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4thly, From the Object, pafs we next to the Subject Matter of the Apoftle's Prayer, or what it was he ask'd in the behalf of thefe Ephefians. And that was first in general, for fpiritual Strength or Grace to fupport_them under their Infirmities, and to carry them above Temptations; that God would grant them according to the Riches of his Glory, to be ftrengthen'd with Might by his Spirit in the inner Man. Where by the inner Man we are to understand the Heart, Mind, or Soul, as 'tis diftinguifh'd from the Body, which is call'd the outward Man: to be ftrengthen'd with Might in it, is to be furnifh'd with inward Power and Ability to perform all holy Duties, and to be fortify'd against all the Affaults of our ghoftly Enemies. This inward Strength is here faid to be given by God's Holy Spirit, the Author and Beftower of all Grace, who according to the Riches of his Glory, or the Treafures of his abundant Mercy, is alone able and willing to fupply us upon all occafions, as our Neceffities fhall require. So that the thing in general here pray'd for, is fuch a Firmnefs of Mind, or fuch a ftable Frame of Spirit, as might carry them with Courage and Conftancy thro all the Stages of our Chriftian Courfe; being enabled to practife all thofe Vertues that adorn our Profeffion, and to avoid all those Vices that tend to disparage and defeat the Defign of it. More particularly, he here prays,
1ft, For the Grace of Faith, in the next words; that Chrift might dwell in their Hearts by Faith: that is, that they might be fo firmly built up in the Knowledg and Faith of Chrift, that their Hearts might become the Habitation of God through the Spirit, Eph. 2. 22. To dwell (you know) is to take up an abode with another, and implies Continuance; not calling there as a Stranger or Traveller, but abiding as an Inhabitant, and making it his place of Refidence. This our Saviour promis'd his Difciples, that he and his Father would come unto them, and make their abode with them, John 14. 23. Now Chrift's dwelling in the Heart is here faid to be by the Grace of Faith; for that makes us adhere to him, and that will engage him to adhere and abide with us. This therefore the Apostle prays for in the behalf of thefe Ephefians, that they might perfevere in the Truth, and continue ftedfaft in the Faith; and that not an idle, dead, and ineffectual Faith, that is void of good Works, for that profiteth nothing; but fuch a lively, active, and operative Faith, that hath its Fruit unto Ho
liness, and that will ripen and grow up into eternal Life. 2dly, Another Branch of his Prayer for them, was for the Grace of Love; and that too not in the outward Show and Flourish, but to be firmly rooted and grounded in it, that it may be not in Word and in Tongue only, but in Deed and in Truth. Now the Love here meant, is chiefly the Love of God, that holy Fire that is to be kindled in the Heart, and still kept flaming in the Breaft; and by that we may be enabled in fome measure to comprehend with all Saints, what is the Breadth and Length, the Depth and Height of the Love of God towards us. Not that we can take the infinite and unfathomable Dimenfions of the Divine Love, which exceed all that we can ask or think; but that we may arrive as far in it, as our Faculties will reach, and where they fail, we are to admire and adore the unfearchable Riches of it.
3dly, Another part of the Apostle's Prayer for these Ephefians, was for the Knowledg of God, that they might know the Love of God, which paffeth Knowledg; ver. 19. Which words feem a Paradox at the first hearing, that he fhould pray to know that, which at the fame time he declares to be fuch as paeth Knowledg; but the Senfe of it is, either that he begs to know that, which furpaffes all other Knowledg whatsoever, for he counted the Knowledg of all other things but Lofs and Dung in comparison of the Excellency of the Knowledg of Christ, Phil. 3. 8. And therefore he told the Corinthians, that he determin'd to know nothing among them, but Jefus Christ, and him crucify'd; 1 Cor. 2. 2. that is, nothing in competition with, or in oppofition to it. Or, fecondly, to know the Love of God, which passeth Knowledg, fignifies to know that which our natural Powers cannot reach to the knowledg of, and is to be known only by the fupernatural Light of God's Holy Spirit. Or elfe, thirdly, to know the Love of God, which paffeth Knowledg, is to know fomething of that, which at prefent can. not be perfectly known by us. But whether we understand the Words in all or either of thefe Senfes, this was a noble Subject of the Apoítle's Prayers, and will be always worthy of ours: for this is Life eternal (faith St. John) to know God, and Jefus Chrift whom he hath fent; John 17. 3. Our future Happiness will confift much in the Knowledg of God, and therefore we fhould aim and afpire to it now, and labour to attain to as high a measure of it as we can: To compleat which,
The Apoftle, in the laft place, prays that thefe Ephefians might be filled with all the Fulness of God. Not that 'tis poffible to attain to the Measure of the Divine Perfections, or arrive to the Fulness of the Godhead; but that we should endeavour, as far as our Capacities will reach, to be fill'd with the Graces of the Spirit, and particularly with the Knowledg and Love of God, that we may be the better fitted to be fill'd with Glory, which will confift in the Perfection of these and all other Graces for they who know and love God here, will be known and lov'd by him hereafter, and fhall have the eternal Fruition of his glorious Godhead.
These are the chief Heads of St. Paul's Prayer for thefe Ephefians, which he here concludes with that excellent Doxology; Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the Power that worketh in us; unto him be Glory in the Church by Chrift Jefus, throughout all Ages, World without end. Amen. Where the better to affure himfelf and them of the Success of his Petitions, he puts them in mind of the infinite Power and Goodness of God, who is both able and willing to give more than we can crave or conceive; that his Returns will be far beyond our Defires or Deferts, and if we ask in Faith, we need not fear exceeding in our Requests, or asking too much of him and therefore he would have us, according to our bounden Duty, be ever ready to render him all the Praife and Glory of all his Mercies.
This is the Subftance of this Day's Epiftle, which contains the following useful and important Leffons.
1. We may learn hence upon all occafions to make our Requests known unto God, the Author and Fountain of all our Mercies; but more especially in times of Trouble and Trial, when we ftand in greateft need of his most gracious Aid and Affiftance. And this we are here taught to do, not for our felves only, but for all that we are any way related to, or concern'd with, whofe Good we ought to have as tender a fenfe of, as our own; for fo we find the Apostle had in all his Epiftles, giving thofe to whom he wrote to understand, that whether prefent or abfent he was always mindful of them in his Prayers,
2. We learn hence, not to think the worfe of any Caufe, because it may fometimes meet with Oppofition and Perfe cution; for fo we find St, Paul and the other Apostles did
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in propagating the Gofpel, tho they had their Commiflion from Heaven for fo doing and therefore we fhould not faint or be difmay'd at these things, whenfoever we see or hear of them.
3. We are taught from hence, that Patience and Perfeverance in times of Trouble and Perfecution is wholly the Gift of God, and confequently to him alone we are to addrefs for it; for all the Strength by which we ftand, is not ours, but his, and is to be fought from him. For this caufe we find St. Paul praying here for himself and others; and if any Man lack Wifdom, or Grace to perfevere, let him ask it of God, who is willing to give liberally to all Men, and upbraideth not.
4. We learn hence, that all our Addreffes to this pofe must be made with all Humility and Reverence both of Body and Mind: for St. Paul here bow'd his Knees to the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift in praying for it; yea, the Example of our Saviour, who kneel'd down and pray'd, the Command of the Apoftle requiring every Knee to bow to him, and the Practice of Chriftians in all Ages, fhews this to be the proper Pofture of Devotion. We find no Inftance in Sacred History of any holy Man that ever fate at his Prayers and this may teach us to avoid that irreverent and indevout Practice, which by our unhappy Divifions hath lately crept in among us; and to obferve the Pfalmift's Call, to come and worship, and fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
5. We are directed here in the Matter, as well as the Manner of our Prayers, and taught for what as well as how to ask; and that is, for fpiritual Strength to arm us against the Power of Temptation, and for Grace to help in time of need. This the Apoftle thought neceffary to da in the behalf of thefe Ephefians; and let us make this the Platform of our Devotion both for our felves and others.
Laftly, From the Doxology in the Clofe, let us learn to all our Prayers to add Praifes and Thanksgivings unto God; adoring his Power, extolling his Goodness, admiring his Wisdom, fubmitting to his Will, and giving him the Glo ry of all fo fhall we engage the Divine Providence to take care of us, and keep us blameless to the Coming of the Lord Jefus. Amen.
The GOSPEL for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Luke vii. 11-17.
And it came to pass the day after, that Jesus went into a City call'd Nain, and many of his Difciples went with him, and much People: and when he came nigh unto the City, behold there was a dead Man carry'd out, &c.
HIS Gofpel for the Day gives us a Relation of a certain Miracle wrought by our Saviour upon a dead Man, whom he rais'd to Life again, in the view of many Witneffes. Where the Evangelift, in relating of it, takes notice,
Firft, Of the Circumftance of Time when it was done, in these words, It came to pass the day after; that is, the day after his healing the Centurion's Servant, which was done the day before, as the foregoing part of the Chapter declares: where we read of a Centurion or Officer of the Roman Band, that had a Servant whom he dearly lov'd, who being very fick and ready to die, when he heard of Jefus, came himself, as St. Matthew relates it, or as St. Luke here, fent fome of the Elders of the Jews, befeeching him to come and heal his Servant: which is in effect all one, for what a Man does by another, is reckon'd as done by himself. Thefe befought him inftantly, saying, he was worthy for whom he fhould do this, for the good Offices he had done for their Church and Nation. Jefus going to him, was met by the way with this Meffage; Lord, trouble not thy felf, for I am not worthy that thou shouldft enter under my Roof, but fay the word only, and thy Servant hall be heal'd believing him to have the fame power over Difeales, that he had over his Soldiers, which was only to