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should, therefore, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, and abounding in every good work; and we should be zealous to promote knowledge and rightcousness among others, to convert sinners from the error of their ways, and to encourage those who would enter into the kingdom of God.
The church is to grow into an holy temple. As, in the best Christians, so in the purest churches on earth, there is much imperfection; but increasing holiness should be the aim of all. Private Christians should be diligent to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Saviour. Churches should maintain the worship and ordinances of Christ's house, and unite in the steady observance of them for the common edification; not forsake the assembling of themselves together, but exhort and animate one another, to love and good works. The spiritual house is built up, that Christians, as a holy priesthood, may offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Churches should become "an habitation of God through the Spirit." God's presence fills the universe, but he dwells in a peculiar manner, in the churches where the saints meet together for his worship and service. "The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation; this is his rest forever, here will he dwell." He dwells here, not only by his word and ordinances, but also by the influence of his Spirit, which he affords to assist his people in the duties of his worship, and to open their hearts for the reception of his word. The gospel is therefore called a ministration of the Spirit."
If we would have the Spirit, we must be builded together for an habitation of God-we must be united in a church state, so as to enjoy his word and ordinances -we must attend upon them in the appointed seasons -we must preserve peace and order among ourselves. Thus we shall grow into a temple for God-thus we
shall be builded together for an habitation of the
Vain then is it to expect, that we shall enjoy the special presence of the Spirit, if, instead of being builded together, we are broken asunder and scattered abroad-if, instead of growing into an holy temple, we neglect the assembling of ourselves together-if, instead of attending on the word of God, we put it far from us-if, instead of walking in peace and love, and cooperating for the common edification, we oppose and contend with one another, and thus destroy the unity and symmetry of God's family; for thus we resist and vex the Holy Spirit.
God has promised his Spirit to them who seek it. The manner in which we are to seek it, he has prescribed. Our seeking will be successful, when it is guided by his prescription. He is a God of peace and order-of grace and love. We are only then a fit habitation of God through the Spirit, when we preserve peace and order, condescension and charity among ourselves.
Let us, therefore, as parts of God's spiritual house, be united together by love, as well as joined to the foundation by faith. Let us consecrate ourselves, and all that we have, to God, considering that we are called to be an holy priesthood to him. Let us constantly and devoutly attend the stated worship of his temple; avoid whatever would disturb the harmony, or mar the beauty of the spiritual building; endeavor to grow ourselves, and to promote the growth of others, in knowledge and righteousness; be builded together for a divine habitation; and rejoice in all those means, which God has appointed for the perfecting of the saints, and for the edifying of the body of Christ.
The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed to the Apostles for the general benefit of Mankind.
EPHESIANS iii. 1-7.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles; if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given to you ward, how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery, (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit of God, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel; whereof I am made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me, by the effectual working of kis power.
THE calling of the Gentiles into the church of God, which is a subject of the preceding chapter, is still continued in this. Concerning this wonderful event, Paul says "he had written before in few words," or had written a little before, i. e. in the preceding part of this epistle, by attending to which they might perceive, how well he understood the mystery, which by revelation God had opened to him.
The mystery here intended is the calling of the Gentiles to a participation with the Jews in the privil
eges of God's church. This mystery was in ages past unknown to the sons of men, but was now revealed by the Spirit to the Apostles and Prophets, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body, and par takers of the promise by the gospel. The promise referred to, is that great promise made to Abraham, "“I will be a God to thee and to thy seed." The Gentiles were now called to be partakers of this promise with the Jews." This blessing of Abraham is come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ."" They who are Christ's are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."—"As many as are of the faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
The incorporation of Jews and Gentiles into one church was not, in former ages, wholly unknown; for the promise to Abraham was, "that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed." The introduction of the gospel and its glorious success among the Gentiles were often foretold by the prophets. But so imperfectly was this matter understood by the generality of the Jews, that the Apostle says, "In former ages it was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed."
The Jews, who received the gospel, retained for some time the same prejudice against the Gentiles, as they had entertained before. They imagined, that the way into the church of God was still through the legal ceremonies; and that no Heathens could be admitted to the privileges of the gospel, unless they first became Jews by circumcision. But the Apostle says, "Christ has abolished the enmity, even the law of command ments contained in ordinances." The Gentiles are made heirs of the same body with the Jews, not by the works of the law of Moses, but by the faith of the gospel of Christ.
The abolition of the ancient distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and their incorporation into one church, have fallen under our consideration in some VOL. III. 2 c
preceding discourses on this epistle. We shall therefore notice, in the passage now read, such matters only, as have not occurred before.
I. The first thing observable is, that Paul calls himself" a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles."
The liberality of his sentiments toward them, and the boldness with which he asserted their title to equal privileges with Jews, were the principal reasons, why the latter persecuted him with such violence, and caused him to be sent a prisoner to Rome. It was while he was there in bonds, that he wrote this epistle. He might, therefore, with propriety call himself a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles. A remarkable instance of the prejudice of the Jews against him on this account is related in the 22d chapter of the Acts. In making his defence before them, he declares the manner and circumstances of his conversion, and the particular instructions given him from heaven to depart from Jerusalem, and preach the gospel among the Gentiles" and when they heard this word, they lifted up their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth for it is not fit that he should live; and they cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air," in token of their abhorrence of such a doctrine.
It may seem strange, that men should possess such malignity of heart, as to envy their fellow mortals the means and offers of salvation. But perhaps this temper, which the Jews so remarkably discovered, may sometimes be found among Christians.
You will all say, "We never envied a man on religious accounts. We wish all men virtuous in this world and happy in the next." But be pleased to examine yourselves. Have you never envied a good man the reputation which resulted from his virtue? Have you never tried to detract from his superior honor, or to cast dirt on his fair character? Have you never felt uneasy when you heard him commended, or enjoyed a