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or Gentiles; and we conceive that the very words employed by the Apostle, when viewed in the light of his own general phraseology, clearly determine this to be his meaning.*
Regarding the passage, then, as unfolding the privileges of all who are in Christ, let us mark the leading idea which pervades it. That idea is, that it is the eternal purpose of the divine mind to bless and save mankind THROUGH CHRIST,-to raise all who believe in him to a state of the loftiest purity, and of filial confidence and joy,—to unite in Christ, as the head of the mediatorial economy, all the good and holy in heaven and on earth,— and to manifest to an admiring universe the riches of his glory, in the consummated happiness and dignity of the saints of the Redeemer. It was on Christ that the mind of the Apostle was fixed, as the medium of every blessing to our fallen world; while he regarded union with him by
*It has long appeared to us, that the language used by St. Paul in Eph. i. 4, is beautifully appropriate and expressive, when regarded as descriptive, not of persons as such, but of certain characters, of those who truly believe in Christ, and who abide in him by faith. In the Pauline epistles no designation of the Christian character is more frequent than that of being in Christ. The idea of union with Christ through faith seems to have been ever present to the mind of this eminent Apostle, as the distinguishing feature of all who are truly His, and who share in the privileges which He offers to mankind. It was an idea suggested probably by our Lord's comparison of himself to the vine, and his people to the branches, and by his own emphatic statement, "Abide in me, and I in you: as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John xv. 4, 5.) Such an idea is implied also in the representation of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of his church, while his believing and holy people constitute the members of his mystical body. This conception of the believer's state and character will be found to have moulded the phraseology of St. Paul. Thus, in 1 Cor. i. 30, he writes: "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." In 2 Cor. xii. 2, he says:
"I knew a man in Christ, about fourteen years ago;" and in Phil. iii. 8, 9, when unfolding his own cherished sentiments and hopes, he says: "For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and so count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him." In 2 Cor. v. 17, he writes: "If any man be in Christ," εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, “he is a new creature. In Rom. viii. 1, we find the phrase, "they who are in Christ," as a designation of all true believers in the Saviour: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," Toîs Ev Xplotą 'Inσoû, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Now let the reader bear in mind how familiar this phraseology was to St. Paul, and to all the readers of his Epistles; let him mark, that in the original of two of the passages now quoted we have the abbreviated expressions, "if any man in Christ," "to them in Christ Jesus," by a familiar ellipsis of the substantive verb or its participle; and then let him read the original of Eph. i. 4, Καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, and he will perceive how natural and appropriate is the translation, "According as he hath chosen us who are in him." There is certainly a perfect correspondence between Toîs ev Xpiotâ 'Inooû, "to them in Christ Jesus," or "to them which are in Christ Jesus," in Rom. viii. 1, and uâs èv avtô, “us in him," or "us who are in him,' in the verse before us. Nor is the consideration without weight, that the arrangement of words which the Apostle has adopted is that which he must have chosen to express this idea; whereas if he had intended to connect the verb "chosen" immediately with "in him," and to point out certain individuals by the term us, this idea would have been most forcibly and unequivocally expressed by a different arrangement: Καθὼς ἡμᾶς ἐξελέξατο ἐν αὐτῷ. Thus, both the general phraseology of St. Paul, and the peculiar arrangement of words which he has adopted, sanction, if they do not even require, the exposition we have given; and show us, that in this sublime passage the Apostle is describing the spiritual privileges bestowed through Christ on all who believe in him, and who maintain that faith as the great principle of spiritual life.
faith as introducing us to privileges which shed a sacred tranquillity over the present life, and prepare us for the nobler associations and the richer joys of the heavenly state. We can scarcely read the passage without perceiving the emphatic and earnest manner in which St. Paul keeps before the minds of believers the connexion of all their blessings and of all their hopes with the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ; or without remarking the deep feeling with which he dwells on the great facts of our redemption, and the peculiar character of the Christian economy, as the carrying out of the cherished plan of God,-that plan which most impressively exhibits his wisdom, holiness, and love. There is, in the first place, the general ascription of praise to God, as having "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." And when the Apostle proceeds to specify these blessings, he repeats in every instance the truth, that they are bestowed on us through the Mediator, once offered up as the great sacrifice for sin, but now exalted to universal authority and power. The purpose of God, formed before the foundation of the world, is, to raise those who are in him to a state of holiness, through the powerful influence of filial love. Our adoption, which forms the ground of this filial love, and the assurance of which calls it forth in our minds, is also through Christ: " Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself." The remission of sins, which is implied in our adoption, is expressly connected with "the blood" of Christ; and it is in him, "the beloved," that we stand "accepted" before God. The union of the church in heaven and on earth results from a common subjection to him as their one Head and Lord, and the common participation of that Spirit which he sheds forth on his people; while the angelic hosts cheerfully own themselves his servants, and blend their sympathies and joys with those of his saved people, as they contemplate his glory, and celebrate his praise. It is in him that we have "obtained an inheritance ;" and our loftiest hopes of future happiness and dignity are based upon his mediatorial work, and the declared purpose of God, that all who believe in him, and are sanctified by his Spirit, shall share in his triumphs, and be conformed to his glorious image.
This, then, is the grand idea of the passage, that all our spiritual blessings, from the first communication of grace on earth, to the consummated happiness of the resurrection-state, are bestowed through Christ; and blended with this idea is another, that this constitution of the Mediator, with all the gracious arrangements of the Christian economy, is the development of the counsel of the divine will, the unfolding of the mystery which had been present to the mind of God, before the foundation of the world.
And now let us fix our attention on the blessings which St. Paul brings before us, as imparted to believers in Christ,-blessings, the abundance and greatness of which called forth in his mind the most ardent gratitude to God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." In contemplating them, let us follow the order in which the Apostle himself adverts to them, and endeavour to enter into his train of thought.
1. He dwells, in the first place, on the state of holiness to which it is the design of God to raise all who are in Christ. To his mind, this great result of the plan of redemption was ever present; and he would have regarded that plan as bereft of its highest glory, if it had not proposed to restore man from the depth of his moral ruin, and to fill his breast with every
pure and noble sentiment, with every devout and benevolent affection. By thus fixing upon personal holiness, as that to which the people of Christ are called, the Apostle beautifully illustrates the character which he had just ascribed to the benefits of the Christian covenant, that they are "spiritual blessings," blessings which reach the spirit of man, which shed over it a sacred calm, and impart to it inward purity and strength. The human mind too often seeks its happiness chiefly in external good; it assigns an undue importance to combinations of outward circumstances: and when these circumstances are favourable, and conducive to its present comfort, it calls them blessings. But the greatest blessing which can be imparted to a rational nature is holiness. To be possessed of universal rectitude, to have the heart filled with those affections, and governed by those principles, which the Most High has enjoined, as pleasing to himself, and essential to the order and welfare of the universe,-to be brought even to sympathize, if we may so speak, with the divine mind, in its love of purity, benevolence, and truth,-and, at the same time, with all the dutifulness and humility which are proper to a creature, to devote the whole of life to the glory of God,-this is to enjoy a deep and abiding happiness, suited to the nature of the human spirit, and adequate to its vast desires. Cut off from communion with God, and from the participation of his holiness, the human mind wanders into darkness; and the very efforts which it makes to derive from itself, and from the created objects which surround it, true satisfaction and joy, often plunge it more deeply into sorrow, and cause it to feel the bitterness of disappointment. But when it is restored to God, walks in the light of his countenance, and is conformed by his gracious influence to his own moral character, it has within itself the elements of peace and blessedness, the very earnest of eternal life. Now, it is such a state of holiness that the Apostle places before us, as that to which we are called through Christ; a state of living spirituality of mind, of powerful inward affections, manifesting themselves in the whole of our deportment and conduct. It is not easy for us to exceed, in our conceptions of the depth of Christian holiness, or of its uniform practical development, the force of the terms which St. Paul uses in relation to it :"that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Receiving from above a new inward life, and being sustained and kept by a more than human power, amidst the conflicts and trials of the present state, we may be matured and perfected in love, so as to enjoy at all times the complacency of our Father and our God.
But that point which chiefly claims our attention in this statement of the Apostle is, that we are to be "holy and without blame before him in love." We are thus led to contemplate love as the great principle of all inward purity and all evangelical obedience. It is indeed a distinguishing feature of the teaching of the Christian revelation in respect of morals, that filial love to God, connected, as it ever will be, with active benevolence to mankind, is the grand affection which must pervade the heart, purify and elevate every tendency of our nature, and prompt to universal rectitude. Christianity does not seek to raise us gradually from one virtue to another, but it exhibits the remedial provision of the covenant of grace,-even the gift of the Spirit, to excite within our breasts love to God, and thus to lead us forth to a cheerful and grateful obedience to all his precepts. There are other affections, indeed, which the Christian ever cherishes; and other motives to the discharge of duty, to which he repeatedly adverts. He reveres the divine majesty; he trembles at the thought of being placed in
an attitude of hostility to Him whom angels adore, and whose frown would wither all his joys; he knows that holiness is, in itself, lovely and attractive, and that every departure from rectitude is a violation of that order which God has established, and the universal observance of which would secure the rights not only of the Most High, but of all his creatures, in their relations to each other, and diffuse harmony and joy throughout the world; but while these convictions and feelings guard his purity, it is love which is the very essence of that purity, and the living principle and spring of all his acts of obedience. The mind that is renewed by the Holy Spirit glows with gratitude to God, esteems his character as the perfection of excellence, seeks his friendship as its first and highest good, and is attracted towards him as its centre and its portion. And with this love to God there will ever be combined benevolence to the whole human family, and a special complacency and delight in all who are pure and good. The Most High breathes into the believing mind a measure of his own benignity; and thus he corrects the selfishness of our nature, dethrones every malignant and unworthy passion, and causes us to seek the spiritual welfare of all who are around us. "Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love."
2. The Apostle passes from the state of holiness, to which it is the purpose of God to raise all who are in Christ Jesus, to the privilege of adoption into the divine family which such characters enjoy, a privilege which necessarily implies the forgiveness of their past sins. He does not intimate, by this arrangement, that our adoption is consequent on our attainment of holiness, but rather the reverse. His pure and spiritual mind, the energies of which were once, indeed, guided by human passion, but had now long been consecrated to the service of the Redeemer, and the diffusion of truth and piety, fixed at once on holiness as the great blessing of the Christian covenant. His loftiest ascriptions of praise were called forth by the conviction, that it was the purpose of God to constitute all who are in Christ by living faith "holy and without blame before himself." He beheld in this result the rescue of our spiritual nature from the degradation of sin, and its restoration to harmony with the angelic hosts, and even to the complacency of God himself. And then he passes to the great principle from which only inward purity and active obedience to the divine will can flow, the principle of love, of ardent gratitude to God, and delight in him as the fountain of excellence and joy. But how is this love to be infused into the breast of sinful man? How is that heart, which is naturally cold towards God, and averse from his purity and justice, and which, when awakened to a sense of its guilt and pollution, shrinks back from the awful majesty of the divine holiness,-to be filled with delight in God, to feel itself attracted towards him, and to find its repose and blessedness in the assurance of his favour, and the devotion of its energies to his service? The Apostle himself supplies the answer. Provision has been made for the pardon of our sins; and we who stood condemned, may, through the blood" of Jesus, through his one sacrifice of himself, the virtue of which is ever fresh, and ever availing to the penitent believer, stand " accepted" before God. Nay, more: upon our believing in Christ we are raised even to the relation of children; we become the adopted sons of God; and a confidence far more intimate and joyous than could ever fill the breast of an approved servant, is infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, while we stand in a peculiar relation of brotherhood to the adorable Redeemer,
the incarnate Son. It is a part of the gracious plan of God, of the eternal scheme of redeeming love, that all who truly believe in Christ should, as an act of grace and favour, and not on the ground of any merit on their part, receive the forgiveness of sins, and enjoy the intimate access of children to himself, as their reconciled and approving Father. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Thus it is that love to God is called forth in our hearts, and finds its appropriate exercise in our approaches to him. The curse of the law no longer rests on us, and fills us with dread anticipations; the holiness of God no longer keeps our minds in painful awe; but we feel that in Christ, "the Beloved," we are pardoned and accepted; that through him we are raised even to the relation of children; and we trace in these arrangements of the evangelical economy "the glory of the grace of God," the riches of his condescending love, which stoops to raise us from the depth of our spiritual ruin, and to confer on us the noblest and most valuable blessings.
3. We are next led by the Apostle to contemplate the clear and ample discoveries which God has made to believers, under this last dispensation of grace, of his own plans and purposes, more especially as connected with the mediatorial exaltation of Christ, as the Lord of angels, and the Head of his redeemed people : "Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him."
The views under which the Christian economy is here presented to us are lofty and affecting. It is "the dispensation of the fulness of times." Every preceding development of the divine character, and of the principles and procedures of the divine government, had been preparatory to those which are now made to us. The patriarchal dispensation, exhibiting, as it did, to the faith of men the wise and righteous administration of Jehovah, and the method of approach to him by sacrifice; the Mosaic dispensation, with its more ample declarations of the character and rule of God, and its imposing ritual, that kept before the view of the ancient Israel the necessity of an atonement, and shadowed forth the sacrifice and priesthood of Him who was to come ;-were only introductory to that economy, under which Christ, the incarnate Son of God, is presented to our view as crucified for us, and then exalted to universal dominion, and an everlasting and unchangeable priesthood. The dispensation under which it is our privilege to live is distinguished by the clear and impressive manner in which divine truth is brought before our minds: "The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." No longer are those themes which most deeply interest us, and most intimately affect our character and happiness, presented in the comparative obscurity of prophecy and type: they are unfolded to us with the distinctness of narrative, and we are called upon to lift our eyes to Calvary, and "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." The glory of God-the unsullied brightness