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presence of all." And oh! with what undescribable, yea, inconceivable rapture and joy, will all the ransomed of the Lord return to Zion; healed from all the crippled faculties of sin, and death, and hell, and the grave; when Jesus will bring all his redeemed home, to enter with him into his heavenly temple, "walking and leaping, and praising God!" Then finally, fully, and completely, "shall they come with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah xxxv. 10.)
PAUL TAKING LEAVE
"For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia; for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
"And from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church." (Acts xx. 16, 17.)
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
THE church at Ephesus, which was once the world's wonder, and of which not a vestige now remains, was founded by God the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of his servant, the apostle Paul. We have a very circumstantial account of Paul's ministry at this place, in the preceding chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles. This city, like another Athens, appears to have been wholly given up to idolatry. And it was a place of much pomp, and the corresponding corruptions of life. The inhabitants of the higher order prided themselves much in human learning ; if we may judge by the destruction of books, which took place in consequence of special miracles, which were wrought by the hands of Paul. (Acts xix. 6, 12.) But amidst the sad ravages made in our nature by sin, here the Lord had a people to gather out of it to himself. And here, therefore, the Lord first sent his servant Paul to preach the glad tidings of the gospel. And afterwards, the same highly honoured servant of the Lord was made the penman of that most blessed Epistle which bears his name; and which was sent to the church at Ephesus.
I pause here, at the very entrance into the subject of this SCRIPTURE EXTRACTS, to make two or three observations, which are of too striking a nature to be lost, and of too much importance in their eventual consequences, to be but slightly regarded.
And first: I would beg the reader to observe with me, how graciously the Lord hath arranged all the events of his kingdom, that even in the most unpromising place, and under the most unpromising circumstances, the Lord hath "a seed to serve him." You see, amidst all the idolatry of the Ephesians; yea, even those among them, who, like the rest, were all alike carried away unto these dumb idols; the Lord had those that were his own. And such is the case in all the instances of our fallen, debased, and degraded nature. When the same apostle was at Corinth, and so discouraged by the general dissolute manners of the people, that it appeared to him but labour lost to preach the gospel unto them; the Lord appeared unto Paul, in a vision of the night, and said: "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for
I am with thee; and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city." (Acts xviii. 9, 10.) And blessed be our God, we have full confidence to know, that such is the same in all ages. In this our sinful land, which like Ephesus and Corinth of old, is full of uncleanness, and blasphemy, and idolatry, the Lord hath much people in it. And though all of them, in the original state of nature, are alike living, during the days of their unregeneracy, in the same sins; and under the dominion of the same raging lusts as others; yet when the Lord, by the ministry of his holy word, and by the influences of his Holy Spirit, searcheth, and seeketh them out; they then are discovered to be the Lord's peculiar people; and do "shew forth the praises of Him, who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Pet. ii. 9.)
A second observation, which ariseth from this view of the subject, is the wonderful ordination of the Lord, in either sending the gospel to his people, in the midst of their idolatry and uncleanness; or bringing them to the gospel, that they may hear " the joyful sound, and walk in the light of God's countenance." Very blessedly the Lord hath taught this to the church, in a great variety of instances. "The Lord causeth it to rain upon one city, and not upon another." (Amos iv. 7.) He witholdeth the showers, that there shall be no vintage in the natural world; or he maketh the sweet manifestations of his grace to come down as the dew upon the mown grass, in the spiritual. (Ps. Ixxii. 17.) How little soever these things are observed by men, the ordination is silently carried on by the ministration of the Lord. The clouds in the natural world, are not more directed by the common atmosphere of the wind, and air, than the mystical clouds, in the spiritual world, are directed by the Lord the Spirit. Hence Paul shall be sent to Macedon; and
a woman of Thyatira, shall be directed to meet hint there; both alike unconscious of the Lord's hand in it, until the event proved it. Then we read that "the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, to attend to the things which were spoken of Paul." (Acts xvi. 9. 14.)
One observation more on this interesting subject. The epistle sent to the church at Ephesus, shews to what a state of ripeness in divine truths the Lord had brought this people. The Lord himself hath marked their then character by their name; they were called, the "saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus." (Eph. i. 1.) But let not the reader overlook the vast design of this most blessed Epistle; which contains within its bosom, more or less, an epitome of the whole gospel. It was not only for the church, for the time being, then at Ephesus, that this most precious book of God was written; but for the whole church of God, in all ages and generations. Thousands who have never seen, nor ever will see Ephesus, have found cause, and do still find cause, to bless God, the Holy Ghost, for Paul's ministry and writings to that people. Yea, ages yet unborn, will arise in succession, to bless God for it, until time shall be no more.
It forms a subject, however, for trembling apprehension, in beholding the awful aspect of the present day, as it relates to the blasphemy, and other portentous signs of this our British Ephesus, in this Christdespising generation. And when we call to mind that that once highly-favoured spot hath no more a church in it; that as the Lord Jesus himself threatened; "Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place." (Rev. ii. 7.) The Lord hath done it. The candlestick is long since removed; and the place inhabited by the
deluded followers of the false prophet, spoken of by John. (Rev. xix. 20.) So, that the once flourishing city of Ephesus, is now a wretched, desolate village; peopled but by a few; and they, ignorant of all divine truths. What a solemn consideration to all that remain! True, indeed, the church, that is, the spiritual, regenerated, church of Christ, is above all change. She must stand, and will stand, for ever.But the candlestick in the Lord's house, as in other houses, is a moveable part of the furniture. And the Lord hath no where promised, that it shall not be removed. As the Lord did by Ephesus, so will the Lord do by all other nations! while the church herself, founded upon the rock Christ Jesus, may not be moved, but standeth fast for ever.
But to return to the subject of this Extract:-It appears from the context, in this part of Paul the apostle's history, that after an uproar, which the preaching of Paul had occasioned at Ephesus; he determined to go into Macedonia; and having gone over various parts, he took ship to sail into Syria; and made a circuit of several months, in going from one place to another, preaching the gospel of Christ. At length, arriving at Miletus, he determined to call to him the elders of the church, which were at Ephesus, to give them his farewell counsel and blessing. Ephesus was no small distance from Miletus; but the apostle foresaw that it would be the last interview which he should ever have with that people. And as he hastened, if it were possible for him to be at Jerusalem, on the feast of Pentecost; no time therefore, could be lost, in convening the elders of the church at Ephesus together. The feast of Pentecost opened a prospect of great usefulness. Pentecost, for ever memorable in the church of Christ, from the first events of that blessed day when God, the Holy Ghost, gave public testimony to the word of his grace,