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CHAPTER II. 5—11.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In those four previous verses of the present Chapter, which formed the subject of my last Lecture, the Apostle had urged some important duties upon merely personal considerations. He now takes higher and more spiritual ground; and exhorts the Christians of Philippi to the practice of holiness, from the example of the once lowly and suffering, but now glorified Captain of their salvation. The propriety of addressing renewed believers with such an argument is easily perceived.
When the Christian, through faith, receives the atonement of the Saviour of men, he makes the love of Jesus Christ, as displayed in that astonishing sacrifice, the object of his daily and grateful contemplation. St. Paul, therefore, rightly admonishes the professed disciple, to bear in mind this heavenly model with reference to the precepts he was now enforcing; and to become moulded, by degrees, into those same gracious dispositions, which characterized our adorable Master. The last duty to which the attention of the Philippians had been called, was that contained in the fourth verse. "Look not every man," says the Apostle, " on his own things, but every man also on the things of others;" implying that disinterested spirit, by which, from a desire to promote the welfare of others, an individual is willing to forego his own comfort, and his own advantage. In order to excite those to whom he was writing to the cultivation of this lovely virtue, he brings before them the incarnation of Jesus Christ; setting forth, in that act of the Redeemer by which he left his glory, and took upon him the infirmities of our nature, the perfection of selfsacrificing benevolence. The subject thus presented to your consideration, is in delightful unison with those reflections to which the present season, more especially, invites the Christian believer.*
In exhibiting the infinite good-will of the Saviour of men, and the disinterested character of his visit to the world, the Apostle states
1. The glory of that condition which he left.-"Let this mind be in you," he says, "which was also in Christ Jesus : who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be
*This Lecture was delivered on the Sunday after Christmas-Day.
equal with God." By the expression "form of God," he intends to represent that majestic glory in which the Deity resides; and which seems to be referred to in the First Epistle to Timothy, where the King of kings is described as "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto." In that Chapter of St. Matthew's gospel which records the splendid transfiguration of Christ, the words rendered "he was transfigured before them,"t signify properly, "he changed his form;" that is, instead of his ordinary appearance, he became enveloped in another of surpassing radiance. This passage throws light upon the words before us: and shews us, that the Apostle intended to carry the thoughts of the Philippians to that effulgence in which the Godhead is enthroned; and of which the Redeemer likewise equally partook, before his descent to this lower world for human redemption. Such, then, was the grandeur of Christ's original condition: he was encircled with the splendors of divinity: and, accordingly, St. Paul tells us, in the place now under review, that he "thought it not robbery to be equal with God;" that is, he considered it as no usurpation of privileges and honors to which he had not a rightful claim, to require the same homage for himself that is paid to the almighty Father.-From this exalted estate, therefore, which the Redeemer of sinners relinquished for a season, the sacred writer leads you to infer the infinite benevolence of his sacrifice, for man's apostate and perishing race. Let us dwell, for a few moments, upon the idea here presented to our contemplation. A world of sinners is lying, hopeless and condemned, beneath the sentence of a violated law. These of fenders against heaven turn their eyes in every direction for
* I. Tim. vi. 16.
+ Matt. xvii. 2.
deliverance, and turn them in vain; they look, and there is none to save; and the penalty of trangression still hangs over their heads, with all its accumulation of horrors inconceivable in degree, and eternal in duration. A Deliverer interposes; and, in order that others may be pardoned and restored, consents to leave his own privileged condition, and to descend to the habitations of men. And who is this Saviour, for those who cannot save themselves? It is He who, from eternal ages, dwelt in the fulness of the Father's glory. It is He to whom thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers were subject. It is One who, as being the King of the universe, was surrounded by all the accompanying grandeur of this august station; and before the intolerable brightness of whose majesty the angels veiled their faces. Such is the Personage, who, for the purpose of man's rescue, visits these lower scenes for his appointed season. My brethren, you cannot adequately estimate the magnitude of this self-renunciation, exhibited by the Son of God for dying sinners. But, so far as you can grasp it within finite comprehension, let it call forth your profoundest astonishment, and your tenderest love. Jesus divests himself of his glory; leaves behind him the infinite majesty of the Eternal's throne; and, "though rich, yet for your sakes becomes poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."*
Having thus described the condition which Christ Jesus relinquished, when he undertook the salvation of men, St. Paul proceeds to set forth
2. That which he assumed.-This part of his account of the Redeemer's incarnation, is contained in the seventh and * II. Cor. viii. 9.
eighth verses of the Chapter before us.--Notwithstanding the original glory which he possessed, yet, says the Apostle, he "made himself of no reputation." These words imperfectly express the force of the author's language; which signifies properly, that the Lord Jesus emptied, or divested himself, of that divine splendor in which he was once enthroned, as the Maker of things visible and invisible. You are told further, that he "took upon him the form of a servant:" that is, after having been possessed of the outward grandeur and appearance of Deity, he assumed the appearance and condition of a person among the lower orders of mankind. The Apostle also says, that he "was made in the likeness of men :" or, in other words, he went so far, for the redemption of the human family, as to unite himself with our infirm and sorrowing nature; and the observation is similar to another of the same inspired writer, in his Epistle to the Romans, that "God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh."* But he carries us still farther, in his delineation of that lowly and suffering estate, of which Christ became the voluntary subject. "And being found," says he, "in fashion as a man," that is, resembling in all respects one of us, only without sin," he humbled himself;" or, to convey the meaning more fully, he submitted to every form of ignominy, and to every species of personal privation: "and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;" that is, to such an extent did he carry his free and willing performance of that atoning work, which the Father had given him to finish, that he refused not even to expire by an agonizing and public execution, with the commonest and basest malefactors that suffer the penalty of their
*Rom. viii. 3.