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the holiness of his requirements is maintained. Thither let your affections be called forth, and there enjoy sweet fellowship and thus realize the Redeemer's prayer, and the Psalmist's expressive description. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"*"Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us."t
The second duty enjoined by the Apostle upon these Christians of Philippi, is that of being actively and unitedly vigorous in defence of Christ's religion, against all the attacks of its enemies.-" With one mind," says St. Paul, "striving together for the faith of the gospel." The word rendered "striving together," refers to the violent struggles of the wrestler; and the precept, taken in connexion with that which has just been considered, has certainly a peculiar force and propriety. The Philippians had been cautioned, immediately before, against dissensions among each other; and they are now admonished, that, if contention is in any case a virtue, it is when the servants of God are leagued, in heart and hand, against the opposers of the truth as it is in Jesus. It is in warfare with these, that the activity of the believer may be best employed; and the advice of the Apostle is admirably illustrated by the similar exhortation of St. Jude, "earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." These primitive converts to whom St. Paul was writing, were surrounded by adversaries mighty in number, and incessantly strenuous in their exertions. On the one
Ps. cxxxiii. 1. † John, xvii. 20. 21. + Jude, v. 3.
hand, were erroneous perverters of the truth; whose aim was to revive, in the esteem of Christians, the abrogated institutions of Moses, and to adulterate the simple doctrine of faith. On the other, were the deriding philosophers, and the persecuting officers of imperial Rome; all assailing, with untiring pertinacity, the foundations of the church of Christ. The Apostle means to say, therefore, that it was hardly expedient to be wasting their energies by internal feuds, while the common enemy was at the gates; and he urges them to direct their collected strength against those, from whom danger was most to be apprehended. And, my brethren, may we not consider the language before us as being addressed, with equal plainness, to us of the present generation? The situation of Christians in the present world, is, as it ever has been, that of a few followers of a heavenly Master, in the midst of uncounted myriads of beings lying in the darkness of spiritual ignorance, and at enmity with the Father of lights, and with the gospel of his adorable Son. Now, of these who are living in estrangement from the Author of their happiness, one very considerable portion is engaged in malignant opposition against Christ; and seeking to eradicate from the affections of men that religion of Jesus, which is the only source of present comfort, and of everlasting salvation. What, then, in such a condition of things, is the obvious duty of the servants of God? Is it to be anxious about subordinate distinctions? Is it to be vigorous for things merely external? Or is it not, rather, to provoke one another to holy emulation in the cause of their crucified Lord; to labor, each according to his ability, in the spread of pure and undefiled religion, and in the dissemination of the volume of life; and, by example, by precept,
by personal effort, to resist the progress of spiritual wickedness, and break down the strong holds of Satan and of sin? Such, beyond a question, is the obligation that rests upon the children of the Lord: and when, to the hosts of infidelity, are added the corruptions of false doctrine, and the inconsistent lives of worldly and merely nominal Christians, the believer will find that he has sufficient adversaries with whom to contend, without occupying himself with minor disputations. Let us all bear this truth in mind: and endeavor, as far as in us lies, to recognise but two grand classes of mankind; THE FRIENDS, and THE ENEMIES of god.
The next admonition given by the Apostle, relates to the conduct to be pursued under the dismaying assaults of persecution." And in nothing terrified by your adversaries :" that is, maintaining your stand for Christ, firmly and without fear; and this exhortation he proceeds to strengthen, by one consideration of a very encouraging character. "Which is to them," he says, " an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God." The meaning of these words is simply this; that the believers of Philippi had no occasion to be in the least daunted, by the menaces or the reproaches of their enemies for that this opposition, on their part, to every thing valuable in the gospel of Christ, was only a proof, or indication, of that final condemnation which awaited them; and of the glorious recompense that should one day be awarded, to the faithful servants of Jesus.-Now, my brethren, if there be any portions of the word of God which are applicable to Christians in every age, it is those that relate to the trials of the servants of God from the adversaries of the cross. These "cruel mockings" have been the portion of the
spiritually-minded, ever since the first establishment of the Redeemer's church; and hence the Apostle's declaration to Timothy, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."* The mere outward profession of the gospel, combined with a life of worldly conformity, and of temporizing concession to the customs of the frivolous and the gay, will, it is true, provoke little opposition or censure. But let the servant of God, confessing himself a ruined sinner, and flying to the cross of Jesus for salvation, give himself up, with his whole heart and life, to the self-denying service of his Lord and Master, and what is the consequence? The men of the present life look with no friendly eye, upon this decided course of action; they heap ridicule and odium upon it; and, by every mode of satirical invective, seek to shake the disciple from his ground. It is by no means improbable that there are some within the present assembly, who, having come out unequivocally and thoroughly for Christ Jesus, are called to bear this scourge of derision from those among whom they mingle in social intercourse. To such, then, let me present the language of the Apostle, in all its comforting power. It counsels you not to be depressed in the struggle. It carries you from the present transitory scene, to the final consummation of all things. It bids you there see the blackness and darkness that shall end the career of these deluded beings, and the eternal felicity of those who have confessed Christ before men.—It is this consideration, which, in the hour of discouragement and of temptation, the servant of Jesus may well call to his remembrance and it is urged upon you in another form by the great Captain of your salvation; "Blessed are they which are
* II. Tim. iii. 12.
persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom
In addition, however, to this argument to patience, derived from the final destiny allotted respectively to Christ's enemies and to his friends, St. Paul, in the last two verses of the Chapter, furnishes an encouragement of a still higher character. It is founded upon the consideration, that trials for the Lord's sake are the privilege of his chosen servants. Let us examine the language of the Apostle. "For unto you it is given," says he, "in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." It appears, then, from what is here stated, that to endure persecution and obloquy for a conscientious adherence to truth, is a favor conferred upon us by our divine Master; a distinction; a high and peculiar honor and is an allotment which fully as much originates in the goodness of God, as does that faith, whereby we become interested in the eternal blessings of the gospel of peace. And that such is actually the privilege of the people of God, St. Paul demonstrates to the Philippians by referring to his own remarkable example. "Having the same conflict,” he tells them, "which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me :" or, to express his meaning more fully-Why should you be surprised at your present fiery trial? It is the proper path of the Redeemer's servants: for that which you are now enduring is of a similar kind with those sufferings, which, as ye are witnesses, I myself was called to bear at Philippi; and corresponds also with my present captivity, of which the tidings have filled you with such unfeigned commiseration.—Now, in answer to the inquiry, wherein consists the blessing of
*Matt. v. 10.