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God in the hearts of His children, encouragement is to be derived to seek from Him still greater blessings than those with which we have been favoured; since He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. We are to enlarge our petitions, that all His exceeding great and precious promises7s may be fulfilled to us; and we are still to expect that blessings inconceivable will be bestowed upon us.
Oh! that we had that confidence in God which we are encouraged by His holy word to place in Him. We should then be fully assured that all things would work together for our good,74 as well as to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.75 And being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ ;76 we should glorify and praise His holy name. He must have the glory of His own work. And this is the end which we should bave in view while we seek for the blessings of His grace; that He may be glorified in us and by us. It is only in the church and by Christ Jesus that glory redounds to God, and will do so for evermore. His dealings with His church and people excite the attention and admiration of the heavenly hosts. Unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the church the mani
78 2 Peter i. 4.
74 Rom. viii. 28. 75 Eph. i. 6.
76 Phil. i. 6.
fold wisdom of God. They glorify God for His love and His power displayed towards His church; and His church itself, when delivered from its militant state, will glorify Him throughout all ages, world without end ; for it will triumph in His unfathomable and boundless love for ever
Let us then adopt the prayer and the doxology of the apostle for ourselves. Sensible of our weakness, let us seek Divine strength day by day to enable us to contend successfully against the enemies of our souls. Let us seek also to enjoy the spiritual consolation which the word of God sets before us as received through faith in our ever blessed Redeemer. Let us direct our meditations to the wonderful love which He manifested in giving Himself for us to be the propitiation for our sins, that through Him we might be reconciled unto God; and let us seek to partake of the blessedness promised to His believing people, both in this life and in that which is to come. Let us glorify and praise the God of all grace day by day for His goodness to us, and hope to praise Him more and better throughout eternity.
77 Ephesians iii. 10.
THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER
THE CHRISTIAN CALLING.
Ephesians iv. 1.
I THEREFORE, THE PRISONER OF THE LORD,
BESEECH YOU, THAT YE WALK WORTHY
WHEN we consider the inoffensiveness of the spirit of Christianity, and its indisposition to interfere with the political affairs of the world ; and take into account the personal character and conduct of the apostle Paul, and the precepts · which he inculcated respecting the duty of submission to the powers that be, as the ordinance of God for the welfare of society; it seems very extraordinary that he should have been a prisoner, when he wrote this epistle, as if he had been guilty of some crime against the state. Of the
reason why he was taken to Rome as a prisoner, we have a full account in the Acts of the Apostles. He himself speaks of it briefly in his address to the chief of the Jews, who resided in that city. He said unto them, Though I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans; who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Cesar.78 He was therefore sent to plead his own cause before the Roman emperor.
The Jews of Jerusalem were not only opposed to the dissemination of Christianity among their own countrymen, but also set themselves in opposition to its diffusion among the Gentiles; as if the most degrading idolatry were preferable to Christianity. Their hatred to it induced them to represent Christians as seditious persons. And they did this with such vehemence, that the rulers of various countries thought themselves bound to take notice of the accusation. The Roman governors of Judea, Felix and Festus, were evidently compelled to interfere respecting the apostle Paul contrary to their wishes and intentions, in order to be popular with the chief men of the nation. The overruling providence of God, however, by this means directed that St. Paul should be taken to Rome; and through his imprisonment there, should have an opportunity of giving to the gospel of Christ a more extensive circulation than before; in consequence of being visited by persons from various parts of the world who might hear him, and carry back to their respective countries the glad tidings which he had communicated to them. For it is said, that Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him; preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.78 The ways of God are very mysterious. It seems extraordinary that so harmless a person, whose only object was to promulgate the gospel of peace, should have met with so much persecution.
78 Acts xxviii. 17—19, 30, 31.
But he was satisfied in his own mind that all was for the best; since we find him saying, in an epistle which he wrote from this city, The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel ; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace and in all other places ; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.79 He considered himself as the prisoner of the Lord, rather than of men; and he laid hold of the opportunity afforded him by be
79 Philippians i. 12–14.