Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

. (page 17 of 27)
Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 17 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tence that had been broken off and makes the
transition to the declaration of the duties of his
readers, once more resumed, by means of a fer-
vent prayer to God for their perfection in the
Christian life.

This prayer is one of the most wonderful pas-
sages ever penned even by this wonderful Apostle.
Look at it in its parts.

First, we observe to whom the prayer is offered.
It is to "the Father," name of love and gratitude.
But note how the Apostle expresses his sense of
what this word "Father" means when applied to
the all-merciful and all-glorious God. He calls
Him not merely "the Father" but "the Father
from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth
is named." His is not a figurative fatherhood;


He is not addressed as Father because we find
some things in Him which remind us of the ten-
derness and love of our parents and so apply to
Him, as in a figure, the name we have learned to
love in them. On the contrary, His is the normal
fatherhood; His is not derived by figure from
theirs, but theirs is the poor and broken shadow
of His. He is the Father of our Lord and Sav-
iour Jesus Christ: the gloss, though a gloss, is a
correct interpretation, and the closeness and in-
timacy and love of that relation is the norm from
which every fatherhood in heaven and earth is
named. What we know of fatherhood — dear as
the name has become to us through our earthly
relations — is but a faint shadow of what He, the
true Father, first of Christ and then of us in
Christ, is to His children. After his glowing
outline of what God had done for his readers —
Gentiles as they were, born in sin and hitherto
living in sin — in receiving them into His very
household and making them its members, not
friends merely but His children, the Apostle's
fervour cannot address Him in less full recognition
of His glorious fatherhood than this: the Father
of fathers, the normal, perfect, ideal father, of
which all other fatherhood is but a broken and
poor imitation, — "the Father, of whom every
fatherhood in heaven and earth is named."

Next, let us observe the measure of the gifts
prayed for: "according to the riches of his glory."


No earthly measure, but only according to the
richness of that glory of the great God pictured
in His majesty, power and love in all the preced-
ing chapters. The gifts of Him who giveth to all
men liberally, were according, not to their desert,
not to their prospective usefulness, not even ac-
cording to their needs which are greater than
either, but away above all these, according to the
riches of God's glory — the glory of the Father
from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth
is named.

Next, observe the thing that is prayed for, in
this marvellous prayer. And here there is a be-
ginning and a middle and an end. The blessing
which the Apostle craves for the Ephesians is
nothing less than this: that they may be filled
unto all the fullness of God, that is, that all of
God's inestimable treasures of spiritual blessings
— life, strength, love, holiness, — shall be poured
out immeasurably imto them, — ^that they should
be filled with all those spiritual perfections which
assimilate them to the fullness of God.

The Apostle craves nothing less than that divine
perfection which belongs to children of God, for
his readers. But he knows that God does not
deal magically with His children: there are
means without which the end is not to be had.
And this end of Christian perfection of life and
heart, the being holy as God the Father is holy,
the being perfect as God is perfect, is not to be


had save in the path which God has marked out as
leading to the goal. And the Apostle prays not
for the goal but for the path which leads to the
goal. Knowledge is in order to holiness and it is
knowledge of the Gospel for which Paul prays for
his readers, that they may by it be enabled to
be "filled unto all the fullness of God." He prays
that they may "apprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and
depth," and that they may "know the love of
Christ that passeth knowledge." It is this love
of Christ that he has been speaking to them about
for the whole of the Epistle, the love of Christ
that led Him to immolate Himself for them be-
fore the foundation of the world, that led Him to
come into the world and suffer and die for them in
the fullness of time, that led Him now that He
has been taken up to the Father's right hand to
send forth the Spirit to call them inwardly, and
the Apostle to call them outwardly. This love
of Christ which the Apostle would have them
know, in order that they may become holy, is
briefly comprehended in the Gospel. And he
prays for them to have an adequate apprehension
of the riches of the "Gospel," the glad tidings of
Christ's love, in order that they may be filled unto
all the fullness of God.

But why pray for such knowledge? Is knowl-
edge to be had by prayer, or by publication.'^
Certainly not without publication, and Paul had


published it in his long visits in Ephesus and his
journeys through Asia; and he had just repub-
lished it in the whole of the former part of this
Epistle. But such knowledge as he desires for
his readers is not to be had by mere publication.
It is not merely that they may hear the Gospel,
not merely that they may be, in an intellectual
and mechanical way, informed that nothing can
account for Christ's work but love, love compelling
Him to leave His glory behind Him in heaven
and come to earth as a servant to save men, that
he wishes for them. He wants them to under-
stand, feel, and realize this; in the language of the
present passage, to apprehend it in its height and
breadth and length and depth : to have a realizing
sense of it. For this, something more than mere
informing is needed: even a preparation of the
heart. Let the husbandman fling the seed never
so widely and strew them never so thickly: if
there is no prepared soil, how can he hope to have
a harvest? So the knowledge which the Apostle
desires for his readers is not merely external mind-
knowledge, but the real knowledge of full feeling
and apprehension; knowledge not of the mere
head but of the heart. And for this, something
more is needed than the mere proclaiming of the
Gospel, which may be grasped in its propositions
by the mere mechanical action of the intellect:
even a new heart. Spirit-made and Spirit-deter-


Accordingly, this is not all that the Apostle
prays for. As this is a means to the end sought,
that they may be filled unto all the fullness of
God, so there is a means even to this means —
that the Spirit should prepare their hearts. And
this also he prays for: "that ye may be strength-
ened with power, through His Spirit, in the in-
ward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith." This is first. Then, this is to
"the end that being rooted and grounded in
love, ye may apprehend and know the love of
Christ." This is second. Then, this knowledge
is in order that we may be "filled unto all the
fullness of God." This is the end of all.

We note then first of all, the comprehensiveness
of this prayer. Is there any blessing not pro-
vided for in it.f^ That our souls may be taken
possession of by the Spirit and Christ may dwell
in us by faith. That we may have a perfect and
realizing knowledge of the Gospel. That we may
be filled unto the very fullness of God. Is there
any good thing lacking?

Next we note the significant order of the re-
quests. First, the work of the Spirit in the
heart; second, the realizing knowledge of the
Gospel; third, the Christian life. Men some-
times seek other orders. We hear the cry around
us daily of first the life, then the doctrine. Paul's
order is, first the doctrine, then the life. We
hear the cry around us of first know, then believe.


Paul's order is, first believe, then know. And as
this is of theological importance to-day, as well
as of practical importance in all days, observe it
more closely. We have confined ourselves to
broad outlines. Paul, however, writes with such
rich fullness that every detail is counted in, in
its proper place. What in detail is his order of
salvation .f^ Just this: first, the Gospel is pro-
claimed; secondly, there is the preparation of the
heart by the Spirit; thirdly, then faith and Christ's
indweUing through faith; fourthly, through this
indwelling we grow strong to apprehend the truth
of Christ's love; fifthly, by this apprehended
knowledge we are enabled to live a Christian life.
Search and look : and you will find the same order
everywhere in Paul and in the New Testament.

We observe then, finally, that the prayer that
Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith is the
opening prayer to a series. This is not the end
but the beginning: and just because it is a Di-
vine beginning it is a beginning that has in itself
the promise and pledge of the end. If we have
this we will have all.

(1) It itself rests on a preparation of the heart
by the Spirit : " That ye may be strengthened with
power through the Spirit in the inward man."
The idea here is a communication of power to the
soul. We almost seem to be reading the West-
minster Confession, for exactly what "power"
here means is "ability." The soul then lacks


"ability" until moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
The whole soul is there; the Spirit does not give
it more faculties. But it is weak. The action of
the Spirit is to strengthen it and the strengthening
takes place by an infusion of "ability." Now the
soul can exercise faith, and it exercises it. Faith
lays hold of Christ. And so the enabled soul
through faith obtains the indwelling of Christ.
This indwelling of Christ is mediated by faith,
and the exercise of faith is rendered possible by
the strengthening of the soul by the Holy Ghost,
by the infusion of "power," "ability."

(2) It consists in the constant presence of
Christ in the soul. Presence is predicated of God
wherever He manifests Himself, whether in the
Temple by the Shekinah or in Israel or in the
Church or in the individual. The indwelling of
Christ is then the manifestation of Christ's power.
The agent by which Christ manifests Himself to
the soul is the Holy Ghost. So that the indwell-
ing of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit is
one and the same. But the Spirit does not enter
the soul to separate Christ and the believer but to
unite them, and hence this indwelling draws
Christ and the soul into communion. Christ
dwells in us, that is, is present in us, quickening
all our activities and making us but members of
His body of which He is the directing Head.

(3) It issues hence into all Christian senti-
ments and activities. First the Apostle mentions


love; "being rooted and grounded in love" is
the intermediate step to the apprehension of
Christ's love. Love apprehends love. Out of
this Christ-filled and Christ-led heart, we are able
to see His love and to appreciate it. Hence, next,
knowledge. And then, out of this knowledge,

Now, observe as to Christ's indwelling: (1)
Christ may dwell in us; (2) He dwells in us
through faith; (3) His dwelling in us is the source
of all our knowledge of the Gospel and of all our
Christian walk.


Eph. 4:30: — "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom
ye were sealed unto the day of redemption."

It is Paul's custom in his epistles to prepare
for exhortation by the enunciation of truth; to
lay first the foundation of fact and doctrine, and
on that foundation to raise his appeals for con-
duct. The Epistle to the Ephesians is no excep-
tion to this rule. The former chapters of this
epistle are a magnificent exposition of doctrine, a
noble presentation to Paul's readers of what God
has done for them in election and redemption and
calling, and of the great privileges which they
have obtained in Christ. To this he adjoins,
according to his custom, a ringing appeal, based
on this exposition of truth and privilege. This
appeal to his readers is to live up to their privi-
leges, or, in his own words, to walk worthily of
the calling wherewith they were called. The
whole latter or practical part of the letter is thus
expressly based on the former or doctrinal part.
And this is true of the exhortations in detail as
well as in general. Paul wrote always with vital
connectedness. There never was a less artificial
writer, and none of his epistles bears more evi-
dent traces than the Epistle to the Ephesians of
having been written, as the Germans say, "at a



single gush." All here is of a piece, and part is
concatenated with part in the intimate connec-
tion which arises out of — not artificial effort to
obtain logical consecution — but the living flow of
a heart full of a single purpose.

Take, as an example, the beautiful appeal of our
text. The Apostle is not perfunctorily or me-
chanically repeating a set phrase, a pious plati-
tude. He is making an appeal, out of a full
heart, to just the readers he has in mind, in just
their situation; and under the impulse of his own
vivid appreciation of their peculiar state and con-
dition. On the basis of the privileges they had
received in Christ he had exliorted them gener-
ally to an accordant inner and outer conduct; and
he had presented these general exhortations both
positively and negatively. Now he has come to
details. He has enumerated several of the sins
to which they in their situation were liable, per-
haps, in a special degree, sins of falsehood, wrath,
theft, unbecoming speech. Shall they, they, the
recipients of this new life and all these Divine
favours, fall into such sins ? He suddenly broadens
the appeal into an earnest beseeching not so to
grieve the Holy Spirit of God in w^hom they were
sealed unto the day of redemption. That they,
too, had this sealing, had he not just told them?
Nay, had he not just pointed them to it as to
their most distinguishing grace .^^ It is not by a
new or a merely general motive by which he would


move their hearts. It is distinctly by the motive
to which he had already adverted and which he
had made their own. It was because he had
taught them to understand and feel that they,
even they, Gentiles according to the flesh, had
been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, as
an earnest of their inheritance, and could count
on this being a living and moving motive in their
minds — or rather it is because he himself felt this
great truth as real and as a motive of power — that
he adduces it here to move them to action.

If we are«to feel the motive power in the appeal
as Paul felt it and as he desired his readers to feel
it, we must approach it as he approached it and
as he desired them to approach it, namely,
through a preliminary apprehension and appre-
ciation of the fact underlying the appeal and giving
it force. To do this we should approach the con-
sideration of the text under some such logical an-
alysis of its contents as the following. First, we
should consider the great fact on which the appeal
is based, namely, that Christians have been sealed
by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption.
Secondly, we should consider the nature of this
sealing Spirit as the Holy Spirit, and the pain
which all sin must bring to Him as the indwelling
and sealing Spirit. Thirdly, we should consider
the nature and strength of the motive thence
arising to us, who are the recipients of His grace,
to refrain from the sin which grieves Him, and


to seek the life of holiness which pleases Him.
Time would fail us, however, on this occasion
fully to develop the contents of these proposi-
tions. Let us confine ourselves to a few brief
remarks on (1) the nature of the basal fact on
which Paul founds his appeal, as to our position
as Christians; and (2) the nature of the motive
which he seeks to set in action by his appeal.

The fundamental fact on which Paul, in the
text, bases his appeal to a holy life is that his
readers, because Christians, "have been sealed
in the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption."
Now, "sealing" expresses authentication or se-
curity, or, perhaps, we may say, authentication
and security. It is, then, the security of the
Christian's salvation which is the fact appealed
to; the Christian is "sealed," authenticated as a
redeemed one, and made secure as to the comple-
tion of the redemption; for he is sealed unto the
day of redemption.

The reference to Paul's teaching, in a former
chapter, as to the grace given to his readers, will
help us to understand the fact here adduced as a
motive to action. There we have the fuller state-
ment, that these Christians had had the Word of
the Truth, the Gospel of salvation, preached to
them; that they had heard it, and had believed
it; and then, that they had been "sealed with the
Holy Spirit of promise," in other words, the Holy
Spirit who works out all the promises to us to


fruition; "who," adds the Apostle, "is an earnest
of our inheritance," an earnest being more than a
pledge, inasmuch as it is both a pledge and a part
of the inheritance itself. Then the Apostle tells
us unto what we were thus sealed by the Holy
Spirit of promise, who is Himself an earnest of
our inheritance, namely, "unto the redemption of
God's own possession" unto the praise of His

Let us read these great words backwards, that
we may grasp their full import. Christians are
primarily the purchased possession of God: God
has purchased them to Himself by the precious
blood of His Son. But, the purchase is one
thing, and "the delivery of the goods" another.
Their redemption is, therefore, not completed
by the simple purchase. There remains, accord-
ingly, a "day of redemption" yet in the future,
unto which the purchased possession is to be
brought. Meanwhile, because we are purchased
and are God's possession, we are sealed to Him
and to the fulfilment of the redemption, to take
place on that day. And the seal is the Holy
Spirit, here designated as the "Holy Spirit of
promise" because it is through Him that this
promise is to be fulfilled; and the "earnest of our
inheritance" because He is both the pledge that
the inheritance shall be ours, and a foretaste of
that inheritance itself. The whole is a most
pointed assertion that those who have been bought


by the blood of Christ, and brought to God by the
preached Gospel, shall be kept by His power unto
the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the
last day.

The great fact on which Paul bases his appeal
is, therefore, the fact of the security of believers,
of the preservation by God of His children, of the
"perseverance of the saints" — to use time-hon-
oured theological language. We are sealed, ren-
dered secure, by the Holy Ghost, unto the day of
redemption: we are sealed by the Holy Spirit,
the fulfiller of the promises, and the earnest of
our inheritance, unto the full redemption of us,
who are God's purchased possession. The fact
the Apostle adverts to is, in a word, that our sal-
vation is sure.

How is this a motive to holiness.^ Men say
that security acts rather as a motive to careless-
ness. Well, we observe at least that the Apostle
does not think so, but uses it rather as a motive to
holiness. Because we have been sealed by the
Spirit of God, he reasons^ let us not grieve Him by
sin. Men may think that a stronger appeal might
be based on fear lest we fall from the Spirit's
keeping; as if Paul should rather have said. Be-
cause you can be kept only by the Spirit, beware
lest you grieve Him away by sinning. But Paul's
actual appeal is not to fear but to gratitude. Be-
cause you have been sealed by the Spirit unto the
day of redemption, see to it that you do not grieve.


bring pain or sorrow to this Spirit, who has done
so much for you.

It is not to be denied, of course, that the motive
of fear is a powerful one, a legitimate one to ap-
peal to, and one which in its due place is appealed
to constantly in the Scriptures. It is, no doubt, a
relatively lower motive than that here appealed
to by Paul; but as Bishop Doane once truly said,
most men are more amenable to appeals addressed
to the lower than to those addressed to the higher
motives. When men cease to be of a low mind,
we can afford to deal with them on a higher plane.
I have no sympathy, therefore, with the view,
often expressed, that man must not be urged to
save his soul by an appeal to his interests, by an
appeal to the joys of heaven or to the pains of
torment. You all know the old story of how St.
Iddo, once, when he journeyed abroad, met an
old crone with a pitcher of water in one hand and
a torch ablaze in the other, who explained that
the torch was to burn up heaven and the water to
quench hell, that men might no longer seek to
please God because of desire for one or fear of the
other, but might be led only by disinterested love.
History says that St. Iddo went home wondering.
Well he might. For on such teachings as this
he should have to forego the imitation of his Lord,
who painted to men the delights of the heavenly
habitations and forewarned men to fear him who
has power after he has destroyed the body also


to cast into hell, where, so He says, their worm
dieth not and the fire is not quenched. The mo-
tives of fear of punishment and vision of reward,
though relatively low motives, are yet legitimate
motives, and are, in their own place, valuable.

But the Apostle teaches us in our present pas-
sage that the higher motives too are for use and
in their own place are the motives to use. Do not
let us, as Christian ministers, assume that our
flocks, purchased by the blood of Christ, and
sealed unto the day of redemption by the Spirit,
are accessible only to the lowest motives. "Give
a dog a bad name," says the proverb, "and hang
him." And the proverb may be an allegory to us.
Deal with people on a low plane and they may
sink to that plane and become incapable of oc-
cupying any other. Cry to them, "Lift up your
hearts" and believe me you will obtain your re-
sponse. It is a familiar experience that, if you
treat a man as a gentleman, he will tend to act
like a gentleman; if you treat him like a thief,
only the grace of God and strong moral fibre can
hold him back from stealing. Treat Christian
men like Christian men; expect them to live on
Christian principles; and they will strive to walk
worthily of their Christian profession.

So far from Paul's appeal to the high motive of
gratitude here, then, being surprising, it is, even
on the low ground of natural psychology, true
and right. The highest motives are relatively


the most powerfuL And when we leave the low
ground of natural psychology and take our stand
on the higher ground of Christian truth, how sig-
nificant and instructive it is. If the Holy Spirit
has done this for me; if He in all His holiness is
dwelling in me, to seal me unto the day of re-
demption, shall I have no care not to grieve Him?
Fear is paralyzing. Despair is destruction of effort.
Hope is living and active in every limb, and when
that hope becomes assurance, and that assurance is
recognized as based on the act of a Person,' lovingly
dealing with us and winning us to holiness, can we
conceive of a motive to holiness of equal power .f^
Brethren, we must not speak of such things
historically only. We are not here simply to ob-
serve how Paul appealed to the Ephesians, as he
sought to move them to holy endeavor; nor to
discuss whether or not this is a moving manner of
dealing with human souls. His appeal is to us.
The fact asserted is true of us, — we are sealed by
the Holy Spirit to the day of redemption. He is
in us too as the Holy Spirit whom sin offends, and
as the loving Spirit who is working in us towards
good. Do we feel the pull of the appeal.? Shall
we listen to and feel and yield to and obey Paul's
great voice crying to us down through the ages:
"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God in whom ye
were sealed unto the day of redemption"? Com-
mune with your souls on these things to-day!


Phil. 2:12, 13: — "So then, my beloved, even as ye have always
obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 17 of 27)