Ephesians 3:19
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Sermons
A ParadoxP. F. J. Pearce.Ephesians 3:19
All Shall be FilledCawdray.Ephesians 3:19
Christ's LoveH. Macmillan, D. D.Ephesians 3:19
Christ's Love, Known and UnknownG. Brooks.Ephesians 3:19
Christ's Transcendent LoveE. Johnson, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
Different CapacitiesBowden.Ephesians 3:19
Filled with All the Fulness of GodJ. Fergusson.Ephesians 3:19
Filled with God's FulnessG. Brooks.Ephesians 3:19
Knowing the Love of ChristT. Dale, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
Past KnowledgeH. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
St. Paul's Wonderful PrayerM. Simpson, D. D.Ephesians 3:19
The Climax of All PrayerAlexander MaclarenEphesians 3:19
The Fulness of GodS. Martin, D. D.Ephesians 3:19
The Fulness of GodR. W. Dale, LL. D.Ephesians 3:19
The Fulness of GodT. Guthrie, D. D.Ephesians 3:19
The Knowledge of Christ's LoveC. H. Spurgeon.Ephesians 3:19
The Knowledge of the Love of Christ Accessible to AllR. W. Dale, LL. D.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of ChristR. W. Hamilton.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of ChristJohn Trapp.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of ChristC. H. Spurgeon.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of ChristW. Jay.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of Christ Known and Beyond KnowledgeD. Curry, D. D.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of Christ, How Known by ChristiansR. Hall, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
The Love of GodMcLaurin.Ephesians 3:19
The Paradox of Christ's LoveA. F. Muir, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
The Surpassing Love of ChristJ. Flavel.Ephesians 3:19
The Unfathomable Love of ChristD. V. Phillips.Ephesians 3:19
The Unsearchable StudyT. J. Judkin, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
Varied Happiness in HeavenH. G. Salter.Ephesians 3:19
What is that Fulness of God Every True Christian Ought to Pray and Strive to be Filled WithV. Alsop, M. A.Ephesians 3:19
A Prayer on Behalf of the Ephesian ChristiansR. Finlayson Ephesians 3:14-19
Intercessory PrayerD. Thomas Ephesians 3:14-19
The Great Mystery of the Love of ChristW.F. Adeny Ephesians 3:14-19
A Pattern of PrayerCanon Vernon Hutton.Ephesians 3:14-21
An Ascending PrayerA. G. Brown.Ephesians 3:14-21
Christian PrayerG. Brooks.Ephesians 3:14-21
KneelingEphesians 3:14-21
Kneeling in PrayerEphesians 3:14-21
Paul's Prayer for the Ephesian ChristiansJ. C. Brown, LL. D.Ephesians 3:14-21
Prayer a Self-RevelationA. G. Brown.Ephesians 3:14-21
St. Paul's Example as to PrayerPaul Bayne.Ephesians 3:14-21
St. Paul's Prayer for Gentile ChristiansA. F. Muir, M. A.Ephesians 3:14-21
The Christian Brotherhood - Paul's Second PrayerR.M. Edgar Ephesians 3:14-21
The Christian Temple: its Material and MagnitudeA. J. Parry.Ephesians 3:14-21
The Ladder of PrayerC. H. Spurgeon.Ephesians 3:14-21
The Top of the LadderC. H. Spurgeon.Ephesians 3:14-21
The Comprehension of the Love of ChristT. Croskery Ephesians 3:18, 19
That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may comprehend and know the love of Christ. The effect of Christ's indwelling in believers is to root them and found them deeply in love - love being the root of the tree of life in the one case, and the foundation of the temple or house in the other; for the soul, ever contemplating Christ within it, is changed into his very likeness. The apostle means that the Ephesian saints would grow in the knowledge of that love by growing into the likeness of that love. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God; the meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way." The truths of God are by them spiritually discerned. There is a deep philosophy in this matter. Men cannot understand each other except so far as they have the radical elements of the same experiences in themselves. I understand what you mean when you say you are hot or cold, because I have had sensations of heat and cold in myself. Thus people of dissimilar tempers, or culture, or opportunities are apt to misunderstand each other. A vulgar man cannot understand a man of high refinement. A practical man of the world, who is today what he was yesterday, and will be tomorrow what he is today, can never understand the man of poetic genius, whose spirits come and go like the tides, today in the height of sentimental ecstasy, tomorrow in the depths of despair. There must, therefore, be similarity of temper or experience to promote a real understanding. Thus we can see how only love can understand love. Even in our worldly intimacies, it is not quickness of perception but the force of sympathy or affection that enables us to understand our friends. "Love's quick eye can pierce through disguises impenetrable to a colder scrutiny." Thus it is that the knowledge of God is not to be compassed by a mere exercise of the intellect; it is to be attained through love: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). Thus it comes to pass that we can know the love of Christ realizingly just in proportion as we have that which resembles it in our own hearts, and that love is there in virtue of his own indwelling by the Spirit. "The Christ of the Bible manifests himself, and, by the laws of human nature, can manifest himself only to his own image formed in the heart." Thus it is possible to read a new meaning into the beautiful sentence of inspiration, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Our Lord has suggestively said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." There are moral as well as intellectual conditions in the pathway of all extended knowledge. - T.C.







And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
I. THIS REPRESENTATION MUST BE JUSTIFIED, THIS LOFTY NOTICE MUST BE WARRANTED AND CONFIRMED.

1. The love of Christ is the love of Deity. It follows that, as all Divine perfections confirm "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," this low is consequently absolute.

2. This love, then, must be eternal. It knew no antecedent act, no previous event. As we infer the Father's eternal love to Christ, so we may infer Christ's eternal love to us. "For Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world."

3. Infinite intelligence must have directed this love. "This cometh forth (said the prophet) from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." "God hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence."

4. But this love, being the love of the Deity, must be perfectly consistent with immutable holiness. Jesus is the "Holy One." He is the Righteous One, and He loveth righteousness.

5. This love, then, must be efficient. 'Tis the love of omnipotence, and cannot be effeminate. Our Redeemer is the "Mighty One"; He travelled in the greatness of His strength: He has shown Himself strong on our behalf. There were no obstacles to Him! His love was stronger than death!

6. This love, then, must be immutable. Jesus is "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother"; in Him "there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"

7. It is, therefore, infinitely ample; "the grace of our Lord is exceeding abundant." This love, then, rests in the Infinite. It is never to be fathomed or explored. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." "The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea."

II. This love will further be found by us to deserve and justify all this loftiness and sublimity of metaphor, WHEN WE REMEMBER THE OBJECTS WHICH IT EMBRACED. There is a repellent power in sin.

III. But there seems to be a great peculiarity in this case, because THIS LOVE WAS AS LITTLE SOUGHT AS IT WAS DESERVED. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, then, was as unmerited as it was unsolicited. There is, so to speak, another peculiarity in this love: it seems to elect the chief of sinners. It has a grandeur of provision in it. It goes after that which has most widely spread until it brings it home. It prefers the sinful woman's tears to the Pharisee's prayers. It acquits as with greater pleasure the debtor of five hundred pence than of fifty. Now, if we would perceive that this love exceeds all estimate, we must bear two ideas in mind. The first is the demerit of sin; the second the elevation and estrangement of the Saviour's mind from it. There is a demerit in sin on its own account. God only knows the desperate wickedness of the human heart.

IV. It is time that we should justify this high representation BY A REFERENCE TO THOSE MEANS BY WHICH SUCH LOVE WAS MANIFESTED TOWARDS US. The Incarnation is a proof that His love passeth knowledge. "My God! My God! why forsakest Thou Me." "He was cut off, but not for Himself." "He bore our iniquity." Now the following questions arise.

1. May this be considered as a personal act? As the mighty God manifested in the flesh He has alone "bore our sins in His own body on the tree."

2. Did this dissimilarity of natures relieve or aggravate His sufferings?

3. The blessings which it secures.

V. Bear with me while I briefly endeavour to show THE PERCEPTION WHICH MAY BE ACQUIRED OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST, NOTWITHSTANDING ITS IMMENSE, ITS INFINITE GREATNESS. Now, in what follows, we may be said to know the love of Christ. Most rapidly will we glance over this.

1. We know the love of Christ to be the great principle of all that is most stupendous and mysterious in our religion.

2. We know the love of Christ as it is the great element of all pious sentiment and feeling.

3. This love is known by us if it become the great model of our Christian zeal and benevolence. What He was, we are to be in the world.

VI. SEVERAL REFLECTIONS PRESS THEMSELVES UPON OUR MINDS, WHICH SHALL BE NOTICED BRIEFLY.

1. We must expect a transcendent character in Christianity.

2. The best test for Christianity is the character and views which it forms concerning Christ, and the nature of the affection it embraces. The whole genius of Christianity is to sublimate our views of, and our affections to, the Saviour.

3. How much of implicit as well as declaratory evidence there is of the Saviour's Godhead!

4. The necessity of habitually yielding ourselves to the influence of the love of Christ. The Saviour asks a return.

(R. W. Hamilton.)

1. The love of Christ may be said to "pass knowledge," inasmuch as, in its measure and its intensity, occupying and influencing the heart of a Being, whose nature is infinite, it can only be comprehended by His equals. It also "passeth knowledge," as I have said, as connecting, associating our rescue with the Divine complacency, blessedness, and glory. It "passeth knowledge" in the invisible transmission of its benefits, and in the hidden power of its operations. It "passeth knowledge" in the extent of its provisions, and in the necessity of its sacrifices — the whole doctrine of the Atonement being one profound mystery. Again, this love "passeth knowledge" in its imputations of Christ's righteousness, and in its gifts of the Holy Spirit. It "passeth knowledge" in the constant wonder, the daily miracle of its forbearance.

2. The love of Christ, in a general sense, "passes the knowledge" of the worldly-minded. They may hear of it, but in no wise comprehend it. They know nothing truly of its source; they know nothing truly of its agency; they know nothing truly of its doctrines; they know nothing truly of its covenants; they know nothing experimentally of its promises. They know nothing of the variety of its offices, or the suitableness of its provisions, as applying to themselves. They know nothing of its indwelling power.

3. But, even with believers themselves, the love of Christ "passeth knowledge."

4. But the love of Christ, I would observe, transcends even the very knowledge of angels.

5. There is an inducement to the acquisition of this knowledge in its surpassing excellency. What is all knowledge compared with it? What but the mere "dust in the balances"?

6. Another inducement is supplied in our own interests. "To know the love of Christ" is to know what He has done for our souls.

7. Another inducement presents itself in the suggestion of gratitude. What! hath God made such mighty sacrifices for me? hath He wrought such marvels of deliverance for me? — and shall not I, as the object of His love, respond to it?

8. Another inducement prompts in the facility, the ease, with which we may possess this knowledge.

(T. J. Judkin, M. A.)

First, we may offer a few considerations tending to illustrate the "love of Christ"; and, in the second place, we may consider what is the nature of that experimental knowledge of this love for which the apostle prays.

I. With respect to "the love of Christ," IT IS EXHIBITED IN ACTIONS IN WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR THOSE WHO ARE THE OBJECTS OF HIS LOVE; for those who believe in His name. It may be seen —

1. In the impediments which it overcame; it was a love victorious over all that opposed it.

2. Besides the impediments to be overcome, there were sacrifices to be made.

3. The greatness of "the love of Christ" appears also in the benefits which He bestows. These are such as would never have entered into the conception of created minds.

4. This love, in its duration, extends from eternity to eternity. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."

5. This love, further, exists in spite of many things on our part calculated to alienate it from us.

II. WHAT IS IT SO TO KNOW THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST AS THE SAINTS KNOW IT? Were it to be known merely as a theory, merely as a doctrine of revelation, it might soon be apprehended; and this, it is to be feared, is the only way in which many are content to know it. The world will be overcome by this love; the Cross of Christ will crucify the world to us, and us to the world. And hence, if we "know the love of Christ," we shall glorify Him in these two principal ways —

1. We shall obey Him; we shall bind His laws to our hearts.

2. We shall show forth His praise, desire that His true servants may increase, that His kingdom may come, and His will be done, in all the world.

(R. Hall, M. A.)

I. THE GLORIOUS FACT THAT CHRIST HAS LOVED US.

1. Christ loved His Church in eternity before time began.

2. Christ manifested His love to His people in assuming our nature and taking it in union with the Divine.

3. Christ manifested His love to His Church in the great humiliation which attended His appearance.

4. Christ now manifests His love in heaven. He is there before the eternal throne in the nature of His people. He is ascended to His God and their God, to His Father and their Father. He is not ashamed to own them now in glory.

II. THE MAGNITUDE OF CHRIST'S LOVE. It is love "that passeth knowledge." No conception can be formed adequate to its greatness.

1. The origin of Christ's love passeth knowledge. To say when He began to love would be as impossible as to say when He began to live. "Canst thou by searching find out the Almighty?"

2. The depths of misery from which the objects of His love are delivered passeth knowledge.

3. The depth of Christ's condescension, by which He exhibited His love, passeth knowledge. "And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." "He, who was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty may be made rich."

4. The glory and bliss to which Christ will raise the objects of His love passeth knowledge. "Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath laid up for those who love Him."

5. The duration of Christ's love passeth knowledge. It is immutable, and therefore it will ever endure.

III. And now let us very briefly notice THE MANNER IN WHICH WE NEED KNOW THIS LOVE TO OUR SALVATION. This does not imply that we can know it so as to comprehend it. Such a thing is impossible.

1. Know it doctrinally. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Hearing is necessary to faith. "How can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?"

2. Know it thankfully. The man who knows the love of Christ will feel thankful for the development of it to his soul.

3. Know it confidingly. We need know the love of Christ so as to rest upon Him for life and salvation.

4. Know it influentially. We must know something about its constraining influence on our hearts — to love one another, the service of God, and the ways of religion. What has not the influence of this love on the soul enabled its possessor to endure and perform?

(D. V. Phillips.)

It is the distinguishing mark of God's people that they know the love of Christ. All the children of God do not know this love to the same extent. Indeed, an increase of love, a more perfect apprehension of Christ's love, is one of the best and most infallible gauges whereby we may test ourselves whether we have grown in grace or not.

I. Well then, to come first of all to the bottom of the ladder. One of the lowest ways of knowing the love of Christ may be described as THE DOCTRINAL METHOD — a very useful one, but nothing to be compared to those that we shall have to mention afterwards. If a man would know the love of Christ, he should endeavour to study the Word of God with care, attention, constancy, and with dependence upon the Spirit's illumination that he may be enabled to understand aright. It is well for a Christian man to be thoroughly established in the faith once delivered to the saints. Doctrines are but as the shovel and the tongs of the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking thereon. Doctrines are Christ's garments; verily they all smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes out of the ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad, but it is not the garments we care for so much as for the person, the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore, while I entreat you (and I hope not to be misunderstood here), while I entreat you to be very jealous and earnest in attaining unto a clear doctrinal knowledge of the love of Christ to His people, yet when you have got it, say not — "I am the man! I have attained to eminence! I may now sit still and be content." Sirs, this is but the threshold.

II. And what next? Let us lift our feet and take another step. True saints know Christ's love GRATEFULLY AND THANKFULLY, having experienced it. Day after day He cometh to us. Night after night He draweth the curtains of our bed. He is ever with us, and all that He has is ours. He talketh sweetly to us by the way, and He sitteth down by us in our afflictions, and comforteth us, and maketh our hearts to burn within us; and as we think of all that He has done for us, we feel we do know something of Him, for gratitude has been our schoolmaster.

III. Let us pass on to the third step, we have not got far yet. We are only as schoolboys at our first school, and we have now to go on to something higher. The true children of God know Christ's love in a way which I can only describe by the word PRACTICALLY. If any man would know His doctrine, let him keep His commandments. When soldiers are wanted, the best place to make them is, doubtless, the battlefield. If we would have veterans, there must be the smoke and the smell of powder, for great commanders are not to be manufactured in Hyde Park. And we cannot expect to have men who shall win victories, drawn out from mere loungers at the clubs; they must attend the drill, and by practice become qualified for their duties. A young man cannot learn farming by the study of books. To read books may be useful, if he take them as companions to the great book of nature. But he must be put apprentice to some farmer, who sends him out into the fields to see how they plough, how they sow, how they mow, how they reap, and how they house their corn. By entering practically into the various toils and duties, he becomes skilled therein. Just so, if we would learn Christ, we must be practically engaged in His service. We must learn His love by keeping His commandments.

IV. There is a fourth and higher stage by far than these. There is a way, not known to many moderns, but much practised by the ancients, of knowing the love of Christ by CONTEMPLATION. Do you know that in the early ages of the Church they spoke more of Christ and of His person, and thought more of Him than we do. And in those times, whether or not it was that men had not so much to do as they have now, I cannot tell, but they found time to have long seasons of contemplation, and they would sit alone and worship, and draw near to Christ, and steadily fix their gaze upon His person; for to them He was a real person, whom the eye of their faith could see as clearly as the eye of sense can see outward objects, and they looked, and looked, and looked again, till the love of Christ grew brighter to them than the sun at his meridian, and for very dimness of mortal sight they veiled their faces and paused their speech — while their souls were bathed in inward joy and peace unspeakable. There have been some such in these, later times, but not many. There was Isaac Ambrose, author of that book, "Looking unto Jesus." He was pastor of a church at Preston, in Lancashire, and "it was his usual custom once a year," says Dr. Calumy, "for the space of a month to retire into a little hut in a wood, and avoiding all human converse, to devote himself to contemplation." It was true he then only had eleven months in the year to preach in, but those eleven were a great deal better than the twelve would otherwise have been, for there, alone with his Master, he received such riches from Him, that when he came back, he threw about jewels with both his hands, and scattered glorious thoughts and words broadcast in his ministry. That book, "Looking unto Jesus," is a blessed memorial of his quiet hours and his secret communion with Jesus. Then there was Rutherford, the man who has expounded the whole of Solomon's Song of Solomon without knowing it, in his celebrated letters. When he was in the dungeon at Aberdeen, he exclaimed first of all, "I had only one eye and they put that out." It was the preaching of the gospel, and before long he has got both his eyes back again. Hear him writing in his letters, "My foes thought to punish me by casting me into a prison, but lo! they have blessed me by taking me into Christ's withdrawing room, where I sit with Him and am with Him both by night and day without disturbance."

V. Well now, we have taken you up some height, but we must prepare for a flight which is higher still. To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge by contemplation is very high, but there is a higher stage than this. There are times when I almost fear to speak of these things, but there are some here, surely, who will comprehend me, some here who have passed through the same state and will not think that I am dreaming. There are times when the soul has long contemplated Christ, and there are some who know not only to contemplate, but to ENJOY. Even on earth faith sometimes gives place to a present and conscious enjoyment. There are times with the believer when whether he is in the body or out of the body he can scarce tell: God knoweth; and though not caught up to the third heaven he is brought to the very gates, and if not permitted to see Christ on His throne, he does so see Him on His cross, that if an infidel should say to him, "There is no Christ," he could say, "I have seen Him; my eyes have looked upon Him, and my hands have touched Him after a spiritual sort." There are many such rapturous seasons as this on record in the biographies of good men. I shall quote but one or two, and I hope there are some here who have known them in their own experience. In the life of Mr. Flavel, who was one of the most temperate of the Puritans, and one not at all given to anything like fanaticism, there is an event mentioned which once occurred to him, He said that being once on a journey alone on horseback, the thought of the love of Christ came upon him with great power, and as he rode gently along the road, the thought seemed to increase in force and strength, till at last he forgot all about earth and even where he was. Somehow or other his horse stood still, but he did not notice it; and when he came to himself, through some passer-by observing him, he found that he had bled very copiously during the time, and getting off his horse he washed his face at the brook, and he said, "I did verily think as I stood there, that if I was not in heaven I could hardly hope to be more blessed in heaven than I was then." He mounted his horse and rode on to a place of entertainment where he was to pass the night. Supper was brought in, but left untasted on the table. He sat all night long without sleep, enjoying the presence of Christ, and he says, "I was more rested that night than with any sleep I ever had, and I heard and saw in my soul, by faith, such things as I had never known before." The like occurred to Mr. Tennant, who was a man who spent many hours in private, and sometimes when it was time to preach he was quite unable to stand unless first carried into his pulpit, when he would put his hands out and lean there, and say such glorious things of Christ, that those who looked upon him verily thought that they looked upon the face of an angel. Rutherford, too, is another specimen. When he used to preach about Christ, he preached so wonderfully, that on any other subject he was not at all like himself; and the Duke of Argyle was once so warmed when Rutherford got upon that subject, that he cried out in church — "Now, man, ye are on the right strain; keep to it;" and he did keep to it, and the little man's thin voice seemed to swell with supernatural grandeur when he began to talk of his precious, precious Lord Jesus, and to extol and exalt him who was the Bridegroom of his soul, his Brother and his blessed Companion. "Oh, these are flights," you say. Yes, they are flights indeed, beloved; but if you could get them sometimes, you would come back to the world's cares and troubles like giants refreshed with new wine, caring nothing for anything that might happen. Christ would be so sweetly and blessedly within you, that you could bear the burden and think nothing of it, and though the grasshopper was a burden before, you could now carry it right readily.

VI. But I want to take you higher than this; not higher in some senses, but higher really, for these raptures are, of course, only like angels' visits, few and far between; but here is something which may be more lasting, and which, certainly, is a higher state of mind as to the knowledge of Christ. To know Christ SYMPATHETICALLY, is a yet higher stage than any to which we have attained before. It is related of a certain monk, who, having been long in his cell alone, thought whilst in his devotions that he saw the Lord Jesus. Of course the tale is fabulous, but I relate it for the sake of its moral. He thought he saw the Lord before him as crucified, and he heard His voice, speaking sweet and comfortable words to him. Just at that moment, when his soul was in a very flood of delight, he heard the convent bell ring, and it was his turn to go out to the gate and give away bread to the beggars who stood there. Oh, he had never heard that bell ring so dolefully before! It seemed to him the knell of all his joys. The impulse of duty, however, was stronger than that of delight, and he went his way with a heavy heart to distribute the bread. As he came back to his cell, he thought, "Ah, I shall never see that again! Christ is gone from me, and I shall never know these enjoyments again!" When, to his surprise, there was the vision still, and as he bowed before it with delight, he heard a voice which said, "If thou hadst stayed I would have gone; but since thou didst my work I tarried to give thee thy reward." Now, there is a tendency when we have been alone and in private, and have had sweet fellowship with Christ, for us to feel — "I do not want to go out from this; I do not want to be disturbed just now; I would rather not do anything just now." I do not suppose there are very many of you who get into this state, but there may be some who think at such times, "I do not want to preach today; I would rather not do anything; it is best that I should be alone." Ah, it is a strong temptation, and you must strive against it, and say, "No, I have enjoyment in my religion, but I did not seek my religion for the enjoyment it would give me. I must look higher than that, to the God I serve, and to the Lord and Master whose I am and whom I serve. I love the jewels He gives me to wear upon my fingers, but I love His person better, and I am not to look upon these rings, and forget to look into His eyes; I love the sweet couch that He makes for me at night, but I am not to lie there and forget the fields that are to be ploughed and the battles that are to be fought. I must be up and doing. The contemplative life must lead me to duty, and then shall I know Christ even as I am known.

VII. And now, the last and highest step of all, upon which we can only say a few words, is that which is called by deep writers and experienced believers on this point, THE ABSORBING LOW OF CHRIST. How shall I tell you what this is? I cannot, except I quote Wesley's words —

"Oh, love Divine, how sweet thou art!

When shall I find my willing heart

All taken up with thee."I thirst — can you get as far as that? "I faint" — that is a high state, indeed I "I die" — that is the top.

"I thirst, I faint, I die to prove

The fulness of redeeming love,

The love of Christ to me.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is by the knowledge of Christ that we begin to love God; with the growing love we become capable of receiving a larger knowledge; and every fresh accession of knowledge enriches, invigorates, and expands the love. "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." "The Life is the Light of men." For that great knowledge of the love of Christ of which Paul is thinking, a great love is necessary. This knowledge, though so wonderful, is not regarded by Paul as a privilege too lofty, a prerogative too Divine, for the commonalty of the Church. The best and highest things in the Kingdom of God are not reserved for a few elect and princely souls. There are gradations of power in the Christian Church and varieties of service. But the knowledge of the love of Christ in its breadth and length and depth and height is accessible to all the saints. It is like the visible heavens which bend over the monotonous plains of human life as well as over its mountains, and flood with the same splendour the cottages of peasants and the palaces of kings. The heavens are always near, and they are equally near to all men, as near to the poor as to the rich, to barbarous as to civilized nations, to the obscurest as to the most illustrious of mankind. It is the same with the knowledge of the love of Christ. No genius or learning can give us any exclusive property in it. The open vision of its glory is not reserved for those who can leave the common paths of men and live in silence and solitude on mountain heights of contemplation. To no prophet or apostle was a knowledge of the love of Christ ever given that we ourselves may not receive. To apprehend "what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ" — this was all that Paul could ask for himself; he asks it for the Christians at Ephesus; and he describes it as the common blessedness of "all the saints." And yet "it passeth knowledge." When Paul speaks of the love of Christ, the fire in his heart nearly always bursts into flame. Its "breadth" cannot be measured, nor its "length," nor its "height," nor its "depth." Immensity is the only adequate symbol of its greatness. But the energy of the love has been revealed.

1. It has been revealed by Christ's infinite descent, for us sinners and our salvation, from His eternal glory to the limitations of man's earthly life; from eternal peace and eternal joy to hunger and thirst and weariness of pain; from the sanctity of heaven to contact with the evil passions and with the evil lives of men; from the immortal honours with which angels and archangels surrounded His throne to the kiss of Judas, to the slander and malice of the priests, to condemnation for blasphemy, to the death of a criminal on the cross; from His infinite blessedness with the Father to the desolation of that awful hour in which He cried, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" Revealed? No! For the, heights of Divine majesty from which He came rise far beyond the limits of our keenest vision, and we cannot sound the depths of darkness into which He descended to achieve our redemption. The love of Christ "passeth knowledge."

2. It is to be measured not merely by what He endured for us, but by the energy of the eternal antagonism between good and evil. In His infinite righteousness He regarded our sin with an abhorrence which our thoughts can never measure, and yet the energy of His love transcended the energy of His righteousness, or rather blended with it and transfigured just resentment into pity; and under the power of this glorious inspiration infinite righteousness, which abhors sin, became infinite mercy for the race that had been guilty of sin, and so restored us to life, to holiness, and to endless joy.

3. Nor was the revelation of His infinite love, which, though revealed, can never be known, exhausted in His incarnation, or in His earthly ministry, or in His death which atoned for the sin of the world. He has risen from the dead and ascended to glory, but He has not forsaken the race He came to save, nor has He withdrawn to Divine realms of untroubled peace remote from the darkness, the confusion, the storms of this present evil world. The kingdom of heaven is founded on earth, and He, its Prince, is here. Unseen, He has been present with those in every generation who have asserted His authority over all nations, and who have entreated men to receive from His love the remission of their sins and eternal life in God. Their sorrows and their joys, their reverses and their triumphs, have been His. The hostility which surrounded Him during His earthly life has been prolonged during the eighteen Christian centuries, has extended from country to country, from race to race, has assumed vaster proportions, and is still undiminished. The fierce and reckless cruelty of Herod has reappeared in the persecutions which have tried the faith and loyalty of innumerable saints. Secular governments, resenting His claims to a throne diviner than theirs, have flung His people to the lions and burnt them at the stake. At the bidding of corrupt priests and of popular fury, judges as base and cowardly as Pilate have condemned to death those whose only crime was loyalty to the truth and to Him. On one day the common people, stirred with a passion of enthusiasm by some great display of His power and goodness, have surrounded Him with shouts of Hosanna, and have hailed Him as their King; on the next they have rejected Him as an impostor, covered Him with infamy, clamored for His destruction. Within the Church itself there has been wide and persistent neglect of His plainest laws, and its spirit has often seemed altogether alien from His own. There has been fierce contention as to who should be the greatest, keen personal ambition for the highest places in the kingdom of heaven. How often has self-confidence, as lofty as Peter's, been followed by as deep and as shameful a fall! How often, in hours of darkness and danger, have many, who really loved Christ, forsaken Him and fled! How often have those who were elect to great responsibilities in the Church, and great honours, betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver! How often has the kiss of the traitor come from the lips of a friend! But there is no need to appeal to the gloomy history of Christendom. We ourselves can recall a vacillation in His service which at the beginning of our Christian life we should have regarded as impossible; high resolutions broken almost as soon as they were formed; hours when love for Him kindled into enthusiasm followed by base disobedience to His commandments. Our own history, it is to be feared, has been the history of great multitudes besides. And the love of Christ has not only been unquenched; its fires have never sunk.

4. We are even now only in the early dawn of the supreme revelation; the Divine morning will become brighter and brighter through one millennium of splendour after another, and will never reach its noon. In the resurrection of Christ and His ascension to the throne of God, He has illustrated the immense expansion and development possible to human nature, and His resurrection and glory are the prophecy of our own. Through ages without end, inspired with the life of Christ, and sustained by the exceeding greatness of the Divine power, which wrought in Him when God raised Him from the dead, we shall ascend from height to height of righteousness, of wisdom, and of joy. From age to age with unblenched vision we shall gaze upon new and dazzling manifestations of the light in which God dwells; with powers exalted and enlarged, we shall discharge nobler and yet nobler forms of Divine service; with capacities expanding with our growing delight we shall be filled with diviner and yet diviner bliss; eternity will still lie before us, stretching beyond the farthest limits of vision and of hope; and through eternity the infinite love of Christ will continue to raise us from triumph to triumph, from blessedness to blessedness, from glory to glory. His love "passeth knowledge." And yet we are to know it, to know it by the illumination of the Spirit of God. And the knowledge, according to Paul, is to invigorate, enrich, and perfect our higher life, or, to use his own phrase, by the knowledge of "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," we are to "be filled unto all the fulness of God."

(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

I. THE LOVE OF CHRIST HAS BEEN SO MANIFESTED AS TO BE PATENT TO THE SIMPLEST UNDERSTANDING.

II. THE LOVE OF CHRIST WILL EVER BE A MYSTERY BEYOND OUR HIGHEST REACH OF KNOWLEDGE.

III. There will be NO ESSENTIAL CONTRADICTION BETWEEN THE KNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN in the love of Christ.

IV. It will be for the ADVANTAGE OF THE SAINTS TO KNOW MORE AND MORE of the love of Christ.

(A. F. Muir, M. A.)

I. AN IMPOSSIBILITY. "To know which passeth knowledge."

1. In its beginning.

2. In its motive.

3. In its tenderness.

4. In its immutability.

5. In its value.

6. In its future expression.

II. A POSSIBILITY. "To know."

1. In its beginning in us, if not in Him or for us.

2. In its effects, if not in its cause.It is a mountain whose base covers the world, and whose peaks are the foundation of the throne of God; but its many lower heights may now be scaled, and will well repay the climber.

(P. F. J. Pearce.)

I. THERE ARE SOME RESPECTS IN WHICH THE LOVE OF CHRIST PASSETH KNOWLEDGE.

1. In its date.

2. In its motive.

3. In its sacrifices.

4. In its benefits.

II. THERE ARE SOME RESPECTS IN WHICH THE LOVE OF CHRIST MAY BE KNOWN.

1. In its scriptural details.

2. In its practical application.

3. In its practical influence.

(G. Brooks.)

I. THE EXPERIENCE OF DIVINE LOVE IS AN OBJECT OF DESIRE. To know that we are loved! Is not this one of the chiefest blessings of life? Is it not most true, in a terrestrial sense, that there is no living without some sense of others' love? Now, the text sets before us the experience of celestial love as an object greatly to be desired. But we cannot know the celestial except through the terrestrial. We cannot understand the Divine apart from human manifestations. Let us, then, in praying this prayer, pray also that we may so live as to know the love which God has seated as an abundant spring in the human hearts around us.

II. THE EXPERIENCE OF DIVINE LOVE IS A SATISFYING EXPERIENCE.

1. There is a satisfaction arising from the possession of riches that is a part of our nature. Well, St. Paul speaks of "the riches, of God's glory" in this connection.

2. There is a satisfaction in the consciousness of power; and St. Paul speaks of being "strengthened with might by God's Spirit" in this connection.

3. There is another kind of satisfaction arising from the consciousness of mental treasures; a memory and an imagination teeming with great thoughts, with beautiful shapes and pictures. This kind of satisfaction is also brought into association with the subject. He speaks of "the inner man," and of "Christ dwelling in the heart by faith." There is a great satisfaction in being able to form a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ in His glorious character and attributes, and in keeping it before the mind's eye. It is a vast mental treasure, even apart from the sense of being an object of His love.

4. The knowledge of love, the apprehension of it as our life inheritance, and the portion of all souls — this is the deepest satisfaction. There is many an humble Christian, who has read nothing, can think but little, whose mind is not stored with ideas, but who is peaceful and happy in religion because he has made the knowledge of love his own — God is his Father, Christ his loving Redeemer who died for him. He finds all his life to be an expression of Divine love. The great cavity of his nature has been filled up, and it is enough.

III. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST'S LOVE IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SOMETHING MOST VAST, OF SOMETHING INFINITE. The apostle, with that grand reach of expression which he loves to employ, speaks of its breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and again, of its surpassing knowledge. He means that we should desire to comprehend how exceeding vast, how profound, how boundless, how immeasurable, is the energy of this love. If you are standing, let us say, before Lincoln Minster, when the sunlight is pouring all its glory upon towers and windows and traceries, making the whole object so magically beautiful that you almost wonder whether it is not a dream that is passing before you, you do not want a bystander to begin teasing you with statements of the exact number of feet there are in the length, the breadth, the height of the building. They will not help you to enhance your impression of its magnificence. Or, if you are standing before the vast roaring flood of Niagara, you do not care at the moment of your greatest rapture of wonder to be informed exactly how many gallons of water are going over the fall at each second. These are matters of curiosity, interesting enough in other moods of mind; but when we have to do with the great feelings of awe, of wonder, in the presence of grandeur and sublimity, we wish to escape out of the region of exact figures and measurements. Much more so with this vast thought, the love of Christ. We need not desire, as we are unable to apply to it the measures of time and space.

(E. Johnson, M. A.)

, speaking of this love of God in Christ, saith, "Oh, I am like a man digging in a deep spring; I stand here and the water riseth upon me; I stand there and still the water riseth upon me." But though we cannot ever know it all, yet we may and must grow in the knowledge of this love of Christ, in the searching of this sea that hath neither bank nor bottom, and where, "the deeper the sweeter."

(John Trapp.)

Saith the story: "In the Roman Forum there gaped a vast chasm which threatened the destruction of the Forum, if not of Rome. The wise men declared that the gulf would never close unless the most precious thing in Rome was cast into it. Then Curtius, a belted knight, mounted his charger, and rightly judging that valour and love of country were the noblest treasures of Rome, he leaped into the gulf. The yawning earth closed upon the great-hearted Roman, for her hunger was appeased. Perchance it is but an idle tale; but what I have declared is truth. There gaped between God and man a dread abyss, deep as hell, wide as eternity, and only the best that heaven contained could fill it. That best was He, the peerless Son of God, the matchless, perfect Man, and He came, laying aside His glory, making Himself of no reputation, and He sprang into the gulf, which there and then closed once for all.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. The love of Christ is wonderful, because it is IMPARTIAL (see Matthew 5:45). Look at the sunshine pouring down over a great city, and think on what different characters the light falls. The same sun shines on the Church and its faithful worshippers, and on the house of shame and infamy. The same light gilds the dying bed of the Christian and the couch of the infidel and blasphemer. The same beam glitters on the blessed altar of the faithful, and on the cell of the impenitent murderer. Look at the sunshine and the shower in the country. The fields of the earnest, prayerful man, and those of the unbelieving, prayerless scoffer lie golden under the same sunlight, are watered by the same showers. And why is this so? Surely it is a type of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. We shall get to know more of the love of Christ if we learn to be more impartial in our love for our fellow men.

II. The love of Christ is wonderful in its EFFECTS. In all the long roll of heroes, there are none so great as those who fought under the banner of Christ's love. Feeble old men, little children, weak women, were transformed by that marvellous power; they could do all things through Christ who strengthened them. Did you ever read, brethren, how the last fight of gladiators in the Coliseum ended? It was when Rome had become Christian, but still the cruel sports of the people had not been entirely given up. After a famous victory, the emperor, a feeble boy, and all the great men of Rome, went to the crowded theatre to witness the amusements given in honour of the triumph. After the harmless sports were over some gladiators entered the arena armed with sharp swords. The people shouted with delight because the old savage amusements of their heathen days were restored to them. Suddenly an old man, dressed in the habit of a hermit, and unknown to all, sprang into the arena, and declared that as Christian people they must not suffer men to slay each other thus. An angry cry rose from the eager crowd. The gladiators, disappointed of their gain, menaced the hermit fiercely, crying, "back, old man, for thy life." But the stranger stood fearless before that angry mob, he heeded not the swords of the gladiators, nor the yells of the people, but solemnly protested against the deed of blood. In another moment he lay dead on the red sand, pierced by a dozen wounds. He died, but his words lived. When the people saw the fearless courage of a weak old man, shame filled their hearts; the sports were stopped, and never again did the gladiators fight in the Coliseum.

III. The love of Christ is wonderful in its EFFECT ON OUR WORK. It is a common saying that such and such a work is a labour of love; and, believe me, that is the best done of all which is done for love. Long ago, there was an old cathedral somewhere abroad, I cannot tell you where. On one of the arches was sculptured a face of exceeding beauty. It was long hidden, but one day a ray of sunshine lighted up the matchless work, and from that time, on the days when the light shone on the face, crowds came to look at its loveliness. The history of that sculpture is a strange one. When the Cathedral was being built, an old man, worn with years and care, came to the architect, and begged to be allowed to work there. Fearing his age and failing sight might cause the old man to injure the carving, the master set him to work in a dark part of the roof. One day they found the stranger lying dead, with the tools of his craft around him, and his still face turned up towards that other face which he had carved. It was a work of surpassing beauty, and without doubt was the face of one whom the artist had long since loved and lost. When the craftsmen looked upon it, they all agreed — "this is the grandest work of all, it is the work of love." We, my brothers, are all set to do some work here in the temple of our lives, and the best, the most beautiful, the most enduring, will be that which we do because the love of Christ constraineth us.

IV. The love of Christ is wonderful in its POWER OF PARDON.

(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

I. AN INTERESTING SUBJECT. It is the "love of Christ." The love of Christ would furnish us with a thousand sources of reflection; but we shall confine ourselves to one view of it only. It is the incomprehensibility of this love. He tells us it "passeth knowledge."

1. Witness the number of its objects. It is but a few that the bounty of a human benefactor reaches and relieves. We pity an individual. We take up a family. We explore a neighbourhood. The liberality of a Thornton flows in various channels, through different parts of a country. The compassion of a Howard visits the miserable in other lands, after weeping over the dungeoned victims of his own. But a "multitude, which no man can number, out of every nation, and people, and tongue, and kindred," will forever adore the riches of the Redeemer's love.

2. Witness the value of its benefits.

3. Witness the unworthiness of the partakers.

4. Witness the expensiveness of its sacrifices. The only quality in the love of many is its cheapness. It will endure no kind of self-denial.

5. Witness the perpetuity of its attachment. How rare is a friend that loveth at all times! How many fail, especially in the day of trouble!

6. Witness the tenderness of its regards.

II. Here is A DESIRABLE ATTAINMENT. It is to know it. But does not the apostle say, that this love "passeth knowledge"? How then does he pray that we may know it? Can we know that which is unknowable? I answer, we may know that in one respect which we cannot know in another; we may know that by grace which we cannot know by nature; we may know that, in the reality of its existence, which we cannot know in the mode; we may know that, in the effects, which we cannot know in the cause; we may know that in its uses, which we cannot know in its nature; we may know that increasingly, which we cannot know perfectly. We therefore observe, with reference to your knowledge of this love —

1. Your ideas of it may be clear and consistent.

2. Your views of it may be more confidential and appropriating. Your doubts and fears, with regard to your own interest in it, may yield to hope; and that hope may become the full assurance of hope.

3. Your views of it may be more impressive, more influential.

III. This leads us to remark, A BLESSED CONSEQUENCE: "That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God." If we consider man in his natural state, he is empty of God; if in his glorified state, he is full of God, or, as the apostle says, "God is all in all"; but, in his gracious state, he has a degree of both of his original emptiness and his final plenitude. He is not what he was; neither is he what he will be. His state is neither night nor day; but dawn: the darkness is going off, and the splendour is coming on.

(W. Jay.)

The love of Christ is too deep for any created understanding to fathom; it is unsearchable love, and it is so in divers respects.

1. It is unsearchable, in respect of its antiquity; no understanding of man can trace it back to its first spring; it flows from one eternity to another. We receive the fruits and effects of it now; but, O how ancient is that root that bears them! He loved us before this world was made, and will continue so to do, when it shall be reduced into ashes.

2. The freeness of the love of Christ passes knowledge. No man knows, nor can any words express, how free the love of Christ to His people is. It is said (Isaiah 55:8), "My thoughts are not your thoughts." In My thoughts, it is like itself, free, rich, and unchangeable; but in your thoughts it is limited and narrowed, pinched in within your strait and narrow conceptions; that it is not like itself, but altered according to the model and platform of creature, according to which you draw it in your minds. Alas! we do but alter and spoil His love, when we think there is anything in us, or done by us, that can be a motive, inducement, or recompence to it. His love is so free that it pitched itself upon us before we had any loveliness in us at all.

3. The bounty and liberality of the love of Christ to His people passeth knowledge. Who can number, or value the fruits of His love? They are more than the sands upon the seashore. It would weary the arm of an angel to write down the thousandth part of the effects of His love, which come to the share of any particular Christian in this world. Sins pardoned; dangers prevented; wants supplied.

4. The constancy of Christ's love to His people passeth knowledge. No length of time, no distance of place, no change of condition, either with Him or us, can possibly make any alteration of His affections towards us (Hebrews 13:8). So then, the love of Christ is a love transcending all creature love, and human understanding. We read in Romans 5:7, 8, that "peradventure for a good man, some would even dare to die"; but we never find where any, beside Jesus Christ, would lay down his life for enemies. It is recorded as an unparalleled instance of love in Damon and Pithias, the two Sicilian philosophers, that each had courage enough to die for his friend. One of them being condemned to die by the tyrant, and desiring to give the last farewell to his family, his friend went into prison for him, as his surety to die for him, if he returned not at the appointed time. But he did not die; yea, he had such a confidence in his friend, that he would not suffer him by default to die for him; and if he had, yet he had died for his friend. But such was the love of Christ, that it did not only put Him into danger of death, but put Him actually unto death, yea, the worst of deaths, and that for His enemies. O what manner of love is this! We read of the love that Jacob had for Rachel, and how he endured both the cold of winter, and heat of summer, for her sake. But what is this to the love of Jesus, who for us endured the heat of God's wrath? Beside, she was beautiful, but we unlovely. David wished for Absalom his son, "Would God I had died for thee!" But it was but a wish; and had it come to the proof, David would have shrinked from death, for all the affection he bare his beautiful son. But Christ actually gave His life for us, and did not only wish He had done it. O love, transcending the love of creatures; yea, and surmounting all creature knowledge! The uses follow. If the love of Christ pass knowledge, O then admire it! yea, live and die in the wonder and admiration of the love of Christ? As it is a sign of great weakness to admire small and common things, so it speaks great stupidity not to be affected with great and unusual things. O Christian! if thou be one that conversest with the thoughts of this love, thou can'st not but admire it; and the more thou studiest, the more still wilt thou be astonished at it. And among the many wonders that will appear in the love of Christ, these two will most of all affect thee, viz.:

1. That ever it pitched at first on thee.

2. That it is not, by so many sins, quenched towards thee.

(J. Flavel.)

In form, but not in idea, the text is paradoxical. There is certainly a high and precious sense in which it is the privilege and the calling of the children of God to attain to a conscious apprehension of spiritual things in a form and by processes that lie beyond the range of the natural understanding. It is this for which the apostle here prays.

I. CERTAIN THINGS AS TO WHICH THE LOVE OF CHRIST PASSES KNOWLEDGE.

1. Respecting its originating causes. We love whatever seems lovely to us, either because of the possession of amiable qualities and attributes of character, or because of the existence of certain recognized relations to ourselves that call for our affections. Beyond these conditions, and independent of them, we are incapable of conceiving how the affection of love can come into existence or exercise; and yet it is very certain that in our case these conditions were not found in us towards God. While men were yet sinners, enemies, hateful and haters of God, the Divine love moved forth guided by heavenly wisdom, and sustained by the Divine omnipotence, to redeem and save and exalt to glory the ruined offspring of a fallen ancestry. All this entirely "passeth knowledge."

2. In respect to this degree, as seen in its operations, the Divine love to man passes knowledge.

3. The love of Christ passes knowledge in respect to its long suffering. As it began without any worthiness on our part, so it is continued towards us despite our disobedience and ingratitude.

4. In the bounty of its provisions (1 Corinthians 2:9).

II. CERTAIN THINGS AS TO WHICH THE LOVE OF CHRIST MAY BE KNOWN.

1. We may know the love of Christ as a great truth revealed in the Scriptures.

2. The gospel, which is the manifestation of the love of Christ, may be known as a grand remedial scheme and dispensation of the grace of God.

3. We may know the love of Christ by the experience of His saving power.

4. We may know the love of Christ by His conquest of sin in us.

5. We may know the love of Christ by the victory which He gives us over death.

(D. Curry, D. D.)

I. Do you know the love of Christ?

II. Do you know it in such wise as to feel at the same time that it passeth knowledge?

III. Do you at once experience and exhibit the effect of knowing it, in that you are filled with all the fulness of God?

(T. Dale, M. A.)

What beautiful emblems of Christ's love are the two grandest objects of nature, sapphire sea and sapphire sky; the boundless extent of heaven's blue field cannot be measured even by the astronomer; so the length and breadth, and height and depth of the love of Christ surpass all knowledge. We know something of what is nearest us of the sky, the human side of it, us it were. That part which lies immediately above our earth is familiar to us, from the offices of beauty and usefulness which it serves; the firmament in this respect shows forth the handiwork of God in ministering continually to our wants. But the profound abysses of blue beyond, the eternal, unchangeable heavens that declare God's glory, and that seemingly have no relation to man, are utterly incomprehensible to us; the very stars themselves only give us light to show the infinity of space in which they are scattered. So the love of Christ in its human aspect, as displayed in the work and blessings of redemption, and in offices of care and kindness to us, is so far comprehensible, for otherwise we could not build our trust upon it, and St. Paul would not speak of knowing it; but its infinite fulness, its divine perfection, its relation to the Universe, is utterly beyond our knowledge, and eternity itself, though spent in acquiring larger and brighter views of it, will fail to exhaust the wondrous theme. The boundless blue sky of Christ's love bends over us, comprehends our little life within it, as the horizon embraces the landscape; wherever we move, we are within that blue circular tent, but we can never touch its edges? it folds about with equal serenity and adaptability the lofty mountain and the lowly vale, the foaming torrent and the placid lake; the bold, rugged, aspiring nature, and the quiet retiring disposition; the man of action, and the man of thought; the impetuous Peter and the loving John; it softens the sharp extremes of things, and connects the highest and lowest by its subtile, invisible bonds; and yet stretches far aloft beyond the reach of sight or sense into the fathomless abyss of infinity. Or, to take the sea as the comparison, the sea touches the shore along one narrow line, and all the beauty and fertility of that shore are owing to its life-giving dews and rains; but it stretches away from the shore, beyond the horizon, into regions which man's eye has never seen, and the further it recedes the deeper and the bluer its waters become. And so the love of Christ touches us along the whole line of our life, imparts all the beauty and fruitfulness to that life, but it stretches away from the point of contact into the unsearchable riches of Christ, the measureless fulness of the Godhead, that ocean of inconceivable, incommunicable love which no plummet can sound, or eye of angel or saint ever scan; and the love that we cannot comprehend, that is beyond our reach, is as much love as that whose blessed influences and effects we feel.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS MAY WE BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD?

1. In filling the heart, God empties it of its former occupants.

2. In filling the heart, God takes possession of it personally.

3. In filling the heart, God replenishes it with all the graces and dispositions of the Christian character.

4. In filling the heart, God replenishes it with every grace completely or perfectly.

II. BY WHAT MEANS MAY WE BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD?

1. By being sensible of our emptiness.

2. By abounding in prayer.

3. By cherishing love to Christ.

4. By following hard after God.

(G. Brooks.)

1. There is a fulness and completeness in grace attainable even by believers here, to wit, such as is sufficient for their present state of travellers and warriors upon earth, though not for the state of triumphers and possessors in heaven. They may attain to be complete in Christ, as not only possessing all things by faith and hope, but being indued also with such a measure of the graces of God's Spirit, as is requisite to bear them through against, and make them gloriously victorious over, their chiefest adversaries (Colossians 1:11). Such a fulness is spoken of (Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 1:5, 7), and prayed for here; "That ye may be filled."

2. All the fulness and completeness in grace attainable here is but an emptiness, being compared with that fulness in glory which shall be attained hereafter, called here the fulness of God, and is made mention of as the journey's end, to be aspired unto and aimed at, as a step far beyond any fulness which can be attained here; for he saith, "that ye may be filled with," or until, "all the fulness of God": where he implieth a two-fold fulness, the former attainable here, by which we advance to that other fulness in glory which shall be enjoyed hereafter.

3. The desires and endeavours of believers after Christ and grace should net be easily satisfied, nor stand at a stay for every attainment; but ought to be enlarged, and always advancing towards a further measure than anything already received, even to that fulness of grace attainable here; yea, and the outmost measure of grace here is not to be rested upon, as fully satisfying, nor anything else, until grace be fully completed in glory hereafter: for the apostle, not being satisfied with what he hath asked already, doth here pray, "that they maybe filled" even "until all the fulness of God": and hereby teacheth them to be satisfied with no less.

4. The state of believers in heaven shall be most glorious and blessed, as being no less than, first, the enjoying of God's immediate presence by sense, not by faith or through the glass of ordinances, which shall then be laid aside, God Himself being all in all (1 Corinthians 13:12). And, secondly, the enjoying of His presence fully, and so far as finite creatures can be capable of that which is infinite (1 John 3:2); for this is to be "filled with the fulness of God," which shall be attained in heaven.

(J. Fergusson.)

The word rendered "fulness" represents completion, perfection, and sufficiency. If a vessel having some water in it were filled to the brim, this word would represent its condition in relation to its contents. If a picture were drawn in rude outline, and if the limning were then made perfect, this word would represent the completed state of the artist's work. If the crew of a ship, or the guard on the walls of a fenced city, were deficient in number, and if the men were so increased as to meet the need, this word would represent the complement. Fulness and God must be combined, must ever be inseparable.

I. A LARGE RECEPTIVE CAPACITY ON THE PART OF CHRISTIANS. "That ye might be filled." This is not asking for fresh powers and for new susceptibilities, but for the entire contact of existing faculties and capacities with appropriate and adequate objects. The capabilities of human nature are many and various. Man can receive into himself a varied and vast knowledge. He can admit to his nature the images of all the objects which awaken the various emotions of the human soul. The receptive capacity of man may be illustrated by reference to three things.

1. The extent and variety of possible knowledge.

2. The number and character of the objects which arouse the various internal spiritual affections.

3. The influences which are formative of character and productive of conduct.

II. GOD THE STANDARD, AS WELL AS THE SOURCE AND CAUSE, OF COMPLETENESS. To creatures made in God's image, and renewed in God's image, God Himself must ever be the standard of completeness. Between God and all His creatures there is, we reverently acknowledge, a vast difference; but the pitcher may be full as well as the river, and the hand may be full as well as the storehouse. There is a fulness which is as really the attribute of that which in capacity is small, as of that which in capacity is infinite. The sweet little flower, "forget-me-not," is as full of colour as the bright blue sky over its tiny head. The vine of the cottager may be as full of fruit as the vineyard of the wealthy vine grower. The baby, which smiles on its mother's breast, may be as full of joy as the seraph before the throne. The vast difference which exists between God's nature and ours, does not prevent that nature in some respects being a standard. The fulness of man may be as the fulness of God. God is full, and man, in his capacity, may be full as God. Two things occur to us here.

1. The standard of completeness does not generally appear to be God, even among Christians.

2. The lack of fulness is largely traceable to the non-recognition of this standard.

III. A DEGREE OF APPROXIMATION TO THE DIVINE STANDARD NOW ATTAINABLE.

1. The primitive constitution of men admits it (Genesis 1:27). Fulness and God are inseparable, and equally united are fulness and the image of God.

2. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus specially provides for this fulness. It restores lost truths and lost objects of hope and love and joy, and directly aims to fill us with all possible good.

3. The experience of every Christian is that of having supplied to him, by the Saviour, that which, being essential, has nevertheless been lacking. He comes as wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and those who receive Him are complete in Him.

4. The exceeding great and precious promises of God show, that those who lack fulness or completeness are straitened, not in God, but through themselves.

5. The steps by which this fulness is said to be reached are portions of ordinary Christian experience. First of all, there is the strengthening of the "inner man" by the might of the Spirit; secondly, there is the coming into the heart, and the dwelling in the heart, of Christ by faith; thirdly, there is the confirmation of all love in the heart; and fourthly, the subjective knowledge of the love of Christ. The man who knows the love of Christ, and who is rooted and grounded in love, and in whom Christ dwells, and who is inwardly strengthened by the Holy Ghost, is in a position to be filled with the fulness of God. The receptive capacity of such a man is restored, while Christ and His love are in themselves fulness, and lead to a fulness distinct from themselves.

(S. Martin, D. D.)

? — This inquiry will oblige us to speak something by way of supposition, and then something further by way of direct solution. That which is necessary to be spoken by way of supposition will fall under these two heads:

I. It is presupposed to this inquiry, THAT THERE IS A FULNESS IN GOD WITH WHICH WE CANNOT BE FILLED, AND THEREFORE OUGHT NOT TO PRAY, OUGHT NOT TO STRIVE, TO BE FILLED WITH IT. It was the destructive suggestion and temptation of Satan, to persuade our first parents to be ambitious of being like to God — "Ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). And the tempter never shewed himself to be more a devil than when he prosecuted this design; nor did man ever fall more below himself than when he was blown up to an ambition to be above himself.

1. God is essentially full of all Divine excellences. He is so by nature, by essence; what we are, we are by grace.

2. The holiness of God is a self-holiness. God is not only full, but self-full, full with His own fulness: He lends to all, borrows of none. But the fulness of a believer is a borrowed, a precarious fulness.

3. The fulness of holiness, of grace, of all perfections that are in God, is unlimited, boundless, and infinite. God is a sea without a shore; an ocean of grace without a bottom. The fulness of believers is circumscribed within the bounds and limits of their narrow and finite beings; and this finiteness of nature will forever cleave to the saints, when they shall be enlarged in their souls to the utmost capacity.

4. Hence, the fulness of God is inexhaustible. It is also undiminishable.

II. A SECOND THING WE MUST SUPPOSE, IS, THAT THERE IS A FULNESS OF GOD WITH WHICH WE MAY, AND THEREFORE OUGHT TO PRAY AND LABOUR THAT WE MAY, BE FILLED. We cannot Teach the original fulness, but we may a borrowed, derivative fulness. We cannot be filled with the formal holiness of God, for that holiness is God; yet may we derive holiness from Him as an efficient cause, "who worketh all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11). What is that fulness of God which every true Christian ought to pray and strive to be filled with? What is the matter of that fulness of God which we are to pray and strive to be filled with?

1. To speak generally: That which we are to pray and strive to be filled with is the Spirit of God: "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).(1) Do you find an emptiness of grace, and do you long to have your souls replenished with it? Pray to God to fill your souls with His Spirit.(2) Would you answer the glorious title of "a child of God" with a more glorious and suitable spirit, that you may pray as children, walk as dear children? Pray for the Spirit of God, that He may be a Spirit of adoption to you, as well as of regeneration; pray in the Spirit for the Spirit, that you may have the frame of a child, [be] filled with zeal for the Father's name and interest.(3) Pray for the Spirit, that He would perform His whole office to you, that you may not partake only of the work of the Spirit in some one or some few of His operations, but in all that are common to believers. And especially that He that has been an anointing Spirit to you, would be a sealing Spirit to you also; that He that has sealed you, may be a witnessing Spirit to His own work; and that He would be the earnest of your inheritance, a pledge of what God has further promised and purposed for you.

2. To speak a little more particularly.(1) Let us pray and strive, and strive and pray again, adding endeavours to prayers, and prayers to endeavours, "that we may be filled with the knowledge of God's will."(2) Let us pray again that we be "filled with all wisdom" in the doing of the will of God. We want knowledge much, we want wisdom more; we need more light into the will of God, and more judgment how to perform it. For(a) It is one great instance of wisdom, to know the seasons of duty, and what every day calls for.(b) We need wisdom, that we be not deluded with shadows instead of substances, that we take not appearances for realities; for want of which, O how often are we cheated out of our interests, our real concerns, our integrity of heart, and peace of conscience!(c) Another point of wisdom which we need to be instructed in is the worth of time, and what a weight of eternity depends on these short and flitting moments.(d) Wisdom would teach us the due order and method of all things; what first, what last, ought to be our study and our concern. Wisdom would teach us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33); and then, if there be time to spare, to bestow some small portion of it for those other things which God in His bounty will not deny, and in His wisdom knows in what measure to bestow.(e) Wisdom would teach us the true worth and value of all things; to labour, pray, and strive for them proportionably to their true intrinsic dignities; to think that heaven cannot be too dear, whatever we pay for it; nor hell cheap, how easily soever we come by it.(3) Let us pray and strive, strive in the due and diligent use of means, and pray for a blessing upon them, that we may be "filled with a spiritual understanding."(4) Let us pray again, and strive, that "we may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." What is the measure of that fulness of God, with which every true Christian ought to pray and strive that he may be filled?

1. Every gracious soul ought to pray and strive to be filled with such a measure of the fulness of God, anti of His grace, as the Holy Spirit, who is the proper Judge of that measure, shall see fit to communicate to us.

2. Every gracious soul ought to pray for such a measure of grace as may fit his capacity, None are so full, but they may receive more; we have so little of grace, because we ask no more — "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2).

3. We ought to pray and strive that our narrow vessels may be widened, our capacities enlarged, that we may be more capable of grace. The vessels of Divine grace are of different sizes; as "one star differs from another in glory," so one saint differs from another in grace. And as the Spirit enlarges the heart, He will enlarge His own hand — "I am the Lord," even "thy God: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."

4. We ought to pray and strive, that all the powers and faculties of the whole man may be filled according to their measures. There is much room in our souls that is not furnished; much waste ground there that is not cultivated and improved to its utmost.

5. Every gracious soul ought to pray and strive for such a measure of grace, that he may be qualified for any duty and service that God shall call him to, and engage him in.

6. Every true Christian ought to pray and strive for such a measure of grace, as may enable him to bear patiently, cheerfully, and creditably, "those afflictions and sufferings, which either God's good pleasure shall lay upon us, or for His name's sake we may draw upon ourselves.

7. Every true Christian ought to pray and strive for such a measure of grace, as may bring the soul to a settlement and stability, that he be not soon shaken by the cross and adverse evils that he shall meet with in this life.

(V. Alsop, M. A.)

There are some passages in God's Word which are sermons in themselves. And if this part of the apostle's prayer can be made to apply in our thoughts, in our hearts, not only during this hour of worship, but through our coming lives, the text alone will be a most blessed inspiration.

I. I remark, in the first place, that whatever is meant by this, "That ye may be filled with all the fulness of God," it is a something which was within the possibilities of all the members of the Church. He prayed for what was possible; he would ask for nothing impossible, specially when guided by the Holy Spirit.

II. In the second place, there is no intimation that whatever this is, it was to be limited in its attainment to the period of death or any future period. The apostle prayed the Church might enjoy it then, and he follows this prayer with some directions with regard to their conduct and their duty, showing that he expected the attainment of these blessings, so that the Church might direct and employ them for the benefit of others.

1. The exercise of faith. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."

2. Now notice that the whole quality from this on his love. Christ dwells in our hearts and imprints His nature. "God is love." Christ is love, and dwelling in our hearts makes us love God. I love the brave fireman who puts up the ladder and comes down with my child. I can't help taking that man to my arms. He saved my boy. Shall I not love God — Jesus — who died for all my children to save them from eternal ruin and rescued them from that perdition to which they were going? I want no other proof of the depravity of the human heart than the fact that men do not love God. I had a friend who preached once on the love of God and its unfathomable nature. He used this figure. Brought a sounding line and reached away down and said, "So many fathoms." Another expression, "So many fathoms," and then cried out, "More line!" "More line!" He had not line enough to measure the depth of the love of God. I am not able to describe it all, but, thank God, you and I have all eternity to try our line.

(M. Simpson, D. D.)

Like as sundry vessels, whereof some are bigger and some less, if they all be cast into the sea, some will receive more water and some less, and yet all shall be full and no want in any: so likewise, among the saints of God in heaven, some shall have more glory, some less, and yet all, without exception, full of glory.

(Cawdray.)

In heaven we cannot suppose the condition of any one saint to be wanting in the measure of its happiness. Such a supposition is opposed to the idea of that perfection to which all shall attain. Nevertheless, as with two luminous bodies, each may shine in perfection, though with a different splendour and intensity; so the image of God will shine with fuller-orbed splendour in some than in others. In like manner, the little stream and the river may both fill their channel, while the one glides in simple beauty, and the other rolls its majestic waves attracting the eyes of all beholders. And so the spirits of the just made perfect shall all be beautiful, but some shall delight with the perfection of beauty.

(H. G. Salter.)

"There is a great difference in our capacities," observed the small Jug to the large Flagon beside it. "A good deal of difference in our measurement," answered the Flagon. "I suppose that all I can contain, if poured into you, would appear very little," said the Jug. "And what I am capable of holding would over whelm you for certain," replied the other. "Truly I could hold but a small measure of your fulness," said the Jug. "But I have this to satisfy me, that when I am full I have all I want; and you yourself when filled can hold no more." God's spiritual temple contains vessels of various dimensions; but all are filled with the same Spirit from the communicable fulness of Christ; as the prophet describes, "Vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all vessels of flagons." "To be filled with all the fulness of God," is all that saints desire; and the Lord blesses His people with the experience of His love, "both small and great." There will undoubtedly be degrees in glory; but all shall be full of joy; and he that possesses greatest capacity will not be more full of God than he that left the world a babe in Christ.

(Bowden.)

There are plants which we sometimes see in these northern latitudes, but which are native to the more generous soil and the warmer skies of southern lands. In their true home they grow to a greater height, their leaves are larger, their blossoms more luxuriant, and of a colour more intense; the power of the life of the plant is more fully expressed. And as the visible plant is the more or less adequate translation into stem and leaf and flower of its invisible life, so the whole created universe is the more or less adequate translation of the invisible thought and power and goodness of God. He stands apart from it. His personal life is not involved in its immense processes of development but the forces by which it moves through pain and conflict and tempest towards its consummate perfection are a revelation of "His eternal power and Godhead." For the Divine idea to reach its complete expression, an expression adequate to the energy of the Divine life, we ourselves must reach a large and harmonious perfection. As yet we are like plants growing in an alien soil and under alien skies. And the measures of strength and grace which are possible to us even in this mortal life are not attained. The Divine power which is working in us is obstructed. But a larger knowledge of the love of Christ will increase the fervour of every devout and generous affection, it will exalt every form of spiritual energy; it will deepen our spiritual joy; it will add strength to every element of righteousness; and will thus advance us towards that ideal perfection which will be the complete expression of the Divine power and grace, and which Paul describes as the "fulness of God."

(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

God's love to His people is from everlasting to everlasting; but from everlasting to everlasting there is no manifestation of it known, or conceivable by us, which can be compared to this. The light of the sun is always the same, but it shines brightest to us at noon; the Cross of Christ was the noontide of everlasting love; the meridian splendour of eternal mercy. There were many bright manifestations of the same love before, but they were like the light of the morning, that shines more and more unto the perfect day; and that perfect day was when Christ was on the cross, when darkness covered all the land.

(McLaurin.)

I have found it an interesting thing to stand on the edge of a noble rolling river, and to think, that although it has been flowing on for six thousand years, watering the fields, and slaking the thirst of a hundred generations, it shows no sign of waste or want. And when I have watched the rise of the sun as he shot above the crest of the mountain, or, in a sky draped with golden curtains, sprang up from his ocean bed, I have wondered to think that he has melted the snows of so many winters, and renewed the verdure of so many springs, and planted the flowers of so many summers, and ripened the golden harvests of so many autumns, and yet shines on as brilliantly as ever, his eye not dim, nor his natural force abated, nor his floods of lightness full; for centuries of boundless profusion. Yet what are these but images of the fulness of God. Let that feed your hopes, and cheer your heart, and brighten your faith, and send you away both happy and rejoicing. O blessed God, in Thy presence is the fulness of joy, and at Thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore! What Thou hast gone before to prepare, may we at death be called upon to enjoy!

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

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