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“For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus, which is among you, and which ye show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: having the eyes of your heart enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.”
Never was anything equal to the yearnings of the Apostle, never anything like the sympathy and the affectionateness of the blessed Paul, who made his every prayer in behalf of whole cities and peoples, and writes the same to all,197
Ver. 21, 22. “And made Him to sit at His right hand, in the Heavenly places, far above all rule and authority, and power and dominion, and every name that is named: and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.”
Vast indeed are the mysteries and secrets of which He hath made us partakers. And these it is not possible for us to understand otherwise than by being partakers of the Holy Ghost, and by receiving abundant grace. And it is for this reason that Paul prays. “The Father of glory,” that is, He that hath given us vast blessings, for he constantly addresses Him according to the subject he is upon, as, for instance, when he says, “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. i. 3.) And, again, the Prophet says, “The Lord is my strength and my might.” (Ps. xviii. 1.)
He has no name by which he may represent these things, and on all occasions calls them “glory,” which is in fact, with us, the name and appellation of every kind of magnificence. Mark, he says, the Father of glory; (cf. Acts vii. 2.) but of Christ the God.201
That is, may raise and wing your understanding, for it is not possible otherwise to understand these things. “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him.” (1 Cor. ii. 14.) So then, there is need of spiritual “wisdom,” that we may perceive things spiritual, that we may see things hidden. That Spirit “revealeth” all things. He is going to set forth the mysteries of God. Now the knowledge of the mysteries of God, the Spirit alone comprehends, who also searcheth the deep things of Him. It is not said, “that Angel, or Archangel, or any other created power, may give,” that is, confer upon you a spiritual gift. And if this be of revelation, then is the discovery of arguments consequently vain. For he that hath learned God, and knoweth God, shall no longer dispute concerning any thing. He will not say, This is impossible, and That is possible, and How did the other thing come to pass? If we learn God, as we ought to know Him; if we learn God from Him from whom we ought to learn Him, that is from the Spirit Himself; then shall we no longer dispute concerning any thing. And hence it is that he says,
He that hath learned what God is, will have no misgiving about His promises, and disbelief about what hath been already brought to pass. He prays, then, that there may be given them “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Yet still he also establishes it, as far as he can himself, by arguments, and from “already” existing facts. For, whereas he was about to mention some things which had already come to pass, and others which had not as yet happened; he makes those which have been brought to pass, a pledge of those which have not: in some such way, I mean, as this,
“That ye may know,” saith he, “what is the hope of His calling.”
It is as yet, he means, hidden, but not so to the faithful.
But what is clear? that through His power we have believed that He hath raised Christ. For to persuade souls, is a thing far more miraculous than to raise a dead body. I will endeavor to make this clear. Hearken then. Christ said to the dead, “Lazarus, come forth,” (John xi. 43.) and straightway he obeyed. Peter said, “Tabitha, arise,” (Acts ix. 40.) and she did not refuse. He Himself shall speak the word at the last day, and all shall rise, and that so quickly, that “they which are yet alive, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep,” (1 Thess. iv. 15.) and all shall come to pass, all run together “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Cor. xv. 52.) But in the matter of believing, it is not thus, but how is it? Hearken then to Him again, how He saith, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not.” (Matt. xxiii. 37.) You perceive that this last is the more difficult. Accordingly, it is upon this that he builds up the whole argument; because by human calculations it is far more difficult to influence the choice, than to work upon nature. And the reason is this, it is because He would thus have us become good of our own will. Thus with good reason does he say,204
“The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe.”
Yes, when Prophets had availed nothing, nor Angels, nor Archangels, when the whole creation, both visible and invisible, had failed, (the visible lying before us, and without any power to guide us, and much also which is invisible,) then He ordered His own coming, to show us that it was a matter which required Divine power.
That is, the unutterable glory; for what language shall be adequate to express that glory of which the saints shall then be partakers? None. But verily there is need of grace in order that the understanding may perceive it, and admit even so much as at least one little ray. Some things indeed they knew even before; now he was desirous that they should learn more, and know it more clearly. Seest thou how great things He hath wrought? He hath raised up Christ. Is this a small thing? But look again. He hath set Him at His right hand. And shall any language then be able to represent this? Him that is of the earth, more mute than the fishes, and made the sport of devils, He hath in a moment raised up on high. Truly this is indeed the “exceeding greatness of His power.” And behold, whither He hath raised Him.
“Far above all rule,” he saith.
Need then indeed is there of the Spirit, of an understanding wise in the knowledge of Him. Need then is there indeed of revelation. Reflect, how vast is the distance between the nature of man and of God. Yet from this vile estate hath He exalted Him to that high dignity. Nor does He mount by degrees, first one step, then another, then a third. Amazing! He does not simply say, “above,” but, “far above;” for God is above those powers which are above. And thither then hath He raised Him, Him that is one of us, brought Him from the lowest point to the supremest sovereignty, to that beyond which there is no other honor. Above “all” principality, he says, not, i.e., over one and not over another, but over all,
Whatever there be in Heaven, He has become above all. And this is said of Him that was raised from the dead which is worthy of our admiration; for of God the Word, it cannot possibly be, because what insects are in comparison of man, this the whole creation is in comparison of God. If all mankind are to be counted as spittle and were counted as the turn of a balance, consider the invisible powers as insects. But of Him that was one of us, this is great and surprising indeed. For He raised Him up from the very lowest parts of the earth. If all the nations are as a drop, how small a portion then of that drop is a single man! Yet Him hath He made higher than all things, “not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Therefore powers there are whose names are to us unintelligible, and unknown.
“And He put all things in subjection under His feet.”
Not simply so set Him above them as to be honored above them, nor by way of comparison with them, but so that He should sit over them as His slaves. Amazing! Awful indeed are these things; every created power hath been made the slave of man by reason of God the Word dwelling in Him.205
“And gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church.”
Amazing again, whither hath He raised the Church? as though he were lifting it up by some engine, he hath raised it up to a vast height, and set it on yonder throne; for where the Head is, there is the body also. There is no interval to separate between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then were it no longer a body, then were it no longer a head. “Over all things,” he says. What is meant by “over all things?” He hath suffered neither Angel nor Archangel nor any other being to be above Him. But not only in this way hath He honored us, in exalting that which is of ourselves, but also in that He hath prepared the whole race in common to follow Him, to cling to Him, to accompany His train.
In order then that when you hear of the Head you may not conceive the notion of supremacy only, but also of consolidation, and that you may behold Him not as supreme Ruler only, but as Head of a body.
As though this were not sufficient to show the close connection and relationship, what does he add? “The fullness of Christ is the Church.” And rightly, for the complement of the head is the body, and the complement of the body is the head. Mark what great arrangement Paul observes, how he spares not a single word, that he may represent the glory of God. “The, complement,” he says, i.e., the head is, as it were, filled up by the body, because the body is composed and made up of all its several parts, and he introduces Him as having need of each single one and not only of all in common and together; for unless we be many, and one be the hand, and another the foot, and another some other member, the whole body is not filled up. It is by all then that His body is filled up. Then is the head filled up, then is the body rendered perfect, when we are all knit together and united. Perceivest thou then the “riches of the glory of His inheritance? the exceeding greatness of His power towards them that believe? the hope of your calling?”
Moral. Let us reverence our Head, let us reflect of what a Head we are the body,—a Head, to whom all things are put in subjection. According to this representation we ought to be better, yea, than the very angels, and greater than the Archangels, in that we have been honored above them all. God “took not hold of Angels,” as he says in writing to the Hebrews, “but He took hold of the seed of Abraham.” (Heb. ii. 16.) He took hold of neither principality nor power, nor dominion, nor any other authority, but He took up our nature, and made it to sit on His right hand. And why do I say, hath made it sit? He hath made it His garment,206
Let us feel awed at the closeness of our relation, let us dread lest any one should be cut off from this body, lest any one should fall from it, lest any one should appear unworthy of it. If any one were to place a diadem about our head, a crown of gold, should we not do every thing that we might seem worthy of the lifeless jewels? But now it is not a diadem that is about our head, but, what is far greater, Christ is made our very Head, and yet we pay no regard to it. Yet Angels reverence that Head, and Archangels, and all those powers above. And shall we, which are His body, be awed neither on the one account nor the other? And what then shall be our hope of salvation? Conceive to yourself the royal throne, conceive the excess of the honor. This, at least if we chose, might more avail to startle us, yea, even than hell itself. For, even though hell were not, that we having been honored with such an honor, should be found base and unworthy of it, what punishment, what vengeance must not this carry with it? Think near whom thy Head is seated, (this single consideration is amply sufficient for any purpose whatever,) on whose right hand He is placed, far above all principality, and power, and might. Yet is the body of this Head trampled on by the very devils. Nay, God forbid it should be thus; for were it thus, such a body could be His body no longer. Thy own head the more respectable of thy servants reverence, and dost thou subject thy body to be the sport of them that insult it? How sore punishment then shalt thou not deserve? If a man should bind the feet of the emperor with bonds and fetters, will he not be liable to the extremity of punishment? Dost thou expose the whole body to fierce monsters, and not shudder?
Further, our discourse is concerning this Body, and as many of us as partake of that Body and taste of that Blood, are partaking of that which is in no wise different from that Body, nor separate. Consider that we taste of that Body that sitteth above, that is adored by Angels, that is next to the Power that is incorruptible. Alas! how many ways to salvation are open to us! He hath made us His own body, He hath imparted to us His own body, and yet not one of these things turns us away from what is evil. Oh the darkness, the depth of the abyss, the apathy! “Set your mind,” saith he, “on the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.” (Col. iii. 1.) And after all this, some set their affections upon money, or licentiousness, others are carried captive by their passions!
Do ye not see, that even in our own body, when any part is superfluous and useless, it is cut off, is cut away? It is of no use that it has belonged to the body, when it is mutilated, when it is mortified, when it is decayed, when it is detrimental to the rest. Let us not then be too confident, because we have been once made members of this body. If this body of ours, though but a natural body, nevertheless suffers amputation, what dreadful evil shall it not undergo, if the moral principle should fail? When the body partakes not of this natural food, when the pores are stopped up, then it mortifies; when the ducts are closed, then it is palsied. So is it with us also, when we stop our ears, our soul becomes palsied; when we partake not of the spiritual food, when, instead of corrupt bodily humors, evil dispositions impair us, all these things engender disease, dangerous disease, disease that wastes. And then there will be need of that fire, there will be need of that cutting asunder. For Christ cannot endure that we should enter into the bride-chamber with such a body as this. If He led away, and cast out the man that was clothed in filthy garments, what will He not do unto the man who attaches filth to the body; how will He not dispose of him?
I observe many partaking of Christ’s Body lightly and just as it happens, and rather from custom and form, than consideration and understanding. When, saith a man, the holy season of Lent sets in, whatever a man may be, he partakes of the mysteries, or, when the day of the Lord’s Epiphany208
As then it is not meet that any one of the uninitiated be present, so neither is it that one of them that are initiated, and yet at the same time defiled. Tell me, suppose any one were invited to a feast, and were to wash his hands, and sit down, and be all ready at the table, and after all refuse to partake; is he not insulting the man who invited him? were it not better for such an one never to have come at all? Now it is just in the same way that thou hast come here. Thou hast sung the Hymn214
That I may not then be the means of increasing your condemnation, I entreat you, not to forbear coming, but to render yourselves worthy both of being present, and of approaching. Tell me, were any king to give command and to say, “If any man does this, let him partake of my table;” say, would ye not do all ye could to be admitted? He hath invited us to heaven, to the table of the great and wonderful King, and do we shrink and hesitate, instead of hastening and running to it? And what then is our hope of salvation? We cannot lay the blame on our weakness; we cannot on our nature. It is indolence and nothing else that renders us unworthy.
So far have I spoken of myself. But may He that pricketh the heart, He that giveth the Spirit of compunction, pierce your hearts, and plant the seeds in the depth of them, that so through His fear ye may conceive, and bring forth the spirit of salvation, and come near with boldness. For, “thy children,” it is said, “are like olive plants round about thy table.” (Ps. cxxviii. 3.) O, then, let there be nothing old, nothing wild, nothing harsh. For of such sort are the young plants that are fit for fruit, for the beautiful fruit, fruit I mean of the olive-tree. And thriving they are, so as all to be round about the table, and come together here, not in vain or by chance, but with fear and reverence. For thus shall ye behold with boldness even Christ Himself in heaven, and shall be counted worthy of that heavenly kingdom, which may God grant we may all attain, in Jesus Christ, our Lord with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and ever, and for ages of ages. Amen.