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tion, which rendered his long continuance in life altogether uncertain: though, as we have seen in a former part of the present course of Lectures, he entertained a reasonable persuasion of deliverance from his sufferings and dangers.* Impressed by the solemn consideration, that he might never be favored with another opportunity of addressing the Philippians, on the things which concerned their salvation, he transmits to them some precepts of great value. These lessons of Christian wisdom let us now consider for our instruction.
Upon the first admonition here given by the Apostle, it will not be necessary to dwell. It is thus expressed: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." He intends, in these words, to enjoin that duty of looking to Christ alone for salvation, and of finding, in his precious sacrifice, an alleviation for all the sorrows of life, which he had enforced in former parts of the Epistle. This topic was fully considered, in the illustration of the commencing verses of the Third Chapter; and St. Paul now repeats the exhortation as if for the purpose of expressing, again and again, the impropriety of any other than a contented and cheerful spirit, while united to a Saviour so sufficient and divine.-I pass on, therefore, to
The second exhortation, addressed by the Apostle to his believing brethren. It inculcates a chastised and sober enjoyment of the blessings of the present life. "Let your moderation," he says, "be known unto all men." The word rendered "moderation," denotes here, among other things, that well-balanced and equable mind, which is not carried away by excessive attachment for temporal things; but, seeing their worthlessness and brevity, and raised to the supreme love of
* See Lecture V.
Christ and heaven, looks upon the objects of this lower world with holy indifference. Considered in this view, the advice of the Apostle corresponds with that which he has given to the Corinthians, that "they that buy" should be "as though they possessed not ;"* with his precept to the Christians of Colosse, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth;" and also with that spiritual injunction delivered by St. John, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." You perceive, also, that St. Paul declares a very beneficial result, which will spring from the exhibition of this heavenly mind by the disciples of Christ. He exhorts them to "let it be known unto all men;" implying in these words, that those, in the surrounding community, who have not yet embraced the gospel, when they behold the Christian possessing, with a sober and tempered affection, the blessings of a gracious Providence, are led to believe in the divine power of a religion, which can thus crucify the world to him, and him unto the world.
Now this spirit, my brethren, in virtue of which the believer thankfully receives the bounties of his heavenly Father, and yet lives with his affections continually loosened from them, is the result of an inward and thorough change of heart, by the power of the Holy Ghost from on high. That divine Illuminator takes off from the things of life their delusive appearance, and shews them to the servant of God as what they really are; exposes their momentary character; lifts his heart to a "better substance ;"; and leads him to Christ as his chief good, and his portion for ever. If you look, therefore, at the course of the men of this world, upon whom these converting
* I. Cor. vii. 30. † Col. iii. 2.
I. John, ii. 15. § Heb. x. 34.
influences have never been exerted, you find them enjoying, in an exactly opposite manner, the privileges which God scatters on their path. Have they health? They vainly imagine that their sun shall never go down; and turn not a thought to the grave-to a world beyond it--and to all the solemn realities of a judgment to come. Are they blest with abundance? Instead of looking upon wealth as that from which they must soon be separated, they fix their love upon it; they become absorbed in the increase of their riches; and heaven, with all its infinite treasures, is banished from their recollection. All that they have, they accustom themselves to regard as permanent; and thus what was intended for sober use, is the object of a blind and excessive attachment. My believing hearers, you are ready to condemn this inordinate affection for visible things: and yet what is the fact, permit me to inquire, in regard to yourselves? Are you, while surrounded with the comforts and the possessions of life, realizing the frail tenure by which you hold them? Do you feel that this is not your rest? Do you continually see, in your imagination, the earth "receding and disappearing," and eternity, with all its wondrous disclosures, opening upon your vision? This is the spirit which must distinguish you, if you would be deemed consistent Christians. Whatever blessings you possess, set not your hearts upon them: "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”*
The injunction thus given by St. Paul, respecting a moderated regard for the things of life, he strengthens, as you perceive, by a motive of great solemnity. "The Lord," says he,
*Matt. vi. 20.
"is at hand:" in other words-It should tend to shew you the insignificance of every temporal enjoyment, that the Redeemer of mankind will soon appear, amidst the clouds of heaven, to wind up the scene; and to put an eternal conclusion to all that now engages the affections of the creature, and is the object of his warm pursuit. This advent of the Lord Jesus Christ to judgment is set forth, in several places of the New Testament Epistles, as an inducement not only to a chastened regard for present objects, but to other virtues of the divine life. "The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer."* "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness." "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." This coming of Christ may be considered as virtually the same with the hour of death; because that decisive event finishes, for ever, the pursuits, pleasures, and concerns, of this world below the skies. To the consideration, then, which is thus held forth by the Apostle, I would for a moment lead your thoughts; and would observe to you, my dear brethren, that the reflection how swiftly that period is approaching, when every sublunary object shall be extinguished, is calculated not merely to lessen your estimate of temporal blessings, but to yield unspeakable consolation under their loss. Are there any among those who hear me this day, the gourd of whose worldly happiness has been withered, like Jonah's, in an hour? Has your property dwindled into nothing? Have your earthly comforts dropped off,
I. Pet. iv. 7.
+ II. Pet. iii. 11.
Heb. x. 25.
like autumnal leaves, and "left you naked and bare?”* What of all this? These good things, with the longest possible enjoyment of them, are but the delights of a day the Lord himself shall speedily descend to terminate them, “with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:" and, under this consideration, you may "take joyfully the spoiling of your goods,"t and be comparatively careless how soon you are parted from that which is so fleeting in its duration. This, amidst the privations of the world, is the Christian's privilege; and it is thus touchingly described in the fine language of Mr. Wilberforce. "The fruits which he sees by the way-side he gathers with caution; he drinks of the streams with moderation; he is thankful when the sun shines, and his way is pleasant; but if it be rough and rainy, he cares not much; he is but a traveller. He is prepared for vicissitudes; he knows that he must expect to meet with them in the stormy and uncertain climate of this world. But he is travelling to 'a better country,' a country of unclouded light, and undisturbed serenity."t
I proceed to the third precept, here enjoined by St. Paul upon the followers of Christ. It cautions them against improper anxiety, in regard to the events and concerns of the present life. "Be careful for nothing;" that is, let not your temporal condition-your future lot—or that of those in whom you are interested-be a subject of painful solicitude; "but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let 'your requests be made known unto God." It is impossible not to be reminded, by these words, of that similar precept delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. "Therefore take
* Ezek. xvi. 39. + Heb. x. 34. + Practical View. Ch. iv. Sect. 5.