« הקודםהמשך »
REFLECTIONS. Amidst the numberless mercies with which, through the indulgence of our heavenly Father, we are daily surrounded, what can demand our humble and grateful acknowledgments more than our participation of the gospel? To whatever afflictions it may expose us, or whatever we may be called to sacrifice to its interests, every day in which we share its comforts and supports, calls aloud for our praises, both in the enjoyment and in the recollection. And whilst we look back with these sentiments of gratitude, let us look forwards with cheerful confidence. It is to God's having begun a good work in us, that we are to ascribe it, that the glorious gospel of his Son is our joy and our wonder, rather than our aversion and our scorn. We may therefore be humbly confident, that he will not forsake the work of his own hands, but will finish it, so that it shall appear worthy of himself in the great day of the Lord.--No wonder that, where this blessed work is begun, there is a great affection between those who were the instruments of producirrg it, and those in whom it is produced. No wonder if Paul made mention of these his Christian converts at Philippi, in every prayer of his, offering up requests for them, and praying for the increase of their hope and love. No wonder, on the other side, if their hearts were tenderly set upon him, and that, distant as he was, he seemed to lodge there, and their tinder cure followed him through every circumstance of his bonds and apology ; so that his sufferings and dangers were even more painful to them than their own : while he on his part longed for them all in the bowels of the Lord, and could conceive of no greater charm in liberty itself than that it might give him opportunity of cultivating so endearing a friendship by personal converse.--The increase of love founded on knowledge, and attended with other sentiments of experimental religion, is to be numbered among the best of apostolic blessings. Every experience of these things will confirm our resolution of maintaining that godly sincerity, which will render our conversation unblamable, and our account in the day of the Lord comfortable. To glorify God by the fruits of righteousness, is the great end for which these rational natures were given us; and it is by the exercise of lively faith in Christ that these dispositions are cultivated, and these fruits rendered most abundant.
He informs them how his imprisonment had been, and would be, over-ruled
for the service of the gospel. Ch. i. 12-20.
TAM convinced of your tender affiction for me in my imprison. 12 I ment : But I would have you to kno, brethren, that the things
relating to me, have fallen out rather to the advancement of the 13 gospel ; so that my bonds in Christ are manifested in all the palace 14 of Cæsar, and in all other places. And many of the brethren in
the Lord were enboldened by my bonds to venture with much 15 more undaunted courage to preach the word. Indeed some
preach Christ even from envy and contention to maintain a party
16 opposite to me; while others do it out of sincere affection. The
first indeed preach Christ out of strife, not with simplicity, desi17 rous to add affliction to my bonds. ; whereas others preach out
of love, as they know that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? Yet every way, whether in pretence or in truth,
Christ is preached ; and in this I rejoice, yea and I will rejoice. 19 For I know that even this opposition shall issue in my salvation, 20 by your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ ; ac
cording to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall in nothing be ashamed ; but that by all freedom of speech, as always, 80 now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or in death.
REFLECTIONS. How admirable is the conduct of divine providence ! and in how beautiful a manner does it often work the purposes it wisely and graciously determines, by events which scem to have the most contrary tendency ! Who could have imagined that the imprisonment of St. Paul should have been effectual to the advancement of Christianity ? Thus can God animate and encourage his servants, by the extremity which their brethren suffer in his cause ; so that they shall war confident by their bonds and their martyrdom. Let this then reconcile us to all the allotments of providence, and establish us in an earnest ex pectation and hope that Christ will be glorified in all things by us, whether by our life or death : and who, that knows the grace of God in truth, would not rejoice even in death itself, if the gracious Redeemer, who gave his own life for us, may thereby be magnified ?
How execrable the temper of those who preached Christ out of envy and contention, and managed a ministry which should have breathed nothing but love, in a view of adding affliction to those bonds that oppressed this best of men ! But how generous and amiable the disposition which the apostle expresses when he rejoices in this, that Christ was preached, though the purposes with regard to him were so unkind! These are the wonders which the love of Jesus produces in the soul; thus doth it empty us of every malignant passion, and reconcile us to the most disagreeable events, that may advance his interests. Where such principles inspire the breast, the faithful servants of Jesus will find their own account, while they are wholly intent on his honour. All these events shall turn to their salvation ; but let it be remembered, that it is through the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ which sanctifies to us every circumstance through which we pass. That these supplies may be imparted, let us unite our prayers in favour of all who love our common Lord in sincerity.
Paul declares his desire to be with Christ, and yet his readiness to continue here for his Lord's service ; desiring 'to hear that they maintained the honour of their Christian character. Ch. i. 21—30.
21 L OR to me to live is Christ ; to serve him is the supreme end of 22 T my life; and consequently, to die is gain. And if I live
longer in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour, to promote his 23 cause. And which I should choose, I know not : for I am borne
two different ways, having a desire to be unbound*, and to be with 24 Christ, which is better beyond all expression. But to abide in 25 the flesh is more expedient for you. And having this confidence,
I know that I shall abide and continue with you all, in order to 26 the advancement of your faith and joy; that your rejoicing in me
may, in Christ Jesus, be more abundant by my coming among 27 you again. Only let your conversationt be as becometh the gos
pel of Christ ; that whether I come to visit you, or be long absent,
I may hear concerning you, that ye stand fast in one spirit, striv28 ing together with one soul for the faith of the gospel ; and not in
any degree terrified by the fury of your enemiest: which is to
them an evident token of destruction ; but to you of salvation, and 29 that from God. For it is granted to you, as a favour, on the part
of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his 30 sake ; having the same struggle as ye saw in me, and now hear to
be in me.
REFLECTIONS. How happy must that man be, who can truly say that to him to live is Christ, and to die gain! What a blessed alternative is before him, and how cheerfully may he leave it to providence to decide which of the two shall be appointed for him! And yet how vain must life be, and how miserable death, to that man who cannot say it! He that gathereth not with Christ, scattereth abroad ; and when death comes to such an one, it is the loss of all, attended with the final, and alas ! the eternal loss of himself. While the good man pronounces it better, beyond all comparison, to depart, that he may be with Christ, and submits only to continue in life, as the part in which self-denying duty requires him to acquiesce. But, 0! how unworthy the Christian character, to be averse to so advantageous a remove! To be unwil. ling, and that even on such terms, to depart and to be with Christ ! As if any converse, any friendship, any enjoyment, any hope here, were comparable ; yea, as if it were preferable to serving him in his
* To weigh anchor and set sail for eternity. The original has an allusion to a ship stationed at a particular place, liable to be forced to sea by violent winds. + The word literally signifies, to behave as citizens.
It is to be borne in mind, that they were now in a suffering state, as this illustrates several masterly strckes in the apostle's address to them.
immediate presence, under the everlasting tokens of his acceptance and delight.
But if that Master, whom we have the honour to serve, determine to us an abode here for months and years to come, and his church may receive advantage by it, ill shall we requite his love, wlio quitted heaven for this sinful and wretched earth of ours, if we are unwil. ling for a while to wait till he shall call us up to himself. Very deficient shall we be in that gratitude and zeal which we owe him if we find not something of a heaven begun even below, in doing what may be pleasing to him, in managing his interest, with such degrees of ability as he shall be pleased to honour us with, and so training up others to a meetness for those enjoyments which he hath taught us by his grace to expect and pursue.- Whatever our stations may be, whether in public or private life, let it be our care in every circumstance and relation, that our conversation may be as becometh the gose pel; that we may adorn so holy a profession, and answer so glorious a hope. If opposition arise, let it not terrify us. It will, if well supported, be a token of salvation, and that of God. Let us account it an honour, and the gift of the divine favour to us, to be called and strengthened to suffer for his sake. So were the prophets, so were the apostles, dignified. We have heard of their noble contentions, that we might emulate them ; and well may we do it, since we have the same author, finisher, and support of our faith, and hope to partake of the same exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Exhortations to unanimity, candour, and a tender care for each other's inter
est, enforced by the condescending love of our blessed Redeemer. Ch. ii. 1-16.
ITF therefore there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of
I love, if any communication of the Spirit, if any bowels and 2 compassions, complete my joy ; for I am exceeding desirous that
ye may be unanimous, maintaining the same love, having your
souls joined together in attending to the one thing, the advance3 ment of holiness. Let nothing be done out of contention, or from
vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind, esteeming others as more 4 excellent than yourselves. Do not every one aim at his own 5 interests, but each of you also at the interests of others. Let the 6 same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who being
in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be and appear as 7 God* ; nevertheless emptied himself of this glory ; taking upon
* Soca Otw is most exactly rendered. The proper phrase for equal to God is bov TH Oew, John v. 18.-Bp. Burnet well observes, “ the Socinian interpretation is insipid, as if it were a mighty proof of humility that though Christ wrought miracles, he did not set up for supreme deity.” The apostle's design here is (as Prirce observes) not to caution the Philippians against coveting what they had no right to, but to engage them, after the example of Christ, to give up their own right for the advantage of others.
him the form of a servant, when made in the likeness of men ; 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming 9 obedient even unto death, the death of the cross. Therefore God
hath exalted him to the most eminent dignity, and granted him a 10 name superior to every name ; so that in the name of Jesus every
knee shall bow, of celestial beings, and of those upon and under Il the earth ; and that every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ 12 is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved,
as ye have always been obedient, not only in my presence, but
now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with 13 fear and trembling ; for God is he who worketh in you, both to 14 will and to perform, of his own good pleasure. Let all things be 15 done without murmurings and disputings ; that ye may be blame
less and inoffensive, the children of God, unexceptionable in the
midst of a perverse and crooked generation : amongst whom 16 shine as lights in the world ; holding out the word of life, to
my rejoicing in the day of Christ, that it may appear I have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain.
REFLECTIONS. We know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Few Christians are unacquainted with the remarkable phrases in which it is here expressed. But how few seriously pause upon it, and labour to affect their hearts with its important meaning! Who can conceive the dignity and glory of Christ, when in the form of God, and accounting is no robbery or usurpation to be as God? Who can conceive of that mysterious act; of that (if we may be allowed to say it) more than inysterious love, by which he emptied himself of this glory, that he might assume the humble form of a servant, being found in fashion like a man, and then might stoop yet lower, so as to become obedient to death, even the death of the cross? Often let us contemplate this amazing object : often let us represent to our admiring, to our dissolving hearts, the man Christ Jesus extended there, and pouring forth his soul in agony and blood. As often let us remember his high original, his divine glories, the bosom of the Father, the throne of God. With pleasure let us reflect, that he is returned to it, and that, baving ennobled this low nature of ours by so intimate an union with the divine, God his Failer hath, in that nature, exalted him, and given him a name above every name, human or angelic, in the visible, or in all the distant and different regions of the invisible world. Let our knees gladly bow to so amiable a sovereign, and let tis with pleasure view the approaching day, when every knee shall submissively own his authority, and every tongue confess him Lord, io the glory of God the Father.
In the mean time, let us never forget the purposes for which the apostle hath here called our meditations to these wonderful and instructive truths. It is to inculcate upon us (O, may we ever inculcate it upon ourselves :) that the same mind may always be in us that was
+ An allusion to light-houses, to direct mariners in the night, to prevent their being shipwrecked on the rocks,