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likewise be in you. How can you, in the prospect of that feast of your profession, be content to proceed in a poor career of compromise with the vanities of the world, and of lukewarm and partial service? The calling of the believer is one of untiring energy, not of formal observances; of spirit and of power, not of cold and reluctant ceremony. To such a view of its character, may each one of you, through the grace of God, be led this day with clear perception! Call to mind the infinite preciousness of your reward. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."* Ponder the disastrous consequences of your failure. "The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever." "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?"‡ "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." + Rev. xiv. 11. + Isaiah, xxxiii. 14. § II. Pet. i. 10. 11.
* Rev. ii. 7.
CHAPTER III. 15-19.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
THE Apostle, after having dwelt, through nearly all the preceding part of the present Chapter, upon the subject of himself and his spiritual views, now returns to his Philippian brethren; and addresses to them several exhortations, founded upon the important statements which he had just been making. The Epistle in whose elucidation we are employed, is, properly speaking, a letter of practical admonitions. It leads the believer to the proper sources of confidence; it enjoins upon him the importance of a right judgment, in the momentous concerns
of the gospel; and proposes salutary rules for the government of his daily life and conduct. The portion which now comes in order for your consideration, accords entirely with this character of the composition; and furnishes some precepts, upon which we may profitably, in dependence upon the divine blessing, bestow our thoughts.
The Apostle begins with exhorting the Philippians to cultivate the same views, in regard to the gospel, which he had just illustrated in the description of his own experience. "Let us therefore," he observes, "as many as be perfect, be thus minded and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." In advising his brethren of Philippi to be "thus minded," he refers to all that he had been maintaining in the previous verses of the Chapter. He had shewn it to be the duty, and the characteristic spirit of the real Christian, to renounce all dependence upon the deeds of the flesh; to rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation; to count every thing as worthless, in comparison with the eternal blessings of the gospel; and, in the pursuit of his heavenly reward, to be continually struggling onward, as one that dreads to lose the crown, and that feels the necessity of hourly vigilance and exertion. This habit of mind and feeling, as exemplified in his own Christian course, the Apostle now urges upon all those who had attained experience in the things of God; and whom he here distinguishes by the honorable title of the "perfect." By this expression, he understands persons, who have arrived at mature acquaintance with the gospel system; who are advanced and spiritual believers, as distinguished from those who have but an imperfect knowledge of the scheme of salvation. The possessors of this enlightened religion he characterizes, in other places, by various names. In
his First Epistle to the Corinthians he calls them "spiritual" persons, in opposition to those who, by their feeble progress in divine things, are only "carnal," and "babes in Christ."* And, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, they are styled those "that are of full age," in distinction from others, who, though nominally Christians, "have need that one teach them again which be the first principles of the oracles of God." The sacred writer implies, therefore, in the words before us, that it ought reasonably to be expected of persons who had been, in a good measure, enlightened by the Spirit of God, that they should exhibit those correct views of truth on which he had recently been insisting; and he connects with this remark another observation, of a very encouraging nature. "And if in any thing," says he, "ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you:" that is-Should it unhappily be the fact, that some among you entertain defective conceptions, and different from my own, in regard to any of the doctrines of the gospel, let me exhort you to go steadily and humbly onward; and, through this path of prayer and godly sincerity, you will be conducted at last to the full day-light of Christian truth.
It is to this part of the verse now under consideration, that I would, in particular, my brethren, invite your attention; because it illustrates a very interesting feature in the Apostle's character. Examine the spirit that breathes through his language. Among the professing Christians of Philippi, there were some who labored under very imperfect and confused notions, as to the method of the sinner's justification. In respect to these partially informed believers, what is the disposition
*I. Cor. iii. 1.
† Heb. v. 12. 14.
manifested by the great Apostle? Is he irritated, that, with Christ plainly preached, and with the word of God open for their instruction, they should remain in such ignorance of that way of life provided by heaven for a ruined world? Does he upbraid them? Does he express himself even with the least degree of harsh and inimical feeling? In distinction from all this, mark his temper. He is thankful for that measure of knowledge which these Christians have already attained; and waits, in a spirit of calm forbearance and faith, for the time, when that Lord who has led them thus far shall give them more abundant infusions of his grace, and conduct them “unto a perfect man."* Thus it is that St. Paul deals with his less enlightened brethren; and his conduct cannot be too strongly impressed upon those of you, my Christian friends, who have been favored by Providence with a discriminating knowledge of divine things. While you mingle among the professed servants of Christ, you meet with constant exemplifications of that deficient acquaintance with the gospel, which was perceived by the Apostle in those primitive days. You find it, for instance, to be a possible thing, that men may have sat for a considerable period under the faithful ministration of the word of life, and yet, after all, have no clear convictions of the exclusive efficacy of Christ, for procuring their eternal salvation: that they may be blind to the extent of their inward corruption; and be resting, with a certain easy security, upon a life of moral virtues, and of benevolent deeds. Again; among those who make a public profession of the religion of Christ, you discover persons, who, though not without some strong feelings of gratitude and love for the Redeemer of sinners, have * Eph. iv. 13.