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the one hand, and of comfortable plenty on the other. When he was visited by Providence with penury, he could abstain from repinings, and from hard thoughts of God: and when he had worldly goods in profusion, he was not led away into luxurious indulgence; pride; and love of this present corruptible and fleeting scene of things. I have already illustrated, while considering the preceding verse, that disposition of the believer, by which he bears with meek resignation the adverse dispensations of heaven. Let me now, from the declaration here made by the Apostle, call your attention to that part of the Christian's character, by which he preserves a sustained and balanced spirit, amidst a fulness of worldly possessions. My dear Christian friends, permit me to ask you, as professed followers of the Redeemer, to take the representation of St. Paul as a standard; and to bring to a comparison with it your own spirit and deportment, while journeying to an eternal country. While blessed by a gracious Providence with abundance of earthly riches, are you, through divine grace, living in a humble consciousness of your own demerit; without haughtiness, and without pride; and sensible that it is the Lord only, who thus "maketh you to differ?"* While furnished with the ready means of gratifying your inclinations, are you ardently, and in the spirit of prayer, resisting the allurements which beset your path? Are you "living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ?”+ Or, in wicked abuse of all your blessings, are you wasting them in the service of frivolity and sin; making base compromises with the worldly; going over to their ranks; deserting your Master's standard; following the multitude to do evil; and per+ Titus, ii. 12.
* I. Cor. iv. 7.
forming that most inconsistent of all courses, to live as others live, and yet claim the privileges of a Saviour's religion, surround the table of his love, and look forward to the everlasting glories of his kingdom? If there be a spectacle on earth truly sublime, it is that of a Christian believer, having all the means of worldly conformity within his reach, and yet adhering to the narrow way; and pressing onward, with undiverted step, to a city in the skies. But if there is grandeur in such a spirit, how rarely, my brethren, is it attained! How true now, as before, that saying of the best of all witnesses, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"* To be called the Lord's people appears pleasant to them; heaven seems desirable in their eyes; but they find it too difficult a requisition, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”†
After these observations of the blessed Apostle, in regard to the spirit by which he was actuated, he proceeds, with all humility and meekness, to point out the source from which his ability had been derived. Mark the declaration which he utters. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." There is something exceedingly characteristic in this brief sentence. He had just been expressing the steady and unruffled mind which he was able to maintain, amidst the two opposite states of emptiness and fulness. But, lest he should thereby seem, in the eyes of those to whom he was writing, to deserve any honor for this enviable frame of soul, he hastens to place the crown upon the proper head; and refers his tranquil submission under captivity and sorrow, his. lowliness under brighter dispensations, and every grace and
*Luke, xviii. 24.
+ Matt. xvi. 24.
virtue by which he was distinguished, only to the sanctifying influences of the Lord Jesus upon his heart. There is, perhaps, no one feature more conspicuous in this great Apostle of Christ, than his eagerness to trace up all the excellencies of the believer's character to the Holy Spirit of God. He allows no room for self to advance a claim. To the free gift of the Redeemer all is referred. Whatever is evil, he ascribes to his own corrupt heart; whatever is good, is made the subject of thankfulness to that almighty Lord, whose strength was . "made perfect in weakness."* Hear his language to the Corinthians; "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."t Mark his exclamation to the Galatians; "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."+ While you may learn, my brethren, in these expressions, and in the assertion now under review, the unfeigned lowliness of the real servant of Christ, may they not very properly, also, suggest strong ground of encouragement, to any among you who are lamenting the absence of those various graces, which adorn the Christian character? If the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ would thus arm the Apostle with firmness in prosperity, and give him patience and cheerfulness in darker visitations, he can do the same in all respects for you. Approach his mercy-seat; ask to be delivered from that fretting heart, which cannot endure the appointments of heaven; pray for his influences against the perilous assaults of wealth, and worldly custom, and human opinion. The ability which
II. Cor. xii. 9.
† 1. Cor. xv. 10.
+ Gal. ii. 20.
now you possess not shall infallibly descend; without Him you can do nothing; but with him, all things are possible. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."*
Having thus made a digression, for the purpose of expressing to the Philippians his contentment beneath the calamities which he suffered, St. Paul returns, in the last three verses of the portion before us, to his commendation of their affectionate attentions. "Notwithstanding," he says, " ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction." He commemorates this liberality towards him, as an evidence of the Christian love of his brethren; and then proceeds to hold them up as singularly conspicuous examples, among those by whom they were surrounded. "Now, ye Philippians," he exclaims, "know also, that in the beginning of the gospel," namely, at the period when St. Paul first preached to them the unsearchable riches of Christ, "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." In these words, the Apostle goes back from the period at which he was writing, to days long departed; and states the fact, that those same children of the Lord who had just manifested the kindness of their hearts, had always been signalized for their active interest in the promotion of his comfort, and in the alleviation of his sufferings and privations. Among the primitive churches they had stood alone, in this particular respect; or, even if it was the case, that the bounty of others besides them had been proffered to St. Paul, but, for certain reasons, refused, still the willingness * Isaiah, xl. 29.
of the Philippians thus to bear the burden of his support was, every way, deserving of the tribute of his heartiest gratitude.
In the representation here made, it is difficult to know, my brethren, which most to love and to admire; the attachment of these early converts to the "minister by whom they had believed,"* or his own long-cherished remembrance of the benefits of other years. How strongly does this feeling recollection, exhibited by the Apostle, stand in contrast with the cold, selfish, and heartless spirit of the world! In the progress of life, favors are buried in oblivion; new friendships eradicate those of earlier times; and, amidst the bustle and distraction of daily occupations, the tenderest bonds of union are severed without regard. The records of the Bible, and the annals of Christian experience, both teach us clearly, that the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only school of deep and refined sensibility. Made alive to his obligations to redeeming love, and habitually dwelling upon the remembrance of his divine Master's sacrifice, the believer becomes moulded into a frame of gratitude towards all that have a claim upon his affections. The lapse of time strengthens the character of his attachments; they are continually taking deeper root; and, at the termination, equally as at the beginning of his career, shew that they are derived from a feeling which "many waters cannot quench," and which "the floods cannot drown."t
You have thus surveyed, in regular order, those attractive Christian graces, exhibited to view in the verses which have now been illustrated. You have seen the Apostle, with heavenly mind, tracing up every stream of earthly consolation to the Fountain of love and mercy. You have seen him,
* I. Cor. iii. 5.
+ Song of Solomon, viii. 7.