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The Victor, on His Throne, giving Gifts to Men.
EPHESIANS iv. 7—12.
"But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith:-When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ."
HE Christians of Ephesus lived within sight of the temple of Diana, “whom all Asia and the world worshipped a." Inside the temple was a black image of the goddess, which was reputed to have fallen from heaven. Hither flocked crowds of pilgrims, who, on returning home, were accustomed to take with them miniature models of the shrine in silver or other metal. Thus Ephesus became the centre of a vast system of heathenism;-one of the chief instruments employed. by the "rulers of the darkness of this world" to hold men down in spiritual bondage.
From this system believers in Christ had separated themselves. By doing so, they appeared to the heathen
Acts xix. 27.
world to have given up everything that adorned humanity, or made life itself desirable. They became, to pagan eyes, so many detached atoms; without any principle of cohesion; out of communion with earth. and heaven.
In reality, how different from all this was their state! These seeming outcasts had, in fact, been incorporated into a society, which is destined to embrace both heaven and earth in its unity.
The Son of God had descended to this lower world, and taken on Him our nature, that we might "have redemption through His blood d." Then He "ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things";" sending forth His new-creating Spirit to raise the spiritually dead, and to gather them into living unity with Himself; thus forming, as out of the dust of the earth, that "Church, which is His body!"
To this Church, or congregation of faithful men, Christ, the ascended Saviour, stood in the closest relationship. As every particle of the body is in vital connexion with the head, and contributes to the wellbeing of the body, so every Christian, even the very humblest, had "grace given to him, according to the measure of Christ's bounty," and contributed something to the well-being of the Church.
The analogy extended yet further. As the bodily life is upheld by means of certain organs and channels of circulation, such as nerves and arteries, so is it with the Church. When Christ "ascended up on high," He provided certain special gifts, which He left behind for the Church's nourishment and conservation. were these GIFTS?
Eph. i. 7.
⚫ Eph. iv. 10.
Eph. i. 22, 23.
Were they (as some have dreamts) moral or intellectual endowments,-justice, courage, wisdom, philosophy, or the like? No: says the Apostle,-He took from among men those whom He "gave to men" as the special channel of His blessing. "He gave some (to be) apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers." These were His own chosen gifts.
So, says St. Paul, was realized, in its full dimensions, that which had been set forth in historical type under the elder Covenant; that to which the great Pentecostal Psalm referred, where it says, that when the Lord "ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men."
To see the meaning of this more clearly, we must go back to the commencement of Israel's existence as a Church.
When God "came down i" with visible glory on Mount Sinai, amidst myriads of angels, He formally established the Abrahamic covenant', and adopted Israel to be His people. They were to be to Him. "a kingdom of priests m;" and He would "dwell among them, and be their God." For this end He instituted "the Tabernacle of Congregation," (or "of Meeting"); for "there," said God, "I will meet with the children of Israel; and it shall be sanctified by My glory." The spiritual life of the nation was bound up with this holy Tabernacle.
But observe how the life was to circulate from it. It was by means of one tribe,-the Levites,-whom God
See, e.g., the painted altar-piece of Christ Church, Marylebone. 1 Psalm lxviii., which was sung by the Jews at the Feast of Pentecost.
1 Exod. xix. 18, 20, xxxiv. 5, (LXX. ka1éßŋ; cp. Eph. iv. 9).
* Deut. xxxiii. 2; cp. Ps. lxviii. 17.
Exod. xix. 6.
1 Gen. xvii. 7.
"Exod. xxix. 42-45; cp. Ps. lxviii, 16, 18,
"took out of the midst of the sons of Israel," to be "given to the Lord to serve the service of the Tabernacle of Congregation "." He first took them, as His own, "wholly given to Himself;" and then He gave them to Aaron and the Church "for the work of the ministry" in the Tabernacle P. As soon as Canaan was occupied, the dedicated tribe was distributed throughout the country, both east and west of Jordan; so that by its means the Tabernacle of God virtually spread itself over the whole land. By the Levites, then, "as by joints and bands, the whole body" of Israel, "having nourishment ministered and being knit together," was to "increase with the increase of God 9."
Let us now return to the Pentecostal Psalm, quoted by St. Paul.
This majestic ode was written to celebrate God's goodness in dwelling among His people Israel. He, whose name was "YAH," the 'Self-Existent,'-condescended to care for that poor nomad horde in the wilderness. He even took up His abode among them, in the centre of their encampment. This was their strength in conflict;-"God arose, and His enemies were scattered"." This gave them possession of Canaan. This kept them in it through the period of the Judges. This enabled David to triumph over Israel's enemies. And now God had been pleased to allow His Ark to be carried up to Mount Sion. There, on lowly Sion, His presence was granted as really, though not with the same accompaniments of visible glory, as it
• Numb. xviii. 6. (LXX. ἐγὼ εἴληφα ... τοὺς Λευίτας ... δόμα δεδομέ νον Κυρίῳ).
P Cp. Numb. iii. 9, viii. 9—19. (At ver. 19, the LXX. have, κaì àñéδωκα τοὺς Λευίτας.)
4 Col. ii. 19.
Ps. lxviii. 12-14.
Ps. lxviii. I; cp. Numb. x. 35.
once was at Sinai. He did not now choose the ministrants of His sanctuary-" the Tabernacle He pitched among men t" from the ranks of the "twice ten thousand angels" who formed His retinue at Sinai " :—He took them "from among men." From among men He took them,-rebellious men,-that even here on earth, "the Lord God might have a home."
This was wondrous condescension: scarcely credible, indeed, were it not that that "Tabernacle of Meeting" prefigured a yet deeper mystery,—that meeting of God and man, which was effected when "the Word was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us." In Christ "dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily "." He descended into the conflict with sin, and death, and hell; and after "triumphing over them openly," He took from amongst His redeemed some, whom He made over as His own gifts to mankind, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ." "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers."
The statement in my text, then, clearly implies what St. Paul's view was of the Church, the "tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man."
(1.) High beyond all thought, and invested with unapproachable dignity, stands our kingly Priest ;-exalted "far above all heavens," yet in intimate union with us on earth;-presenting before the mercy-seat His most perfect sacrifice and intercessions on behalf of all His penitent, obedient, self-consecrating people.
And here below are (2.) His Levites ;-not priests;— forbidden, indeed, "to come near the vessels of the