Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

10. or fellowship; which he called a heavenly place, on account of the discoveries of heavenly things that were made in it, chap. ii. 6. Next, the apostle prayed that God would enlighten their understanding, that they might know the greatness and extent of the blessings promised to believers in the mystery of God's will, ver. 18, 19. Then spake of the dignity of Christ whom God hath made head over all things to the church, and of his power to fill all the members of his church with spiritual gifts, ver. 20.-23. And among the rest, even the idolatrous Gentiles themselves, who, notwithstanding the discoveries made in the heathen mysteries, were living in deplorable ignorance and wickedness, chap. ii. 1.-3.

Next, with respect to the law of Moses, and the pompous worship performed in the temple of Jerusalem, the apostle told the Ephesians, that they and the rest of the Gentiles, while idolaters, had indeed been excluded from that worship, and of course were strangers to the covenants of promise, and without hope. But the want of these privileges was not to be regretted by them under the gospel; because Christ by his death had abolished the whole ordinances of the law of Moses, as of no farther use. And by joining Jews and Gentiles into one new society, or church, the Gentiles were become joint partakers with the Jews in all spiritual privileges, chap. ii. 11.-18: And were no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the believing Jews, ver. 19: And were built with them on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, into a great temple, for an habitation of God, chap. ii. 22.-By representing the Christian church under the idea of a temple, the apostle, if I mistake not, insinuated among other things, that it was intended to be the repository of the mystery of God's will, as the heathen temples were the repositories of the mysteries of the gods to whom they were consecrated.

Farther, the apostle assured the Ephesians, that the mystery of Christ had been made known to him and his brethren apostles, more fully than in former ages to the Jewish prophets ; namely, that the Gentiles should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers with the Jews, of God's promises in Christ, through the gospel, chap. iii. 3.-6. And therefore, they were to give no heed to the Judaizing teachers, who excluded the Gentiles from these privileges, merely because they were not circumcised.And to the united body of Jews and Gentiles, forming the Christian church, he gave the appellation of the fel

lowship of the mystery, chap. iii. 9. The honours and privileges of which he describes, ver. 15.-19. As he doth likewise, the bonds by which the members of this fellowship are united ; namely, one Lord or head, one faith, one baptism, and one object of worship, chap. iv. 4–6: Not omitting the supernatural gifts, with which the members of this fellowship were endowed, chap. iv. 11, 12.-Lastly, he expressly prohibited the Ephesians from joining in any of the heathen fellowships, on account of the works of darkness committed in them, chap. v. 11.

Upon the whole, I submit it to my readers, whether the apostle, by representing the gospel in this epistle, no less than five times, under the idea of a mystery, did not mean to lead the Ephesians to compare it with their own mysteries, for the purpose of making them sensible :-1. That in authority and importance, the discoveries contained in the gospel, infinitely exceeded the discoveries made in the most celebrated of the heathen mysteries, and were much more effectual for comforting and directing mankind in their journey through life.—2. That Christ, the head of the Christian fellowship, was much more powerful than all the heads of the heathen fellowships joined together.-3. That the Christian church, in which the mystery of God's will was kept, was a far more excellent fabric than the temple of Diana at Ephesus.-4. That the honours and advantages, which the members of the Christian church derived from Christ, their head, far surpassed the honours and advantages, which the initiated pretended to derive from the gods, the heads of their fellowships.-5. That the bonds by which the members of the Christian church were united, were more excellent and more effectual for promoting concord and love, than those by which the members of the heathen fellowships were united.6. That the miraculous gifts bestowed on the apostles, and other inspired teachers in the Christian church, rendered them, as teachers, more respectable than any of the heathen mystagogues, and their teaching more worthy of the attention of mankind, than theirs.--And therefore, 7. That it was far more honourable and advantageous to be a member of the Christian church, than to be initiated in the most celebrated of the heathen mysteries ; consequently, That the condition of the Ephesians, as members of the church of Christ, was far more happy than their former state ; even although they had been partakers in the best of the heathen mysteries, the Eleusinian not excepted.

[blocks in formation]

· The Epistle to the Ephesians, viewed in the light wherein I have placed it, appears excellently calculated for repressing that vain admiration of the mysteries, which the Ephesian and other Gentile converts still entertained : And for enervating the spe. cious arguments used by the Judaizers, for seducing them to observe the law of Moses. This epistle, therefore, must have been of great use for confirming the whole body of the Gentile converts inhabiting the province of Asia, in the belief and profession of the gospel.

· Before this section is concluded, it may be proper to observe, that the ivth, vth, and vith chapters of the epistle to the Ephesians, are called, by Theodoret, The moral admonition ; as containing a more complete system of precepts, respecting the temper of mind which the disciples of Christ ought to possess, and respecting the duties which they owe to themselves and to each other, than is to be found in any other of St. Paul's cpistles.

SECTION IV.

Of the Persons for whom the Epistle to the Ephesians was designed.

That the epistle to the Ephesians was designed for the use, not of the Ephesians alone, but of all the brethren in the proconsular Asia, not excepting those to whom the apostle was personally unknown, may be gathered from the inscription of the epistle, and from the benedictions with which it is concluded. The inscription runs thus; To the saints who are in Ephesus, and to the believers in Christ Jesus ; by which last expression, I understand persons different from the saints in Ephesus ; namely, all the believers in the province of Asia. In like manner, in the conclusion of the epistle, we have, first a particular benediction, chap. iv. 23. Peace be to the brethren, namely in Ephesus ; then a general one ; ver. 24. Grace be with all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, that is, with all the faithful in the proconsular Asia. For that there was a considerable intercourse between the churches of the proconsular Asia, and that at Ephesus, appears from the first epistle to the Corinthians, which was written from Ephesus; where, instead of mentioning the church at Ephesus by itself, as saluting the Corinthians, the salutation is from the churches of Asia in general, comprehending Ephesus among the rest, 1 Cor. xvi. 19. The churches of Asia salute you.-Paul indeed, commonly directed his letters to the churches

in the great cities, because they were more numerous than the other churches. Yet that he designed them for all the brethren in the neighbourhood, appears from the inscriptions of his epistles to the Corinthians, as was observed, Prelim. Ess. ii. page 63. To these arguments add, that the fulness and perfection of the moral admonition delivered in the epistle to the Ephesians, as well as the catholic manner in which the other matters contained in it are handled, shew clearly, that it was designed for others, besides the brethren at Ephesus.

This remark, concerning the persons for whom the epistle to the Ephesians was designed, may be of considerable use in helping us to judge of some passages. For example, when we recollect that this epistle was directed to the faithful in Christ Jesus, throughout the province of Asia, many of whom, it is to be supposed, had never seen Paul's face, we shall be sensible of the propriety of his saying to them, even according to the common translation, chap. iii. 2. If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God given to me. For although the brethren at Ephesus, with whom the apostle abode three years, and many of the inhabitants of the province of Asia, who had heard him preach in Ephesus, Acts xix. 10. must have known that he was appointed by Christ the apostle of the Gentiles, some of the churches of Asia, or at least some of the members of these churches, who had never seen him, may have been ignorant of the miraculous manner in which he was converted, and commissioned to be an apostle. And therefore, his mentioning these things, together with the revelations that were made to him of the mystery of God's will, in his epistle to the Ephesians, which was designed for their use likewise, may have been very necessary to many, to make them understand what his knowledge and authority as an apostle of Christ were. Accordingly, as if this part of the epistle had been written for a class of readers different from those to whom the foregoing part was addressed, he introduces it with his name, Ephes. iii. 1. On account of this, I Paul, am the firisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles, &c. See, however, the new translation of the passage.--In like manner, by considering the epistle to the Ephesians, as designed for all the brethren in the province of Asia, we see the reason why the apostle has handled his subjects in a general manner, without making any of those allusions to particular persons and affairs, which might have been expected in a letter to a church gathered by himself, and in which he had so long resided, and with the members of which he was so intimately acquainted. Such allusions would not easily have been understood by strangers, and therefore they were with great propriety avoided.

SECTION V.

of the Time and Place of writing the Epistle to the Ephesians.

During the apostle Paul's imprisonment in Cæsarea, though it lasted more than two years, he wrote no letters, either to the churches which he had planted, or to particular persons ; at least we know of none which he wrote. But during his confinement at Rome, having more liberty, he wrote several epistles which still remain. For when the news of his confinement in that city reached the provinces, some of the churches which he had gathered, sent certain of their most respected members all the way to Rome, as formerly mentioned, to visit and comfort him, Philip. iv. 18. Col. i. 7, 8. These messengers having given him a particular account of the state of the churches from whence they came, their information gave rise to the letters which the apostle wrote at that time; and which may be distinguished from his other letters, by the mention made in them of his imprisonment and bonds. Wherefore, the apostle's bonds being frequently introduced in his epistle to the Ephesians, chap. iii. 1. 13. iv. 1. vi. 12. there can be little doubt of its being written during his confinement at Rome. But whether in the first, or in the second year of that confinement, learned men are not agreed. Many supposing it to have been written at the same time with the epistle to the Colossians, have dated it in the end of the second year of the apostle's confinement, at which time we know the epistle to the Colossians was written. And that these two epistles were written about the same time, they prove by observing, that there is a great similarity of sentiment and expression in them; and that they were sent by the same messenger, namely, Tychicus, Ephes. vi. 21. Col. iv. 7. But in Lardner's opinion, these circumstances are not decisive; because Tychicus may have been sent twice from Rome into Asia, by the apostle with letters during his two years confinement ; and because several reasons may have rendered it proper for him to write the same things to these churches, especially as a considerable space of time intervened between the writing of the letters in which they are contained. Rejecting, therefore, the late date of the epistle to the Ephesians, Lardner supposes it to

« AnteriorContinuar »