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I may call your attention, my brethren, in passing, to the remarkable testimony afforded, in the passage before us, to the divinity of the eternal Saviour of lost sinners. The Apostle, as you perceive, ascribes the new and glorified bodies of the saints to the almighty strength of the Lord Jesus Christ; and evidently allows to him the fulness of that might, which "laid the foundations of the earth," and "shut up the sea with doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."* From this incidental observation, however, I hasten to lead you to the general idea, thrown out in these words of the inspired writer, as they have now been explained.
In a recent Lecture, you were called to view the Apostle looking forward, with enraptured anticipation, to the glorious resurrection of his body. With the same feelings of delight which he then discovered in the topic, he now turns to it once more; and asserts that the great charm which that brighter and better world possessed for him, was derived from the certainty that his poor, frail, dying flesh, should, by a voice from thence, be clothed with immortal beauty, and dwell with Christ for ever and ever. And is it any wonder, that he who, for the gospel's sake, was "beaten," and "stoned," and "buffeted," should find some joy in the expectation of a state, which shall not be subject, through eternal years, to the visitations of sorrow and of pain? Is it any wonder, that he who had been worn with "hunger," and parched with "thirst," should dwell with transport upon the promises of a frame, which "shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead * Job, xxxviii. 4. 8. 11.
them unto living fountains of waters ?"* Is it surprising, that he who, for the work of bringing sinners unto God, had pined in "weariness" and "watchings," and "had no certain dwellingplace," should hail with delight a condition, in which, as long as heaven itself shall endure, the believer shall sweetly "rest from his labors ?" But that which the Apostle uttered for his own consolation, he likewise spoke, my brethren, for yours. If you are true Christians, he seems to say,-you are citizens of God's kingdom in heaven; thither exalt your views; and, to lend new interest to your contemplation of it, behold, in imagination, the gracious Redeemer descending thence, to invest you, according to the promises of his word, with a new and better tabernacle. "It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power." "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
The reference thus made by the Apostle to the animating doctrine of the resurrection of the body, affords him good ground for urging upon the Philippians, with earnestness and affection, the duty of perseverance in the love of Christ. This admonition forms the commencing verse of the Fourth Chapter; and is thus feelingly expressed. "Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved :" that is to say; If it is to such a recompense that the gospel of Jesus permits you to aspire, labor, through divine grace, to be preserved firm in
* Rev. vii. 16. 17. † Rev. xiv. 13.
I. Cor. xv. 42. 43. 49. 55. 57.
your attachment to that way of eternal salvation, to which you have thus far adhered with faith and love. I might apply to yourselves, my Christian brethren, the exhortation here given by St. Paul to his children at Philippi; and might ask you how it can be possible, that, with such motives to take God for your exclusive portion, and to renounce every inferior object, any of you should still be divided, in base neutrality, between Christ and the world; be so little alive to the superior blessedness and importance of the believer's privileges; and not rather labor, with single eye, after the attainment of those precious promises, which the religion of Jesus discloses? Permit me, however, to direct you principally to one idea, which is unfolded in the words before us; that of the tenderness with which the faithful ministers of Christ contemplate those, among whom, by the appointment of a gracious Providence, they are placed as spiritual shepherds and guides.
Turn your eye once more to the expressions of St. Paul. He styles the Philippians his "joy :" intimating, that to see them walking by faith in an unseen Saviour; denying themselves; resisting the temptations of a vain world; taking up their cross; and following Jesus; was the great source of his happiness, while journeying through this present state to the kingdom of heaven. The feelings of the Apostle, my brethren, represent those which animate the heart of every ministering servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is filled with the spirit of his office. The pleasure of beholding the increase of real religion, in the midst of that people for whom he labors in the gospel, renders every earthly source of gratification worthless in his esteem: as, on the other hand, to be deprived of this satisfaction, and find the power of Christianity declin
ing; pride, frivolity, and worldly-mindedness gaining the ascendancy; and "the love of many waxing cold;"* casts a gloom over his happiest hours, and makes him, through the succession of months and years, 'slight the season and the scene.' But St. Paul also gives to these believers of Philippi the name of his "crown:" evidently meaning to express the gladness with which he looked forward to the hour, when his faithful people should, at the judgment-seat of Christ, stand forth as the evidences of his labors; and as proofs that he was worthy, through Christ, of that blessed recompense, which the Lord shall assign to his diligent servants. In this feeling, likewise, the ambassadors of salvation to a guilty world largely participate; and I may here very properly pause, for a moment, to offer a passing tribute to that infinite mercy, which has thus provided, for the minister of Christ, an effectual barrier against the allurements of the world, and an abiding comfort amidst its reproaches and its frowns. What power have the empty pleasures, and the seducing honors of this life, for that herald of the Lord Jesus, who beholds the objects of his labors increasing in the knowledge of Christ, and proceeding onward to a kingdom in the skies; and who anticipates, through his Master's acceptance of these signs of his faithfulness, an everlasting enjoyment of the Saviour's presence? And let us view the minister of truth, amidst the persecutions and trials of his career. By some his exhibitions of gospel doctrine and precepts are contemptuously reviled; others turn with indifference from his message; and, in this way, the larger portion of those to whom his efforts are directed yield no fruit to gladden him in return. But, under
*Matt. xxiv. 12.
these necessary endurances of his vocation, he can still lift up his head with transport. While the malignant oppose, and the lukewarm are unimpressed, the gracious Head of the church vouchsafes to him some spiritual children. In these he rejoices with joy unspeakable: he regards them as more than a counterbalance for all his tribulations: and hails their Christian graces as the pledge of his own future participation in the promise, "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.' 99* Such is the privilege of God's ministering servants. They turn an eye of rapture to the people of their love and their care; and, as they behold them, utter the exclamation, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy."t
St. Paul adds, in the next verse, another admonition, founded upon the same animating prospect of a future resurrection to glory. "I beseech," says he, "Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord." He here addresses an exhortation to two women of Philippi ; who, from the account given of them in the following verse, appear to have been distinguished for their assiduous exertions in the cause of Christ Jesus. Nothing farther is related concerning them, in the pages of the New Testament history; but, from the advice given them, in the language before us, to cultivate a spirit of Christian unanimity, it seems that, from some cause or other which has not reached our ears, an unhappy disagreement between them had arisen. In view of those glorious prospects to which he had just invited their
† I. Thess. ii. 19. 20.
* Dan. xii. 3.