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rest. There is, indeed, a species of anxiety to quit a world in which Providence has placed us, which is not that of the purified and heavenly mind, but of a spirit in rebellion against the appointments of God. The Christian is perhaps weary with the temptations and difficulties of his career; or sickened, by a long course of afflictive dispensations, with every thing in life; or burdened with age and infirmities; and for this reason, though God may require his longer residence here, is agitated with a restless and feverish solicitude to finish his journey. Such, however, is not the spirit, disclosed in the beautiful language of the Apostle. He turns his vision to that blessed residence of the Redeemer's people; and, if so be that the service of Christ's church, and a longer course of active exertion, be not the will of the Lord Jesus concerning him, he aspires with devout and holy earnestness after the eternal fruition of the world of glory. And this wish, it is permitted, in like manner, to us to feel. A desire, thus chastened and submissive, to be called to the rest of heaven, has distinguished some of the most eminent of the servants of God, in all ages of his church. It was the spirit of Abraham, when, from a land of strangers, "he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."* It was the wish of the Psalmist, when, struggling amidst sins, and conflicting with spiritual wickedness, he cried with the rapture of joyful anticipation, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."†
Finally; Is it not in terms most tender and inviting, that the Apostle here delineates the surpassing blessedness of
*Heb. xi, 10.
† Ps. xvii. 15.
that world of joy? Recur, my brethren, to his language. "Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Yes; it is "better" to leave this region where God has placed us for a season, for that invisible land which is in reversion. It is better, because there the Christian will have finished his conflict with sin; and, laying down the weapons of warfare, shall enter into eternal tranquillity. It is better, because there the mysteries of God's providence will be unravelled; and all the dealings of his hand, during this brief journey of life, will appear in the light of infinite justice, and infinite love. It is better, because the believer will then enter into a congenial society, without any mixture of those evil ones who here harass his progress; and in respect to whom David so feelingly exclaimed, "Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar !"* It is better, because there Christ himself sits, as the immediate joy of his people; and they can taste, without any diminution or hindrance, and through eternal years, the sweetness of his beatific presence.-My dear hearers, such was the view taken by St. Paul, of that place prepared for those who die in the Lord. Are these your feelings? Is it in such a light, that the world of spirits appears to your contemplations? Or, amidst the frivolities, the cares, the diversified objects of a present state, are the glories of that which is to come hidden from your vision? If so, however, you are destitute of the views and privileges of the believer. You must, through divine grace, become moulded into the frame of the Apostle : heaven must appear infinitely desirable above the insignificance and
* Ps. cxx. 5.
unsatisfactoriness of earth: you must sympathize with David's feelings, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God ?"*
* Ps. xlii 2.
CHAPTER I. 25-30.
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
THE words now read stand in close connexion with those by which they are preceded. We left the Apostle, at the close of the former Lecture, in uncertainty which of two blessings to prefer, should divine Providence give him the liberty of choice; to depart immediately out of this world to "a better country," or to remain in the active service of the church on earth. In considering, however, the destitution under which Christians were then laboring, of devoted and affectionate mi
nisters, he thought he perceived an indication that God intended to prolong his days: and this idea he proceeds, in the portion now to occupy your meditations, to state to the Philippians; accompanied by some important admonitions in reference to their deportment as the servants of Christ. The verses before us bring you to the conclusion of the first of those four chapters, into which this apostolic letter has been. divided.
Being firmly convinced, by observation of the existing state of things, that his longer continuance in life would materially subserve the Christian cause; or, to use his own words to the Philippians in the twenty-fourth verse, that "to abide in the flesh was more needful for them;" the Apostle declares that he felt assured, by this circumstance, of his being destined to farther exertions in the world. "And having this confidence," that is, being persuaded that the interests of the gospel would be promoted by my stay upon the earth, "I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again." It has been supposed, from the degree of certainty with which he predicts, in this place, his longer residence in the world, that he had received a direct revelation to that effect from the Almighty himself. That such intimations of the divine will were sometimes given, is proved by several examples. Thus it is related of St. Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, that on a certain night "the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome."* During the voyage to *Acts, xxiii. 11.