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of the way of life, we find the two instances of the jailer and of Lydia particularly recorded in history. It may well be supposed, that the Apostle ever afterwards looked upon this church which his own hands had planted, with feelings of peculiar tenderness and affection. The Philippians were his children in the Lord; and the emotions with which the faithful minister of Christ Jesus thinks of those, whom God has given him as the recompense of his labors, and the seals of his apostleship, are more clearly to be felt than described. It was with such associations that the mind of St. Paul was crowded, when, embracing the opportunity afforded by the departure of Epaphroditus from Rome to Philippi, he penned this interesting communication. The great Apostle was now in imprisonment for the gospel of Christ. The Philippians, anxious to alleviate, as far as possible, the sufferings of their spiritual father, had sent the person just named, with a supply of money for his relief: and now that the messenger of their bounty was about to return, he determined to acknowledge their goodness; to express his interest in their eternal welfare; and to offer them such counsel and admonitions, as might, by the blessing of God, animate them to run with new faith and patience the "race that was set before them."
The Epistle opens, according to the customary apostolic method, with an invocation of spiritual blessings.-"Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." You perceive that, in this commencing salutation, the name of Timothy is associated with that of the Apostle; a circumstance which may seem strange,
when taken in connexion with the fact, that St. Paul was the single composer of this letter to the Philippian church. The reason, however, for this union will readily be seen, by turning to that portion of the Acts, which describes the first preaching of the gospel to the inhabitants of Philippi.* It appears, from the narrative there given, that Timothy was one of those who assisted the Apostle, in proclaiming in that city the glad tidings of salvation. It is also intimated, in another part of the apostolic history,† that he was one of St. Paul's companions on a subsequent visit to that same region; so that the name of Timothy must have become endeared to these primitive converts, by many soothing and grateful recollections of his personal ministry. It is on account of his former intimacy, therefore, with those believers to whom the Apostle was writing, that this excellent servant of Christ, now at Rome, was united with the author in these expressions of love and friendship. Their words of greeting are addressed not only to the Philippian Christians in general, but also, as you observe, to their "bishops," or, spiritual overseers, “and deacons ;" who had, in all probability, merited this especial commemoration, by their activity in raising for the imprisoned Apostle the needful supplies. In regard to the form in which this opening benediction is expressed, it is precisely the same with that which is used in most of the other New Testament Epistles; and for its beautiful simplicity, its affection, and the comprehensiveness of its meaning, it certainly deserves a passing consideration. "Grace be unto you;" or, in other words, may the favor of God, and all the varied gifts and blessings of the gospel, be multiplied to you in rich abundance: + Acts, xx.
* Acts, xvi.
"and peace," that is, the divine contentment, happiness, and joy, which flow from a state of reconciliation with the Fathera sense of inward tranquillity—that rest of the believing heart, "which passeth all understanding." It is also worthy of your attention, that these spiritual privileges are described as proceeding "from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ:" and the Apostle hereby points out, my brethren, the only source from which pardon and acceptance are derived to sinful and ruined man. The King of heaven bestows these benefits, singly through the atoning sacrifice and merits of his "dear Son;" this Mediator is the exclusive channel by which they can descend; and, apart from his precious death, there is no possession of the divine favor, and no covenant union with God as a pacified Parent and Friend.-And now, let me request you, after this brief explanation of the Apostle's first salutatory verses, to bestow a moment's meditation upon the nature of that affectionate prayer which they contain. St. Paul, about to convey to his absent friends some expression of his regard, begins with an ardent wish and supplication in respect to them: and what are these blessings which he implores? Does he ask the Author of all mercy to vouchsafe to them the temporal comforts of life? Does he desire that their corn, and wine, and oil, may be increased? Such benefits he considered, undoubtedly, as having their proper value, upon the principle which he himself has, in another place, set forth; that "every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."* So immeasurably superior, however, he had learned to deem those eternal blessings, which the cross of the Redeemer had pur
* I. Tim. iv. 4.
chased for men, that every thing of a merely earthly nature seems insignificant in his eye. He rises above the transitory privileges of a present world; he scarcely considers them as worth a petition; and when he would invoke from heaven, upon these distant Philippians, the choicest of gifts, the enjoyment of God's favor through Christ presents itself as the single object to be valued and desired. Learn here, therefore, the true estimate of temporal possessions; and be instructed, as you read the benediction, "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
The Apostle, having thus, according to his usual method, opened his communication with expressions of good-will and affection, proceeds to state to these Philippians the gratitude and pleasure, with which he beheld their steadfast walk in the faith and holiness of the gospel. This interesting idea. is contained in the third, fourth, and fifth verses; and is thus expressed. "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day," that is, from the period of your conversion, "until now." By the expression "fellowship in the gospel," is to be understood the continued participation of the Philippian converts, from the time when they first became disciples, in the graces and heavenly character of the religion of Jesus: according to the use of the term by the same Apostle, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, where he observes, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord;"* or, in other words, through whose infinite mercy ye were made partakers of that gospel of salvation,
* I. Cor. i. 9.
of which our adorable Saviour is the Author and the Finisher. The whole meaning, therefore, of St. Paul, in the verses before us, may be thus briefly stated. You never enter into my thoughts, my dearly beloved friends, without calling forth ascriptions of devoutest praise to the God of all mercy: and, as often as, bending my knees before the throne of grace, I offer up my petitions for your present and eternal welfare, I am overwhelmed with delight at the thought, that, through divine grace, you have thus far persevered in the way of life; neither seduced by the corrupt opinions and principles of men -nor reverting to the idolatry from which you have escaped -nor abandoning the cross of the Lord Jesus amidst the violence of persecution. It is worthy of remark, my brethren, how frequently the Apostle, on other occasions, is found rejoicing at the increase of believers in the knowledge and practice of the gospel. Thus, in his Epistle to the Romans, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world."* And again in his letter to the Colossians, he declares, "We give thanks to God and the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints." In this expression of his joy, however, at the spiritual walk and conversation of the Philippians, there is an unusual warmth of feeling; and this arose from the touching circumstance, that they were brethren to whom he had once preached, in his own person, the unsearchable riches of the kingdom. The inspired Apostle, therefore, was gladdened at the spectacle of their faith and consistency, not merely from that anxiety which
* Rom. i. 8.
† Col. i. 3. 4.