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Euodia and Syntyche
This is a dual biography in a nutshell. These persons are nowhere else referred to. The outline is faint enough; yet on thoughtful consideration it reveals not a few interesting facts.
I. The persons here mentioned were women. They were members of the Philippian Church, which is often spoken of as a 'woman's church'. It is frequently said by way of criticism that two-thirds of the members of the entire Christian Church are of the gentler sex. But shall the fact be regarded as a reflection on the character of the church? Before we leap to that conclusion, let us yoke with it another fact; to wit, seven-eighths of the inmates of our prisons and penitentiaries are men. A fair deduction from both these premises can place no discredit upon the Church for her preponderance of female membership. Indeed, it speaks eloquently for her thoughtfulness and purity of character.
II. We are given to understand that Euodia and Syntyche were good women. There is much in a name. Euodia means 'fragrance'; Syntyche means 'happiness'. We are informed that they were 'labourers in the Gospel'. We have a further intimation as to the character of Euodia and Syntyche in the statement that their names were written 'in the Book of Life'.
III. These good women were not of one mind.
IV. The quarrel was about a trifle. We infer this from the fact that Paul asked for no investigation of their case. Indeed, the whole affair would appear to have been much ado about nothing. It may have originated in a bit of gossip, a flash of temper, or an inadvertent word. Is it not true that most disagreements have a slight origin? We should find it difficult to account for most of our likes and dislikes; and as for our bitter disagreements, it would be quite impossible to justify them.
V. It would appear that both women were to blame. This may be inferred from their having an equal interest in the message: 'I beseech Euodia, and beseech Syntyche'. It takes two to make a quarrel.
VI. The results of this quarrel were far-reaching. It has come down through nineteen hundred years.
VII. We do not know that Euodia and Syntyche were ever reconciled on earth. The women who were parties to this Philippian quarrel are generic types. And the practical application is plain. If there are bitternesses to be healed or differences to compose, let us not wait until the shadows enfold us.
D. J. Burrell, The Gospel of Certainty, p. 73.
'It has been justly observed,' says Dr. Johnson in The Rambler (99), 'that discord generally operates in little things; it is inflamed to its utmost vehemence by contrariety of tests, oftener than of principles.'
References. IV. 2. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 46. IV. 2, 3. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 162.
In his Specimen Days in America, describing the cases of the soldiers he visited in hospital during the Civil War, Walt Whitman writes: 'No formal general's report, nor book in library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west Unnamed, unknown, remain and still remain, the bravest soldiers.'
References. IV. 3. S. K. Hocking, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 102. J. G. Greenhough, ibid. vol. liii. p. 264. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 11.
Dr. Marcus Dods wrote at the age of twenty-six to his sister Marcia: 'If you are going to send texts I'll send you one that will last you all the year and more χαίρετε , Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice: then notice the connections on to the end of the paragraph'. Early Letters, p. 165 (see also p. 257).
Equanimity ( Christmas )
In other parts of Scripture the prospect of Christ's coming is made a reason for solemn fear and awe, and a call for watching and prayer, but in the verses connected with the text a distinct view of the Christian character is set before us, and distinct duties urged on us. 'The Lord is at hand,' and what then? why, if so, we must 'rejoice in the Lord'; we must be conspicuous for 'moderation'; we must be 'careful for nothing'; we must seek from God's bounty, and not from man, whatever we need; we must abound in 'thanksgiving'; and we must cherish, or rather we must pray for, and we shall receive from above, 'the peace of God which passeth all understanding,' to 'keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus'. Now this is a view of the Christian character definite and complete enough to admit of commenting on, and it may be useful to show that the thought of Christ's coming not only leads to fear, but to a calm and cheerful frame of mind.
I. Nothing perhaps is more remarkable than that an Apostle a man of toil and blood, a man combating with powers unseen, and a spectacle for men and Angels, and much more that St. Paul, a man whose natural temper was so zealous, so severe, and so vehement I say, nothing is more striking and significant than that St. Paul should have given us this view of what a Christian should be. It would be nothing wonderful, it is nothing wonderful, that writers in a day like this should speak of peace, quiet, sobriety, and cheerfulness, as being the tone of mind that becomes a Christian; but considering that St. Paul was by birth a Jew, and by education a Pharisee; that he wrote at a time when, if at any time, Christians were in lively and incessant agitation of mind; when persecution and rumours of persecution abounded; when all things seemed in commotion around them; when there was nothing fixed; when there were no churches to soothe them, no course of worship to sober them, no homes to refresh them; and, again, considering that the Gospel is full of high and noble, and what may be called even romantic, principles and motives, and deep mysteries; and, further, considering the very topic which the Apostle combines with his admonitions is that awful subject, the coming of Christ; it is well worthy of notice that, in such a time, under such a covenant, and with such a prospect, he should draw a picture of the Christian character as free from excitement and effort, as full of repose, as still and as equable, as if the great Apostle wrote in some monastery of the desert or some country parsonage. Here surely is the finger of God; here is the evidence of supernatural influences, making the mind of man independent of circumstances! This is the thought that first suggests itself; and the second is this, how deep and refined is the true Christian spirit! how difficult to enter into, how vast to embrace, how impossible to exhaust! Who would expect such composure and equanimity from the fervent Apostle of the Gentiles? We know St. Paul could do great things; could suffer and achieve, could preach and confess, could be high and could be low; but we might have thought that all this was the limit and the perfection of the Christian temper, as he viewed it; and that no room was left him for the feelings which the text and following verses lead us to ascribe to him.
And yet he who 'laboured more abundantly than all' his brethren, is also a pattern of simplicity, meekness, cheerfulness, thankfulness, and serenity of mind.
II. It is observable, too, that it was foretold as the peculiarity of Gospel times by the Prophet Isaiah:
'The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.'
'But this I say, brethren, the time is short.' What matters it what we eat, what we drink, how we are clothed, where we lodge, what is thought of us, what becomes of us, since we are not at home? It is felt every day, even as regards this world, that when we leave home for a while we are unsettled. This, then, is the kind of feeling which a belief in Christ's coming will create within us. It is not worth while establishing ourselves here; it is not worth while spending time and thought on such an object. We shall hardly have got settled when we shall have to move.
'Be careful for nothing,' St. Paul says, or, as St. Peter, 'casting all your care upon Him,' or, as He Himself, 'Take no thought' or care 'for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself'. This of course is the state of mind which is directly consequent on the belief, that 'the Lord is at hand'. Who would care for any loss or gain today, if he knew for certain that Christ would show Himself tomorrow? no one. Well, then, the true Christian feels as he would feel, did he know for certain that Christ would be here tomorrow.
III. The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not, like some well in a retired and shady place, difficult of access. He is the greater part of his time by himself, and when he is in solitude, that is his real state. What he is when left to himself and to his God, that is his true life. He can bear himself; he can (as it were) joy in himself, for it is the grace of God within him, it is the presence of the Eternal Comforter, in which he joys. He can bear, he finds it pleasant, to be with himself at all times, 'never less alone than when alone'. He can lay his head on his pillow at night, and own in God's sight, with overflowing heart, that he wants nothing, that he 'is full and abounds,' that God has been all things to him, and that nothing is not his which God could give him. More thankfulness, more holiness, more of heaven he needs indeed, but the thought that he can have more is not a thought of trouble, but of joy. It does not interfere with his peace to know that he may grow nearer God. Such is the Christian's peace, when, with a single heart and the Cross in his eye, he addresses and commends himself to Him with whom the night is as clear as the day. St Paul says that 'the peace of God shall keep our hearts and minds. By 'keep' is meant 'guard,' or 'garrison,' our hearts; so as to keep out enemies. And he says, our 'hearts and minds' in contrast to what the world sees of us. Many hard things may be said of the Christian, and done against him, but he has a secret preservative or charm, and minds them not.
J. H. Newman.
References. IV. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2405. B. J. Snell, The Virtue of Gladness, p. 73. W. H. Evans, Sermons far the Church's Year, p. 15. J. T. Bramston, Fratribus, p. 66. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 168. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 21. IV. 4-7. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 221.
The Golden Mean
'Your moderation,' forbearance, conciliatoriness, yieldingness.
I. Note this admonition as it applies to matters of faith. The Apostle designed to put the Philippians on their guard against treating coldly or harshly those of another creed; the text is a warning against bigotry and dogmatism. The danger was lest they should exhibit an intolerant spirit in dealing with their unconverted neighbours. This admonition is by no means out of date; the modern Christian needs to give it most prayerful consideration, for he also is in danger of haughtiness and exclusiveness. (1) There is a pride of orthodoxy. (2) There is the pride of denominationalism.
II. The admonition of the text applies to matters of character. We are tempted to judge our brethren harshly; some of them are not like us in certain particulars, and we conclude that they are inferior in wisdom or devotion. (1) We must beware how we deal offensively with any whom we may imagine to be inferior to ourselves. (2) And let us be careful lest we grieve those who are different from ourselves.
III. This admonition applies to matters of conduct We are to display our reasonableness in daily life, and not severely to judge our fellows. It is not always easy to say what is exactly right and fitting to be done; we must, therefore, watch against illiberality and painful dogmatism. 'Reasonableness of dealing, not strictness of legal right, but consideration for one another,' is the lesson of the text and the high duty of the Christian life. The earth itself is not a rigid body; it yields to stress, it displays a certain plasticity for which the astronomer allows; and such is the character of living goodness. Just as the mighty ocean softly adjusts itself to all the articulations of the shore without any sacrifice of majesty; as the rock-ribbed earth is tremblingly sensitive, yielding to stress whilst delicately true to its orbit; so the strong, sincere, pure soul has a quick sense of the essential and non-essential is ready within well-understood lines to give and take, and so preserves that aspect of ease and beauty which belongs to whatever is strong and free.
W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 113.
References. IV. 5. W. M. Sinclair, Christ and Our Times, p. 231. R. W. Hiley. A Year's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 346. F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 7. W. H. Evans, Short Sermons for the Seasons, p. 20. J. Keble, Sermons or Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 391. J. Jefferis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 403. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 174. IV. 6. Ibid. p. 180. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1469. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 31.
Man's Care Conquered By God's Peace
Let us see whether this exhortation against anxiety is as impracticable and visionary as some assume it to be; whether, on the contrary, it is not one of the wisest and kindest precepts God ever gave to His children; whether fuller obedience to it would not relieve us of our burdens and wipe away our tears, giving smiles in the place of sadness and peace in the midst of storms.
I. In distinguishing between various kinds of care, there are some which are evidently right, others as evidently wrong, and some which require thought before we can determine whether they are lawful or unlawful. (1) It is clear that some cares are perfectly justifiable. The injunction to pray about them implies this, and our obedience to Divine precepts necessitates them. (2) There are some cares which are as certainly wrong, because they flow from an evil source which taints them. Envy, suspicion, ambition, consciousness of guilt, pride, ill-temper may originate them and often do. (3) But, besides these, there are cares about which it is by no means easy to say whether they are lawful or unlawful. Can we find any touchstone to which we can bring a doubtful care, to test whether it be right or wrong? I think we can, and that it lies before us in my text, where we are pointed to prayer. Any care you can confidently pray about is lawful. (4) But some cares, lawful enough in themselves, become unlawful through their excess.
II. To let in the light of heaven on anxieties and cares in other words, to pray over them is to expel the evils in them. (1) Those evils are manifold. Even the body suffers from over-anxiety, as sleepless nights, a careworn face, and shattered nerves often testify. Our mental faculties are affected too. (2) How is this to be averted? We want a power put within us which will drive out the strong man armed, being stronger than he. And this is brought in by prayer.
III. The effect of obedience to this precept is set forth in the words: 'And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. This peace is not a passive possession but an active power which 'keeps the heart'; or, as Paul says to the Colossians, 'rules the heart'.
A. Rowland, Open Windows and other Sermons, p. 130.
References. IV. 6, 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2351. J. A. Beet, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 273. E. Armitage, ibid. vol. xlviii. p. 149.
In the letters of J. M. Neale, an account is given of the death of the Rev. Charles Simeon. It is from the pen of Mr. Cams. 'I went in to him after chapel this morning, and he was then lying with his eyes closed. I thought he was asleep, but after standing there a little while he put out his hand to me. I said, 'The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your heart and mind'. He said nothing. I said again, 'They washed their robes, dear sir, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb; therefore they are before the throne of God'. 'I have, I have!' he said. 'I have washed my robes in the Blood of the Lamb; they are clean, quite clean I know it.' He shut his eyes for a few minutes, and when he again opened them I said, 'Well, dear sir, you will soon comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may He tried to raise himself, and said, after his quick manner, 'Stop! stop! you don't understand a bit about that text; don't go on with it I won't hear it I shall understand it soon!' After a little while he said, 'Forty years ago I blessed God because I met one man in the street who spoke to me, and, oh, what a change there is now'!
References. IV. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 180 and vol. xxiv. No. 1397. Bishop Creighton. University and other Sermons, p. 1. T. Arnold, Christian Life: Its Hopes, p. 238. Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p. 211. E. J. Boyce, Parochial Sermons, p. 188. Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 219. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons (2nd Series), p. 79, 94, 106, 121. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 186. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 39.
In the Christian life the thought-realm is the seat of the greatest difficulty with which a man is confronted. Our thoughts are so elusive, so difficult to control, and so entirely independent of any known law, that to order them arightly seems an impossibility. It is characteristic of the Gospel that such a difficulty is not ignored, but is honestly faced and frankly dealt with. It proposes a solution of the problem of the thought-life the worth of which can only be known by personal test, and the man who would know the fulness of the Evangel must seek the fulfilment of its promises here. Indeed, in its ultimate analysis the adequacy of the Gospel as a scheme of salvation depends upon its power in this hidden realm of our being, for our thoughts are by far the largest parts of our lives. We think far more than we speak or act, and it is a matter of common experience that our thoughts are the springs of both speech and action.
I. The power of thought is the strongest force in the life of any one of us, as witness its annihilation of distance and time, and its disregard of circumstances. Our holiest moments are often invaded by our un-holiest imaginations, and uncontrolled thought at such times makes vivid to us things long since past. On this account it is that thought manifests its greatest strength as an avenue of temptation. Our temptations come to us mainly by our thoughts, which gather strength in this respect from their own past victories.
II. The fact, that our thoughts have a direct and powerful influence upon others is an added emphasis upon the necessity of our endeavouring to apprehend the fulness of Christ's salvation in this respect. It is quite impossible to disregard what is now known as the power of thought-communication and transference, a misapprehension of which has led not a few into a regular cult of thought-power, from which a right understanding of the Gospel in its fulness would have saved them. Now we may understand something of its reality and influence by looking at it inversely. We all know the power of thoughtlessness and the strength which it has to wound and to hurt. We all know that nothing cuts us so deeply as thoughtless treatment on the part of those from whom we expected something better. And by introversion we may understand something also of the influence of holy, pure, and loving thought.
III. Along with the creation of personal self-discovery, the Gospel proclaims an inward emancipation, promising to the surrendered heart a guardianship of thought which liberates from moral bondage, and a communication of power which brings 'every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ'. And these words are not expressive of an unattainable ideal, spoken to mock us with the sense of shortcoming which they create, but are rather a call to us to enter into the joy of our Lord.
The Gospel does not call us to a life of mere passivity, which would be, to say the least, of but questionable morality. We are to co-operate with Him, and it is always within our own power to keep ourselves in the love of God. Hence it is that the Gospel imposes a rigid self-discipline with regard to thoughts, and lays upon us the responsibility for thought-selection. Assuming that we have learned our own helplessness, that we have yielded ourselves to the Lord, and are now relying upon His promise to undertake the responsibility of guarding our hearts and our thoughts, it enjoins 'Whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, of good report think on these things'. Christ does not supersede our own activities but rather strengthens them, and to us is committed the task of crowding out the evil by the good, always in reliance upon His imparted strength.
J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-Eminent Lord, p. 181.
St. Paul here tells the beloved Philippians what things to think of, what to value, what to practise in their lives; if they do this, he says that the 'God of Peace' will certainly be with them. Let us look at the things which he suggests for their meditation and practice a little more closely.
I. Whatsoever Things are True. The word has a fuller and deeper meaning in the Bible than it now has. Truth with us means the opposite of falsity in speech, but in Scripture it means the opposite of all unreality, all sham. St. Paul bids them think habitually of all that is real; on the substance, not on the shadow; on the eternal, not on the transitory; on God, not on the world. 'Whatsoever things are real' God, the Soul, Eternity, the Gospel of Jesus Christ 'think on these things.'
II. Whatsoever Things are Honest. The word in the original means 'noble,' 'grave,' 'reverend,' 'seemly'. It is an exhortation to dignity of thought as opposite to meanness of thought. It invites to the gravity of self-respect. Nothing becomes too bad for men who have lost their self-respect. Why is this sea of life strewn with hopeless wrecks? Could the unmanly man, the unwomanly woman, have sunk to such depths of loathsome degradation if they had ever thought of whatsoever things are honest? There are no words of counsel more deep-reaching than these, especially to young men and women.
III. Whatsoever Things are Just. Justice is one of the most elementary of human duties, and one of the rarest. Try to be, what so few are, habitually fair.
IV. Whatsoever Things are Pure. Ah! that this warning might reach the heart of every one of you, and inspire you with the resolve to banish from your minds everything that defileth. Impure thoughts encouraged lead inevitably to fatal deeds and blasted lives.
V. Whatsoever Things are Lovely. Winning and attractive thoughts that live and are radiant in the light. If you think of such things, the baser and viler will have no charm for you. Try then, above all, 'the expulsive power of good affections'. Empty by filling empty of what is mean and impure by filling with what is noble and lovely.
VI. Whatsoever Things are of Good Report. The world delights in whatsoever things are of ill report base stories, vile innuendoes, evil surmisings, scandalous hints; it revels in envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. If you would be noble, if you would be a Christian man, have nothing to do with such things.
VII. Then, if there be any Virtue, and if there be any Praise, think on these Things. The words do not imply the least doubt that there is virtue, and that there is praise, but they mean, whatever virtue and praise there be, think on these. There is no nobler character than the man who knows the awful reverence which is due from himself to his own soul; who loveth the thing that is just and doeth that which is lawful and right, in singleness of heart; who keeps the temple of his soul pure and bright with the presence of the Holy One; who hates all that is ignoble and loves his neighbour as himself. What has such a man to fear? The eternal forces are with him. His heart, his hope, his treasure, are beyond the grave; and ever and anon he is permitted to see the heavens open, and 'the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man'.
What to Think About
'Think on these things.' 'These things' constitute the prescribed liberty of Christian manhood. They are a kind of inventory of the mental furnishings of the Christian life. And I think everybody will readily grant that the furnishings are not cheap and stingy, not bare and monotonous, but liberal and varied, graceful and refined.
Now let me review these glorious possibilities, this authorised dominion in Christian freedom of thought.
I. Whatsoever Things are True. True, not simply veracious. The word 'true' is not used by the Apostle as we use it in a court of law, when we enjoin a witness to 'speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'. The things described in a police court as true are usually ugly and repulsive; truth is always beautiful. Truth in a police court is correspondence with fact. Truth as used in the New Testament is correspondence with God. An unclean story may be accurate; an unclean story can never be true. A story is true when in very substance it shares the likeness of Him who is the truth. Veracity accurately describes a happening, truth describes a particular happening. We are therefore enjoined not to think about merely accurate things, but about accurate things which unveil the face of God.
II. Whatsoever Things are Honourable. Things that are worthy of honour, worthy of reverence, the august and the venerable. The Authorised Version uses the old English word 'honest,' which is suggestive of gravity, seemliness, dignity. There is a certain fine stateliness in the word, recalling the impressive grandeur of a cathedral pile. Whatsoever things make the character of men and women to resemble the imposing proportions of a cathedral, 'think on these things'.
III. Whatsoever Things are Just. And yet our word 'just' does not convey the Apostle's mind and meaning. Justice can be very cold and steely, like the justice of a Shylock. It may mean only superficial exactitude as between man and man. But to be really just is to be right with God. No man is really just until he is adjusted to his Maker. Whatsoever things satisfy the standards of the Almighty, 'think on these things'.
IV. Whatsoever Things are Pure. But to be pure is to be more than just. It is to be stainless, blameless, and unblemished.
V. Whatsoever Things are Lovely. We are to bring the amiable and the lovable within the circle of our regard. John Calvin gives the meaning as 'morally agreeable and pleasant. I am glad that juicy word came from the lips of that austere prophet. Dr. Matheson tells of a young woman who came to him in great distress over her failure to fulfil the religious duties of life. He was aware that at this very time she was living a life of sacrificial devotion to a blind father. 'I asked if this service of hers was not a religious duty. She answered, "Oh no, it cannot be, because that brings me such joy, and it is the delight of my heart to serve my father".' It is a most common and perilous mistake. There are tens of thousands of duties and liberties which are juicy and delicious, and they are the portion of those who sit down at the Lord's feast.
VI. Whatsoever Things are of Good Report. Not merely things that are well reported of, but things which themselves have a fine voice, things that are fair speaking, and therefore gracious, winsome, winning, and attractive. And then, as though he were afraid that the vast enclosure was not yet wide enough, and that some fair and beautiful thing might still be outside its comprehensive pale, the Apostle adds still more inclusive terms, and says, ' If there be any virtue' whatever is merely excellent; ' and if there be any praise,' whatever is in any degree commendable take account of them, bring them within the circle of your commendation and delight, 'think on these things'. Fasten your eyes upon the lovely wheresoever the lovely may be found.
J. H. Jowett, The High Galling, p. 192.
Time to Think
This age has been called an age of growth, and so in many ways it is growth of empire, of commerce, of wealth, of population, and an improvement in physique.
But what of spiritual growth? There is a growth in organisations, in spiritual activities, in spiritual fuss, but this is only the scaffolding; the building itself grows but little. What is the remedy? We find it in the first word of our text, 'Think'.
I. Get Time to Think. It is more necessary than many realise; it is indeed absolutely necessary, for without time to think our spiritual life cannot grow. We hear too much of the voice of man. Get time to hear the voice of God.
II. Acquire the Habit of Thinking. The mind quickly forms habits just as the body does, and if those habits are habits of idleness or day-dreams or vanity, the mind will soon become useless for thinking. Discipline your mind! Keep still and think. Think deeply, and so become deep. Think regularly, and so acquire the habit of thinking.
III. What shall we Think? It is a good thing to drive out wrong and impure thoughts from our hearts we must do so; but unless we obtain good thoughts to fill their place the evil thoughts will return with sevenfold force. What, then, shall we think? 'Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, if there be any virtue, any praise, think on these things.' That is the great remedy for our lack of spiritual growth. The scaffolding is here; let us build up the spiritual building.
The Regulation of Thoughts
What a vast and varied domain there is spread out before man in which his thought may expatiate! Have we not in this itself an intimation of our immortality? It has been said that 'art is long, and life is short'. The truth is that life is long too, as long as art long even to infinity. He who has given the eternal faculties and the eternal longing will also give the eternal life. 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.' A man can never be better than his thoughts. Everything good and everything evil originates in thought. And herein we are greatly helped or hindered, as the case may be, by the power of habit. What you want is carefully painfully, if necessary to cultivate the habit of choosing those things which are good and pure and honourable and lovely and of good report. It may be a slow process, but it is a sure one, if only, by the grace of God, you persevere. For you must remember that interest in a particular subject is, to a very large extent, a matter of habit. Bearing in mind that what is necessary is not simply a good resolution such as one might make at the close of a sermon, or in one of his better moods, but a steady and persevering course of training and culture, let us see more precisely what it is we have to do.
I. The first thing clearly is to select that which is good (as opposed to that which is evil) to think about. Here comes in the weighty truth that 'to the pure all things are pure, but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled'. It is not so much the things at which we look as the way in which we look at them, which makes the great difference.
II. Not only, however, is it our duty to select that which is good as opposed to that which is bad, but to choose that which is best in preference to that which is inferior, to think about. God made us to soar. He has given us atmosphere enough to soar in, and heaven enough to soar to; and it is a shame that so many of us should be content to think such paltry thoughts as we do. There is one theme which is loftier and more inspiring than all others, which we neglect at the peril of all that is highest and best, and most hopeful in us the great theme of the Gospel 'Jesus Christ and Him crucified'.
III. While the greatest theme of all which can engage our attention is the truth as it is in Jesus, there is no disposition to narrow the range of our thinking. There is only one thing narrow in Christianity, and that is the gate the entrance.
J. M. Gibson, A Strong City, p. 165.
The Discipline of Thought
When we speak of unseen things, we commonly refer to things that are eternal. We associate the unseen with the world beyond the veil, where the angels of God, innumerable, are around the throne. But the world of thought, of feeling, of passion, and of desire that world still baffles the finest powers of vision: as surely as there is an unseen heaven above us, there is an unseen universe within. I wish, then, to turn to the world within. I believe that most of us give far too little heed to what I might call the discipline of thought First, I shall speak on the vital need there is of governing our thoughts. Next, on how the Gospel helps man to this government.
I. First, then, on the government of our thoughts and at the outset I would recognise the difficulty of it. I question if there is a harder task in all the world than that of bringing our thoughts into subjection to our will. And yet there are one or two considerations I can bring before you, that will show you how, in the whole circle of self-mastery, there is nothing more vital than the mastery of thought (1) Think, for example, how much of our happiness our common happiness depends on thought. Our common happiness does not hang on what we view. Our common happinesss hangs on our point of view. Largely, it is not things themselves; it is our thoughts about them, that constitute the gentle art of being happy. (2) Again, how much of our unconscious influence lies in our thoughts. That very suggestive and spiritual writer, Maeterlinck, puts the matter in his own poetic way. He says: 'Though you assume the face of a saint, a hero, or a martyr, the eye of the passing child will not greet you with the same unapproachable smile if there lurk within you an evil thought'. (3) There is only one other consideration I would mention, and that is the power of thought in our temptations. In the government of thought in the power to bring thought to heel lies one of our greatest moral safeguards against sin.
II. How does the Gospel help us to govern our thoughts? To some of you the mastery of thought may seem impossible it is never viewed as impossible in Scripture, and the secret of that Gospel-power lies in the three great words light, love, life. (1) Think first of light as a power for thought-mastery. In twilight or darkness what sad thoughts come thronging which the glory of sunlight instantly dispels. The glory of Christ is that by His life and death He has shed a light where before there was only darkness. The light of Christ, for the man who lives in it, is an untold help in the government of thought (2) Then think of love is it not one mark of love that our thoughts always follow in its train? (3) Then think of life are not our thoughts affected by the largeness and abundance of our life? Christ's great tide of life, like the tide of the sea that covers up the mudbanks, is the greatest power in the moral world for submerging every base and bitter thought.
G. H. Morrison, The Unlighted Lustre, p. 1.
Things That Are Lovely
And 'these things' constitute the prescribed liberty of Christian manhood. They are a sort of inventory of the mental furnishings of the Christian life. If we are to find our mental furnishings among things that are lovely, where shall we make our explorations? We can find them in humanity, in nature, and in God as revealed to us of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I. Turn, then, to humanity, and whatsoever things are lovely think on these things. And do not be surprised if I counsel you to begin with yourselves. Steadily seek and contemplate the true and the gracious, and the better side of your own self. Do you imagine that this will foster self-conceit? It will only nourish a healthy self-respect In the most barren wastes of life solitary blooms are blowing. They may be weak and fragile and sickly, but 'think on these things'. And we must busy ourselves in diligently seeking hidden beauties in the lives of others. It is a very chivalrous and manly guest, and it receives a rich reward.
II. And turn to nature, and 'whatsoever things are lovely think on these things'. We need to 'get back to the land' in more senses than the political one of which we are so helpfully hearing today. We want to get back to its poetic significance, its mystic interpretations, its subtle influences upon the spirit by its ministry of light, and shade, and colour, and fragrance, its delicate graces, and its awful austerity. We need a refreshed communion with God's beautiful world. It is a most neglected side of modern education.
III. And lastly and surely firstly, too turn to the Lord Jesus, and contemplate 'the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely'. Is it not relevant counsel to our age to advise men to sometimes lay down their apparatus of criticism, and just bask in the contemplation of the moral glory of our Lord? I am not disparaging criticism, but I am advising that criticism be not allowed to suffocate devotion. I once saw an eminent professor of physics who was so intent upon watching the disturbance effected in a cup of coffee by allowing the bowl of his spoon to rest upon it that he took no breakfast at all! It is possible to be so occupied with critical problems concerning the Bread of Life that we altogether forget to eat. And so I say it is well at times, and very frequently too, to lay all critical questions on one side, and just absorbently contemplate the spiritual glory of our Redeemer.
J. H. Jowett, The British Congregationalist, p. 252.
References. IV. 8. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 46. H. Howard, The Raiment of the Soul, p. 44. T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, p. 139. W. J. Hocking, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 59. F. W. Farrar, ibid. vol. xlviii. pp. 49, 52. A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 291. A. L. Lilley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 202. Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 564. R. J. Drummond, Faith's Certainties, p. 215. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 437; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 147. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 48.
There may be something more finely sensitive in the modern humour that tends more and more to withdraw a man's personality from the lessons he inculcates, or the cause that he has espoused; but there is a loss herewith of wholesome responsibility; and when we find in the works of Knox, as in the Epistles of Paul, the man himself standing nakedly forward, courting and anticipating criticism, putting his character, as it were, in pledge for the sincerity of his doctrine, we had best waive the question of delicacy, and make our acknowledgment for a lesson of courage, not unnecessary in these days of anonymous criticism, and much light, otherwise unattainable, in the spirit in which great movements were initiated and carried forward.
R. L. Stevenson, in Men and Books.
References. IV. 9. J. H. Jowett, The High Galling, p. 198. IV. 10. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 409; ibid. vol. x. p. 196. IV. 10-14. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 58. IV. 10-23. W. C. Smith, Scottish Review, vol. vi. p. 248. IV. 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 320. T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 122. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of St. Paul, p. 262. J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays After Trinity, p. 86. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 204. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 285.
True life with serene acquiescence accommodates itself to things as they are, and, whilst still pursuing its highest ideals, finds in its surroundings the conditions of its unfolding and satisfaction. All inward irritation and revolt on the score of circumstance mean so much defect of life.
I. Note the wide range of the Apostle's experience. We are naturally curious as to the history of a teacher who declares that he has found the secret of perennial content. If the circumstances of such a man were narrow and monotonous, if his life were cloistered and uneventful, we should not be greatly impressed by his avowal; he who is to witness with effect on this subject must have a history. This the Apostle had. He had ranged all climes from the south to the north pole of human circumstance and sentiment. He assures us, however, that no change found him unprepared. From none did he shrink, and by none did he suffer loss. Those who have not mastered the secret of adjusting themselves to the incidence of the perpetual unsettlements of life are liable to suffer terribly in spirit and faith, temper and character.
II. Mark the process by which the Apostle arrived at this perfect contentment. Whatever may be the aspect of his lot to the carnal eye, he accepts it with gratitude and expectation: 'I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me'. How, then, is the Christian thoroughly reconciled to a life which occasions the natural man such deep discomfort, and which involves him in dire peril? (1) Christ restores the inner harmony of our nature upon which the interpretation of the outer world depends. In the sovereign power of redeeming and sanctifying grace the conscience is sprinkled from guilt, the passions are purified, the heart glows with love, the will is sceptred, and with peace, patience, and power dwelling within there is no longer any reason or temptation to quarrel with things outside. (2) By rendering us self-sufficing, Christ renders us largely independent of the outer world. To the natural man the world of circumstance is the whole of life. But he who lives in the Spirit, and walks in the Spirit, has an altogether different conception of the place and power of circumstance. He knows of another world than that which meets the carnal eye of a kingdom within him having marvellous interests, treasures, dignities, sciences, and delights of its own. Within his own heart he carries the summer, the fountain, the nightingale, and the rose, therefore the palace does not mock nor the prison paralyse. (3) By strengthening us in the inner man Christ makes us masters of circumstance.
W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 72.
Reference. IV. 11, 12. E. Armitage, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 202.
Oliver Cromwell, a few days after the death of his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Claypole, 'called for his Bible, and desired an honourable and godly person there (with others) present to read to him Philippians 4:11-13 "Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things, through Christ which strengtheneth me," which read, saith he: to use his own word, "This Scripture did once save my life, when my eldest son died, which went as a dagger to my heart, indeed it did". And then, repeating the words of the text himself, declared his then thoughts to this purpose, reading the tenth and eleventh verses of Paul's contentation, and submission to the will of God in all conditions (said he): "'Tis true, Paul, you have learned this, and attained to this measure of grace: but what shall I do? Ah, poor creature, it is a hard lesson for me to take out! I find it so!" But reading on to the thirteenth verse, where Paul saith, "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me" then faith began to work, and his heart to find support and comfort, and he said thus to himself: "He that was Paul's Christ is my Christ too," and so drew water out of the wells of salvation, Christ in the covenant of grace.'
Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.
Carlyle, Heroes (v.).
Acclimatisation of Character
I. The vicissitudes of our life, especially when they are sudden and unexpected, are always attended by serious peril. Artificial acclimatisation in Nature is possible only when effected with great care, and even then it is often followed by disappointment. Said a tourist to a famous Swiss guide: 'You have been in all weathers, and all changes of weather'. 'The changes are worse than the weather,' replied the guide. The alternations of circumstance and experience in human life are repeatedly more dangerous to faith and principle than the most trying settled conditions to which time and habit have reconciled us.
II. And this ordeal of change was never more incessant and sharp than it is today. In the simple times of the past things were more stereotyped and existence more sluggish than we now know them to be. Every hour we see and feel the ebb and flow of things, and without swift handling of the helm we may easily make shipwreck.
III. Yet this acclimatisation of character is happily possible, as we learn from our text. With a patience and skill that science cannot rival, with subtle and inexhaustible resources, Nature effects marvellous acclimatisations in plants and flowers, creating in regions intermediate between hot and cold climates a profuse vegetation of a tropical character which can, nevertheless, sustain almost an arctic severity. Grace effects much the same thing for human nature. 'I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me'. What is entirely impossible in artificial acclimatisation is effected by Nature; and that which is unattainable in character through any artifice of our own becomes delightfully actual and experimental through the grace of Christ In a high and sincere spirituality of life we attain perfect liberty touching the outside world, drawing wisdom and blessing from all surroundings and sensations, as the bee sips honey from flowers of all shapes and colours.
W. L. Watkinson, Inspiration in Common Life, p. 108.
The Power of the Cross
'Crucified with Christ' Such is the language in which the author of the Epistle to the Philippians elsewhere describes his relation to Calvary. But is there any life which, unless we are admitted to its secret history, seems less like crucifixion than the career of the stout Apostle Paul? There is no paleness in its presentation. Its hours are crowded with glorious life. It is romantic, adventurous, and vivid. If happiness indeed consist in the unimpeded exercise of function there is abundance of this quality in the missionary journeys which the Acts records. St. Paul is perhaps the most vigorous, efficient, self-realising character in the pages of the New Testament He who bids the Christian imitate the humility of Him who took upon Him the form of a slave is himself one of the world's masters. He would withstand you to the face as soon as look at you. He knows his mind and carries through his purpose. No doubt he was impatient of dull wits, and was, it may be, too ready to call the tiresome unbeliever a fool, the priestly bully a whited wall. None can deny him the honour of the strong man, who leaves his mark, creates ideals, and makes history. 'I can do all things' seems to portray the man more faithfully than 'I am crucified'.
His missionary journeys rival in interest the travels of Odysseus. They impress us by the fulness of their experience rather than by the greatness of their self-sacrifice. The strong man delights in dangers, in hair-breadth escapes, in critical situations. The adventurous lad who first hears the celebrated catalogue of Pauline perils hardly pities the man who encountered them. These are all in the day's work of him who would earn the reward of efficiency.
I. The Christian, then, according to the type which is presented to us in the New Testament, is the man that can do all things, or, to borrow a striking phrase from the Lord's own teaching, who through faith can remove mountains. The characteristic note of the Gospel is not sacrifice but salvation. 'In hoc signo vinces' is the legend inscribed upon the banner of the cross. Calvary is the symbol not of renunciation but of life. It is very easy to get a distorted view of the real message which the Gospel brings to human needs if we go for our ideals outside the range of the Apostolic Church, if we seek for the pattern of Christian manhood whether in mediaeval or modern times. We need not hesitate to acknowledge the witness of the saints in every age to the manifoldness of Christ if we look rather to the New Testament for the due proportions of Christian discipleship.
The gospel of the cross was no apotheosis of pain, but the proclamation of power. It presents to our gaze a spectacle of Divine tenderness only because it is the message of victorious life. And for St Paul it is the Gospel which is the fixed thing in Christianity; the inviolable unchangeable centre of authority; the standard presentation of the fact of Christ which gives unity, cohesion, and solidity to all the riches of wisdom and knowledge which are hid in Him.
II. In Jesus pain is transmuted into power, only because to Him is given all authority in heaven and in earth, and in His hands He bears the keys of hell. In Him we behold no servile submission of the creature to the Law of the God who made it He is Himself the very son and substance of the Everlasting Will, enthroning the humanity which He assumes, manifested as the goal and destiny of all creation. How near to every age and to each human life He seems how near and yet how far! As, when some traveller among the mountains has climbed the shoulder of a westward hill and almost thinks his journey at an end, the scene expands; the perspective widens; ridge behind ridge, alp behind alp, peak behind peak appears, rising in stairs and terraces to meet the horizon now almost lost in dreamy distances of dazzling light; so Christ the end of human life becomes a vaster Christ the nearer we attain.
But with God all things are possible. This is no formal acknowledgment of an omnipotence which, if it have concrete existence, is a fact too general and remote to have any real bearing upon the practical concerns of life, but a great experience which has made men strong. 'Ye shall receive power' was the form in which the risen Master renewed the promise of an energising influence, an inward presence, a controlling Personality, which entering into His elect should make them sons of God. 'Repent ye and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins,' such was the burthen of St. Peter's witness on the Day of Pentecost, 'and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'.
J. G. Simpson, C hristus Crucifixus, p. 25.
Cardinal Vaughan wrote in the spring of 1882: 'I am fifty years old. It is said that no man becomes a saint after fifty. I am determined to give no peace to myself or to my Holy Patrons, or indeed to our dear Lord Himself. By prayer even this miracle can be performed, and a dry, hard, stupid old stick like me can reach great sanctity in eo qui me confortat . St. Francis of Sales died at fifty-six: St. Francis of Assisi, Xavier, and St. Charles were dead and saints about ten years earlier. What a grace to have spatium paenitentiae . I am determined to use the remaining time better than the last, God helping.'
J. G. Snead-Cox, Life of Cardinal Vaughan, vol. 1. p. 452.
References. IV. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 346. J. B. Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons, p. 317. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 400. F. A. Noble, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 162. T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 122. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 410. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling , p. 210. J. G. Simpson, Christus Crucifixus, p. 25. IV. 14. Ibid. p. 216.
Nothing is harder to manage, on either side, than the sense of an obligation conferred or received.
Morley's, Life of Cobden (ch. 1.).
The law of benefit is a difficult channel, which requires careful sailing or rude boats.
References. IV. 15. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. pp. 122, 135; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 371. IV. 16. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. x. p. 333. IV. 17. Bishop Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, p. 195. IV. 18. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 194. IV. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1712. H. J. Bevis, Sermons, p. 131. IV. 19, 20. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 222. IV. 20-23. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Philippians, p. 74.
The Saints of Caesar's Household
It is the chiefly upon which I want to lav the stress that the warmest and most loving salutation should have come from the unlikeliest place. St. Paul is sending a letter to the Church at Philippi. He sits in all the rude discomforts of a prison, writing amidst much difficulty, secured by a coupling chain to a soldier. Is this life wasted? He is preaching in this prison to a greater congregation than could ever be gathered in the market place or on Mars' Hill. At that hour, when time seemed to stand still, he was preaching to all the ages. And this day this word is ours because Paul was in prison. But of this ministry in the dungeon the fruit was not only afar off in the future, it was immediate.
I. Let us think of those of whom St. Paul writes, 'the saints of Caesar's household' certainly the last place to which we should go to look for saints. Rome at that time was the most unlikely place in the world to look for a saint. No language could utter the depth of abomination to which it had sunk. And of all its people the most miserable was the lot of the slave. So many of these were there that they could only be kept in subjection by the most terrible severity. To complete it all they were slaves in Caesar's household. This Caesar was Nero a very monster in iniquity. Here it is, then, where the example and influence of this monster had poisoned the very atmosphere within the walls of Nero's palace that a little company of his own slaves gather in loving fellowship around Paul the prisoner, and send their loving greeting to the Church at Philippi.
II. To us, too, the saints of Caesar's household send their greetings. (1) There are those whose position seems to make Christianity a difficulty they may think sometimes, perhaps, almost an impossibility. My brother, my sister, these saints of Caesar's household salute you. What think you would they count those hindrances of which you make so much? (2) And yet again, others shrink in fear of themselves. Surely, again, these saints of Caesar's household salute you! (8) Does it seem to some that their sphere is so little, so narrow, so lowly, that there is no room for any service for God? Again the saints of Caesar's household salute you.
M. G. Pearse, The Gentleness of Jesus, p. 125.
Saints in the Household of Caesar
There are few contrasts so startling as that which is suggested by this Epistle to the Philippians. We read our pagan history and we read our Bible, but it is not often that the two come so close together and that the lines of both histories touch for one moment to separate again. Here we have for the first time that union of sacred and profane history. Here seems to commence that long struggle between the religion of Christ and the Empire of Rome, which ended by establishing the Gospel upon the ruins of the Eternal City. Here we read of Philippi, the advanced guard of the ambition of Macedonian kings, but now the seat of a Christian Church. Philippi, on whose battlefield the future of the world was decided just a hundred years before, now sending Epaphroditus to bear comfort and help to the Apostle in his Roman prison. Everything seems to point to the same contrast between the inspired word of Christian advice as written in this Epistle and the Roman Praetorian command, between the purity and piety of the writer and that golden palace of sin and shame outside the walls of which he wrote, between the preaching of St. Paul, Apostle of Christ, and Nero, Emperor of Rome, tyrant, matricide, and anti-Christ. There, for two years, as we know, waiting for his trial, the Apostle abode, and thither came many of his friends, Timotheus, Luke, Aristarehus, Marcus, Demas their names are familiar to the whole Christian world; but who are these of whom the text speaks, 'saints of Caesar's household'? We do not know. The Bible is silent. The history of the world has passed them over, the history of the Church knows them not. By chance, indeed, in the dark recesses of the Catacombs, amid the quaint symbols of the hope of immortality, their names may even now be deciphered, but beyond that we know them not.
I. Christians under Adverse Circumstances. It is about them that I would fain say to you just two words. One is that if we can conceive of any place in the world more unlikely than another at that day in which to find a Christian man it was Nero's palace. If we had been asked where we should expect to hear of a Christian in Rome, Nero's gilded palace would be the very last place which would be mentioned. A friend of Paul, a follower of Jesus Christ in that palace of bastard art, and lust, and murder! What sins he must have witnessed, what temptations must have beset his path, what responsibility, what difficulties, I had almost said what impossibilities, in the way of a Christian life. Well, then, the encouragement to us is this, that, if there, then anywhere it is possible to be a follower of our Blessed Lord. The encouragement is, that there must surely be no difficulties of life, no post of duty, no situation of temptation, in which a Christian man, by the grace of God, may not work his life unharmed. All may learn by this example the sufficiency of the Grace of God to sustain and strengthen them in the most adverse circumstances.
II. Our Real Danger. The world in which we live, our domestic, professional, social, political world, it is to us Caesar's household. We have to live there, work there, wait there for our Blessed Master, and, though of course superficially the world has changed, there is no arena, there is no garment of flaming pitch, there is no fierce cry, of 'Christians to the lions!' nothing that could tempt to apostasy in our case, or offer excuse to weak human nature to compromise with sin and infidelity, yet our dangers are no less real. The world is, after all, though softer and gentler, no less dangerous to Christian men, because day by day they are brought in contact with those who neither serve nor know our Divine Master, and then zeal in duty brings its own temptation, earthly labour has its own peril. Our fees are really not so much the foes that we find in the world, but the foe we bear about with us wherever we go. But a heart right with God, a mind directed by His Spirit, a habit of dependence on His grace and of prayer, a habit of close walking with our Lord and Saviour, these will keep a man safe anywhere, and the more difficult it is to make profession of faith in our own individual circumstances, so much the more distinct and decided by the grace of God may that profession be.
III. Never Despair of Finding Good Men Anywhere. Moreover, I think that from these unknown saints in Caesar's household we may all of us, men and women, learn a lesson of charity, never to despair of finding good men anywhere. God sees not as we see, sufficient if He knows His own, and will one day bring them into the light. Depend upon it there will be many in heaven whom we did not expect to meet For God's servants are often hidden sometimes from pure unobtrusiveness, sometimes from a shrinking fear lest they should after profession fall and bring dishonour on the cause, sometimes again from circumstances which have not brought out their character before those with whom they live. But let us comfort ourselves with the assurance that God knows them and will declare them one day. We ourselves are blind and err in our judgment, and we have no right to pass sentence on one another. Let it be enough for us that our heavenly Father allots to all His children the post that they are to take in life, and when the pressure is too strong or the temptation too great for their strength, then the same loving Father will assuredly call them from it, or if not then, He can by His grace sustain them in it and hold up their goings that they slip not, for if there could be saints in the golden palace of Nero it is incongruous and illogical to suppose that there is any post of earthly duty or difficulty or temptation to which we could be subjected, in which we could plead that it is impossible to do right.
References. IV. 22. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 234. J. Tolefree Parr, The White Life, p. 106. J. Thew, Broken Ideals, p. 97. IV. 23. J. H. Jowett, The High Calling, p. 239.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Philippians 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany