A SELECT LIBRARY
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
PHILIP SCHAFF, D.D., LL.D.,
PROFESSOR OF CHURCH HISTORY IN THE UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, NEW YORK.
IN CONNECTION WITH A NUMBER OF PATRISTIC SCHOLARS OF EUROPE AND AMERICA
WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING COMPANY
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
HOMILIES ON THE EPISTLES TO THE EPHESIANS, PHILIPPIANS, COLOSSIANS, THESSALONIANS, AND THE EPISTLES TO TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND PHILEMON
99 Ephesus is the metropolis of Asia. It was dedicated to Diana, whom especially they worshipped there as their great goddess. Indeed so great was the superstition of her worshippers, that when her temple was burnt, they would not so much as divulge the name of the man who burnt it.
The blessed Jn the Evangelist spent the chief part of his time there: he was there when he was banished,1 and there he died. It was there too that Paul left Timothy, as he says in writing to him, "As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus. (1Tm 1,3).
Most of the philosophers also, those more particularly who flourished in Asia, were there; and even Pythagoras himself is said to have come from thence; perhaps because Samos, whence he really came, is an island of Ionia.2 It was the resort also of the disciples of Parmenides, and Zeno, and Democritus, and you may see a number of philosophers there even to the present day.
These facts I mention, not merely as such, but with a view of showing that Paul would needs take great pains and trouble in writing to these Ephesians. He is said indeed to have entrusted them, as being persons already well-instructed, with his profoundest conceptions; and the Epistle itself is full of sublime thoughts and doctrines.3
1 [The Apocalypse already implies that he stood at the head of the churches of Asia Minor. Ap 1,4 Ap 1,9 Ap 1,11 Ap 1,20. Chs. 2 and 3. This is confirmed by the unanimous testimony of antiquity. The most probable view is that he was exiled to Patmos under Nero, wrote the Apocalypse soon after Nero’s death, 68 or 69 a.d., returned to Ephesus and died there after 98 a.d.—Schaff, Ch. Hist. I. p. 424, 429.—G. A.]
2 [Of which Ephesus was one of the cities. G.A.]
3 [Coleridge calls it the “divinest composition of man.” Alford: “The greatest and most heavenly work of one whose very imagination is peopled with things in the heavens.” Grotius: “Equaling the sublimity of its thoughts with words more sublime than any human language ever possessed.”—Quoted in Schaff, Ch. Hist. I. p. 781.—G. A.]
(He wrote the Epistle from Rome, and, as he himself informs us, in bonds. “Pray for me, that utterance may be given unto me, in opening my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.” (Ep 6,19). It abounds with sentiments of overwhelming loftiness and grandeur. Thoughts which he scarcely so much as utters any where else, he here plainly declares; as when he says, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” (Ep 3,10). And again; "He raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places. (Ep 2,6). And again; “Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ.” (Ep 3,5)).
100 to the saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ep 1,1-10
101 Observe, he applies the word “through” to the Father. But what then? Shall we say that He is inferior? Surely not.
“To the saints,”saith he, “which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
Observe that he calls saints, men with wives, and children, and domestics. For that these are they whom he calls by this name is plain from the end of the Epistle, as, when he says, “Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands.” (Ep 5,22). And again, “Children, obey your parents:”(Ep 6,1). and, “Servants, be obedient to your masters.” (Ep 6,5). Think how great is the indolence that possesses us now, how rare is any thing like virtue now and how great the abundance of virtuous men must have been then, when even secular men could be called “saints and faithful.” “Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Grace” is his word; and he calls God, “Father,” since this name is a sure token of that gift of grace. And how so? Hear what he saith elsewhere; “Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Ga 4,6).
“And from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because for us men Christ was born, and appeared in the flesh.
Ep 1,3. “Blessed be the God,” he saith, “and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Observe; The God of Him that was Incarnate . And though thou wilt not, The Father of God the Word.
Ep 1,3. “Who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
(He is here alluding to the blessings of the Jews ; for that was blessing also, but it was not spiritual blessing. For how did it run? “The Lord bless thee, He will bless the fruit of thy body;” (Dt 7,13). and “He will bless thy going out and thy coming in.” (Dt 28,4). But here it is not thus, but how? “With every spiritual blessing.” And what lackest thou yet? Thou art made immortal, thou art made free, thou art made a son, thou art made righteous, thou art made a brother, thou art made a fellow-heir, thou reignest with Christ, thou art glorified with Christ; all things are freely given thee. “How,” saith he, “shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rm 8,32). Thy First-fruits is adored by Angels, by the Cherubim, by the Seraphim! What lackest thou yet? “With every spiritual blessing.” There is nothing carnal here. Accordingly He excluded all those former blessings, when He said, “In the world ye have tribulation,” (Jn 16,33). to lead us on to these. For as they who possessed carnal things were unable to hear of spiritual things, so they who aim at spiritual things cannot attain to them unless they first stand aloof from carnal things.
What again is “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?” It is not upon earth, he means, as was the case with the Jews. “Ye shall eat the good of the land.” (Is 1,19). “Unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Ex 3,8). “The Lord shall bless thy land.” (Dt 7,13). Here we have nothing of this sort, but what have we? “If a man love Me, he will keep My word, and I and My Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (Jn 14,23). “Every one therefore which heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man which built his house upon the rock, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon the rock.” (Mt 7,24-25). And what is that rock but those heavenly things which are above the reach of every change? “Every one therefore who,” saith Christ, “shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father which is in Heaven: But whosoever shall deny Me, him will I also deny.” (Mt 10,32-33). Again, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt 5,8). And again, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 5,3). And again, “Blessed are ye which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for great is your reward in Heaven.” (Mt 5,11-12). Observe, how every where He speaketh of Heaven, no where of earth, or of the things on the earth. And again, “Our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence also we wait for a Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ph 3,20). And again, “Not setting your mind on the things that are on the earth, but on the things which are above.” (Col 3,3).
That is to say, this blessing was not by the hand of Moses, but by Christ Jesus: so that we surpass them not only in the quality of the blessings, but in the Mediator also. As moreover he saith in the Epistle to the Hebrews; “And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; but Christ as a Son over His house, whose house are we.” (He 3,5–6).
Ep 1,4. “Even as,” he proceeds, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love.”
His meaning is somewhat of this sort. Through whom He hath blessed us, through Him He hath also chosen us. And He, then, it is that shall bestow upon us all those rewards hereafter. He is the very Judge that shall say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Mt 25,34). And again, “I will that where I am they will also be with Me.” (Jn 17,24).
102 And this is a point which he is anxious to prove. in almost all his Epistles, that ours is no novel system, but that it had thus been figured from the very first, that it is notthe result of any change of purpose, but had been in fact a divine dispensation and fore-ordained.And this is a mark of great solicitude for us.
What is meant by, “He chose us in Him?” By means of the faith which is in Him, Christ, he means, happily ordered this for us before we were born; nay more, before the foundation of the world. And beautiful is that word “foundation,” as though he were pointing to the world as cast down from some vast height. Yea, vast indeed and ineffable is the height of God, so far removed not in place but in incommunicableness of nature; so wide the distance between creation and Creator! A word which heretics may be ashamed to hear).
But wherefore hath He chosen us? “That we should be holy and without a blemish before Him.” That you may not then, when you hear that “He hath chosen us,” imagine that faith alone is sufficient, he proceeds to add life and conduct. To this end, saith he, hath He chosen us, and on this condition, “that we should be holy and without blemish.” And so formerly he chose the Jews. On what terms? “This nation, saith he, hath He chosen from the rest of the nations.” (Dt 14,2). Now if men in their choices choose what is best, much more doth God. And indeed the fact of their being chosen is at once a token of the loving kindness of God, and of their moral goodness. For by all means would he have chosen those who were approved. He hath Himself rendered us holy, but then we must continue holy. A holy man is he who is a partaker of faith; a blameless man is he who leads an irreproachable life. It is not however simply holiness and irreproachableness that He requires, but that we should appear such “before Him.” For there are holy and blameless characters, who yet are esteemed as such only by men those who are like whited sepulchres, and like such as wear sheep’s clothing. It is not such, however, He requires, but such as the Prophet speaks of; “And according to the cleanness of my hands.” (Ps 18,24). What cleanness? That which is so “in His eyesight.” He requires that holiness on which the eye of God may look.
Having thus spoken of the good works of these, he again recurs to His grace. “In love,” saith he, “having predestinated us.” Because this comes not of any pains, nor of any good works of ours, but of love; and yet not of love alone, but of our virtue also. For if indeed of love alone, it would follow that all must be saved; whereas again were it the result of our virtue alone, then were His coming needless, and the whole dispensation. But it is the result neither of His love alone, nor yet of our virtue, but of both. “He chose us,” saith the Apostle; and He that chooseth, knoweth what it is that He chooseth. “In love,” he adds, “having foreordained us;” for virtue would never have saved any one, had there not been love. For tell me, what would Paul have profited, how would he have exhibited what he has exhibited, if God had not both called him from the beginning, and, in that He loved him, drawn him to Himself? But besides, His vouchsafing us so great privileges, was the effect of His love, not of our virtue. Because our being rendered virtuous, and believing, and coming nigh unto Him, even this again was the work of Him that called us Himself, and yet, notwithstanding, it is ours also. But that on our coming nigh unto Him, He should vouchsafe us so high privileges, as to bring us at once from a state of enmity, to the adoption of children, this is indeed the work of a really transcendent love.
Ep 1,4-5. “In love,” saith he, “having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself.”
Do you observe how that nothing is done without Christ? Nothing without the Father? The one hath predestinated, the other hath brought us near. And these words he adds by way of heightening the things which have been done, in the same way as he says also elsewhere, “And not only so, but we also rejoice in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rm 5,11). For great indeed are the blessings bestowed, yet are they made far greater in being bestowed through Christ; because He sent not any servant, though it was to servants He sent, but the Only-begotten Son Himself.
Ep 1,5. “According to the good pleasure,” he continues, “of His will.”
That is to say, because He earnestly willed it. This is, as one might say, His earnest desire. For the word “good pleasure” every where means the precedent will, for there is also another will. As for example, the first will is that sinners should not perish; the second will is, that, if men become wicked, they shall perish. For surely it is not by necessity that He punishes them, but because He wills it. You may see something of the sort even in the words of Paul, where he says, “I would that all men were even as I myself.” (1Co 7,7). And again, “I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children.” (1Tm 5,14). By “good pleasure” then he means the first will, the earnest will, the will accompanied with earnest desire, as in case of us, for I shall not refuse to employ even a somewhat familiar expression, in order to speak with clearness to the simpler sort; for thus we ourselves, to express the intentness of the will, speak of acting according to our resolve. What he means to say then is this, God earnestly aims at, earnestly desires, our salvation. Wherefore then is it that He so loveth us, whence hath He such affection? It is of His goodness alone. For grace itself is the fruit of goodness. And for this cause, he saith, hath He predestinated us to the adoption of children; this being His will, and the object of His earnest wish, that the glory of His grace may be displayed. “According to the good pleasure of His will,” he proceeds,
Ep 1,6. “To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
That the glory of His grace may be displayed, he saith, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
103 Now then if for this He hath shown grace to us, to the praise of the glory of His grace, and that He may display His grace, let us abide therein. “To the praise of His glory.” What is this? that who should praise Him? that who should glorify Him? that we, that Angels, that Archangels, yea, or the whole creation? And what were that? Nothing. The Divine nature knoweth no want. And wherefore then would He have us praise and glorify Him? It is that our love towards Him may be kindled more fervently within us. He desireth nothing we can render; not our service, not our praise, nor any thing else, nothing but our salvation; this is His object in every thing He does. And he who praises and marvels at the grace displayed towards himself will thus be more devoted and more earnest.
“Which He freely bestowed on us,” he saith. He does not say, “Which He hath graciously given us,” (ecarisato) but, “wherein He hath shown grace to us.” (ecaritwsen) That is to say, He hath not only released us from our sins, but hath also made us meet objects of His love. It is as though one were to take a leper, wasted by distemper, and disease, by age, and poverty, and famine, and were to turn him all at once into a graceful youth, surpassing all mankind in beauty, shedding a bright lustre from his cheeks, and eclipsing the sun-beams with the glances of his eyes; and then were to set him in the very flower of his age, and after that array him in purple and a diadem and all the attire of royalty. It is thus that God hath arrayed and adorned this soul of ours, and clothed it with beauty, and rendered it an object of His delight and love. Such a soul Angels desire to look into, yea, Archangels, and all the holy ones. Such grace hath He shed over us, so dear hath He rendered us to Himself. “The King,” saith the Psalmist, “shall greatly desire thy beauty.” (Ps 45,11). Think what injurious words we uttered heretofore, and look, what gracious words we utter now. Wealth has no longer charms for us, nor the things that are here below, but only heavenly things, the things that are in the heavens. When a child has outward beauty, and has besides a pervading grace in all its sayings, do we not call it a beautiful child? Such as this are the faithful. Look, what words the initiated utter! What can be more beautiful than that mouth that breathes those wondrous words, and with a pure heart and pure lips, and beaming with cheerful confidence, partaketh of such a mystical table? What more beautiful than the words, with which we renounce the service of the Devil, and enlist in the service of Christ? than both that confession which is before the Baptismal laver, and that which is after it? Let us reflect as many of us as have defiled our Baptism, and weep that we may be able again to repair it.
Ep 1,6. “In the Beloved,” he saith, “in whom we have our redemption through His Blood.”
And how is this? Not only is there this marvel, that He hath given His Son, but yet further that He hath given Him in such a way, as that the Beloved One Himself should be slain!
Yea, and more transcendent still! He hath given the Beloved for them that were hated. See, how high a price he sets upon us. If, when we hated Him and were enemies, He gave the Beloved, what will He not do now, when we are reconciled by Him through grace?
Ep 1,7. “The forgiveness,” saith he, “of our trespasses.”
Again he descends from high to low: first speaking of adoption, and sanctification, and blamelessness, and then of the Passion, and in this not lowering his discourse and bringing it down from greater things to lesser, no rather, he was heightening it, and raising it from the lesser to the greater. For nothing is so great as that the blood of this Son should be shed for us. Greater this than both the adoption, and all the other gifts of grace, that He spared not even the Son. For great indeed is the forgiveness of sins, yet this is the far greater thing, that it should be done by the Lord’s blood. For that this is far greater than all, look how here again he exclaims,
Ep 1,7-8. “According to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us.”
The abovementioned gifts are riches, yet is this far more so. “Which,”saith he, “He made to abound toward us.” They are both “riches” and “they have abounded,” that is to say, were poured forth in ineffable measure. It is not possible to represent in words what blessings we have in fact experienced. For riches indeed they are, abounding riches, and He hath given in abundance riches not of man but of God, so that on all hands it is impossible that they should be expressed. And to show us how He gave it to such abundance, he adds,
Ep 1,8-9. “In all wisdom and prudence , having made known unto us the mystery of His will.”
That is to say, Making us wise and prudent, in that which is true wisdom, and that which is true prudence. Strange! what friendship! For He telleth us His secrets; the mysteries, saith he, of His will, as if one should say, He hath made known to us the things that are in His heart. For here is indeed the mystery which is full of all wisdom and prudence. For what will you mention equal to this wisdom! Those that were worth nothing, it hath discovered a way of raising them to wealth and abundance. What can equal this wise contrivance? He that was an enemy, he that was hated, he is in a moment lifted up on high. And not this only,—but, yet more, that it should be done at this particular time, this again was the work of wisdom; and that it should be done by means of the Cross. It were matter of long discourse here to point out, how all this was the work of wisdom, and how He had made us wise. And therefore he repeats again the words,
“According to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him.”
That is to say, this He desired, this He travailed for, as one might say, that He might be able to reveal to us the mystery. What mystery? That He would have man seated up on high. And this hath come to pass.
Ep 1,10. “Unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth, even in Him.”
Heavenly things, he means to say, had been severed from earthly. They had no longer one Head. So far indeed as the system of the creation went, there was over all One God, but so far as management of one household went, this, amid the wide spread of Gentile error, was not the case, but they had been severed from His obedience.
“Unto a dispensation,” saith he, “of the fulness of the times.”
The fulness of the times, he calls it. Observe with what nicety he speaks. And whereas he points out the origination, the purpose, the will, the first intention, as proceeding from the Father, and the fulfillment and execution as effected by the agency of the Son, yet no where does he apply to him the term minister .
“He chose us,” saith he, “in Him, having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself;” and, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, in whom we have redemption through His blood,—which He purposed in Him, unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ;” and no where hath he called Him minister. If however the word “in” and the word “by” implies a mere minister, look what the matter comes to. Just in the very beginning of the Epistle, he used the expression “through the will of the Father.” The Father, he means, willed, the Son wrought. But neither does it follow, that because the Father willed, the Son is excluded from the willing; nor because the Son wrought, that the Father is deprived of the working. But to the Father and the Son, all things are common. “For all Mine are Thine,” saith He, “and Thine are Mine.” (Jn 17,10).
The fullness of the times, however, was His coming. After, then, He had done everything, by the ministry both of Angels, and of Prophets, and of the Law, and nothing came of it, and it was well nigh come to this, that man had been made in vain, brought into the world in vain, nay, rather to his ruin; when all were absolutely perishing, more fearfully than in the deluge, He devised this dispensation, that is by grace; that it might not be in vain, might not be to no purpose that man was created. This he calls “the fulness of the times,” and “wisdom.” And why so? Because at that time when they were on the very point of perishing, then they were rescued.
That “He might sum up” he saith.
What is the meaning of this word, “sum up?” It is “to knit together.” Let us, however, endeavor to get near the exact import. With ourselves then, in common conversation, the word means the summing into a brief compass things spoken at length, the concise account of matters described in detail. And it has this meaning. For Christ hath gathered up in Himself the dispensations carried on through a lengthened period, that is to say, He hath cut them short. For “by finishing His word and cutting it short in righteousness.” (Rm 9,28). He both comprehended former dispensations, and added others beside. This is the meaning of “summing up.”
It has also another signification; and of what nature is this? He hath set over all one and the same Head, i.e., Christ according to the flesh, alike over Angels and men. That is to say, He hath given to Angels and men one and the same government; to the one the Incarnate, to the other God the Word. Just as one might say of a house which has some part decayed and the other sound, He hath rebuilt the house, that is to say, He has made it stronger, and laid a firmer foundation. So also here He hath brought all under one and the same Head. For thus will an union be effected, thus will a close bond be effected, if one and all can be brought under one and the same Head, and thus have some constraining bond of union from above. Honored then as we are with so great a blessing, so high a privilege, so great loving-kindness, let us not shame our Benefactor, let us not render in vain so great grace. Let us exemplify the life of Angels, the virtue of Angels, the conversation of Angels, yea, I entreat and conjure you, that all these things turn not to our judgment, nor to our condemnation, but to our enjoyment of those good things, which may God grant we may all attain, in Christ Jesus, our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, strength, &c. &c.
200 having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.” (Ep 1,11-14)
201 Paul earnestly endeavors on all occasions to display the unspeakable loving-kindness of God towards us, to the utmost of his power. For that it is impossible to do so adequately, hear his own words. “O! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past tracing out.” (Rm 11,33). Still, notwithstanding, so far as it is possible, he does display it. What then is this which he is saying; “In whom also we were made a heritage, being predestinated?” Above he used the word, “He chose us;” here he saith, “we were made a heritage.” But inasmuch as a lot is a matter of chance, not of deliberate choice, nor of virtue, (for it is closely allied to ignorance and accident, and oftentimes passing over the virtuous, brings forward the worthless into notice,) observe how he corrects this very point: “having been foreordained,” saith he, “according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things.” That is to say, not merely have we been made a heritage, as, again, we have not merely been chosen, (for it is God who chooses,) and so neither have we merely been allotted, (for it is God who allots,) but it is “according to a purpose.” This is what he says also in the Epistle to the Romans, (). “To them that are called according to His purpose;” and “whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He justified, them he also glorified.” Having first used the expression, “to them that are called according to a purpose,” and at the same time wishing to declare their privilege compared with the rest of mankind, he speaks also of inheritance by lot, yet so as not to divest them of free will. That point then, which more properly belongs to happy fortune, is the very point he insists upon. For this inheritance by lot depends not on virtue, but, as one might say, on fortuitous circumstances. It is as though he had said, lots were cast, and He hath chosen us; but the whole is of deliberate choice. Men predestinated, that is to say, having chosen them to Himself, He hath separated. He saw us, as it were, chosen by lot before we were born. For marvellous is the foreknowledge of God, and acquainted with all things before their beginning.
But mark now how on all occasions he takes pains to point out, that it is not the result of any change of purpose, but that these matters had been thus modeled from the very first, so that we are in no wise inferior to the Jews in this respect; and how, in consequence, he does every thing with this view. How then is it that Christ Himself saith, “I was not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” (Mt 15,24). And said again to his disciples, “Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans.” (Mt 10,5). And Paul again himself says, “It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Ac 13,46). These expressions, I say, are used with this design, that no one may suppose that this work came to pass incidentally only. “According to the purpose,” he says, “of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will.” That is to say, He had no after workings; having modeled all things from the very first, thus he leads forward all things “according to the counsel of His will.” So that it was not not merely because the Jews did not listen that He called the Gentiles, nor was it of mere necessity, nor was it on any inducement arising from them.
Ep 1,12-13. “To the end that we should be unto the praise of His glory, we who had before hoped in Christ. In whom ye also having heard the word of the truth, the Gospel of your salvation.”
That is to say, through whom. Observe how he on all occasions speaks of Christ, as the Author of all things, and in no case gives Him the title of a subordinate agent, or a minister. And so again, elsewhere, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, he says, “that God, having of old time spoken unto the Fathers in the prophets, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son,” (He 1,1). that is “through” HisSon.
“The word of truth,” he says, no longer that of the type, nor of the image.
“The Gospel of your salvation.” And well does he call it the Gospel of salvation, intimating in the one word a contrast to the law, in the other, a contrast with punishment to come. For what is the message, but the Gospel of salvation, which forbears to destroy those that are worthy of destruction.
Ep 1,14. “In whom having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance.”
Here again, the word “sealed,” is an indication of especial forecast. He does not speak of our being predestinated only, nor of our being allotted, but further, of our being sealed. For just as though one were to make those who should fall to his lot manifest, so also did God separate them for believing, and sealed them for the allotment of the things to come.
202 You see how, in process of time, He makes them objects of wonder. So long as they were in His foreknowledge, they were manifest to no one, but when they were sealed, they became manifest, though not in the same way as we are; for they will be manifest except a few. The Israelites also were sealed, but that was by circumcision, like the brutes and reasonless creatures. We too are sealed, but it is as sons, “with the Spirit.”
But what is meant by, “with the Spirit of promise?” Doubtless it means that we have received that Spirit according to promise. For there are two promises, the one by the prophets, the other from the Son.
By the Prophets.—Hearken to the words of Joel; “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,” (Jl 2,28). And hearken again to the words of Christ; “But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Ac 1,8). And truly, the Apostle means, He ought, as God, to have been believed; however, he does not ground his affirmation upon this, but examines it like a case where man is concerned, speaking much as he does in the Epistle to the Hebrews; (He 6,18). where he says, “That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement.” Thus here also he makes the things already bestowed a sure token of the promise of those which are yet to come. For this reason he further calls it an “earnest,” (Cf. also (2Co 1,22). for an earnest is a part of the whole. He hath purchased what we are most concerned in, our salvation; and hath given us an earnest in the mean while. Why then did He not give the whole at once? Because neither have we, on our part, done the whole of our work. We have believed. This is a beginning; and He too on His part hath given an earnest. When we show our faith by our works, then He will add the rest. Nay, more, He hath given yet another pledge, His own blood, and hath promised another still. In the same way as in case of war between nation and nation they give hostages: just so hath God also given His Son as a pledge of peace and solemn treaties, and, further, the Holy Spirit also which is from Him. For they, that are indeed partakers of the Spirit, know that He is the earnest of our inheritance. Such an one was Paul, who already had here a foretaste of the blessings there. And this is why he was so eager, and yearned to be released from things below, and groaned within himself. He transferred his whole mind thither, and saw every thing with different eyes. Thou hast no part in the reality, and therefore failest to understand the description. Were we all partakers of the Spirit, as we ought to be partakers, then should we behold Heaven, and the order of things that is there.
It is an earnest, however, of what? of
Ep 1,14. “The redemption of God’s own possession.”
For our absolute redemption takes place then. For now we have our life in the world, we are liable to many human accidents, and are living amongst ungodly men. But our absolute redemption will be then, when there shall be no sins, no human sufferings, when we shall not be indiscriminately mixed with all kinds of people.
At present, however, there is but an earnest, because at present we are far distant from these blessings. Yet is our citizenship not upon earth; even now we are out of the pale of the things that are here below. Yes, we are sojourners even now.
Ep 1,14. “Unto the praise of His glory.”
This he adds in immediate connection. And why? Because it would serve to give those who heard it full assurance. Were it for our sake only, he means to say, that God did this, there might be some room for misgiving. But if it be for His own sake, and in order to display His goodness, he assigns, as a sort of witness, a reason why these things never possibly could be otherwise. We find the same language everywhere applied to the case of the Israelites. “Do Thou this for us for Thy Name’s sake;” (Ps 109,21). and again, God Himself said, “I do it for Mine own sake;” (Is 48,11). and so Moses, “Do it, if for nothing else, yet for the glory of Thy Name.” This gives those who hear it full assurance; it relieves them to be told, that whatever He promises, for His own goodness’ sake He will most surely perform.
Moral. Let not the hearing, however, make us too much at our ease; for although He doth it for His own sake, yet notwithstanding He requires a duty on our part. If He says, “Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed,” (1S 2,30). let us reflect that there is that which He requires of us also. True, it is the praise of His glory to save those that are enemies, but those who, after being made friends, continue His friends. So that if they were to return back to their former state of enmity, all were vain and to no purpose.
203 There is not another Baptism, nor is there a second reconciliation again, but “a certain fearful expectation of judgment which shall devour the adversaries.” (He 10,27). If we intend at the same time to be always at enmity with Him and yet to claim forgiveness at His hand, we shall never cease to beat enmity, and to be wanton, to grow in depravity, and to be blind to the Sun of Righteousness which has risen. Dost thou not see the ray that shall open thine eyes? render them then good and sound and quicksighted. He hath showed thee the true light; if thou shunnest it, and runnest back again into the darkness, what shall be thy excuse? What sort of allowance shall be made for thee? None from that moment. For this is a mark of unspeakable enmity. When indeed thou knewest not God, then if thou wert at enmity with Him, thou hadst, be it how it might, some excuse. But when thou hast tasted I the goodness and the honey, if thou again abandonest them, and turnest to thine own vomit, what else art thou doing but bringing forward evidence of excessive hatred and contempt? ‘Nay,’ thou wilt say, ‘but I am constrained to it by nature. I love Christ indeed, but I am constrained by nature.’ If thou art under the power and force of constraint, thou wilt have allowance made; but if thou yield from indolence, not for a moment.
Now then, come, let us examine this very question, whether sins are the effect of force and constraint, or of indolence and great carelessness. The law says, “Thou shalt not kill.” What sort of force, what sort of violence, is there here? Violence indeed must one use to force himself to kill, for who amongst us would as a matter of choice plunge his sword into the throat of his neighbor, and stain his hand with blood? Not one. Thou seest then that, on the contrary, sin is more properly matter of violence and constraint. For God hath implanted in our nature a charm, which binds us to love one another. “Every beast (it saith) loveth his like, and every man loveth his neighbor.” (Si 13,15). Seest thou that we have from our nature seeds which tend to virtue; whereas those of vice are contrary to nature? and if these latter predominate, this is but an evidence of our exceeding indolence.
Again, what is adultery? What sort of necessity is there to bring us to this? Doubtless, it will be said, the tyranny of lust. But why, tell me, should this be? What, is it not in every one’s power to have his own wife, and thus to put a stop to this tyranny? True, he will say, but a sort of passion for my neighbor’s wife seizes hold on me. Here the question is no longer one of necessity. Passion is no matter of necessity, no one loves of necessity, but of deliberate choice and free will. Indulgence of nature, indeed, is perhaps matter of necessity, but to love one woman rather than another is no matter of necessity. Nor is the point with you natural desire, but vanity, and wantonness, and unbounded licentiousness. For which is according to reason, that a man should have an espoused wife, and her the mother of his children, or one not acknowledged? Know ye not that it is intimacy that breeds attachment. This, therefore, is not the fault of nature. Blame not natural desire. Natural desire was bestowed with a view to marriage; it was given with a view to the procreation of children, not with a view to adultery and corruption. The laws, too, know how to make allowance for those sins which are of necessity,—or rather nothing is sin when it arises from necessity but all sin rises from wantonness. God hath not so framed man’s nature as that he should have any necessity to sin, since were this the case, there would be no such thing as punishment. We ourselves exact no account of things done of necessity and by constraint, much less would God, so full of mercy and loving-kindness.
Again, what is stealing? is it matter of necessity? Yes, a man will say, because poverty causes this. Poverty, however, rather compels us to work, not to steal. Poverty, therefore, has in fact the contrary effect. Theft is the effect of idleness; whereas poverty produces usually not idleness, but a love of labor. So that this sin is the effect of indolence, as you may learn from hence. Which, I ask, is the more difficult, the more distasteful, to wander about at night without sleep, to break open houses, and walk about in the dark, and to have one’s life in one’s hand, and to be always prepared for murder, and to be shivering and dead with fear; or to be attending to one’s daily task, in full enjoyment of safety and security? This last is the easier task; and it is because this is easier, that the majority practise it rather than the other.
204 Thou seest then that it is virtue which is according to nature, and vice which is against nature, in the same way as disease and health are.
What, again, are falsehood and perjury? What necessity can they possibly imply? None whatever, nor any compulsion; it is a matter to which we proceed voluntarily. We are distrusted, it will be said. True, distrusted we are, because we choose it. For we might, if we would, be trusted more upon our character, than upon our oath. Why, tell me, is it that we do not trust some, no, not on their oath, whilst we deem others trustworthy even independently of oaths. Seest thou that there is no need of oaths in any case? ‘When such an one speaks,’ we say, ‘I believe him, even without any oath, but thee, no, not with thy oaths.’ Thus then an oath is unnecessary; and is in fact an evidence rather of distrust than of confidence. For where a man is over ready to take his oath, he does not leave us to entertain any great idea of his scrupulousness. So that the man who is most constant in his use of oaths, has on no occasion any necessity for using one, and he who never uses one on any occasion, has in himself the full benefit of its use. Some one says there is a necessity for an oath, to produce confidence; but we see that they are the more readily trusted who abstain from taking oaths.
But again, if one is a man of violence, is this a matter of necessity? Yes, he will say, because his passion carries him away, and burns within him, and does not let the soul be at rest. Man, to act with violence is not the effect of anger, but of littleness of mind. Were it the effect of anger, all men, whenever they were angry, would never cease committing acts of violence. We have anger given us, not that we may commit acts of violence on our neighbors, but that we may correct those that are in sin, that we may bestir ourselves, that we may not be sluggish. Anger is implanted in us as a sort of sting, to make us gnash with our teeth against the devil, to make us vehement against him, not to set us in array against each other. We have arms, not to make us at war amongst ourselves, but that we may employ our whole armor against the enemy. Art thou prone to anger? Be so against thine own sins: chastise thy soul, scourge thy conscience, be a severe judge, and merciless in thy sentence against thine own sins. This is the way to turn anger to account. It was for this that God implanted it within us.
But again, is plunder a matter of necessity? No, in no wise. Tell me, what manner of necessity is there to be grasping: what manner of compulsion? Poverty, a man will say, causes it, and the fear of being without common necessaries. Now this is the very reason why you ought not to be grasping. Wealth so gotten has no security in it. You are doing the very same thing as a man would do, who, if he were asked why he laid the foundation of his house in the sand, should say, he did it because of the frost and rain. Whereas this would be the very reason why he should not lay it in the sand. They are the very foundations which the rain, and blasts, and wind, most quickly overturn. So that if thou wouldest be wealthy, never be rapacious; if thou wouldest transmit wealth to thy children, get righteous wealth, at least, if any there be that is such. Because this abides, and remains firm, whereas that which is not such, quickly wastes and perishes. Tell me, hast thou a mind to be rich, and dost thou take the goods of others? Surely this is not wealth: wealth consists in possessing what is thine own. He that is in possession of the goods of others, never can be a wealthy man; since at that rate even your very silk venders, who receive their goods as a consignment from others, would be the wealthiest and the richest of men. Though for the time, indeed, it is theirs, still we do not call them wealthy. And why forsooth? Because they are in possession of what belongs to others. For though the piece itself happens to be theirs, still the money it is worth is not theirs. Nay, and even if the money is in their hands, still this is not wealth. Now, if consignments thus given render not men more wealthy because we so soon resign them, how can those which arise from rapine render them wealthy? However, if at any rate thou desirest to be wealthy, (for the matter is not one of necessity,) what greater good is it that thou wouldest fain enjoy? Is it a longer life? Yet, surely men of this character quickly become short-lived. Oftentimes they pay as the penalty of plunder and rapaciousness, an untimely death; and not only suffer as a penalty the loss of the enjoyment of their gains, but go out of life having gained but little, and hell to boot. Oftentimes too they die of diseases, which are the fruits of self-indulgence, and of toil, and of anxiety. Fain would I understand why it is that wealth is so eagerly pursued by mankind. Why surely for this reason hath God set a limit and a boundary to our nature, that we may have no need to go on seeking wealth beyond it. For instance He hath commanded us, to clothe the body in one, or perhaps in two garments; and there is no need of any more to cover us. Where is the good of ten thousand changes of raiment, and those moth-eaten? The stomach has its appointed bound, and any thing given beyond this, will of necessity destroy the whole man. Where then is the use of your herds, and flocks, and cutting up of flesh? We require but one roof to shelter us. Where then is the use of your vast ground-plots, and costly buildings? Dost thou strip the poor, that vultures and jackdaws may have where to dwell? And what a hell do not these things deserve? Many are frequently raising edifices that glisten with pillars and costly marbles, in places which they never so much as saw. What scheme is there indeed that they have not adopted? Yet neither themselves reap the benefit, nor any one else. The desolateness does not allow them to get away thither; and yet not even thus do they desist. You see that these things are not done for profit’s-sake, but in all these cases folly, and absurdity, and vainglory, is the motive. And this, I beseech you to avoid, that we may be enabled to avoid also every other evil, and may obtain those good things which are promised to them that love Him, in our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, strength, honor forever. Amen.