Eph_1:15-20. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, way give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.
WE are told by our blessed Lord, that however great the pains of parturition may be, a woman remembereth no more her anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. Yet if the mother, watching the child from month to month, should see no growth in his bodily stature, nor any improvement in his intellectual Faculties, her joy would soon be turned into grief, and she would account the death of the child a greater blessing than its birth. Somewhat similar to these are the feelings of a minister towards those who have been born to God through his ministrations. Like “the angels in heaven, he rejoices over every sinner that is brought to repentance:” but if his subsequent care and labour be attended with no benefit to his converts, he will feel much pain and sorrow on their account: he will “travail, as it were, in birth a second time, till he see Christ completely formed in them.” To see them walking in the truth, is the one object of his desire, and the summit of his joy [Note: 3 John, ver. 4.]: and it is only when they stand fast in the faith, that he has a real enjoyment of his life [Note: 1Th_3:8.]. How full of complaints was the Apostle Paul, when the people to whom he had ministered did not make their profiting to appear [Note: 1Co_3:1-3. Gal_3:1; Gal_4:11; Gal_4:19-20. Heb_5:12.]. On the contrary, he quite exulted when he heard of their growth in faith and love [Note: 2Th_1:3-4.]. But in nothing did he shew his anxiety for their welfare more, than in his unwearied intercessions in their behalf.
The prayer which he offered for the Church at Ephesus, evinces clearly,
That the Spirit, as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, may be obtained by all—
What was sought on behalf of all the Christians at Ephesus, may certainly be expected by Christians in every age and place—
We need the Spirit as much as they did in the Apostles’ days—
[If we are unconverted, our eyes are blind [Note: 2Co_4:4.], our souls are dead [Note: Eph_2:1.], yea we are incapable of receiving or knowing the things of the Spirit, because we have not that spiritual discernment, whereby alone they can be discerned [Note: 1Co_2:14.] — — — If we are converted, still we are in need of fresh supplies of the Spirit, as much as the Ephesian converts were. It is “by the Spirit only that we can know the things which have been freely given to us of God [Note: 1Co_2:12.].” The Apostles not only had been converted, but had enjoyed the public and private instructions of their Divine Master for nearly four years: yet after his resurrection he “opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures [Note: Luk_24:45.],” and on the day of Pentecost gave them his Spirit in a more abundant measure, “to guide them into all truth [Note: 1Co_2:11. with 1Jn_2:20; 1Jn_2:27.].” It is by repeated communications of the same Spirit that we also are to obtain a deeper insight into the things of God. We find oftentimes, even after we have been enlightened, that the written word is only to us as “a dead letter;” and that unless the Spirit shine upon it, we learn no more from it than from a dial when the sun is hid behind a cloud.
If then we need the Spirit as much as they did of old, we may expect it as well as they.]
The promises relating to the communications of the Spirit, are made to us, as much as to any persons whatever—
[Those of the Old Testament extend to the Church in every age. Shall we confine to the apostolic age such declarations as those; “Turn you at my reproof, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you [Note: Pro_1:23.]:” “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord [Note: Isa_54:13. with Joh_6:45.]:” “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them [Note: Jer_31:33-34.]:” “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes [Note: Eze_36:27.]?” To deny our interest in such passages as these, were to rob us of half the Scriptures.
And what shall we say to the promises of the New Testament? Shall we limit those also to the Apostles’ days? Hear what our Lord says; “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him [Note: Luk_11:13.]?” “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water: This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive [Note: Joh_7:37-39.].” “I will send you another Comforter, who shall abide with you for ever [Note: Joh_14:16.].” Hear what his Apostles also say: “Believe on Christ for the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: for the promise is to you, and to your children, and to as many as are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call [Note: Act_2:38-39.].” “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his [Note: Rom_8:9.].”
Language has neither force nor certainty, if such declarations as these be not to be applied to us.]
In the Liturgy of our Church we pray continually for the communications of the Spirit to our souls—
[If we do not intend to mock God in our supplications, we must not only acknowledge our need of the Spirit’s influence, but we must really feel it every time that we join in our public services [Note: In the Prayer for the King we say, “Replenish him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit.” In the Litany, “That it may please thee to illuminate all Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy word.” [Mark this well.] See also the Collects for 1st Sunday after Epiphany—5th Sunday after Easter—Whit-Sunday—9th Sunday after Trinity—19th ditto. Compare these with the text; and see whether, in the judgment of our reformers, the best and most learned of men do not still need to have the Spirit, as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, given unto them.] — — —]
But, to prevent misapprehension, we shall proceed to state distinctly,
What discoveries the Spirit will make to our souls—
This is certain, that no new revelation is to be expected by us: the canon of Scripture is closed: and if any man pretend to new revelations, let him con-firm his pretensions, by clear and undoubted miracles; or else let him be rejected as an enthusiast and deceiver. The Spirit now enlightens men only by shining upon the written word, and opening their understandings to understand it. But in this way he will make wonderful discoveries to the soul. He will give us just views,
Of God himself—
[Somewhat of God may be known from books, without any supernatural aid: but the knowledge gained in that way will be merely theoretical; it will have no suitable influence upon the heart and life. But the very same truths, when applied by the Spirit to the soul, make a deep impression on the mind; they fill it with wonder and with love; and constrain the enraptured soul to exclaim, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee [Note: Job_42:5.]!” How precious does Christ appear at such seasons! how “unsearchable the length and breadth and depth and height of his incomprehensible love [Note: Eph_3:18-19.]!” These are the manifestations of himself which our blessed Lord promised to his Church [Note: Joh_14:21-23; Joh_16:14-15.]; and without which we cannot know aright either him or his Father [Note: Mat_11:27.].
Let us pray then for “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in, and for, the knowledge of him.”]
Of the hope to which he has called us—
[How low are our apprehensions of the Christian’s portion, when no particular revelation of it is made to the soul! We can speak of pardon and acceptance, of grace and glory; but we speak of them with no more feeling than if they were mere fictions. But O what a “gloriously rich inheritance” does ours appear, when our eyes are opened by the Spirit to behold it! One Pisgah-view of the promised land, how does it transport the soul to heaven, and make us long to be dissolved, that we may be with Christ! As for the inheritances of princes, they then appear as worthless as the toys that amuse a child. The realities of the eternal world surpass all sublunary things, as the splendour of the sun exceeds the glimmering of a taper. “These things, which no carnal eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, these things, I say, God now reveals to us by his Spirit [Note: 1Co_2:9-10.];” yea, he gives us an earnest of them in our hearts [Note: Eph_1:13-14.].]
Of the work he has wrought in us—
[We are apt to undervalue the work that is already wrought in us, because so much remains to be done. But when God shines upon his own work, we entertain very different thoughts respecting it. It is no light matter then in our eyes to have been quickened from the dead, and “created anew in Christ Jesus.” It seems no less a work than that which was “wrought for Christ, when God raised him from the dead,” and “set him at his own right hand, above all the principalities and powers,” whether of heaven or hell. We were dead and buried; and Satan set, as it were, the stone, the seal, the watch, to keep us securely under the power of the grave. But our God came “by the mighty working of his power.” and made us triumphant over all the powers of darkness, and still “always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” Truly the believer, when he views these things, is a wonder to himself: he is a burning bush [Note: Exo_3:2.], a captive ruling over his oppressors [Note: Isa_14:2.], a worm threshing the mountains [Note: Isa_41:15.].]
Let us seek to attain the Christian’s character—
[The Ephesians were already Christians: they possessed the two distinctive marks of the Christian character, “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and love unto all the saints.” These marks we must possess. It is in vain to hope for the higher manifestations of the Spirit, till we have received those communications which are of prime and indispensable necessity. Till these evidences of true religion appear, neither can ministers have any joy over you, nor you any scriptural hope for yourselves. Come then to Christ as perishing sinners, and cast in your lot with his people, that you may have your portion with them in a better world.]
Let us seek to enjoy the Christian’s privileges—
[We would not that any of you should live below your privileges. “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,” is willing to bestow on you the richest gifts, and to exalt you to the sublimest happiness. He is ready to make all his glory pass before your eyes, and to proclaim in your hearing all his goodness [Note: Exo_33:18-19.]. Though he will not catch you up to Paradise, as he did the Apostle Paul, or make the heavens open to you, as he did to the dying Stephen, yet will he shine into your hearts, to give you light and knowledge, of which you have at present scarcely any conception [Note: 2Co_4:6.]. Seek then these sublime attainments, which will at once enhance your present happiness, and increase your meetness for your heavenly inheritance.]