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Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT Burkitt's Expository Notes
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wbc/ ephesians-4.html. 1700-1703.
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://studylight.org/
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As if he had said, "Seeing the riches of God's grace in Christ have so abounded towards you, who were once Ephesian idolaters, but now converted Gentiles, I Paul, who am a prisoner for preaching the gospel, and for declaring this grace to you, do most affectionately exhort you, that ye live answerably to your profession, and according to the great obligation of your high and holy vocation from heathenism to Christianity."
Here note, 1. The person exhorting and beseeching, I Paul, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you; I that am in bonds for Christ, I that am imprisoned for preaching the gospel to you, and for proselyting you by it to Christianity. Nothing can more oblige a people to hearken to the exhortations of the ministers of Christ, than this consideration, that the truths which they deliver to them, they stand ready both to suffer for and to seal with their precious blood: I, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you.
Note, 2. The comprehensive duty exhorted to, That ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; worthy, that is, beseeming and becoming your holy profession, answerable to the dignity and obligation of your Christian name; or, as he exhorteth the Philippians, Php_1:20 , "walk as becometh the gospel of Jesus Christ."
But when may we be said so to do:
Ans. When we walk according to the precepts and commands of the gospel; answerable to the privileges and prerogatives of the gospel; answerable to that grand pattern of holiness which the gospel sets before us, the example of Jesus Christ; answerable to the helps and supplies of grace which the gospel affords.
Finally, to walk worthy or our vocation, is to walk answerable to those high and glorious hopes which the gospel raises the Christian up to the expectation of.
Having exhorted them to the practice of their general duty, namely, to walk worthy of their holy vocation, in the former verse; in these two verses he presses upon them more special and particular duties, the chief of which is the duty of Christian unity and concord; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit.
The word signifies a diligent, industrious, and united endeavour, to preserve and keep, to support and maintain, to unity of the Spirit; that is, an union of heart and spirit, an unity of faith and doctrine, and unity of judgment and affection, amongst all the professors of Christianity.
Observe, 2. The means by which this duty may be performed, and the unity of the Spirit maintained; namely, in or by the bond of peace: a peacable disposition and temper, a peacable deportment and behaviour, is the bond or ligament which binds Christians together; whereas discord and division cuts that bond asunder.
Observe, 3. The special graces which the apostle recommends unto us, as excellent helps for preserving unity and peace; namely, humility, meekness, mutual forbearance.
1. Humility; With all lowliness Ephesians 4:2; that is, with all submissiveness of mind, and humble apprehensions of ourselves. What Tertullus said of Festus flatteringly, we may say of humility truly, By thee, O humility, we enjoy great quietness. The humble man is a peaceable man; only by pride cometh contention.
2. Meekness; which consists in a backwardness to provoke others, or to be provoked by others; as lowliness stood in opposition to pride, so meekness here stands in opposition to peevishness: With all lowliness and meekness.
3. Long-suffering and mutual forbearance; when Christians are so far from resenting every wrong, and revenging every injury that is offered to them, that they can bear with one another's weaknesses, cover each other's infirmities, pity one another's failings, and pardon each other's provocations. And this duty of mutual forbearance ought to proceed from a principle of love to each other; forbearing one another in love.
The apostle having exhorted the Ephesians to a strict unity and concord amongst themselves next proceeds to enforce his exhortation with several arguments; and there are no fewer than seven summed up in the three verses now before us.
1. Says the apostle, there is one body, that is, one universal church, whereof ye are all members.
2. There is one Spirit, by which ye are all animated and enlivened, and therefore keep the unity of the Spirit.
3. There is one hope of eternal life, by which we are all excited. Our inheritance in heaven is the same; God doth not give one a double portion, or a parti-coloured coat above another; but it is called an inheritance in light, because all alike are partakers of it, and sharers in it: the saints have all one hope, therefore should have all but one heart.
4. One Lord Jesus Christ, the head of his church, the Saviour of the body, one whom we all profess to serve and obey: Be ye therefore one, for your Lord is one.
5. There is one faith: that is, either one grace of faith whereby we believe, or one doctrine of faith which is believed; ye all believe in one and the same Saviour, and are justified by him after one and the same manner; therefore be ye also one; one in affection as well as one in belief.
6. There is one baptism, one door by which we all enter into the church; both Jew and Gentile, bond and free, rich and poor, they are all one in Christ Jesus, and by one Spirit baptized into one body.
7. One God and Father of all things. And of all persons in Christ, whom we all expect one and the same salvation from. And this God is transcendently above all, and over all: his eye penetrates and pierces through you all, and he is in and among you all, as in his holy temple; therefore such as endeavour to divide you, do as much as in them lies to divide God himself that dwells in you.
This then is the sum of the apostle's argument: Seeing ye are all members of one body, partakers of one Spirit: expectants of one hope, having one Lord and common Saviuor, one faith and belief, one and the same baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and one and the same God and Father in Christ; seeing you are one in all these particulars, be one among yourselves, and endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
From the whole learn, That so many are the obligations, so strong the bonds and ties, which lie upon all the members of the church to be at unity among themselves, of one judgment, and of one heart; that such as violate these bonds, and culpably divide and separate themselves from communion with their brethern, Christ looks upon them no longer as members of his body, but as having rent and torn themselves from it.
Our apostle here in these verses supplies us with another weighty argument to persuade us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; namely, that it is one great and chief end which Christ aimed at, in instituting the ministry of the word, in appointing the several officers in his church, of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and also in the several gifts which he bestowed upon those officers; he assures us, it was Christ's great design, in and by all; these, to bring his people, not only to faith and knowledge, but to unity in the faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
And here, 1. Our apostle shows that the diversity of gifts and graces, and the different measure and degrees of those gifts and graces, bestowed by Christ upon the several members of the church, do all tend to preserve and to promote unity, they all coming from one and the same author, and being all given for one and the same end. Unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Learn hence, 1. That there is a grace given by Christ to all his members, bearing some proportion and similitude to that grace which was conferred upon Christ himself.
Learn, 2. That the design of Christ, in dispensing his grace in different measures and degrees, is the general good of his church, and particularly for preserving and promoting unity and love amongst his members; for seeing every one has his several graces from God, and no one has all, if one hath that grace which another wants, and if one wants that grace which another has, it shows that we want the help of one another: this is the apostle's argument.
Next he proceeds to prove that Christ has dispensed this diversity of gifts amongst his members; affirming, that in the day of his ascension into the highest heavens, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
In which expression there is a manifest allusion to the Roman conquerors, who in the day of their triumphs scattered their munificence and bounty, their largesses and donatives, among their soldiers and their subjects.
Thus Christ, after he had triumphed over his own and his church's enemies upon the cross, rode in the triumphant chariot of his ascension into heaven , where he received gifts as the purchase of his blood, and shed forth those gifts of his Spirit in various kinds, upon his members in general, but upon his ministers in particular: which gifts, in the first ages of Christianity, were extraordinary, as the gifts of tongues and miracles; but now ordinary, and to continue to the end of the world.
Now from the apostle's scope and design in this argument, we learn, That though diversity of gifts in the church, and divers measures of grace in and among the members thereof, are too often a sad occasion of division and strife, through the prevalency of envy and pride, and other dividing lusts; yet this great variety and diversity of gifts and graces, rightly considered, would be found to be one of the strongest ties and bonds of union, seeing we all stand in mutual need of the gifts and graces of each other.
It is very evident, that our apostle's scope here is, to urge and enforce unity, from the diversity of gifts and graces which are amongst the members of the church; God forbid then that they should occasion envy and animosities, strife and contention, rents and divisions.
Our apostle's next argument for unity, is in the 11th and 12th verses, where he proves, that as the unity and edification of the church was the design of Christ in dispensing divers gifts and graces amongst the members of the church, so was it likewise his aim and end in instituting such variety of offices and officers in his church: for this end it was that he gave to his church by qualification and mission,
first, Apostles, sent forth first by his own mouth, to be witnesses of his doctrine and miracles, and then to preach the gospel throughout all the world, having received the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary manner, at the feast of Pentecost, to fit them for that sevice, Acts 2:1-2.
Next, Prophets, who explained the mysteries of faith, foretold things to come, and expounded the writings of the old prophets.
Then, Evangelists, who were sent out by the apostles, some to plant, others to water the churches which they had planted, without being fixed to any particular place.
Lastly, Pastors and Teachers, called also Bishops and Elders, who were set over the churches as guides and instructors.
Learn hence, 1. That it is Christ's special prerogative, as head of the church, to institute and appoint such offices and officers in his church, as to his own wisdom seems meet, for the edification and government of it.
Learn, 2. That the great end and design of Christ in instituting such variety of offices and officers in his church, was, his church's unity, that by all ministerial helps and endeavours his members might be compacted and knit together, and made one entire body, by the increase of sanctity, concord, and unity. He gave some apostles, some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, (not for converting of sinners only,) and for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Observe lastly, The apostle declares how long the work of the ministry, appointed by Christ for his church's edification and advantage, was to continue; namely, to the end of the world, to the day of judgment; till all come, by means of the same faith in Christ, and knowledge of him, unto a perfect man, and unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that is, till the church, which is Christ's mystical body, shall be complete and perfect, and attain its full stature from infancy to full manhood.
Learn hence, 1. That the church of Christ here on earth, is labouring for, and endeavouring after, perfection in grace and knowledge, to come unto a perfect man, and to attain to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Learn, 2. That the ministry of the word is an ordinance of Christ's own appointment, to continue to the end of the world, in order to that purpose and design.
Learn 3. That none of the most eminent saints on earth (the most knowing and pious ministers of the gospel not excepted) are above ordinances, above the ministry of the word, above receiving benefit and advantage by the plain and practical preaching of it; even St. Paul here puts himself in, and reckons himself among the number of those who stood in need of the ministry of God's word, to bring him to a perfect man, and to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; he says not till ye, but till we all, come unto a perfect man.
Such people then as think themselves above ordinances, are above God himself; none need ordinances so much as those that want them least. And such hearers as turn their backs upon the preaching of the word, because they know more than the minister can teach them, and can better instruct the preacher than be instructed by him, they betray their own ignorance both of the intent and end of the ministry of the word, and also of the state of their own hearts; for if their understandings want no light, do their affections need no warmth? Have you no grace to be perfected, no corruptions to be weakened, no good resolutions to be strengthened? If your knowledge be imperfect, as sure it is, do not your affections want a fresh excitement? Admit the despised preacher cannot be your instructor, yet sure he may be your remembrancer, and excite you to that duty which you know already perhaps better than you practise it.
St. Paul, in these words, declares one special end for which the ministry of the word was instituted and appointed, namely, to preserve from error and seduction, to prevent instability of mind, and unsettledness of judgment, and to confirm persons in fundamental truths, that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, & c.
Observe here, 1. The name which St. Paul gives to unstable persons and unsettled professors: he calls them children, not in regard of age, but in respect of knowledge and understanding: children, is a word that denotes imperfection and weakness, instability and ungroundedness in knowledge.
Observe, 2. How the unsteadiness of these professors is expressed by a double metaphor; the former is drawn from a wave of the sea, they are tossed to and fro; the latter is drawn from a light cloud hovering in the air, carried about from place to place: neither wave nor cloud have any constancy, but are both moving if the least wind be stirring.
Observe, 3. The cause of this instability; every wind of doctrine; professors that have no solid principles every wind of doctrine has power over them to drive them to and fro, every teacher can cast them into what mould he pleases, and blow them, like glasses, into this or that shape, at the pleasure of his breath. But why wind of doctrine? Because there is no solidity in it, but being wind in the preacher, it breeds but wind in the hearer, because of its variety and novelty, and because of its prevalency over unstaid men. How suddenly sometimes is a family, a town, yea, a whole country, leavened with a particular error!
Observe, 4. The characters of those imposters and seducers that do thus unsettle and unhinge men, they use sleight; a metaphor taken from gamesters, who with art and sleight of hand can cog the dice, and win the game. Seducers cheat with false doctrines, as gamesters do with false dice. Cunning craftiness; the word signifies the subtility and deep policy of the old serpent; implying that seducers are old and cunning gamesters, skillful to deceive: they lie in wait to deceive; the word signifies an ambushment, or stratagem of war, implying that all seducers' sleight and craftiness is to this very end and purpose, that they may entrap and catch men within the ambush of their impostures.
From the whole learn, That seducers and false teachers are craftsmasters of sleight and subtilty, and stratagems of deceit; they have artifices, ways and methods, to take men unawares, and to make merchandise of the people: they wrest and rack the scriptures to make them speak what they please, not what the Holy Ghost intended.
If all this art fails, their last advice is, to recommend their doctrines upon some private pretended revelation and uncommon impulse of the Holy Spirit: by all which methods they lie in wait to deceive.
Our apostle had set forth the excellent end of the ministry, in the foregoing verse, for furthering their stability and steadfastness in grace; here he declares the admirable fitness of it, for helping forward their proficiency and growth in grace. Speaking the truth in love: that is, cleaving to the truth of Christ's doctrine, and living in love with one another, you may grow up in Christ by making progress in all christian graces, being united to him as members to the head.
Here note, How the apostle draws a comparsion between the natural and mystical members, and the increase of both: as there must be a fellowship betwixt the natural head and members, so must there be a union betwixt Christ, the spiritual head, and believers, his mystical members; and as there is further required a mutual communion and fellowship of the members of the body within, and amongst themselves, in order to growth and increase, so must there be concord, love, and unity, amongst believers, if they expect to see grace growing in themselves, or in one another.
Are the members of the natural body severally distinct from one another, some principal, others ministerial; but all concurring to the service of the whole? So, in order to spiritual growth, must all the members of Christ's mystical body keep their rank and order, and act in their own sphere, with spiritual wisdom and humility; the eye not doing the work of the hand, nor the hand the work of the foot; but everyone in the calling wherein he is called, must there abide with God.
Again, is there a supply from head to members in the mystical body, and from one mystical member to another: one is apt to teach, another ready to comfort, a third able to convince, a fourth willing to exhort, a fifth to advise and counsel; and all these, and every one of these, contributing all they can to the welfare and growth of the whole. Happy is it both for the natural and mystical body, when the members of both are subservient to each other, and contribute all they can to the mutual growth and improvement of one another, and especially for the benefit and advantage of the whole.
Our apostle having finished this grand exhortation to love and unity amongst all christians, and enforced it with the most weighty arguments and motives in the former part of the chapter; comes now, in the latter part of it to press the Ephesians to the practice of particular duties.
The first of which is this, to take special care, that, being now converted christians, they walk no more like ignorant and unconverted heathens: Walk not as other Gentiles walk.
Next he gives particular instances how, and after what manner, the Gentiles, in the black night of paganism, did walk; namely,
1. In the vanity of their minds, following their own imaginations, and not any revelation from God, in the matters of his worship.
2. Having their understanding darkened; their minds void of saving knowledge.
3. They were alienated from the life of God: that is from a godly life: they were strangers to the life which God commanded, which God approved, and which God himself lived.
Here note, That holiness is called the life of God, because it is the life which God requires of us, it is the life which he works in us, it is the life whereby God liveth in us; the life whereby we live unto God; it is an everliving life; not obnoxious to death, as the Ephesians were: so every carnal man, before conversion, is alienated from this life of God; he has no liking of it, no inclination to it, but prefers a life of sin before it.
Lord, how many that are surrounded with the celestial beams of the gospel, are as impure and impenitent now as these Gentiles were then in the black night of paganism!
4. They were past feeling: their sottish stupidity had benumbed them, the flames of their lusts had seared their consciences to a desperate degree of hardness and insensibility: they were at once insensible of their sins and of their danger by reason of sin. A dead conscience, and a desperate dissolute life, are inseparable companions.
5. They gave themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Here see how insensibility of sin begets insatiableness in sinning; they work uncleanness with insatiable greediness, who have once abandoned themselves to sin, especially to the sin of uncleanness.
Lord! this was the deplorable case of the heathen world, before the light of the gospel did arise and shine upon them.
But, alas! it is the case of multitudes that sit under the brightest beams of gospel light: they shut their eyes, and will not see; they extinguish all sense of immortality and a future state, and so abandon themselves to a life of brutish sensuality, working all uncleanness with greediness: but let them know assuredly, that though they live like beasts, yet they shall not die like them, nor shall their latter end be like theirs, the soul being under a divine ordination to an everlasting existence in a future state, in which it shall be eternally happy or intolerably miserable, according as we manage our deportment in this present world.
In these verses, 1. Our apostle acquaints the converted Ephesians, that the saving knowledge of Christ, which they had received, instructed them better than to practice such licentiousness and wickedness as the unconverted Gentiles wallowed in. But ye have not so learned Christ; that is, the gospel of Christ.
Nothing curbs sin, nothing cures sin, in a licentious sinner, like the doctrine of Christ revealed in the gospel; no moral precepts from the school of the heathens, which some so much magnify and applaud, can compare with this, which lays open the root of this accursed disease, and leads us to the remedy which the wisdom of God has appointed for its cure, even the blood of his own Son. Then blessed be God for revealed religion!
Observe, 2. The apostle acquaints them what the truth as it is in Jesus, that is, the doctrine of the gospel, doth direct them to, enjoin and require of them; namely, to put off the old man, that is, their former heathen conversation, and manner of life, say some; but this they had put off already at their first conversion to christianity.
By the old man, then, understand, the old corrupt nature, so called, because it is as old as Adam, and derived from Adam, and which daily more and more corrupts and depraves us by its deceitful lusts, if it be not resisted and subdued. But this is not sufficient, that we put off the old man, unless we put on the new, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds after God; that is, after the image of God, which consisteth in righteousness and true holiness.
Note here, 1. That regenerating grace is called the new man; because the person has a new principle infused into him, (says the pious bishop Fell, upon the place), which enables him to lead a new life. Regenerate men, then, are new men; they have a renewed and enlightened understanding, they have a sanctified and renewed will, renewed affections and desires; old things are passing away, and all things becoming new.
Note, 2. That God himself is the pattern and exemplar, after which, and according to which, the new man is formed in the soul, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
What is Godliness, but Godlikeness? What is holiness, but the conformity of our natures to the holy nature of God, and the conformity of our lives to the will of God? Acts 13:1; Acts 20 . I have found David, a man after my own heart, who shall perform all my will.
Note, 3. That holiness is not only the reforming of the mind; and not only of the mind, but of the spirit of the mind: by which understand the highest and most refined faculties of the mind, that part which is most free from the dregs of sin, and which comes up nearest to God, as the spirit of the mind and understanding doth.
Verily, not our minds only, but even the spirit of our minds, need renewing, because corruption is got into the highest powers and superior faculties of the soul, and because we must serve God with all our mind; and if so, with the spirit of our mind; and blessed be God that regenerating and renewing grace is a universal principle, as sin was.
Did sin invade the whole soul, all the powers and faculties of it, and deprive us of the divine image?
It is the work of grace to restore our depraved natures to their primitive integrity; the renewed person is sanctified totus, though not totaliter; a new nature is found with him, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Our apostle closes this chapter with an exhortation to several duties belonging to the second table; namely, to abstain from lying, from anger, from stealing, from corrupt communication, from all bitterness of spirit, from malice and revenge, and to exercise brotherly kindness and mutual forgiveness.
From whence note, That Christians must make conscience of the duties of the second table, as well as of the first, and perform their duty towards their neighbour, as well as towards God; for the law is one copulative.
God spake all these words; the authority of the lawgiver is despised in the violation of the least command; when therefore second-table duties are performed by us, from arguments and motives drawn from the first table, that is, when, inobedience to God's command, and with an eye to his glory, we perform our duty to our neighbour, this is both an argument of our sincerity, and also an ornament to our profession.
Wherefore put away lying, & c. Lying was a vice very common among the heathens: it is likely, the Ephesians, in their heathen state, had been very guilty of it, for they thought it lawful, when it was beneficial, to lie: for they affirmed, that a lie was better than a hurtful truth.
Our apostle therefore exhorts them, now converted to Christianity, to speak exact truth one to another; and adds a forcible reason for it, because they were members one of another; that is, of human society, which by lying is destroyed; falsehood dissolves the bond of human society.
Learn hence, That there is no sin more unseeming in a Christian, more inconsistent with grace, more abominable to God, more like unto the devil, more injurious and prejudicial to human society, than the sin of lying; fidelity towards each other, and mutual confidence in each other, being that which makes human society both safe and easy.
Some understand these words only as a cautionary direction, and sense them thus: If ye be angry at any time, take heed that ye sin not, by exceeding due bounds; and if at any time it doth so, suppress it speedily, before the sun go down. This was a practice even amongst the heathen; before the sun went down, they would shake hands and embrace one another; to the shame of Christians, who gave place to the devil, according to the known proverb, Contubernalem habet diabolum, qui lectum petit iratus. "He that goes angry to bed, has the devil for his chamber-fellow;" yea, for his bed-fellow! nay, he lies not only in his bed, but in his bosom.
Others understand the words as a precept and command: Be angry, but take heed of sinful anger. Now the way to be angry and not sin, is to be angry at nothing but at sin; it is our duty to be angry when we see others depart from their duty. Meek Moses, who was cool enough in his own cause, was not so in God's; he has no zeal for God, that is not moved when he sees or hears God dishonoured.
Learn hence, 1. That anger being an affection implanted by God in the human nature, is not in itself evil or sinful, but in some cases a necessary duty.
Learn hence, 2. That there is an easy and ready passage from what is lawful to what is sinful, Be angry, and sin not; implying, that it is a very easy matter to sin in our anger, and no easy matter to be angry and not to sin.
Learn, 3. That it is very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid sin in our anger, if we let anger hang upon our spirits, and continue with us; anger may pass through the heart of a wise man, but rests in the bosom of fools: anger against sin must continue, but continuance in anger will be sinful.
To prevent the sin of immoderate anger, these rules will be useful:
1. Desire not to hear what others say of thee, lest you want patience to bear what you hear; many tear themselves with anger, when they hear themselves torn with slander; we had better be in the dark concerning our own wrongs, than by knowing of them wrong ourselves by passion or desire of revenge.
2. What you do hear said of you, interpret always in the most favourable sense; call it an infirmity, and distinguish between what is spoken and the intent of the speaker.
3. In and under all provocations, cast your eye upward, look up to God; and cast your eye inward, and see what you have deserved; though not at your neighbour's hand, yet at God's hand. Shimel gave David provocation to boil up his anger to the height of fury, 2 Samuel 16:5,but by eyeing God, how calm and meek was his spirit! Thus, be angry, and sin not.
Observe here, 1. The sin dissuaded from: theft and stealing. This the heathen nations counted no crime; they make no conscience, either openly or fraudulently, to take away their neighbour's goods. Therefore, says the apostle, let those of you, who in the time of your paganism and unregeneracy, were given to stealing, now, being converted to Christianity, do so no more.
Observe, 2. The remedy prescribed for the prevention of this sin; and that is diligence and labour in some honest calling: Let him labour, working with his hands. Idleness occasions poverty, brings men to want, increases their necessities, and then they betake themselves to indirect and unlawful means to supply them.
Observe, 3. One special reason why persons should labour in the way of their calling; that they might have to give to him that needeth; not only that they may have wherewith to relieve their own wants, but the wants of others.
Where note, That God expects charity from the hands of those who get their living with their hands: day-labourers, and such as have nothing to live upon but their work, must yet give their mite, their alms, for the help of the indigent.
Observe, 4. The restriction and qualification of this labour of the hands: he must work that which is good, that he may give to him that needeth. To relieve others with the gain of oppression, or with the hire af an harlot, is unacceptable; the matter of our alms must be goods righteously gotten, otherwise it is robbery, not righteousness.
Here the apostle directs us how to manage our tongues, both negatively and positively, telling us what we should not speak, and what we should: Let no corrupt, rotten, filthy discourse, come out of your mouth; such as have rotten lungs have a stinking breath; filthy discourse argues a polluted heart; such noisome discourse is unsavoury to an holy ear, and greatly offensive, contagious, and infecting to common and ordinary hearers.
Next, he tells them what they should speak: That which is profitable and edifying, and that which may minister increase of grace to the hearers. Our speech should be so gracious and savoury, seasoned with salt, Colossians 4:6. Truth, holiness, and prudence, is the salt of our words; Christians must not suffer their tongues to run at random in their ordinary discourse; it is not sufficient that they do not speak to evil purposes, but they must speak to edifying purpose; that which has a tendency to make the hearers some way or other either wiser or better, this the apostle calls that which is good to the use of edifying.
Observe here, 1. The title given to the Spirit of God: he is styled the Holy Spirit, being essentially and infinitely holy in himself, and the author of all grace and holiness in us.
Observe, 2. The affection of grief, which is here attributed to the Spirit, not properly, but improperly: when we do that which would most certainly afflict and grieve him, were he a subject capable of grief; and when, upon provocations given on our parts, he carrieth himself towards us after the manner of a person grieved, namely, when we provoke him to suspend his influence, to withdraw his comforts, leaving us wuthout any present sense of feeling of his assistances; he is also then grieved when he is opposed, interrupted, controlled, and disturbed, in his operations of grace and comfort upon our souls.
Observe, 3. The argument used to enforce the exhortation, not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God: because by it we are sealed to the day of redemption.
But what doth God's sealing his people by his Holy Spirit intimate and imply?
Ans. 1. It intimates that God has distinguished them from others.
2. That he has appropriated them to himself.
3. That he has put a value upon them, and a very high esteem. and,
4. It imports the irrevocable purpose of God for their salvation.
Seals are for these uses, ends, and purposes: seals are for distinction, for appropriation, for confirmation; and argue a high evaluation and precious esteem of the person or thing which the seal is put upon. Grieve not the Spirit, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption; that is, to the day of judgment.
Our apostle had exhorted, in the former verse, not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God; in the next verse, he acquaints us with the particular sins that would afflict and grieve him: namely,
Bitterness, that is, a secret grudge and a smothered displeasure against our brother:
Wrath, or an impetuous fierceness of spirit, upon some real or apprehended injury:
Anger, an eager desire of revenge:
Clamour, loud threatenings, or reviling language:
Evilspeaking, either of others, or to others:
Malice, a rooted enmity, the rage of the devil; and renders a man as like the devil as any sin on this side hell.
All these sins do exceedingly grieve the Holy Spirit; they make him both loathe and leave his lodgings.
In the last verse, as a proper remedy against all the foregoing sins, exhorts them to mutual kindness: Be ye kind one towards another; that is, of a sweet and loving disposition, affable and courteous to each other; neither carrying it loftily or morosely, but affably and humbly; tenderhearted, having a compassionate sense of the miseries and infirmities of one another; forgiving one another whatever has been matter of provocation in each other, according to the example of God, who for Christ's sake has forgiven us.
Learn hence, 1. That Christians are obliged by the laws of their holy religion, to forbear and forgive one another.
Learn, 2. That they are obliged to forgive one another, as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven them. As God forgives us universally, freely, heartily, and sincerely, and when he has power in his hand to revenge; so should we in like manner forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us.