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Two Incitements to Love.
I. It is tenderness and compassion which St. Paul wants the Philippians to practise, and he endeavours to win them to the practice by the recognition and proclamation of the tenderness and compassion that were already theirs. Listen, he says listen to the love-beatings within you, and be loving. Lo, you carry within you a proud and brotherly sensibility; expand and apply it. He would draw them on to be kinder than they are by setting before them the kindliness they feel. And this is the best way of helping and persuading men to improve, the best way in which to try and lead them from lower things to higher, from unworthy to worthier conduct, namely by fastening upon what they are, in the midst of their faultiness, that is good and beautiful, upon what they have of good and beautiful motions in their breasts, by touching these, and calling their attention to them, and demanding that they should be cultivated and followed.
II. "If there be any consolation in Christ." That there is is true enough. How many have found, and are daily finding, it in Him. But the true rendering of the word is "exhortation." When, in enjoining on the Philippians to cultivate love, the Apostle points them to Christ, it would be surely, not comfort which he meant them to find in Him, but exhortation exhortation to the love to which he was so anxious to lead them. And the figure of Jesus in the midst of the ages is it not just this: a perpetual exhortation to men to be a little better than they are, to be less worldly, less grovelling, less selfish, to rise from their low levels to higher ways, with a nobler and purer spirit? And have we not met with persons, too, who in their silent examples, in their beautiful lives, in the spirit that breathed from them, have been full of exhortation to us, in the presence of whose pureness and earnestness, in witnessing whose deeds, we have felt ourselves called to heights above us, have seen with a touch of shame the comparative poorness of what we were and with a sigh of wishfulness the truer thing that we might be? And is not Christ preeminently such a Person? Whenever we meet Him in thoughtful pauses by the way, in moments of quiet meditation over the Gospel page, does He not act on us thus, with rufflings of self-discontent, with a sense of being coarser and earthlier than we ought to be? He stands out an angel in the sun, for ever above us all, yet for ever moving upon and affecting us all: painted for ever upon the eye of the world, we cannot help aspiring and endeavouring the more for the grandeur of His face; it disturbs us in our worldliness and selfishness, and is always exhorting us against them, is always appealing to us to rise toward nobler things.
S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Norwood, p. 197.
References: Philippians 2:1 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 348. Philippians 2:1-50.2.4 . J. J. Goadby, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 293.
I. "If" is not in this case a sign of doubt or hesitation, but, on the contrary, a sign of the most assured certainty. As employed by Paul, it is equivalent to "If there is any water in the sea," or "If there is any light in the sun."
II. This appeal of the Apostle is a burst of tenderness. Affection delights in repetition; love amplifies its expressions to the utmost.
III. Paul having laid his basis in the very heart of Christ, makes an appeal: "Fulfil ye my joy." It is right to interject one's personality as an element in an argument for brotherhood and consolation in the Church.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 211.
References: Philippians 2:1-50.2.11 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 99; Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 50. Philippians 2:1-50.2.14 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 350.
I. Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be of one mind. St. Paul's happiness was not quite complete until he could see those whom he loved and he loved these Philippians walking in unity. There may be unity without acquaintance, and there may be unity amidst variety. These two defects (as they might appear) are not fatal to the unity of which St. Paul speaks. These things are not the real, certainly not the most formidable, impediments to Christian unity; its worst dangers lie nearer to us than these. St. Paul here shows us what they are. He points out what I may call the conditions of unity, and they are two: humility and unselfishness. (1) Humility. Act not, he says, on a principle of party spirit or vainglory; but in your humility count each superior to yourselves. Need I point out how inseparably connected are individual vanity and collective discord, how it is the assumption, and the pushing, and the arrogance, and the expectation of undue respect and deference, on the part of individuals, which cause at least half of those piques and misunderstandings and secret heart-burnings which run on at last into open dissensions? (2) Unselfishness. The two graces have their root in one. Look not each of you on your own things, but each of you also on the things of others. Vanity is a fruitful cause of dissension; but below vanity itself lies ever a foundation of selfishness.
II. Note the motives by which Christian unity is here recommended and enforced. I beseech you, Paul says in effect, by every comfort and by every privilege of the Gospel. If there be any such thing as consolation in Christ, if there be any such thing as comfort in love, if any such thing as a joint participation in the Holy Spirit, if any such thing as a heart of pitying compassion, then by all these things I beseech you to be of one soul and of one mind.
C. J. Vaughan, Lectures on Philippians, p. 87.
I. "Being of one accord" does not always mean being of the same opinion. Of course in the main there can be no good work done unless the great verities are believed by us all. We believe the vital truths, but then there are shades of opinion about many things. I do not want to see eye to eye with every one on men or things. Variety is intended by God. There are men emphatically endowed by special gifts for mission work; some have tender sympathies, and they can be friends to the fatherless and widow; some have gifts for calling out the energies of the young.
II. There must be in this one accord subordinacy of one to the other. Everything must be subservient to great ends. There must always be the chorus-leader; you know he was called so in the Greek choruses. There must be men of the same faith, all inspired by the same Spirit. By subserviency I mean everything uniting for Christ's end. You fall into your place, and subserve the interests of the Cross.
III. In this harmony there is health. It is so in a nation. A nation is in harmony when the rich sympathise with and help the poor, and the wise help the ignorant. You may live many years, but the poor you will have always to the end of time, and men must be self-disciplined who have these blessings and seek to use them aright. A prosperous Church and nation is where there is health in the body politic.
IV. We shall thus enjoy influence. The world likes harmony; it does not know always how it is attained, but it likes it.
V. Lastly, it means heaven. What does heaven mean? It means rest in God. Whose mind have we? Christ's. And that is heaven begun on earth.
W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 397.
I. There are two ways of doing even the best work: through strife and through love. This was seen in the first chapter, where two classes of preachers are described.
II. Entire sympathy with Christ will always heighten man's appreciation of man.
III. Christianity is thus the only humanising and fraternising religion.
IV. Self-seeking is in utter antagonism to the spirit of Christianity.
V. Christianity never encourages a degrading view of human nature. Man is to be esteemed by man. Christians are to recognise each other's excellencies. Love's eye is quick to detect virtue in another. Up to this point Paul continues his appeal for unanimity. The spirit of this appeal is most suggestive; it is the spirit of profound and tender sympathy with Christ. Absence of union is a reflection upon the uniting force. What is the uniting force of a Christian Church? The love of Christ. Where, then, there is disunion, it is plainly to be inferred that there is either not sufficient of this love, or that this love is unequal to the exigencies of the case. The world has a right to compare the deeds of the servant with the deeds of the Master, because the connection is moral, and consequently involves responsibility. All the practices of the Church are carried back to Christ, and He is magnified or crucified afresh according to their nature.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 212.
I. Courtesy is the expression in outward manner of deference for the most delicate susceptibilities of others. It is doubtless, on the one side, a habit; it is practised instinctively; its forms are caught by unconscious imitation; it is inherited like other habits, so that it seems sometimes a native characteristic of particular blood. On the other side, like other habits, it has been generated originally by the feelings and the will. While it is practised it reacts on the mind and heart, and fosters and keeps alive those feelings from which it sprang. If the feelings which renew and vivify it die away, it will become an empty shell or form: a part will drop in here, and a part there. The hasty observer may not detect the change. The gracious manner will remain as an ornament in the public eye; but those who know the man behind the scenes will know that even the manner is forgotten when he is most truly himself.
II. Courtesy, then, if it be a virtue of manner, is an essentially Christian virtue; that is, it rests on ideas Christian in origin: (1) first, on the universality of our relations to mankind, in the sense that all men are of one blood, one Father; (2) secondly, on the special claim of the weak upon the strong, the claim for sympathy inherent in pain, even in the little pains of injured susceptibility, the paramount claim to tenderest consideration of childhood, of the weaker sex, of the poor, of the wronged, of the dependent. Graft upon these the idea inherent in the highest types of the Christian character drawn in the New Testament, the idea of self-respect, pride turned inwardly as a motive and exacting standard of personal high living, and we have complete the chivalrous conception of a gentleman's courtesy. We find the best pictures of it in two characters put before us in the New Testament: ( a ) in the writings of St. Paul; ( b ) in the acts and words of One greater than St. Paul.
E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 82.
I. Christian self-sacrifice necessarily takes two forms, for, on the one hand, there is a self-sacrifice for the sake of ourselves, as it were for our own self-discipline; there is a self-sacrifice which gives up a great deal which otherwise we might reasonably keep in order that we may more entirely devote our whole souls to God; there is a self-sacrifice the purpose of which is closer communion, the purpose of which is to live in our thoughts and in the impulses and emotions of our hearts more entirely in the Lord's presence, close to Him, drawing in, as it were, into our souls the light of His love. This self-sacrifice has high honour, and, from certain points of view, it stands above all others. But, on the other hand, our Lord's self-sacrifice was more markedly of another kind: self-sacrifice not for His own sake, but for the sake of others.
II. The commandment of the text ranges from the highest to the lowest; it embraces the largest and it embraces the smallest thing that we can do. It penetrates because it is a spiritual force; it penetrates even into all the details of life; and it bids the man be self-sacrificing as in great things, so in small things, because what is asked of men is not the self-sacrifice itself, but the self-sacrificing spirit, which is sure to issue in self-sacrifice perpetual.
III. This spirit of self-sacrifice, as it is the duty of individuals, so is it the duty of the Church as a body. The Church as a body is called upon to labour earnestly for the good of men and the good of those who have been brought by baptism within her pale, for the good of those who are still outside. The Church is called upon perpetually to that self-sacrifice which made the Lord stretch out His hand all day long to a disbelieving and gainsaying people.
Bishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 337.
I. Our first association with religion is its bearing on our own souls and their salvation. He that has been struck by a great conviction is for the time isolated from his fellows. All the world for him centres round the single question, "What must I do to be saved?" For a time the Church and general interests are lost to view, just as the whole world would be to a man who had fallen into a crevasse, and who could have leisure for no other thought than how to extricate himself and how to get others to help him into safety. Such a man must for the time look on his own things, not on the things of others. There are those who think that Christian separateness consists in being very unlike other men. Rather it should be said, Live in faith and prayer the same life that others live without them, and you have entered the true separate state of consecration to God.
II. There is the sectarianism of the congregation. We say, This is my Church; these are our forms of worship; this is our effort to do good. Without such appropriation of truth no Christian work can thrive. But if we mean that the work is ours to the exclusion of others or to the prejudice of others, sectarianism at once begins. We should try to see and to know each other's work, and to take part in common effort.
III. There is a denominational sectarianism. There are three things in which the advantage of amity among the denominations maybe seen. (1) The first is that which occurs to us all: that, while we maintain a separate and defiant attitude, we waste our energies in collisions that cannot be avoided, and we are much weakened for all good purposes. (2) If we would deal with one another in the confidence of Christian brotherhood, our mutual influence for good would be increased a hundredfold. (3) Ministers and Church rulers of all denominations should ask themselves this question: how they will answer to Christ if they build up His people into the image of their own exclusiveness, instead of the image of the world-embracing love of their Lord.
W. H. Fremantle, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 385.
References: Philippians 2:4 . A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 158; W. Bennett, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 105; G. W. McCree, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 357; T. T. Lynch, Sermons for my Curates, p. 147; Forsyth Hamilton, Pulpit Parables, p. 66; J. Fraser, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 209.
The True Imitation of Christ.
Consider two or three simple instances of the mode in which we may catch something of the true mind of Christ, and carry out into our lives something of a true Imitatio Christi.
I. There is, first of all, the readiness to forego, for the good of others, things to which we feel we have a fair claim. It seems a very homely lesson, yet so strong is the tendency to self-assertion and pride that we find both the Apostle and his Master laying on it an exceeding stress; a homely lesson, yet one which, strange to say, may bring opportunities of drawing near to the mind of Christ, occasions in little things or in great.
II. Is not this a field in which we may seek for the mind which was in Christ Jesus? I do not mean only by being ready to do our appointed work with our whole hearts, but by recognising it as being the work set us by Him who sent us all into the world to work while it is day, by facing readily and cheerfully all that is distasteful and wearisome in the work, even as He bore the perpetual association with unsympathising dullness, with human ignorance, with scenes of misery, of disease, wretchedness, and sin.
III. Remember, too, another point in which we need the mind of Christ. Our work, our occupations, our recreations, are apt to take entire possession of us, to overwhelm us, to model us into their shape, to reduce us to their level; they cling to us like our shadows; they keep us from rising out of them or above them. Remember that He is recorded as having gone up from the crowded plain to the quiet hill, and there continued all night in prayer to God; and that we are told how the disciples went to their own home, but Jesus went to the mount of Olives. Surely we cannot fail if we wish to keep Him before our eyes to find even in the busiest life some still time for thought, for looking backwards and forwards, for withdrawing ourselves for a moment from the throng of common cares and pleasures to some peaceful hillside, from amidst the swarming and noisy flats of life, where we may snatch short times of insight and resolution which may be worked out in days of hurry or perhaps of gloom.
G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 177.
I. St. Paul sees in the Passion of our Lord the crown and climax of the stupendous act of condescension which began in His incarnation. Being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient, submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even to the point of drinking the cup, to His true human nature the bitter cup, of death. We may notice two points which St. Paul emphasises. (1) The condescension has its roots in our blessed Lord's conception of the scope and value of His own Divine prerogatives. It was He through whom all that is is, yet to Him that pre-eminence was not a thing to set store by in itself. From that infinite height He stooped to the level of the creatures of His hand, that He might serve. The Creator valued not His creative power, laid aside readily the Creator's prerogatives, that He might help, might serve, His creature. (2) The condescension was complete, not measured or stinted. The cup was drained to the dregs. He came to do His Father's will, and He did it "felt all, that He might pity all," bore what to man is the extremity of pain and shame, that He might save man from pain and shame.
II. There is something of the sense of passing from infinite differences to infinitesimal ones, of turning the eyes from light so bright that nothing for the time is visible after it, when we pass from contemplating this infinite self-humiliation to think how we can in any true sense imitate it. Yet St. Paul bids us so pass. It is his very purpose in so painting the Divine condescension: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." The consciousness of this infinite condescension of God for us must transfigure life to us, break down once and for all our pride, show us the true proportions of things, open our hearts to Him who has done so much for us.
E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 35.
References: Philippians 2:5 . E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 191; Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 185; R. W. Church, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 181; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 323; H. D. Rawnsley, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 298; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 273; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., pp. 164, 180, 193, 201; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 157; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 107.
The Humiliation and Glory of Christ.
Consider the practical purposes of the Apostle in bringing this subject before us.
I. Among the chief of these is the inculcation of humility. This whole marvellous passage is brought before us, not for dogmatic teaching, but for moral example. The main intention is, not to reveal Jesus Christ as the foundation of a sinner's hope (although that is implied), but it is to point out the wonderful moral beauty of His condescension and to enforce it upon the regards of His followers for their devout and diligent imitation. Because He humbled Himself, because He pleased God, expressed the very mind of God, "God also hath highly exalted Him," and we are allowed to reason that with and in Him we too shall rise. The Master and the disciple, together treading the valley of humiliation, shall together sit on the throne. To be partaker of the sufferings is the sure pledge of participation in the glory.
II. "Work out your own salvation," this moral conformity to God, by following Christ; by cross-bearing; by self-denial; by descents into darkness with your lights, into misery with your joys; by holding yourself at the service of Christ; by making life a sacrifice and yourself a living victim; by filling yourself with the tenderness and Divine passion and unutterable love of the Cross.
A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 282.
The Incarnation a Lesson of Humility.
I. Christ "emptied Himself." He, the Creator, passed by the heavenly host, delivered not them by taking their nature, but came down to us, who were lower than the angels, last in order of His rational creation, and became as one of us. He emptied Himself of His immortality, and the Immortal died; He became subject to death, the penalty of sin. Not only in birth, in life, in death, but now also in His glory, He is content to be hidden still. So did He veil His majesty that because, as man, He confessed, "My Father is greater than I," some whom He came to redeem will not believe in Him; others believe not in Him as He is.
II. God incarnate preaches humility to His creature. For this is the foundation of the whole building of Christian virtues, or rather thus alone can we reach that foundation whereon we can build securely. The heathen had semblances or images of well-nigh every virtue; the heathen had self-devotion, contentment, contempt of the world without him and of the flesh; he had fortitude, endurance, self-denial, chastity, even a sort of reverence for God, whom he knew not; but he had not humility. The first beginning of Christian virtues is to lay aside pride.
III. Dig deep, then, the foundation of humility, so only mayest thou hope to reach the height of charity; for by humility alone canst thou reach that Rock which shall not be shaken, that is, Christ. Founded by humility on that Rock, the storms of the world shall not shake thee; the torrent of evil custom shall not bear thee away; the empty winds of vanity shall not cast thee down: founded deep on that Rock, thou mayest build day by day that tower whose top shall reach unto heaven, to the very presence of God, the sight of God, and shalt be able to finish it, for He shall raise thee thither who for thy sake abased Himself to us.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons from Advent to Whitsuntide, vol. i., p. 61.
The Humiliation of the Eternal Son.
I. In looking into these words, we observe (1) that St. Paul clearly asserts Jesus Christ to have existed before His birth into the world. By saying that Jesus Christ existed in the form of God before He took on Him the form of a servant, St. Paul would have been understood by any one who read him in his own language to mean that, when as yet Christ had no human body or human soul, He was properly and literally God, because He existed in the form, and so possessed all the proper attributes, of God. (2) St. Paul goes on to say that, being God, Jesus Christ "thought it not robbery to be equal with God." This sentence would be more closely and clearly rendered, "Christ did not look on His equality with God as a prize to be jealously set store by." Men who are new to great positions always think more of them than those who have always enjoyed them. Christ, who was God from everlasting, laid no stress on this His eternal greatness; He emptied Himself of His Divine prerogatives or glory. (3) Of this self-humiliation St. Paul traces three distinct stages. The first consists in Christ's taking on Himself the form of a servant or slave. By this expression St. Paul means human nature. Without ceasing to be what He was, what He could not but be, He wrapped around Himself a created form, through which He would hold converse with men, in which He would suffer, in which He would die. The second stage of His humiliation is that Christ did not merely take human nature on Him; He became obedient to death. The third stage in this humiliation is that, when all modes of death were open to Him, He chose that which would bring with it the greatest share of pain and shame. "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." When on the cross of shame He endures the sharpness of death, He is only completing that emptying Himself of His glory which began when, "taking upon Himself to deliver man, He did not abhor the Virgin's womb."
II. Why may we suppose that God, by His providence acting in His Church, places before our eyes this most suggestive passage of Holy Scripture on the Sunday next before Easter? (1) We stand today on the threshold of the great week which in the thought of a well-instructed Christian, whose heart is in its right place, is beyond all comparison the most solemn week in the whole year. It is of the first importance that we should answer clearly this primary question: "Who is the Sufferer?" That which gives to the Passion and death of our Lord its real value is the fact that the Sufferer is more than man; that, although He suffers in and through a created nature, He is personally God. (2) The lesson which St. Paul draws for the benefit of the Philippians from the consideration of the Incarnation and Passion is a lesson which is as valuable to us as members of civil society, as it is valuable to members of the Church of Christ. If Christ did not set store on glory which was rightfully, inalienably His, why should we? All who have lived for others rather than for themselves in His Church have been true to Him, true to the spirit of His incarnation and death, true to what St. Paul calls "the mind that was in Christ Jesus."
H. P. Liddon, Passiontide Sermons, p. 18.
The Mystery of the Cross.
I. We all agree that God is good; all, at least, do so who worship Him in spirit and in truth. We adore His majesty because it is the moral and spiritual majesty of perfect goodness; we give thanks to Him for His great glory because it is the glory, not merely of perfect power, wisdom, order, justice, but of perfect love, of perfect magnanimity, beneficence, activity, condescension, pity, in one word of perfect grace. But how much must the last word comprehend as long as there is misery and evil in the world, or in any other corner of the whole universe! Grace, to be perfect, must show itself by graciously forgiving penitents; pity, to be perfect, must show itself by helping the miserable; beneficence, to be perfect, must show itself by delivering the oppressed.
II. The Apostles believed, and all those who accepted their Gospel believed, that they had found for the word "grace" a deeper meaning than had ever been revealed to the prophets of old time; that grace and goodness, if they were perfect, involved self-sacrifice. If man can be so good, God must be infinitely better; if man can love so much, God must love more; if man, by shaking off the selfishness which is his bane, can do noble deeds, then God, in whom is no selfishness at all, may at least have done a deed as far above his as the heavens are above the earth. Shall we not confess that man's self-sacrifice is but a poor and dim reflection of the self-sacrifice of God? Shall we not find, as thousands have found ere now, in the Cross of Calvary, the perfect satisfaction of our highest moral instincts, the realisation in act and fact of the highest idea which we can form of perfect condescension, namely, self-sacrifice exercised by a Being of whom perfect condescension, love, and self-sacrifice were not required by aught in heaven or on earth save by the necessity of His own perfect and inconceivable goodness?
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 1.
References: Philippians 2:5-50.2.8 . G. Huntingdon, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 75; T. A. White, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 159; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 88. Philippians 2:5-50.2.9 . Ibid., vol. vi., p. 148.
These delineations of Christ reveal the true method of rendering moral service to man. Human deliverance and progress will remain a theory only until men come to work upon the method here stated. Great philanthropic programmes must begin at Bethlehem and comprehend the mysteries of Golgotha if ever they would ascend from Bethany into the heavens. To serve man, Christ became man; so in serving others we must identify ourselves with them.
I. This identification of Himself with the human race made Christ accessible to all classes. We, too, in our philanthropic work must go down.
II. Christ's piety was not a mere index finger. Instead of saying, "That is the way," He said, "I am the Way." A man's whole moral vitality must constitute his redeeming power.
III. Does it not degrade a man to have this personal association with human vice and misery? The answer may be given in a question: Was Christ degraded? A man's spirit will determine his fate. Benevolence will come forth unpolluted as a sunbeam, beautiful as summer's purest flower.
IV. Condescension is not degradation. Christ speaks in monosyllables, as it were; He pronounces each word with emphasis, giving each a wide circumference, until every tone penetrates the listener's ear. Be Godlike, and come down to those whom you would save.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 213.
References: Philippians 2:5-50.2.11 . C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 193; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 82; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 52.
I. The Son of God was in the form of God: glorious as the Father; equal to the Father; the Creator and Upholder of the universe. Notwithstanding, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, i.e. for the words are obscure as they now stand He deemed not His equality with God a matter eagerly to be grasped by Him; did not think of it as the robber does of his prey, so that he would not on any account let it go; esteemed it not matter of self-enrichment or self-indulgence. He looked on His Divine glory and majesty as willing, if need be, to detach them from Himself, if He might thus the better fulfil the great end of His Divine being: the expression of the Father's will and the showing forth of the brightness of His glory. He made Himself of no reputation; literally, He emptied Himself. He laid aside, not His Divine nature for that was His very being not His Divine person as the Son of God, not His purity and holiness for these were the essential elements of His Divine nature and person but all accessories to these: all power, all majesty, all renown, yea and what is more mysterious still to our apprehension: all that infinite knowledge of all things with which as God and Creator He was clothed.
II. "He was made in the likeness of man." From being a glorious uncreated Being He became enshrined in a created nature, became as to His outward form a creature and subject to the laws of the creature: hunger; weariness; pain; death. We in vain endeavour to form any idea of this vast descent into degradation of the Son of God. When He, in His glory and His joy, took on Him the character of Redeemer, He knew what was in man; He saw all the depths of depravity, all the wonders of selfishness, all the pollutions of sin, of which this our nature was capable, and to which it would degrade itself: and He shrank not from contact with, from identification with, the vessel which had been thus defiled. We shall never know what Christ's humiliation was till we know what His exaltation and His glory are. The eye which cannot bear the light above is dazzled and misted when it contemplates the depth of darkness below.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 35.
References: Philippians 2:6-50.2.11 . W. Harris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 276.
Christ a Slave.
The word servant will convey to us in this present age a very inadequate idea of the degree of the degradation of which it is the figure. For service has been dignified since Jesus was a servant. We know nothing now more really honourable than Christian service. But let us not forget that He first taught us to call servants friends.
I. Notice one or two of the laws and customs respecting Jewish slaves, that you may see the correctness of the title and the exceeding extent of the humiliation of Jesus. (1) No slave among the Jews could have any position or right as a citizen; he had no political standing. If injured, he had no redress; if assaulted, no protection. And very accurate was the counterpart in our Saviour's life when subjected to the most outrageous violence and wrong. No arm of law was ever outstretched for His defence. (2) The slave could hold no property whatever. And what had He, the Servant of servants? Which of the world's paupers ever walked the earth as poor as the world's Creator? (3) And every slave was in the eyes of the law a mere piece of goods and chattels, which could be bought and sold. It was in the strictness therefore of the letter of the law to which He subjected Himself when for the base sum of less than three pounds Judas sold Him. (4) And when he died, the slave was still pursued by his brand; he might be scourged and tortured, and a last distinctive punishment was assigned him: the cross. So Jesus under the lash and on the tree was the slave.
II. As a servant or slave Christ had two duties to execute. The first was to His Father; (2) the second was to His people. What He did the last night in the upper chamber is only an epitome of His whole life; the girded towel and the basin in the hand characterised the Man. He is always going to persons' feet; He is always performing inferior offices; He is always in the attitude of some active ministration; He takes His Church as a charge committed to Him by God, and He honours and tends each one, as a servant does his lord's friends, and of each one He is able to give in the good account at last, "Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874.
Reference: Philippians 2:7 , Philippians 2:8 . W. J. Knox-Little, The Mystery of the Passion, p. 3.
The Humility of Christ.
I. Among the virtues of Christ's humanity brought to dwell among men was humility, a virtue which lies at the foundation of the Christian character, a virtue unknown to the moral philosophy of the ancient world. "Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself." The Apostle is not now speaking of the infinite condescension whereby He as God left the glory that He had with the Father before the worlds were made, but rather he is speaking of the humility of Christ as man, by which as a Child, though conscious that He was about His Father's business, He went down to Nazareth, and was subject to Joseph and Mary, that humility by which He became obedient unto death, even the shameful, ignominious death of the cross.
II. Humility is the direct opposite and contradiction of the spirit which, in the case of those who possessed high privileges among the sons of God, exalted them against God; and so they fell from heaven. And therefore, as humility is the groundwork and beginning of the Christian life, so it is the ingredient and accompaniment of all progress in heavenly virtue, the lowly handmaid of true charity.
III. Hard it is for human souls to keep humility and strength. According to the world's estimation, humility is at a discount. And another difficulty arises from the fact that the counterfeits of humility are so detestable. But if the counterfeits are base, genuine humility, sterling modesty, bear none the less the stamp and impress of the Divine character; and if they be not current in the world, yet surely they pass without question for their full value in the Christian life. With humility come the grace, the courage, the fortitude, necessary for the Christian warfare. The truly brave are, as a rule, modest and humble. And, finally, humility is a brave helper and comforter in sorrow, and trial, and tribulation; and when the end draws nigh, it has the peace of resignation, it has the calm assurance of the presence of the Comforter within, with whom the soul can fear no evil, though it be in the valley of the shadow of death.
E. Warre, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 209.
I. Consider the manner in which Christ as a Man took the lowest place and did the meanest part. Here is the most beautiful feature in all the exquisite portraiture of His humiliation: that at the time He did any of the acts of His wonderful life the humiliation was never prominent and seldom apparent. For had you met Jesus in one of His usual walks of mercy, or sat with Him at the meal, or listened to Him as He spoke, I do not imagine that you would have been impressed at once and very consciously with the lowliness of the transaction, as though He were doing some very wonderfully condescending thing. That is what we often do a posture, a garb, a studied word and we call it humility. But there would have been a depth of selfforgetfulness in all which Christ said and did and was which would tell on you in a way which you could scarcely clothe in language, but when you looked quietly back upon it, it would amazingly grow upon you in the greatness of its quiet modesty. And this is the truth of the grace of a humble mind: it is too humble to look humble; it hides self so well that the act which hides it is not seen the humility is humbled.
II. The great lesson of every Christmas is humility. The genius of the life of Jesus from its cradle to its glory was self-abandonment, the most self-denying love, robing itself in the most self-forgetting modesty. He cast His own deeds into the shade by the very light which threw a radiance on the actions of His people. If He told us to take the lowest seat, Himself chose a lower still than all His followers, and burying unparalleled glories in unequalled sufferings, He was to men only a Servant and to God nothing but a Child.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 9.
I. Christ's death was not a mere martyrdom. A martyr is one who dies for the Church, who is put to death for preaching and maintaining the truth. Christ indeed was put to death for maintaining the Gospel, yet He was not a martyr, but He was much more than a martyr. Had He been a mere man, He would have been rightly called a martyr; but as He was not a mere man, so He was not a mere martyr. Man dies as a martyr, but the Son of man dies as an atoning Sacrifice. The sufferings and death of the Word incarnate could not pass away like a dream; they could not be a mere martyrdom or a mere display or figure of something else; they must have had a virtue in them. This we might be sure of, though nothing had been told us about the result; but the result is also revealed it is this: our reconciliation to God, the expiation of our sins, and our new creation in holiness.
II. We believe that when Christ suffered on the cross our nature suffered in Him. Human nature, fallen and corrupt, was under the wrath of God, and it was impossible that it should be restored to His favour till it had expiated its sin by suffering. In Him our sinful nature died and rose again; when it died in Him on the cross, that death was its new creation: in Him it satisfied its old and heavy debt, for the presence of His Divinity gave it transcendent merit. His presence had kept it pure from sin from the first; His personal indwelling hallowed it and gave it power. And thus, when it had been offered up upon the cross and was made perfect by suffering, it became the firstfruits of a new man; it became a Divine leaven of holiness for the new birth and spiritual life of as many as should receive it.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 69.
References: Philippians 2:8 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 328; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 94; C. J. Vaughan, Words of Hope, p. 162; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 85; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 155; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1869, p. 234.Philippians 2:9 . Philpot, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 265; Homilist, 2nd series, p. 541; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 267; J. Cairns, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 315.Philippians 2:9-50.2.11 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 101; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 109; Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 293; Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 282; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 222.
I. Even angels are to worship in the name of Jesus. It is, however, more to the purpose for us to remember that God desires men, all men, so to worship. And it is a thought at once solemnising and comforting that not only living men, but the dead also, are required to call upon God in the name of Jesus. It is assumed in the words of our text that all God's creatures will bend the knee somehow. Prayer is an instinct of nature. God has so made us that we feel a power above us, and desire that that power should be friendly to us, and not hostile. The first element of prayer" is the calling in of that power, the praying it not to be unfriendly to us, not to exert itself to crush, but to benefit, to bless, to save. The poor idolater does that. All his miserable superstitions point that way. Prayer in some form is an instinct. But is prayer in the name of Jesus an instinct? Is it the prayer which even Christians always offer? That is the name which is our passport; that is the name which has power with God and prevails; that is the name which we must take with us if we would know what it is to be heard and to be answered.
II. And that every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is the second part of the design of the exaltation of Jesus. God will have Him owned as Lord throughout the whole world. Yes, the praises of the Church as well as the prayers of the Church have a value in heaven. The religion of many Christians never gets beyond prayer. There is not a word of praise in it; there is no bold, frank, honest avowal of convictions deeply cherished as to the person and the work of Christ. The language of praise in God's worship ought to be consistent with the still more real language of the life. "Why call ye Me Lord, Lord," our Saviour Himself asks of us, "and do not the things which I say?" If the tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, ought not our acts and common words, our habits and principles, our aims and motives, to say the same thing? The acknowledgment which is frank and emphatic ought to be consistent also and harmonious.
C. J. Vaughan, Lectures on Philippians, p. 103.
Reference: Philippians 2:11 . W. Wilkinson, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 109.
Working out Salvation.
(1) This counsel implies that something has been already done. The very phrase "Work out" suggests this. The salvation has been begun, and is in one sense a complete thing. We stand still and see the salvation of God. (2) The exhortation implies that something more is to be done: "Work out your own salvation." Then it is not only a work done for us and without us, but it is a continual process within us. There is a new life created, and the life grows, as every life does, and must grow or die.
I. We work out our own salvation by the acquisition of spiritual truth. There is a danger in resting satisfied with a faith received by tradition from our fathers. While it is unwise to break away from the past, it is equally unwise to reject the new truth that may be revealed to us and to close our minds against reasonable and honest convictions.
II. There will then be progress in character. The spiritual truth thus acquired will be the food of the soul, supporting and strengthening it; the faith that was once like a weak thread binding us to Christ will become a cable to hold the ship from drifting in the storm.
III. This work must advance even in the absence of means which are important. God may deprive you of your compass and keep the north star all the more brightly before you; He may take away the Apostle, and yet grant a fuller revelation of Christ.
IV. Think of the spirit in which we are to do the work. There is no room for presumption, but much for precaution and self-distrust. "Be not high-minded, but fear."
J. Owen, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 237.
References: Philippians 2:12 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 1003; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. viii., p. 144; F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 337.
I. A Christian man has his whole salvation already accomplished for him in Christ, and yet he is to work it out. Work as well as believe, and in the daily practice of faithful obedience, in the daily subjugation of your own spirits to His Divine power, in the daily crucifixion of your flesh, with its affections and lusts, in the daily straining after loftier heights of godliness and purer atmospheres of devotion and love, make more thoroughly your own that which you possess. Work into the substance of your souls that which you have. "Apprehend that for which you are apprehended of Christ," "Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure," and remember that not a past act of faith, but a present and continuous life of loving, faithful work in Christ, which is His and yet yours, is the holding fast the beginning of your confidence firm unto the end.
II. God works all in us, and yet we have to work. The Apostle did not absorb all our individuality in one great Divine cause which made men mere tools and puppets; he did not believe that the inference was, Do you sit still and feel yourselves the ciphers that you are. His practical conclusion is the very opposite; it is, God does all: therefore do you work. Work, for God works in you.
III. The Christian has his salvation secured, and yet he is to fear and tremble. Your faith can be worth nothing unless it has, bedded deep in it, that trembling distrust of your own power which is the pre-requisite and the companion of all thankful and faithful reception of God's infinite mercy.
A. Maclaren, Sermons, p. 215.
The Twofold Force in Salvation.
This sentence falls from the lips of St. Paul as easy and natural as his breath. It has no particular emphasis, no special importance; it is not a climax either of thought or feeling; it is not a definition; it shows no trace of a long or careful process of thought of which it is the conclusion. As it came from St. Paul it was a simple, natural, almost commonplace exhortation to earnestness, with the encouragement that God would cooperate, as any one of us might say to one another, Work with all your might, and God will help you. St. Paul says simply this: Strive for your salvation; work it out yourself,; do not rely on others; it is your own matter, and a very serious one: hence be earnest about it; do not trifle nor take it for granted that you will be saved; if you ever see salvation you must work for it with fear and trembling, or you may fail of it. But at the same time remember also, for your encouragement, that while you work God also works in you; He wills in your will; He acts in your act. If you are earnest in this matter and have an honest heart about it, you may rely on the fact that God is at work in you, the soul and energy of the whole process. Such, and so simple, is the thought. But, simple as it is, it teaches several important lessons.
I. That salvation is an achievement. It was a moral process that St. Paul had in mind. If a man has any sinful habits, he must overcome them; if he has any lacks or weaknesses, he must work to supply the deficiency. And then there is the great reality of character a welded group of qualities that only comes about by elaboration. The qualities may have a natural root or ground, but each one must be worked out; it must come under the conscience and the will; it must be tried, and shaped, and fed, and worked into the substance of the character.
II. This achievement of salvation is at the cost of sharp and definite strife. All the various works that are commonly assigned to man are works of deliverance or salvation; they resolve themselves at last to that complexion, and properly take on that designation. You can have no better or truer name for the great world-work of man than salvation. And as salvation is the great world business, so is it the main thing every man has to do. When the house of his heart is swept clean, and the faulty or vicious disposition is brought under control, then there opens before him the great positive work of salvation; then he may begin to build himself up into the proportions of true spiritual manhood.
III. The world does not exist by itself; it exists in God. Man does not live, machine-like, by himself; he lives, and moves, and has and holds his being, in God. His energy and force are not his own, but flow out of God. He has, indeed, a free will, but God is the source of it; but, because it is a free will, God can only act with it and by its consent. He is not, however, excluded from the realm of our nature. God may enter the will, and fill it with power, and work with it, without impairing its nature or injuring the value of its action. Use your will; work out your salvation with fear and trembling, that is, in humble, dead earnestness; when you so work, God is working with you. It is all His; it is all yours: it is each; it is both: it is neither alone; together they are one.
T. T. Munger, The Appeal to Life, p. 169.
I. There is a sense in which salvation is not yet wrought out, not yet accomplished, not yet wrought so as to be wrought successfully. The Christian is saved; Christ has borne his sins; Christ has done all for him; Christ is his sufficient sacrifice; Christ is his availing Intercessor; Christ is charged with his soul; Christ is already his Life; and because Christ lives, he lives also: but yet, though saved, he is not safe; though all has been done for him, he is not in repose; though his true life is hid with Christ in God, yet his lower life is still lived on earth, in a world of abounding temptation, of perpetual turmoil, of overflowing iniquity, of unrest therefore, of anxiety, yes of risk. Like St. Peter walking upon the water, he is safe while he looks to Christ; but he is not safe from the danger of looking off from Christ. If he does that, he begins to sink. Perseverance is a privilege of the elect; but what sign is there of the elect, what infallible sign, save perseverance? He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved; till that endurance is completed, who shall presume upon it? The condition of the Christian is made up of various, of opposite, ingredients. There is sorrow for sin; there is peace in believing; there is the fear of God; there is the love of God; there is salvation rejoiced in; there is salvation to be wrought out.
II. Let us now turn to the opposite half of the text. A Christian must work out his own salvation; that is one truth: it is God who works in him both to will and to do; that is the other truth. Let us say then to ourselves, If it is God who works in Christians both to will and to do, to Him will I seek, for Him will I wait, with Him will I abide, day by day, that He may both lay in me the train of holy resolution, and also kindle it into action by the spark of His grace.
We have in the subject (1) a motive of warning and (2) a motive of hope.
C. J. Vaughan, Lectures on Philippians, p. 119
The Work of the Christian Life.
I. The exhortation. There is a sense in which salvation is no work of ours, but is simply the free gift of God in Christ Jesus. But salvation is a great deal more than forgiveness. It is not enough that our souls are pardoned and justified through the faith of Christ unless we are also delivered from those evil tendencies, habits, and likings, those lusts of the flesh and of the mind, which are, after all, the real ruin of our souls. In this view of it, salvation must be wrought out by us, not merely for us. For this part of it our cooperation is as essential as God's grace. Let us be up and doing, busy and earnest, patient, faithful, struggling with sinful lusts and habits, mortifying the flesh, and reaching forth and pressing on to the mark for the prize of our high calling. So let us give all diligence to work out our salvation.
II. The encouragement. God is working in us, and He is mighty to save. All the feelings you have that seem to discourage you ought to encourage you as being tokens of His working in you. Let not your heart be troubled, only let not your hand be slack, for He will have you to be working along with Him.
III. The manner of the work: "with fear and trembling." The very earnestness, the very devotion, the very eagerness, of Christian love and hope become a kind of fear. Such a responsibility we have for the grace shown to us in Christ; such a labour lies before us ere in Christ we are meet for the inheritance of the saints. The Christian must needs work on with fear and trembling, with diligence, watchfulness, and hopefulness, yielding up his soul to every impulse from on high to make his calling and election sure.
W. C. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol, xxiv., p. 81.
References: Philippians 2:12 , Philippians 2:13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 820; D. Rhys Jenkins, The Eternal Life, p. 242; G. Huntingdon, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 199; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, p. 80; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 180; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 131; Ibid., vol. x., p. 410; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 23; Redpath, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 301.Philippians 2:12-50.2.18 . J. J. Goadby, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 345.Philippians 2:13 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 362; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 306; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 243.Philippians 2:14 , Philippians 2:15 . Gregory, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 49.
The Duties of a Church towards its Neighbourhood.
I. The relation of a Church to a neighbourhood is that of salt to the land. Prejudice may be dispersed, and men be favourably disposed to the truth, (1) by the irreproachable character of the individual members of a Church; (2) by the harmony and brotherly love of a Church; (3) by the inviting aspect of the public worship and ministry of a Church; (4) by Churches forming benevolent institutions in their neighbourhood.
II. The relation of a Church to a neighbourhood is that of light to the world. A Church can testify to the truth (1) by providing and sustaining an efficient ministry; (2) by every member ministering as he hath received the gift; (3) by cherishing and exercising a spirit worthy of its vocation.
III. The individual members of any locality so circumscribed as to admit of fellowship are to that locality as separate stars in one constellation, and the Churches of such a locality are thereto as so many golden candlesticks in one holy place.
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 491.
Reference: Philippians 2:14-50.2.16 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 472; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 301.
Sons of God.
I. Sons of God. Let us inquire into the nature of the relationship. (1) The sons of God are here clearly distinguished from the world. It is a title in whose honour all then living, man as man, had not a right to share. But how does this square with the doctrine of the universal fatherhood, with the right which we claim for every human spirit to say, "My Father," with the assertion which we maintain that in regeneration a relation to God is not for the first time created, but renewed, and in a higher and more glorious form restored? I think we shall see our way through the difficulty if we recognise that children and sons are not coordinate here. The one is a higher power of the other; the one is the base out of which the other is to be evolved. The children, those made in the Father's likeness, alone can become sons, children of His Spirit; but before the child grows into the son there must have been a spiritual unfolding of the Father's likeness, which makes the children sons indeed. Man universally may be a child of the great Father; but he may be a sensual child, a rebellious child, a sullen, envious child, a prodigal child; and to such God accords not the name of sons. Children He still calls them; a Father's duties He still amply fulfils; a Father's tenderness He feels; a Father's sorrows He knows: but sons they are not; they cannot be until the spirit of sonship is in them, until all the higher and heaven-born elements of their being conspire to make the relation of the child effectual to the gladdening of the Father's home, the doing of the Father's work, the blessing of the Father's heart. (2) And this is what regeneration means. It is the begetting of the spiritual sonship, the carrying up of the child's relation through all the higher powers and faculties of the human spirit, and yielding to God this child complete. And this needs a spiritual regeneration. Life must be kindled from the source of life and grow by communion with it.
II. The manifestation of sonship and its fruits. Christ first exalted goodness to the throne of the world. Force had been the Divine thing till then. It was to be the sheer force of goodness which should bear the Christian on to the spiritual conquest of mankind. There is nothing exclusive about sonship. "Holding forth the word of life." Why? That men may live also. The sons are to be magnets to draw the children to the Father, that they may be received as sons. This is the essential element of the light that they are to hold forth: the word of life, the word of sonship, the word of regeneration; they are to reveal the Father and the sons. One glimpse of a home to an exile is the sweetest attraction you can offer. That is the meaning of a Church: God's home; Christ's home for souls. And what a Church is on a large scale a home should be on a small one. This it is to be a light in the world, and to hold forth the word of life. God is calling for sons, that He may win more. Each son won home becomes a source of vital attraction and compels others. His house is filling fast. Each generation yields its elect spirits to people heaven; but there is room yet, will be room, till that great day of restitution, "the day of the manifestation of the sons of God."
J. B. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 40.
References: Philippians 2:15 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 250; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 462; F. W. Farrar, In the Days of thy Youth, p. 316. Philippians 2:15-50.2.16 . Outline Sermons to Children, p. 251.
In the very act of working out his own salvation, if he be rightly taught what the charge means, a man will be, incidentally at least, holding forth or applying to others the word of life. This is true in some measure. But so prone are we all to selfishness, so prone to religious selfishness when we are driven out of the selfishness which is altogether indolent and worldly, and so many are those who would foster this spiritual selfishness by precepts distorted from the Gospel, that it is necessary to give reality and prominence to the charge before us by examining it separately and in detail.
I. Your work on earth is not done when you have saved yourself from an untoward generation. You have still to hold your lamp as far as you can into the dark mass around. God does not call you to a timid, fugitive, skulking piety, a religion which has to lock its doors and bar its windows, that it may be alone by itself in the sight of a God who seeth in secret. There is a part of it which has to do this; to be worth anything even for purposes of diffusion, the lamp must be kindled in secret, and fed in secret, and trimmed in secret; we can soon tell those whose religion has no such seclusion; but the office of the lamp is to shine. Men do not light a candle to put it under a bed, but to set it on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house. Even so it is with the Christian's lamp, which is the word of life.
II. Note two of our modes of influence. (1) Example. There is no engine so powerful in its effects upon human life. (2) Sympathy. There is a way of presenting the Gospel, in word and even in example, which wholly fails to attract or to persuade. He that winneth souls is wise, not he that alarms, or he that drives, or he that coerces and constrains, but he that winneth souls. It becomes one who would discharge his conscience in this matter to examine not only the correctness, but the attractiveness, of his example.
C. J. Vaughan, Lectures on Philippians, p. 135.
The Experience of Isolation.
I. It is a common complaint amongst us that we want sympathy. We are lonely, we say. If not actually solitary, we are solitary in feeling and in heart. In later life people make up their minds to this, as a condition of earthly life. They have fought against it in youth; they have deemed it intolerable; they have thought existence itself valueless without sympathy. Now and then they have fancied for a brief time that they had found a sympathy real and indestructible below, but they have outlived the hope; they have known perhaps many such hopes one by one, and they have outlived them all. It is well if they have not too much acquiesced in this experience. The young are too impatient, too imperious, in their demand for sympathy; the old are sometimes too tolerant, at least too fond, of isolation.
II. St. Paul's thirst for human love was not that sentimental, sickly, vague, purposeless thing which may sometimes amongst us take its name; it was not the case with him, as it too often is with us, that his heart's best affections were roving in quest of an object, and that until the object presented itself in some human form he was a restless and dissatisfied roan. St. Paul's best affections were engaged and fixed unalterably. The sympathy he sought was a sympathy in his work for Christ; the loneliness he bewailed was a loneliness in his care for Christ's people. And if sympathy like this be still, as it sometimes was with St. Paul, denied or interrupted, yet even then we shall learn, like him, in whatever state we are, therewith to be content. If we really love Christ and are trying day by day to serve Him, we have within us the root of all comfort and the spring of all sympathy. They who are united in Him are united really in one another.
C. J. Vaughan, Lectures on Philippians, p. 151.
I. In these and like passages of the Epistles of St. Paul written subsequently to his imprisonment, we may trace signs of one of the many trials of the Apostle's life; and it is one which we hardly perhaps estimate at its real measure. St. Paul's life at this time must have seemed like what we call a failure. The great work for which he lived had shattered itself against the natural obstacles of a firmly established order: religion; law; the habits and prejudices of society; the recognised indulgences of human passion. His missionary journeys had come to an end, and he had not reconciled Jew and Gentile, his brethren after the flesh, so dear to him, his brethren after the promise, his crown and joy. The tide which had carried him so high was ebbing, and left him lonely and deserted, hardly recognised or cared for, except by his distant friends in the East. "Demas hath forsaken me." "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me," are the words of his last Roman letter. His career, his zeal, had ended in disaster. This is what it seemed to have come to; this is what it would have appeared to friend and foe when the old man was led out along the Ossian Way to die, he who had laid the foundations of the Church universal, the Church of all the nations, he who had left a name than which no earthly name is greater, than which there is no greater among the saints of God.
II. To a faith like St. Paul's these adverse appearances, though they might wring from him as they passed a cry of pain and distress, wore a very different aspect and took very different proportions from what they would have to the world. To him the mere vicissitudes of a mortal career would be nothing more strange than the variations in his health or in the number of his years. They were but part of his Master's use of him, part of that cross by which the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world. So that he had faithfully done what God wanted of him, the outward features of that small fragment of time which we call his life were of slight moment. It mattered little that so much that seemed a course which had begun triumphantly seemed to end among the breakers. It mattered little to himself when he died that the world of his day pronounced the enterprise of his life a mistake and a failure.
III. Do not let us be afraid in a good cause of the chances of failure. "Heaven is for those who have failed on earth," says the mocking proverb; and since the day of Calvary no Christian need be ashamed to accept it. The world would have missed some of its highest examples if men had always waited till they could make a covenant with success. There in the light beyond the veil, and not here, we shall really know which are the lost causes and which are the victorious ones; those who have not been afraid to be like Him here shall be like Him there, for they shall see Him as He is.
Dean Church, Oxford University Herald, Feb. 18th, 1882.
The Life of Christ the Only True Idea of Self-devotion.
There is something peculiarly touching in the saddened tone of these few words, in which St. Paul glances at the slackness of his fellow-labourers. It must have been a cross almost too heavy to bear without complaining when from his prison-house at Rome he saw his brethren in Christ drawing off one by one from the hardness of their Master's service; it must have been a provocation almost beyond endurance to see day by day tokens of a faint heart and a selfish purpose coming out in the words and acts of those on whom he most depended. It added to his bondage the worst form of desolation: the loneliness of a high unbroken spirit in the throng of shrinking and inconstant men. The heart-sin of which St. Paul writes is a refined selfishness, so plausibly defended, so strongly entrenched in reasonable pleadings, as to leave him no more to do, than to expostulate and to be silent, to give them a fair opening to do high service for their Master and then to pass them by and choose some worthier and bolder men. The peculiar danger of this fault may be seen by the following remarks:
I. It may consist with all that the Church requires of her people as a condition of communion in her fullest privileges. A man may be under the dominion of this paralysing fault, and yet really live in many ways a Christian life. A very large part of Christianity is directly favourable to a man's worldly interests: all that goes to the establishing of a fair reputation and to the conciliation of goodwill is full of solid advantage; self-regard and self-respect urgently prescribe to a man such a habit of life as shall be in accordance with the outward example of Christ's true servants.
II. This habit of mind, while it satisfies the external demands of the Church and ministers to the inward happiness of the mind, absolutely extinguishes all that ever produced any great work in Christ's service; it stunts the whole spirit at the standard of self, and makes all a man's thoughts and powers minister and submit themselves to his own aim and purpose, None are so hard to rouse to great works of faith as such men. If we should plead with a Magdalene out of whom have been cast seven devils, or a Peter who hath thrice denied his Lord, or a Paul who hath made havoc of the Church, there is material for a substantive and vivid character; there is energy for a life above the world. Conformed to the likeness of their Lord, the examples of all living men are no more to them than the gaudy, shifting clouds of an evening sky; moving along the path of the Cross, all the soft and silken curtains of life are as threads of idle gossamer. There is about them a moral weight, and an onward force, and a clear definite outline of character, before which everything gives way. They hurry all before them as by the spell of absolute dominion. Oh that we did but know the freedom and the happiness of a life above the world! They whose names are splendid with the most hallowed light have in their day moved along all paths of life. None so wise, so courteous, so beloved, as they; none richer nor more prosperous; none more faithful in their stewardship of this world's wealth; none bequeathed costlier heirlooms to their children's children, and that because they sought not their own, but the things that were Jesus Christ's.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 146.
References: Philippians 2:21 . J. F. Tinling, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 191; Parker, Pulpit Analyst, vol. ii., p. 498.
I. Is this the same Apostle who wrote above, I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better? Does he account it a mercy on the part of God which withdraws a Christian man from the immediate fruition of the inheritance of the saints in light? The words are so; and lest we should too much qualify their meaning or say that the mercy spoken of was shown not to the man himself, but to those around him, who needed his ministration or might be benefited by his life, he adds immediately after, "and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." We may gather from this saying an illustration of the naturalness of the word of God. However bright the light which the Gospel throws upon the world beyond death, and however dim by comparison the glory which shines upon the present, still life is a blessing, and still death is an enemy. To speak of death itself as a pleasure is a fantastic and unreal language; to speak of a recovery from sickness as a misfortune is as contradictory to the language of the Bible as it is to the voice of nature within.
II. The word of God has ever two aspects. If God wills this, it is well for the Christian, and if God wills the opposite of this, yet for the Christian it is well still. If he lives, that is the fruit of his labour; he can still work on, gather in more souls for Christ, shine more brightly himself as he holds forth the word of life: and if he rises not, if he lives not, if he passes only from his bed to his coffin, from his chamber to his grave, even then then even more, shall we say? God had mercy on him, saw that he was meet for the inheritance above, and therefore, by a transition sharp but blessed, bade him enter in and rest for ever in the Lord.
C. J. Vaughan, Lectures on Philippians, p. 167.
References: Philippians 2:29 . W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 225.Philippians 2:0 Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., pp. 103, 558. Philippians 3:1-50.3.11 . J. J. Goadby, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 90. Philippians 3:2 . J. N. Norton, The King's Ferry Boat, p. 225.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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