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tations of evil Company, to entice them
into a Corruption of Manners: There are two dangerous Rocks, to be avoided by all that wish well to their own Souls, and he that will fail fafely between them, must carefully took about him, that he split not on either. This the Apostle here intimates to be the Case of these Ephesians; they had embrac'd Christianity, and so were in the right Way to Salvation, but they had many Enemies, that fought to cor-, rupt their Faith, or debauch their Manners, and so were in danger of being lost in the crooked Paths of Sin and Error; and therefore he lets them know, that all their Care and Watchfulness is little enough to provide against them : which is the same Advice with that of our Saviour, Watch and pray,
that ye enter not into Temptation. Mat. 26.41. 3dly, To walk, circumspectly is to take care to keep in the right Way, and to persevere in it to the end, not to remit our Diligence, nor grow weary of well-doing: We must not suffer either the Allurements or Discouragements of the World to turn us out of the Way, either to the right Hand, or to the left, but must keep steadily on without Fickleness or Fainting. 'Tis not enough to begin or set out at first, but we must hold on, and continue to the last, if we mean to win the Prize. We shall reap (faith the Apostle) if we faint not, and if we are faithful unto death, we Mall receive a Crown of Life; but if we faint and tire, or lose our way, we shall in the end reap nothing but Shame and Confusion,
In short, to walk circumfpe&tly is to look every way about us, that we be not annoy'd on any fide, nor at any time tread awry; 'tis to look upward by hearty and fervent Prayer, and downward by a diligent heeding our Steps : 'tis to look forward by Prudence and Foresight to what is to come, and backward by serious Reflection and Consideration of what is past; to look inward, by watching our Hearts, and keeping a Guard over our Thoughts ; and outward, by a due regard to our Words and Actions: and lastly, 'tis to look round about us, to prevent Surprize, and to avoid all Assaults. This is the Duty, here requir’d. Secondly, But what is the Pattern or Precedent here
preserib'd? Why that is, Not as Fools, but as Wife. There are some that wholly neglect their Watch, casting off all Care and Circumspection in their ways, and letting them
selves loose to all manner of Sin and Wickedness, whereby they run themselves into many unneceffary Troubles and Dangers : these act like Fools, and we are caution'd here not to follow or act like them. There are others that look carefully about them, weighing the Nature and Tendency of their Actions, and using their best Endeavours to prevent Temptations, or provide against them, whereby they escape many Evils that would otherwise befäl them: thefe act like wise Men, and such as these are here propounded to our Imitation, and are 'worthy to be follow'd. And from hence we learn,
1A, That a careless and diffolute Life is the greatest Fol. ly, and they who cast off all due Care of their Ways, act, like Fools; which is so plain, that Solomon scarce ever gives them any other Name: Fools (faith he) make a mock of Sin; and Fools despise Wisdom. This he makes the proper Stile and Character of all heedless and impenitent Sinners, and justly too, for they run headlong upon the greatest Dangers without any Sense or Confideration, and likewise prefer Trifles and Vanity before things of infinitely greater monient and concernment to them, which are known Acts. and Instances of Folly. Again,
2dly, We learn hence, that a holy and circumspect Walking is the truest Wisdom, and they that narrowly observe and take heed to their Ways, act like wise Men : This Solomon likewise often tells us, for he makes the Fear of God the beginning of Wisdomr; and the having it always before our Eyes, the Progress, the End, and the Completion of it: This preserves from many unneceffary Troubles here, and from 'eternal Misery hereafter ; which are high Acts and Instances of Wisdom.
In short, the Wisdoni or Folly of any is in nothing better seen, than in their Care and Choice of things : He that propounds to himself a good End, and pursues it by proper and suitable Means, is by all Men justly thought to act wisely; whereas he that either propounds to himself no End at all, or a very bad one, and hath no regard to the Honesty or Injustice of the Means by which he follows it, must be own'd by all to act very foolishly. Now this is what the Apostle here seeks to convince Sinners of, that to live heedlelly and incautiously, without a due sense of the Good or Evil of our Ways, is to be guilty of great Folly; but to walk warily and circumspectly, is to walk not as Fools, but as Wife.
But, Thirdly, how may this be done? Why, the next words direct us to one good Way or Means tending thereunto; and that is, the redeeming of Time. Now the redeeming of Time cannot be meant of the recalling or regaining that Time that is already past and gone, for that is impossible, but of the improving what remains to better advantage, and repairing that which we have lost, by a double Diligence in that which is to come : and there can be no better help to a wary and circumspect walking, than by making a good use of those precious Hours and Opportunities, which if loft or let lips are never to be recover'd. There are few or none have been so good Husbands of their
Tine, as not to mispend a great part of it. The doing nothing, and the doing of what is as good or rather worse than nothing, have taken up no small part of our days. Idleness, bad Company, vain Thoughts, Words and Ac. tions, have consum'd many of our precious Minutes: Now to redeem this Time, is not by feeding our felves with vain Hopes of living it over again to spend it better, for that was never granted to any, but by being truly sensible and sorry for what is lost, and making a better use of what is left. The more we have mispent, the more should we bestir our selves to redeem and repair it; the longer and farther we have been out of the way, the sooner should we return, and mend our pace after. The Time and Substance that have been squander'd away in Gaming, Folly, and Extravagance, must be repair'd by Acts of Piety, Devotion and Charity, and the unnecessary Visits and Vanities of the World be turn'd into the holy Exercises of Religion and Vertue. The time paft Mould suffice (faith the Apostle) to have served divers Lufts, and to walk according to the Course of the World ; the rest of our days should be devoted to the Service of God, and the Salvation of our Souls : and that will keep a watchful eye over our Ways, and restrain all our Wanderings.
But the redeeming the time here is by some thought to be what we call gaining of Time, to save our felves from any Evil or Danger that threatens : And this seems to be countenanc'd by
The Reason or Motive added in the next words, Because the Days are evil : intimating, that we should by Delays and all other prudent and lawful means endeavour to escape
those Evils, which a wicked World would bring upon us. Now the Days may be said to be evil, in respect of the Evil of Sin, and the Evil of Suffering upon both which accounts, the Days in which the Apostle wrote this Epistle might be juftly reckon'd so; for there were some who fought to 'corrupt the Faith and Manners of these Ephesians, and there were others who rais'd Persecutions against the Orthodox Christians, and both of them concur’d to make the Days evil and troublesom: for which reason he wills them to walk circumspectly, to look well to their ways, and to use the Wisdom of the Serpent, as well as the Innocence of the Dove, to avoid the Dangers and Difficulties that surrounded them. Neither are the Days in which we live less evil and perillous ; for we have too many who seek to seduce the People into Errors and Divisions, and we have others that threaten the Peace and Welfare of Church and State : so that we too have great need to use our utmost Care and Diligence, to be preserv'd from the Traps and Trials of an evil World, and to be kept holy and blameless to the Coming of our Lord Jesus.
From whence the Apostle infers, in the next words, Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the Will of the Lord is : that is, be wary and cautious in all your Behaviour,' not running into needless Dangers, nor declining neceffary ones, but labouring to know what the Lord would have you both to do and suffer, chusing still to keep a good Conscience, and rather to suffer than to sin against it. To which end,
He farther exhorts to avoid all carnal and brutish Sen. fualities, those especially that were used in the Heathen Bacchanals, to which the following words relate: And be not drunk with Wine, wherein is Excess, but be filled with the Spirit : that is, give no offence by any Intemperance or Excess, which will betray both your Reason and Religion; nor let your Hearts be at any time overcharg'd with Surfeiting and Drunkennefs, as the manner of the Heathen is, even in their religious Joy : but let your Hearts be reple. Trish'd with the Graces and Conforts of God's Holy Spirit, that your Mirth and Joy may be always spiritual ; Speaking to your felves in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs, finging and making melody in your Hearts to the Lord. If any be merry (faith St. James) let him fing. Psalms ; let him express his Mirth not in drunken Catches, but in pious Hymns, which at once édify and delight; and therefore
our Apostle would have us teach and admonish one another in Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual Songs, singing with Grace in our Hearts to the LordCol. 3. 16. This is to begin the Work of Heaven here upon Earth, to join with the holy Angels above, and by founding forth the Praises of our Maker, to prepare our felves for the Heavenly Choir. And indeed nothing tends more to elevate our Minds, to raise our Affections above this world, and to give us some Foretastes of Heaven, than a frequent Exercise and Delight in this Duty. To which the Apostle adds,
The great Duty of Thanksgiving, in the next words; Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where the Vertue of Thankfulness is made to extend to all times, and to all things. Adversity, as well as Prosperity, hạth-its Blessings and good Ends, and therefore both are to be thank'd for; In every thing give thanks, for they are all thankworthy. The Object is God the Father, from whom all good things come; but through the name and for the sake of God the Son, by whose Merits and Mediation they are deriv'd' to us: to whom therefore we are in Duty bound to give continual thanks, which is an Act of Justice as well as Religion, and is attended with present Pleasure, and an ample future Reward. :Lastly, To promote this Care and Circumspection of our Ways, we are: exhorted to the great Duty of Submission, in the last words ; Submitting your selves one to another in the Fear of God. Which implies not only Submission to Superiors, who have the Authority over us, and a Power to command us in all lawful things; but to Equals and Infe. riours, to whom we owe all the good Offices of Kindness and Charity, complying with their Infirmities, and yielding to all their reasonable Desires and Neceflities, and performing all the Duties that appertain to the several Conditions and Orders of Men.
This is the Sum of the Epistle for this Day; from which we may learn to set a strict guard upon our Ways, and to consider the Nature and Lawfulness of all our Actions and Designs, before we fet about them : let us do nothing rashly, nor carelesly run into Temptátion, but do our best to avoid them, and to abstain from all Occasions and Appea. rançes of Evil. To which end,