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heralds of salvation: and particularly of him who, in the course of Providence, is his own spiritual guide to a world of immortality and glory. And yet, my brethren, if it is in this feeling that we perceive one of the necessary fruits of divine grace within the heart, how defective must we consider the religious condition of a vast proportion of those, who name the name of Christ, sit in our sanctuaries as God's people, and, in profession, are invested with the character, and influenced by the views of Christians! It is not that there is any want among the majority of professed believers, of that kindly solicitude, which is ready to mourn with the Christian minister in his merely human sorrows. Of this active tenderness and friendship, there is as great an abundance now, as in the days of the suffering Apostle: but it is in respect of that higher and spiritual feeling, which follows the messenger of Christ through his path of daily discouragement-which sighs over his fruitless endeavors to win souls to Christ-and which, in view of these peculiar trials to which he is subjected, leads the Christian disciple to aid him with the secret and anxious cooperation of his wishes, and his prayers-it is by the absence of this species of sympathy among the assemblies of God's professing people, that he who preaches Jesus to a guilty world is made to feel that he is toiling in solitude! "The minister who is placed over you in the Lord," observes the eloquent and pious Mr. Jay,* "has his trials as a man; and he has his trials as a Christian; and in addition to both these, he has trials peculiar to his office. Could he have foreseen all at the beginning, he would have been disheartened at the entrance.
* Christian Contemplated. Lecture iv.
Never successful according to his wishes, and sometimes apparently useless, he is often ready to lay down his commission at his Master's feet; to say, 'I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain.'" My brethren, are there not some of you, who think not of these things? who view the duties of the ministerial office, precisely as you regard those of any ordinary and worldly avocation? who never dream of the conflicts which we wage with the corrupt, and impenitent, and immovable heart? and are, in consequence, never led to offer up one petition on our behalf, to that Source of grace and strength which can alone give us the victory? But if so, you are wanting in one of the characteristic marks of Christ's real disciple. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves."*
The inspired Apostle proceeds, in the next verse, merely to repeat, in another and stronger form, the assurance of his affection for these Christian brethren. He appeals to the great Searcher of hearts for the truth of his professions. "For God is my record," or rather, is my witness, "how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." The term "bowels" here employed by St. Paul, to express his attachment to the Philippian believers, is one of frequent use in the Scriptures; and signifies strong and ardent love. Thus Zacharias, in that song of his which is recorded by St. Luke,† speaks of "the tender mercy of our God," which, literally rendered, would be, "the bowels of mercy of our God." When the Apostle, then, says that he was drawn towards these brethren in the Lord, "in the bowels of Jesus Christ," he
means thereby, that he entertained a feeling in regard to them similar to that affection which our divine Master exhibited, for a guilty and ruined world. The whole verse, accordingly, has been thus aptly rendered by an eminent critic,* "For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the tender affections of Jesus Christ." I need not dwell upon the declaration before us any longer than by remarking, in how interesting a manner it exemplifies a Christian's love for those, who are united in the bonds of a common faith. You observe the universality of the Apostle's expression of regard. He felt an attachment to each and all of them, without exception; and, however various they might be in rank, and intellectual character, and human attainments, looked upon them as one in the love and service of the Lord Jesus Christ. And such, my brethren, is the feeling of Christ's real disciples toward each other, in every age and clime. It is not to be expected, neither is it necessary, that the believer should feel equal emotions of friendship and regard, fór all that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity. One servant of God is cultivated by education, and another is destitute of this superior refinement; one is favored by Providence with many intellectual gifts, another has none of these interesting endowments; and between these two persons it would be unreasonable to look for that extent of attachment, which can only be founded upon congeniality of mind, and the possession of equal advantages and blessings. Yet, notwithstanding, the Christian does experience, with respect to all his fellow-believers, a strong and peculiar species of affection. It is not so much a human, as a heavenly feeling it is the tender love of brethren in Christ: it is the union
*Wakefield's New Testament.
of those who have been redeemed by the same precious blood; who are gathered into the same fold; who, at the table of a Saviour's commemorated death, "eat of the same spiritual meat, and drink of the same spiritual drink."* This yearning of the heart towards the possessors of like hopes, and of a common Master, is one of the indications of a divine renewal, by the power of the Holy Ghost. Let us all bear this truth in remembrance; and diligently inquire whether, with St. John, we can exclaim, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."t
With this expression of love for his distant friends at Philippi, St. Paul joins a fervent prayer for their increase in all the graces and attainments of the life of God. This desire of his soul is contained in the three remaining verses of the portion under review; and is in exact harmony with the spirit which he manifests, on other occasions than the present. He always exhibits the religion of Christ as a principle, which when implanted within the believer, should be continually carrying him onward to higher degrees of holiness. Thus, for the Christians of Colosse he prays, that they might be “fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God:" and this petition is, in its form and manner, very similar to that to which your attention is now to be called. The words before us, in the supplication which they contain for the spiritual progress of the Philippians, present a description of some of the most important features that distinguish the Christian character. Let us follow the Apostle in his delineation, and compare our own attainments with the standard.
The first Christian grace which forms the subject of the in
*I. Cor. x. 3. 4.
+ I. John, iii. 14.
Col. i. 10.
spired writer's prayer, is love." And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more." St. Paul refers, in this place, to that evidence of the Christian's renewed condition, which consists in his fervent love to God: an affection which rejoices in the contemplation of the divine character; and which uniformly displays itself in the imitation of that character, by an ardent love to men. Such is the qualification, then, which the Apostle places first among the objects of his prayer, in behalf of these cherished friends; and the Holy Scriptures, in other places, speak of this divine affection as constituting the chief and prominent feature of the believer's character. St. Paul prays for the Ephesians, that they may be "rooted and grounded in love."* St. Jude gives this counsel; “Keep yourselves in the love of God." And our inspired writer's desire for the Thessalonian Christians, is of the same character. "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God."‡ This heavenly principle, therefore, is set forth, as you perceive, in the word of life, as the grand mark of Christ's followers in the world. The believer, through the teachings of divine grace, is called into realizing views of the unspeakable goodness and mercy of God; he discerns the wondrous manifestations of his Father's character, in the course of providence, and in the gift of his dear Son; and the sight draws him from every other object to this gracious Being, as the "chief among ten thousand," and the "altogether lovely." The whole life, indeed, of the servant of God, may be defined to be a course of grateful contemplation of his Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer; and the necessary and invariable accompaniment of such a spirit, is an active benevolence to man. This is the love that
* Eph. iii. 17.
+ Jude, 21.
II. Thess. iii. 5.