Page images
PDF
EPUB

NOTE. Now he that will look a little farther into this kingdom of God, under these two different dispensations, of the law and the Gospel, will find, that it was erected by God, and men were recalled into it, out of the general apostasy from their Lord and Maker, for the unspeakable good and benefit of those who, by entering into it, returned to their allegiance, that thereby they might be brought into a way and capacity of being restored to that happy state, of eternal life, which they had all lost in Adam; which it was impossible they could ever recover, whilst they remained worshippers and vassals of the devil, and so outlaws and enemies to God, in the kingdom, and under the dominion of Satan ; since the most biassed and partial inclination of an intelligent being could never expect that God should reward rebellion and apostasy with eternal happiness, and take inen, that were actually vassals and adorers of his arch-enemy, the devil, and immediately give them eternal bliss, with the enjoyment of pleasures in his presence, and at his right hand for evermore. The kingdom of God, therefore, in this world, was, as it were, the entrance of the kingdom of God in the other world, and the receptacle and place of preparation of those, who aimed at a share in that eternal inheritance. Aud hence the people of the Jews were called boly, chosen, and sons of God; as were afterwards the Christians, called saints, elect, beloved, and children of God, &c. But there is this remarkable difference to be observed, in what is said of the subjects of this kingdom, under the two dif. ferent dispensations of the law and the (rospel, that the converts to Christianity, and professors of the Gospel, are often termed and spoken of as saved, which I do not remember that the Jews, or proselytes, members of the commonwealth, any where are : the reason whereof is, that the conditions of that covenant, whereby they were made the people of God, under that constitution of God's kingdom, in this world, was, “ do this and live;" but “he, that continues not in all these things to do them, shall die." But the condition of the covenant, whereby they became the people of Go in the constitution of his kingdom under the Messiah, is, “believe and repent, and thou shalt be saved, i. e. Take Christ for thy Lord, and do sincerely but what thou canst to keep his law, and thou shalt be saved;" in the one of which, which is, therefore, called the corenaut of works, those, who are actually in that kingdom, could not attain the everlasting inheritance : and in the other, called the covenant of grace, those, who, if they would but continue, as they began, i.e. in the state of faith and repentance, i. e. in a submission to, and owning of Christ, and a steady, unrelenting resolution of not offending agaiost his law, would not miss it, and so might truly be said to be saved, they being in an unerring way to salvation. And thus we see how the law of Moses is by Christ abolished, under the Gospel, not by any actual repeal of it; but is set aside, by ceasing to be the law of the kingdom of God, translated into the hands of the Messiah, and set up under him ; which kingdom so erected contaivs all that God now does or will own to be his people, in this world. This way of abolishing of the law did not make those observances unlawful to those who, before their conversion to the Gospel, were circumcised, and under the law; they were indifferent things, which the converted Jews might, or might not observe, as they found convenient : that which was unlawful, and contrary to the Gospel, was the making those ritual observances necessary to be joined with faith, in believers, for justification, as we see they did, who, Acts xv., taught the brethren, that unless they were circumcised, after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved; so that the pailing of it to Christ's cross, Col. ii. 14, was the taking away, from thenceforth, all obligation for any one to be circumcised, and to put himself under the observances of the law, to become one of the people of God; but was no prohibition to any one, who was circumcised before conversion, to observe theni. And accordingly we see, Gal. ii. 11, that what St. Paul blames in St. Peter, was “ compelling the Gentiles to live as the Jews do :” had not that been the case, he would no more hare blamed his carriage at Antioch, than he did his observing the law at Jerusalem.

TEXT.' 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God, in one body, by the

cross, having slain the enmity thereby :

PARAPHRASE. make' or frame the two, viz. Jews and Gentiles, into one

new society, or body of God's people, in a new constitution, 16 under himself", so making peace between them; And might

NOTES. The apostle here tells us what part of the Mosaical law it was that Christ put an end to, by his death, viz. tòx vómoy Tūv ivlo hwy iv góyuari, “the law of commandments in ordinances;" i. e. the positive injunctions of the law of Moses, concerning things in their own nature indifferent, which became obligatory, merely by virtue of a direct, positive command; and are called by St. Paul in the parallel place, Col. ii. 14, xsssórza por toīs sóyperor, " the hand-writing of ordinances.” There was, besides these, contained in the book of the law of Moses, the law of nature, or, as it is commonly called, the moral law; that unmoveable rule of right, which is of perpetual obligation : This Jesus Christ is so far from abrogating, that he has promulgated it anew, under the Gospel, fuller and clearer, than it was in the Mosaical constitution, or any where else; and, by adding to its precepts the sanction of his own divine authority, has made the kuowledge of that law more easy and certain than it was before ; so that The subjects of bis kingdom, whereof this is now the law, can be at no doubt or loss about their duty, if they will but read and consider the rules of morality which our Saviour and his apostles have delivered, iu very plain words, in the

holy Scriptures of the New Testament. 15 1" Make;" the Greek word is xllon, which does not always signify creation, in

a strict sense. * This, as I take it, being the meaning, it may not be amiss, perhaps, to look into the reason why St. Paul expresses it in this more figurative mauner, viz. “ to make in hinself, of twain, one new man," which, I humbly conceive, was more suitable to the ideas he had, and so were, in fewer words, more lively and express to his purpose : he always has Jesus Christ in his mind, as the head of the church, which was his body, from and by whom alone, by being united to him, the whole body, and every member of it, received life, vigour, and strength, and all the benefits of that state; which admirably well shows, that whoever were united to this head, must needs be united to one another; and also, that all the privileges and advantages they enjoyed were wholly owing to their union with, and adhering to, him their head; which were the two things that he was here inculcating to the couvert Gentiles of Ephesus, to show them, that now, under the Gospel, men became the people of God merely by faith in Jesus Christ, and having him for their head, and not at all by keeping the ritual law of Moses, which Christ had abolished, and so had made way for the Jews and Gentiles to become one in Christ, since now faith in him alone united them into one body, under that head, with the observance of the law; which is the meaning of “ so making peace." I hope this siugle note, here, may lead ordinary readers into an understanding of St. Paul's style, and, by making them observe the reason, give them an easier entrance into the meaning of St. Paul's figurative expressions.

If the nation of the Jews had owned and received Jesus the Messiah, they had continued ou as the people of God; but after that they had nationally rejected him, and refused to have him rule over them, and put him to death, and so had revolted from their allegiance, and withdrawn theinselves from the kingdom of God, which he had now put into the hands of his Son, they were no longer the

TEXT. 17 And came and preached peace to you, which were afar off, and to

them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the

Father. 19 Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow

citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus

Christ himself being the chief corner-stone ; 21 In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an

holy temple in the Lord : 22 In whom you also are builded together, for an habitation of God,

through the Spirit.

PARAPHRASE. reconcile them both to God, being thus united into one body, in him, by the cross, whereby he destroyed that enmity, or incompatibility, that was between them, by nailing to his

cross the law of ordinances, that kept them at a distance: 17 And being come, preached the good tidings of peace to you

Gentiles that were far off from the kingdom of heaven, and to

the Jews, that were near, and in the very precincts of it. 18 For it is by him that we, both Jews and Gentiles, have access 19 to the Father, by one and the same Spirit. Therefore ye,

Ephesians, though heretofore Gentiles, now believers in Christ, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but without any

more ado fellow-citizens of the saints, and domestics of God's 20 own family: Built upon the foundation laid by the apostles 21 and prophets, whereof Jesus Christ is the corner-stone: In

whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto 22 an holy temple in the Lord : In which even the Gentiles »

also are built up, together with the believing Jews, for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

NOTES. people of God; and therefore, all those of the Jewish nation who, after that, would return to their allegiance, had veed of reconciliation, to be re-admitted into the kingdom of God, as part of bis people, who were now receired into peace and covenant with him, upon other terms, and under other laws, than

being the posterity of Jacob, or observers of the law of Moses. 22 - The sense of wiich allegory I take to be this: it is plain, from the attestation

of the apostles and prophets, that the Gentiles, who believe in Christ, are thereby made members of his kingdom, united together, under him, their heart, into such a well-framed body, wherein each person has his proper place, ravk, and function to which he is fitted, that God will accept and delight in them as his people, and live amongst them, as in a well-rramed building, dedicated and set apart to him, whereof the Gentiles make a part, and without any difference put between you, are framed in equality, and promiscuously with the believing Jews, by the Spirit of God, to be one people, amongst whom he will dwell, and be their God, and they shall be his people.

SECTION V.

CHAPTER III. 1--21.

CONTENTS. This section gives a great light to those foregoing, and more clearly opens the design of this epistle; for here St. Paul, in plain words, tells them it is for preaching this doctrine, that was a mystery till now, being hid from former ages, viz. that the Gentiles should be co-heirs with the believing Jews, and, making one body or people with them, should be equally partakers of the promises, under the Messiah, of which mystery he, by particular favour and appointment, was ordained the preacher. Whereupon he exhorts them not to be dismayed, or finch, in the least, from the belief or profession of this truth, upon his being persecuted and in bonds, upon that account. For his suffering for it, who was the preacher and propagator of it, was so far from being a just discouragement to them, for standing firmly in the belief of it, that it ought to be to them a glory, and a confirmation of this eminent truth of the Gospel, which he peculiarly taught; and thereupon he tells them, he makes it his prayer to God, that they might be strengthened herein, and be able to comprehend the largeness of the love of God in Christ, not confined to the Jewish nation and constitution, as the Jews conceited; but far surpassing the thoughts of those who, presuming themselves knowing, would confine it to such only, who were members of the Jewish church, and observers of their ceremonies.

TEXT. 1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gen

tiles : 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is

given me to you-ward;

PARAPHRASE. 1 For my preaching of this, I Paul am a prisoner, upon

account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the sake and service 2 of you Gentiles: Which you cannot doubt of, since ye

have

NOTES. 1 . See Col. iv. 3. Tim. ii. 9, 10.

bo See Phil. i. 7. Col. i. 24. 2 € Eiye, is sometimes and affirmative particle, and signifies in Greek the same that

siquidem does in Latio, and so the sense requires it to be understood here; for it

TEXT.

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, (as I

wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the

mystery of Christ) 5 Which'in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as

it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets, by the Spirit:

PARAPHRASE. heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which was 3 given to me, in reference to you Gentiles: How that, by special

revelation, he made known unto me, in particular", the my4 stery', (as I hinted to you above, viz. chap. i. 9. By the

bare reading whereof ye may be assured of my knowledge in

this formerly concealed and unknown part of the Gospel of 5 Christ?:) Which in former ages was not made known to the

sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and

NOTES. could not be supposed but the Ephesians, amongst whom St. Paul had lived so long, must have heard that he was, by express commission from God, made apostle of the Gentiles, and, by immediate revelation, instructed in the doctrine he was to teach them ; whereof this, of their admittance into the kingdom of God purely by faith in Christ, without circumcision, and other legal observances, was one great and necessary point, whereof St. Paul was so little shy, that we sce the world rung of it, Acts xxi. 28. And if bis preaching and writing were of a piece, as we weed not doubt, this mystery of God's purpose to the Gentiles, which was communicated to him by revelation, and we hear of so often in his

epistles, was not concealed from them he preached to. 3 . Though St. Peter was, by a vision from God, sent to Cornelius, a Gentile,

Acts s., yet we do not find that this purpose, of God's calling the Gentiles to be his people, equally with the Jews, without any regard to circumcision or the Mosaical rites, was revealed to him, or to any other of the apostles, as a doctrine which they were to preach and publish to the world : weither, indeed, was it needful that it should be any part of their commission, who were apostles only of the circumcision, to mix that, in their message to the Jews, which should make them stop their ears and refuse to hearken to the other parts of the Gospel, which they were more concerned to know and be instructed in.

• See Col. i. 26. 4 One may be ready to ask, “to what purpose is this, which this parenthesis

contains here, concerning himself?" And, indeed, without having an eye on the design of this epistle, it is pretty hard to give an account of it; but that being carried in view, there is vothing plainer, nor more pertinent and persuasive than this here; for what can be of more force to make thein stand firm to the doc. trine which he had taught them, of their being exempt from circumcision, and the observances of the law ? If you have heard, and I assure you in my epistle, that this mystery of the Gospel was revealed, in a particular manner, to me from heaven; the very reading of this is enough to satisfy you that I am well instructed in that truth, and that you may safely depend upon what I have taught you concerning this point, notwithstanding I am in prison for it, which is a thing you ought to glory in, since I suffer for a truth, wherein you are so nearly con. cerned;" see chap. vi. 19.

« PreviousContinue »