« PreviousContinue »
mildness and gentleness in their tempers; display no bene volence to their suffering fellow-beings; are morose, stern, and selfish; and do not come up even to the standard of this world, in those dispositions which lend grace and loveliness to the human character. What are we to say, my brethren, of these? Do they not evince the absence of that grace of Christ, which softens the ruggedness of man's nature; opens his soul to every benignant and generous affection; and transforms him into the image of that Saviour, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree?"* The discordance between such practice, and the spiritual faith of the gospel, we cannot but acknowledge: and it was to shew the futility of this professed allegiance to Christ, while unproductive of a marked influence upon the daily deportment, that St. Paul uttered the exhortation before us. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."† "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."t "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
In the last admonition here given by the Apostle, he advises his Philippian brethren, as he had done in a former part of the Epistle, to cultivate all those graces and dispositions which had been taught them by his own lips, and exemplified in his own practice. "Those things," says he, "which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do;" and he then sets before them the blessing, by which such a career would be accompanied: " and the God of peace shall be with you;" he shall comfort you with the
Rom. viii. 9. § James, ii. 26.
* I. Pet. ii, 24. † Matt. vii. 21.
sense of his favor; give you joy in believing; and sustain you with an abiding expectation of coming glory.
I need not assure those who have been conducted, by divine grace, into the newness of the spiritual life, that to all those various qualities and affections which St. Paul exhibited, and which real Christians after him manifest, the Father in heaven does, as we are here informed, yield a rich recompense of consolation. Are you filled, like the great Apostle, with gratitude of heart towards the blessed Author and Finisher of your salvation? You can bear me witness, then, that in this attachment you have found your reward; and that, in the sweet consciousness of pardoned sin, and of reconciliation with the God whom you had offended, you are now "rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."* Are you acquiescing, like him, with patient submission, in the appointments of a wise and merciful Providence? Here, also, you have reaped a harvest of spiritual comfort. Amidst the deprivations of this world, you have been uplifted with the prospects of another; and, through all varieties of experience, are stayed upon that hope which is "as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast." I might illustrate the correctness of St. Paul's representation, with reference to all the other graces of the Christian calling and demonstrate, from this union of obedience with delight and satisfaction, the unequalled felicity of their portion, who have renounced the world, taken up their cross, and determined, through all their days, to follow Christ in the regeneration. What better encouragement do you need? "Your joy no man taketh from you." "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life
+ Heb. vi. 19.
+ John, xvi. 22.
* I. Pet. i. 8.
that now is, and of that which is to come.' "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you."t "All things are yours; life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."
* I. Tim. iv. 8.
+ John, xiv. 27.
I. Cor. iii. 21-23.
CHAPTER IV. 10-16.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 1 can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding, ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now, ye Philippians, know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
It is, almost invariably, one of the characteristic features of a great mind, to be willing to acknowledge an obligation; and when this mind has been touched by the renewing influences of a Redeemer's grace, the quality thus manifested in the natural man shines still more brightly in the disciple of Jesus
Christ. And it must be observed, that this spirit of grateful simplicity, by which the heart is ready to confess benefits received, is very far removed from grovelling and servile adulation. It is a meek, affectionate, and thankful disposition, leading the believer to express, not only without shame, but with cheerfulness and delight, the debt of love which he has contracted, through the goodness of a fellow-man. Such was the noble feeling which impelled St. Paul, before closing this Epistle to the Christians of Philippi, to convey to them his sense of their remarkable benevolence towards himself. The subject of kind attentions from distant friends, he hastens to utter his returning testimony; and takes pleasure in recording, as we have once before seen him doing,* the attachment that remembered him in his sorrows, and visited him with seasonable supplies.
The precise act of benevolence which the Apostle here takes occasion to commemorate, is the mission of Epaphroditus from Philippi to Rome, with a sum of money to alleviate the miseries of his imprisonment. "But I rejoiced," he says, "in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again," or, has begun to revive; as, in the season of spring, a plant puts forth its buds again, after the long barrenness of winter. And not only does St. Paul thus express his gratitude for the bounty of his brethren, but he also apologizes, in the most delicate manner, for their delay in administering to his wants. "Wherein," he tells them, "ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity:" it appears, therefore, that though the Philippians had not, so soon as might have been expected, communicated aid to this captive servant
* See Lecture x.