For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…
I. IT WAS HIS DESIRE THAT THEY MIGHT BE STRONG-MINDED MEN AND WOMEN. There exists a prejudice against strong-minded men, and a still greater prejudice against strong-minded women. This may be attributable to the circumstance that many strong-minded men and women are also strong-willed, and somewhat disposed to domineer. There exists, also, a prejudice, for which expression has been found in the assertion, that "ignorance is the mother of devotion." With none of these prejudices had the apostle any sympathy. He considered nothing so likely to awaken true worship as far-reaching, clear, comprehensive, and correct views of truth; and it was his desire that they to whom he wrote might have all the intellectual vigour necessary to the full enjoying of all the blessings of Christianity. Of "James Wait, the Pious Shepherd" — I quote from memory the title of his memoir, published many years ago, by Mr. Maclaurin of Coldingham — it is stated, that when seated at the Lord's table at Stitchel Brae, and subsequently at Kelso, there was vouchsafed to him an overpowering revelation of the glory of the Lord, and of His love to mankind sinners. He said, "I was no sooner set down at the table, than I found such a flood of the Spirit's consolation poured in upon my soul, that I was obliged to cover myself with my plaid, to keep it from the eyes of others. I found myself obliged to plead that the Lord would strengthen the vessel or hold His hand; for I found that I could not bear up." He felt that it was becoming more than he could stand, and that if carried further, he must expire in an agony of bliss. Thus would I illustrate what I mean. Yes I there are needed strong-minded men and women to sustain the conceptions which may be formed of infinite and eternal verities! Mark the phraseology employed by the apostle: "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man." When the ship by which he sailed from Myra was in peril at Clauda, they undergirded the ship. The expression before us is suggestive of strengthening by bracings within, as well as by girdings without; and it is expressive of a desire, that they to whom he wrote might be strong-minded men and women. But this exhausts not the expression of the apostle's desire on behalf of his brethren.
II. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women, THOROUGHLY IMBUED WITH A CHRIST-LIKE SPIRIT. Mark his expression! "Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." What is it that is meant, when it is said, as sometimes it is, by persons who do not hesitate to speak profanely, "The devil is in the man"? Is it not this: the man acts as if the devil had taken possession of his heart, and was influencing him in his every act? Corresponding to this seems the import of the expression employed — "that Christ may dwell in your hearts" — that you may be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit — strengthened with all might in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.
III. That they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit, and UNDERSTANDING HOW COMPREHENSIVE RELIGION IS. The views entertained by many in regard to what is comprehended in religion, are very narrow indeed. What is the love of Christ? Our love to Christ may be called the love of Christ: thus do we speak of the love of gold. Christ's love to us may be called the love of Christ: thus do we speak of a mother's love to her child. But there is yet another idea which may be expressed by the phrase, "the love of Christ;" and to express this idea, does it appear to me, that the phrase is employed by the apostle here. That idea I would illustrate thus: one doctrine of the apostle was, that the whole duty of man to man was comprehended in love. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." To this love, apparently, the apostle refers — the love inculcated by Christ, and manifested by Christ — a love embracing every duty of man, to himself, to his fellowmen, and to his God. It was his desire that they might be strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit; that they, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend how all-comprehensive religion is, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, extending, as it did, far far beyond what they knew or dreamed of. He says not, as many seem to suppose, that it cannot be known — on the contrary, he wished and prayed that it might be known by them. His wish was: Oh that they but knew how all-comprehensive religion is, and would live up to the conception which they attained! or, as I have expressed it, that they might be —
IV. Strong-minded men and women, thoroughly imbued with a Christ-like spirit, understanding how comprehensive religion is, and MAINTAINING A CORRESPONDING GOD-LIKE WALK AND CONVERSATION. It is to such a manifestation of godliness that we are destined and. called. A captious objector, or a careless unconcerned reader, may say, How can man be filled with all the fulness of God? — how can the finite comprehend the infinite? In a volume entitled, "The Tongue of Fire," there was given a beautiful illustration of the import of the apostle's figure. The illustration was double. The phraseology employed has long since escaped me, but the effect produced upon my mind remains. In substance the illustration was as follows: — There is a dewdrop hanging suspended from a blade of grass bent and pendent with its weight. While we are yet gazing on it, there falls upon it the slanting rays of the morning sun, and it shines as if it were itself a thing of light. It contains not, nor can it contain, the whole of the rays streaming from the orb of day. These illumine the whole hemisphere, and penetrate far on all sides into the depths of space — creating a sphere of light, sustained by successive rays, which it may require thousands of years to traverse, with all the velocity for which light is famous, the radius from the centre to the circumference, so vast the sphere; but that little dewdrop is filled with that fulness of light — to the full extent of its limited capacity full! Again: There is a marble cistern, filled to overflowing with the pellucid water of a perennial spring. It contains not, nor can it contain, all the waters of the fountain; it has been overflowing for years; but it is itself full — to its limited capacity filled — filled to overflowing — filled with the fulness of the fountain! Such is the illustration employed by the apostle: "filled with all the fulness of God." It is an illustration or expression suggestive, at least, of two ideas, both of them calling for consideration. "That ye might be filled," every faculty and affection of the soul sanctified — "filled." "Filled with all the fulness of God" — every Divine perfection having its counterpart in the life and spirit of the man; the justice of God having its counterpart in the justice of the man; the holiness of God its counterpart in the holiness of the man; the truthfulness of God in the truthfulness of the man; the long suffering of God its counterpart in long suffering manifested by the man. Every faculty and affection sanctified, and every perfection of God having its counterpart in the life and spirit of the man — the result of all being a God-like walk and conversation.
(J. C. Brown, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,