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no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed ? for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."* The duty, then, it appears, which the Apostle here urges upon the renewed believer, is that of entrusting all the circumstances of life to the Almighty's faithful and holy keeping; and, instead of being filled with restless apprehension, to carry every burden, with implicit and grateful confidence, to the throne of divine compassion. To those, my Christian friends, who by faith have tasted a Saviour's love, and have long known him as the kind Shepherd of his people, this dissuasive against anxious fears might be considered as entirely unnecessary; did you not feel, by painful experience, how deeply the unbelieving and corrupt heart stands in need of line upon line, and precept upon precept, in regard to the plainest duties of the heavenly life. Let us take a few examples, for the purpose of illustration. You are laboring, with every day's recurrence, in the pursuit of the bread of subsistence. But you are ready to confess, that, though a believer in the guardianship of your reconciled Father in Christ, you are perpetually harassed about the morrow; and, so far from "committing your way unto" Him, in the certainty that "he shall bring it to pass,"† are as full of doubts and terrors, as if you had blotted out the providence of God from among the articles of your faith. You are training up a family for future usefulness and respectability in life. But with these endeavors how much of unbelief is mingled! how much of fretting and anxious thought! how little of that spirit which marked the parents of the infant Moses; and through which you can calmly cast those
*Matt. vi. 31. 32.
† Ps. xxxvii. 5.
you love upon the great waters of the world, and send up your petitions to heaven for their safety! Such is the inconsistent course of many that profess and call themselves Christians; and the Apostle has indirectly asserted its great wickedness, when he enjoins, in the words before us, the duty of mingling with your prayers "thanksgiving" for past mercies. It is as if he had said; With so many former acts of divine care to call to remembrance, how can you, without the deepest ingratitude, distrust your Lord for days to come; and not rather feel the sweet conviction, that his dealings toward you, in every future period, will be mercy, faithfulness, and truth? The admonition under review, therefore, may be thus expressed. Use the means which are within your power: pray to the Lord God Almighty for a blessing upon them: and then, in patience and hope," cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you."*
It is the blessedness of the precious volume of life, that it so delightfully connects with exhortations to duty, promises of reward to faithful performance. The Apostle has illustrated this feature of God's word, in the verse which follows; wherein he states the happiness, flowing from this habitual reference of every concern to the almighty Disposer. "And the peace of God," he declares, "which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." By the "peace" of which St. Paul here speaks, he means a secret rest and tranquillity; a settled confidence in the divine favor and protection; a serene certainty, that all things, being in the Lord's hands, shall "work together for good."† You observe that he terms this feeling one "which passeth all under
* I. Pet. v. 7.
+ Rom. viii. 28.
standing ;" and he intends thereby to say, that not only, being the consequence of regular communion with God by prayer, is it totally unknown by the man of the world, but that even by the believer himself it can never be adequately estimated or expressed. When the Apostle says that this solid reliance upon their heavenly Father "shall keep the hearts and minds" of real believers, he borrows a term from military affairs; and assures you, that, as soldiers guard a city, and defend it against every enemy, so the sense of security, thus vouchsafed to the Christian, preserves him firm against every harassing fearevery doubt as to the future-every disposition to look with apprehension to the coming destiny, either of himself, or of those for whom he is interested.It is thus, my brethren, that that course of the servant of God, by which he presents all his various concerns and interests at the footstool of his almighty Governor, is its own sure and blessed recompense; and perhaps there are some now before me who can testify, from their own experience, to the divine and unspeakable consolation which it has yielded into their hearts. In all the difficulties and the trials of life, you have "lifted up your eyes unto the hills from whence cometh your help :"* you have lived in the continual exercise of prayer: and, in return for this regular, hourly habit of throwing all your burdens upon the Lord, he has taken off the weight from your spirit; your anxieties have ceased; and you have been enabled to wait, with cheerful confidence, for the development of events. If this be, indeed, then, the happy result of your compliance with the injunction of the Apostle, proceed, through divine grace, in the same path of filial supplication; and reap, in all its glorious fulness, that promise of
Ps. cxxi. 1.
the word of life: "Thou wilt keep him in PERFECT PEACE, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee."*
Having thus conveyed to these Philippian believers the admonitions just considered, the Apostle goes on to deliver a fourth injunction, of a very general and comprehensive character. Finally, brethren," he says, "whatsoever things are true," that is, whatever resembles the faithfulness so conspicuous in the divine character; "whatsoever things are honest," or grave, dignified, and respectable; "whatsoever things are just," namely, marked with uprightness and strict integrity; "whatsoever things are pure," that is, chaste and decent; "whatsoever things are lovely," or, in other words, amiable in the sight of men, and calculated to win their regard and esteem; "whatsoever things are of good report," or deservedly held in repute in the community; "if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things;" or, to express his meaning more clearly: if these qualities and actions are at all excellent and laudable, give them your diligent attention; and make it your endeavor to exhibit them to a gainsaying world, in your daily walk and conversation.
The general idea contained in these words of St. Paul, is that of the necessary and inseparable connexion between a believer's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fruits of a holy life and he here seems, in effect, to say to the converts of Philippi, that the several graces now enumerated are the only satisfactory evidence, that a man has been in fact, as well as in profession, "born again" by the Holy Spirit of God. It will be interesting, my brethren, as well as highly important, to set forth, with reference to the various qualities and
* Isaiah, xxvi. 3.
dispositions here prescribed, the emptiness of every claim to the title of Christ's disciple, unless supported by the confirming testimony of a consistent and spotless example. You have often seen, for instance, those in the community around you, who are nominally the followers of a crucified Saviour, and the members of his spiritual kingdom; but who, at the same time, in their ordinary transactions with their fellowmen, are constantly distinguished by duplicity and equivocation. Can such persons be pronounced the subjects of a Redeemer's grace, and the heirs of his glorious promises? You have beheld other men, with the same pretensions, descending to petty artifices, and low chicanery. Ought we, in the judgment of the largest charity, to regard these as the real servants of the Lord Jesus Christ? Again. You have frequently, in the course of your daily avocations, met with individuals calling themselves Christians, who, while guilty of nothing grossly dishonest, are, nevertheless, ever on the watch to take an unfair advantage; and, in all their dealings, are full of cunning and deep design. Professors of the gospel such as these, may we not reasonably strike from the catalogue of sincere and humble followers of the Son of God? But further. There are some who are numbered among the Lord's people, who are yet notorious, in their conversation, for that impurity which the Apostle has so forcibly styled, "filthy communication out of the mouth."* How are we to allow such to be the disciples of that Master, who is "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners ?" And finally. You not unfrequently see those who declare themselves to be the friends of the Redeemer, who, at the same time, have no
* Col. iii. 8.
† Heb. vii. 26.