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EPHESIANS, v. 25-27.—“ Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ
also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish."
There exists, my brethren, among many professing Christians, a lamentable want of correct apprehension in regard to the bearing which Christianity, in its grand peculiar principles, has upon the duties and concerns of ordinary life. They seem to think of the Gospel as of something too sacred and sublime to be mixed up with the common thoughts and feelings, the common conversation and transactions, connected with their personal and domestic affairs. They exclude religion from the sphere of household and familiar things, as if it were some august and awful oracle, to be consulted only on great occasions, and on approaching which a voice is heard proceeding from the shrine,—“ Put off thy shoes from off thy
feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” With the exception of the seasons and the places expressly consecrated to religion,—the Sabbath and the sanctuary, and the set times of secret and domestic devotion,—the only occasions on which, or at least in reference to which, they seem to think it necessary to have conscious recourse to the consideration of those mighty truths and motives which constitute peculiarly the Christian system, are what we may call the extraordinary occasions, the great emergencies of their existence. Any one, however, who looks at the religion of Jesus in a right point of view, will perceive that those who treat it thus do it gross injustice and dishonour. He will, no doubt, feel it to be a glorious thing for Christianity, that its peculiar truths provide the believer so abundantly for the great decisive exigencies of his history,--that they afford such ample encouragement to arduous duty, such overflowing consolation in deep distress,—that they furnish him with so sure a ground of hope and peace amidst the agonies and the alarms of dissolving nature,--that they yield him the materials of so erect and unashamed confidence amidst the terrific glories of the judgmentday. But still he will feel it to be a part, and, taken in connexion with the other, a very striking part, of its glory, that, with all this adaptation to scenes of infinite grandeur and appalling interest, Christianity is so entirely at home among what are called the little
duties,—the little decencies,--the little graces, the little charities of earth,-and brings her most celestial truths to bear so directly on the common obligations and proprieties of our ordinary being, with all its household concerns, and all its familiar relations; even like the providence of her Great Author, which affects with universal and perpetual influence the workings of all power, vast or minute, the existence of all being, exalted or comparatively mean ; which presides over all the orbs and periods of the sky, and without which not a sparrow falleth to the earth. Of the way in which the Gospel, rightly understood, is intended to mingle with our thoughts-to affect our feelings—to tell upon our conduct in the ordinary occupations and relations of human life, you will find many striking illustrations in those parts of the apostolical epistles which explain and enforce on Christians their relative duties to each other, and to all men. Nor could we desire a more striking individual case to illustrate the general remark than that with which the text presents us, when it says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it ; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word ; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.”
It is not our intention at present to call your attention any further to the particular object for which the important truths contained in the text are here particularly introduced, but rather to direct your regards to the essential import of the truths themselves. The passage brings before our minds, in a magnificent enumeration of particulars,—successive and consequent to one another,-the whole achievement of the Eternal Son for the salvation of his chosen Church. It shows us the whole mighty structure of human salvation rising gradually upwards,arches on arches,-tier on tier,--till it bursts upon our view in all its perfection, and all its harmony; having its foundations in the unfathomable depths of Christ's eternal love, and its pinnacle in the immeasurable height of heaven's eternal glory.-We should only injure the perspicuity and force of the apostle's description, did we in any particular of our illustrations deviate from the order which he has himself pursued.
The first particular, then, to which he calls our attention, is that love of Jesus to his Church, in which the whole scheme and undertaking of her salvation had its source.
It seems to me, that we are sometimes apt-we, at least, whose thoughts are used to deal with theology as a science, and with theological conceptions in their scientific shape-to form but a faint conception of that preventing love of God in which the scheme of our salvation took its rise. Accustomed to consider, in our more abstract contemplations of the universe, the illustration of his own perfections as the grand terminating object of the Almighty's counsel and procedure in creation and in providence, we sometimes feel as if the Universal Ruler was prompted to all that he has done for our salvation less by emotions of compassion and of love, strictly so denominated, than by that high and holy, though to our minds less touching and affecting, principle which directs the Eternal's government by one great and ever-acting impulse towards what is absolutely best for the advancement of that great end for which he reigns and the universe obeys. Yet, did we only take time and patience clearly to consider, we should find that the two conceptions were by no means inconsistent with each other. We should perceive that, if the glory of the Divine perfections is the great final end of all things, Divine love is one of these perfections,—one of the chief,-herself their very queen,- for “God is love." We should perceive, that among all the innumerable possibilities which are open to the choice of Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Excellence, there must have been ten thousand schemes of action, by adopting which an equal glory should have been shed on all his other attributes, as that with which they are now irradiated to the eyes of the adoring universe, save on the one attribute of love, and in the one particular form of love to man,-love to the chosen Church. So that,