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303

No. XV.

EPHESIANS.

I send the following thoughts to the Present Testimony, rather to lay the subject seriously before your readers, than to teach upon it. Not that I have not in the main—while willing to have any thought corrected-a clear and decided judgment on that of which it speaks. But the subject is new to many; and all I wish at present, is to direct their thoughts to it, that they may weigh it before the Lord. Hence I have added a signature, that the responsibility may rest with the individual who sends the paper.

The exhortations in the Epistle to the Ephesians have a large scope and a higher aim than those of most of the Epistles, though nothing can surpass the importance of details of godly practice in their place; that, in walking according to them, God may be glorified, the Spirit ungrieved, and the heart free to receive and enjoy all His communications from the Word. These exhortations are founded on, and refer to as, indeed, in every Epistle—the doctrine which forms the subject of the first part of the Epistle. But there is an exceptional subject in this Epistle: the unity which flows from the full revelation of God, the necessary Centre of all; and, more especially, from the exaltation of Christ, in whom, according to the mystery, all things are to be headed up; and the presence of the Holy Ghost on earth, uniting the saints to Christ, the Head of the body on high, and assembling men by His power, to the confession of His name upon the earth. I have called this an exceptional subject, because it is not the first and proper doctrine of the Epistle, but is introduced as an extraordinary revelation of an especial state and relationship into which the saints are brought. The primary relationships spoken of, are individual ones with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: we are chosen in Christ to be holy and without blame before God in love, and predestinated to the adoption of children. The exhortations founded on this doctrine, begin with the 17th verse of the fourth chapter, and are first and mainly referred to the name of God, passing into the relationship of children in the first verse of chapter v. It is natural they should; because, while special affections are drawn out by the name of Father, the character of God Himself is that after which we are to be formed. Definite relationships are entered on in chap. v. 22; and there again the relationship of the Church with Christ is introduced. It is not to be passed over, that, whatever the corporate blessings of the Church — and they are very great and eminent — the individual relationship of the saint holds the first place, and that the action of the members of the body as such, is for the perfecting of the saints individually. Indeed, seeing the place that God must have, and the unutterable obligation and relationship in which we stand to Him, - we may add, the very place Christ Himself has with God as man, this could not be otherwise, whatever peculiar privileges the counsel of God gave to us in union with Christ. Thus, in the first chapter of Ephesians, we find saints presented in relationship to the names and nature of God, as revealed in that He bears towards Christ, as denoting our proper calling, and what characterises us as saints - our relationship to that which is above us.

And then all things being centred up in and gathered into one under Christ, we become joint-heirs, so as to have the glorious place due to God's children towards that which is below us. It is only at the close of the chapter, where he speaks of the power exercised towards those that believe, that he introduces, after the exaltation of Christ, Himself raised from the dead, the union of saints with Him, their identification with Him as objects of the operation of the same power by which He was raised and exalted. They are not merely morally and gloriously like Him; they are raised up together with Him, His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. The general purpose of God had been stated in the tenth verse of the first chapter. This especial part of it, the union of the body with the head, and the unity of the body itself, and the forming of a dwelling-place of God on the earth, by the Holy Ghost, with its various consequences and aspects, and the obligations that flow from this great fact, are unfolded from the 22nd verse of the first chapter to the end of the 16th verse of the fourth. The whole of the second and third chapters, and the fourth down to the end of verse 16, may be considered as a kind of parenthesis, in which the doctrine of the Church is richly developed with the exhortations which flow from it; not separated, of course, from the doctrine of the whole Epistle, but forming a special body of teaching within it, we are not viewed as the fruit of Christ's redemption individually before God, but as the associates of Christ's position in union with Him. It is at the same time remarkable, how, through the vastness of the place and counsel of God, these truths are interwoven. It is the name, in reference to which we are individually children, which forms the groundwork of the prayer in this part of the Epistle, which generally treats of the Church; and it is the name of God with whom we are individually in relationship, because it is in grace, which lays the foundation for the union of the Church with Christ, because of that divine power which has raised Christ, and us with Christ, from the dead, to form one new body in a heavenly condition before Him - a condition in which no middle walls of partition could arise; for what barriers of ordinances to exclude, shall be found in heaven? The name of the Father, in which we are brought into nearness of communion and relationship, gives its character to the prayer of the 3rd chapter. (Compare John xvii. 26). But under the name of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, every family in heaven and earth comes, and we are heirs of all. And the Apostle seeks our blessing accord ing to the riches of glory individually of Him who possesses all. In order to the present enjoyment of this, Christ, who fills all things, must dwell in our hearts by faith, through the strengthening of the spirit in the inner man, (Compare-as regards hope, which is the form in which it is enjoyed in Colossians; for they were not holding the Head firm-Col. i. 27) and this is what the Apostle seeks here. All things depend on the Father

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of our Lord Jesus Christ, and form the sphere of His glory. With the name Jehovah Israel alone, of all the families of the earth, was in relationship. It alone was thus known by God (Amos iii. 2). On this name every family in heaven and earth depends; but then, according to the whole wide extent of His glory, in which He has given us a place, and as Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He strengthens us by His Spirit, so that Christ should dwell in our hearts by faith, and that as rooted and grounded in love. This is the power of realization, that we may comprehend the extent of glory in the sphere of creation on the one hand, and have the intimate knowledge of Christ's love in us, which passes knowledge, on the other; so as to be filled to all the fulness of God, whether in the display of His glory, or the blessedness of His nature. Now it is the exercise in us of

which surpasses all our thoughts, which produces the great result, and binds all together for His glory in the Church by Christ Jesus. It is power in us which fills us to all the fulness of God; but this power necessarily binds us together in a nearer and closer sphere – the Church of God; and hence, while setting us to look out to the whole sphere of His glory in Christ, and binding us in the intimity of knowledge to the love of Christ Himself, the Spirit brings us to God's glory in the Church. Indeed, it could not be otherwise; because, Christ the Head of the body, fills all things; and the body, as associated with the Head, is placed in connection with the whole scene; and He dwells in us, so as to give the power of going out unto it all as His, under the Father; and to know His love, too, by His dwelling in us. Hence the previous part of the chapter, and the admission of the Gentiles as one of the families, leads to this prayer. Now, the Church has a double aspect and character, both of which are presented to us in this Epistle. It is looked at, also, in two ways; as indeed is the case in every dealing of God with man and this lower creation, with this peculiar difference, that the Church is the nearest and most immediate object of His thoughts next to Christ, forms no part of the ages and dispensations of this world, has no existence but by the full display of

power,

God, as he is the true light now shining; and of man to God, according to His glorious counsels in the person of Christ in glory on high, and the consequent presence of God on the earth in the person of the Holy Ghost dwelling in men, and in the habitation God has formed for Himself here below, amongst men.

Notwithstanding this difference, however, the same great general principle is in play as to the Church, as in the case of other dispensations of God; because, though not of the world, and the object of God's counsels before the world was, the Church is displayed, and has her place and service in time in the world.

Now, the double aspect of all the objects of God's dealings here below, is the display of God's power and perfect wisdom in results, and the placing of the realisation of it in man's hands under man's responsibility, before God's bringing it about by power according to His own mind. The very creation has been subjected to this principle. There will be a new heaven and new earth, where righteousness will dwell according to the thoughts and counsels of God; whereas that which now is, groans under the bondage of corruption which sin has brought in.

I do not go further than the earth, though my subject partly leads there, because the higher part of creation above, is the proof of God's preserving care and grace; as we, of His restoring power by redemption and reconciliation.

But, as to this earth, everything trusted to man, and for which he has been responsible, will be accomplished finally according to the mind and purpose of God. Man himself failed in Adam, and will be perfect and glorified in the Second Adam. 'Man was entrusted with the law: it will hereafter be written in his heart, and he will be made to walk in God's statutes. David's royalty failed: it will be perfected in Christ. Man, entrusted with sovereign power, failed in ruling over all: but Christ will reign over the whole earth in equity and truth, and glorify Jehovah. The very promises were presented in Christ, and man would have none of them. They will all be shewn to be Yea and Amen in Him. The Church and the individual saint ought to glorify the Lord: they, too, have failed. But Christ will be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe, and the Church itself be fully glorified with Him.

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