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Eph. V. 18 — 20. Befitted with the Spirit ; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord ; giving thanks alio ays for all things unto God and the Father i7i the name of our Lord Jesus Christ^. THAT Christianity has raised the tone of morals in the world, will appear from the admonitions which the Apostles judged it necessary to give to the Churches in their day. It would appear almost superfluous, at this time, to expatiate upon the evil of fornication, in a letter addressed to true believers ; or to guard them against yielding to intoxication ; there being, in the minds of all, a consciousness of the inconsistency of such evils with the Christian profession. But the Corinthians had, in their unconverted ^ If this were the subject of a Sermon at a Feast (many Country Feasts begin on the Sabbath), it would be proper to include in the text the whole of the eighteenth verse ; and to prosecute, at some length, the contrast between the employment of true Christians, and that of nominal Christians, on such occasions.
396 EPHESIA S, V. 18—20. [2120. state, been proverbially dissolute ; and the Ephesians, even in their religious rites on some occasions, had addicted themselves to intemperance : and both the one and the other brought with them into the Church their former sentiments and habits, against which they needed the most explicit warnings ^
On the other hand, the standard of Christian privilege and attainment is sadly lowered in the present day ; so that an exhortation to be filled with the Spirit, and to be living under the continual influence of the Spirit, seems to breathe nothing but enthusiasm. But, being well assured that Christian duties and privileges are precisely the same now as they were in the Apostle's days, I proceed to set before you, I. The exalted privilege of believers — The Spirit of God will dwell in the heart of every true Christian — [As the Church at large, so every individual in it, is " the temple of God'=," and " the habitation of God through the Spirif^." Our blessed Lord promised to send down the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to abide within his people % to guide them into all truth ^, to support them under their respective trials s, and to " sanctify them throughout, in body, soul, and spirit*^." We are not, indeed, to expect at this time his miraculous operations : but his spiritual influences are continued to his Church ; and shall be, even to the end of the world': and to experience them, is the undoubted privilege of all true believers^. Indeed, without them, we can never mortify sin', nor ever fulfil the will of God™ : and, if we experience them not, we are not true Christians : for it is expressly said, " If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his"."] or need there be any limit to our expectations of his gracious influences — [It is our privilege to " he filled with the Spirit," every one of us according to our respective capacities ; and to have b 1 Cor. vi. 13 — 18. with the words before the text,
c 1 Cor. vi. 19. '1 JEph. ii. 22. ^ John xiv. 16, 17. f Jolmxvi. 13. g Eph. iii. 16. '' 1 Thess. v. 23. i Matt, xxviii. 20. " Acts ii. 38, 39. i Rom. viii. 13. «" John XV. 5. n Rom. viii. 9.
2120.1 THE BELIEVER FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST. 397 all our faculties and powers subjected to his controul. By him our understandings may be enlightened ; so that we shall view every thing, in a measure, as God himself views it. By him, too, our will may be regulated ; so that it shall be conformed to the mind and will of God. By him, also, our affections may be so inflamed, that the whole soul, as it were, shall be melted, and cast into the very mould of the Gospel. In relation to this matter we need fear no excess. In the use of strong drink we may easily exceed ; and excess will lead to the most pernicious consequences. By intoxication, we may be unfitted for the common offices of life ; yea, and be precipitated into the commission of the foulest sins. But the more we have of the Holy Spirit, the more will sobriety and self-government characterize our whole conduct. We need, indeed, to guard against delusions respecting this matter : for there are many in the world who speak of dreams, and visions, and internal suggestions, and numberless other conceits, whereby they deceive both themselves and others. But on these no confidence whatever can be placed : they ai'e, for the most part, the fruits of a heated imagination, and are as likely to come from Satan as from God. I do not mean to say that God viay not reveal himself to persons in these ways ; for what he has done in times past, he may do again : but I say, that whatever is not founded upon the word of God, and leads not to a holy and consistent life, is a mere delusion. Whatever betrays men into extravagances of any kind, is not of God : for " the spirit of the prophets is subject to the
prophets"," and it becomes you to be on your guard against every thing which, in the mode of its access to your mind, is suspicious, or in its operation upon your mind is disorderly. I say again, therefore, that against delusion you must guard: but from excess in what is really from God, you are in no danger: for the more you are filled with the Spirit of Christ, the more you will resemble Christ in the whole of his character and deportment.] Suited to this exalted privilege of believers, will be, II. Their delightful employment — Here you see hov\f they are to act, 1. In their intercourse w^ith each other — [In the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Colossians, the Apostle's meaning is somewhat more clearly expressed: " Let the w^ord ol" Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom ; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the 1 Cor. xiv. 32.
398 EPHESIA S, V. 18—20. [2120. Lord p." We should have a happy and peaceful frame of mind, whether alone or in company ; and should be expressing our joy in songs of praise. ot that we should resemble those, whose spirits, being raised with wine, entertain themselves, and each other, with vocal and carnal songs : no ; we should " make melody in our hearts to the Lord," and have all our joys an emblem, an antepast, of heaven. Such expressions of earthly happiness we observe without any mixture of disapprobation or surprise : they are the natural effusions of a happy and buoyant spirit. How much more, then, should they be put forth in spiritual exercises, to the honour of our God,
whose service is perfect freedom !] 2. In their more immediate intercourse with God — [Every thing should be viewed by them as proceeding from a God of love : not even chastisement itself should be regarded as a token of his wrath, but rather as a mark of paternal tenderness, whereby he both intimates our relation to him, and seeks to establish and confirm it. othing, however penal in its aspect, should be viewed in any other light. We should taste his love in every thing, and " give him thanks always for all things." And this we should do " in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ :" for, as all God's blessings come to us through him, so all our thanksgivings for them should return to God through him also. It is this which makes them acceptable to God the Father. If these were offered in our own name, they would never enter into the ears of the Lord of Hosts : but, being presented in the name of Jesus, they come up with acceptance before him, and are sure to return in blessings on our own souls ^."] Address — 1. Those who have never yet experienced these blessings in their souls — [By the greater part of those who call themselves Christians, the whole of this subject is accounted visionary and absurd. They have no idea of one person being filled with the Spirit any more than others : and all the joyous frames arising from his presence in the soul, they deem the very essence of enthusiasm. But what, then, can be meant by all those directions which are given us, to " live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit," and " pray in the Spirit," and to " bring forth the fruits of the Spirit?" And why has our blessed Lord so encouraged us to pray for the gift of his Spirit '^, if no such communication is to be expected by us ? P Col. iii. 16. 1 Heb. xiii. 15. 1 Pet. ii. 5.
^ Luke xi. 11 — 13.
Do not, I beseech you, brethren, take your own experience as the standard of truth, or imagine that no one else can possess what you have never received : but look to God for the accomplishment of his gracious promises to your souls ^ ; and never rest, till you have obtained those supplies of his Spirit, whereby alone you can attain the Christian character, or be ever fitted for the realms of bliss *."] 2. Those who profess to hve in the enjoyment of them — [Regard not the contempt with which ungodly men may treat you : but let the Apostle's direction be followed by you daily, with increasing earnestness. Be careful, however, not to give any just occasion for reproach. Let there be nothing extravagant, either in your profession or your practice. Religion, if it have its just influence upon your soul, will render you patterns of sobriety, of prudence, and of true wisdom : it will cause you to " walk wisely before God, in a perfect way." At the same time, it will bring into your soul a peace that passeth all understanding and a joy that is unspeakable and glorified. There will be, indeed, occasional changes in your frame, even as there are in the natural world : there will be times for the tears of penitential sorrow to flow down, as well as for the radiance of the noon-day sun. But the more you live on Tabor, the more will you behold the Saviour's glory : and the more you survey the promised land from Pisgah's top, the more will you be fitted for the everlasting enjoyment of it.] s Prov. i. 22, 23. * John xvi. 7—11.
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