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There are two great notes in St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians:
I. The Note of Joy. The first the note of joy: 'Rejoice,' he is always crying, and this is the more noble because, as you remember, he wrote as a prisoner and as one in chains. And the point reminds us once more that no chain can ever fetter the free spirit:
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.
Even so one thinks of Bunyan with his body indeed in Bedford gaol, and with his spirit in the House Beautiful, or treading the Delectable Mountains, for in spite of circumstances he finds more in Christ to make him glad than in the world to make him sad.
II. The Note of Love. And, secondly, there is the note of love. There is no Epistle in which the fire of love burns more brightly. We can see quite early that it is an anxious love that he has for his Philippian converts. The serious faults he notes in some other Churches are absent here. He commends their faith and purity and charity; and yet even here it is not all perfect: he has heard of discord and differences; he has noted the growth of party spirit and personal rivalry. We have sometimes seen something of this sort in the Modern Church, and indeed this warning of St. Paul's may very well save us from the common danger of idealising the past. There are still some who speak as if there were a time when all Christians loved one another in the golden ages of the Church, but little by little we are compelled to learn that there never was a golden age of the Church. Perhaps there is no more dangerous infidelity than that which is always looking to the past: that infidelity which denies the presence and power of the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier, and which in the present day never looks for the voice of God. If the virtues of the early Church are to be found today, so in other forms we find those weaknesses which once grieved the hearts of the Apostles.
III. A Warning Note. Here is one instance before us now; the forming of the Church of Philippi in the presence of the elements of personal self-assertion and party spirit. St. Paul urges on the converts as a remedy for this the cultivation of the spirit of humility. 'Let nothing be done in the spirit of strife or vainglory,' he says. It is, I think, beyond dispute that we are in need of some such warning. There are not wanting certain signs of the rekindling of party spirit. The English Church, in spite of the service she has done for the nation, has been vexed and troubled by matters of little importance. I do not say they are of no importance, for every matter which affects the worship of Almighty God must be of some importance. The Founder of Christianity declared the heart of all good lay in the worship of God in spirit and in truth.
IV. A Plea for Comprehensiveness. I would at this time entreat you as individuals and as a body to use and exercise all your influence to preserve the comprehensiveness of the English Church. By that I do not mean the lax tolerance of all opinion, for a Church without a creed would be a Church ready to perish. I mean rather that spirit which will consist of loyalty to the great central truths of our religion, but which is still anxious to allow a wide latitude in what we might call inferential theology. The English Church stands by and in certain eternal verities. Her faith is expressed in the ancient baptism, but there are a large number of questions in which differences of opinion and practice are inevitable, and must be tolerated. So it may be well for us to take and hear the words of the Apostle: 'Let nothing be done in strife or vainglory'. He exhorts us to that lowliness of mind so far removed from party spirit and self-assertion. There are two things which will help us here:
(a) Religion will present itself in different fashions to different classes of minds. St. Paul, St. John, and St. James held the same faith, but hardly in the same fashion, and through all the centuries of Christian history we are told how different men adopted different attitudes of mind towards faith.
(b) We must consider the incompleteness of our knowledge. Human knowledge widens every year, and the more it widens the more it brings home to us our ignorance. A few centuries ago it might have been said that a single man might know all that there was to know. It is different now. We live in an age of specialists! One man studies stars, another insects. We are only at the beginning of many studies which must more or less affect religion. Take the case of the study of the myths and religions of the world. Only now is the archaeologist really revealing the treasures of the past. No doubt it does seem easy at times to take a strong line it seems bolder and more courageous than to look all round a question but surely the spirit of self-assertion is singularly unbecoming in us who are the little children of the day.
It is necessary to fix our attention, to begin with, on one little word the little words are often of great importance 'also'. You are not to neglect your own things, you are not to despise them. There are two possibilities open to us. The first is that of our thinking that other people's affairs are more important and more interesting than our own. That is one extreme to be avoided, and it is indicated by this word 'also'. The opposite and more probable danger for most of us is that of becoming entirely and exclusively absorbed in our own things, of imagining that they are the only things worthy of serious and sympathetic consideration, so that we never seriously contemplate the affairs of other people, but fall into that thoroughly unchristian and detestable spirit of 'Every man for himself,' which mars the beauty and strength of life. So we will remember that little conjunction 'also,' and remember that no one is fit to take care of his neighbours until he has learned to take care of himself; and then, having fixed that idea in our minds, we will go on to emphasise the apostolic injunction, 'Every man also'.
I. And first let us begin with the Church, which is where the writer began. There are two dangers arising out of Christian work in the Church. The one is, that when one undertakes a certain piece of work, he should be left to struggle alone with his difficulties, without sympathy from those in whose name he undertakes it. The other is that he should think that his work is the only important work, and that his fellow-Christians whose sympathies are not warmly exercised in his particular office are not Christian workers, they are scarcely Christians at all, or worthy to be called members of the Church. It is necessary to feel that no work is unimportant to be depreciated, none to be allowed to lapse into slovenliness, for if it be, the whole body will suffer.
II. If you look at the context you will judge that 'things' may include the excellences and the trials of others. You can picture instantly how undesirable a companion, how useless a member of society, that person must be who is principally occupied in contemplating his own virtues or his own trials and who cannot be brought to exercise his imagination for an hour upon the virtues and trials of his neighbours.
III. You might also apply this injunction to the convictions and tastes of others. It is vitally important for the goodwill and usefulness of a community that we should realise that other people have these as well as ourselves.
IV. I would venture to apply the principle of the text to our home relations. We can never have the harmony of the Christian home unless this precept be practised, and if the home is not Christian the Church can never truly be.
V. And I would go a step further, and cast the light of this precept upon our commercial relations, as employees and employers, and I think you may safely say that if a man is not a Christian in these relations he is not a Christian at all.
Charles Brown, Light and Life, p. 167.
Looking on the Other Side
That is a fine piece of advice if we take it in the right way. Read it as St. Paul intended, and it is one of the wisest and noblest things we can do. It was what our Lord Jesus Christ was always doing, and what every person does who shows any likeness to Jesus Christ.
I. We are to endeavour as far as we can to look at things with our brother's eyes as well as with our own. It is not always easy. We all look at things from a different point of view; we all see them in a different light. Still we may, by taking a little kindly trouble, get some fair understanding of our brother's thoughts and feelings. Nine-tenths of our quarrels and disputes would be prevented, or they would be speedily healed, if we took as much pains to read our brother's view of the question as we do to insist upon our own. How much more considerate we should be, how much more lenient in our judgments, if we tried to understand the circumstances of others, their difficulties, their temptations, as we understand our own.
II. Further, we are advised to do this for the sake of our own happiness, cheerfulness, and peace of mind. The most unhappy people you can find are those who move and live and have their being in the little world of their own troubles and grievances. They talk and feel as if there were no sorrows like unto theirs. And it is just because they take no interest in other people's sorrows, because they do not care to think of them or know of them. Yet all around them, perhaps in the very next house, hearts are breaking with a grief compared with which theirs is but child's play. We must have pities, sympathies, and affections which go out on every side, hearts that compassionate the wretched, hands eager to help the needy, hearts that bleed for human wrongs, hands which are always ready to soothe human pain.
J. G. Greenhough, The Cross and the Dice-Box, p. 263.
Otherness is simply altruism translated into the vernacular. The Apostle does not endeavour to wind us up to that height of fantastic sentiment where a man shall be concerned alone with the things of other people and of no concern whatever about his own. When a man proposes to help his neighbour and yet cannot take care of himself then it is a spectacle for gods and men.
I. And now when I plead for otherness I would plead that you take an interest in the affairs of other people because they are your own affairs. A word about that man who is sometimes very difficult to deal with and sometimes very discouraging. 'Why,' says this man, 'should I trouble with the affairs of my neighbour? I receive no help; I do not see why I should give help.' No help? Did no man lend a hand to you when you were beginning business? 'Well, there was one.' Think of the people who have helped you; think of the people who have encouraged you, and pass it on, for you have been dependent on other men's things. Ah! we are all tied up together in this mysterious unity of human life, and I charge you therefore to regard the things of the man next you because they are your own things.
II. Look on the things of this man next you because your things are better. What of the hundreds of people who are decent and hard-working, but who have very poor homes, hardly any pleasure, a narrow horizon, and a heavy burden of care? What of them? Yes! And what of the hundreds who are not more amiable than other people, and not harder working than other people, who have got ample homes, endless pleasures, luxuries more than are good for them, and, what is better, all abroad an open horizon? What of them? If that man has the better things so notoriously, and this man the poorer things so undeniably, then is it not according to the highest law that this man here hold his better things in wise and charitable trust for the man who is the poorer? That at any rate is practical.
III. We should have regard of the things of other people because if we have our own things they will be a great deal sweeter to us.
IV. Think of the things of other people because One thought of our things. This argument is written in the lives of philanthropists and saints, the lives of our own homes, the lives of Christian friends, but it issues in resplendent and eternal character from the cross of Jesus Christ.
John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 265.
References. II. 4. A. H. Moncur Sime, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 85. W. J. Hills, Sermons and Addresses, p. 149. Baptist Times and Freeman, vol. liv. p. 431. J. 6. Simpson, C hristus Crucifixus, p. 3. II. 4, 5. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 12. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 282. R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 112. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 142.
The Meekness of the Cross
I. Christian humility is not an alternative to greatness of soul. It is a protest against the limitations by which it is too often hedged. The spirit, aware of its high capacities, but scarce daring to trust itself, seeks command of manifold resources whereby it may manipulate the world for the benefit of mankind. 'What is the use,' said Cecil Rhodes in one of his published speeches, 'what is the use of having big ideas if you have not the cash to carry them out?' That is the way in which the man who knows his power expresses the requirement of an adequate opportunity in terms intelligible to the average mind. Give me the sphere appropriate to my personal powers and I will use it, not for the purpose of vulgar acquisition, but for the accomplishment of a great task, for the realisation of a magnificent idea. This is the spirit that year by year is filling, with the best intelligence which the country can command, all those posts and offices of public service in which men may gratify the noble ambition of working for the common weal with benefit to the State and credit to themselves. But what if Christ should apply to any such the supreme test, 'Sell all that thou hast,' what then would be the answer? You would be perfect then renounce the opportunity. You seek a real adventure forgo your vantage-ground of wealth, station, official responsibility; take up your cross and follow Me.' How many would be ready to court the tragedy which such a choice would all but inevitably bring?
II. Humility was not first brought to the birth in the stable at Bethlehem, nor was the cross the earliest throne where it received the crown. Its reign was already from of old when the morning stars sang together. It was as the sword in the hand of St. Michael when Lucifer was thrust down from heaven. It is the spirit in which from creation's earliest dawn the Divine finger has wakened all things into life; the spirit in which a bounteous Providence, beholding the things that are in heaven and earth, has crowned the year with His goodness; the spirit in which the Father has wistfully sought the love and friendship of His children. Humility is not the creation of God's hand. It lives in the beating of His heart. As He loves so He humbles Himself. And the death of His Son was no benefaction with which, out of the riches of an infinite liberality, He endowed the poor, but the offering with which He pressed His suit upon a reluctant people, saying to each one of us, 'My son, give Me thy heart'.
III. This is the consideration which gives to humility its true dignity and value in the character of the Christian man. It is for this reason that many of the definitions or, we had better say, descriptions by which men endeavour to express it fall infinitely short of its true proportions. It is doubtless true that 'God is in heaven and thou upon earth,' and that therefore it becomes the children of men to refrain their souls and keep them low. But just as many a man will talk bravely of the rights of property who is yet careful to add that 'Of course, we are only stewards,' so the infinite distance which separates the creature from the Creator may encourage other than repress a spirit which is the reverse of humility in the narrower sphere where comparison is not impossible, but inevitable. Nor can that lay claim to rank as a Christian virtue which depends for its realisation upon the chasm that separates human personality from Divine. Rather may it be expected to flourish among those who say that God is great and Mohammed is His prophet. If it be true that, as the Hebrew prophet bids us, we are to walk humbly with our God, or as the Christian Apostle puts it, to humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand, we must seek the principle of this self-abasement elsewhere than in the infinite distance which separates our little lives from His august Eternity.
Humility, like every aspect of the character that is truly and properly Christian, must find its spring no less than its goal in the character of God. For it is from Him that Christ comes forth, as it is to Him that He returns.
J. G. Simpson, Christus Crucifixus, p. 3.
The Mind of Christ
St. Paul tells us that we ought to have the mind of Jesus Christ; to think as He did, to have something of His Spirit and feeling, at all times. But especially should we desire to understand and share that mind at this time, when His cross and Passion fill our thoughts. We cannot believe in the cross, we cannot understand it, without having something of the Spirit which led to the cross.
I. The mind of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul speaks of it here, was His Infinite Compassion and His Infinite Humility.
(1) His Infinite Compassion. We want no one to tell us the fact that sin is in the world, and that it brings on men unhappiness and ruin in every shape; we want no one to tell us what sickness is, and pain and weakness; what it is to have great hopes, and see them fail; and that, though there is much happiness blended with our sorrow, there comes at last one thing that there is no getting rid of a man must die. Such is man's condition, and, to make it worse, he tears himself and others, and makes all more miserable, by his sins, his selfishness, cruelty, greediness, and wrong-dealing a condition which, without the hope and salvation brought by Jesus Christ, is indeed dark and dreadful. Truly says the Apostle, 'There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'. His name opens to us hopes beyond all thought. Take away that name, and there is nothing left. This condition of man He knew, and He looked down on us, and had compassion on us. He beheld us in all our sorrows and sins and He loved us. He, perfect in Holiness, in Glory, He beheld our suffering life, and His heart yearned towards us. He Himself would be our Deliverer. There was a sacrifice to be made; a great price to be paid; great pain to be suffered. But the sorrows and evils of the world filled His thoughts, and over against them He set His Infinite Compassion. But there was something more in the mind of Christ.
(2) His Infinite Humility. This leads us to think at once of the nature of His coming among us: His humiliation; what He came to do; how He was received; His sufferings and sacrifice; and His victory.
He, the Everlasting God, left the Throne of His Glory in heaven and came down that He might live with men, and live with them not as their earthly king; not to rule, but to minister; to live with us as our Brother; born among us only to be poor and to suffer; and He humbled Himself even to the death on the cross. And why?
(a) Because the sins of men had made life hopeless, and without remedy. He came to heal the diseases of the soul, to take away sin, to reclaim men. He came to bring the great remedy, because sinners had provoked God's righteousness, and brought such danger on the world. And
(b) How did His creatures receive Him? 'He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.' This was the great refusal and rejection. He met with 'the daily contradiction of sinners,' and at last He, the Judge of all men, the Sinless and True, submitted to stand before the judgment-seat of fools and hypocrites, to have sentence passed on His claims by blind and wicked judges, charged with blasphemy by His own high priests. Thus He submitted to the fate of any ordinary just man, unjustly accused. We can only partly measure what such humiliation means.
II. This was the mind of Jesus, with which He wrought out that sacrifice by which our sins have been taken away, by which the hope of eternal bliss has been opened out amid the perplexities and sorrows of this mortal life. The sacrifice began when He came to share our nature, it went on all through His tempted life, and it was completed when He cried 'It is finished,' and bowed His Head, and gave up the ghost. 'Wherefore God also hath given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.'
The Mind of Christ
The historic Christ is for us the power of God and the wisdom of God. There have been numberless books written on this subject in the last few years. Has any fresh light been thrown upon it? The character of Christ in some ways is better known to us than to the Christians who lived before the labours of modern New Testament scholars.
Let me call attention to two or three salient points which to me have become clearer as the result of reading some of these recent studies.
I. We have been too much inclined to Picture our Saviour as before all Things Calm, serene, and gentle. The conventional face of Christ in art expresses benign dignity and little else, but there are several indications in the Gospels that His was a strongly emotional and deeply stirred nature. His family, St. Mark tells us, said He was beside Himself. The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness, surely under the influence of intense agitation. The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was the result of a tremendous inward struggle. The calm, the serenity, the dignity and sweet reasonableness, were all there, but beneath the surface glowed fires of which we may not guess the tremendous energy. He must have impressed those who met Him with a sense of awful power under restraint. His disciples were constrained to treat Him with utter reverence. No one ever dared to pity Him. Only twice do we read of advice being offered Him, and on each occasion the dearly-loved counsellors, His mother and St Peter, received a withering rebuke; and yet this awe-inspiring personality was full of gentleness and tenderness for the sick, the sorry, and the sinful. This union of strength and tenderness must have given the character of Jesus a unique charm and attractiveness.
II. What was the Source of this Temper, so wonderfully compounded of Strength and Sweetness? The Gospels answer this question very plainly. It was the unique intensity with which our Saviour realised the presence of God, the perfect spontaneousness of His life in the eternal world. With what simple and natural love and confidence He lifted up His heart to His heavenly Father and communed with Him day and night! How this life in God's presence turned all His joy into thanksgiving and all His pain into submission! St Paul, who entered the secret of His life and teaching as few if any have done, puts into maxims the mind of Christ 'Pray without ceasing.' 'In everything give thanks.' 'Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' If He felt the burden of civilisation in that comparatively simple state of society, what would He have said to us? Would He not have advised us earnestly to try a simpler life for our souls' health? 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'
III. The Sins which our Lord hated were Three hypocrisy, selfishness, and worldliness. The hypocrite, or actor, is one whose outward conduct is not the true expression of his heart and soul, and the hypocrite ends in deceiving himself. The double heart makes the double head. Want of sympathy is a cardinal sin in Christianity as it is in no other religion. When St Augustine said that he desired to know nothing save God and his own soul, he was misled by his love of rhetoric into stating, in epigrammatic form, a view of religion which, though not ignoble, is precisely not that of the religion of Christ. If the world contained only God and self there would be no Christianity. Lastly, worldliness is based on a radically wrong standard of values. The world that is to say, human society, as it organises itself apart from God assigns tasks and pays wages which have no necessary connection with the work which God intends us to do, or the reward which He intends us to receive.
References. II. 5. J. M. Neale, Readings for the Aged (4th Series), p. 83. F. B. Meyer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 318. G. Bellett, Parochial Sermons, p. 240. F. St John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 67. R. W. Church, Village Sermons, p. 77. W. M. Sinclair, Difficulties of our Day, p. 123. C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 302. R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 34. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 187. II. 5-7. J. W. Burgon, Servants of Scripture, p. 112.
These words are the most sublime, the most important, perhaps, in the writings of St Paul indeed, I had almost said in all Scripture. For they reveal to us with singular distinctness the foundation truth of the Christian religion the incarnation. They tell us Who it was that became incarnate, and what His incarnation involved. They carry us up to the very heights of His glory as God, they carry us down to the depths of His humiliation as Man; and they propose for our example nothing less than Christ in all His fulness as God and Man.
I. The passage has been called the ladder of our Lord's humiliation, since it describes the steps by which He descended to the lowest depths of human need, in His work of redeeming our fallen race. There are clearly three stages or steps indicated by the finite verbs with which the other clauses of the sentence are grouped. (1) In regard to the first stage of the ladder. 'He emptied Himself,' we find associated with the verb 'emptied Himself' two clauses. 'He took upon Him the form of a servant,' and 'He was made in the likeness of man'. We have, therefore, in this first stage of the ladder a statement that the incarnation was an 'emptying' and this emptying is explained as being equivalent to the taking of the form of a servant and becoming man. (2) The second stage speaks of a further humiliation, that being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself He not only assumed human nature, but accepted the penalty which belonged to fallen nature. (3) The third and last stage of the ladder is found in the clause,' He became obedient, even to the death of the cross'. That is, that having chosen to die, of all the modes of death possible, He accepted that which was most painful, most humiliating.
II. How wonderful is the power and pathos of the story of our Lord's death! St. Paul tells us that He Who assumed human nature was God What marvellous condescension! It is not only that the just suffers for the unjust; it is not only that the sufferer Himself is sinless, but He is God!
III. What is the lesson we are to learn from it? It is summed up in the Collect for today, in which we pray that we may follow the example of our Lord's humility and of His patience.
IV. Now we are able to understand the injunction with which St. Paul begins the passage, 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus'. What did He surrender? (1) His rights. (2) His liberty.
And then again, in His sacrifice He chose the hardest way. And we, when we realise that a duty must be done, how often we choose the easiest way.
A. G. Mortimer, Lenten Preaching, p. 63.
References. II. 6-8. P. T. Forsyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 276. C. H. Robinson, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 340. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 253. II. 5-11. J. N. Bennie, The Eternal Life, p. 68. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 62. Expositor (5th Series), vol. iv. pp. 161, 241. II. 6. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 121. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 368; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. pp. 82, 248. II. 6-8. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. i. p. 178.
The Form of a Servant
I. In order that we may be followers of Christ, and that our life and character should be like His, we must freely surrender our wills to God. If you read the Gospels there are two convictions that infallibly impose themselves upon you. (1) The first of these is that none has ever loved man so wisely and faithfully as Christ Ingratitude did not repel Him, nor cold and pitiless scorn freeze the fountains of His pity. (2) How was it Jesus loved, and loved so loyally to the end? It was because He was doing the will of His Father who sent Him, a will that He knew could never be defeated, and would rise triumphant from its apparent wreck. And so it must be with all who would truly wear the form of a servant.
II. We must wear the form of a servant always and everywhere. Christ never laid it aside from the moment He assumed it at Bethlehem till He had said 'It is finished'. So it ought to be with us. Worship is the highest act of service. Yet to be genuine it must be the crown and expression of a life of obedience. But how often we renounce and refuse the form of a servant! We like to assume it in some things, and to discard it in others. But they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. It is no longer ours to question or dispute, to murmur or rebel.
III. The strength of service lies in our sonship. We saw that the spring of Christ's enthusiasm lay in His relation to God. So also our service must rest on filial fellowship with God. If it be not sustained and upheld by this it is rendered in our own strength, and is simply the assertion of our self-will. Moreover it will lack what alone can make it truly acceptable to God. For it will lack freedom, and be burdened with the spirit of bondage, or inspired by a pride that will strip it of the character of service and change it into the form of a favour. Nor, on the other hand, will it be profitable to men, for though it may relieve their surface wants, and dry their tears for a time, it will not stanch their deepest wounds nor carry with it the power of an endless life.
C. Moinet, The Great Alternative and other Sermons, p. 201.
References. II. 7. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 278. II, 7, 8. Ibid. vol. x. p. 36. II. 7-9. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, p. 75. II. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2281. S. H. Fleming, Fifteen-minute Sermons for the People, p. 1. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 30; ibid. (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 156. II. 8, 9. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 144. II. 9. H. S. Holland, Vital Values, p. 13. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 297; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 248. II. 9, 10. J. G. Greenhough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 314. H. S. Holland, ibid. vol. lxvii. p. 1. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. pp. 138, 139. II. 9-11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 101. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 249. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 260. II. 10, 11. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 420. II. 11. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 45.
William Blake said to a student who came to him for advice: 'Do you work in fear and trembling?' 'Indeed I do, sir,' ' Then you'll do, ' was the reply.
Reference. II. 12. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. pp. 99, 119.
Deliverance From the Power of Sin
I. 'Work out your own salvation.' There is a sense in which salvation is finished. There is another sense in which it is in process. Finished by Christ when He died, and yet in process by the Holy Ghost in our heart. (1) Remember that sin is a parasite. The day will come when I shall stand up before my God without a trace or freckle of sin. (2) God comes into your heart to take your side against the parasite sin. (3) Remember further that His purpose is to deliver from the power of sin. The guilt is gone, but the power remains, and He can only deliver from this gradually. Today you see things to be wrong which five years ago you permitted, and five years from today you will see things wrong which you now permit. Evidently the work is progressive. (4) We may be saved from known sin but not from temptation.
II. Work out what God works in. 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you.' How careful you ought to be! Be very fearful lest by a word or act of yours you spoil and thwart and put back God's work in your life. God in you will work to will, and then God in you will work to do what He wills. He does not work to make you feel, because feeling ends in smoke so often. God does not work in you to think, because you think and think again. But God works in you to will. That is, there rises up in your heart a desire which becomes at last a purpose to be free. No one knows it, no one guesses it; but in your soul there rises up the will. The willing and the doing are from Him, and by faith you look to Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
F. B. Meyer, The Soul's Ascent, p. 107.
References. II. 12. W. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 116. A. Shepherd, The Gospel and Social Questions, p. 25. J. C. Lees, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 27. R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine vol. xix. p. 77. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 102. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 1003. II. 12, 13. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 68. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 221. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 342. D. E. Irons, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 398. J. M. Whiton, Summer Sermons, p. 177. J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, pt. i. p. 313. R. Allen, The Words of Christ, p. 203. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (1st Series), p. 1. W. C. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 364. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 820. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 268. II. 14-16. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 472. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 74. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 281. II. 16. Ex ositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 203. II. 16-18. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 287. II. 17. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p. 139. II. 17, 18. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 81. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 81. II. 19-24. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 86. II. 19-24. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 295.
When we are most earnest ourselves, we are surest to feel the lack of earnestness in others; sincerity stirred to its depths will tolerate nothing less. It then becomes a new test of a companion. So a weak solution may not reveal a poison when a strong one will.
James Lane Allen.
References. II. 21. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 282. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 276. II. 22. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 227; ibid. vol. vi. p. 86.
Epaphras: 'A Heart At Leisure From Itself'
Philippians 2:26 ; Colossians 4:12
The identification of Epaphroditus mentioned in the Epistle to the Philippians with Epaphras the minister to the Colossians is precarious. The names are the same, but there is difficulty in supposing that one person is meant. Still, put together, the descriptions make up a harmonious and singularly beautiful type of Christian character of 'a heart at leisure from itself. In Philippians, Epaphras is represented as sorrowful even to agony, because his friends had heard of his illness. He had been sick sick almost to death but he would fain have had no one burdened by his trouble. In Colossians we have the servant of Christ always striving for the saints in prayer, that they may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. This was a heart of gold.
I. Few examples are more timely than that of Epaphras in his unwillingness to have his sickness published abroad. Of all trouble, it is perhaps true that it is best even for ourselves not to speak much of it. This is so true of the greater griefs that an almost certain gauge of the depth to which pain has sunk is the measure of its repression. The more real the pain, the greater is the anxiety the world should ignore it. Only inexperienced sufferers are voluble. Those familiar with the secrets of anguish are silent. They do their best to hide from the outer world the consciousness, the memory, and the expectation of their suffering. They make much of alleviations, and eagerly welcome whatever soothes and distracts. They know that expression reacts upon emotion, and makes the burden heavier. This is even truer about lesser sorrows. The mortifications of wounded vanity make a more or less appreciable element in the discipline of life, and they are always intensified by being proclaimed. Even while he suffers, one may doubt whether there is any just cause for pain, and the memory of the slight or disappointment fades away if it is not cherished. Once tell it, and it becomes objective, with an independent existence a living minister of misery.
II. But in the mind of Epaphras there was a nobler feeling. He knew that the Philippians were hardly bearing up under the weight of their own sorrows. Life was difficult to them as to him, and its troubles were perhaps, growing day by day. With the generosity of a great nature, he believed that they loved him well that his illness would sadden them deeply and it lay with a double weight on his heart because it had burdened theirs. The 'importunate canvass for sympathy' often wears affection out, and sufferers die unlamented because they have exhausted the resources of compassion. Nor even should the claim be urged through looks that are silent pleas for pity; as far as possible, Christians must divest themselves even of the air of sorrow. We read in Marie Bashkirtseff's life that when she heard she was attacked by consumption, she exclaimed, 'Is it I? O God! I! I!! I!!!' Many will remember Robert Hall's words on recovering from a keen paroxysm of anguish, 'But I have not complained, have I, sir? No, and I will not complain.'
III. For we have a hiding-place, a refuge, in One whose patience we can never tire, whose sympathy never fails. Epaphras is found 'always striving in prayer'. Perhaps our faithlessness is shown in nothing so much as in the current limitations of Scriptural teaching on prayer. We are to go to God with all 'Pour out your hearts before Him, ye people'. There we are to begin, and we shall end with Christ He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, and the issue was peace. God loves so well to hear us that it is almost a treachery to Him that we should go with our trials to any other. He knows that we must have sympathy lively and complete. But is not His sympathy the sympathy of God in Christ sufficient for us? The true guerdon of pain faithfully borne is the assurance that it has put God to trial that we can now be sure of His grace that He has given the victory to what in us is higher and diviner and that, having done this, He will bring us through all that awaits us, and not see us cast away. This is the witness of exercised spirits. They have entered an abiding serenity, for they know that there is that in them which has survived the worst that time can do, and which must conquer at the last.
IV. Epaphras could not have prayed with such tender warmth unless he had sought directly to bless and help his friends. Prayer is a suggesting grace, and it is answered often by guidance to him who offers it. We are not only forbidden to burden others needlessly; we are to be kind. There are people who make conscientious provision for those who depend on them, by unceasing toil and much sacrifice. That is not enough; the heart must be refreshed. Lacordaire wrote: 'Above all other things be kind. Kindness is the one thing through which we can the most resemble God and the most disarm men. Kindness in mutual relations is the principal charm of life.' What are we doing to increase the innocent happiness of others, to gladden the weary, to lift the worn spirit from the dust? Every day we should resolve to do something were it but to speak a wo, d or write a letter to bring some brightness into another's life.
W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten-Minute Sermons, p. 11.
References. II. 25. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 92. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 158; ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p. 132; ibid. vol. iii. p. 235. II. 25-30. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 305. II. 29, 30. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 100. III. 1. Ibid. p. 106. III. 1-3. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scrip-ture Philippians, p. 311. III. 2, 3. Ibid. p. 112. III. 2. Christianity in Daily Conduct, p. 293.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Philippians 2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26