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part to us the knowledge of duty, but to awaken our attention to duty already taught.
'Despise not prophesying;" or the stated preaching of the word. God has committed the dispensation of grace to his servants, that they may open and recommend it to others. If you would have the benefit of it, attend upon it in God's appointed way. In vain do you expect his grace, while you neglect the means, by which he is wont to communicate it. This is the voice of wisdom, " To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, and waiting at the posts of my doors. Whoso findeth me, findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord; but he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul. All who hate me, love death.”
The unsearchable Riches of Christ, preached for the instruction of Men.
EPHESIANS iii. 8, 9, 10..
Unto me, who am less than the least of all Saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which, from the beginning of the world, hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent, that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.
IN the preceding verse the Apostle says, was made a minister according to the gift of the grace bestowed on him by the effectual working of God's power." The mention of his apostolic office awakens humble reflections on his past guilty life, and admiring thoughts of God's grace in employing him to preach the grand mysteries of the gospel for the instruction of men on earth, and even of angels in heaven.
The words read will lead us to contemplate the Apostle's deep sense of his unworthiness-his admiring apprehension, of God's grace-his elevated sentiments of the gospel-and his enlarged views of the design of his ministry.
I. We are to consider what a humble opinion the Apostle had of himself. "To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given,
In his abilities and gifts, he was not a whit behind the chiefest Apostles; and in sufferings he was more frequent, and in labors more abundant than they all. But in respect of worthiness, he esteemed them his superiors; for they had not, like him, persecuted the church, and they were in Christ, and became Apostles before him. Of himself he says, "Last of all, Christ was seen of me, as of one born out of due time; for I am the least of the Apostles, who am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
Good Christians.in honor prefer one another, and esteem others better than themselves. They are more conversant, and better acquainted with themselves, than they can be with others. Their sins come nearer their hearts, and effect them more sensibly, than the sins of others can do. They are more disposed to extenuate and excuse the failings of their brethren, than their own; for their charity hopes all things, and can cover a multitude of sins.
True religion in the heart will produce selfabasing thoughts. If you see a man ostentatious of his religious experiences and godly works, and at the same time censorious of others, and disposed to exclude them from his fellowship, you may strongly suspect, that he has never felt the power of the gospel on his heart.
The true convert forgets not his former character. Paul calls himself the least of saints, because he had persecuted the church. The penitent reflects often on his past guilty life, that he may be more humble in himself, more thankful to God, more watchful against sin, more diligent in the practice of religion, and thus may make more suitable returns for God's abundant grace.
The penitent not only remembers former iniquities, but as far as they have been public, confesses them before men. The Apostle in his sermons and epistles, often laments the errors of his past life, that thus he may repair the injuries which he had done to the cause of Christ. When David fell under the power of conviction, he not only condemned himself in the presence of his reprover, but composed a penitential psalm, which he delivered to the Jewish church, as a standing confession of his guilt and warning to others. He prays "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and deliv er me from blood-then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee."
II. The Apostle expresses his admiring apprehen sions of God's grace in calling him to the ministry. "I am made a minister according to the grace of God. To me is this grace given, that I should preach Christ among the Gentiles. By the grace of God I am what
To the same grace which had called him, he ascribes all his qualifications for the ministry. "Christ hath enabled," or qualified, "me, putting me into the ministry." "I am made a minister according to the working of God's power." "Our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able ministers of the new Testament."
To God also he gives the honor of his success in the ministry. "For," says he, "neither is he who planteth, nor he who watereth, any thing, but God who giv eth the increase." It was matter of wonder and thankfulness to him, that God should honor so unworthy a man with so high an office, with such eminent gifts, and with such distinguished usefulness. He gloried in his infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon him.
We see that the gospel ministry is a respectable office. However contemptible some render themselves in it, the office itself is honorable. The Apostle di
rects that the elders who rule well, especially they who labor in word and doctrine, should be esteemed highly in love for their work's sake; and be counted worthy of double honor. They are ambassadors of God to beseech men to be reconciled to him. They are stewards of the manifold grace of God. They are servants to men for Christ's sake. They are heralds sent forth to proclaim the tidings of salvation to a fallen race. A sense of the dignity and importance of their office should warm their zeal in the discharge of it. We proceed to consider,
III. The Apostle's elevated sentiments concerning the gospel which he preached. He calls it "the unsearchable riches of Christ."
The blessings of the gospel, being purchased by the blood of Christ are called his riches. "He, who was rich, for our sakes became poor, that through his poverty we might be rich."
They are called riches on account of their excellen. ey, fulness and variety. They surpass in value all the treasures of the world; they are offered in such abundance as to supply all our wants, and dispensed in such manner as is suited to all our necessities. Christians, how poor soever in this world, still are rich. They are heirs of a kingdom, and entitled to the riches of the glory of an inheritance in heaven. They will inherit all things. The Apostle says to the Corinthians, "Now ye are full, ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings." Of himself and his brethren he says, are poor, yet make many rich; we have nothing, and yet possess all things."
The riches of Christ are called unsearchable riches. They are undiscoverable by human reason, and made known only by revelation. Hence they are called mysteries. The Apostle says, He was sent "to make all men see what was the mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ." This is the subVOL. III.