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CHAPTER I. 12-18.
But I would ye should understand, brethren that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will. The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
THE Apostle, in the verses now to be considered, passes to a fresh and highly interesting topic; that of his present sufferings in the cause of the Redeemer's gospel. It is to be recollected, that St. Paul was now confined as a prisoner in Rome; and when we call to mind the intimate connexion which had subsisted between the Philippians and himself, and the deep affection that people bore towards him as a minister, and as a friend, it appears altogether natural that he should wish to re
lieve their anxieties, by some tidings in regard to his real situation. Having, therefore, conveyed to these beloved fellowChristians his congratulations on their faith and love, and his prayers for their advancement in holiness, he turns to himself as the subject; and transmits to them the intimation, that, even amidst the bitterness of captivity, he was enabled, all things considered, to "rejoice in the Lord, and to joy in the God of his salvation."*
To cheer the spirits of his absent and solicitous friends, St. Paul thus addresses them, in the first verse of the portion now under review. "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me," that is, my bonds for Christ's sake, "have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;" by which he intends to say: I feel exceedingly anxious that your hearts should not be discouraged, nor "faint at my tribulations;" for these calamities, having been all overruled for good, and made subservient to the advancement of your Master's cause, are only blessings in disguise.From what we know, my brethren, by our own experience, of the short-sightedness and unbelief of the human mind, we may readily conceive of three distinct, and mournful impressions, which may have been produced upon these Philippian brethren by the circumstance of the Apostle's imprisonment. On the one hand, they would be disposed to regard this even as a subject for unmingled grief; and, when they thought of the situation of their revered teacher, to consider him only as a person, who had been visited with one of the severest of human trials, and as an object of sympathy and compassion.
This is the habit, in too great a degree, even of the enlightened servants of God. In the darker dispensations of Providence, they see nothing but misery; and, instead of looking at all sides equally, and waiting in faith and patience for the final development, they can only mourn under chastisements. But, besides this feeling of deep sorrow at the Apostle's captivity, there would probably enter into the minds of some of the Philippians, as they thought of his sufferings, a momentary doubt as to the truth and blessedness of religion; when they thus beheld one of its chief and most heroic defenders abandoned to imprisonment and shame. This, also, is one of the temptations of real believers. They see, as they cast their eyes around them, some of the Lord's people subjected to trials and privations, and the wicked "prospering in the world :”* and, without reflecting that their heavenly Father may have some merciful intent in these arrangements, are ready to conclude that all is a deception, and that there are no peculiar privileges for the Christian. Or further; it may possibly have been imagined by these primitive believers, that, as their great and venerated friend was now restrained from farther exertions, the cause of the gospel would be materially retarded for the buman mind is ever losing sight of the Almighty's arm, and resting upon secondary causes; and, because Providence removes one of his instruments out of the way, gives up all as ruined and lost.-In order to put an end to these various feelings of his brethren at Philippi, St. Paul informs them that his troubles had led to the happiest results; and in what manner they had contributed to the success of the gospel, let us hear from his own description.
* Ps. lxxiii. 12.
And 1. The Apostle tells them that his imprisonment, dark and disastrous as the visitation seemed, had been the means of spreading the knowledge of Christ among those who were before ignorant of his religion.-"So that my bonds in Christ," he observes, "are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;" or, in other words, it is now become notorious, not only in the imperial residence, but generally throughout the capital, that I am a captive for the gospei of the Lord Jesus; and this has led many, who were previously unacquainted with the claims and character of the Saviour, to commence an active and personal examination. By turning to the conclusion of this Epistle, you will find the inspired writer making reference to the saints that were " of Cesar's household;"* from which it appears, that some of the emperor's retinue had actually cast in their lot among the professing followers of Christ. These persons had, in all probability, been induced to begin their attention to the divine truths of religion, by the circumstance of St. Paul's incarceration for the defence of them. The fact would awaken their curiosity; they would be excited to inquire and investigate; and would thus be gradually conducted from the darkness of unbelief and error, into an experimental acquaintance with the way of life. This, therefore, was one of the ways, in which the confinement of the Apostle tended to the promotion of that very cause, which, according to human calculations, it was destined to wither and destroy; and the instance now before us, my brethren, exemplifies most beautifully that divine wisdom and mercy, which out of the bitter can bring forth sweetness, and make the seeming evils of life conducive to real and perma* Ch. iv. 22.
nent good. He upon whom the hopes of the church rested, was in chains. The servants of God mourned for himself as an individual, and for the blighted prospects of that religion which he defended. But their views were narrow: the Redeemer did all things well: men that had never heard of Christ, now owned him as their Lord and their God: and numbers were added to the church of "such as should be saved."*
A second mode in which the Apostle's trials had operated to the advantage of religion, he proceeds thus to state. "And many of the brethren in the Lord," that is, preachers of the gospel, "waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." The word rendered "waxing confident," is very expressive; and denotes that clear, satisfactory, and firm trust in the reality of religion, which these persons had acquired by the sight of St. Paul's behavior under his sufferings. The inspired writer intends, therefore, to say, that, so far from the gospel having been impeded in its course by his imprisonment, an exactly opposite result had taken place for that the ministering servants of the Lord, beholding the submission, fortitude, and entire acquiescence in the divine will, with which he had been enabled to bear his afflictions, had therein perceived a new testimony to the power of the grace of God; and had gone forth with added energy to deliver the message of One, who thus supported his servants in the dark hour of their extremity.—Behold, then, in this spirit of holy daring with which those early preachers were inspired, another blessed fruit of the Apostle's trials. And, my brethren, you need not wonder that such an effect * Acts, ii. 47.