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When he wrote this epistle, he was a prisoner for Christ at Rome; but though bound with a chain, the word of God was not bound. His prison was a palace, being sanctified by the presence of Christ Jesus, who so enlarged Paul's heart, that from thence he watered the churches with several letters, full of the perfume and fra. grancy of the beloved Immanuel. This before us, is a most noble one, full of the deep things of God, and the sublime mysteries of grace, so that none of his writings exceed it. He was most enlarged heaven ward, when most straitened in body, as is very commonly the case with real saints, who, when they are most afflicted, oftentimes flourish most in their souls: hence some say that this epistle smells of the prison.
In the first chapter, we are informed concerning the eternal acts of the will of God ; respecting his love and choice of the elect, in the person of Christ, God-man, before all worlds ; of bis blessing them in Christ, with all spiritual blessings; of his predestinating them unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ; of his ac. cepting them in the person of the beloved, to the praise of the glory of his grace. After which he treats of their redemption by Christ, from the state of sin and misery into which they were brought by the fall of Adam, and how they were brought to the knowledge of Christ, and their interest in him; it was by hearing the
gospel, which he calls the gospel of salvation, which giving a full and clear account of him, and his finished work, they, through the light and teaching of the Holy Ghost, were led to believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation ; and having believed, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which was the earnest of their right and title to the inheritance, and that he would remain in them, until they were perfectly redeemed from all the frailties of mortality, and raised in their bodies from the grave of death, when he would continue to dwell in their souls and bodies to all eternity. He then prays the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, to bestow the Holy Ghost, as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation on them, that they might be led into a further knowledge of these mysterious acts of grace, and of what had been done and passed on their head, the Lord Jesus Christ, that they might centre and rest simply and wholly on him.
In the second chapter, he sets before them the state of sin and corruption they were in by birth, declaring that they were “ by nature children of wrath, even as others." He sets an emphasis on their translation out of this tremendous state, saying, “ But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ: by grace are ye saved."
In the chapter from whence I have selected my text, he tells the Ephesians, that he had set his knowledge of Christ before them, in the first chapter of this most divine epistle; and that in their reading it, they might understand his knowledge of the mystery of Christ.
It is recorded, concerning that truly great and valuable man, the late Doctor Coneyer, of St. Paul's, Deptford, that on reading the words which I have chosen for my text, (in the chapter which came in course for the second lesson, on a Lord's-day afternoon, in the established church, at Helmesly, in Yorkshire, where he then ministered) he was greatly struck: he thought with himself; . What is there in my preaching, but every body must understand. There is nothing mysterious in it; whereas the apostle is here speaking of what is hidden and unsearchable.' This led him, through the light and teaching of the Holy Ghost, to a real and supernatural knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and he began from henceforward to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to his people. This most excellent person, on the last Lord's-day of his ministry at Deptford, in Kent, having read, in the service of the church, the twentieth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul's farewel sermon to the elders of the Ephesian church ig registered, he preached on these words, “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”. As he was pursuing his subject, he lifted up his hands, and waving them, said, that our Lord Jesus was upon his throne, sending forth his gospel, accompanied with his Spirit, to bring his people home effectually, by the knowledge of his person and work, to believe on him to life everlasting. While he was preaching, death arrested him, which he feeling, recovered himself so much as to finish his sermon; when not being able to come out of the pulpit, he was carried from it to his own house, where being put to bed, he soon féll asleep in the arms of Jesus, experiencing the truth of his Divine Master's words, “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."
The words of my text, which are, “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,” contain an account of Paul's view of biinself. By a singular expression, which he has chosen as his peculiar motto, he stiles himself, “ less than the least of all saints.” He then declares his qualifications for the work in which he was engaged, “ Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given.” Then he declares the subject of his ministry, “ the unsearchable riches of Christ;" and points out the persons to whom he was to preach them, the gentiles.
These are the particulars contained in the words before us; and I shall only touch on the former, as introductory to the latter. Therefore I shall divide my text only into these two beads.
First, the subject of the apostle's ministry, " the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Secondly, the persons to whom he preached these unsearchable riches, the gentiles, “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ."
The expression here used by the apostle, is singular; he stiles himself “ less than the least of saints ;” which is very expressive of the state and views of his own mind; a full proof of his littleness in his own eyes. This is the fruit and effect of grace, and is realized in the experience of many great saints, whose names are recorded in the bible. Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the friend of God, though admitted into free and holy familiarity with the Lord, cries out, “ I am but dust and ashes." Jacob, though he was favoured with a vision of Jehovah at Bethel, and afterwards with several manifestations and communions with God-Jesus, yet he says, “ I am less than the least of all thy mercies.” Moses, though favoured with the presence of the angel Jehovah at Horeb, and afterwards admitted on the mount with God, yet when he