too near to the person you love. As the bride of Christ, the Church is set close to His heart. The Church is destined to be to the heart of Christ what the woman was to Adam. Chapter 5 is as the utterance of Adam over the woman. " We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones," is a reechoing of the ecstatic utterance of the first man over the first woman.
If we love a person, we love to see them in dignity and glory. There you are set in the tip-top place of dignity, and, as the bride, in the nearest place of affection. You might be 'surprised to heat me say that the Lord Jesus did not complete the revelation of God, When you read the four Gospels, do you read them as the full picture of gospel grace'? The Lord's ministry was a transitional time. Till His death was accomplished, He had not the platform for the display of full gospel grace, or the instrument for forming the Church.. How could you form a thing without the instrument `I The Spirit was not given; and the Head was not yet glorified. The opening of the Book of God prepares me for the mystery, and the close of the Book shuts me up to it, and seals it on my apprehension, as we now see.
But in the epistle to the Ephesians, we get not merely the church, but saints individually. (Chapter 5, and 6.) We do not lose our personality, This is said to be the meaning of chap, 4. 12. That is an individual thing. The business of gifts is with you individually: "He gave some apostles..... for the perfecting of the saints," There is a deep.
intimacy and personality between me and Christ that nothing can ever touch. So the first business of gifts was with each-individually,—" For the perfecting of the saints." Then, let the perfected saints set themselves to the work of the ministry and to the edifying of the body. Consequently, in Corinthians, when he had the mystery to bring out, he says, " We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." So, when we come to practical details, we are addressed individually: " That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk," and so on; " Who, being past feeling," &c., that is, a seared and hardened conscience, with no sense of their own lasciviousness. " But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus."
The introduction of the word Jesus here shows personality; and do not you love a personal lesson Do not you delight to think that you and Christ have a business that none can interfere with' Look at John's gospel, as a beautiful picture of the sinner and Christ together. We do not find the Lord in John as a social man, working with apostles. He works alone with the sinner. It is very sweet to see the Spirit refusing to lose sight of the individual. "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness." This is a much richer creation than the first. Adam was the only object in the first creation that carried an understanding; but you could not say he was created " after God in righteousness and true holiness," We are told to put away lying, as being members one of another. "Be ye angry, and sin not," Anger may be as holy a feeling as any other; but do not retain it, so as to let it degenerate into nature. Then, resist " the devil. Let him that stole steal no more," &c. This is very beautiful. He is not merely to cease from stealing, but to become a workman for others. " Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." Our works are looked at; our words; and now our tempers.
Are you not thankful that Christianity legislates for every bit of you! But what dignity! Your lips may be employed in communicating grace to the hearers; and your` thoughts, either in refreshing or grieving the Holy Spirit of God
" Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." This is a change from " The Lord's Prayer." There you are instructed to know that God will measure Himself by you. " Forgive.... as we forgive." Here is quite the reverse. I am to measure myself by God; "forgiving, as God bath forgiven you." This shows, as we were observing before, that the Lord's ministry was a transitional thing; it had not come out into the full glory of salvation. Now a ministry has gone forth for the perfecting of us individually, and for our edification as the body of Christ.
Chapter 5
We have observed that the doctrinal part of the epistle closed at chap. 4. 16. Then, from that to chap. 6. 9, we get the practical part, and we get conflict in the end.
Read now chap. 5., and to chap. 6. 9; the practical details of Christian life. I should like, first, to say a little about precept.
If we consult the epistles to the Romans and the Colossians, we shall find in them a different construction from the Philippians. There the apostle is eminently a pastor; looking at the souls of the Philippians. But in the Ephesians, Romans, Colossians, he is a teacher; therefore in them we get doctrine, followed by precept. Now, why do we get precepts in the epistles I Do you always get your conduct directly from precepts I No; but by putting your mind in connection with Christ Himself, and the grace of God in your calling. So we get in Titus: "The grace of God.... hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly;" that is, if I know the moral virtue of the grace in which I stand, I shall be taught, without precepts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly. Peter tells us exactly the same thing:" Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be I" and again, " Seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent." There is no precept to be diligent; but the eye of the soul is directed to the glory, and to the dissolution of all things present; and it says what manner of persons ought we to be! So practical power derives itself from the grace of our calling.
We get the same thing in the book of Genesis; there are no precepts there, but the patriarchs lived holy lives (through the Spirit, surely) by virtue of their calling. One is called out by " the God of glory." It is said, as on the lips of Joseph, " How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" It is not that he had precepts; but He looked at God. So in your daily walk you are not commonly looking at precepts, but at Christ. But why, then, the precepts? For several reasons.
Precepts serve as tests. If a soul is backsliding, you may use them in discipline. It is very well, in such a case, to have a well-defined precept to guide, you.
THEN God is dealing with living realities in His word. If doctrines tell me that God is dealing with me, precepts tell me that it is with me God is dealing. God is not revealing an indefinite light that may sparkle before me. He addresses Himself to me, a corrupt creature, and says, " Let him that stole steal no more."
There is this beauty in precepts. They do greatly honor the doctrine; they are the expression of the hidden moral virtue that lies in the doctrine. For instance, " Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." The doctrine had already taught me that I had received the Spirit as the seal of salvation. The precept tells me, that the Spirit I have received is sensitive of the least touch of unholiness. So the doctrine is glorified by the precept.
I will tell you further what precepts do. They show you that your holiness must be dispensational. You will say, Are not God's demands always the same? No; I boldly say they are not. We can only judge of this in the dispensed light of God. Is it unholiness now for the Jew to traffic with the Gentile? No; it is not. Yet under the law they dare not eat with them. So holiness may vary its form.
Now suppose I were to keep a good conscience, just because my conscience resented evil; and were moral, because morality is comely, would that be Christian morality I No holiness is Christian holiness but such as -derives itself from the truth. When you come to apply that to your self, you will find you have something to do. You will have to associate the Lord Jesus with every bit of your life. How did the elders obtain a good report? Was it a precept that worked Abraham's separation from his kindred and his father's house, and Moses's abdication of Egypt? It was God making Himself known to them. Precepts never will make a Christian man. The soul must come in contact with the revelation of God. " Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also bath, loved us." Now, let me ask you, supposing I was a good neighbor, just to keep my conscience a little easy, would that be- meeting the demands of this passage? " Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us;" that makes kindness Christian kindness. I take the Lord Jesus as my great prototype. Does not this take morals out of the hand of Moses? This puts my morals on a new ground altogether. I am to walk in love, because Christ has loved me, and given Himself for me an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. The Lord has not only presented you in all the value of His blood, but in the sweet savor of His sacrifice. Is it accepted in the righteous one you are? No; but " accepted in the Beloved." The high priest, when he took the blood into the holiest, went in enveloped in a balmy, savory cloud of incense, was it a grudging acceptance that waited on the sacrifice of Christ? No; it was a delighted acceptance; and you are in all the value of that acceptance. Well, then, could I give the atmosphere, in witch I am before God, one glance of faith, and come back to indulge my enmities?
You know your renewed conscience would never be satisfied by merely doing what is right. You must have the springs of action purified. It is what Christ has done that asks it from you. These uncleannesses, as I read in verse 3, do not become saints. Amos 1 to lay aside uncleanness, because it is uncleanness? No; but because it does not become saints. So it goes on. "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." I refuse participation in uncleanness, because I was darkness; but now I am transformed. I am a new creature, a child of light. And I pause here again to ask you, Would you qualify this beautiful intensity Do you want to leave Christ when you come, to the practical details of life We never leave Christ. So when we come to meditate on conflict, we are just as much in His company as in the details of life, or as up in heaven in the early part of the epistle. There is something sublime in this. If a doctrine comes to unfold God to me, a precept comes to show me the moral virtue that lies hid in it. The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness as in the benevolent virtues-righteousness, as in integrity and honesty, and all connected with truth. We find goodness and rigteousness in the world; but we shall not find them connected with truth, save in the household of faith. These things are given to make us practically Christ. As an old write' says, " Christ Himself is the ground of all laws to a Christian;" one loathes cultivation of soul by anything short of Christ. Christ would have us sober, truthful, honest. Now are ye light; and what quality of light? Light "in the Lord." You have not kindled the spark that is in you from Moses, but from the Lord of Light. You have borrowed a ray from Him, and you are to walk in it, proving what is acceptable to Jesus. I am sure, after this, we shall not ask why the precepts of the New Testament, when we see the blessed Lord connected with each bit of the details, the Spirit bringing down my Lord Jesus to be the sanction of my ways.
You will often find here that the Spirit is not satisfied with mere abnegation of evil. He insists on the cultivation of good. " Let him that stole, steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good." There is the negative in company with the positive. The evil is denied, and the good is brought in. So here, " Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Because you have put off the old man; but are you merely an emptied, script thing? No; you have put on the new man. As the old man would have made plunder of what belonged to another, so now you are to work for him whom before you would have plundered. Moses never set me to that work. Will Christ measure Himself by Moses? Will He measure Himself by anything but Himself? There is such dignity in this. We should keep morals up in their own elevation. Man would drag them down; I do not say this, when we get Moses passed through the filter of Christ, as in the sermon on the mount. Would Moses have required you to lay down your life for another? Christ does, because Christ has done it. "Where fore it saith," I would rather have it in verse 14. It is the voice and language of light. The light that is now shining is, the light of Christ. So "Christ shall give thee light; " a peculiar moral light has risen now.
" See then that ye walk circumspectly... redeeming the time." Now, how is understanding to exercise itself? In the philosophy of the schools? I am to have an understanding of the will of the Lord. He keeps you, again I say, as a heavenly creature in company with Christ; as a man walking across the face of the earth, He keeps you equally with Christ. W hen He sends you into the field of battle, He arrays you in Christ, He puts Christ upon you. Who but the Spirit could come down into the traffic of such a world, and keep Christ in your company through it all? So the old man gets drunk with wine. The new man has the Spirit to, fill himself with. If that is to be mortified, this is to be cultivated. And how will this filling with the Spirit express itself " In psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs." There is a vessel filled with the Spirit. It is the very same vessel, only transmuted. It was once filled with wine; now, in a spirit of thanksgiving, it is bubbling up with melody to the Lord. We have been in a fervent heated atmosphere, heated by the Holy Ghost; and now we are suddenly let down, with a beautiful calmness, into the ordinary virtue of taking a low place. There is a beauty in the very style of this, How can we be sufficiently charmed with it! We do not know which to admire' most,' the doctrinal or the practical part.
Having come down to that, He details it, and addresses husbands and wives. There, I need not say, how deeply we are in company with Christ. Do not a wife and husband get their sanctions from Christ I Many a good wife never thinks of the Lord Jesus. Is that a Christian wife?
Here let me turn aside to note a title that occurs three times in this epistle. Christ is called, " The Head " in chapters 1., 4., and 5.; but in each place the Headship has a different aspect.
In the first chapter it is as the Head of the Body. He is Head over all things to the Church; the principal feature of the mystic man.
In chap. 4., it is as being Head of influence, dispensing virtue to the members. " From whom the whole body, fitly joined together... maketh increase of the body."
Here, in chapter 5., we see Him in another aspect, as the Head of authority, "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church." In verse 30, it ought to be, " This is the great mystery." Then, having addressed wives by the common duties that belong to them, in chapter 6., it is the same thing with children. " Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Even in the time of Moses, this was an honorable duty. But here, it is because it is right in the view of the Lord. This takes it out from the legal promise, and the Lord becomes the new sanction.
So with fathers. A father ought to be his child's Christian servant. I mean that he should every hour be watching that the nurture and admonition of the Lord be ministered to his child: He should minister Christ to him.
As to servants—beautiful this is!-they are to be obedient. It matters not the character of their master. They are to be doing service " as unto the Lord." Did you ever get up to that verse in James 1:99Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (James 1:9), when you see people maintaining station in this life, that you ought positively to rejoice in anticipation of these distinctions passing away I Not touching the thing in passing along. 1 Tim. 6 would tell me that; but it ought to be the hidden joy of the heart that, by-and-by, station will have passed away with the fashion of this world.
Then, as to masters. Do not be guilty of threatening. The lordly ways of masters and mistresses are hateful How does your Master in heaven treat you?
Here the practical part ends; but I ask, does it not dignify you? As George Herbert says, " Who sweeps a room, if for Thy laws, makes that and the action fine." It is the same thing to Christ, if you are up there in His company. It is the same Jesus who is enfolding, embracing, enriching you in every step of the journey, and that for His own eternity.
We have observed that this epistle naturally distributes itself into three parts-doctrinal and practical; and here, from verse 10 to the end, we get a scene of conflict. Teaching, Walk, and Conflict.
The teaching, we remember, was the education of the Church, the body of Christ.; and we were observing that there was heavenly calling before there was Church calling.
We have constant proof all along the line of Old Testament days, of heavenly calling; but we have only distant shadowy intimations of the body of Christ, as has been said by another, " It would have sounded absurd in the ears of a Jew, to talk in divine mysterious language, of giving Messiah a body, completing Him, filling Him out." It is not said of Abraham, that he was blessed in heavenly places in Christ, incorporated in Christ. This is the grand teaching of this highest of all the epistles. Then, leaving the doctrinal part, we enter on the practical part, which goes on to verse 9 of this chapter 6.; and I should like to repeat what we were observing. When we come to the practical part of the epistle, we get the doctrinal part gloriously honored. Precepts become, in the hands of the Spirit, the expression of the moral virtue that lies in the doctrine. If I had my heart open to. God, I should be guided by the intrinsic virtue of my calling; and, oh, if we have common spiritual taste, we must enjoy that! Is it not beautiful, to see the doctrine and precepts thus in company In the same way, Peter stands before the doctrine, and wonders that we should not prove the moral virtue of it; and so do I. Then, in the next place, it gives precepts a dispensational character. God is not dwelling in the same light now, as when He was sitting on the throne in Jerusalem. That was an earthly light; a light that shone on earth. The light in which God now dwells is the awful, yet most precious mystery, that He has been rejected here in His dear Son, and that that Son is now glorified in heaven. And you must be in the light where God dwells. You must make God's dispensational truth the rule of your ways. I speak not, of course, of the light in which God dwells, as in His own proper glory, as we read in 1 Tim. 6:1616Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16).
Now, the difference between chapters 5. And 6. is this. In chapter 5. we see the saint taking his walk in the midst of the circumstances of human life. Here we see the saint in' the field of battle. Do you believe your conflict is as constant as your walk? Are you to be in conflict to-day, and in conflict again to-morrow? There is plenty of work for us to do; our hands will be full enough if we are practical living saints of God.
Now, in opening this third view, he tells us to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, taking to us the whole armor of God, that we may withstand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand. The Spirit contemplate& that it is a war froth beginning to end. There may be certain battles; but, having done with the specific fight, you must still stand as in a war. Are. you prepared for finding human life a war? That is what this passage is pregnant with. Whether the specific fighting be present or not, your whole soul is to rest in the conclusion that it is incessant war, till you have done with this world, this flesh, and the devil. If two nations are at war, they may not be fighting every day; a battle may be a rare thing, but war has been proclaimed. The Lord forbid that you and I should not know that as long as we are in the body we are in a field of battle. " The evil day" is a specific battle. If we have won the victory, why are we still to stand? Because war has been proclaimed. Have you proclaimed war with the lusts that are in your members, and the spirit of the world around you? Your soul is to recognize, that while you are in the body you are a fighting man. That being your position, you are to put on the whole armor of God; " for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Now, how do you understand this? Do you rest in the thought that wicked spirits are in heavenly places? It is abundantly taught us. In 2 Chron. 18 the Lord says, " Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel?" " I will entice him," says a spirit; " I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets." This is a fruitful, lively expression of the thing that, is taken up in Eph. 6 It is beautiful to see the Spirit so at home in His own Scriptures. He takes it up as a settled thing that Satan is in heaven. He does not make a difficulty or a question about it. He assumes it as a thing sealed and accredited, and so takes it up. What does the Lord say? " I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven," This was not a mere honorary expression. Then, in Rev. 12, Satan is cast down from heaven. Satan and the principalities and powers are now in heavenly places.
But what do these wicked spirits do? They come down with all their wiles, and lies, and deceivings, to practice them in your heart and mine; as in Micaiah's vision, the lying spirit came down with a wile to Ahab; and again, as Satan tempts David to number the people. The Old and New Testaments are pregnant with all this. Paul says, " We are not ignorant of his devices;" and again, " Oh, full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil." All these prove that he acts by wiles. He acts by violence, and by persecution also; but that is not contemplated here. If we go over the story of Satan in Scripture, we shall find him an accuser. Was he not an accuser of the brethren in the Book of Job? And is not the very same character attached to him in the book of the Apocalypse? Thus we now find ourselves put in the presence of the enemy. I am in the war, and I can never get out of it, though I may get out of the evil day. What then am I to do? I am to take the whole armor of God. And now I just ask you to inspect each part of this armor. Is there one single piece of that which is declared to be the armor of God fitted to send you out into a field of battle with flesh and blood? Is that the way He armed Joshua Sand David? They were to meet flesh and blood, and they were carnal weapons which He put into their hands. Now, there is not a touch of that here. There are no slings, and stones, and jaw-bones of asses; but that is declared to be the whole armor of God. If this is not the armor I have on me, I am not fighting for Christ. Saints may take carnal weapons; but if I do-if, for- instance, I go into a court of justice to assert my rights, do not let me talk of being in the light of God. That is where dispensational truth is so important. I find here that the Spirit sends me into a field of battle, and I find that my security depends on truth, righteousness, faith, peace, and the sword of the Spirit. Now, supposing we were to describe a few of these wiles. Infidel heresies, superstitious vanities, evil doctrines, false expectations about the history of the world.—We are not here in company with our lusts, but in conflict with direct attempts of the enemy. We must withstand the temptations of our hearts in walking through the world, as in chap. 5. Here we are set face to face with Satan, the deceivableness of unrighteousness, doctrinal heresies. These are the things we are to withstand. And is it not perfectly right, that being delivered by the Seed of the woman, we should make our war with him who was our captor? How could you attach yourself to Jesus, and not turn round in 'the face of the enemy, and let him know that you are at war with him? Having passed this fervent scene, we find that, having this armor on us, if a quickened condition of soul be not maintained in communion, the armor will be cumbrous. " Praying always... and for me... that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds." Did you ever hear of such a thing as the ambassador of one nation being put in bonds by the nation to which he was sent Why, Christ has fared worse in this world than any -nation in it would. And, pray, what message did this ambassador bring?A message of boundless grace. And that is the way He has been treated. The law of nations would not allow it for an instant. Yet that is the way God, for 1800 years, in the person of His servants and witnesses, has consented to be treated.
Then he tells them that he sends Tychicus "that he may comfort your hearts." Oh, if we could be in that way -in prison, yet able to comfort others! As dear Saunders, a clergyman in the Bishop of London's coal-hole, sent to his wife, "Be merry, dear wife, be merry; we 're all merry here. We weep with Him now; but we shall laugh with Him forever." That is like Paul, sending from a prison in Rome a cheering word to his brethren at Ephesus. What cannot the Spirit of God work'?
The Lord grant that we may be taught by the doctrine, instructed in morals, and put in something of strength for the battle by this closing scene. AMEN.
WE talk of the land of the blessed,
That country so bright and so fair;
And oft are its glories confessed-
But what must it be to be there!
We talk of its pathways of gold,
Its walls deck'd with jewels so rare;
Its wonders and pleasures untold-
But what must it be to be there!
We talk of its peace and its love,
The robes which the glorified wear;
The songs of the blessed above-
But what must it be to be there!
We talk of its freedom from sin,
From sorrow, temptation, and care,
From trials without and within-
But what must it be to be there!
See the answer to the above at page 473.
WHEN souls surrender dispensational truth, they have committed themselves to the ocean of feelings and demands without a compass. If dispensational truth be not God's present revelation, what is it ri And if it be, can I expect to walk in the present scene according to His mind, without the light which He in His grace has supplied me? Man knows nothing of God, except through revelation; how inconsistent then for a child of God to admit that he cannot see the necessity of adhering to that which is the revelation for this present time; for, as a Christian, he must own that, if it were not for revelation, he must have sunk into eternal darkness; and he has no right to reject or be indifferent to one part of the revelation, because it does not immediately bear on the question of his salvation.
God's revelation, in its full sense, and comprising all His arrangements on earth, is a structure of many stories, if I may say so. All the stories were not lighted up at once, but according to the need of those who would make use of the light. At one time it might have been sufficient to light up one story; but as the darkness increased (for in spite of what rationalists say, men are getting, in the spirit of their minds, every day further from God), there was of necessity a need for increase of light, which God, in His grace, vouchsafed for the use of those who would use it. Prophecy contained a suited and inexhaustible supply of the needed light; but this light could not act serviceably on any one who did not apprehend the order of God's counsels on earth. Such an one neither occupied the right story, nor did he (from not
understanding his calling) seek or receive that knowledge from God which would have made him, not only know his proper place before God, but would also have furnished him with grace and power to act therein according to God's pleasure. How can God give a soul light to see the future of His purposes, if he be ignorant of or indifferent to the present? He who knows dispensational truth imperfectly, can never know prophetic truth rightly. If I disregard the manner of God's arrangements-the position of His people now according to His mind-how can I expect Him to unfold to me more distant things " To him that hath shall more be given." It is no excuse to say that the Church is in ruins; for if I cared for God's counsel in the Church, the more inexpressive of that counsel I found the materials to be, the more should I seek to maintain it.
God will not swerve from His own counsel; and surely it is marvelous grace that He should allow us to learn it; and still more, that according as we know and submit ourselves to it, He should entrust us with further purposes of His mind. The more difficult the times become, the more do I need dispensational truth. What other chart have I How can I solve any of the incongruities that encompass me, or discover a clue to my right course in them, if I do not know the order and intention of God, and how that has been counteracted and disturbed by the wickedness of man? From the smallest remnant of the Church I ought to be able to put together what the Church should be in God's counsels, and therefore to serve it according to His thoughts and love. In this relation to it I should most truly estimate what damage it had suffered, and what had inflicted the damage.
One of the greatest evidences of how much Israel gained by leaving Egypt was, that God marked out their way for them, and always guided them. At His word (of which the cloud was the expression) they journeyed, and at His word they encamped. The two grand characteristics of the wilderness journey were, the guidance and the manna. Practically speaking, we are now in the wilderness; and if we are enjoying manna, we may surely conclude that we are entitled to enjoy guidance. Few saints would deny their title to this great privilege; but many, who would aver that they receive and feed on spiritual meat, would hesitate to say, with anything like confidence, that they are guided as distinctly and positively as were the Israelites in the wilderness.
Now this should not be so; for one is on the same ground as the other: the cloud was attendant on the wilderness march as much as was the manna. True, to Israel both were visible to the natural eye, and both are spiritual now; but they are not more difficult of realization to the spiritual man; and if I can asseverate with thankfulness that I am divinely fed day by day, and if I can only know this spiritually, ought I not with equal certainty to be conscious of my guidance in the spiritual mind? If I am entitled to one, I am equally so to the other; both are connected with the wilderness; blessed evidence of God's care of His people thus cast on Himself.
Why then is one spiritual blessing admitted and owned while the other, though valued, is little known, and more or less doubtfully expected? The feeling of Israel in the wilderness was that they did not know their way; they had no idea of it; and were so completely cast on God for guidance, because there was no one else there that could guide them; nor had He, blessed be His name! any other thought than to lead them Himself.
The first feeling in my soul then for guidance must be that I am in a wide desert, and that I have to depend on God, and on Him alone, to direct me. But how? By circumstances? Never. He did not guide Israel by circumstances improvised for the occasion, but by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. These were His own appointed agencies. Anything below this is not guidance in its proper sense. It is true our gracious God, who, in spite of ourselves and our lack of dependence, will not allow us to lose our way, often uses circumstances to correct us and drive us back into the path of faith; and when in the path, He may allow them as, helps to our weakness; but they do not mark the path; they are never intended to guide us; and I believe the watching of circumstances, as indications of the path, is a preventive to many true-hearted souls from 'enjoying this their real and rightful privilege in the wilderness way.
Psa. 32 gives us the filling up of the Lord's grace to us as to this blessed privilege. " I will instruct thee in the way thou shalt go." "I will guide thee with mine eye." This is His appointed agency for us as distinctly as was the cloud and the pillar of fire for Israel But how am I to discern His eye? I must watch for it. If I do, I shall surely see it; if I do not, I cannot be guided by it. Where His eye is looking, there I ought to look. Unless I am spiritual, unless my soul is near Him, this will not be; I shall not look where He looks, and if I am looking to anything else for guidance, I shall not see His eye; but never is that eye hidden from the soul that watches for it. The " bit and the bridle " are God's alternatives for the soul that will not depend on Him, and be led by His eye; but the eye is there, lighting up the wilderness track for any who will discern and make use of it.
The Spirit has now come down to guide us into all truth; the spiritual man discerneth all things. The soul should wait on God, unable to proceed without Him, reckoning on His instructing it, and depending on nothing else for instruction but the spiritual sense of the direction of his own eye.
If I do this, I shall, as I go here or there, be assured that the eye of my Lord is directed that way; that such is the peculiar spot searched out by Him for me in the wilderness. The Lord lead us to exercise our souls more in this blessed nearness and dependence.
The effect of the presence of the Lord on His disciples was always to constrain them into the mind of God, so' that Ile could say, " While I was with them in the world I kept them in Thy name." Wonderful is the effect of a presence which commands our veneration while controlling us into fellowship with itself. If we have no liking or drawing to it, we soon retire from it, for we cannot endure a restraint entirely foreign to our tastes. The taste may not be strong enough to sway us into the same line which the presence of one 'supremely powerful will sway us into if there be any real taste for it.
In John 11 we find that Martha, when the conference with the Lord becomes close, escapes from it. Not so with Mary; the closer it becomes, the more swayed is she by His all-controlling presence, and she walks according to God, side by side with her Lord, fulfilling everything in her path. Her grief at the death of her brother was none the less, nor her joy at seeing him raised up, and yet all the time her soul was gathering up that ointment of 'spikenard which was to be expressed at the proper time. She was lovely in the common walks of life; and, learning the heart of her Lord there, and walking with Him there, she could say to Him, when He came into His own house, While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." She was beautiful and useful in every position: she abode in the Lord, and therefore brought forth much fruit.
It is a very harassing and profitless occupation to lose time asking oneself, " What shall I do now I" If I were near the Lord, I should see in a moment what He would not have neglected; and the next thing to be done is always at the very doorway; for the smallest thing often leads to the greatest results; and it is in neglecting these that the greatest misadventures have occurred. Nothing is neglected by God.
If at any time I am at a loss to know my true path, I shall ascertain it better by drawing near to the Lord than by cogitating the various bearings of the circumstances. I may be very laboriously fishing all night, and have taken nothing; but if the Lord is with me, I shall surely find the difficulties vanish.
While He was with the disciples, they lacked nothing; He was both a purse and a sword to them; but when He was going to leave them, He says, "He that hath a purse, let him take it; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." He was going to leave them there for that all-absorbing work of sin-bearing, and they could not reckon on His care for the time being. No greater picture could be given of their desolation.
The presence of the Lord gives a perception and power for doing things. Not only does it furnish me with power, but the possession of power provokes me to use it like vigor in a man of strength. I feel He is better to me than a purse or a sword, and He will always succor me if I am in my true path; for there alone are the proper difficulties to the faith which He gives me, or rather the proper exercises for that faith. If I turn aside from my path, I turn aside from the faith proper to it, and I must leave His presence, which could only attend me while walking according to God's will. Abraham sought to walk with God; and thus He entered into His joys and blessings. Lot sought to make a path for himself, and he was forever going from one sorrow to another, seeking to escape evil, instead of walking with God above it. There is no use in trying to better an evil or mistake. We must only, like Peter, abandon the ship, and cast ourselves on the Lord; and then the path will be open to us again, and we shall have grace to follow Him.
The great power and characteristic of light is, that it refuses the entrance of darkness on every side of it. Be it ever so small a light, there is no access to it on any side. It is isolated to everything but itself, though with itself it will so unite that you could not distinguish in the unity between the light furnished by the largest lamp and the smallest rush-light.
It is exclusive; i.e. it will not admit of any admixture; but' the more it is increased, the more it will assert its isolation; though, at the same time, with each increase will it offer and present a benefit to any one in need of it, so that when most distinct, it is morally best qualified to offer and bestow, in a delicate, unobtrusive way, the the most valued services. In Rom. 13:1212The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12) we are told to "put on the armor of light;" in the original, the " arms of light;" i.e. the weapons-the powers of defense as well as attack. Light becomes not only a panoply, but a weapon; for "light is that which doth make manifest;" necessarily painful to that which is manifested and exposed, but preservative to that for which it acts.
Refusing all intermixture or association with anything but itself, it will nevertheless co-operate and coalesce with the smallest fraction of light, which only renders it stronger in its own intrinsic qualities. If I walk in light, I am unconsciously helping the smallest ray of it in my associates. Whatever be the measure of it in me or in them, the two coming in contact must necessarily blend, and act in delicate and conjoint co-operation. So that there is a mutual benefit, often unknown or undefined, save in the sense of being preserved from the works of darkness. Nature is rebuked, but so rebuked on all sides that it is more subdued and less irritated than if, as in a guerilla warfare, it were attacked, now in one place, and now in another. Often when we are trying to behave well in given circumstances, and are making arrangements how we shall act, we shall find how vain our plans have been. Nature, though irritated, is not subdued by our forecasting; whereas if we walk in the least measure of light known to us, we shall most effectually preserve ourselves, as well as offer; and (if acceptable) bestow the best service to our surroundings. The higher we get, the more do we feel encompassed, and possessed of the " arms of light;" and the more we know what light is, the more truly shall we estimate all that is opposed to it.
Have you ever considered the effect of association I believe we are affected or altered in some way by association with any of the human family. The Nazarite forfeited the hair of his separation by touching a dead body, even suddenly; and I doubt if he forfeited it in any other way. I am convinced that we never come in contact with humanity without being either injured or served by it.
Now, that which cannot serve us must injure, if we blend with it. I know it is possible to maintain an elevated region towards another; but then it is plain I am not blending. I am, on the contrary, in a sensibly distinct position, trying to myself, and I only submitting to it, for the sake of testimony, or the good of my inferior company. The moment I blend, the moment we are on equal terms in any line-my distinctness is gone, and my influence too. Could I ever help a person out of a slough by going into it myself? Is not my strength all the more applicable by my using every appliance in my power from the terra firma of a solid footing? By refusing intimacy I do not refuse help; for, in fact, I lose my power to afford moral help the moment I sink into intimacy; the very testimony to my own moral power being, that I keep myself from the slough or its neighborhood. If I meet on equal terms I fail to show that I am endued with power to help, or that it is a case that needs help. If I touch the dead body, if I lose my hair, my moral power, of what use am I?
A soul in true moral vigor and spiritual perception must feel the company of an unbeliever, or of the world, in any sense most irksome; for it must be braced up to testimony all the time, and guarding itself against any relaxation, which would rob it of its high standing. If I am right with such an one, I must not mingle with him if I fail to raise him to higher contemplation, I must not sink to his level; for if I do, I have lost my place of testimony towards him, and consequently forfeited my moral power. He has injured me; he has fed my old man, which I have suffered to rise up and act in denial of the new; and even though my intent to serve him may be honest, I defeat it.
Nothing so convinces another of power as seeing its action in oneself. When Isaac (in Gen. 26) completely retired from the land of the Philistines, THEN the king owned his superiority. So is it always. If I see that you can surrender the world and its refinements, I must be conscience-stricken that there is something mighty there.
Oh let us ponder this in the Lord's name! Let us preserve inviolably our love and allegiance to Him; and as our souls enjoy the holiness of His way, we shall see more clearly how such associations injure us, and how we neutralize our best intentions by gratifying self.
If we say we hold that the members of Christ's body are one with Christ, and that the Holy Ghost is down here forming one body in Christ; in short, if we hold the, great truths which characterize the Church of God, it is plain that although my individual place with Christ remains the same to me if I am personally faithful (see John 14:21-2421He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:21‑24)), yet my place in the body down here, in which I am held by the Holy Ghost, suffers or gains according to the faithfulness of all other members as well as my own.
My testimony, my service, my worship in communion with the saints, is affected by the action or inaction of my fellow-members; consequently, wherever they are, their conduct is of material interest to me, independently of the regard I may have for my Lord's interest in them. And to seek to improve them, or preserve them right, is the only method I have of freeing myself from the embarrassment which they cause me.
If my Lord's word or judgment excludes any of them because of radical failure from a sustained union, then I am relieved from this (may I say. I) bodily encumbrance; otherwise, I have no remedy but the appliances of constitutional vigor to rally and reclaim them. If a gathering becomes dead and formal, and if, through mercy and discipline, my soul is kept lively and vigorous, I don't believe that I shall either help myself or them, or please the Spirit of God, by seeking another enclosure where I may congregate more kindred souls.
As long as I can' recognize the assembly as meeting on divine principles, I am bound to maintain my membership unimpaired and utilized among them. If they fail as members, I am not. My measure of power will be owned where there is life. As all measures of light blend and diffuse when brought together, so do all measures of spiritual life, through the power of the Holy Ghost, when acting according to. His mind and course. Amos 1 to tie up my arm because the greater part of my body is paralyzed? Ought I not rather to promote vitality by the limb which remains in health?
I am persuaded that a faithful member, acting his part, and proving his vitality in the midst of an enfeebled constitution, would eventually rally and re-animate whatever is genuine. All Scripture history supports this belief. Impatience or hastiness of feeling is always an evidence of want of power. If I have power, I have only use for it where it is wanting, and it is not the amount of power that is valuable, but the faithful, energetic use of it. Phinehas like, I do not desert the congregation of the Lord, if it be one; but the very fact that it needs so much, only makes the demand on me more imperative to maintain the truth in its midst according to the power God may give me.
The simplest and fullest evidence of divine power is the ability to apply the very quality of good suited to the attenuated existence of a weakly body. It is not the whirlwind, it is not the fire; it is the gentle and insinuating word that forms a place for itself in the soul, because the quickened soul feels that it is just what it wants. Christ presented according to the nature of the need, was the nature of the ministry prescribed for the declining churches of revelation. I believe that if we had grace, we should be like Elijah to the prophets of Baal, or any like them, we should let the latter have their full swing, and then in the Lord's name establish His grace to the souls that He loves.
It is only as we enter into Christ's sufferings here that we can either desire, apprehend, or be prepared for His glory. Everything connected with the old man is contrary to Christ; for on account of it He died. If I would enter into Christ's glory I must necessarily die to everything here which is contrary to Him. His life leads me into His glory. But if it does, it also puts me into the sense of moral death with regard to everything against it; so that in proportion as I am able to walk here in the sufferings with which His life was oppressed, the more do I desire and apprehend His glory. If I find everything here antagonistic to me, the glory is my resource so that I feel, as I am a co-sufferer with Him, I am also to be co-glorified with Him, and that this light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for me, in surpassing measure, an eternal weight of glory. The beauty and brightness of the glory itself does not move those who are not suffering with Christ here; and this explains why many who feel their need of Christ, and use Him to a great degree, have very feeble desires for or apprehensions of that glory. If I enjoy what Christ cannot enjoy, how can I enjoy what He does enjoy? And therefore the school or university for the glory is suffering with Him. There I must learn, and there I must graduate. It is only as I take up my cross daily, and follow Him, that I can either desire or be prepared to ascend with Him the holy mount. Death comes on us in many ways, here; not two of us die morally in the same way. Following Him will always disclose the nature of the death we have to die. Death is surrender of that which I should like to live in, and in which I could live humanly; but as I follow Him, find that I must surrender this; and then as I die thereto, following, accompanying Him, so to speak, do I find my soul enlarged in desire, apprehension of, and preparation for the glory. I feel that what I have to die to is against Him, but that the glory, where He is, is the joy and resource of my heart. When Moses felt the rebellion and hopelessness of Israel, his eye looked out for something beyond man; and his prayer was, " Show me Thy glory." When Stephen reached the confines of testimony to Israel as a nation, the glory was presented to him as his home. So with Paul in the prison at Rome; so with John in Patmos. As each was made partaker of the sufferings of Christ, he could rejoice that when His glory should be revealed he should be glad with exceeding joy.
The first great point to establish, in order to ascertain the error of anything, is to obtain a perfect knowledge of what is true and right. That which is right must be singular, while the counterfeits may be endless in number and variety; A banker once said, on being asked how he knew a bad note, " I never consider whether a note is a bad one; I ascertain whether it be a good one." If I know what is right, it is very easy and simple for me to reject that which does not answer thereto. Many weary themselves to no profit in examining the suspicious, to see whether the grounds for suspicion exist; whereas if they had simply adhered to that which they knew was right, they could have discerned and rejected the pretender at once, even though they might not have been able to tell the exact grounds on which they rejected it. I may add, that when I have rejected any pretension as spurious, I may then, in order to convince others, examine the imperfections which prove its ungenuineness; but the first occupation of my eye, whether in choice or in discernment, should not be with the imperfection or evil.
How then ought the eye to be occupied 'I If I am not able to determine this, I shall not find it very easy to determine how it ought not; whereas if I can decide the right occupation for my eye; I can easily perceive what is not so.
Here lies the cause of so much indecision and inconsistency. People have not defined to themselves what is right; and hence they make a trial of every offer on its own merits, instead of on the merits of an ascertained standard. Now the right occupation of the eye must be determined by reference to the power that has a right to control it. If the Lord has this right, then its occupation must be in accordance with His mind and appointments down here while in the body. The engagement or occupation of any organ is characterized by the power which controls it. If the Lord controls my eye, it is occupied and engaged with what is interesting to Him. If my eye is controlled by my own will, it will be characterized by my carnal tastes and likings; and it is a very active agent in furnishing natural mind with provision for its enmity against God. Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was pleasant to the eye; and this promoted in her heart an inclination to act in independence of God. It is wonderful how the verdict of the eye affects us about everything, and how much that judgment is the fruit of our own state of soul.
Two persons may see the same thing with totally different impressions, but the impression imparted to each is in relation to his own peculiar state and condition before his eye thus acted. One admires, while another turns away pained from beholding the very same scene. The body is the Lord's, and the eye is the Lord's, Either the Spirit of God is using my eye to embrace and survey all that is important for me to 'see in my course, or the natural mind is using it to furnish materials for its own support; and therefore the "lust of the eye" is classed with the "lust of the flesh," though no man over thinks that they could be placed together as morally equal. Both link us to the world which is not of the Father, and the "lust of the eye" is even the more dangerous of the two, because least feared or discountenanced, although Scripture abounds with warnings touching the dangers for the eye. Remember the eye sends back a message to the soul corresponding to the power which used it. If the Lord uses, it, then an impression furnishing materials for His will is conveyed to the soul; if my own mind has used it, the impression will, on the contrary, furnish materials for its own promotion, which, to a Christian, is a double loss; for not only does it deprive him of what he might have gained for the Lord, but it acquires for him that which hinders and shuts out his sense of the Father's love. How little do our souls ponder these things and take them to heart!