Pursuing our subject, we desire to walk step by step with this holy man of God, as we find him pouring forth his heart, under divine inspiration, for the saints of God at Ephesus. He and they no longer need such prayers. They are with Christ, seeing him as he is, and behold him and his glory, not as they once did and we do now, by faith, as in a glass darkly—but face to face, and know him as they also are known. But we who are still in this wilderness, struggling onwards to reach the same heavenly home, cannot be sufficiently thankful, and especially so in these days of error and evil, that the Holy Spirit inspired him so to pray, and to leave also on permanent record the petitions which he thus put up, that they might be for our instruction and edification. And we desire to bless and praise God for all the sweetness, suitability, and blessedness which we have seen and felt in them, and that he has thus far enabled us to lay before our spiritual readers what we hope has been for the profit of their souls. May he give us grace and wisdom still further to open the treasures of heavenly truth which are stored up for enlightened understandings and believing hearts in that portion of the Apostle's prayer which remains to be considered.
We showed in our last paper that there were certain blessings mentioned by the Apostle as attending the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. These blessings are mainly four—1. An enlightening of the eyes of the understanding; 2, A knowledge of the hope of his calling; 3, A knowledge of what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints; 4, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which God wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, etc.
The first of these blessings we have partly considered; but, as we proposed to examine it more fully in connection with the rest of the passage, we shall now attempt to redeem our pledge.
Viewing, then, the SOUL of man as the seat and subject of those gracious operations of God the Holy Spirit which give it a fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light, we may say that it possesses, 1, intellect; 2, will; 3, conscience; 4, affections; and viewing it as regenerated and renewed from above, we may add that the blessed Spirit is to it and in it, 1, a Spirit of light in the understanding; (2 Cor. 3:16-18; 1 Cor. 2:9-12;) 2, a Spirit of life and power in the will; (Psalm 110:3; Phil. 2:13;) 3, a Spirit of godly fear in the conscience; (Jer. 32:40;) 4, and a Spirit of love in the affections. (Rom. 5:5.) The Scriptures, it is true, do not lay all this down in so many express terms, with a kind of mathematical or metaphysical accuracy, for that is not the way in which God has been pleased to reveal divine truth, but it is easy to trace it out from the word when we read it with an enlightened eye.
Thus in Psalm 119, which we may take as a most beautiful and blessed description of the work of grace upon the heart, through the power of the word, we find the Psalmist sometimes testifying to, or crying out for a shining in of divine light—"The entrance of your words gives light;" (130;) "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law;" (18;) "Give me understanding, and I shall live." (144.) See also verses 27, 33, 73, 105, 169. Who that knows and feels the darkness of his mind does not from time to time seek and sigh after that divine light which, while it enlightens his understanding, at the same time softens and comforts his heart? How foolish, then, if not worse, to beat down as mere head knowledge that heavenly light, which, beaming into the soul out of the fullness of Christ, illuminates the mind and leads us into a spiritual knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven! We would like to show how the same Holy and blessed Spirit is a Spirit of life and power in the will, a Spirit of godly fear in the conscience, and a Spirit of love in the affections; but it would take us too much away from our present subject.
2. But as another fruit of, and as attending this enlightening of the eyes of the understanding, the Apostle prays that the saints at Ephesus "might know what was the hope of Christ's calling." There is much precious truth couched in these words, if we have but grace and wisdom to open them up. We shall find in Rom. 8:28-30, a blessed key to the meaning of the Apostle in uttering this prayer—"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom, he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. 8:28-30.) In that glorious chain of divine blessings, foreknowledge is the first link, predestination the second, calling the third, justification the fourth, and glorification the fifth. Thus CALLING, as an intermediate link in this glorious chain, is connected on one side with predestination in eternity past, and on the other with glorification in eternity to come.
In the bosom of calling, therefore, is lodged the love of God from all eternity as its cause, and the enjoyment of this love to all eternity as its fruit and effect. When, then, the Apostle prays that they might know what was the hope of this calling, he desires that they might clearly realize the certainty of their having been effectually called by the grace of God, and might know what he elsewhere terms "the hope of eternal life," (Titus 1:2,) which was couched in it. Now, as eternal life embraces a being hereafter with Christ where he is, a beholding and partaking of his glory, (John 17:22-24,) and a perfect conformity in body and soul to his glorious image, no heart can conceive, or tongue of men or angels describe, in what an ocean of bliss and blessedness, of holiness and happiness, and of an eternal weight of glory, effectual calling will issue.
How blessed then to know, realize, and enjoy now what is the hope of this calling, termed by the Apostle "his calling," as being immediately from Christ himself, that being cheered and animated by a good hope through grace, and looking forward to a blissful eternity, when we shall forever be done with all the sins and sorrows of this life, we may feed our thoughts with prospects of the glory that shall be revealed, and thus be lifted up out of the mud and mire of this wretched world and the miserable dregs of bondage, legality, and self—which cleave so closely to us! It is as if he would say to us, "Have you any testimony to your effectual calling? Has grace indeed laid hold of your heart? Have you heavenly light in your understanding, divine life in your will, a godly fear in your conscience, and heavenly love in your affections, as so many evidences of having received the gift of the Spirit as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ? O that you might know more fully—God grant that you may know it more powerfully—what a blessed hope of eternal life is laid up in the bosom of this heavenly calling, that it may cheer and encourage you to press on more and more to realize all that he given you in Christ both for here and hereafter, in present grace and in future glory."
Thus, in knowing what is the hope of their effectual calling, the saints of God learn that this hope embraces all things which are made theirs in Christ, whether life or death, or things present or things to come—that all are theirs; and for this blessed and all-sufficient reason, that they are Christ's and Christ is God's. It is by making sure our calling that we make sure our election, (2 Pet. 1:10, )—for the one is the sure evidence of the other; and thus, if doubt and uncertainty hang over our calling, the same doubt and uncertainty must rest upon our election to eternal life. But as these doubts and fears are removed by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, and we can clearly see and fully believe that the grace of God effectually called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, then we see by faith what is laid up in the bosom of this calling, and what a glorious hope of eternal life is thereby afforded as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and thus abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13; 1 Cor. 3:22, 23.)
3. The next fruit and effect of this gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation is "to know what are the riches of the glory of Christ's inheritance in the saints."
Observe how the Apostle pours out his soul in earnest prayer and supplication that the saints of God might have a spiritual knowledge of the glorious inheritance which the Lord Jesus has in his Church and people. And shall we, with this prayer before us, despise and disparage that divine illumination of the understanding which the Apostle begs for so earnestly as the fruit of the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ? If it be but mere head knowledge, letter faith, and dry speculation—let us beat it down with both our feet, tread it down, and stamp it out as a deceit and a delusion; but let us beware of casting away precious gold because there are counterfeit sovereigns, or throwing away diamonds because there are fictitious jewels. To know Christ for ourselves by his blessed manifestations, to know his truth in its liberating, sanctifying influence and power, and to be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge so as to be filled with all the fullness of God—what choice blessings are these! And are they not all held forth as such in the Scriptures? But how shall we attain to the saving knowledge of them? Are they not made known to us through the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, opening to our enlightened understanding and sealing on our believing heart the blessed mysteries of our most holy faith as revealed in the word of truth?
Now, among these heavenly mysteries is a knowledge of the riches of the glory of Christ's inheritance in the saints. If we have an inheritance in Christ, Christ has an inheritance in us. The saints, that is, the whole body of the sanctified, are his allotted portion. Of this Israel of old was a type—"For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." (Deut. 32:9.) Moses, therefore, made this his prevailing plea when he would arrest his outstretched arm—"O Lord God, destroy not your people and your inheritance." (Deut. 9:26.) But to show that this inheritance was not limited to the typical Israel, God said to his dear Son—"Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession." (Psalm 2:8.) When, then, in the counsels of eternity, God the Father presented to his eternal and only-begotten Son the Church in all her virgin purity to be his bride, and he espoused her to himself, to be his forever and ever—she became his inheritance. He did not view her, as we now see her, wrecked and ruined by the fall, but as she will one day appear, radiant in all the beauty of her perfect conformity to his glorious image, with all her sins washed away in the fountain of his most precious blood, clothed in his spotless righteousness, with every stain of mortal woe and weakness gone—and able to enjoy and return his love, in that bridal day when the espoused bride will become the wedded wife. That after he had espoused her to himself she should have so fallen from her virgin purity; that he should, out of the depths of his infinite love and pity, have gone down from heaven to earth for her rescue; that he should have so toiled, groaned, sweated great drops of blood, and suffered for her all the agonies of the cross; that he might wash out every stain of sin and guilt in his precious blood; that he should have died for her, and risen again, and gone up on high as her Mediator, Intercessor, and Advocate; that he should have watched over every member so tenderly, borne with all their sins and provocations so unweariedly, quickened and delivered each at the appointed season so faithfully, preserved them through all the storms of life so efficaciously; and brought each and every one to full, and final glory so triumphantly; will not all this double his love and joy to his beloved bride when he rejoices over her in his Father's mansions with joy and singing?
As in the married life, to share in its sorrows and afflictions endears to each other husband and wife as much as, if not more than, to share in its joys and happiness, so that the gracious Lord should have been "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," and that the Church should have had fellowship with him in his sufferings will only more endear her to him and him to her when eternal glory crowns their mutual love and happiness.
It is the glory of Christ that he should have this inheritance in the saints. God being essentially invisible, the Son of God could not have been seen and known, and therefore not fully or sufficiently glorified as the Father would have him to be but for his incarnation as the Son of Man. He was, indeed, as his only-begotten Son, "the brightness of his glory and the express image of his Person;" but that there might be a visible representation to created intelligences of the character of God, that the love, the grace, the mercy, the compassion, the wisdom, truth, and power of a Triune Jehovah might be made known, and thus forever adored, it pleased the Father, in the depths of his infinite wisdom, to prepare for his dear Son a body in which he might reveal those adorable excellences. When, then, the Lord Jesus was here below, he was a visible representation of the invisible God. Thus John testifies—"No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." (John 1:18.)
To believing eyes this representation of the image of God was full of glory—"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14.) They saw the glory of God in the face (or person) of Jesus Christ, and beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, were changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the sanctifying operations of the Spirit of God on their hearts. (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6.) We thus see that the glory of God shines forth in the face of Jesus Christ, and that it is reflected from him through the glass of the gospel upon his saints—here in present grace, hereafter in future glory. In the eyes of Christ this glory is exceedingly great. The Apostle, therefore, calls it "the riches of his glory," as if the Lord viewed his saints with his grace now in their hearts, and eternal glory their assured portion hereafter, as enriching himself with ineffable glory. He sees his own image in them, his own grace shining forth, his own love manifested, his own obedience, his own holiness, his own example, discovered and displayed. The whole world lies in the wicked one. All, in a state of nature, are slaves to sin and Satan, enemies to God and godliness. But his saints, his own inheritance, whom he has redeemed by his blood and justified by his righteousness, whom he has quickened by his Spirit, in whose hearts he has planted his fear, to whom he has revealed and made himself known, and whom he has thus taught to believe in him, love him, and obey him—in these he glories as his own inheritance. Of them he says—"The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage." (Psalm 16:6.)That this is the speech of Christ is evident from verse 10; "You will not leave my soul in hell," etc.
These to save, these to sanctify, these to conform, first to his suffering, afterwards to his glorified image, was the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross, despising the shame, etc. The Apostle then prays that as a fruit and effect of the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, we might know what are the riches of his glory in this inheritance. What do we for the most part see in the saints? Weakness and imperfection. We see them only as they are, not what they shall be. Nor indeed do we sufficiently value even the grace which we see in them, though we love it and love them for it. Often, indeed, it is so clogged and loaded with infirmities, so buried under corruption, so little shining forth as the mind and image of Christ, that we can hardly recognize it in ourselves or others. But so far as we fix our eyes, not on the infirmities of the saints, which is the very spirit of the world, but on the grace which is in them, have we the mind and Spirit of Christ. This therefore requires spiritual eyes to see, and a spiritual mind to love. In viewing the riches of his glory in his inheritance in the saints, the Lord sees them as they are complete in him, with all their sins washed away in the fountain of his precious blood, and as arrayed in his robe of righteousness. Our infirmities he pities, knowing that we are dust, and that they are not from willful rebellion or enmity of heart against him, and that we truly and really love him, though, from the weakness of our flesh, we continually say and do things which grieve our spirit, and are inconsistent with our holy profession.
Now, in proportion as this part of the Apostle's prayer is fulfilled in us, we shall esteem and love the dear family of God. In earthly matters we know with what respect everything is looked at connected with royalty. If at Windsor Castle one should say to us—"This is the Queen's private garden; this is her favorite walk; she often sits on that seat under the tree;" we would naturally feel a respect for the objects thus pointed out; and sad will that day be for England, should it ever come, when this instinctive feeling of respect and loyalty to the Sovereign dies out of the English heart. But now apply the figure. If we were more imbued with love and loyalty to our exalted King, we would more love, esteem, and respect his inheritance, and the places of his daily resort. This inheritance, it is true, is now, as viewed by ordinary eyes, a wreck and a ruin, more like some neglected garden, overrun with thorns and briers, the fences all broken down, nettles growing in every corner, the summer-house fallen in, and the walks overgrown with moss and grass, than "a garden enclosed," where grow "spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices." (Song 4:12-14.)
But as a practiced gardener sees in a neglected garden more what it may be made into, than what it now is, and as his eye can discern here and there valuable shrubs struggling for life amid the weeds which well-near choke them, so should we whose eyes have been enlightened, view the Church of Christ, though now such a wreck and ruin, and look at her more as she will be, than what she now is. So also will the believing eye see the graces of the Spirit which from time to time manifest themselves in the people of God, under their various trials and afflictions, though struggling as if for life, amid all the rubbish of nature, by which they so often seem as if choked and suffocated.
But it requires grace to see and love grace, and when that grace is but dimly visible, or much borne down by natural infirmity and corruption, it needs proportionate grace to discern and feel union with it. Thus to perceive and love the image of Christ, however faint and feeble, is, let, it ever be borne in mind, as utterly distinct from that false and universal charity which thinks well of everybody and doubts nobody; as it is from that harsh, severe, and cutting spirit which would mow down into one common heap everything and everybody which does not exactly tally with a prescribed standard. No eye is so discerning as the eye enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom; no heart so tender as the heart blessed and softened by the Spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Christ. Such an eye sees, such a heart loves the riches of the glory of Christ's inheritance in the saints, and sees and loves it because it is his.
Were we then favored to view the suffering members of the mystical body of Christ more with the eyes of faith and less with the eyes of sense, what a glory would we see in many a poor despised child of God, which we now seem to lose! Instead of looking at this poor old man, coughing and gasping with an incurable asthma, almost as the doctor eyes him, and getting away from him, perhaps, as soon as we decently can; or as the parish undertaker views him, only fit for an wooden coffin and a pauper's grave, we should see in him, as the purchase of Christ's blood and a partaker of his Spirit, an heir of the glory that shall be revealed, and as clothed in the righteousness and conformed to the glorified image of the Son of God, one day to outshine angels. Instead of seeing a withered old woman, shrunk into nothing by poverty and illness, or a poor miserable creature dying of a cancer, loathsome to herself and to all around her, we would behold a precious jewel in that crown of glory which is in the hand of the Lord. Or, not to take extreme cases, were our eyes more anointed from above to see the glory which Christ has put upon his saints, and the delight which he takes in them, we would in our daily communion with them, treat them with more esteem, affection, and respect than we are accustomed to do. Viewing them as the purchase of Christ's precious blood, now partakers of his grace, and as such heirs of an eternal and unspeakable weight of glory, we would see in them, even in their present condition, a beauty, a dignity, a blessedness which would call forth the highest esteem and the tenderest love. So far from despising any who were weak in mind or poor in estate among them, so far from resenting any real or fancied injuries, so far from treating them with coldness and shyness, or, fostering a spirit of jealousy, division, and strife; so far from wounding their feelings and hurting their minds by words and conduct unbecoming our profession, we should seek to walk with them here, in some measure as we hope to walk with them hereafter.
How dear must those be to God whom he has loved from all eternity! how precious must those be to his dear Son for whom he shed his own blood! how beloved by the Holy Spirit who has quickened them into spiritual life and who so tenderly watches over his own work of grace in their heart! Should they not then be dear to us? And if so, how should we manifest that love but by seeking their good in every way that lies in our power?
Thus we see that in this portion of the prayer of the Apostle there is much that is eminently practical as well as deeply experimental, and that its fulfillment in our heart would not only lead us into clearer and deeper views of what the Church of Christ is in present grace and what she will be in future glory, but would much influence our mind and conduct in our daily walk and communion with our fellow-saints. Shallow and low views of the Person of Christ, of his finished work, and of his risen glory, will always be attended with shallow and low views of the Church, his bride, as the chosen companion of his glory; a shallow and low knowledge of the truth as revealed in the Person of Christ and his manifested glory will always be accompanied with a feeble experience of its power; and a feeble experience of the power of truth as connected with what the Lord Jesus is in himself, and is to his people, will almost always issue in worldliness of spirit and too often in general lightness and looseness of walk, conduct, and conversation.
To most however, who name the name of Christ, these grand and glorious truths of our most holy faith are as unknown as they are distasteful; and that is one reason why this prayer of the Apostle is so little understood, felt, and realized. Satisfied with a few dead and dry notions, and mistaking the accusings and excusings of natural conscience (Rom. 2:15) for a gracious experience, hundreds, like the Laodicean Church, think they are "rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," not seeing that, while destitute of a gracious knowledge of the truth, and an experience of its liberating, sanctifying influence and power, they are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Here, however, we must pause, reserving the remainder of the Apostle's prayer to our next paper, when we hope, if possible, to conclude our exposition of the chapter.