« PreviousContinue »
amidst the varied sorrows of his condition, lying meekly and gently at the divine disposal; desiring to have no will but that of his reconciled Father in Christ; and prepared alike for every form of ignominy and privation. You have marked the spirit with which he was furnished, to carry him through the perils of prosperous days. You have beheld the prostrate humility of soul, with which he recognises the Source of all his attainments in the heavenly life. You have seen him delighting to recall to memory, after long intervening periods, the benefactions of those friends, whom the Lord Jesus Christ had given him as the seals of his ministry, and the comforters of his woe. My dear hearers, how impressively do all these qualities, produced by the quickening grace of God in the heart of St. Paul, present themselves to our eyes in view of that hallowed table,* around which we are so shortly to be gathered! How solemn and serious are the reflections which they force upon the mind! In how clear a light do they place the obligations devolving upon those, who are the professed servants of a crucified Saviour in this lower world! In remembrance, therefore, of what has now passed before us, may we not all with propriety address to ourselves the question-Have I this inward and grateful consciousness of a controlling and merciful Providence, as the source of my blessings? Am I possessed, in any reasonable measure, of this divine contentment beneath the evils of life? Am I thus maintaining my ground, against the allurements of worldly fortune? Do I, instead of resting, with Pharisaic complacency upon my personal merits, regularly look upward to the Lord Jesus Christ, as my "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption?" Am
* Communion Sunday.
† I. Cor. i. 30.
I, the subject of heavenly and earthly favors, filled with the lively recollection of them; and distinguished from others by the ornament of a thankful, affectionate, and unalterable love? —If, with all humility, we can feel such to be our blessed experience, let us approach, with happy step, this banquet of heavenly refreshment. It is here that the servants of Christ look for strength by the way, and here, blessed be God, that they shall surely find it. At the feast of his love, the Redeemer graciously meets his people; gives them new joy and peace in believing; and communicates to them fresh supplie sof that Spirit, which is in them "a well of water springing up into everlasting life."* Enjoy the board which he has provided. It is one of the sweet privileges of your calling. "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him."‡
LECTURE XVII I.
CHAPTER IV. 17-23.
Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Cesar's household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
THE continuance of his allusions to the bounty of his Philippian brethren, and the expression of his affectionate wishes for their welfare, occupy these concluding verses of the Apostle's letter. At the first sight of those brief valedictory expressions which are here uttered, you might be disposed to imagine that there was nothing in them requiring any particular attention; as being only the customary forms of civility between friend and friend. There is something, however, even in the ordinary courtesies of a real Christian, which is
marked and peculiar; and so eminently is this the fact in regard to the saints of the New Testament, that they afford us instruction while speaking of topics, in themselves the most trivial and uninteresting. You will perceive the truth of this observation, by following St. Paul through that closing portion of his Epistle, on which your meditations are this morning to be employed.
In some of the verses preceding those upon which we now enter, the Apostle had, as you have seen, been expressing his gratitude for that plentiful assistance, by which the Philippians had administered to his wants. He now proceeds to set forth the principal reason, for which he rejoiced in this instance of their goodness; and states that his joy was derived not from selfish and interested motives, but from the satisfactory evidence which their good works afforded, in the sight of God and man, that their religion was active and sincere. "Not because I desire a gift," he declares; or, as the meaning might be more exactly expressed, not because the gift sent me is the object upon which my heart is fixed; "but I desire fruit that may abound to your account:" that is, it is my ardent wish that you may exhibit those proofs of faith, which shall be regarded with pleasure by the Lord, at the day of final reckoning. The Apostle intends to say, therefore, to his friends at Philippi, that "he sought not theirs, but them ;"* but the words before us contain a doctrine of great importance, upon which we may profitably, for a few moments, dwell. St. Paul's expression of a desire, that these Christian brethren might manifest such deeds of benevolence, as would redound to their advantage at the consummation of all things, implies
* II. Cor. xii. 14.
very clearly one truth: that the good works of the believer, though not in the least meritorious of salvation, yet, as being the fruits and evidences of a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, are received with acceptance by our heavenly Father. This position is asserted as plainly as possible in the verse which follows. "But I have all," declares the Apostle, "and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." Allusion is here made, as you observe, to the offerings under the law; and the words of St. Paul convey the idea, that those acts of love to the brethren which spring from a spiritual principle within, rise as a grateful oblation to the Lord Almighty. Declarations of a similar import, and also in similar language, are found in other parts of the New Testament volume. "To do good, and to communicate," says the Apostle to the Hebrews, “forget not for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."* "Ye also," says St. Peter, "as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."t
There are two cardinal errors, my brethren, into one or the other of which, through the corruption of the human heart, men have ever been seen to fall. They have either, in the spirit of pride and self-righteousness, ascribed merit and efficacy to the mere performance of deeds of charity, and acts of outward virtue; thus completely rendering void that atoning sacrifice of Christ, whereby alone the sinner can be restored to favor: or, on the other hand, under the pretence of magnifying the free grace of God, they have wickedly denied the