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Philippians 2:1-2. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
THE Church of Christ is one great family; all its members being children of one common Parent, and partakers of one common interest. To consult the good of the whole is the duty of each; no one regarding his own personal gratification, but all combining for the common welfare. This was a favourite topic with the Apostle Paul. The care of all the Churches having been committed to him, he had constant occasion to inculcate the necessity of union amongst the multifarious and discordant characters of which the different societies were composed. The manner in which he inculcates it in the words before us, is very remarkable, and deserves particular attention. In opening the passage to your view, we shall be led to notice,
The object of his desire—
He was now in prison at Rome: but his sufferings caused no diminution in his concern for the welfare of the Church of God. He saw with grief the efforts which were made by the enemies of Christ to turn aside the Philippians from the faith they had embraced; and he therefore urges them the more carefully to preserve amongst themselves an unity of sentiment and affection, in order that they might give no advantage to their adversaries by intestine divisions. The object, I say, which he desired to promote, was unity of sentiment and affection—
This appears to be the true scope and import of his words: “Being joined together in love, be united also in sentiment: and being joined together in sentiment, be united also in love, so as to have one soul penetrating the whole body [Note: See the original, which consists rather of two parts than of four, and should be construed accordingly.].” An unity in these respects is, it is true, very difficult to be attained—
[Considering how the human mind is constituted, it is scarcely to be expected men should be perfectly agreed upon any point; and least of all upon religion, where the subjects themselves are so deep and mysterious, and where so great a scope for difference of sentiment is afforded by the terms in which the truth is revealed. There is not unfrequently in appearance an opposition between the things that are revealed: (I say in appearance; for it is not possible that there should be any real contrariety in things which have been delivered by inspiration of God:) and it may be expected that different persons will lean to different sides, according to the weight which the different positions appear to have in the general scale of truth. Besides, the deep things of God are discerned only by means of a spiritual perception imparted to us by the Spirit of God: and of course they will be more or less justly viewed, according to the measure of grace that has been given to us, and according as our visual organs have been purified from the films that obscure or distort the truth.
Of course, an unity of affection must be considerably impeded by these circumstances: for we naturally agree best with those whose sentiments we approve: and if there be any great diversity of sentiment on important topics, we are apt to feel a proportionable alienation of heart from the person in whom it exists.]
But though a perfect union in these respects is difficult, it is, as far as is necessary for all practical purposes, certainly attainable—
[We are expressly taught, that it should, and may, exist in the different members of Christ’s mystical body [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:10.] — — — The way to attain it is, to confine ourselves to the fundamentals of religion; and to make them the bonds of union; whilst the less evident or less important truths are left as neutral ground, open alike to either patty, and to be occupied or not by each, as they see fit. What the fundamentals are, may, it is true, be differently stated: but, if Christianity be viewed in its true light as a remedy, and we agree in the depth of the malady it is proposed to cure; the means of healing, through the atoning blood of Christ, and the influences of his Spirit; and the duty of those who are healed, to devote themselves unreservedly to the service of their God; if, I say, Christianity be viewed in this light, there will be very little difference of sentiment between those who have ever felt its efficacy. It is by going beyond these plainer truths; by laying an undue stress on some obvious doctrines, without suffering them to be tempered with those which are of an opposite aspect; by wresting from their plain import those passages which we cannot reconcile with our favourite systems; and, in a word, by exercising a dogmatical spirit on points which are beyond our comprehension, and forming them into the shibboleth of a party; it is by these things that the Church of Christ is divided: and never till we return to the simplicity of the day of Pentecost, shall we regain its unity. But when we return to the docility of little children, we shall, to all practical purposes, “see eye to eye.”]
On the attainment of this object his heart was set, as appears from,
The urgency of his request—
The first consideration which he urges is, the happiness which such a union would confer on him—
[He had rejoiced in their first conversion to God; as a mother does over her new-born infant: but his joy was blended with much anxiety for their future welfare. That welfare was now endangered by the efforts which were made to separate them from each other, and to turn them from the faith. Nothing but their steadfastness could comfort him; but, if he should see them cordially united together in sentiment and affection, it would complete his joy. Hence he says to them, “Fulfil ye my joy.” His very life seemed to be bound up, as it were, in the prosperity of their souls; so that in effect he says to them, as he does to the Thessalonian Church, “Now I live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” If therefore they felt in any degree their obligations to him, they could not but labour to carry into effect the object which would so conduce to his happiness.]
To this he adds all the most powerful pleas that could operate upon the human mind—
[“Is there any consolation in Christ?” As believers they could not but know that there was in him a fund of consolation; a mine, the treasures of which were altogether unsearchable. Who can contemplate the covenant which he entered into for the redemption of a ruined world, together with all that he did to accomplish this stupendous work; his mysterious incarnation, his holy life, his meritorious death, his glorious resurrection and ascension, his intercession for us at the right hand of God, and his exercise of all power as the Head of his Church, and as the life of every believer in it; who can contemplate all this, and not be comforted in the thought of such a Saviour, and in the hope of such a salvation? The greatness of his person, the suitableness of his undertaking, the sufficiency of his work, and his fidelity to all his promises—where can consolation be found, if not in these?
But what enjoyment can any have of these things, if their minds be distracted with controversies, and their hearts embittered with discord? Whatever any may profess to the contrary, it is only when the mists of controversy are dispelled, that the cheering rays of the Sun of Righteousness can penetrate and revive the soul.
The same may be said respecting “the comfort of love.” That there is unspeakable comfort in the existence and exercise of love, what Christian does not know? The presence of love argues, and, if I may so speak, constitutes, the in-dwelling of the Deity in the soul: as the loving Apostle has said, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” But sweet as is the harmony of kindred souls, it cannot long exist, when once the discordant strings of controversy are touched. The voice which but lately delighted with its sounds the ravished ear, loses its interest, when once it has begun to make the Saviour’s name a subject of dispute. Diversity of sentiment on such important matter as religion soon creates coolness in the affections, and alienation in the heart. Shall we then willingly admit amongst us a disposition of mind so adverse to our best interests, and so destructive of our truest happiness?
Nearly allied to this is “the fellowship of the Spirit:” for the Church of God is not merely one family, but one body, every member of which is animated and enlivened with the same soul. The Holy Spirit who pervades them all, produces a holy fellowship between them; between not those only that are contiguous to each other, but those also which are most remote; it unites in one the inhabitants both of heaven and earth. But this also is interrupted by the introduction of discordant sentiments; and the magnetic attractions, by which it brought all under one common influence, cease to operate with effect, and leave the mass of Christians as unconnected and indifferent to each other as the world around them.
Of “bowels and mercies” also the true Christian is possessed. He has felt towards himself the compassions of his God; and he desires to manifest towards all his brethren a measure of the same tender care. But discord shuts up all these tender emotions, and banishes from the mind this affectionate solicitude; so that hostility will take the place of love, and anathemas be hurled, where nothing but mutual endearments have before prevailed. St. Paul probably had more particularly in view the effect which their dissensions would produce upon his own mind: they would be as a dagger to his soul: and could the Philippians, who had so richly participated his love, make such a return? No; if they had any bowels and mercies existing in them, they would avoid a conduct which would so augment the distresses which, for their sakes and for the sake of the whole Church, he was now enduring. God had promised to his people, to “give them one heart and one way, that they might fear him for ever, for the good of them and of their children after them:” and this unity he besought them, if they valued either their own welfare or his happiness, most strenuously to maintain. He would have them all to be not only one body, but to have one soul, and one spirit, pervading all.]
Earnestly desiring that the same heavenly disposition may abound in you also, I would, with most affectionate entreaty, recommend,
That you guard against every disposition that may interrupt this harmony—
[The Apostle particularly cautions the Philippians against “strife and vain-glory,” and exhorts them “in lowliness of mind to esteem others better than themselves.” So would I also caution you against the indulgence of a proud, conceited, self-sufficient spirit, which is the bane of all social harmony and Christian love. These malignant dispositions have been at the root of all those animosities which have in different ages disturbed and divided the Church of God [Note: James 3:14-18.] — — — Only let self be mortified and subdued, and love will reign; yea, it will so reign, that your union with your brethren shall resemble that which subsists between the Father and Christ himself [Note: John 17:21.].]
That you seek those blessings which have a sanctifying efficacy on the soul—
[What love will not the consolation that is in Christ inspire? What will not a person who tastes “the comfort of love” do to preserve love; and one who enjoys the “fellowship of the Spirit,” to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? If you yearn over the desolations of Zion, and have your “bowels and mercies” moved at the distresses of those around you, you will never willingly contribute to disturb the harmony of the Church by doubtful disputations. You will strive for peace; and in that exercise of love will reap in your own souls the richest reward. Such is the exhortation of St. Paul to the Colossian Church; and such is that with which I shall conclude the present discourse: “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness, unto which ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful [Note: Colossians 3:12-14.].”]
ESTEEMING OTHERS ABOVE OURSELVES
Philippians 2:3. In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
IT is a common and universally approved saying, that the tree may be known by its fruit. Now we would have the Gospel brought to this test: and we are willing that it should be accepted or rejected, according to the issue of this trial. That good things have been spoken by uninspired men on the subject of humility, we readily admit: for modesty, and a deference to the sentiments of others, necessarily commend themselves to the judgment of every considerate mind. But we apprehend that the precept before us is peculiar to Christianity; and, as a maxim in morals, it stands unrivalled in the whole world. In support of this injunction, I will endeavour to shew,
Certainly it must be understood with some kind of qualification and exception: for it can never be meant, that a philosopher is to esteem an illiterate peasant wiser than himself; or that a man of strict morals is to regard a notorious drunkard or libertine as more holy than himself. We can never be required to entertain sentiments so entirely repugnant to truth and fact. We must suppose some kind of parity between the persons so compared; namely, that both of them profess a regard for God, and both maintain a measure of consistency in their outward conduct. But where there is nothing outward and visible to contradict the sentiment, there it should be entertained; and we each should conceive of others as better than ourselves:
As more pure in their principle—
[We should give persona credit for sincerity in what they profess; and not, without the strongest evidence, accuse them of hypocrisy. But every man that is acquainted with his own heart has seen in himself a sad mixture of motive, which he cannot but acknowledge before the heart-searching God; and, consequently, he will do well to regard himself as inferior to those whom he cannot convict of any guile, in comparison of what he knows to have existed and operated within his own bosom.]
As more consistent in their practice—
[Of his own inconsistencies, who amongst us has not reason to complain? Who, for one deviation which he sees in others, may not discern a great many in himself? We are not at liberty to indulge all manner of evil surmises, in order to reduce others to a level with ourselves; but should put ourselves below others, in proportion as we appear to have fallen short of the measure of their attainments.]
As more advanced in proportion to the advantages they have enjoyed—
[We all are responsible for the advantages that have been vouchsafed unto us: “To whom much has been given, of them will the more be required.” Now, of the opportunities with which we have been favoured, we must be conscious; and respecting the length of time that we have professed to seek after God, we must be sensible: but, in reference to others, we must be comparatively ignorant: and therefore, even if, in point of attainment, we appear to stand on a par with them, we ought to take a lower place than they, because, from the superiority of our advantages, we ought to have been advanced far beyond them.]
Though, in explaining the import of this injunction, I have in some measure anticipated my second head, yet I will proceed more fully to point out,
The reasonableness of it appears from this, that we know incomparably more concerning ourselves, than we do, or can do, respecting others. We know more of our own,
[There are workings of mind, of which even we ourselves are scarcely sensible; and which, whilst they appear good at the time, we find afterwards to have been evil. The two Apostles who would have called fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village gave themselves credit for a holy and becoming zeal; whilst, in fact, they were actuated by pride and revenge: our blessed Lord told them, that “they knew not what spirit they were of.” In examining our own hearts, we shall find, that, on different occasions, there has been much amiss in relation to our motives, where our actions have appeared most excellent and praiseworthy: but of the motives of others we could judge only by the actions themselves: and therefore it is but reasonable that we should account others, of whom we know no evil, better than ourselves, who have been conscious of much that has been contrary to the mind of God. The mixtures which we have discovered in ourselves of pride and vain-glory, of self-seeking and self-complacency, and of many other hidden abominations, should make us ever to lie low both before God and man.]
[We cannot but blush and be ashamed when we look back upon the sloth and indolence which we have indulged, especially when engaged in holy exercises. How slight has been our application, when reading the word of God! How languid our frame, when drawing nigh to him at the throne of grace; our confessions being destitute of all contrition; our prayers, of fervour; our thanksgivings, of gratitude! In the house of God, how have our minds wandered to the very ends of the earth; yes, and sometimes too, perhaps, been filled with all evil, when we have professed to have been engaged in the service of our God! In short, we cannot but be conscious, that we have but too often trifled with God and our own souls, when we should have been running as in a race, and striving, as in a contest, for our very lives. But in reference to others, we know not these things: and therefore it is in the highest degree reasonable that we should “prefer them in honour before ourselves [Note: Romans 12:10.]”]
[We have been conscious of the strivings of God’s Spirit within our own souls; whilst respecting the experience of others we know nothing. The inward fears that have been excited in us, and the hopes we have cherished, and the consolations that have been imparted to us; the assistances, too, that we have received from Almighty God for the subjugation of our lusts, and the renovation of our souls; the discoveries, also, which have been given us of Christ, and of the great mystery of redemption; these, and a thousand other blessings which have been vouchsafed to us for the furthering of our spiritual welfare, should have been productive of a suitable and correspondent advancement in the divine life. But how little have we availed ourselves of them, and profited by them! The knowledge of this may well humble us in the dust. But, respecting other persons, we are altogether in the dark, as to their advantages, or their improvement of them: and therefore we should take the lowest place, as that which properly belongs to us, on account of our great unprofitableness.]
[What know we respecting the corruptions of others, in comparison of our own? Who does not blush at the recollection of much which has passed within him, which, if known to man as it is known to God, would render him an object of pity or contempt? Who does not see, in his own temper, and spirit, and conduct, there has been abundant occasion for shame and contrition before God? But we know but little of these things in relation to others, and therefore in reason are bound to esteem them better than ourselves.]
Not to dwell any longer on the reasonableness of this injunction, I will pass on to mark,
Suppose it to be obeyed; and then behold its influence,
[It cannot have escaped our notice, how much evil arises, in the world, and in the Church, from a proud, envious, self-exalting spirit. “Whence come wars between nations, and strife and contentions between neighbours, but from the lusts that war in our members,” even from a desire to advance ourselves at the expense of others? “Strife and vain-glory” are, in my text, put in immediate contrast with “the lowliness of mind” which is there recommended. Suppose that all were actuated by the spirit of which we have been speaking; the little offences which occur would be scarcely noticed as worthy of a thought: a charitable construction would be put upon the motives of others, and the wounds inflicted by them would be healed in a moment. Verily, there would be nothing but love and harmony, where now exists nothing but animosity and discord [Note: Ephesians 4:2-3.].”]
On our own soul—
[O! if pride were mortified, and self-love were put away, and charity were exercised, and the soul were humbled under a sense of its own unworthiness; how many sources of pain would be cut off! how many fountains of holy pleasure would be opened to us! The trials of life, whether from God or man, would be as nothing to us; because they would appear infinitely less than our desert, and would be regarded as medicines to heal the sickness of our souls. On the other hand, our mercies, how unmerited would they appear; and what admiring and adoring gratitude would they excite within us! Every little attention from man, instead of operating to foster our vanity, would abase us rather as unworthy of such love, and stimulate us to make to him every return in our power. The whole of our frame would resemble that of the Lord Jesus Christ, “whose meekness and lowliness” were alike conspicuous, amidst the acclamations of friends, and the assaults of the most envenomed enemies.]
On the interest of religion in the world—
[The world are eagle-eyed in spying out the faults of those who profess religion: and when they see a vain, conceited, talkative, obtrusive, uncharitable professor, they despise him in their very souls. And truly he deserves to be despised; for “he stinks in the nostrils of God” himself [Note: Isaiah 65:5.]. But the world do wrong in identifying these dispositions with religion: for religion disclaims them utterly, and altogether condemns them. On the other hand, they cannot but admire in their hearts the man who is of a meek and humble mind. True, they will not love him, because “they hate the light” which such a character reflects: but they have an inward conviction that he is right; and a wish, that, though they live not his life, they may “die his death.” They know, in their souls, that God approves such characters, and that he will distinguish them with his favour, both here [Note: 1 Peter 5:5.], and in the eternal world [Note: Luke 18:14.]. They see in such characters religion adorned and honoured [Note: 1 Peter 3:4.]. Would you then, brethren, recommend religion, cultivate this spirit, and account yourselves the lowest of all and the least of all [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:9.].]
Philippians 2:5-8. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. [Note: This subject might well be treated thus:–1. What the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. 2. What he expects us to do for him; i. e. to have the same mind toward others as he has had toward us and to manifest it, as far as possible, in the same way; accounting nothing too much to do or suffer for the salvation of men.] ONE of the strongest characteristics of our fallen nature is selfishness. The one desire of an unregenerate man is to gratify self. Even those actions in which he seems to have most respect to God or to his fellow-creatures, will, if carefully examined, and weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, be found to have self for their principle, and self for their end. This disposition being so deeply rooted in the heart, we cannot but expect that it should operate to a certain degree, even after the evil of it is discerned, and after its allowed dominion has ceased. Doubtless there were many pious Christians in the Roman Church, as well as Timothy: yet St. Paul complained that all of them, excepting him, were in some degree under the influence of a selfish spirit, and “sought their own things rather than the things of Jesus Christ.” Against this thing therefore he cautioned the Philippians in a most affectionate manner; beseeching them, with all earnestness, to “fulfil his joy,” in “being all of one accord and of one mind;” exhorting them to “esteem others better than themselves;” and “not to look every man on his own things, but also on the things of others.” To give the greater weight and efficacy to his exhortations, he then reminded them of the conduct of Christ towards them, and recommended it as the best pattern for their conduct towards each other: “Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
The words of the Apostle lead us to consider the humiliation of Christ in a twofold view—As a fact to be believed, and as a pattern to be imitated.
Let us consider it as a fact to be believed—
The two leading steps of Christ’s humiliation were, his incarnation and his death—
Previous to his incarnation, he existed in a state of inconceivable glory and bliss. He “had a glory with the Father before the worlds were made.” He “was in the bosom of the Father” from all eternity. He was “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” It was in and by him that God, on various occasions, appeared to men; and hence it is that the Apostle calls him “the Image of the invisible God;” not only because he bore a peculiar resemblance to the Deity, but chiefly because the Godhead, which was never seen in the person of the Father, was seen by many in the person of Christ. We are informed, in the text, that Christ was not only in the form “of God,” but that “he thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” or, as the words more strictly mean, to be as God [Note: The Greek is not ἴσον τῷ Θεῷ as in John 5:18, but ἶσα, which means as. This is unanswerably shewn by the references which Dr. Whitby on the place has made to passages in the Septuagint, where it is so translated.]. He assumed to himself all the titles, attributes, and perfections of the Deity. He claimed and exercised all the divine prerogatives. He performed by his own power all the works which are ever ascribed to God. And in all this he was guilty of no presumption; because he was truly ‘One with the Father, in glory equal, in majesty co-eternal.’ To understand the Apostle as saying, that Christ, while he was only a mere man, did not think of the robbery of being equal with God, is to represent him as commending a creature for his humility in not aspiring to an equality with God; a greater absurdity than which could not enter into the human mind. As Christ, when he took upon himself “the form of a servant,” became really man, so when, previous to his incarnation, he was “in the form of God,” he was really and truly God. To this the Scriptures bear ample testimony: they declare that before he was “a Child born and a Son given, he was the mighty God,” even “God over all, blessed for ever.” And therefore, when he became incarnate, ho was “God, manifest in the flesh;” he was “Emmanuel, God with us.”
But this glory he, in infinite condescension, laid aside. Not that he ceased to be God; but that he veiled his Deity in human flesh. As, previous to his descent from Mount Tabor, he divested himself of those robes of majesty wherewith he was then arrayed; so, for the purpose of sojourning among men, he emptied himself [Note: ἐκένωσε ἑαυτον.] of all his divine splendour, either hiding it altogether from human eyes, or only suffering a ray of it occasionally to beam forth for the instruction of his disciples; that, while others saw him but as a common man, they might “behold his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.” He did not, however, assume our nature in its primeval state, while yet it bore the image of its Maker; but in its fallen state, encompassed with infirmities: “he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh;” and was “in all points like unto us, sin only excepted.”
But there was yet a lower state of degradation to which our blessed Lord submitted for our sakes, which also is mentioned in the text, and which was the very end of his incarnation; “being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient unto death.”
When our Lord vouchsafed to take our nature into an immediate union with himself, he became from that moment subject to the law, even as we are. More especially, having substituted himself in the place of sinners, he was bound to fulfil the precepts which we had broken, and to endure the penalties which we had incurred. He was to be the servant of God in executing his Father’s will; and the servant of man, in performing every duty, whether of obedience to his earthly parents, or of subjection to the civil magistrate. He knew from the beginning how arduous a course he had to run; he beheld at one view all that he must do, and all that he must suffer, in order to accomplish the purposes of his mission; and yet he freely undertook our cause, saying, “I come, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” And with the same readiness did he persevere “even unto death.” When the extremity of his sufferings were coming upon him, he implored indeed the removal of the bitter cup, provided it could be removed consistently with his Father’s glory and man’s salvation. But this he did, to shew that he was really man; and to instruct his followers how to demean themselves in seasons of deep affliction. By this we see, that it is our privilege to make our requests known to God, and to implore such a mitigation of our troubles as shall render them more supportable, or such an increase of strength as may enable us to endure them. Cheerfully however did he resign himself to the will of his heavenly Father; and though twelve legions of angels were at his command to deliver him, yet did he continue fixed in his purpose to give his own life a ransom for us. Notwithstanding the death of the cross was the most painful and ignominious of any, yet to that did he submit for us; nor did he cease from filling up the measure of his sufferings, till he could say, “It is finished.”
This then is the fact affirmed by the Apostle; a fact, which we should have considered as absolutely incredible, if God himself had not plainly declared it, and confirmed his testimony by the most indubitable evidence. We are now therefore warranted to affirm, that “it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.” And though the frequency with which it is mentioned, causes it in too many instances to be heard without any emotion, sure we are, that the more it is contemplated, the more it will fill us with wonder and amazement. If we would but consider that the God of heaven and earth assumed our sinful nature, and died the accursed death of the cross, in order to redeem us from death and hell; if we would but suffer this thought fully to occupy our minds, methinks we should become like those in heaven, who cease not day and night to make it the grand subject of their united praises.
The more immediate view with which the Apostle introduced the subject of our Lord’s humiliation, to which we also wish at this time to draw your attention, was, that he might set it before the Philippians as a pattern to be imitated.
It is not possible for us in all respects to imitate this bright original, since we have no glory which we can lay aside; nor is it optional with us whether we will become subject to the law or not. But, though we cannot perform the same act that Christ did, we may “have the same mind which was in him:” and beyond all doubt we ought to resemble him in these two particulars; in feeling a tender regard for the welfare of men’s souls; and in being ready to do or suffer any thing for their good.
We should feel a tender regard for the welfare of men’s souls. When, in consequence of the fall of man, there remained no possibility of his restoration to God s favour and image, by any thing which he could either devise or execute, this blessed and adorable Saviour looked upon us with pity: his bowels yearned over us; and though he had not interested himself on behalf of the angels that sinned, yet, he determined to interpose for us, and by a marvellous effort of his grace to save our souls alive. Let me ask then, what is now the state of the heathen world? Is it not that very state to which the whole race of man was reduced by the transgression of Adam, and by their own personal iniquities? They are under a sentence of death and condemnation. They know of no way of reconciliation with God. Being without Christ, they are altogether without hope. And though we will not presume to say that none of them are saved; yet we must affirm that their condition is most pitiable, and that the notions which obtain in the world respecting the extension of God’s mercy to them, are awfully erroneous. For if they can be saved without Christ, why could not we? And then why did Christ ever come into the world? If it be said, that Christ has purchased mercy for them though they knew him not, then we ask, Why did the Apostles go forth to preach to the Gentile world? Why did they submit to such numberless hardships and labours at the peril of their lives, to bring the heathen into the fold of Christ, if they thought that they could attain salvation in their present state, or that any considerable number of them would be saved? The Apostles knew little of that which we falsely term, charity. They believed that “there was no other name given among men whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ:” and therefore they felt towards the heathen world as they would have done towards a crew of mariners perishing in the ocean: they went forth at the peril of their own lives, willing to endure any thing themselves, if they might but succeed in saving some of their fellow-creatures. Ought not we then in like manner to compassionate the heathen world? Should not “our head be waters, and our eyes a fountain of tears, to run down day and night” for their perishing condition? What infidelity must there be in our minds, or what obduracy in our hearts, if we can look upon their state without the tenderest emotions of pity and grief!
But to our compassion we must add also a willingness to do and suffer any thing for their good. When our Messed Lord beheld our misery, he flew from heaven on the wings of love to succour and relieve us. And though in order to effect his purpose he must disrobe himself of his majesty, and become like one of us, a poor, weak, necessitous creature, yea, and in our nature must submit to death, even the accursed death of the cross; he accounted nothing too valuable to forego, nothing too painful to suffer, in order to rescue us from destruction. He undertook even to be “made a curse for us,” in order “to redeem us from the curse of the law.” Thus should we not rest in listless wishes for the good of the heathen, but exert ourselves to the utmost to save their souls. What if we cannot all go forth like the Apostles; cannot some of us give liberally of our substance in order to provide them the means of instruction? cannot others afford their time and attention in order to concert measures for the establishing and conducting missions? Cannot others testify their readiness to devote themselves to this great work, saying, like the Prophet Isaiah, “Here am I, send me?” But in the disposition to fulfil this last, this most essential and urgent, duty, there is amongst us a general, a lamentable deficiency. After inquiries made in every part of England, none have as yet been found by us, endued with that union of talents and of zeal which is requisite for the work. Many, who in some respects appear fit for the office of missionaries or catechists, are so fond of their ease and worldly comforts, so fearful of encountering difficulties and dangers, so ready, like Moses, to plead their want of fitness, when their backwardness, it is to be feared, arises rather from cowardice or sloth; that there is danger lest the ardour of those who are zealous to promote the object of missions should be dumped, through a want of opportunity to exert itself with effect. It is true, (and blessed be God it is so!) that of late years several societies have arisen to promote this glorious work: and fears have been entertained, lest one should interfere with another. But what are the efforts of all of them combined, when compared with the demand there is for such exertions? If the millions of heathens who are yet in darkness be considered, the endeavours used for their instruction are scarcely more than as a drop to the ocean.
It may be said perhaps, Why are we to waste our strength upon the heathen? Is there not scope for the labours of all at home? I answer, It is well for us that the Apostles did not argue thus: for if they had not turned to the Gentiles till there remained no unconverted Jews for them to instruct, the very name of Christ would probably long since have been forgotten among men. We confess there are great multitudes in our own land as ignorant as the heathen: but yet they have the Bible in their hands; and there are in every part of the kingdom, some who are both able and desirous to instruct them. However ignorant therefore, or abandoned, thousands are amongst us, there is hope respecting them, that sooner or later their feet may be guided into the way of peace. But as for the heathen, what hope can there be respecting them? for “How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how can they hear without a preacher?” Besides, the more our love abounds towards the heathen, the more will “the zeal of others be provoked” for the salvation of our neighbours; and the more confidently may we hope for the blessing of God upon their pious endeavours.
Let then all such excuses be put away; and let all exert themselves at least in prayer to the great “Lord of the harvest,” and entreat him day and night “to send forth labourers into his harvest.”
To enforce what has been said, we would call your attention to some additional considerations—
Consider then, first, what would have been the state of the whole world, if the same mind had been in Christ that is in us? Had he been as indisposed to effect the salvation of mankind as we are to promote that of the heathen, would he have left his glory for them, would he have relinquished all the blessedness which he enjoyed in the bosom of his Father? would he have debased himself to such a degree as to take upon himself their fallen nature? would he have substituted himself in their place, and borne all their iniquities in his own person, and have become a curse for them? for them who, he knew beforehand, would murder him as soon as they should have it in their power? No—Then where would Adam, and all the generations that have passed in succession to the present hour, have been at this moment? They would all, without one single exception, have been wailing and gnashing their teeth in hell: and all future generations to the end of time would have lived only to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and to receive at last their tremendous doom. But, adored be his name! he “looked not on his own things so much as on the things of others:” and, in consequence of his self-denying exertions, millions are already before his throne, and myriads, countless as the sands upon the sea-shore, shall yet be added to their number, to be monuments of his love, and heirs of his glory. Shall we then any longer persist in our supineness? Shall we not rather exert ourselves to the utmost to imitate his love?
Consider, next, how we are indebted to the benevolence of our fellow-creatures. We forbear to notice the kindness of the Apostles, because they were expressly commissioned to preach the Gospel to every creature, whether of their own, or of any other nation. We will rather advert to an instance more immediately parallel to our own case. For many centuries after Christianity was promulged, our ancestors were bowing down to stocks and stones; as we ourselves also should have been, had not some pious Christian come, at the peril of his life, to bring us the glad tidings of salvation. Suppose he had argued, as we are apt to do, ‘What can I do among that savage race? There are people enough of my own country to occupy all my care; and I may fulfil my duty to God among them, without encountering all the difficulties, and exposing myself to the dangers, which I must expect to meet with in such an undertaking.’ How awful, in that case, would have been our present condition! O Christians! think of all that you enjoy in Christ Jesus, your present consolations, your future prospects; think of these things, and say, ‘I owe all, under God, to him who first set his foot on our inhospitable shores, to shew unto us the way of salvation; his example stimulated others; and thus “the handful of corn that was scattered on the tops of the mountains, has grown up like the woods of Lebanon, or the piles of grass upon the earth.” Blessed, for ever blessed, be God for his labours of love!’ Who can tell then what may arise from the labours of one society, or even of a single individual? We may not see very extensive benefits in our day: and probably this was the case with respect to him who first visited Britain. But could he now behold from heaven the fruit of his labours, how would he rejoice! would he think that he had exercised too much self-denial, or patience, or diligence, in the cause of God? Would he repent of his exertions? Would he not rather repent that he had not stepped forward sooner, and been more earnest in this blessed work? Be ye then in earnest, my beloved brethren. We have lost too much time already; and millions, though unconscious of their wants, are now crying to us, as it were, “Come over to India—to Africa—and help us.” O that a holy zeal might this day inflame our breasts; and that we might requite the labours of those who have instructed us, by endeavouring to extend the benefits derived through them, to the remotest corners of the earth!
Consider, further, how Kindly Christ will accept such labours at your hands. He tells us respecting things of a mere temporal nature, that what we have bestowed on others for his sake, he will accept as conferred on himself; “I was hungry, and ye fed me; naked, and ye clothed me; sick and in prison, and ye visited me.” And will he not much more acknowledge himself indebted to us for the spiritual blessings we confer on others? ‘I was in darkness, and ye enlightened me; I was far from God, and ye brought me near; I was perishing, and ye saved me.’ O what a thought is this! how animating! how impressive! Are there any amongst us that will not seek such an honour as this? Stir up yourselves then, my brethren; and let us all join with one heart to secure at least this testimony from our blessed Lord, knowing assuredly that “we shall receive our reward,” not according to our success, but “according to our labour.”
Lastly. Consider, how necessary it is to resemble Christ, if ever we would participate his glory. It is not by our profession that we shall be judged in the last day, but by our true character exhibited in our practice. Think not that the formal, the careless, the supine, shall meet with tokens of God’s acceptance: it is the man who abounds in “works and labours of love for Christ’s sake,” who shall be honoured with the approbation of his Judge. It is not he who bears the name of Christ, but who has within him the mind of Christ, who shall be counted worthy to dwell with him for ever. He himself tells us, that “not he who merely says, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of our Father which is in heaven.”
If then ye cannot be moved by more ingenuous considerations, reflect on this: and tremble, lest after all your profession of Christianity, you prove only as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Let those whose consciences condemn them for their past inactivity, cry mightily to God for the pardon of their sins, and the renovation of their souls. And may God pour out upon us this day a spirit of faith and love; that we may feel a holy ambition to engage in his service: and may all the endeavours, whether of this or any other society, be abundantly blessed, to the enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and to the salvation of many souls! Amen and Amen.
THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST
Philippians 2:9-11. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
WE are told by an inspired Apostle, that the great scope of the prophecies related to “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” To the same points our attention is continually turned in the New Testament. Sometimes they are stated as an accomplishment of prophecy, and as proofs of Christ’s Messiahship: sometimes as grounds of our hope before God: sometimes as motives to stimulate us to duty: sometimes as models, according to which God will work in us: and sometimes as examples, which we are bound to follow: and sometimes as encouragements to follow those examples. It is in this last view that we are to contemplate this stupendous mystery at this time. The Apostle had said, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” To illustrate and enforce this exhortation, he shews how the Lord Jesus Christ had emptied himself of all his own glory, and endured death, even the accursed death of the cross, for the salvation of men: and that in consequence of it he had received such tokens of his Father’s approbation as were commensurate with the sacrifice which he had made. In considering this testimony of his Father’s love, let us mark,
The height to which he was raised—
The Lord Jesus Christ, as God, was incapable of elevation: but, as man, he was raised from the lowest degradation to the highest degrees of glory.
Amidst the depths of his humiliation he was greatly exalted—
[At his baptism he received an audible testimony from heaven, together with a visible communication of the Spirit of God, in attestation of his Messiahship. In all the miracles he wrought, a further testimony was borne to him by the Father. And in his last hours, when in appearance he was even deserted by his heavenly Father, universal nature bore witness to him; the sun going down, as it were, at noon-day; the earth rending and quaking to its very centre; and the most convincing evidence being given to all, that he whom they crucified was indeed the Son of God.]
But it was not till after that period that the exaltation spoken of in the text commenced—
[At his resurrection, he was declared to be the Son of God with power — — — At his ascension, he led captivity itself captive, and, surrounded with myriads of holy angels, went to take possession of his Father’s throne — — — Seated on that, he is elevated above all the works of God’s hands; above men, so as to be “higher than the kings of the earth,” even “King of kings and Lord of lords [Note: Psalms 89:27. Revelation 19:16.]:” and above angels also, “all the principalities and powers of heaven being made subject unto him [Note: 1 Peter 3:22.Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:8-9; Hebrews 1:13.]” — — —]
The text requires us particularly to notice,
The reason of his exaltation—
It was in consequence of his previous humiliation: it was,
As a reward of his sufferings—
[In this view it had been promised to him [Note: Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:10-12.] — — — In this view he himself looked forward to it with intense desire [Note: Hebrews 12:2. Joh 17:4-5] — — — And in this view it was actually conferred upon him [Note: Daniel 7:13-14.Hebrews 1:3-4; Hebrews 1:3-4.] — — —]
As the means of completing the work he had undertaken—
[He was to redeem us, both by price, and by power. On this account, after he had paid the price of our redemption, he was invested with “all power both in heaven and in earth;” and “all things were given into his hands,” that he might order every thing for the accomplishment of his own will, and the furtherance of the work which he had begun. In him was all fulness treasured up, that he might impart unto his people all needful supplies of grace [Note: Ephesians 1:20-22.]; and to him was all authority committed, that he might put all enemies under his feet [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:25.Psalms 110:1-2; Psalms 110:1-2.]. Thus, by his elevation, are his triumphs and the triumphs of all his people, finally and eternally secured.]
But we have further to notice his exaltation in reference to,
The end of it—
It was that he might be the one object,
Of universal adoration—
[Of this he is most worthy, as all the hosts of heaven testify [Note: Revelation 5:11-13.] — — — And it must be paid to him: for God has sworn with an oath, that it shall be paid to him by all in heaven, earth, and hell [Note: Romans 14:11. with Isaiah 45:23.]; or if we will not yield it to him as the voluntary expression of our love, we shall be constrained to acknowledge his right to it, whilst we are suffering under the stroke of his avenging rod [Note: Psalms 2:1-3; Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:9-12.].]
Of unlimited affiance—
[By confessing him to be both Lord and Christ, I understand such a confession as proceeds from unfeigned faith [Note: Romans 10:9-11.]. And to this full affiance is he entitled, both according to his essential nature as God, and in his mediatorial capacity as the Saviour of the world [Note: Isaiah 45:22.]. In what way it is to be manifested, the prophet tells us: “Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.].” As “the Christ,” who died for us, he is our righteousness; and as “the Lord,” who is the Head and Governor of all, we receive out of his fulness all needful supplies of grace and strength.
Nor let it be thought that this direction of our regards to him will derogate at all from the honour of the Father: for, on the contrary, it will be “to the glory of God the Father,” whose wisdom has devised, and whose love has executed, so wonderful a plan for the salvation of men. On this subject we can have no doubt; since our Lord himself has told us, that God’s very design in the whole of this stupendous mystery was, “that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father; and that he who honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who hath sent him [Note: John 5:22-23.].”]
How awful is the state of those who submit not to him!
[We are equally rebels against him, whether we oppose him as Lord, or as Christ; whether we refuse to submit to his righteousness [Note: Romans 10:3.], or to his government. O reflect, ye who are going about to establish a righteousness of your own, What will ye answer to him, when he shall call you to an account for usurping his office, and making void all that he has done and suffered for you? — — — And you, who, whilst professing to trust in him as your Saviour, live in disobedience to his commands, where will you hide your heads, when he shall say, “Bring hither those mine enemies who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me?” Whatever ye may now think, ye cannot invalidate the oath of God: he has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow; and, if ye do it not willingly, ye shall do it against your will, to your everlasting sorrow.
How blessed is the state of his obedient people!
[Shall Christ be exalted to the right hand of God in vain? or will he refuse to impart to you out of his fulness? Fear not: you are committed to his care; and he will not lose one of you; “not one shall ever be plucked out of his hands.” Whatever you need, it is treasured up for you in him; and “his grace shall be sufficient for you.” It may be, that in his service you may be called to endure many things; but if now “he sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied,” be assured that ere long it shall be no grief to you that, you were humbled for a season: for, “if you suffer with him. you shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.Romans 8:17; Romans 8:17.]” in his kingdom for evermore.]
GOD ASSISTS THE DILIGENT
Philippians 2:12-13. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
THERE is no person, however eminent his attainments in religion may be, who does not need to be exhorted and urged to press forward. The Philippians, in the judgment of the Apostle, had had “the good work begun in them;” yea, they had “obeyed the word while he was with them,” and had made a still greater proficiency since his departure from them: yet he animates them to further exertions, and enforces his exhortation with the strongest arguments. Thus should all Christian ministers “put their people in remembrance of these things, notwithstanding they may already know them, or even be established in the truth.” Let us then receive the Apostle’s words as addressed to ourselves in particular, while we consider,
God commands us to “work out our salvation”—
[We are not to imagine that salvation is either the reward of our merits, or the effect of our unassisted exertions; for if, as our Lord assures us, “without him we can do nothing,” it is evident that we are far enough from being able to keep the whole law of God; which yet we must do, if we are to receive heaven on the ground of our own righteousness. Nevertheless we have a work to do, a work of infinite importance, in performing which we are not mere machines, but voluntary agents: and on our performing of that work our salvation depends [Note: See Acts 27:25; Acts 27:31.]. We must consider our ways, repent of sin, believe the Gospel, and devote ourselves to God, not indeed as conceiving ourselves sufficient for these things, but in dependence on that aid, which God will afford to all who seek him in sincerity and truth.]
But we must engage in this work “with fear and trembling”—
[The terms “fear and trembling” do not import a slavish dread and terror, but a holy vigilance and circumspection [Note: This is the meaning of it in every place where it occurs:—see 1Co 2:3. 2Co 7:15 and Ephesians 6:5. That it cannot mean slavish fear is evident from Romans 8:15; Romans 7:6.]. And there is great need of this in working out our salvation. Let us only consider how many lusts we have to mortify, and how many duties to perform; how many temptations we have to withstand, and adversaries to overcome; how prone we are to err, and how many devices Satan uses in order to deceive us; how insufficient we are of ourselves for this great work, and how awful would be the consequences of miscarrying in it; and we shall readily acknowledge that our utmost caution is little enough. St. Paul felt the force of these considerations; and notwithstanding he knew himself to be a chosen vessel unto God, he “kept his body under, and brought it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].”]
That we may all be led to comply with this advice, let us consider,
The argument with which it is enforced—
To see the full force of this argument we must view it,
As a call on our gratitude—
[Having commended the Philippians for their obedience to God, he reminds them, whence it was that they were made to differ from others. They were by nature as destitute of any ability or inclination to serve God as any other people upon earth: but God, of his own good pleasure, and without respect to any thing in them, had given them both to will and to do what was acceptable in his sight. Now this sovereign act of grace laid them under a tenfold obligation to love and serve him: they must be vile indeed, if such love did not constrain them to obedience. Have any of us then been converted by the grace of God, and been “made willing in the day of his power?” Let us consider this mercy as the strongest of all motives for yielding up ourselves as living sacrifices, holy, and acceptable to him, as our reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.]. Are we “a chosen generation, that had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy?” Let us exert ourselves to the utmost to “shew forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9-10.].”]
As an antidote to our fears—
[It is difficult to feel the importance of eternal things, and not give way to secret fears and misgivings, respecting the final success of our present exertions. And indeed, if we were required to work out our salvation by our own strength, we might well yield, not only to fear, but to utter despondency. But the argument urged by the Apostle removes our apprehensions by assuring us, that He, who has given us the will, will also give us the power, to obey him [Note: The text, with Isaiah 41:10.]. It is not to mock us that God has created in us a disposition to what is good: it is not to abandon us at last that he has hitherto given “grace sufficient for us:” his past favours are an earnest and pledge of others yet to come: he will continue to “strengthen us in our inward man,” and will “perfect his own strength in our weakness [Note: Philippians 4:13. with 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” Let us then acknowledge the force of the argument in this view; and, assured that “our strength shall be according to our day,” let us “be steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.].”]
As an incentive to vigilance—
[Since it is “God who gives us both to will and to do, and that entirely of his own good pleasure,” we must of necessity be altogether dependent on him; if he keep us we shall stand: if he leave us, we shall fall. Now God is a jealous God; and will surely manifest his displeasure if we walk unwatch-fully before him. We may easily “grieve his Spirit [Note: Ephesians 4:30.];” yea, if we continue in wilful habits of neglect, or in any allowed sin, we may “quench his Spirit [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:19.];” for he has warned us that “his Spirit shall not always strive with man [Note: Genesis 6:3.];” and that, “if we rebel and vex his Holy Spirit, he will turn and become our enemy [Note: Isaiah 63:10. Exodus 23:21.].” The Israelites, who, notwithstanding they were brought out of Egypt, and fed with manna from heaven, perished in the wilderness, are set forth as examples to us [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:11.]. And to many under temporal or spiritual afflictions may that pungent question be addressed, “Hast thou not procured this to thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord, when he led thee by the way [Note: Jeremiah 2:17.]?” Well may this consideration stir us up to watchfulness and circumspection, lest by intermitting our labours, and relaxing our exertions in the work of our salvation, we bring upon ourselves his heavy displeasure [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:2.].]
From hence we may see,
The beauty and harmony of Scripture doctrines—
[Our entire dependence on divine grace, together with the absolute sovereignty of God in the distribution of his favours, are here clearly stated. Yet the necessity of our working out our own salvation is as strongly declared, as if every thing depended on our own efforts. Now these are often set in opposition to each other, as though they were contrary and inconsistent doctrines. But God sees no inconsistency in them; nor shall we, if we only once learn to receive the Scriptures with the simplicity of little children, instead of presuming to be wise above what is written. On the contrary, the two doctrines are perfectly harmonious; nor is there any stronger argument for exertions on our part, than the freeness and sufficiency of God’s grace. Let us not then set altar against altar, and doctrine against doctrine, but join in our experience those things which God has indissolubly united, and which are equally essential to our eternal welfare.]
The folly of the excuses which men urge in justification of their own supineness—
[One says, It is in vain for me to attempt working, unless God work in me both to will and to do what he commands. But will any man forbear to plough and sow his ground, because he cannot ensure a harvest? We are to work out our salvation to the utmost of our power, and to call upon God for all necessary assistance: it is in activity, and not in sloth, that we are to expect his aid; “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ will give thee light;” and if we will not put forth the little strength we have, we must reap to all eternity the bitter fruits of our own supineness.
Another says, I need not concern myself much about the present state of my soul; for if God has ordained me to life, I shall live; and if he has begun the good work in me, he will carry it on. But to what purpose has God enjoined fear and trembling, if we are at liberty to indulge such a presumptuous confidence, as this? It is true, that “God will keep the feet of his saints;” but it is by fear and trembling that he will keep them; his injunctions are, “Be not high-minded, but fear [Note: Romans 11:20.].” And, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:12.].”
Let not then the doctrines of grace be so perverted and abused: but let us exert ourselves, as if we could do all; and depend on God, as knowing that, without him, we can do nothing]
The firmness of the believer’s hopes—
[While the believer is maintaining continual watchfulness and care, he still enjoys peace in his soul, and oftentimes “a full assurance of hope.” But on what is his hope founded? Is it on his own resolution, zeal, and steadfastness? Nothing is further from his mind: he relies on the sovereignty, the power, and the faithfulness of his God. God’s grace is his own, and he disposes of it according to his own good pleasure; therefore the believer, while he feels himself the most unworthy of the human race, hopes that “God will shew forth the exceeding riches of his grace in acts of kindness towards him.” “God is able to keep him from falling; and therefore the believer says, “I know in whom I have believed, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.].” And lastly, God has confirmed his promise with an oath; and therefore they who have fled for refuge to the Lord Jesus, have strong consolation; because it is impossible for God to lie; and he is faithful who hath promised [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.]. Thus we see that the weakest Christian stands on a rock, which defies all the storms and tempests that ever can assail it. “Let us then be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” and look to him to “fulfil in us all the good pleasure of his will,” and to “preserve us blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.”]
PRACTICAL RELIGION ENFORCED
Philippians 2:14-16. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
THERE are times for laying the foundations of religion; and there are times for raising the superstructure. Neither the one nor the other must be neglected, since they are both equally necessary to the completion of the sacred edifice which is to be erected in the soul. St. Paul paid due attention to them both. “As a wise master-builder, he laid the foundation” with all possible care, declaring, that though an angel from heaven were to announce any other ground of hope than the Lord Jesus Christ, he must not be credited, but rather must be held accursed. So extreme was his jealousy upon this point, that, when the Apostle Peter sanctioned, by his conduct, a sentiment that militated against the doctrine of salvation by faith, he rebuked him openly before the whole Church. On the other hand, this holy Apostle was not at all less jealous respecting the performance of good works. In all his epistles, he inculcates the indispensable necessity of them, in order to our final happiness; and in most of them he enters very minutely into the different duties which we are to perform to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. In the beginning of this chapter he had recommended lowliness of mind [Note: ver. 3, 4.]; which he afterwards enforced from the example of Christ [Note: ver. 5–8.]. He here continues the same subject, and inculcates a constant exercise of humility towards both God and man, as the best means of adorning our profession, and of securing to ourselves the blessedness which we look for in the eternal world. Pride fosters in the soul a murmuring disposition towards God, and a contentious disposition towards man. Humility counteracts them both. Hence he says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings;” engage in every thing with a mind full of submission to God, and of love to man; that whatever difficulties you may have to contend with, there may be nothing in your conduct unworthy of your high and holy profession, nothing that shall endanger your eternal welfare.
To enter properly into the subject before us, it will be necessary for us to consider,
The principles which are here assumed—
Notwithstanding his jealousy on the subject of faith, he does not hesitate to declare,
That the practical efficacy of religion should be the chief object of our attention now—
[It was so to the Jews of old. They possessed the highest privileges as God’s chosen people, and had ordinances divinely appointed for their stated observance: yet neither their privileges nor their observances availed them any thing, without holiness of heart and life: their circumcision, whilst they were disobedient to the law, was as uncircumcision. To those who boasted that they were Abraham’s seed, and therefore children of God, our Lord said, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham;” and, “If God were your Father, ye would love me.” To the same test must our pretensions also be brought. It is in vain for us to “cry, Lord, Lord, if we do not the things which our Lord commands.” It is by our obedience to his will that our blessed Lord estimates our love: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:” and again, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” On keeping of God’s commandments, so great a stress is laid, that it is made the one discriminating point between the children of God and the children of the devil. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of God [Note: 1 John 3:6-10.].” Nor is any profession or privilege available for our eternal welfare without it: for “circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping the commandments of God [Note: 1Co 7:19 and 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:7.].”]
That it will be the chief object of inquiry at the day of judgment—
[If the Gospel produce not this effect, it is preached in vain; and they who dispense it, “labour in vain.” As now the tree is judged of by its fruits, so will it be “at the day of Christ.” In the account given us by our Lord himself, we are forewarned what will be the grounds of his decision, when he shall judge the world: those whose religion was productive of good works, will be approved and rewarded in proportion to their works: but those who lived in the neglect of good works, will be disapproved and punished. Whatever professions any may have made of faith and love, they will be brought to this test; and according to it they will be justified or condemned. Doubtless respect will be had to the principles from which their works have proceeded: for “God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart:” but the works of all will he viewed as evidences of their internal dispositions, and will form the ground of the judgment which shall be pronounced upon them.]
These principles being established, let us proceed to consider,
The practice which is here inculcated—
We must not undervalue what may be called negative holiness; for, in truth, it is that which constitutes in a great measure the excellence of the saints. The absence of a murmuring disposition, is to a certain degree the same as positive contentment; and the absence of a contentious disposition as positive love. But it is not a low degree of these virtues that we are to seek after:
We should walk as lights in a dark world—
[It would ill become “the children of God” to walk as children of Belial: on the contrary, they should be patterns to the whole world; and should “give no occasion whatever to their enemies to speak reproachfully.” They should be “blameless and harmless, and without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse world.” Nor let this be thought a low attainment. Considering what an ensnaring world we move in, and what depraved and perverse creatures we have to deal with, it is no easy matter so to walk that no man may have any fault to find with us but concerning the law of our God. Such conduct requires incessant vigilance and circumspection on our part, and no small measure of grace from the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we should shine as lights in a dark world, “holding forth” in the whole of our conduct and conversation “the word of life.” On every side of us there are rocks and quicksands, which prove destructive to thousands, who navigate this tempestuous ocean: and, whilst endeavouring to avoid them ourselves, we should so steer our course, as to perform the office of lights, or light-houses, to others; that they, following our luminous path, may escape the dangers that surround them, and reach in safety the haven of rest. This is the true view in which Christians should consider themselves: they are intended to be witnesses for God, and “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men.” They are so to walk, that others may see clearly in them a transcript of the mind and will of God; and that, conforming themselves to their example, they may advance daily in the paths of righteousness and grace]
This alone will answer the end of ministerial exertions—
[Pastors are appointed for the perfecting of the saints: and unless this be accomplished by the word, it is preached in, vain: instead of proving to the hearers “a savour of life unto life, it will be to them a savour of death unto death.” Till a minister beholds this change wrought in his people, he must of necessity stand in doubt of them [Note: Galatians 4:11; Galatians 4:19-20.]: but when it is wrought in them, he may well rejoice over them, seeing that they shall surely be his joy and crown of rejoicing in the last day [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20.]. Yes;, blessed indeed will be the meeting which he will have with them in that day: he will recognize them as his spiritual children, and present them unto God, saying, Here am “I, and the children thou hast given me.”]
In conclusion, I will,
Guard against any misapprehension of this subject—
[Though we affirm that our works will be the ground of God’s judgment in the last day, we would not be understood to intimate, that there is, or can be, any merit in our works. It is not for any worthiness in them that we are saved, but solely for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, and brought in an everlasting righteousness for our justification before God. Our works, it is true, will be the test by which our sincerity will be tried, and the standard to which the measure of our reward will be conformed: but it is not for our blamelessness that we shall be accepted; nor will any thing be conferred upon us on the ground of merit: the whole will be a reward of grace, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through his obedience unto death. It is highly necessary that this matter should be clearly seen, lest our very virtues become a snare to us, and we perish at last by rejecting the salvation provided for us.]
Give directions for attaining the state to which we are called—
[It can be attained only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: for it is only by faith that we can be united to him, and only by union with him that we can bring forth fruit to his glory. He himself tells us, that “without him, that is, separate from him, we can do nothing.” If we attempt any thing in our own strength, we shall fail. But “through Christ strengthening us, we can do all things.” To him therefore we must look; and of him we must say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” Relying on him, we shall never be confounded. Our trials may be great; but we shall be enabled to bear them: our difficulties may be great; but we shall be enabled to surmount them. Nothing shall be impossible to us, if only we live by faith in him. In the midst of temptations we shall “be preserved blameless,” and our “light shall shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”]
MINISTERIAL ZEAL DEPICTED
Philippians 2:17-18. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
THE hope of benefiting immortal souls is most delightful to a benevolent mind; and a successful issue to our labours is replete with joy. The disciple who was honoured with his Master’s love beyond all others, even he knew “no greater joy than to see his children walk in truth [Note: 3 John, ver. 4.].” This accounts for the extreme earnestness with which St. Paul laboured for the salvation of men, and for their sake. He knew, that, even in the eternal world, it would augment his happiness to see that he had been instrumental in saving others; and that “he should rejoice in the day of Christ, when he found that he had not laboured in vain, or run in vain [Note: ver. 15, 16.].” Indeed, so entirely was he swallowed up in the prosperity of his converts, that he was ready even to die for them, if need were; yea, and to welcome the most cruel death as a blessing, rather than to deprecate it as an evil, if only it might be subservient to the welfare of their souls. This is a most remarkable assertion: and, for the purpose of unfolding it, I will shew,
What was the event which is here so gladly welcomed—
The event itself was martyrdom—
[The terms in which he speaks of martyrdom need explanation amongst us; but to Christians of that day, conversant as they were with the Jewish ritual, they would convey his meaning in a most intelligible and striking form.
The Jews had sacrifices offered every morning and every evening throughout the year. Upon these sacrifices were offered a meat-offering of flour mingled with oil, and a drink-offering of wine [Note: Numbers 28:3-7.]. Now, these sacrifices represented, not only the Great Sacrifice which was in due time to be offered for the sins of men, but Christians themselves, who, at the time of their conversion, are given up to Almighty God to serve him, and to glorify his name. The ministers who were instrumental in bringing them to Christ were, so to speak, the priests who offered them up: in conformity with which idea, St. Paul speaks of being the “minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost [Note: Romans 15:16.].” But, in the passage before us there is a peculiar beauty: for the people are regarded, not only as the sacrifice that was offered, but as the priests that offered it; since, in the very act of believing, they performed that service, which, in other sacrifices, was performed by the priest [Note: ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν.]. And this is the very thing noticed by St. Paul in another place, when he beseeches men to “present their own bodies a living sacrifice unto God, as an acceptable and reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” This, too, is beautifully intimated by the Prophet Isaiah, as characterizing, in a very eminent degree, the millennial period, when converts will shew an extraordinary readiness to devote themselves to God: “All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee (not waiting for a priest to lead them, but presenting themselves for sacrifice at the foot of the altar); they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar; and I will glorify the house of my glory [Note: Isaiah 60:7.].”
‘Now,’ says the Apostle, ‘since I have seen you so willingly present yourselves as sacrifices to the Lord, I am willing to have my own blood poured forth as a libation or drink-offering, that so every one of your sacrifices may be complete, and God may be glorified in us all. And, whoever be the instrument to draw forth my blood, or with whatever horrors the shedding of it may be accompanied, I account that not worth a thought: I am in daily expectation of suffering martyrdom; and I am willing to suffer it for your sake, in any way that God himself shall see fit.’]
This he was ready to welcome as a ground of joy—
[Doubtless, to flesh and blood, the prospect of a cruel death was terrific. But the Apostle was borne up far above all the feelings of unassisted nature, and was enabled to contemplate the deepest sufferings with joy: he could look forward to death itself, not as an object of terror, but as a ground of universal joy. For, with respect to his converts, though it would deprive them of his instructions, and rob them of their dearest friend, yet it would tend to confirm them in the faith they had received, and would embolden them to serve the Lord without fear, yea, and with tenfold greater earnestness than ever. With respect to Jehovah, too, it would reflect on him the highest honour: for, though by the murderers, he would be dishonoured, by the victim he would be glorified; since it would be made obvious to all, how worthy he is to be loved and served, and how able he is to succour his tempted people under all that they may be called to suffer for his sake. And with respect to himself, death in such a cause would be the highest honour that could be conferred upon him [Note: Acts 5:41.]; and he had no doubt but that a proportionably augmented weight of glory would be awarded to him at the tribunal of his God [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. Matthew 5:11-12.Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 11:26.].
Under these circumstances, death had no terrors for him: on the contrary, however his blood should be shed, he called on them to rejoice, both with him and for him; since the event, properly viewed, would be no other than a ground of mutual congratulation.]
Let us next consider,
What the welcoming of such an event should teach us—
The Apostle’s spirit and conduct differ widely from that patriotic ardour which has wrought up many to the contempt of death. Pride has been in them the chief incentive, and the hope of immortalizing their own memory. As for the love of immortal souls, it has never once entered into their minds; nor have they shewn any desire that God should be glorified in them. But, in the Apostle, piety to God, and love to man, were the great principles in operation; and self was as much forgotten, as if he had known that the record which he had given of his views would perish with him. His exalted feelings on this occasion shew us,
The value of the soul—
[Of what incalculable value must their souls have been in the Apostle’s eyes, when, for the advancement of their welfare, he was ready to welcome even martyrdom itself! Yet were his views perfectly correct: for the soul of any individual whatever is of more value than the whole world. Beloved brethren, if another person could do and suffer so much for you, what ought not you to do or suffer for the welfare of your own souls? Should it be any difficulty to you to devote yourselves to God? or should you regard, for one moment, the contempt or obloquy which you may incur for His sake? Methinks, you are blushing for your lukewarmness and cowardice: you are ashamed, that the things of time and sense can retain such influence over your minds. And, in truth, well may the most diligent amongst us be ashamed, when we think how near we are on the borders of eternity; and what a sacrifice they must become to the justice of God hereafter, who have not surrendered themselves as living sacrifices to his honour in the present world.]
The wonderful love of the Lord Jesus Christ to our sinful race—
[This which is spoken of in my text has been done for us by our Lord Jesus Christ; of whom it is said, “He poured out his soul unto death [Note: Isaiah 53:12.].” He even came from heaven for this very purpose, and assumed our nature that he might be capable of doing it. And this he did too, not merely as a witness for the truth, or as an example to the Church, but as an atonement for the sins of all mankind. On him were laid the iniquities of us all: and, when he saw what a bloody baptism he was to be baptized with, he was quite straitened until it should be accomplished; so ardently did he desire the wished-for period. Nor was it for friends and brethren that he poured forth his blood, but for his very enemies, even for the very people who nailed him to the cross: and this too, not in the midst of consolations and supports, but under a sense of God’s wrath, and in the depths of dereliction. O! who can tell what manner of love this was? Truly, its height and depth, and length and breadth, are utterly unsearchable, and incomprehensible. Brethren, you contemplate with wonder and gratitude the example of St. Paul: but what must you think of our Lord Jesus Christ? I charge you, beloved brethren, be not insensible of this: but set it before you, and meditate upon it, till it has penetrated your inmost souls, and “filled you with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].”]
What is the proper character of a Christian minister—
[Even a private Christian ought not to fall short of the example before us: for St. John says, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren [Note: 1 John 3:16.].” What then becomes the Christian minister, who has consecrated himself to the service of the sanctuary, and bound himself, by the most solemn ties, to live only for his God! The union of love and zeal which the Apostle manifested on this occasion should be visible in the whole of his walk before God; so that at all times he may appeal to his people as the Apostle did; “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children; so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8.].” O that there were in us such a heart as this! What blessings should we be to the places where our lot is cast!
And how ready should we be to go forth, wherever our God may call us; accounting nothing of the trials that may await us, even though life itself were the sacrifice that we were called to make. Dear brethren, let it not be said of you, “All men seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ [Note: ver. 21.];” but beg of God that you may rise to your proper character; and be enabled to “follow the Apostle, as he followed Christ.”]
THE SELFISHNESS OF MAN
Philippians 2:21. All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.
CANDOUR is a virtue that should be held in the highest estimation: but, if pressed beyond its proper limits, it will degenerate into indifference, and be productive of incalculable evil. It ought not to confound all distinctions between good and evil; or to betray the interests of religion, through a tenderness for the character of those who violate its dictates. Its office relates rather to the motives, than to the actions, of men. Their actions are to be tried by the standard of God’s law: their principles are known to God alone: and it is the part of candour to make due allowance for the frailties of men; and to ascribe every thing to good motives, as far as the actions themselves, and the circumstances attending them, will admit of it. As for that latitudinarian principle which is falsely called candour, the Scriptures know nothing of it; nor do they countenance it in any degree. They uniformly assign to good and to evil their true and proper characters, without any respect to those who commit them: and oftentimes they speak in broad, unqualified terms, where they might, if God had seen fit, have made limitations and exceptions. In applying such passages, however, to existing circumstances, there is undoubtedly just scope for the exercise of candour. And this we shall have occasion to shew, in discussing the subject before us.
St. Paul was now a prisoner at Rome, not knowing whether he should be liberated or put to death. In this state, he was extremely anxious about his converts at Philippi, who were themselves in a state of great suffering from enemies, whilst they were exposed to the more fatal assaults of pretended friends, who laboured to turn them from the faith. He longed exceedingly to know how they stood their ground; and wished to draw his information from a source which he could fully depend on. But he had only Timothy with him; and how to part with so dear a friend, under his present circumstances, he knew not. Yet, on the whole, he determined to exercise this self-denial; and to send Timothy to encourage them, and to bring him the desired information: for he had “no man with him that was like-minded with Timothy, who would naturally care for their state; for all others who were around him sought their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ.”
It may be asked, How then came he to bestow such commendations on Epaphroditus, and to send this letter by him? I answer, Epaphroditus was “a messenger,” who had come to him from Philippi; and who could not be expected to come back again to Rome, to bring him the desired information: and therefore he was not included in the foregoing censure; which was intended only to be applied to the Christians at Rome, who, in his deepest extremity, had forsaken him; and had thereby shewn, that they felt a greater regard for their own safety, than for the honour of their Lord [Note: 2 Timothy 4:16.].
That we may do justice to all, in our treatment of this subject, we will consider the Apostle’s asertion,
Literally, in reference to the ungodly world—
To these it is applicable in its full extent. Fallen man is wholly departed from God; and is become altogether selfish; seeking at all times his own things,
[One would have supposed, that man, however fallen, should at least have given a precedence to his God: but he chooses rather to be a god unto himself, and to consult, in the first place, what will be most conducive to his own ease, or interest, or honour. If the gratification of self, in any respect, be found contrary to the declared will of God, the authority of God is set at nought; the honour of God overlooked, as unimportant; and the pleasure, whatever it may be, is pursued, without restriction or remorse. From their fellow-man, indeed, they feel some restraint; but from God, none at all. As far as he is concerned, they say, “Our lips are our own: Who is lord over us [Note: Psalms 12:4.]?” Nor is this on some particular occasion only: it is the prevailing habit of their minds: and, whensoever the will of God is opposed to theirs, they do not hesitate to say, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I obey his voice [Note: Exodus 5:2.].”]
[In truth, man in his fallen state does not admit any competition between God and him. He chooses rather to “cast God behind his back [Note: Ezekiel 23:35.],” and to live “without him in the world [Note: Ephesians 2:12.].” “The things of Jesus Christ” do not at all engage his thoughts. He never asks himself, ‘What would the Lord Jesus Christ wish me to do? What will please him? What will honour him? What will advance his glory in the world?’ These are considerations which never enter into his mind. Nor is this the case with any one particular description of persons only: it is the same with all persons, of every age, of every country, of every condition. From infancy to old age there is the same regard for self, to the utter exclusion of every thing that relates to Christ. There may be indeed, and often is, in ungodly men, a great concern about their own sect or party in the Church; which they, perhaps, would call a regard for Christ himself. But this is nothing more than a carnal principle, precisely similar to that which actuates men in relation to their own society or country. There is in it no real regard for the Lord Jesus Christ himself, but only for the particular party to which they belong: and, whatever construction they may put upon their actions, God, who tries the heart, will comprehend them under the censure of my text, as “seeking their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ.” “They are empty vines, because they bring forth fruit only to themselves [Note: Hosea 10:1.].”]
But the Apostle had very different persons in view. To understand his assertion aright, we must consider it,
Constructively, in reference to the Church of Christ—
Beyond all doubt, he referred, in his own mind, to all the Christians at Rome. But we are not to suppose that there was not one amongst them that was possessed of true piety: we must rather suppose, that their piety was of an inferior order, and that there was not amongst them any one duly qualified for the work which he would gladly have assigned him. They were all too timid, and too selfish, for the office to which, for want of any other suitable person, he had destined his beloved Timothy. Hence, in somewhat strong terms, he complained of them, as “seeking their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ;” not intending thereby to deny their piety altogether, but only to intimate that it was at a low ebb. And how applicable this reproof is to the professors of our day, will clearly appear, whilst we observe how little there is amongst us,
[In whatever is gratifying to self, we are all forward enough: but if we foresee that the path of duty will involve us in difficulties and trials, we are ready to make any excuse for declining to pursue it. We dread the thought of sacrificing our present comforts, and of encountering hardships of any kind. Instead of “counting all things but loss for Christ,” we pause long before we will part with any thing: and we desire, for the most part, to have as cheap a religion as we can. The Apostle, giving us a catalogue of his sufferings for Christ, (in which he far exceeded any other of the Apostles,) says, “I was in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren: in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:23-27.].” But what effect did they produce on him? Was he deterred by them from following the Lord? No: “None of these things move me,” says he, “neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy [Note: Acts 20:24.].” And is this the spirit that obtains amongst us? Alas! alas! if we were called to endure but a twentieth part of his difficulties, it is much to be feared that the generality amongst us would utterly faint and fail; and, like John Mark, would turn back from the service of our God [Note: Acts 13:13; Acts 15:38.].]
Of zeal for God—
[In persons redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son, one might expect that there should be one constant inquiry, “What shall I render to my Lord?” and that the performance of one service should be regarded only as an introduction to another. Laborious as was the Apostle Paul, he never thought that he had done any thing, as long as any thing remained for him to do. “Like a racer in his course, he forgot what was behind, and reached forward to that which was before.” Whatever the service was to which he was called, “he conferred not with flesh and blood,” and said immediately, “Here am I; send me [Note: Isaiah 6:8.]” But how little of this ardour do we see in the great mass of professing Christians! The advancement of Christ’s kingdom appears to them a matter too remote to engage their attention; and they cloke their own indifference under the specious garb of conscious inability.]
Of love to man—
[This was particularly in the mind of the Apostle as a very chief ground of his censure: “I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state.” A concern for the welfare of men’s souls was scarcely found amongst them, especially such a tender concern as a person feels for the welfare of his dearest relative [Note: γιησίως.]. Were we to behold one who was dear to us in imminent danger, we should feel acutely for him: but we see millions perishing in their sins, and yet lay it not to heart, and are scarcely more grieved about them than if we had reason to believe them in a state of perfect safety. Far different is the manner in which we regard our own things. If we were doomed to suffer the loss but of a finger only, it would press with considerable weight upon our minds: but we can behold persons, on every side of us, going down to perdition, without making any serious effort to deliver them.]
See then, here, what ground we have,
[How has it been with us? What has been the state of our minds towards the Lord Jesus Christ? Have we found our own concerns swallowed up, as it were, in a concern for him and his glory? Can we adopt, even in the most qualified sense, that expression of the Psalmist, “The zeal of thine house has even consumed me [Note: Psalms 69:9.]!” Remember, I pray you, that every thing should be subordinated to Christ, and be regarded only as dung and dross in comparison of him. Our blessed Lord tells us, that “if we hate not father and mother, yea, and our own life also, in comparison of him, we cannot be his disciples [Note: Luke 14:26.].” Surely, after such a declaration as this, we should examine our state with all diligence, and never rest till we can say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.”]
[Let us turn our eyes to our great Exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.].” To this the Apostle particularly adverts, in the preceding context: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: ver. 4–8.].” Here, you see, is our pattern. But what resemblance do we bear to him? The leaving of all the glory of heaven, the taking of our nature with all its sinless infirmities, the dying under the weight of our sins, even of the sins of the whole world, were not too great acts of self-denial for him to perform; and that, too, even for his enemies. But we, what have we done? What have we suffered, for the glory of Christ, and the salvation of men? Say, whether we all have not reason to blush and be ashamed at our extreme want of conformity to him in these respects?]
[Selfishness is an evil peculiarly subtle, and veils its own malignity under the most specious names and pretexts. We may see this in the persons who came to our Lord, professing a great regard for him, and a fixed determination to serve him. One said, “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest;” but was deterred from executing his purpose, when our Lord told him, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Another, when bidden by our Lord to follow him, requested that this might be dispensed with for a season, that he might go home and bury his father. A third made great professions of his readiness to follow Christ; but desired, that he might first go home, and bid his friends farewell [Note: Luke 9:57-60.]. To all of these our Lord gave such replies as were calculated to expose and counteract the delusions by which they were blinded. And were our excuses tried, as they will ere long be, by the same touchstone, how vain would they appear! Pleas of duty or affection are often brought forth to justify the secret backwardness which we feel to encounter difficulties for the Lord. But the mask will soon be taken off, and our selfishness will appear in all its naked deformity. Beware then, brethren, lest ye deceive your own souls; and, whilst the fidelity of others is questioned, let it be said of you, as it was of Timothy, “Ye know the proof of him [Note: ver. 22.].” Let your whole life be a comment on that declaration of the Apostle, “None of us liveth to himself; and no man dieth unto himself; but whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].” Only take care that, in your experience, it be “Christ to live;” and you need never fear but that it shall be “gain to die [Note: Philippians 1:21.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Philippians 2". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29