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hearten these new and unexperienced converts, he sets before them a view of their happy security under the protection of divine grace. Dangers indeed were before them ; but what had they to fear, who had bold. ness of access to God, with confidence by the faith of Christ? “Wherefore,” says he, “I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations, which is your glory.”
It was one of the glories of their religion, that he who preached it was not ashamed to suffer for it, His constancy and zeal were an unequivocal evidence, that he believed his religion to be true and important, and a decided proof of its efficacy and power to support men in the severest trials. He wished them to consider, that they had not received a religion which the teachers of it were afraid to maintain ; but a relig. ion which inspired them with courage to meet, and with patience to bear every evil which the world could threaten. Though the Ephesians were exposed to the same afflictions which he endured, he desired them not to faint ; for the faith which strengthened bim, would sustain them ; the animating principles, which the gospel afforded to him, it imparted also to them ; and they, as well as he, might draw near to God with confidence, and obtain grace to help in time of need. Since they were admitted so near to God were allow. ed such free intercourse with him-had such assurance of his attention to their prayers ; he hoped, they would neither faint at the tribulations, which they saw in him, nor at those which might happen to them. It was their glory, that they had received the gospel, at a time when it was attended with affliction ; and it would still be their greater glory, if they should hold the beginning of their confidence stedfast unto the end.
1. In the Apostle Paul we have a noble example of benevolence.
He was joyful in his tribulation, finding that it conduced to the happiness of others. He upbraids not the Ephesians with the troubles which he endured for them : He rather exhorts them to be thereby animated to constancy in the faith. He speaks, in the same kind and affectionate terms to the Philippians ; “ I would have you understand, that the things which hapa pened to me, have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. It is my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed; but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. If I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me."
It is the glory of the religion of Jesus, that, where it comes with power, it enlarges the mind, purifies the affections, subdues the passions, sweetens the temper, softens the heart to sensibility and love, and excites to every good work.
2. We are taught that new converts should be assisted and encouraged in religion.
These Ephesians, who but lately had embraced the gospel, were in danger of fainting under the tribulations which attended it. The Apostle, therefore, warned them of the trials which they might expect, and fortified their minds by arguments adapted to their case.
They who enter on the religious life must sit down and count the cost. They must form their good res. VOL. III.
olutions with an apprehension of difficulty before them - with a sense of their own weakness and with a humble reliance on the power of divine grace. Many set out in the Christian course, with warm zeal, but with little consideration. Hence, when they meet with unlooked for opposition, they turn back and walk no more in it. As seed sown in a shallow soil sud. denly springs up, but, under the scorching beams of the sun, withers away ; so they who hear the word and receive it hastily, may discover much joy at first ; but when tribulation arises, they are offended. They only bring forth fruit with patience, who receive the word and understand it, and so cherish it in the heart, that it takes deep root.
3. We farther learn, that our best support under the troubles of the world, is that boldness of access to God, which we enjoy in Christ Jesus. This is the argument by which the Apostle persuades the Ephesians not to faint at the sight of his tribulations, or at the apprehension of their
own. As Christians have full liberty to come to God-may use great freedom of speech in his presence-may express all their de. sires—may ask all that they need, with a confidence that he hears and regards them; What occasion have they to faint? What danger can dismay them? What difficulty discourage them? What burden depress them? What service seem too hard for them ? “ When I am weak, then am I strong.”—“ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
4. How great a thing it is to pray as we ought-to pray in such a manner, that we can truly say, “ We have had access to God ?"
Do we not often ask we know not what, and pray we know not how? How much distraction is there in our devotion ? How cold are our desires ? How uninfluencing our sense of the Being whom we address? How often do we bring into his presence impatience, discontent, envy, ill will and other disorderly passions ? If we have received, or think we have received an injury, How difficult it is to calm the tumult of the mind, and recover that serenity, sweetness and benevolence of heart, which are necessary to prepare us for communion with God ?-How much sin is mixed with our prayers ? We have need to pray, that our prayers may be forgiven.
5. Let the grace and condescension of God encourage us, unworthy as we are, to come often into his presence. He is rich in mercy to them who call upon him. Our wants are great and numerous, and he only can supply them. Let us attend to our wants, and we shall find matter for prayer--we shall know what to say when we stand before him.
How astonishing is it, that so many contentedly live strangers to God, and at a distance from him ? That, absorbed in the pleasures and interests of the world, they neglect the favor of God, and the privilege of conversing with him? They who forsake him, forsake their own mercies. As for us, it is good that we should draw near to him: They who are far from him, perish.
Saints and Angels one Family,
LPHESIANS iii. 14, 15.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.
PAUL, in the preceding verse, expresses his desire, that the Ephesian Christians would not faint at the tribulations which he suffered ; but rather from his example would take courage to meet all the trials and dangers, which might await them in the cause of religion. Sensible of the weakness of human nature, and its aversion to sufferings, he fears for his new converts, lest, in those persecuting times, some should re. nounce the faith. He therefore laborg to fortify their minds by proper arguments, that they might not be moved from the hope of their calling ; and prays that they might be strengthened by the grace of God to constancy and perseverance in the truth. “ For this cause,' ” saith he ; i. e. because of the tribulations which attend the profession of the gospel ; “ I bow my knees unto the Father."
As "bowing the knees" was a common token of reverence in the presence of superiors, and a posture often used in prayer, to express the humility and en