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bowels and mercies," he exclaims; intending, by these pathetic terms, to beseech them, as they would pour one ray of light into the darkness of his captivity, to let him hear that they were adorning their profession by a correspondent walk and conversation.
Such is the brief preface, with which he commends to his Christian brethren the injunctions that follow. You perceive that the motives here urged are entirely of a personal character. He does not, until afterwards, place the practical duties of the gospel upon the higher ground of resemblance to the image of Christ: and this blending of merely human, with heavenly and spiritual considerations, is exhibited with equal tenderness in some of his other writings. Thus, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, he speaks to them as their afflicted minister and friend: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called."* And in the Epistle to Philemon, he expresses himself in the same touching manner. "Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ." Now by nothing, my brethren, more than by this occasional appeal to the earthly sympathies of the heart, does St. Paul evidence his desire to build up believers in the graces and holiness of the gospel. His object, upon the present occasion, was to lead the Christians of Philippi to the practice of every thing that was excellent, lovely, and of good report. Knowing, however, as he did, the deep importance of
* Eph. iv. i.
+ Philem. v. 9.
the end he had in view, he determined to present to them every various excitement to obedience; and, accordingly, addressed them on the ground of their strong and unshaken attachment to himself, as their father in the gospel of Jesus. To the Apostle they had, some time since, become united, in the bonds of a most intimate friendship; they had enjoyed his animating presence in the midst of them; and, while receiving from his lips the consolations of divine truth, and the message of a free and full salvation through the Redeemer's blood, had proved, in its highest extent, the power of a Christian affection. This same object of their love was now consigned to imprisonment, and removed from their vision: and he deemed it, with great reason, a very probable means of quickening their advances in the divine life, to implore them by their commiseration of his cruel bonds; by their desires to diminish the burden of his sorrows; by all their past and present devotion to him, as the appointed instrument of their change from the darkness of unbelief, to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such was his method of address to these distant converts; and it is not to be doubted that it had its efficacy, in impelling them to seek after increasing conformity to Him, who was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners."*
Having thus endeavored to gain the hearts of those to whom he was writing, St. Paul proceeds to convey to them some additional practical exhortations.
The first in order is presented to you in the second verse, and is thus expressed; "Fulfil ye my joy," that is, complete the satisfaction and delight which I experienced, when you
* Heb. vii. 26.
were first converted to the way of life: "that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." At the very first reading of this admonition, you will be reminded of a similar precept which occurs near the conclusion of the former Chapter; and which formed one of the topics of consideration in the preceding Lecture. The Apostle's object, both there, and in the language before us, is to recommend Christian union and harmony, on the common ground of the gospel; and the duty of forgetting unimportant differences, for the great object of glorifying, with one heart and mouth, the Author of our eternal redemption. Now this injunction he considered so highly useful in its character, as to deserve being again urged upon the view of his brethren : according to a liberty, therefore, which he is seen allowing to himself frequently upon other occasions, he presents the admonition a second time before them, and in almost the same expressions. Let us turn to his language. "That ye be like-minded," he observes; that is, instead of being in continual warfare with each other, let your desires, and affections, and hopes, be all one in the love and service of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Having the same love;" in other words, being filled with mutual affection, however, as to some points, differing in private opinion. "Being of one accord;" that is, mingling spirit with spirit in a perfect communion of feeling. The only difference between the precept now under review, and that which is found in the foregoing Chapter, is in the last words of the verse before us. They stand in our venerable Version, "of one mind:" but this translation conveys hardly an adequate idea of the precise meaning of the sacred
Apostle. Literally rendered, the expressions of St. Paul would be, "minding the one thing" and he hereby describes very happily that heavenly spirit, which, passing by all lesser considerations, leads Christians to labor together after the single, paramount, glorious object, of becoming renewed day by day after the image of God, "in righteousness and true holiness."*
The advice, therefore, now given to the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to sacrifice minor objects to the great end of increasing in personal religion. And I may properly take occasion, my brethren, from these words, to observe, that it has ever been found true in the history of the church of Christ, that, in proportion as a spirit of eagerness for lesser points has increased among believers, "the one thing" here referred to by the inspired penman has been less ardently coveted and sought; real, heart-felt, spiritual piety, has visibly declined; and amidst contentious anxiety in behalf of favorite dogmas, or ceremonial observances, the weightier matters of the law have been utterly neglected and forgotten. This statement, so accurate in its application to collective bodies of Christians, will also hold good with reference to individual believers. Some, indeed, there may be, who, with the most strenuous and controversial activity for their own views of discipline, and of subordinate articles of faith, have combined an intimate communion with God, and uncommon spirituality of life. These instances, however, by their very rareness of occurrence, rather offer grounds for thankfulness, than at all diminish the force and correctness of the position: and, if we turn our eyes around us, and survey the various professors of * Eph. iv. 24.
the religion of Jesus within the range of our own observation, we shall discover that the most distinguished for their humility, their heavenly-mindedness, their attainments in all that marks the character of the real children of God, are not those, likewise, who are kindling the flames of controversy within the bosom of the church; alienating brethren from brethren; and sacrificing at the shrine of their own cherished opinions the peace of Christ's spiritual kingdom. Be it ours, therefore, in remembrance of the brevity of life, and the great work which the Father has given us to do, to impress the apostolic rule before us indelibly upon our hearts. "One thing is needful," said the Saviour of men: after this let us strive: and make it the supreme end of our transitory being, to have Christ formed within us, "the hope of glory."*
Another precept of the Apostle is contained in the third verse; and sets forth, in most attractive terms, the important duty of Christian humility.—Upon this subject he thus expresses himself: "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." The admonition thus addressed to the Philippian believers related, in all probability, principally to their deportment in managing the concerns of the church: being intended as a caution against arrogance and rivalry; and an incitement to the cultivation, in all their doings, of a meek and self-renouncing disposition. Like the various other precepts, however, contained in the blessed volume of life, it was meant to regulate the conduct of the servants of Christ under all possible circumstances: and we may imagine the Apostle as saying to each of us, in our respective situations in
* Col. i. 27.