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DISCOURSE XLII.

The EPISTLE for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Eph. iii. 13, to the end.

I defire that ye faint not at my Tribulations for you, which is your Glory. For this caufe I bow my Knees unto the Father of the Lord Jefus, &c.

TH

HE Collect for this Day teaches us to implore the Divine Pity to purify and protect his Church; and because it cannot continue in Safety without his Succour, we beseech him to preserve it evermore by his Help and Goodness.

In the Epiftle for the Day we have an Account of St. Paul's praying thus in the behalf of the Church of Ephefus; which Epiftle begins with his Requeft to thefe Ephefians, and is continu'd with his Prayer for them, and concludes with his Doxology, or praifing God in their behalf: each of which must be particularly confider'd. And,

First, Of the Request that St. Paul here makes to these Ephefians, in thofe words, I defire that ye faint not at my Tribulations for you, which is your Glory. The Apostle had endur'd many and great Afflictions for their fake; for he, being the Apostle of the Gentiles, ordain'd and fent to preach the Gospel to them, was for that reafon mightily oppos'd and perfecuted by the Jews, who judg'd it unlawful to preach to any but thofe of their own Church and Nation; and no wonder, this being a Mystery not known to former Ages, who were fo far from preaching to the Gentiles, that they look'd upon them as Aliens and Outcafts, and thought it unlawful to converfe or have any thing to do with them. Yea, this Myftery was hidden from the very Angels, as we read ver. 10. of this Chapter: 'Twas firft reveal'd to St. Peter, Acts 10. who preach'd to the Gentiles, for which he was blam'd by the reft of the

Apostles,

Apoftles, and the Brethren of the Circumcifion, as we read Acts 11. And here in this Chapter St. Paul tells us, it was reveal'd to him, who was made a Minifter of this Difpenfation of the Grace of God, to preach unto the Gentiles the unfearchable Riches of Chrift. This he did to these Ephefians, who were fome of the Gentile Converts, to whom he was fent, and for fo doing he was made a Prifoner, and fuffer'd great Perfecution: fo he tells them, ver. 1. For this caufe I Paul am made a Prifoner of Jefus Chrift for you Gentiles. Now left they fhould be difcou rag'd by his Troubles for their fakes, and fall back again to Judaism and Circumcifion by his Bonds, he defires them here not to faint at his Tribulations for them; nor be any ways troubled at any thing that might befal him in their Caufe, which he tells them was their Glory, and therefore fhould be rather matter of Glorying and Rejoicing, than of Sorrow and Defpondency to them, that God fhould raife up and commiffion him to inftruct them in the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, and likewife to enable him to do and fuffer any thing for their Conversion and Salvation; which is a Cordial ftrong enough to keep them from fainting under his or their own Afflictions. And having thus endeavour'd to raise their Spirits by this Request to them, he proceeds,

Secondly, To his Prayers and falling upon his Knees for them; For this Caufe (faith he) I bow my Knees unto the Father of the Lord Jefus Chrift, of whom the whole Family of Heaven and Earth is nam'd, that he would grant you, &c. Where we may obferve,

ift, The Caufe or Occafion of his praying for them; For this Caufe.

2dly, The humble Posture he us'd in his Prayers; for this Caufe I bom my Knees.

3dly, The Object to whom his Prayer was directed; To the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift, &c.

4thly, The Subject-matter of his Prayer, in the following part of this Epistle.

I, For the Caufe or Occafion of his Prayer, that is imply'd in the words, For this Caufe, which relates to what went before, namely, to keep them from fainting at his Tribulations for them: That they might not ftumble or be offended at the Crofs of Chrift, which he and they might meet with in his Caufe; that they might neither faint nor Vol. IV. Part 2.

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fall away at any Troubles that might happen to either. This was the Occafion and Opportunity he made ufe of to offer up his Prayers in the behalf of thefe Ephefians; and gives us to understand, that in times of Difficulty and Trouble we are to put up our Prayers for Grace and Strength to bear them. Amictions and Troubles are apt to fink the Spirits, and our natural Weakness is fuch, that without the Divine Succour we cannot fstand upright, times of Trouble are times of Trial, and the Faith of many hath fail'd in the Furnace of Affliction. We read of fome, that in time of Temptation fell away, and when Perfecution arofe, by reafon of the Word, by and by they were offended. And therefore we must efpecially at fuch times pray to be preferv'd from Impatience and Apoftacy, and to be kept by the Power of God through Faith unto Salvation. This is a proper Seafon to make our Requests known unto God, that we may be enabled to ftand in the evil Day, and be in nothing_terrify'd by our Adverfaries, which will be our Glory. This the Apostle here did for the Ephefians, and we find him doing the fame in the behalf of the Philippians; for he being then a Prisoner at Rome, and fearing left their Faith should be fhaken by his Bonds, prays for them that they might ftand faft in one Spirit, with one Mind ftriving together for the Faith of the Gofpel: Phil. 1. 27, 28. This was the Cause or Motive of the Apoftle's Prayer; which may teach us to do the fame upon the like occafion, viz. to pray for Conftancy and Perfeverance in times of Perfecution, that our Faith be not fhock'd by our own or others Sufferings: And for this we have both a Precept, and a Promife of Encou ragement from God himself, faying, Call upon me in the time of Trouble, and I will hear thee, and thou shalt praise me; Pfal. 50. 12. From the Occafion of the Apoftle's Prayer I proceed,

2dly, To the humble Pofture us'd by him in it, and that was Kneeling; for this caufe I bow my Knees. This Circumftance is here taken notice of, to recommend it to our Imitation. St. Paul did not, as too many in our days do, fit at his Prayers, or prefent his Maker with a rude unmannerly Devotion; no, he fhew'd more Reverence, and bowed his Knees before him. Sitting (we know) is a Pofture of Eafe and Sloth, and betokens that Freedom and Familiarity which may well enough pafs among Equals, but is never us'd as a Gefture of Reverence or Refpect to Superiors. We count it a great Rudeness to fit in the Pre

fence

fence of a great Man, and never prefent a Petition to a Prince but upon our Knees; and fhall we fhew lefs Reverence to God Almighty, than we are wont to do to our Fellow-Creatures? The Prophet Malachi brings in the Almighty upbraiding the Irreverence of fuch as present him with the Lame, and the Blind, and other indecent Sacrifices; bidding them go and offer it to their Governors, and fee whether they would accept their Perfons, or be pleafed with fuch Services: Mal. 1. 8. And fhall we think that good enough for the great Majefty of Heaven and Earth, which would be reckon'd an Affront to earthly Magiftrates? If we confult the Precepts and Precedents of former times, we fhall find the Practice of good Men in all Ages to be kneeling, ftanding, or proftrating, but never fitting at their Prayers. David calls upon all that will draw nigh to God, to worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker; Pfal. 95. 6. Accordingly we find King Solomon kneeling upon his Knees before the Altar of the Lord, and Spreading up his Hands to Heaven; 1 Kings 8. $4. And the fame is affirm'd of him in 2 Chron. 6. 13. Daniel is faid to kneel upon his Knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as his Custom was; Dan. 6. 10. But left any fhould think this only an Old-Teftament Ceremony, we find in the Gospel our Bleffed Saviour upon his Knees, praying to his heavenly Father; Luke 22. 41. And generally they that addrefs'd to him for Mercy kneeled down and prayed, as we read Mar. 17. 14. Mark 1.40. St. Stephen's Prayer for his Perfecutors was upon his Knees; Acts 7. 60. and fo was St. Peter's, Acts 9. 40. St. Paul here is bowing his Knees unto God; and elfewhere tells us, that at the Name of Jefus, which is mention'd in every Prayer, every Knee should bow; Phil. 2. 10. 'Twere endless to recite the many places to this purpose.

And now methinks fo many Precepts and Examples for this humble Pofture of Kneeling fhould teach us better Manners, than to fit at our Prayers; efpecially confidering, that the Church, whereof we are Members, hath likewife requir'd this lowly Gesture from us: whereas that other of Sitting hath no where any Precept or Precedent to counte

nance it.

Indeed the adorable Greatness of the Divine Majefty is fufficient to check all manner of Irreverence in our Approaches to him; and a due Senfe of his infinite Distance from us would oblige us to all Humility of Body and Mind,

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and keep us from making too bold either in our Words or Gestures, when we addrefs to him.

I have fpoken the more of this, to convince you (if poffible) of the Evil and Indecency of this Practice, and to perfuade you to greater Reverence and Humility in the Houfe of God; who is greatly to be fear'd in the Assemblies of his Saints, and to be had in reverence of all that draw high to him. From the Gefture used by the Apostle in his Prayer, I proceed,

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3dly, To the Object to whom it was directed; and that was, to the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift: For this caufe I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift, of whom the whole Family of Heaven and Earth is named. Where the Object of our Prayers is defcrib'd, not by the lofty Stile of God Almighty, or the most High, which is apt to make us dread, and keep at a distance from him; but by the endearing Title of Father, to encourage us to draw nigh to him; and the Father of our Lord Jefus Chrift, who is thereby not only his Son, but our Saviour and elder Brother, to beget the greater Truft and Confidence in him by that near Relation.

He then who fent his only-begotten Son to die for us, and he who hath begotten us again to a lively Hope by his Refurrection from the Dead; he it is, to whom our Prayers are to be directed: 'Tis not to Saints or Angels, or the Virgin Mary, as the manner of fome is, for which we have not the leaft Direction or Encouragement, they being but Creatures like our felves, and unable either to hear or help us. 'Tis God only that heareth Prayers, and gives the Return of them; and therefore to him alone muft all Flesh come.

But tho God the Father be the principal Object of our Prayers, yet God the Son is the Mediator, in whofe Name and for whofe Merits we are to offer them up to him and therefore our Church hath taught us to conclude all our Prayers with the Merits and Mediation of Jefus Chrift t; of whom (as the next words tell us) the whole Family of Heaven and Earth is named. Where by the whole Family of Heaven and Earth is meant the whole Catholick Church, Part whereof is triumphant in Heaven, and Part ftill militant here on Earth: and this militant part here on Earth, confifting of Jews and Gentiles, by the Grace of the Gof pel incorporated into one Family, are all call'd by the Name of Chrift, and from him ftiled Chriftians.

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