Exposition of Ephesians 1:15-18

Exposition of Ephesians 1:15-18

by John Calvin

  1. For this cause, I also, having heard of the faith which you have in Jesus Christ, and of the love which you have towards all the Saints,

  2. Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.

  3. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, should give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, to have knowledge of Him.

  4. That is to wit, to have the eyes of your mind enlightened, that you might understand what the hope is which you ought to have of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance among the Saints.

We have seen already how Saint Paul brought the Ephesians not only to the chief but also to the only cause of their salvation, and showed that they must of necessity attribute all to God, without mingling any foolish presumption with it, as if to say that they themselves had furthered God's grace which they had received, either by their free will or by any good intent in them. Saint Paul therefore has shown, in effect, that not only the Ephesians to whom he spoke, but also those who had been God's Church before, ought all without exception to confess that all their welfare proceeded from God's only free goodness, not only because they were all redeemed by means of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also because He had called them to the belief of the Gospel, according to His choosing of them before the creation of the world.

And now he warrants all the said doctrine by the record which it yields to God, in that it magnifies His goodness, even when He is, as it were, separated from man's eye and from the sight of all witnesses. Truly, the doctrine of the Gospel ought not to be less esteemed when it is preached and published in the open face of the whole world, but yet it behoves him that speaks it to have it thoroughly printed in his heart, and to say the same thing in himself before God and His Angels, which he speaks before men. For otherwise, it were but a jangling, or rather a profaning of God's word, if a man should step up into the pulpit to talk like an angel, and in the meantime have no such meaning in his heart, nor be persuaded of the thing that he speaks. It were better that a man were drowned a hundred times than to bear abroad the most excellent record of salvation and of God's truth, and in the meantime not be persuaded in himself of the thing that he preaches, so that God and His Angels might know that he has the same thing printed in his heart. Therefore it is not without cause that, after Saint Paul has preached God's free goodness in choosing whom He liked, and in calling them to the knowledge of His Gospel when He had chosen them, and in confirming them with His strong hand, and by giving them invincible constancy and steadfastness when He had called them, now he adds that God knows his witnessing thereof to be in good earnest and unfeignedly. For he protests here concerning the prayers which he makes alone by himself, when no man could know his thought nor what he says and utters with his mouth, that even then he avows the same doctrine before God, inasmuch as he prays Him to vouchsafe to accomplish the thing that He has begun. Here, therefore, we have to mark first of all, that such as mind to have their labour profitable to the edifying of the Church, and such as have any true zeal, must not only give themselves to teaching but also therewithal pray God to work with them by His power and grace. For oftentimes it happens that we do but beat the water (yea, though we have the tongues of angels) because we do not pray to God to further the doctrine that we preach. For of ourselves, we are but unprofitable instruments, and when He has given us utterance, He must also make it effective, according as it is said, that he who plants is nothing, and he who waters is nothing, but it is God who gives the increase. Seeing it is so, let such as have the charge of teaching God's Church walk fearfully and carefully, and not only endeavour to win men to God but also humbly acknowledge that they can do nothing of themselves, and that they would but cast forth a sound into the air, which would vanish away out of hand if God did not work with them by the secret power of His Spirit. That, therefore, is the thing that we have to remember upon the words that Saint Paul speaks here.

But every one of us also ought to apply it generally to his own use. Therefore, when we come to be taught God's word, or when any of us reads it alone by himself, let us not imagine our wits to be subtle enough, and that we are able enough to understand whatsoever the scripture tells us. Let us acknowledge our own foolishness and pray to God to make His doctrine prevail with us in such a way that it may not slip from us.

This will be better perceived by the process that Saint Paul holds on here, if we weigh well all the words that he uses. He says that he gives thanks to God without end or ceasing for the faith which he heard to be in the Church of Ephesus, and for their love towards the Saints. Yet, notwithstanding, he continues his praying to God that He should enlighten them more and more and bring them to the perfection which all the faithful ought to labour to attain until God has taken them out of this world. Now, in that he says that he ceases not to give thanks to God, we see by his example where the faithful ought to spend their time. For indeed, the chief sacrifice that God requires and allows is that we should honour Him for all His benefits and yield Him His deserved praise for the same.

And it is not to be thought that this can be done, as you would say, by starts or by patches. Just as God on His side ceases not to pour out His benefits infinitely, so also it behoves every one of us to enforce ourselves to bless and praise Him without ceasing. For Saint Paul speaks here unfeignedly, and when he blessed God for the Ephesians, he meant as much for all other Churches. What an unkindness then were it if a man should not think at all upon the benefits that he has received at God's hand? We are all of us bound to praise God for our neighbours. If we hear it reported that God has prospered His Church or shown mercy to His people a hundred leagues off, and to be short, if we hear of anything that ought to make us glad, it becomes our mouths to be open to praise God for it.

Now, if we are bound to do this for the good turns that we see not, but which our neighbours feel, though they be distant in far countries from us, what is to be thought of us when God fills our mouths (as it is said in the Psalm) and yet in the meanwhile we have no mind at all to yield Him thanks? We have to note further that if we are bound to praise God for our meat and drink and for all the things that belong to this fleeting life, He binds us to Him much more without comparison when He calls us to the heavenly heritage and when He blesses and enriches us with spiritual gifts of grace, which serve to lead us far further than this world. Seeing then that God uses such bountifulness towards us, what excuse can we have if we follow not the example that is shown us here in Saint Paul, which is that all our life long we must occupy ourselves continually in praising the name of God?

Now herewithal, he shows that faith and charity are the very gifts of God and come not of ourselves, as men always imagine through a devilish pride. I told you before that Saint Paul played not the hypocrite in giving thanks to God for the faith and charity of the Ephesians. If every man could believe and had faith of his own inclination, or could get it by some power of his own, the praise thereof ought not to be given unto God, for it were but a mockery to acknowledge ourselves beholden to Him for that which we have from others than Him. But here Saint Paul blesses God's name for enlightening the Ephesians with faith and for framing their hearts unto charity. Therefore, it is to be concluded that all the whole comes from God.

The heathen men, bringing in their own free will, thought themselves beholden to God for nothing but their good fortune, as they termed it, for they surmised that they had all things by their own power and policy. The Papists also will well grant that God's grace must help us in part, but yet for all that, they will have man still exalted and to attain to faith by his own motion. Here, Saint Paul shuts out all these devilish opinions and shows (as we have seen heretofore) that whenever there is any Church in the world, or any people to call upon God, which are settled and grounded upon the belief of the Gospel, God deserves to have the whole glory thereof.

And why? For His hand must needs have wrought in that case because men would never incline to any goodness if they were not guided and governed to it, yea, and even drawn to it perforce by the Holy Ghost. For there is so great a wilfulness in us that we are not only weak and feeble, as the Papists imagine, but also utterly contrary to God until such time as He has cleansed us. This is the thing which He means in saying by His prophet Ezekiel that the hearts which were stony before shall be turned into fleshly hearts, namely that He will soften them and bow them to His obedience.

Furthermore, under these two words, Faith and Love, Saint Paul has comprehended the whole perfection of Christians. For the mark whereat the first table of the Law aims is that we should worship one only God and depend upon Him for all things, acknowledging ourselves to be so indebted to Him, as we ought to flee to Him alone for all refuge, and endeavour to spend our whole life in His service. That is the sum of the first table of the Law.

The contents of the second are nothing else but that we should live together in equity and uprightness, and deal in such a way with our neighbours as we should strive ourselves to help all men without hurting any man. And we are sure that God has set forth so good and perfect a rule of good living in His law, that nothing can be added to it. Seeing it is so, it is not without cause that Saint Paul in this place sets down faith in Jesus Christ and charity towards our neighbour as the sum of whole Christian conduct, showing whereunto we ought to frame ourselves, and which is our rule.

But herewithal, we have also to mark that under this word Faith, he comprehends the whole service of God. For it is impossible that we should not be wholly ravished in love to our heavenly Father, being once acquainted with His goodness, as He has shown it to us in the person of His only Son. Behold, God draws us out of the dungeon of confusion and death, opens us the gate of the heavenly kingdom, and tells us that He will take us for His children. Now, can we hear and believe this, but that we shall be wholly given over unto Him, forsaking the world, and hating the evil that is in ourselves, because it separates us from Him? You see then how the word Faith imports a full yielding over of ourselves wholly unto God.

Again, faith is not an idle thing: it imports that we should resort unto God, and that whenever we are stained with any blot, we should pray to Him to redress it. For there is no necessity in the world which is not as a dash with a spur, which God gives us to make us come unto Him. Faith therefore imports prayer and supplication. It imports moreover that it cannot be but we must hallow the name of God by resting ourselves upon Him, and by yielding Him the whole glory that belongs to Him, when we know that He gives us all things of His own free goodness, looking for nothing at our hands but only the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Thus, you see how faith imports all that is contained in the first table of the Law. True, it is that the part is put for the whole: howbeit it is to be considered that the things which we have spoken of cannot be put asunder.

Now then, it stands us in hand to live uprightly and indifferently with our neighbours, as it is said in the sixteenth Psalm, that we are beholden to God for all things, and that we cannot yield Him any recompense again, and that when we have strained ourselves to the uttermost to bestow aught upon Him, all that we can do is neither here nor there to Him. What requires He then? That we should be given to doing good to His poor faithful ones, according as Saint Paul also names the Saints expressly in this text. True, it is that we ought to use charity towards all men without exception: for we cannot be the children of God, who makes His sun to shine both upon good and bad, except we love our enemies and strain ourselves to succour and help them.

That therefore is the mark that we must aim at. Yet, notwithstanding, this hinders us not to love all God's children with a brotherly love, because they are knit unto us with a stricter bond. That is the cause why it is said as well in my fore-alleged text of the sixteenth Psalm as in this present one of Saint Paul that we must have love towards all the faithful. Yes, and Saint Paul himself in another place does well discuss the doubt that may be cast in this behalf. For he wills us to have charity to all men in general, and chiefly to such as are of the household of faith. God then will have us to become like Himself and to follow His example in doing good to all men, even to such as are not worthy of it, insomuch that we should to the uttermost of our power procure the welfare of those who seek nothing else but to pick out our eyes.

Moreover, forasmuch as He has set His mark upon all the faithful, and commended them unto us, He will have us to bear a certain special brotherly love towards them. For God's gifts are to be esteemed wheresoever they are seen, according to the fifteenth Psalm, where it is said that we must love such as fear God and abhor such as are wicked. Then, if we see the tokens that God has put into His faithful, whereby He comes near them, is it not meet that we also on our side should be stirred up to love them? To be short, we see that Saint Paul has comprised here the whole rule of good and holy conversation: that is to wit, that first of all we must give over ourselves wholly to our God, to stick steadfastly unto Him. And secondly, live even and uprightly with our neighbours, abstaining from all evil doing, and endeavouring to do good to all men according to our power and ability.

And how may that come to pass? Even by knowing our heavenly Father, and by acknowledging the infinite good turns which He has done us, and whereof He vouchsafes to make us partakers daily, so as all our whole life depends upon Him, and He only be the party at whose hand we look for everlasting salvation, by calling upon Him and by yielding Him thanks all our life long. Let that serve for the first point.

Again, as touching the second, it is not possible for us to love our neighbours, but we must also live soberly without showing any evil example, and look in such wise to our behaviour, as no man may have cause to complain of us. For what charity is there in a whoremonger that goes about to dishonour another man's wife? Or in a thief that seeks to steal another man's goods? Again, seeing that our life ought to be guided with all honesty, whenever any man bursts out into drunkenness, blasphemy, or such other things, it cannot be, but that in so doing there must be some troubling of poor folks, some robbing them of their goods, or some starting out into all manner of extortions and excesses.

So then, if we have charity and love towards our neighbour, we shall live a sound and upright life with them, and we shall rule it in such wise that we shall not busy ourselves about vain fancies, as the Papists do. For they take great pains in their ceremonies, and they call it God's service to babble much, and to gad here and there on pilgrimage, and to do this or that: and in the meantime, they do but wander away in their own imaginations: and that is only for want of knowing whereto God calls them. To the end, therefore, that we take not labour in vain, let us mark what God allows, and let us hold to that. For we cannot miss if we abide continually in the way, as He shows it us by His word, especially since He shows us in so small a room what is requisite to the leading of such a life as becomes us.

For were the volumes long and without end, we would excuse ourselves that we were no great scholars, and that we could not bear away so many things. But now, seeing that our Lord utters His whole demands in two or three words, we must needs grant that if we bear not away so short and easy a lesson, we are too peevish and froward, and stop our ears wilfully, lest we might hear what He says unto us.

Finally, it is to be noted upon this word Faith, that Saint Paul does not without cause say, the faith in Jesus Christ, for that is the thing which we must look at. The fathers of old time had always the image of God before their eyes, for they might not make sacrifice but before His mercy seat: they might not hope that God heard them, or was merciful to them by any other means. They then had the visible image of the Ark of the Covenant: but we have now Jesus Christ, the image of God, who was invisible of Himself: for not without cause does Saint Paul say that God is incomprehensible till He manifests Himself in the person of His Son. Therefore, since we have Jesus Christ who is the express image of God, it behoves us to look there. And here you see also why it is said that He is the express image of the power of God His Father.

For although the persons be distinct, yet does He represent unto us the things that are belonging and requisite to our salvation, so that in knowing the Son, we know the Father also, as says Saint John: and he that has not the Son, renounces the Father, whatever protestation he makes of going to Him. So then, whereas it is said here that we must believe in Jesus Christ, let us bethink us of the warning which He gives to His disciples. "Believe ye in God," says He, "believe ye also in Me." There He shows that the ancient fathers which lived under the Law had but a dark teaching until the time that He was manifested to the world.

True it is that they worshipped the living God, and that they had no access unto Him but by means of the Mediator. Howbeit, that was but under shadows and figures, neither had they any such light as we have nowadays under the Gospel. And for that cause also, I told you that He is called the image of God, who is of His own nature invisible, so as we could not know Him, unless He uttered Himself by such means. To be short, let us mark that we do nothing else but wander until we have our faith settled in Jesus Christ.

And this will be the better perceived by the errors wherewith the world has been imbrued unto this day. For the Papists will protest well enough that they believe in God: as much do the Turks and the Jews also. True it is that the Papists and Jews seem to come nearest the truth: for the Jews protest that they worship the living God, even the same God that gave them His Law by Moses. But what for that? In the meantime, they reject Christ, who is the end and substance of the Law.

As for the Papists, although they profess Christianity and avow Jesus Christ to be their saviour, yet it is apparent that they make war against Him, inasmuch as they set up serving of God after their own liking, so as there is nothing but disorder in all their doings. As touching the Turks, they can well enough say, "Almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth," but shall we think that God will renounce Himself or unsay that which He has said, which is, that no man can come unto Him but by His well-beloved Son, whom He has ordained to be the mediator between Him and men? Again, we see how the Papists will well enough say that they believe in God, but yet, withal, they will need patrons and advocates to bring them to His presence. Again, it is not enough for them that they are bought with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: they must also put to their own merits and ransom themselves by their own satisfactions: and when we have offended God, we must have such means and such.

Then if a man lists to examine the Papists' belief, surely he shall find that they believe their own dreams, and that all that ever they do is but a confused maze. For with Jesus Christ they mingle whatsoever comes in their own head, whereas we know that He ought to continue whole alone by Himself. We see then how Saint Paul leads us to the true trial of our faith: which is by resting upon Jesus Christ, so that we feel ourselves utterly void of all goodness, and that we must draw from out of His fulness to be filled with all good things, or else woe will be unto us. For if we had all the angels in heaven on our side (if it were possible), yet it is certain that all should go to wreck if we have not the said head, as Saint Paul says in the first and second chapters of the Epistle to the Colossians. And so you see what we have to gather upon that sentence.

Now, after Saint Paul has said that he thanks God for the things that he saw already in the Church of Ephesus, he adds that he prays to Him also. This is to show us that when we see God bestow His excellent gifts upon His children, we need to beseech Him still to continue and go forward with the same, and that for two causes. For he that stands may happen to fall, and again, God needs to increase His grace more and more. For even those who are the perfectest shall have cause to be ashamed if they look well into their own wants.

You see then that the thing whereunto Saint Paul brings us is that when we praise God for the gifts which He has bestowed upon His chosen children, we ought to match prayer also with our thanksgiving. And why? For it is in His only to bring to pass the thing that He has begun: and it behoves us to lay always this ground, "Lord, Thou wilt not leave the work of Thine own hands half undone." And the same thing which we ought to do for others is also requisite for ourselves.

To be short, we are here warned to magnify God in such wise for His goodness and gifts which we have felt already, as we must perceive that there is still much default in us, and that it stands us on hand that He should give us perseverance to the end. Moreover, He should correct our vices and augment His grace in us till we come to full perfection, which thing will never be until we are rid of this mortal body. Yet notwithstanding, we see how Satan nowadays possesses such as surmise a hellish perfection, and make but the three first petitions to their Father, saying that it is enough to pray God that His name be hallowed, that His kingdom come, and that His will be done: and so they cut off all the rest of the prayer which our Lord Jesus has left us.

And for this matter, I have the signing of their own hands which their disciples know, whereby those devils show that they must needs be utterly without wit, seeing they are carried away so far as to refuse to yield God this glory, that even now we are yet still over-laden with the burden of our infirmities, held down with a store of corruptions, and hemmed in with an abundance of vices, and that God must be fain to cleanse us of them more and more, yea even from day to day, until He has brought us to the perfection whereto He calls us. And it stands us so much the more on hand to mark this doctrine well because the Papists are not so far overshot in the errors of their superstitions and idolatries as these varlets are, which do nowadays sow abroad their poisons in their privy meetings and lurking holes.

But however they fare, let us mark well what is showed us here by the Holy Ghost when Saint Paul says that he prays to God. And why? I have told you already that the Ephesians had profited, and that the gifts of God and of His Holy Spirit were augmented in them: he has shown that. Now to knit up the matter, he says further that he prays to God to give them that which they have not, and which they want as yet. Since it is so, let us mark that the more we have profited, the more cause we have to humble ourselves, and with all mildness to beseech God to finish the thing that He has begun, and to increase His gifts in us until we need no more to go any further, which shall be at the meeting, whereof we shall speak more in the fourth chapter.

But yet we must mark well the words that Saint Paul uses. For he says, "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory," or the glorious Father (for the speech "Father of glory" is put in the Hebrew tongue for "glorious Father"), give you the spiritual revelation to have knowledge of Him. Now, when Saint Paul sends us here to Jesus Christ, saying that the God whom he calls upon is the same who is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, yea and His Father too, it is to show the trust that he had to be heard, and that the Ephesians should take heart to follow the same fashion and rule of praying, and that when they have any occasion to resort unto God, they should hold the same way that he did and keep by the straight line of coming through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But now, if a man demands how God is above our Lord Jesus Christ, the question is easy to be resolved, if we have an eye to the person of the mediator, who is abased in our stead and degree, to be the means between God and us. True it is that Jesus Christ is all one with His Father, and when we speak of the living God, it behoves us to acknowledge that the whole fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him. Therefore, we must not separate our Lord Jesus Christ, as though He were a new God and some other than the same that was shown to the fathers from the beginning (as some devils say nowadays, which have stirred up that stinking villainy and abomination). But it is the selfsame only one God who has shown Himself to us in the person of the Father, so we seek Him in Jesus Christ. For in Jesus Christ we have to consider the office of the mediator, in that He so abased Himself. Not that He forfeited any whit of His majesty, nor that He was any whit abridged or diminished of His eternal glory—there was no such thing at all. But as in respect of us He was abased, yea and utterly emptied. And we must not be ashamed to say that Jesus Christ was abased, seeing it is said that He was emptied: for that is the very word that Saint Paul uses to the Philippians.

Therefore, when we speak of Jesus Christ as He is joined to us, to the end to bring us to His Father: so is He under God His Father, namely in respect that He has taken our nature upon Him and is become our fellow. And that also is the cause why He said to His disciples (as Saint John reports in his twentieth chapter), "Go ye to my brethren and tell them, I go to my God and your God, to my Father and your Father." Lo, how Jesus Christ joins Himself in such wise with His faithful ones, that He says He will have one selfsame God with them. Yea verily, but in what sort? For is He not God Himself? Yes: however, forasmuch as He is clothed with our flesh, and inasmuch as He vouchsafed to be made flesh, to the end that we might be members of His body: that is the cause why He has one God with us. And that is the cause also why the Apostle applies this text of Isaiah to His person: "Lo, here am I with the servants whom Thou hast given Me," so as Jesus Christ comes there as a captain that presents himself before his king and prince, saying, "Lo, here I am with the company of children whom Thou hast given Me."

However the case stands, we see that Jesus Christ draws us to God His Father, to the end we should repair to Him with full trust, and He receive us. For otherwise, who is he that dares be so bold as to promise himself that his request should be heard? What grace could we obtain, if the gate were not opened to us by Jesus Christ, and that He performed not the thing that He has spoken, namely, that He is the way?

However, to the intent we might better know what need we have to be guided by our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Paul sets here before us the infinite glory of God. How dare we then be so bold as to offer ourselves into God's sight, but for that we have an advocate who makes us a way in thither? For if the sun dazzles men's eyes, and the heat of it singes us though we be very far off from it, what will become of us when we will press unto God? For what else is the sun than a little power which He has breathed into it? And must we not needs be as it were swallowed up when we press to the incomprehensible majesty that is in God? Yet, notwithstanding, if we have Jesus Christ, we have to understand that God is not only the Father of glory, but also the Father of mercy, and that He looks with pity upon such as are most miserable and are held in reproach and disdain of the world. Lo, whereupon we ought to rest in praying unto God.

Saint Paul prays to God here expressly to give the Ephesians the spirit of wisdom and revelation. It is certain that God had already revealed to them the truth of His Gospel, as it is seen. And verily, we could not have one spark of faith or of light except God had wrought in us already, according as it is said to Peter in the sixteenth chapter of Saint Matthew, "Flesh and blood has not opened these things unto thee, but my heavenly Father who is in heaven." And yet for all this, Peter shows afterward that he knew not any whit of Christ's spiritual kingdom. Then, although he were but as a silly novice at his A.B.C., yet it is witnessed of him that the small taste of the Gospel which he had was a gift from heaven.

Hereby we see how God must be fain to increase His gifts more and more in us, and in that respect, our life is termed a way because we must always go on forwards till our race is ended. And whosoever imagines any perfection in this world is possessed of Satan and utterly renounces God's grace. Yet notwithstanding, let us not surmise that God changes His purpose (for He is not variable) or suffers His grace to be chopped out in gobbets and cantles at men's pleasures. But He has appointed this order: that we should grow from day to day, and yet therewithal learn to acknowledge soberly our wants and to groan for them, and to dislike them, and to hold ourselves always in awe.

You see then that these two things agree very well: namely that the Ephesians had already received the spirit of revelation, and yet that they needed to have it given them of God. For although there be but one spirit, yet are the gifts diverse, and they are distributed to every one of us in measure, and as it pleases Him to give them. There is none but Jesus Christ who has received them fully. He only is the fountain that can never be drained dry; it is He upon whom God's spirit rests, to the end that we should all of us be made partakers of it. And for our own parts, let us acknowledge that the wisest of us have need always to be scholars and to learn still even to our dying day.

However, by the way, let us mark that this word revelation condemns us of all blindness. For we have our eyes open to discern between white and black: we see the sun and the moon, we see these worldly things and are able to judge of them: we need no new revelation for that gear, for we have it of nature. True it is that our eyes are instruments of God's power and goodness, whereby He makes us to enjoy the light: but that is a common thing. But here Saint Paul shows us that we are blind and that we conceive not any whit of God's spiritual grace except He opens our eyes and takes away the kerchief or veil that is before them, yea and gives us a new sight, which we have not. For we have our eyes worse than stopped until He enlightens them by His Holy Spirit. Thus you see what we have to bear in mind.

And that is the thing which he proceeds still withal. Namely (says he) to have the eyes of your understanding enlightened. But a man might reply, "If we have the spirit of revelation already, why have we need of it?" Verily, as who should say, you saw nothing at all. True it is that you see partly: but you have your eyes still too much dimmed. And this may be said generally of all men, according as it is said, that in this world we see things but darkly, and as it were through a glass, till we are able to behold God in His heavenly glory, at which time we shall be fashioned like unto Him.

Again, to the intent that men should not allege (and say), "Must God then reveal things in such wise unto us, as if we were in such taking that we could see nothing at all? And shall a man be as a brute beast without discretion or judgment?" To answer hereunto, it is true that we have some wit, but yet are we blind for all that, because we are corrupted by sin. God, therefore, must be fain to give us new eyes, as I said afore. And he adds the word wisdom, the better to beat down the fond overweening that men conceive in themselves, when they will needs fly without wings to come unto God. For there is not that man who would not be wise.

If we desired true wisdom by seeking it at God's hand, it were a good and well-ruled desire. But there are two faults in us: for we will needs be wise after our own conceit. "Am I not wise enough to govern myself?" will a fool say. And in the meanwhile, we despise God's word, and every one of us will needs have the bridle laid loose in our neck, and have leave given him to do what he thinks good. But that is too great an overweening. The other vice is, that in reading the holy scripture, we still imagine to come to the knowledge of the things that are contained there by our own discretion. But here both twain of them are excluded by Saint Paul.

For when he desires God to give His faithful ones the spirit of wisdom, he shows that they have no discretion, no more than brute beasts, except it be by the guiding of our Lord Jesus Christ, on purpose to come to the kingdom of heaven. For even in civil matters and worldly affairs, God gives it not to any but to such as He thinks good. Now, if He keeps His special goodness always to Himself, to give discretion to whom He lists to guide Himself withal in these base things of the world: then does He make the unbelievers to be well-sighted: and therefore, when the case concerns the heavenly life, there is no preparation in us. And so Saint Paul presupposes the thing which I have said already, namely, that we must be taught at God's hand, to know Him by the doctrine of truth through the record of the Gospel. For without that, we should be like these fantastical fellows, who rove under the pretence of having the revelation of God's Holy Spirit: however, that is not after the manner that Saint Paul takes the word revelation when he prays God to give it to His children.

As for example, when Jesus Christ speaks of His spirit, He does not separate it from the doctrine that He had preached. "When the spirit comes," says He, "He shall tell you all truth." And how is that? Had not the apostles received it already? Yes: but He adds, "He shall show you the things that you hear now of My mouth." To be short, it is the peculiar office of the Holy Ghost to teach us in such wise as the word which we hear may therewithal have its course and place, and as we may profit in the same.

And thereupon Saint Paul shows also wherein lies all our light and knowledge: namely, in knowing God in the person of His only Son. That, says he, is the thing wherewith we must content ourselves. For if we have ticklish wits to be inquisitive of the things that pass our capacity, let us consider a little how weak and raw our understanding is. And if our wits are so gross and heavy, how shall we do when we would soar above heaven and earth? Are we able to comprehend all that in so small a room? Yet nevertheless, we see how men take unmeasurable leave to be inquisitive of this and that, and to put forth questions in a way of pleading and disputing against God. For this cause, Saint Paul shows us here that if we mind to be wise, it behoves us to be sober: that is to wit, we must understand what manner of thing God and our Lord Jesus Christ is, as he himself will show anon after. When we are once come to that point, we have so much as ought well to suffice us, and if we presume to go any further, it is but a wilful overthrowing of ourselves. Saint Paul then will show that more at length hereafter, but it ought to suffice us, that as well in this text, as in all the whole holy scripture, we ought to learn which is the God whom we ought to serve, what is His will, how we may have our trust in Him, what entrance we may have to pray to Him, and to flee to Him for succour at all times. That is the thing whereunto we must employ ourselves.

But that cannot be done unless all that ever we have need of, and is available to our welfare, is to be had in Jesus Christ, in whom God has manifested Himself. For in itself the majesty of God is too high a thing, and we should be undone a hundred times before we could come near Him, if it were not that He has come down unto us. But if we once have Jesus Christ, there we have a lively image of Him, wherein we may behold whatsoever is requisite for our salvation. For there we understand that God is our Father, and that we are cleansed from all our sins to be transformed into the glory of God. There we see how God accepts us as righteous, and that we are reconciled to God again. There we perceive how He has ransomed us, and that we shall never be left destitute of the grace of His Holy Spirit, till He has brought us to the joy of our inheritance. Thus do we know all these things in our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is the cause also why Saint Paul says in another place, that he desired not to know any other thing than Jesus Christ, and that it is He only of whom he intended to boast.

According whereunto we have seen heretofore, how he forsook all things to abide under the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that although the same has to the world nothing but shame and reproach, yet he protests that he had given over all that he had esteemed afore, and that he esteemed them but as hindrance and loss, yea and as filth and dung, to the intent to cleave to our Lord Jesus Christ. And to show that such as are possessed with the fond opinion of their own deservings, do separate themselves from our Lord Jesus Christ, and that if we will be knit unto Him, we must give over all that we imagine ourselves to have of our own, and offer ourselves unto Him void of all goodness, to be filled at His hand.

And here you see also why Saint Paul says that he had rather come to the haven of salvation poor and stark naked, than to live in the midst of the sea, and to be there swallowed up. For although he was taken for a holy man, and as half an angel, yet he made no reckoning of all that, so he might be partaker of the remission of sins that was given him in Jesus Christ, and of the grace which He has communicated to all His members. Therefore, let us learn to magnify God's grace in such wise, as we may utterly forget all the toys wherewith the devil deceives the unbelievers, by puffing them up with I know not what manner of pride, and come utterly empty to our Lord Jesus Christ to beg His grace. For we cannot receive one drop of it, but by confessing ourselves to be utterly unworthy of it.

And now let us fall down before the majesty of our good God, with acknowledgment of our faults, praying Him to make us perceive them more and more, and that the same may so humble us, as we may be established in His grace, and labour to come nearer and nearer unto Him, that being beaten down in ourselves, we may be raised up by Him through His mere mercy, and depending altogether upon Him, resort unto Him as to our Father, and continue in so doing till He has taken us out of the prison of sin, and joined us perfectly to Himself. That it may please Him to grant this grace, not only to us, but also to all people. Amen.

Translated by Arthur Golding