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of God of great price."* Oh, rare and attractive union of the martyr's fervor, and the child's simplicity! Such heralds of a Saviour's message, may the great Head of the church increase in large abundance! May we all aim, with humble earnestness, after the same combination of apparently opposite, but really harmonious qualities of character; and, while we are filled with the zeal that becometh those, whose office is to bring sinners to God and heaven, yet exhibit the temper portrayed by the Apostle, when he says, that "the servant of the Lord must be gentle unto all men, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves!" For thus abased a spirit it is, that the highest exaltation of the world of glory is in store; and the Master, whom his ministers here serve in the labors of his gospel, shall himself pronounce to them the salutation, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”‡
*I. Pet. iii. 4.
† II. Tim. ii. 24. 25.
Matt. xxv. 21.
CHAPTER II. 24-30.
But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation. Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
THE promise given by the Apostle, and which was considered in the preceding Lecture, to send Timothy on a visit of consolation to the Christians of Philippi, was calculated, in no ordinary degree, to animate their drooping spirits. Comforting, however, as it undoubtedly was, it could not, from the circumstances in which St. Paul was placed, be immediately performed; for the imprisoned servant of Christ was unable,
as yet, to form any certain opinion, in regard to the issue of his present captivity. So long as this question remained undetermined, the stay of Timothy at Rome was highly expedient: but, in the mean time, the patience of those faithful believers might be in danger of being exhausted, by their prolonged separation from their spiritual father, and the absence of that substitute whom he had held forth to their expectations. The plan by which he endeavored to soothe their hearts, is stated in the words which have just been read; and to the consideration of which I would now, in dependence upon the divine blessing, invite your attention.
In the commencing verse of the portion before us, St. Paul intimates to the Philippians a considerable degree of certainty, that he should be permitted by Providence speedily to behold their faces in the flesh. "But I trust," says he, "in the Lord," or, through the merciful interposition of my God and Saviour, "that I also myself shall come shortly." This expectation, however, amounted to nothing more than a reasonable persuasion; and, even should it be realized, it could only be after some little space of time had elapsed. To cheer them amidst these depressing circumstances, he adopted a resolution which is thus stated, in his own affectionate language. "Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants." It is probable that Epaphroditus was one of the ministers of the Philippian church: the restoration, therefore, of this laborer to the beloved flock among which he had dwelt, would infuse no small delight into their hearts. Let us examine the description here given by St. Paul, of his character and merits.
He calls him his "brother;" meaning thereby, that he was related to him, not only in the bonds of the Saviour's gospel, but by the additional tie of their common office, as heralds of divine mercy to a sinful world. He styles him, further, his "companion in labour :" intimating very clearly, that, in the discharge of his sacred functions, he shrunk not from any of those toils to which they subjected him; but, with a selfdenying perseverance, endeavored earnestly to "do the work of an evangelist," and to "make full proof of his ministry."* His active and laborious disposition is set forth again by the Apostle, when he applies to him the appellation of his "fellow soldier ;" referring to the patient trust, and faith in the divine power, with which this minister of Christ contended against the sinful hearts of men, and waged uncompromising war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. This mode of representing the militant character of the ministerial office, in reference to the opposition with which it meets from the carnal mind, is to be found in other places of the Apostle's writings. Thus, in the Second Epistle to Timothy, "Thou therefore," he says, "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."+ And, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, he declares, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds." After having thus described the qualifications of Epaphroditus as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, he proceeds to acknowledge, with that simplicity of character which belongs to the real Christian, his obligations to this servant of God as his friend in the hour of necessity. "But your messenger," he says, "and he that ministered to my wants." The Phi
* II. Tim. iv. 5.
+ II .Tim. ii. 3.
II. Cor. x. 4.
lippians, it appears, had no sooner heard of the imprisonment of their beloved Apostle, than they began to devise measures for alleviating the sorrows and privations of his condition; and, having collected a sum of money, despatched the person here commemorated to Rome, as the bearer of their contributions. Thus sent on an errand of love, Epaphroditus took his departure from Philippi; carried to the captive what his grateful children had provided; and, by every form of affectionate attention, sought to diminish the burden of his sufferings. It is in virtue of this office, as the conveyer of supplies from the Christians among whom he lived, that he is here called their "messenger:" a title which seems to have been applied, in the primitive church, to those who were sent any where, entrusted with some special commission. Thus, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, "Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ."*-From the portrait thus drawn of that ministering servant of God, you may infer that he was possessed of no common attainments in Christian zeal, and Christian love. As a preacher of the gospel, he delivered his message boldly, without accommodation to the pride and corrupt propensities of an impenitent world. As a disciple of Christ, he was ready to every friendly office; and, with kind and active sympathy, strove to support the venerated Apostle under that afflictive dispensation with which he had been visited. In these few points of character, therefore, he remains as an exemplar to us that follow; "a burning and shining light"† in his day and generation; "full † John, v. 35.
* II. Cor. viii. 23.