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The common blessings of providence, as food and raiment, health and liberty, are valuable for the present, and call for daily returns of praise. But these are only temporal and earthly goods. The blessings revealed in the gospel, and dispensed to us through Christ, are of a different nature and of higher importance. They are called spiritual and heavenly things. They are accom.. modated to our spiritual wants and desires-they come down from heaven, prepare us for heaven, and will be completed in our admission to heaven. The influences of the spirit are heavenly gifts-the renovation of the heart by a divine operation is wisdom from above-the renewed Christian is born from above and become a spiritual man--the state of immortality which Christ has purchased for believers, is an inheritance reserved for them in heaven-in the resurrection they will be clothed with a house from heaven, with spiritual and heavenly bodies, and they will be made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle says, "God has blessed us with ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly things" with all things necessary to bring us to the enjoyment of himself in heaven. "The divine power," says St. Peter, "hath given us all things which pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who hath called us to glory and virtue-and hath given us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them we might be partakers of a divine nature.”
The particular blessings vouchsafed to, and designed for believers, are enumerated in the following verses; such as election and vocation to be the people of God-predestination to the adoption of children-acceptance in Christ Jesus and redemption through his blood-the revelation of the mystery of God's will-a title to the heavenly inheritance-and the sanctification and sealing of the holy spirit. To display the nature and importance of these blessings we shall have occasion hereafter in the prosecution of our design.
I would now observe, that the blessings granted to the Ephesian believers, are also tendered to us. God, in his sovereign goodness has chosen us from among the nations of the world to be his peculiar people, and to enjoy his oracles and ordinances. He offers to us the honors and felicities of adoption, and the remission of all our sins through the atonement of his Son. He has proposed for our acceptance an inheritance incorruptible in the heavens. He grants the motions of his blessed spirit to awaken our minds to these important concerns. And to true believers, he affords the sanctifying, sealing and comforting influence of his grace. He has made known to us the mystery of his will, which is still hidden from the greater part of our race. He has favored us with a complete revelation, and placed us in a condition, which allows our frequent attendance on the dispensation of his word and ordi
We are in some respects privileged far beyond the Christians to whom this epistle was written. They for a season enjoyed the preaching of an inspired Apostle. In his absence he wrote to them this letter, which doubtless contains the substance of the things which he taught, while he was among them. But of this letter they could have the benefit only by hearing it read in one place and another. While he preached in Asia, he confined his ministry chiefly to this capital city. They who lived in the remoter parts could not, without much labor, enjoy the benefit of his preaching. But we have in our hands not only this epistle, but the other writings of Paul and his fellow Apostles, and we may daily converse with them. Places of divine worship are near us, and, without the expence of distant journeys, we may attend on the preaching of the word and other sacred exercises of religion. We have therefore happier advantages to become acquainted with the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, than the primitive Christians could enjoy. If they were bound
to give thanks for their privileges; how criminal must be ingratitude under ours!
It is said, While Paul preached in Ephesus, all they who dwelt in Asia, heard the word of the Lord. What pains must they have taken! For divers of them came from far. Consider Paul as preaching in the Jewish synagogue at Ephesus, as long as he could have admittance; and, when he was driven from thence, removing to a public school, and there reasoning daily in de fence of the gospel. See all the country around coming together, from time to time, to hear this inspired teacher. Observe what pains they took to become acquainted with a religion, which condemned their former sentiments and practices. Remark, how they yielded to the conviction of truth, renounced their idolatry, confessed their evil deeds, condemned their pretended intercourse with invisible spirits, and submitted to the pure and rational religion of the gospel; and then say, whether we have not cause to be deeply humbled, that this same gospel, which we enjoy under superior advantages, has so little influence on our own hearts and the hearts of others? Is there not occasion to lament, that the word of God, which then so mightily grew and prevailed, is now treated with so much indifference?
Ye who neglect to attend on the word now brought near to you, What will you say in excuse for yourselves, when you see how all who dwelt in Asia came to Ephesus to hear this same word?-Ye who can relish nothing, but what accords with your own fancies and humors, and who are at once disgusted with the preaching which contradicts your former sentiments and practices, How will you justify this perverse temper, when you see what humility and candor appeared in those Asiatic heathens ?-They could hear Paul disputing daily against their preconceived opinions; could listen with patience to his arguments, which all tended to confound them; and on conviction could give up
their errors and confess their evil deeds.-Ye who treat the worship and ordinances of God with contempt; what will you plead in your vindication, when you observe, with how much gratitude and reverence the same were received at Ephesus?-Ye who attend on God's word in vain-who feel no influence from it-who, though you hear it, yet live in habitual opposition to it, What will you urge in your defence, when you recol. lect, how mightily it grew in Ephesus, and how it transformed idolaters, sorcerers, and the grossest transgressors into saints, believers and the worshippers of the true God?
Remember, that you must one day answer before God for all the spiritual blessings which he has sent you. It is not a matter of indifference, whether you receive or reject them. If you put them from you, you will suffer the loss of them, and be punished with awful severity for your contempt. When God shall bring every work into judgment, he will take into consideration all the privileges which you have enjoyed, as well as all the works which you have done, and according to both will he judge you. They who have never heard of the gospel, will meet a more tolerable doom, than such as have known and despised it. These will perish wonderfully. Their punishment will be such as they would not believe and could not imagine, though one should declare it to them. The men of Sodom, in their days, were sinners of distinguished guilt, and their destruction, in the conflagration of their city, is set forth as an example of God's righteous severity. But justice has not done with them. In the day of judgment they will receive a still sorer condemnation; and after all, it will be more tolerable for them, than for those who despise the gospel.
To us the word of salvation is sent. Let us hear it with care and receive it with joy, accept the blessings which it offers and walk worthy of him who has called us to his kingdom and glory.
nite. He views things immediately and intuitively as they are. Darkness and light, past and future, are alike to him. "He seeth not as man seeth, nor are his years as man's days. But he inhabiteth eternity; and one day is with him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Therefore all the phrases, which we meet with in scripture, concerning God's remembrance of things past, foreknowledge of things to come, and deliberation on things present, are to be understood, not as literally expressive of the real operations of his mind, but as figuratively adapted to the weak conceptions of ours. "His knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is high, we cannot attain to it." We know things past by memory, and our memory we assist by records; so God is often said to remember things, and to keep a book of remembrance. But we are sensible that these expressions only denote God's perfect knowledge of those things, which to us are past
not a laborious recollection of them, or an artificial method of assisting his memory. So, on the other hand, God is said to foreknow things which are future, to foreordain things which shall be done, to write, in the volume of his book, things which his counsel has determined; which phrases do not signify that things are really future and distant to his view that his mind is reaching forward-that he writes down a plan of operations for his own direction; but they represent the perfect, consummate, unerring wisdom with which he governs the universe.
Viewing the matter in this light, we shall be sensible, that our perplexity concerning God's foreknowledge and decree arises from the imperfection of our minds, and the narrowness of our comprehension; and that there is no more inconsistency between the freedom of moral agents and God's foreknowledge, than there is between this and his present knowledge; for with respect to him, foreknowledge and present knowl