Page images
[ocr errors]

school of Christ, learning more eagerly from him, than ever he did at the feet of Gamaliel: and counting all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, Phil. iii. 8. But though all that time he had been searching into the riches of Christ, and wrapt up in the contemplation of his love, he found that they were unsearchable, and that it passed know. ledge, Eph. iii. 8, 19. The dignity of his person, the wonders of his love, and the glory to which as man and Mediator he is raised, were themes, though familiar to him, yet inexhausted, and inexhaustible. Never did he think on any of these, but his love broke forth as in a flame, and he was carried away as in a torrent of pleasant admiration. How much more when all the three presented themselves to his view. Of this we have striking instances both in the preceding and in the following epistle. For as they were wrote much about the same time with this where my text lies, so in them there is a remarkable coincidence of thought, and similarity of style, concerning the Saviour, compare Eph. i. 20.-23. with Col. i. 15-20. But no where does the apostle descant more sweetly concerning our Lord, than in my text, together with the five following vers. es. He had expressed his confidence concerning the perseverance of the saints at Philippi, chap. i. 6. and his desire that they would stand fast in one spirit, strive ing together with one mind for the faith of the gospel, in nothing terrified by their adversaries, verse 27. In the beginning of this chapter where lies my text, he beseeches them to fulfil his joy, in being like mind. ed, and in having the same mutual love. To engage them the more effectually to this, he suggests a variety of the most alluring motives: the consolations of Christ, the comforts of love, the fellowship of the Spirit, and bowels and mercies. In pursuance of the same purpose, he dissuades them from strife and vainglory. In humility of mind, says he, let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things others.


To move them to this, he proposes the example of Christ, than which he could not name a stronger obligation, a more animating motive. " Let this mind be in you, says he, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God thought it not robberry to be equal with God: Nevertheless, he made himself of no reputation, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death; even the death of the

The apostle not only mentions the amazing humility of Christ, but also the glory 'to which he was exalted in consequence of it. No obscure intimation, that the Philippians humbling themselves in imi. tation of him, should be exalted to be with him where he is, to behold his glory. For it is an invariable rule with God, that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, Luke xiv. 11. 1 Pet. v. 6.

The apostle does not only mention the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which followed. He also takes notice of his pre-existence in a state of uncreated grandeur. Sensible that this was the leading link in the chain of celestial truth, he brings it first in view. It was this which infinitely heightened the wonder of Christ's humiliation, gave worth to his sufferings, and entitled him to that exceeding and eternal weight of glory to which he is now exalted. Had he not been originally in the form of God, the wonder of taking upon him the form of a servant, had sunk as into nothing For if not God, however high in the scale of being, he had been a creature only, and therefore a servant. Accordingly, all the wonder would have consisted in this, that from being a higher servant, he had become one of an inferior order. If not God by nature, all his sufferings and obedience had only been of finite value. If not God in his pre-existent state, he never could have been entitled 10 divine honours in his exalted. For that at the name of a mere creature, however exalted, every knee should bow in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, is grossly absurd: inasmuch as divine worship can no more be lawfully given, than divine attributes can be possibly communicated, to a creature. The apostle deeply impressed with a sense of these things, presents the Philippians with a chain consisting as of three links, viz. the Godhead, the humiliation, and the exaltation of the Son. If we ask who, and what he was? The apostle answers that he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God. If we ask what he became? The apostle tells us, that he took upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. If we still pursue our enquiries, asking what became of him, after he had finished the work which the Father gave him to do? The apostle gives a most satisfactory answer; God highly exalted him, and gave him a name above every name in the first of these we see what our Saviour always was, and could not but be: in the second, what he became; and in the third what he will be to eternity. As the words of my text have often suffered violence, being forced to speak the language of Socinians, I have chosen them for the subject matter of discourse. And, in speaking from them, I purpose, as the God of all grace shall be pleased to assist,

I. To offer a few observations to ascertain and es. tablish their sense.

II. To illustrate and confirm some of the doctrines obviously contained in them.

After which I shall apply the subject. I return to the

First of these, viz. To offer a few observations, in order to ascertain the true sense of the words, “ Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”

Here there are evidently two propositions, 1st. That Christ Jesus was in the form of God. 2dly. That he thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Order requires that we begin with the consideration of the first; and here two things claim our attention. What is meant by God? And what by being in the form of God? By God here, is meant, not God absolutely or essentially considered, but God the Father, in distinction from God the Son, and from God the Holy Ghost. This appears from the text itself, and from the following context. Christ Jesus was in the form of that God, with whom he was equal. Now he to whom he was equal was a distinct person from him. It would be absurd to say that he was equal with bimself. When one thing, or one person is said to be equal to another, two are necessarily implied. In like manner, when it is said in our text, that Christ Jesus was in the form of God, and equal with God, it necessarily implies, that as Christ was a person, so was God. This is further evident from verse 9th, where it is said that God hath highly exalted Christ, and giv. en him a name above every name. This was not done by God essentially considered, but by God the Father. It is the Father who hath given all things into his hand, John iii. 35. who hath committed all judgment unto him, John v. 22. and hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world by him, Acts xvii. 31. of which he gave assurance unto all men, in that he rais. ed him from the dead, ibid. Rom. vi. 4 Gal. i. 1. It cannot be denied that the God who highly exalted Christ, is the God in whose form he subsisted, the God with whom he was equal. Therefore if it be the Fa. ther who exalted him, it follows that it was God the Father in whose form he existed, and with whom he was equal. This is incontrovertibly evident from verse 11th, where we read that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Here we see that the God whose servant he became, and who highly exalted him, is God the Father. And therefore it was be in whose form Christ subsisted, and with whom he was equal. If this needs any further proof, we are furnished with a most cogent one from the reasoning of the Jews, John v. 18. He said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Here God and Fa. ther are synonymous terms. To be equal with God is to be equal with the Father, and thus is our text to be understood. As to what is meant by being in the form of God, I observe by way of negation,

1st. That it must not be understood of any visible form, shape, image, likeness, or representation.' God is a most pure Spirit, and therefore infinitely distant from cvery bodily shape. Form, when applied to matter, is the fashion or figure which it assumes. And thus a body may be globular, cubical, or triangular, In this sense, matter is essential to a body, form accidental. But these things cannot be applied to the divine nature. We may as well attribute thickness to a thought, and colour to a sound, as shape to a spirit. Now God is a spirit, John iv. 24.; invisible, Heb. xi. 27.; whom no man hath seen, nor can see, John i. 18. 1 Tim. vi. 16. True, he said unto Moses, I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts, Exod. xxxiii. ult. But by

But by these may be justly understood something of a human appearance, as a prelude of his future incarnation. So in chap. xxiv. 9. Moses is said to have seen his feet, and in Numb. xii. 8. it is said of him, the similitude of the Lord shall he behold, i. e. as I understand it, the likeness of a man speaking unto him face to face. And by the way, a gradation is observable here. When the fiery law was give en, Moses saw no manner of similitude, Deut. iv. 12. but afterwards he saw first Jehovah's feet, next his back parts, and at last his face. Meanwhile it is obvi. ous that what he saw, was properly the form of a man, and not at all the form of God. But,

2dly. Neither must this form of God in which Christ subsisted, be understood of that majesty in which he sometimes appeared to his disciples, nor of those miracles which he wrought. It is said of the disciples that they beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, John i. 14. and that they were eye-witnesses of his majesty, when they were with him in the holy mount, 2 Pet. i. 16–18. What they saw

« PreviousContinue »