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of holiness, whose end is "everlasting life."* In this spirit of solicitude for their advancement in the Christian course, he delivers the exhortations which have just been read; and they address themselves, with equal force, to believers of every age and clime.
The first of the apostolic precepts before us, is one of a general character; and is thus expressed. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed," that is, in conformity with the past example of holiness which you have afforded, "not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." The Apostle intends to convey the idea, that any departure, on the part of the Philippians, from the accustomed perseverance of their endeavors, merely because his eye was no longer upon them, would argue a servile disposition; and that it was now incumbent upon them, in a greater degree than ever, to evince their sense of the importance of that heavenly walk and conversation, which prepare the believer for the presence of God. The language in which the present admonition is conveyed, is worthy of close attention. St. Paul exhorts the disciples of Christ to "work out" their attainment of life eternal. The expression denotes active, ardent, unremitting exertion; and implies that, in a world so full of temptations, and so beset with obstacles to the spiritual life, nothing short of an engaged and earnest pursuit of the one, grand object, will ensure complete success. This same representation of the gospel course, as one of strenuous devotion to the work, is to be found in other parts of the word of life. "Let us labor therefore," says the Apostle to the Hebrews, "to enter into that rest." "Wherefore the
rather, brethren," says St. Peter, "give diligence to make your calling and election sure."* It is with reference to the difficulties and perils of the Christian pilgrimage, that St. Paul here enjoins also the duty of continual caution, and self-distrust. "With fear and trembling," are his words: as if he had said; The believer's life is a warfare with the great enemy of souls, and with the suggestions of a corrupt heart within; maintain, therefore, constant anxiety and circumspection; and walk as one, who is every moment apprehensive of a fall. The admonition is similar to another of the same Apostle, which is thus expressed; "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."t
Now I may with confidence, my Christian brethren, venture to declare, that the propriety of this two-fold injunction of the inspired author, in regard to activity in the race to heaven, and to the cultivation of a holy jealousy and dread of temptation, is abundantly confirmed by the inward experience of the servants of God. Every view which the Christian takes of his calling, leads him to see more clearly the necessity of an engaged and strenuous mind, in the great aim of personal sanctification. The obstacles with which he meets remind him, that the kingdom of heaven is to "suffer violence," and that the violent must "take it by force;" and, beset as he is by temptations without, and by a deceitful heart within, he arrives at the conclusion, that it is only by giving neither sleep to the eyes, nor slumber to the eye-lids, that his soul can become a temple of the Holy Ghost, and the seat of heavenly affections, tempers, and desires. Still more plainly, however, does the
* II. Peter, i. 10.
† Heb. iv. 1.
believer perceive the need of that self-suspicious, and apprehensive spirit, which is here described under the appropriate names of "fear and trembling." The gospel of Christ calls him to the supreme love of that Saviour, who "first loved"* him: but he finds himself continually apostatizing to the service of a present and perishable world. He is enjoined, as in the commencement of the Chapter before us, to cultivate that spirit of affectionate unity with all Christians, which overlooks minor shades of distinction: but, when he examines his own course, he discovers continual relapses into a narrow bigotry of feeling. He is commanded to put on a humble mind: but he views, with grief, that vain conceit too often reigns predominant. He is besought to clothe hinself with that disinterested temper, which is ever employed upon the good and the happiness of others; and yet, when he surveys his own pilgrimage through the world, he perceives that selfishness is the chief ingredient in his daily character. The servant of God thus learns, in the school of Christian experience, to place no confidence in his power of resistance; and, in the recollection of his weakness, sees the fitness of those scriptural declarations, "Happy is the man that feareth always:"+ "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."+
The exhortation thus given by the Apostle, to activity and caution in the Christian life, he accompanies, in the following verse, with a declaration full of encouragement. Mark his language. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." It is as if he had said; While you pursue your laborious conflict with Satan and the world, and are anxiously and diligently aiming at new accessions of
* I. John, iv. 19.
† Prov. xxviii. 14.
+ I. Pet. i. 17.
holiness, be not disheartened: there is One on high who is ever at hand to sustain you; and who, by the living energy of his Spirit, produces within the heart every good desire, every holy resolution, and every varied attainment in grace, with constant delight and readiness. These words embrace some considerations, particularly worthy of attention; and which it shall be my endeavor briefly to unfold.
And let me call your minds, in the first place, to the important doctrine, which is here so unequivocally stated by St. Paul; namely, that there is not one holy thought, intention, or act, of any human creature, which does not proceed from God's Spirit as the Author.-Let us turn again to the language under consideration. You are told that it is the Almighty "which worketh in you to will;" or, in other words, without Him the first inclination, or wish, to become obedient to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, could not arise within your hearts. You are assured, further, that it is the same blessed Being who enables you " to do;" that is, the whole course of your Christian life, and your ability to bring those good desires into practice, proceed from the Giver of every perfect gift.-Permit me, my brethren, to invite your closest attention to a statement, so calculated to humble the pride and vanity of the human heart. The representation here made discloses the fact, that you cannot breathe forth one aspiration after what is excellent and of good report; that you cannot advance a single step in that path of obedience, by which you evidence the reality of your Christian profession, and become meet for the kingdom of heaven; independently of the blessed Spirit of grace from above. In this utter helplessness and poverty of your moral condition, discern rea
sons for the deepest abasement; and, while you perceive your own inability to render an acceptable service, renounce every plea of merit before the footstool of divine compassion. And yet the doctrine here asserted, plain and positive as is the language in which it is conveyed, meets with decided opposition from many that profess to take Scripture for their guide; but who, in the arrogance of their hearts, are perpetually contending for a sort of union, in the work of salvation, between human virtue, and a divine strength which comes to help out man's imperfections. To those within the present congregation, if such there be, who, not able to receive the declaration before us, are endeavoring to evade its obvious meaning, let me present the confirming testimony of that Liturgy, whose petitions they are every week breathing. What mean you, when you address God as the Giver," from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed?"* In what sense do you utter your supplications to Him as the Being, "of whose only gift it cometh, that his faithful people do unto him true and laudable service?" Terms like these speak a language that cannot be mistaken; and of precisely the same import is the declaration of our Tenth Article. "The condition of man after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will." And when, from these merely human authorities, we turn to the pages of divine revelation, we
* Collect for Peace. + Collect for Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.