Philippians 4:1-23 open_in_new
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown. The apostle here, as in 1 Corinthians 15:58, urges the hope of a glorious resurrection as an incentive to steadfastness in the Christian life. He seems scarcely able to find words adequate to express his love for the Philippians; he heaps together epithets of affection, dwelling tenderly on the word "beloved." He tells them of his longing desire to see them, repeating the word used in Philippians 1:8. He calls them his "joy and crown"—his joy now, his crown hereafter. He uses the same words of the other great Macedonian Church in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye?" The Greek word for "crown" (στέφανος) means commonly either the wreath ("the corruptible crown," 1 Corinthians 9:25) which was the prize of victors at the Grecian games; or a garland worn at banquets and festivities. The royal crown is generally διάδημα. But στέφανος is used in the Septuagint for a king's crown (see (in the Greek) 2 Samuel 12:30; Psalms 20:4 (A.V., Psalms 21:3); Esther 8:15). The crown of thorns, too, which was used in mockery of the Savior's kingly title, was στέφανος ἐξ ἀκανθῶν, though this may possibly have been suggested by the laurel wreath worn by the Roman Caesars (see Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 23.). "The crown of life," "the crown of glory that fadeth not away," is the emblem both of victory and of gladness. Yet it is also in some sense kingly: the saints shall sit with Christ in his throne; they shall reign with him; they are kings ("a kingdom," R.V., with the best manuscripts) and priests unto God (Revelation 1:6). In this place victory seems to be the thought present to the apostle's mind. In Philippians 2:16 and Philippians 2:12-50 he has been comparing the Christian life with the course of the Grecian athletes. Now he represents his converts as constituting his crown or wreath of victory at the last; their salvation is the crowning reward of his labors and sufferings. So stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. So; that is, as ye have us for an example; or perhaps, as becomes citizens of the heavenly commonwealth. The same word (στήκετε) is used in Philippians 1:27, also in connection with the idea of citizenship.
I beseech Enodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord; rather, Euodia. It is plain from the next verse that both are female names. The narrative in Acts 16:1-44 shows that the female element was more than usually important in the early Philippian Church. These ladies seem to have held a high position in that Church; possibly they may have been deaconesses, like Phoebe at Cenchrea. Their dissensions disturbed the peace of the Church. The repeated "I beseech'' is emphatic; it may, perhaps, also imply that both were in fault. St. Paul earnestly begs them to be reconciled, and to be reconciled as Christians, in the Lord, as members of his body, in the consciousness of his presence. Mark how often the words, "in Christ," "in the Lord," occur in this Epistle; how constantly the thought of spiritual union with Christ was present to the apostle's mind.
And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow; rather, yea, with R.V. and the best manuscripts; καὶ is a particle of earnest appeal (comp. Philemon 1:20 and Revelation 22:20); I ask or request. The Greek word ἐρωτῶ is used in New Testament Greek (in classical Greek it means "to inquire") of requests addressed to an equal; αἰτῶ is used in addressing a superior (comp. Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 40.). Who was the "true yokefellow"? Some, following Clement of Alexandria, interpret the words of a supposed wife of St. Paul. But the Greek adjective has the masculine termination; and it is plain, from 1 Corinthians 7:8, that St. Paul was unmarried. Others take one of the Greek words as the proper name of the person addressed, Syzygus or Gnesius. On the first supposition, the play on the meaning of Syzygus, yokefellow, would resemble St. Paul's reference to Onesimus in Philemon 1:11. But neither of these words seems to occur as a proper name. Some again, as Chrysostom, interpret the word of the husband of Euodia or Syntyche: this does not seem likely. Others think that Lydia may be addressed here. The omission of her name is remarkable; but she may bare been dead or no longer resident at Philippi. Others understand the chief pastor of the Church at Philippi, who may very possibly have been Epaphroditus himself, the bearer of the letter. This, on the whole, seems the most probable conjecture. The omission of the name implies that the person addressed was in a conspicuous position, so that there was no danger of mistakes. An important duty is assigned to him. And it may be that the word "yokefellow," as distinguished from "fellow-laborer," denotes something more of equality with the apostle. Help those women which labored with me in the gospel; rather, as R.V., help those women, for they labored with me. Help Euodia and Syntyche towards a mutual reconciliation, and that, inasmuch as they labored in the gospel. With Clement also. Are these words to be connected with "help" or with labored"? Is Clement associated with the "true yokefellow" in the work of reconciliation, or with the women who labored with St. Paul? The balance of probability seems to be in favor of the first alternative; there appears to be no reason for mentioning Clement's labors in this place; while, on the other hand, St. Paul's anxiety for the reconciliation of Euodia and Syntyehe might naturally urge him to ask for the combined efforts of all his fellow-laborers. Whether this Clement is to be identified with St. Clement the Bishop of Rome is an open question; there are no sufficient data for deciding it (see Bishop Lightfoot's detached note). And with other my fellow-laborers; rather, as R.V., and the rest of my fellow-workers. St. Paul appeals to them all. Whose names are in the book of life. St. Paul does not mention their names; there is no need that he should do so—they are written in heaven (comp. Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Daniel 12:1; and Revelation, passim). The book of life is the roll of the citizens of the heavenly kingdom. The passages quoted do not necessarily involve the doctrine of an unconditional, irreversible predestination, or the phrase, "to blot out of my hook," could not be used.
Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice; rather, as R.V., again I will say. St. Paul returns to the key-note of the Epistle, Christian joy. He writes again the same things (see Philippians 2:1); he will say it again, he. never wearies of repeating that holy joy is a chief Christian duty. Rejoice in the Lord; in his presence, in communion with him, and that always; for he who rejoices in the Lord, as Chrysostom says, always rejoices, even in affliction: "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Let your moderation be known unto all men; rather, forbearance, or gentleness. The word ἐπιείκεια (here the neuter adjective is used) is translated "gentleness" in 2 Corinthians 10:1, where it is attributed to our Lord himself. In the Aristotelian' Ethics' it stands for the temper which contents itself with less than its due, and shrinks from insisting on its strict rights. There is no joy in a narrow selfishness; joy involves an open heart, a generous love. Joy in the Lord tends to make men gentle and mild to others. "Gaudium in Domino," says Bengel, "parit veram aequitatem erga proximum." Unto all men; heathen as well as Christian. Compare our Lord's word: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." St. Paul would have the heathen say, "See how these Christians love one another." Their mutual love would be the blessed means of drawing fresh converts to the faith. There may possibly be an allusion here to the differences between Euodia and Syntyche; let there be no more disagreements, but rather mutual forbearance. The Lord is at hand. The Aramaic Maranatha ("the Lord cometh") in 1 Corinthians 16:22 seems to imply that these words were current in the Church as a formula of warning, like "Hallelujah" as a set form of praise. The Lord is at hand therefore be not careful to exact your full rights; love is more precious than gold in the treasury of heaven. Comp. James 5:8, "Be ye also patient,… for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." Others interpret the words, not of the future advent, but of the Lord's present nearness. Comp. Psalms 145:18, "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him." But this seems scarcely so appropriate here.
Be careful for nothing; rather, as R.V., in nothing be anxious. Μέριμνα is anxious, distracting care. St. Paul does not wish his converts to be careless, but to be free from that over-anxiety about worldly things which might distract their thoughts from the service of God, and hinder their growth in holiness. Comp. 1 Peter 5:7, where the apostle bids us cast all our care (μέριμνα) upon God. The thought of the Lord's nearness should lead us both to be forbearing in our relations to others, and also to keep ourselves free, as far as may be, from worldly anxieties. "He careth for us." But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. "Curare et orare," says Bengel, "plus inter se pugnant quam aqua et ignis." In everything; in each emergency, little or great, as it arises, pray; cultivate the habit of referring all things, great or small, to God in prayer. The two words rendered "prayer" and "supplication" προσευχή and δέησις) occur together also in Eph 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1-54 :l and 1 Timothy 5:5. The first has been defined by Chrysostom and others as prayer to obtain a good; the second, prayer to avoid an evil Better, perhaps, as most modern commentators, προσευχή is the general word, covering the idea of prayer in its widest meaning; while δέησις is a special act of supplication for some particular object of need (see Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 51.). With thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the necessary accompaniment of prayer; it ought never to be absent from our devotions; it springs out of that holy joy which St. Paul so constantly sets before us in this Epistle as the bounden duty of Christians. St. Paul himself is an example of constant thanksgiving. All his Epistles, except those to the Galatians, 1 Timothy, and Titus, open with a thanksgiving. In the dungeon at Philippi he and Silas "prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). Our requests, the things for which we ask, are to be made known unto God; πρὸς τὸν Θεόν before God, in the presence of God, by prayer, the general converse of the soul with God; and by supplication, direct petitions for the supply of our necessities. Indeed, he knows our necessities before we ask; but we are encouraged to make them known before him, as Hezekiah took the letter of Sennacherib and spread it before the Lord.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. The peace which God gives, which flows from the sense of his most gracious presence, and consists in childlike confidence and trustful love. This peace passeth all understanding; its calm blessedness transcends the reach of human thought; it can be known only by the inner experience of the believer. The similar passage, Ephesians in 20, "Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," seems decisive for the ordinary interpretation. Bishop Light-foot, Meyer, and others take another view of the passage: "Surpassing every device or counsel of man. i.e. which is far better, which produces a higher satisfaction, than all punctilious self-assertion, all anxious forethought." Shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; rather, as R.V., shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Peace shall guard—"a verbal paradox, for to guard is a warrior's duty" (Bishop Lightfoot). The peace of God abiding in the heart is a sure and trusty garrison, guarding it so that the evil spirit, once cast out, cannot return. The thoughts issue from the heart; for the heart, as commonly in the Hebrew Scriptures, is regarded as the seat of the intellect, not of feeling only. In Christ Jesus; in the sphere of his influence, his presence. True believers, abiding in Christ, realize his promise, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true. He repeats the "finally" of Philippians 2:1, He again and again prepares to close his Epistle, but cannot at once bid farewell to his beloved Philippians. He urges them to fill their thoughts with things good and holy. Christ is the Truth: all that is true comes from him; the false, the vain, is of the earth, earthy. Perhaps the verb (ἐστίν) may be emphatic. Sceptics may deny the existence of absolute truth; men may scoffingly ask, "What is truth?" Truth is real, and it is found in Christ, the Truth. Whatsoever things are honest. The word (σεμνά) occurs only here and four times in the pastoral Epistles. It is a word difficult translate. "Honourable" or" reverend'' (the renderings of the R.V.) are better equivalents than "honest." It points to a Christian decorum, a Christian self-respect, which is quite consistent with true humility, for it is a reverence for the temple of God. Whatsoever things are just; rather, perhaps, righteous, in the widest meaning. Whatsoever things are pure; not only chaste, but free from stain or defilement of any sort. The word used here (ἁγνός) is not common in the New Testament. The adverb occurs in Philippians 1:16, where it is rendered "sincerely," and implies purity of motive. Whatsoever things are lovely (προσφιλῆ); not beautiful, but pleasing, lovable; whatsoever things would attract the love of holy souls. Whatsoever things are of good report. The word (εὔφημα) means "well-speaking" (not "well spoken of"), and so "gracious," "attractive;" in classical Greek it means "auspicious," "of good omen." Of these six heads, the first two describe the subjects of devout thought as they are in themselves; the second pair relate to practical life; the third pair to the moral approbation which the contemplation of a holy life excites in good men. If there be any virtue. This word, so very common in the Greek moralists, occurs nowhere else in St. Paul. Nor does any other of the New Testament writers use it except St. Peter (l Peter Philippians 2:9 (in the Greek); 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:5). Bishop Lightfoot says, "The strangeness of the word, combined with the change of expression, εἴ τις, will suggest another explanation: 'Whatever value may reside in your old heathen conception of virtue, whatever consideration is due to the praise of men; ' as if the apostle were anxious not to omit any possible ground of appeal." And if there be any praise; comp. Romans 12:17 and 2 Corinthians 8:21, where St. Paul bids us "provide for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." Nevertheless, in the highest point of view, the praise of the true Israelite is not of man, but of God. Think on these things; or, as in the margin of R.V., take account of. Let these be the considerations which guide your thoughts and direct your motives. The apostle implies that we have the power of governing our thoughts, and so are responsible for them. If the thoughts are ordered well, the outward life will follow.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do. St. Paul turns from contemplation to practical life: they must translate into action the lessons which they received from him. The verbs are aorists and refer to the time when he was among them. He taught not by word only, but by living example; they saw in him when present, and heard of him when he was absent, a pattern of the Christian life. And the God of peace shall be with you. God dwells with those who think holy thoughts and live holy lives; and with him comes the peace which is his, which he giveth (comp. Romans 15:33).
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again. St. Paul thanks the Philippian Church for the gifts brought by Epaphroditus; his expressions, so courteous and yet so dignified, bespeak, like the Epistle to Philemon, like all his writings, the perfect gentleman in the best sense of the word. I rejoiced in the Lord; he fulfils his own precept (Philemon 1:4). His joy rises kern the gift to the love which prompted the gift, and thence to the Divine Giver of that love. Greatly. Bengel says, "Hoc vix placuerit Stoico. Paulus ingentes affectns habuit, sed in Domino." The R.V. rendering of the following words is more literal: "Ye revived your thought for me." The verb is properly used of a tree putting forth fresh shoots after its winter sleep. Bengel thinks that the metaphor was derived from the season; the apostle was writing in the spring. Offsets, as Meyer, render differently, "Ye flourished again (i.e. in your circumstances) so as to mind my interests." As the words might seem to imply some degree of blame, St. Paul hastens to ascribe the delay of the Philippians to causes beyond their own control. Wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity; more literally, wherein ye did indeed take thought, as R.V. It may be that they had no suitable messenger; but St. Paul speaks of the "deep poverty" of the Macedonian Churches in 2 Corinthians 8:1, 2 Corinthians 8:2, where he also praises their liberality.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. He explains himself; it is not want that prompted his words. Literally, I learned (the verb is aorist); that is, when he became a Christian. The A.V. is verbally inaccurate in the following words, which mean literally, "In the circumstances in which I am." But the sense is the same. St. Paul is speaking of his present condition: he is content with it, though it involves all the hardships of captivity; his present contentment is a sample of his habitual frame of mind. Αὐτάρκης here rendered "content," is a common word in Greek philosophy. It means "self-sufficient," "independent." It is of frequent occurrence in Stoical treatises; but St. Paul uses it in a Christian sense; he is αυτάρκης in relation to man, but his αὐτάρκεια comes from God (2 Corinthians 9:8).
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. St. Paul had experience both of sorrow and of joy, both of distress and of comfort; he knew how to bear himself in both, because his chiefest joy was "in the Lord." This abiding joy raised him above the vicissitudes of this mortal state, and gave him an αὐτάρεκια, a Christian independence, which enabled him to act becomingly both in adversity and in prosperity. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed; literally, as R.V., in everything and in all things; as we say, "in each and all," in every condition separately and in all collectively. The R.V. translates more accurately, "have I learned the secret." The Greek μεμύημαι means properly, "I have been' initiated." It is a word adapted from the old Greek mysteries; comp. Bcngel, "Disciplina arcana imbutus sum, ignota mundo." St. Paul represents the advanced Christian life as a mystery, the secrets of which are taught by God. the Holy Ghost to the soul that longs to prove in its own personal experience "what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." St. Paul frequently uses the word μυστήριον, mystery, for the truths once hidden but now brought to light by the gospel. Both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. The word rendered "to be full" (χορτάζεσθαι) is strictly used of animals, and means "to be foddered;" in the New Testament and later Greek it is used also of men, without any depreciatory significance, as in Matthew 5:6, "They shall be filled (χορτασθήσονται).''
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me; rather, as R.V., in him that strengtheneth me. The best manuscripts omit the word "Christ" in this place. In him. It is only in Christ, in spiritual union with him, that the Christian is αὐτάρκης, self-sufficient. His presence gives strength to do and suffer all things.
Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction; rather, as R.V., ye had fellowship with my affilction. St. Paul values the sympathy, the fellow-feeling, more than the gifts; he could have done without the gifts, but they were precious as a proof of love.
Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel when I departed from Macedonia. He reminds them delicately of their former liberality to show his love for them; he was not unwilling to receive kindnesses from them. He had always refused to accept contributions from the Corinthians; but the bonds which bound him to the Macedonian Churches were closer and tenderer. In the beginning of the gospel; when he first preached in Macedonia, ten years ago. The words, "when I departed from Macedonia," may refer either to some gifts not mentioned elsewhere, sent to him when be left Beroea for Athens; or, if the aorist be taken in a pluperfect sense, to the supplies afterwards sent to him at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:8, 2 Corinthians 11:9). No Church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. Chrysostom understands this of giving worldly things and receiving spiritual things. But the context seems to restrict the meaning to temporal gifts: the Philippians gave, St. Paul received. Bengel says, "Poterant diccre, Faciemus, si alii fecerint: nunc eo major horum laus est: ceterorum, eo minor."
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. This shows the promptness of their generosity; they not only helped him when he departed from Macedonia; but, before that time, while he was still at Thessalonica, the city which he visited next after leaving Philippi, they sent more than once to supply his needs; Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8, where St. Paul says that he avoided being chargeable to the Thessalonians; for which purpose he labored with his own hands; but, it seems, he needed additional help, and this was supplied from Philippi.
Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account; rather, as R.V., not that I seek for the gift; but I seek for the fruit that creaseth to your account. He shrinks sensitively from the danger of being mistaken; his words are not to be understood as a hint for further gifts. It is not the gift that he desires; but there is something which he longs for, and that is, charity, the fruit of the Spirit, showing itself in the generosity of the Philippians—the fruit of good works, continually increasing, and set down in heaven to their account.
But I have all, and abound: am full. I have to the full all that I need, and more. (For the word ἀπέχω, comp. Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16, and Luke 6:24.) Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. He uses another metaphor: in Philippians 4:17 the gift was fruit, now it is a sacrifice: given to the servant of God, it is in truth offered to God himself. "How high does he lift their gift!" says Chrysostom; "it is not I, he says, who have received it, but God through me." The words, ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας, an odour of sweet smell, occur often in the Old Testament in connection with sacrifice (see Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; also for the metaphor, Ephesians 5:2). in Hebrews 13:16 almsgiving is also described as a sacrifice with which God is well pleased. The first and chiefest offering we can make is ourselves: "We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies" (comp. Romans 12:1); in that chief offering is involved the lesser gift of alms.
But my God shall supply all your need; rather, as R.V., every need of yours, My God; the pronoun is emphatic, as in Philippians 1:3. God will accept your offerings as made to him; you have supplied my need, he will supply every need of yours. According to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Not by; it should be "in Christ Jesus." The reward is given to his saints through union with him: "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image kern glory to glory." In glory; that is, by setting them in glory—the glory of holiness now, the glory of eternal life hereafter.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen; rather, with R.V., unto our God and Father be the glory. The thought of God's present mercies, and the hope of glory to come mentioned in the last verse, suggest the doxology. Observe, St. Paul says, "our God and Father" here. He said, "my God" in Philippians 4:19, where he was speaking of the reward which God would give for kindness shown to himself; but now "our God," as the one Object of praise and worship from the universal Church. The glory; the article is commonly used with δόξα in these doxologies—the glory which is God's peculiar possession, which is essentially his (comp. John 17:5). Bishop Lightfoot says, in his note on Galatians 1:5, "It is probable that we should supply ἐστὶν in such cases rather than ἔστω. It is an affirmation rather than a wish. Glory is the essential attribute of God. See 1 Peter 4:11, ᾯ ἐστὶν ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος, and the doxology added to the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:13)." For ever and ever; literally, for the ages of ages; for the ages which consist, not of years, but of ages, for the countless ages of eternity (comp. Galatians 1:5 and Galatians 1:1 timothy Galatians 1:17).
Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. Every saint individually—an expression of personal affection. The words, "in Christ Jesus," may be taken with "salute," as in Romans 16:22 and 1 Corinthians 16:19. It is a Christian salutation, an acknowledgment of spiritual relationship; or better, perhaps, as in numerous passages, with "saint." All saints are in Christ, members of his body, knit together into one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Christ. It is this union with Christ which makes them saints. The brethren which are with me greet you. Observe, he calls them "brethren," though he had none like-minded with him, save only Timothy (Philippians 2:20, Philippians 2:21).
All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. All the Christians at Rome, not only St. Paul's personal friends and companions. It is not clear why he lays a special stress on those belonging to Nero's household. The reason given by Chrysostom seems somewhat fanciful: "If those who dwelt in palaces despised all things for the sake of the King of heaven, much more should the Philippians do so." Some of them may have been known to the Philippian Christians. The term familia or domus Caesaris included all ranks, from the highest official to the lowest freedman or slave. It is probable that those alluded to here belonged to the humbler classes. But at any rate St. Paul's words prove that his preaching had penetrated into that abyss of all infamy, the palace of Nero. (For the Christianity of Seneca, and the supposed correspondence between him and St. Paul see Bishop Lightfoot's dissertation on 'St. Paul and Seneca.' See also his detached note on 'Caesar's Household.')
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen; read, with the best manuscripts, with your spirit. St. Paul begins with "grace" (Philippians 1:2), and ends with "grace." The gracious love of the Lord Jesus was the joy of his heart.
St. Paul's relations to his flock.
I. ST. PAUL HIMSELF (see on Philippians 1:3-50) AN EXAMPLE TO ALL CHRISTIAN MINISTERS.
1. In his urgent appeals. Mark how he enforces the necessity of perseverance, how he brings the privileges and the hopes of the Christian to bear upon the daily life of practical duties. "Therefore," he says, "because you are citizens of the heavenly country; because you look for the Savior's coming; because you hope for a glorious immortality;—therefore, stand fast in the Lord." The faithful minister knows the extreme difficulty of perseverance, of patient continuance in well-doing; he will constantly enforce it upon himself, upon his people; he will use all the motives suggested by the study of Holy Scripture and by Christian experience to press home this paramount obligation. "So stand fast," he says. St. Paul can point to his own example: would that we could do the like! "Stand fast:" it is the word used already in Philippians 1:27; it involves a military metaphor. Stand firm in your ranks; present a serried front against all temptations; quit yourselves like men, like fellow-citizens of the saints, in the good fight of faith. And that, in the Lord, in his strength, in habitual communion with him. There is no perseverance, no hope of final victory, unless we abide in Christ.
2. In his love for his flock as a whole. He calls them his brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, his joy and crown. And these were not mere words with St. Paul; he showed by his labors the truth of his affection. His ardent love for Christ issued in a strong constraining love for the souls of men. To save souls was his joy now; he knew that it would be his crown hereafter. The crown of glory that fadeth not away is the reward, St. Peter tells us, of those presbyters who feed the flock of God willingly and of a ready mind. St. Paul speaks of his converts as themselves constituting his crown. When he had finished his course, his wreath of victory would be the salvation of those precious souls which had been saved, under God, by his self-denying labors. The sight of their blessedness would increase and deepen even the gladness of heaven, even his own joy in his own salvation.
3. In his care for individual members of the Church. He thinks of Euodia and Syntyche; he has heard of their dissensions; he begs them earnestly to be of the same mind, and that in the Lord. The Christian minister should know his flock by name, should think of their individual needs, should pray for them, should urge them to live together in love.
4. He asks others to help in the work of restoring peace. The Christian pastor should gather helpers round him. It is good for his people, good for the helpers themselves. To work for Christ strengthens and benefits the soul.
II. ST. PAUL'S FELLOW-LABOURERS.
1. Euodia and Syntyche.
(1) They labored with St. Paul in the gospel. The word is a strong one; they were fellow-athletes with the apostle; they were engaged with him in many struggles, hard, it may be, and perilous, for the cause of Christ. St. Paul gladly acknowledges the help which they had given him. The remembrance of their good deeds made him feel a deeper interest in their spiritual welfare. Women did much for Christ in the Philippian Church. Christian women can do much now, much that men cannot do so well; their gentle tact, their quiet influence, is often of the greatest value.
(2) Yet they quarrelled. Their disagreement was doing harm to themselves and to the Church. The indulgence of unkind feelings impairs the spiritual life and checks our growth in holiness. The dissensions of Christians are a grievous hindrance to the spread of the gospel. Mutual love was to be the mark of Christ's disciples; alas! how often there has been more hate than love! Note St. Paul's extreme anxiety to reconcile the two women; he entreats them himself; he begs others to help; he knew the immense importance of Christian union.
2. Clement and others. We know not who they were. Clement may possibly be the famous Bishop of Rome; of the others the very names are unknown. They are not in the world's roll of heroes. But what was earthly fame to them? Their names were in the book of life, the book of remembrance, that is written before the Lord for them that fear the Lord and that think upon his Name. We may well be content to be obscure here, like Lazarus the beggar, if our name, like his, is known in heaven.
1. To love souls, to count the winning of souls the noblest work, the salvation of souls the most precious crown.
2. To do all that lies in us to heal dissensions and to promote Christian unity.
3. To desire above all things that our names may be written in the Lamb's book of life.
The key-note of the Epistle: holy joy, with its blessed results.
I. THE DUTY OF REJOICING.
1. The Christian should learn to rejoice always. The word "always" is emphatic. There lies the difficulty, there too lies the blessedness, of rejoicing in the Lord. It is easy to rejoice in moments of excitement, but to rejoice always, in affliction, in pain, in weariness, in disappointment, is difficult indeed. St. Paul had learned the lesson which he teaches—he rejoiced in hardships and in chains.
2. Christian joy is joy in the Lord. Rejoice in what he did, in what he is, in himself. Rejoice in his incarnation, his holy limb, his sufferings for us, his precious death, his resurrection, his ascension, his perpetual intercession. Rejoice in his humility, his purity, his unselfishness, his holy courage, his love, his gentleness, his sympathy, his power, his glory, his majesty. Rejoice in himself, in spiritual fellowship with him, in his most gracious presence abiding in the Christian heart.
II. THE RESULTS OF HOLY JOY.
1. Christian joy leads to genuineness and forbearance towards others. He who rejoices in the Lord, happy in that great possession, is not selfish, does not insist eagerly on his own rights, but will give way to others, will be gentle and kind; and that because the Lord is at hand. The Christian who rejoices in the Lord loves his appearing, loves to think on it, to prepare for it. he does not set overmuch store on his earthly rights, in view of the coming of the Lord and the great reward reserved for the faithful servant.
2. Holy joy dispels anxious care. He who rejoices in the Lord is not disturbed by distracting anxiety about worldly things. Holy joy keeps the mind clear and calm; it concentrates the thoughts upon the great gladness of the presence of the Lord, in comparison with which the objects of worldly pursuit are insignificant indeed. If we are learning to rejoice in him, we shall learn in like measure the difficult lesson to cast all our care upon him, for we shall know that be careth for us.
3. Inner spiritual joy must express itself in prayer and supplication.
(1) For prayer is converse with God, and we must take delight in holding converse with him whose presence is our chiefest joy. Hence our love for prayer is a sure index of our love for God. The more we love him, the more constant our prayers will be; we shall learn to pray always, on all occasions, great and small. The Christian makes his requests known unto God in everything, in all the difficulties of his daily life. Nothing is too small to ask God's counsel upon, nothing so great and engrossing as to keep the Christian from his prayers.
(2) Prayer is the general converse of the soul with God; supplication consists in direct petitions for ourselves and for others. Intercessory prayer is the bounden duty of the Christian. We must pray for our family, our neighbours, our Church, our nation, for all Christian people, for the heathen, for missions. Christ encourages us to come to him with all our wants. "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
(3) But to be able to pray in times of distress and crushing sorrow, when prayer is most needful and most helpful, we must learn to pray in health and prosperity; we must pray in everything. Daniel, in the hour of danger, "kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." He had formed the habit of prayer. That habit is the result of long practice; it is deepened and strengthened by perseverance. Happy are they who by the grace and help of the Holy Spirit form that habit in early life.
4. Holy joy implies habitual thanksgiving. "In everything give thanks" is the precept of St. Paul. He illustrates his teaching by his own example: he sang praises unto God in the dungeon at Philippi; his Epistles abound in doxologies, in thanksgivings. he had formed the habit of giving thanks continually; it grew out of that holy joy which filled his soul. Holy joy finds its natural expression in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The soul which is blessed with that highest joy which is the fruit of the Spirit must give thanks always for all things; for such a one knows by his own happy experience that God maketh all things work together for good to them that love him. Daniel gave thanks in the extremity of peril; Job, in his deep distress: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord."
5. Holy joy expresses itself in prayer and thanksgiving; prayer and thanksgiving bring peace. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit is given in answer to earnest prayer. "My Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." It is the peace of God, the peace which he giveth. It is the peace of Christ, such peace as he had. "Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you." It is trustful love and childlike confidence; it implies the blessed consciousness of forgiveness and acceptance with God. The heart in which that peace abideth is not troubled, neither is it afraid. For
(1) the peace of God passeth all understanding; none can tell its calm blessedness but those to whom it is given. No energy of thought can comprehend it; no effort of imagination can picture it; only by our own happy experience can we tell its exceeding preciousness. And
(2) it keeps the heart and thoughts. It is like a garrison of angels; it fills the heart with holy thoughts, holy memories, holy hopes; it keeps it safe from the temptations of the evil one; it leaves no room for sinful imaginations to pollute the shrine that is dedicated to God. Wicked desires cannot enter the heart where the peace of God keeps guard. Like all good gifts, it blesses us in Christ Jesus, in the sphere of his influence, flowing, as it does, from his grace and his atonement.
1. The truest, the most abiding joy is joy in the Lord. The best of earthly joys comes from the society of those whom we dearly love. Christian joy springs from fellowship with Christ. Pray for grace to win Christ, to know Christ, to love Christ.
2. Love, joy, peace, are the fruit of the Spirit; pray for the blessed experience of the working of the Spirit in the heart. "Ask, and ye shall have."
Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:9
Exhortation to cultivate habits of holy thought.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF GOVERNING THE THOUGHTS.
1. The thoughts are an index of the character. The current of thought seems ever changeful, dependent on the varying circumstances of the passing hour. It may be so within certain limits; but in truth its general direction is determined by the character. The thoughts run in channels worn for them By the oft-repeated actions which form our habits, good or bad. If the peace of God rules in the heart, the thoughts will be holy; if room is left for the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, they will be of the earth, earthy. The thoughts show what the character is.
2. And, on the other hand, the thoughts react powerfully on the character. A sinful thought, brought again and again before the mind, strengthens the natural tendency of the will to evil and leads to the sinful deed. Therefore the thoughts must be disciplined and brought into captivity to the law of Christ. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Here is the hardest battle of the Christian life; to govern the thoughts there is need of constant watchfulness and persevering prayer.
II. THE LESSON DRAWN OUT INTO DETAILS.
1. "Whatsoever things are true." God is true; his promises are true, so are his most awful warnings. Christ is true; he is the Truth; his gospel is true. Holiness is true, real; "Now abideth faith, hope, charity. The devil is a liar and the father of lies. He said to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die;" it was the first wicked falsehood, The world is false with its cheating pleasures; it passeth away and the lusts thereof.
2. "Whatsoever things are honest." Whatsoever things are deep and earnest, honorable and reverend. The Christian life hath a decorum of its own, a calm, grave dignity. Reverence and godly fear are essential to acceptable service. Charity "cloth not behave itself unseemly."
3. "Whatsoever things are just." The saintly life is not of the world, but it is in the world and hath its duties there. Holiness is not separate from morality; it transcends morality, but it implies it. We must bear always in our thoughts the Savior's rule: "Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you."
4. "Whatsoever things are pure." The pure in heart shall see God. "He is of purer eyes than to behold evil." Nothing that defileth can enter into his presence. The Christian heart is the chosen temple of God the Holy Ghost. To bring unclean thoughts into that most sacred presence is an awful sin. The Christian's thoughts must be pure and holy.
5. "Whatsoever things are lovely." The Christian character is lovable; gentleness, humility, charity, naturally attract love. "Think on these things;" see them in their perfection as exemplified in the Lord Jesus Christ; meditate much on his perfect holiness.
6. "Whatsoever things are of good report." Think on such things as are gracious and attractive. Let nothing coarse or vulgar occupy your thoughts; let images of true beauty fill your souls.
7. "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise." "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." Do not neglect even the more human conceptions of goodness. All good thoughts have their value; think on every form of virtue, all things worthy of praise.
III. THE LESSON ENFORCED BY EXAMPLE.
1. Holy thought leads to holy living. St. Paul was able to illustrate his precepts by his own holy life. Nothing enforces religious teaching so powerfully as the example of the teacher. He gave them a rule of thought; he exhibited in his own life a rule of conduct.
2. The blessed result. St. Paul's holiness flowed from the presence of God; the God of peace will abide with all who, like St. Paul, strive always to think holy thoughts and to live holy lives.
1. Pray for grace to govern the thoughts.
2. It is most important to mark what the thoughts naturally turn to in times of leisure; this should be a frequent subject for self-examination; it shows the bent of the character.
3. Remember the influence of example.
St. Paul's happy temper.
I. HIS JOY OVER THE AFFECTION OF THE PHILIPPIANS.
1. Their loving thought for him gave him great joy. He greatly loved his converts; their love for him was, next after the blessed love of Christ, his greatest comfort and support. He rejoiced in the proof of their love; it was sweet to him; it was good for them, an evidence of their spiritual progress.
2. He may perhaps have feared that their love was growing cold; now he rejoiced. The spiritual life has its seasons, its winter and its spring, its times of depression and its times of fervor. It cannot but be affected in some degree, while we are in the flesh, by physical causes and by outward circumstances. We must not allow ourselves to be cast down; we must struggle on, locking always unto Jesus. Oar moods and feelings are changeful. He is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
II. HAS CONTENTMENT.
1. He had leavened to be independent of external circumstances. That joy in the Lord of which he speaks so much in this Epistle armed his soul against the trials of life. He that hath found Christ will not be wholly cast down by outward troubles. "Cast down [rather, 'being cast down'], but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:9). "Come unto me, all that are weary and heavy laden … and ye shall find rest unto your souls." No one was ever more tried than St. Paul; but he was content in the midst of hardships, self-sufficient in the Christian sense, not with the independence of pride or Stoicism, but resting upon Christ.
2. He was armed both for prosperity and adversity. Christian self-sufficiency, which is really the sufficiency of Christ, is shown in sorrow and in joy; "in all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth." The true Christian can bear misfortune and hardship with dignity, without ill humor and complaints; he can bear riches and honor with self-possession, without arrogance or elation. This true self-sufficiency manifests itself in all the circumstances of life, "in every thing and in all things."
3. He was taught of God. "I have been instructed;" "I have learned the secret." This Christian self-sufficiency comes from the teaching of God the Holy Ghost; it is a secret which he alone can teach. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." The soul in its converse with God learns many mysteries of spiritual experience, mysteries of grace, mysteries of self-renunciation, mysteries of self-consecration. St. Paul had been initiated into all. Long training, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, had led him through all the deep and holy mysteries of the life that is hid with Christ in God. We must ask the same Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
4. He was strengthened in Christ. Here is the source of Christian self-sufficiency. It is only in Christ, in spiritual union with Christ, that the Christian possesses strength. Without him we can do nothing; in him we can do all things. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Therefore the Christian must not be discouraged; he must not shrink from the battle against evil in himself and in the world. He is indeed weak and helpless, but he has the presence of Christ, and in the strength of that presence he can do all things. "We are able," said the sons of Zebedee. We may in all humility say the same if we do verily believe in Christ. All things are possible to him that believeth. God giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1. It is easy to say, "Thy will be done;" it is very hard to work that prayer into our lives. St. Paul did so; so may we by the grace of God.
2. It is a secret to be learned only of God the Holy Ghost.
3. That teaching can make us contented always, self-sufficient through the strength of Christ.
The sympathy of the Philippians with St. Paul.
I. THEIR GIFTS.
1. They had fellowship with him in his affliction. They made it their own; they showed the reality of their sympathy by their gifts. They were themselves in a great trial of afflictions, in deep poverty. They did not make their afflictions or their poverty an excuse for not aiding the apostle; they assisted him again and again. They did well, he says. Christian sympathy is a beautiful thing; it sweetens the cup of sorrow; it is one of God's most precious gifts. St. Paul felt it deeply. He did not seek their alms; that, indeed, helped him in his trouble. But he could have done without it, he had learned the great lesson of contentment. But the sympathy of Christian love was very precious to him; he yearned for it; it was his chiefest comfort next after the presence of Christ. He prized it for their sake as well as for his own; it proved that his labors had not been in vain. It was good for them too; it was good for them to show sympathy, as it was for the apostle to receive it. Christian sympathy, like mercy, is twice blest—"it blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
2. They gave readily, spontaneously. It was "in the beginning of the gospel;" they had but just become Christians; St. Paul had but just left them. He was at Thessalonica, the chief city of Macedonia. The Philippians did not leave the duty of ministering to the apostle's wants to the Thessalonians; they sent once and again, the little town to the great city, unto his necessities. They were the first, it seems, to have the great privilege of supporting St. Paul in his apostolic labors. They did not wait to see what others would give; they set the example; they gave what they could, and that at once.
3. They were not weary in well-doing. They sent again and again, twice at least, to Thessalonica; a third time, when St. Paul departed from Macedonia. "Brethren front Macedonia" supplied his wants at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:9). "The Churches of Macedonia" abounded in their liberality towards the poor brethren at Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1, 2 Corinthians 8:2); and now they sent Epaphroditus to relieve the apostle's wants in his Roman imprisonment.
4. They gave unasked. St. Paul did not desire gifts; he was even unwilling to receive assistance from other Churches. "I seek not yours, but you," he said to the Corinthians. But the Philippians loved him for his work's sake and for his own sake. They gave freely out of love; they gave gladly, for they had learned of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Teacher, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
II. ST. PAUL'S FEELINGS ON RECEIVING THEIR CONTRIBUTION.
1. His sensitive nature is deeply touched with the evidence of their love; but he shrinks from appearing to invite further liberality. It is not the gift, he says, that he seeks. He is pleased, he rejoices, but not for his own sake; it, is for the givers, for the sake of the Philippians, that St. Paul's heart is touched with holy joy. It is good for them to give; he knows it. Their bounty is set down to their account in the treasury of heaven, and this thought is full of sweetness to the apostle's soul.
2. His contentment. He needed nothing more, he said; Epaphroditus had brought all he wanted, and more than he wanted. Mark the unworldliness of the apostle. We are never satisfied; whatever we have we want more. He was satisfied amid hardships, in captivity. For he had the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and, having that, he could not crave for earthly comforts.
III. THE ACCEPTABLENESS OF THEIR GIFT.
1. Those gifts relieved St. Paul's wants, but they had a far higher character—they were, he tells us, "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." Christian almsgiving is a very sacred thing; God accepts the gift as given to himself. It has a sacrificial character; for it issues out of that spiritual sacrifice offered to God by the royal priesthood—the sacrifice of self. We are bidden to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. The offering of ourselves sanctifies the lesser offering of our earthly goods.
2. The reward. The cup of cold water given in the name of a prophet would bring a prophet's reward. The Philippians had supplied the apostle's needs; they had done it for Christ's sake, whose servant he was; God would supply all their needs. They had given according to their means, out of their deep poverty; God would reward them according to his riches. What a word is this! The riches of God are infinite; infinite, then, is the reward, not of almsgiving in itself, but of the faith and love which prompted it. "Can two mites buy the kingdom?" asks St. Chrysostom. Yes, if they are given in the spirit of the poor widow, in undoubting faith and self-sacrificing love. God will reward those who minister to his saints, in glory—in the glory of his grace and presence now, in the glory of heaven hereafter. He will reward them in Christ Jesus, in virtue of that living union with Christ, through which alone all spiritual blessings flow into the believer's soul.
3. The thanksgiving. The glory is God's. It is he who giveth his people a willing heart to offer willingly. The glory is his. Men see their good works and glorify their Father. All glory is his, all majesty, dominion, and power, and that throughout the ages of eternity.
1. The beauty of Christian sympathy.
2. The blessedness of Christian almsgiving.
3. To give like the Philippians, gladly.
4. To receive, if need be, like St. Paul, prizing the love more than the gift.
5. Always to ascribe the glory to God.
I. THE APOSTLE'S OWN SALUTATIONS.
1. They teach the duty of Christian courtesy. A Christian salutation is real; it is a benediction, not a mere form; for it is the expression of that love which ought to be the distinguishing mark of Christians.
2. He salutes every saint. He does not single out individual names in this Epistle; he sends his love to every saint. We have noticed more than once how often the word "all" occurs; there was no schism in the Philippian Church; all loved St. Paul, and all were dear to him. There were personal quarrels, but no religious animosities. It was a united Church, one in faith and love.
3. He calls them "sailors in Christ Jesus "at the end of his Epistle, as he had done in the first verse. It is one of the highest titles by which Christians can be addressed. It reminds us of our high privileges and of our great responsibilities. We are saints by dedication, we have been once made members of Christ. We must walk "worthily of the calling wherewith we were called;" it must be our most earnest effort to follow after holiness of heart and life, and to abide in Christ. It is an awful as well as a blessed thing to be a Christian, redeemed with the most precious blood, reconciled to God by the tremendous sacrifice of the cross. The word "saint" reminds us of our duties and of our hopes. Therefore St. Paul loves to repeat it.
II. SALUTATIONS SENT FROM ROME.
1. From the brethren which were with him. He means his personal companions who had come to Rome with him or joined him there afterwards. Except Timothy, they were not like-minded with himself (Philippians 2:20, Philippians 2:21); yet he calls them "brethren." He had that charity which "hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things."
2. From the Roman Christians. "All the saints," he says," salute you." He mentions especially the Christians of Nero's household. The gospel had reached that sink of all impurity; there were saints there. Whether slaves (as they probably were) or officials of the court, whether of higher or lower rank, they were attached to the person of Nero and witnessed the abominations of his loathsome life. God's grace is sufficient for us, whatever our outward lot may be. St. Paul in chains, these Christians of Nero's household in the palace, lived a holy life. Holiness is possible in all conditions of life, in the deepest poverty, and amid all the temptations of wealth and evil example. It needs only the grace of God.
3. Therefore the apostle ends, as he began, with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, his grace is the beginning and the end. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. His grace is sufficient for us. To him be the glory for ever and. ever.
1. To be courteous to all men.
2. To strive with all earnestness to become saints, not in name only, but in deed and in truth.
3. Not to lay blame on our circumstances, but to strive, whatever our circumstances may be, to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
4. To trust only in God, to pray constantly for his grace.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
The duty of steadfastness.
The apostle grounds this duty upon the heavenly citizenship and the hope of the coming Savior. Mark—
I. HIS ENDEARING ADDRESS. "My brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast, beloved." The accumulation of epithets marks the intense affection and delight of the apostle in converts so worthy of his concern for their good. The twofold repetition of the term "beloved" in a single sentence marks love as the dominant feeling; the other terms indicate either his anxiety to see them, the joy which their Christian kindliness carried to his heart, or the triumph of Divine grace in their conversion which redounded so signally to his own final victory.
II. THE ABIDING ATTITUDE OF ALL TRUE BELIEVERS. "So stand fast in the Lord." It implies:
1. That they are exposed to influences calculated to mar the integrity of their walk. There is a threefold hostility always at work against a believer—the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 6:12), tending to shake heart or mind. Probably the apostle thought of the spiritual risks that threatened from the side of Judaistic zealotry.
2. The true spring of Christian steadfastness is in the Lord, as the element of the spiritual life. We are said to stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24) and to stand in grace (Romans 5:2), but these phrases only represent the methods in which the believer finds his weakness linked with the omnipotence of Divine grace. The counsel of the apostle is needful in every age. The caprice of opinion was never more marked than in our time. There is a lifting of anchors that bodes no good, with a drifting any whither, but usually toward intellectual darkness. Therefore believers must, in the imbroglio of strange beliefs, "stand fast in the Lord."—T.C.
Philippians 4:2, Philippians 4:3
A touching personal appeal.
"I exhort Euodias, and I exhort Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord."
I. WOMEN HELD A LEADING PLACE IN THE CHRISTIAN SOCIETY OF PHILIPPI.
1. It was to women that the apostle first preached the gospel in that Roman town. (Acts 16:1-44.) They were the first converts to Christianity in Europe.
2. It was women who first gave hospitable reception to the apostle in a town which never ceased to show him substantial kindness.
3. It was probably owing to the prominence of Christian women at Philippi that the apostle became such a debtor to the most liberal of all the Churches. Their sympathetic natures would initiate and sustain projects of Christian generosity.
II. THE TWO WOMEN HERE ADDRESSED WERE EVIDENTLY INFLUENTIAL MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
1. They were ladies of rank, who disiplayed an active zeal for the cause of Christ. Their names appear in the ancient inscriptions. The women of Macedonia held a high social place in that age. These good women helped the apostle in Christian labors, "Inasmuch as they labored with me in the gospel." As women were not allowed to preach (1 Timothy 2:12), it is evident that their service was of a more private kind, either in instructing, the young or, more probably, in instructing female converts who were not accessible to members of the other sex. The order of deaconesses evidently arose out of some necessity of this sort.
2. They had differences of a sort calculated to mar their influence and to shake the faith of converts. The differences were less probably in the way of religious opinion than of methods of religious work. Perhaps a difference of temperament may have put them out of sympathy with each other, and a spirit of rivalry may have led to unseemly dissensions the Church.
3. There is an urgency in the apostolic appeal which displays an anxiety on their account. He says, "I exhort Euodias, and I exhort Syntyche," as if he regarded them both as equally open to censure. He thus addresses his appeal to each individually. He counsels them to find in the Lord the true center of their unity. Let them think as the Lord thinks, do as the Lord does, and submit to his supreme guidance in the sphere of their Christian labors.
4. He appeals to his true yokefellow—whoever he or she may have been—to use his influence to effect a reconciliation between the two ladies. "Yea, I ask thee to assist them, inasmuch us they labored with me in the gospel." There is no more important, though delicate, service than to promote a better understanding between two Christian people whose paths have disagreeably crossed each other.
5. The importance of the case is roundest from the leading place that the apostle assigns to the two ladies, besides "Clement and other my fellow-workers, whoso names are written in the book of life." They held a distinguished place beside these laborers. If Clement was the well-known author of the Epistle to the Corinthians, they are distinguished by association with his venerable name. If the apostle's other fellow-workers are unnamed, they are named in the book of life. This suggestive phrase implies that
(1) salvation is an individual thing, for individual names have their record on high;
(2) that their salvation is an event already fore-ordained; and
(3) therefore absolutely certain.—T.C.
Christian joy a duty.
"Rejoice in the Lord." This sentence is the keynote of the Epistle. The world holds that believers have no joys.
I. BELIEVERS OUGHT TO REJOICE.
1. Because it is a commanded duty. "Rejoice in the Lord."
2. Because, if commanded, it is provided by the Holy Spirit, for it is part of the Spirit's fruit. (Galatians 5:22.)
3. Because joy is characteristic of the Christian. The early Christians "ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46). This joy is not inconsistent with sorrow. The apostle himself was "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (2 Corinthians 6:10). "Rejoice with trembling."
II. THE NATURE OF THIS JOY. "In the Lord." The world rejoices in the creature, but the believer rejoices in the Creator of all things.
1. Because the Lord is.
2. Because he is the Portion of his people.
3. Because of all the manifestations of his power, wisdom, and grace.
4. Because the believer hopes for the glory to (Romans 5:2.)
III. THE BELIEVER IS TO CHERISH AN ABIDING JOY. "Rejoice in the Lord at all times." In dark days as well as bright days. A permanent habit of joy is reasonable, when we consider
(1) that there is no change in the Lord, the Source of our joy;
(2) that our relationship to him is unchangeable.
IV. MARK THE EMPHATIC REPETITION OF THE COMMAND. "And again I will say, Rejoice." This attests its importance.
1. Joy is the spring of energy. "A weary heart tires in a mile." A cheerful Christian is usually a very active one. "The joy of the Lord is his strength."
2. It kills the taste for sinful pleasures. It excludes the heart everything it cannot harmonize with itself.
3. It enables the believer to confront persecution. The early Christians" took joyfully the spoiling of their goods."
4. It enhances the charm and influence of Christian life.—T.C.
The virtue of forbearance.
"Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is at hand?"
I. THE NATURE OF THIS VIRTUE.
1. It is the opposite of contention and aggrandizement, rigour and severity.
2. It is the spirit that enables a man to bear injuries with patience and not to demand all that is rightly his due, for the sake of peace. The apostle corrected the litigios spirit of the Corinthians by asking them, "Why do ye not rather take wrong?" (1 Corinthians 6:7.)
II. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS VIRTUE.
1. It contributes greatly to the comfort life and the peace of society. There is always a tendency to friction in the relations of life where the spirit of forbearance does not govern them.
2. It contributes to the usefullness of Christian people and promotes the glory of God. This true spirit of Christ will give a man great influence with his fellows and will redound to the credit of the gospel.
III. THE REASON TO ENFORCE THIS DUTY. "The Lord is at hand." Let us bear with others, seeing the time is near when we may expect the Lord to hear with us. All our rivalries and disputes ought to disappear in the light of the judgment morning.—T.C.
Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7
A cure for care.
The apostle forbids harassing anxiety and enjoins prayerfulness as the sure way to peace. "Be anxious for nothing." Mark—
I. THE WISE COUNSEL OF THE APOSTLE.
1. This does not mean that we are not to be anxious about duty. We ought to have a deep concern for every interest of God's kingdom. A certain measure of anxious thought is necessary to the efficient performance of every duty of life.
2. It means that we are not to be anxious about the results of our work or consequences generally.
(1) Because God holds these in his own hands;
(2) because our anxiety will not ward off the anticipated evil;
(3) because the evil may turn out for good.
3. Over-anxiety is sinful.
(1) It is the disregard of a Divine command.
(2) it distrusts God's power and wisdom;
(3) it doubts the reality of the promises
(4) it deters from duty;
(5) it spoils the temper and comfort of
II. THE REMEDY FOR OVER-ANXIETY. "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
1. The range of prayer. "In everything." This counsel is often neglected, for men carry their great misfortunes or their great anxieties to God, but keep their trivial vexations to themselves. A good man has paraphrased this passage thus: "Be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything."
2. The variety of prayer. The word "prayer" here points to the frame of mind, the word "supplication" to the actual asking of blessing, the requests point to the various parts of the supplication, while the thanksgiving marks the subjective condition of acceptance.
3. The effects of prayer.
(1) It tends to place everything in God's hand, with a feeling that he will do all things well. The burden is cast upon the Lord.
(2) It leads the praying man to look for answers to prayer in the events of Divine providence.
(3) It increases devout inquisitiveness to know the Divine will as recorded in the Word.
III. THE RESULT. "And the peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This beautiful text is often the subject of independent treatment, but we have no right to separate what God has joined together; and accordingly it is only when we are careful for nothing and prayerful in everything that we may exact to enter into Divine peace.
1. The nature of the peace of God. It is deep inward repose of spiritual life, and is called "the peace of God" because he communicates and sustains it, as the result of our reconciliation with him.
(1) It springs out of our justification. (Romans 5:1.)
(2) It arises in the soul as part of our spiritual-mindedness. "For to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6)
(3) It is the abiding experience of the saints so long as they are practically consistent in their walk. "Great peace have they that love thy Law" (Psalms 119:165). "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3).
(4) It is almost inexplicable. "It passeth all understanding."
(a) It passeth the understanding of wicked or worldly men; for their experience lies in a very different sphere.
(b) It surpasses the understanding of godly men; for light often breaks in upon their darkness, in a way quite mysterious. Who can understand the peace of the dying? Does it not pass all understanding?
2. The effects of this peace. "It shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This does not signify that the peace shall keep possession, but rather, as the word signifies, garrison or stand sentry before the heart or mind, so as to prevent the intrusion of disturbing or disquieting thoughts. It is Christ himself who plants the garrison there.
(1) In case of intellectual doubts, the peace will either prevent their arising at all or repel them when they arise.
(2) In the case of the bitter remembrance of my past sins, this peace carries me back to the reconciliation effected by Christ on the cross.
(3) In, case of anxieties, fears, and earthly solicitudes, the peace of God carries a believer back to the point of his deliverances; and he says, "Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice."
(4) It is a strong guard against sin. The religiously peaceful are the morally strong. Duty is pleasant, obedience is sweet, because the spiritual mind is in harmony with God's mind. Sin is rejected because it threatens to undermine the peace.
3. The abiding source of this peace. "In Christ Jesus."
(1) He is our Peace. (Ephesians 2:14.) Not in the mere sense of being our Peace-maker, as if he had retired after he had made it, but he is the continuous Source of our peace.
(2) He gives peace as his legacy to the Church. (John 14:27.) He imparts that central calm that is at the heart of the endless agitations that shake our merely earthly life.—T.C.
Subjects for Christian study.
The gospel does more than hold out a refuge to the guilty; it takes all who accept Christ under its supreme and exclusive direction. Therefore, in his parting words to his converts, the last counsel of the apostle is of a beautifully practical character: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things."
I. SUBJECTS OF CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATION. There is a certain order in the series here exhibited.
1. Things that concern us absolutely. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable."
(1) Things true. That is, true as opposed to false; for lying is, according to the apostle, a breach of the social contract (Ephesians 4:25). True as opposed to insincerity; true in speech, true in conduct. Things true stand at the head of the series, because the truth is the ground of all God's commands, and the ground of our obedience. The love of truth is the intellectual part of piety. It raises the moral temper and tone of the world. As it is by the truth we are sanctified, it is natural that things true should be the subject of constant Christian thought.
(2) Things venerable. A man is very much what he thinks; therefore make venerable themes the subjects of your deepest thought. Grave things strengthen and deepen Christian character and intensify Christian feeling. Character formed on such a basis will be dignified. "Acceptable to God and approved of men" (Romans 14:18).
2. Things that concern us relatively. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure."
(1) Things just or righteous. Justice maintains right relations between man and man, holds the balance fairly between conflicting interests, co-ordinates the rights of each with all. Love of justice is the moral part of piety, as the love of truth is the intellectual part of it. Justice is peculiar in this respect, that there are no degrees of it, as there are degrees of goodness or generosity; for a man less than just is unjust. A man, again, may do a hundred kindly acts, but if he fail in one act of justice the blemish is fatal to character. There is, therefore, great need that Christian people should be just in all their acts. Religion does not exempt them from the laws which bind men of the world.
(2) Things pure. Not merely chastity, but purity in the widest sense. There must be pure thinking, pure reading, pure action. "Blessed are the pure in heart." Let the mind dwell on pure themes.
3. Things that suggest moral approbation from the outside. "Whatsoever things are lovely … of good report." The four things already mentioned describe their character in themselves. These two mark the impression made upon the world.
(1) Things lovely. They suggest the kindly graces of character. There is such a thing as being dignified, majestic, and venerable, but not lovely. A Christian ought not to be morose, unkind, or faultfinding. Nothing tends to injure the cause of religion more than an unlovely temper, an eye severe and unkind, a brow hard and stern. Yet the apostle gives only the fifth place to "things lovely," as if to indicate that personal kindness or good nature is not to supply the room of justice or purity.
(2) Things of good report. Things such as all men agree in commending—courtesy, urbanity, justice, temperance; purity, truth, respect to parents. Men of the world will not withhold their praise from men distinguished by these virtues. Christians ought to remember the words, "Let not your good be evil spoken of." They are to "walk in wisdom toward them that are without."
4. Things to be included in a larger category. "If there be any virtue, if there be any praise." This clause is thrown in as an after-thought, to cover possible omissions, for the subjects of Christian contemplation are endless.
(1) Virtue. The apostle never uses this old heathen term except in this place, but he seems to say that Christian people are not to neglect the study of that which is best in heathen conception,
(2) Praise. He had open despised the praise of men, but he concedes here that some consideration ought to be given even to what is worthy of praise among men.
II. THE DUTY AND ADVANTAGE OF CONTEMPLATING THESE THINGS. "Think on these things." I. The mind takes the stamp of what it thinks on. There is an assimilating process by which the graces or virtues we have specified are stamped deeply upon Christian character. It is with these graces as it is with Christ himself. He is the glass "in which we behold the glory of God, and so are changed into the same image from glory to glory."
2. There are blessed effects ,won the world. A life exemplifying the graces of holy living is the most likely to arrest the careless and the wicked. The living epistles of Christ are made to be known and read of all men.—T.C.
The apostle himself an example to believers.
"Those things, which ye both learned, and received, and heard, and saw in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
I. THE APOSTLE'S PRECEPTS. "Learned and received." The reference is to his oral teaching, which included all the principles out of which these graces or virtues take their origin and growth.
II. THE APOSTLE'S EXAMPLE. As set before them in what they heard of him when absent, and in what they saw of him when he was present. They witnessed his laborious usefulness, his patient submission to persecution, his spirituality and care for his own spiritual life, and, above all, his splendid decision of character.
III. THE EFFECT OF FOLLOWING THESE PRECEPTS AND THIS EXAMPLE. "The God of peace shall be with you." The way of peace lies along the pathway of obedience. The blessing of the Lord is upon them who love him and keep his commandments.—T.C.
The secret of contentment.
The apostle now turns to his personal relations with the Philippians, and commends them for their considerate and timely liberality in the times of his distress.
I. THE APOSTLE'S JOY IN THEIR LIBERALITY. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that at length ye retired your interest in me; in which, indeed, ye did interest yourselves, but ye had no opportunity."
1. There never was a man who more keenly appreciated Christian kindness than the apostle. Self-reliant and jealously independent as he was, his happiness was greatly increased by the thoughtful generosity of his converts. It was in no degree diminished by the fact that his friends had no opportunity of helping him, perhaps because he was far beyond their reach in the sweep of his missionary journeys.
2. Their kindness inspired him with a holy joy. Not because it was in answer to prayer for timely help, but because it typified the true grace of God in his converts. Their liberality was an evidence at once of their personal interest in him and of their Christian standing in the Lord.
II. THE APOSTLE'S CONTENTED SPIRIT. "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, I know also how to abound. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
1. What a checkered experience was that of the apostle! He had experience of want and of fullness in his wanderings as an apostle. He was no stranger to hunger.
2. What a happy spirit for such a life! He was content with such things as he had. The poet says—
"Art thou poor?
Yet hast thou golden slumbers,
O sweet Content."
There is no passage in any writer which depicts a more expansive, a more positively exalted attitude of mind than he describes in this passage as the virtue of content. It is that condition of mind in which nothing can foil the energy of the spirit. It is the quality which, having evoked generosity in others, flows forth in gratitude for that generosity; which, having failed to evoke generosity, manifests itself in submission to disappointment and in patient trust for the future germination of the seed sown.
III. THE TRUE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT. "I can do all things in him that infuses strength into me." This language implies that there is a Divine spring of help in all conditions.
1. Consider the extent of a Christian's ability.
(1) He is able to undergo every trial.
(2) To brave every sort of suffering.
(3) To overcome every variety of temptation.
(4) To perform every duty.
2. Consider the source of the Christian's strength. "In him." By virtue of our vital union with Christ we have access to the true Source of strength. Christ infuses strength into us:
(1) By his teaching.
(2) By his examinee of holy patience and forbearance.
(3) By the moral influence of his death as a reed sacrifice for sin.
(4) By the abundant bestowed of his Holy Spirit.
Thus the believer becomes "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."
IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE APOSTLE'S STATEMENT.
(1) It was at once a declaration of experiences and
(2) an expression of gratitude.—T.C.
The circumstances of their liberality.
The apostle guards against any appearance of slighting their gifts by specifying the grounds of his joy in them.
I. THEIR LIBERALITY WAS NOT MERE ALMSGIVING, BUT AN ACT OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. "Ye did well in communicating with my affliction." They were ready to share the burden of his troubles. There were no converts nearer to the heart of the apostle or more closely identified with his deepest trials.
II. THE APOSTLE'S WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT THEIR GIFTS WAS EXCEPTIONAL IN ITS CHARACTER. While he refused to receive gifts from the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:9) and from the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:8) because he would not compromise his independence in the case of Churches which were only too ready to question his motives, he conferred on the Philippians the exceptional privilege of ministering to his wants. Once when he left Macedonia, and twice when he was in Thessalonica, they sent, "to relieve his want."
III. THIS WILLINGNESS DID NOT IMPLY THAT HE COVETED THEIR GIFTS. "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that aboundeth to your account." He does seek to stimulate their generosity, but rather to increase that recompense which every fresh proof of their love would be sure to enhance.
IV. HIS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR LATEST GIFTS BY EPAPHRODITUS. "I have all things and abound: I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God."
1. It was a thoughtful kindness to send him gifts while he was a prisoner at Rome. The Christians at Rome seem to have been lax in this duty. As he could not gain a living for himself in prison, he was the more dependent on outside generosity.
2. It was doubly pleasant to have the gifts from Philippi conveyed by one so faithful and so dear to the apostle as Epaphroditus.
3. The gifts in his eyes owed their chief value to their being acceptable in God's sight.—T.C.
The true source of supply in spiritual need.
The apostle seems to say, "You have supplied all my wants; my God shall supply all yours in turn." Consider—
I. THE AUTHOR OF SUPPLY. "My God shall supply all your need."
1. The expressions, "my God," seems to say that what the apostle had found him to be in all his wants, his converts would be sure to find him, likewise. "My God,"
(1) because he is mine and I am his;
(2) because he has me wholly in charge and has all my interests committed to him.
2. The expression, implies, not merely God's ability and willingness to supply all over need, but his obligation to do so, in virtue of the covenant between, him and his people.
II. THE NEEDS OF THE CHRISTIAN.. "All your need."
1. This does not signify all that the Christian wants; only what he needs. In our waywardness and our childishness we ask for many things which are not really needful to us, but rather hurtful.
2. Our needs are many.
(1) In temporal things;
(2) in spiritual things.
We need faith and its increase, love and its enlargement, hope and its brighter kindling, grace in all its fullness and variety, perseverance in grace to the end.
III. THE RULE OR MEASURE OF SUPPLY. "According to his riches in glory." Not the riches of his glory, but according to his riches, which will find their full development in placing the Christian in glory. Thus there is an inexhaustible supply in God.
IV. THE MEDIUM OF SUPPLY. "In Christ Jesus." In virtue of our union with him we receive of his fullness, grace for grace. That union is the guarantee of a full supply for all our needs.
V. THE DOXOLOGY APPROPRIATE TO SUCH A THOUGHT. "Now to God even our Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." This anticipatory doxology is suggested by the pregnant thought of this passage. The glory is due to him who supplies our need.—T.C.
Philippians 4:21, Philippians 4:22
I. CHRISTIANITY IS THE RELIGION OF GOOD WILL TO MAN. It wishes well to all men, but especially to those of the household of faith. The apostle asks the Philippians to salute each individual saint as if he were to be the recipient of a separate blessing: "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus." The blessings we wish for our friends are only to be enjoyed in Christ Jesus.
II. THE SALUTATIONS INDICATE THE SOLIDARITY OF THE CHURCH. The Church at Rome is closely bound to the Church at Philippi.
1. The salutation of the apostle's companions. "The brethren which are with me salute you." That is, as distinguished from the saints at Rome. The brethren included, at least, Timothy, Luke, Epaphroditus, Aristarchus, Tychicus, Epaphras, Mark, Demas, Onesimus.
2. The salutation of the saints, and especially those of Caesar's household. "All the saints salute you, but especially those of Caesar's household." The saints of the great city of Rome, so far from despising the saints of the colonial town of Philippi, acknowledge a common brotherhood in their kindly greeting. The thought of the saints in Caesar's household suggests many reflections as to the penetrative power of the gospel. It is a remarkable tribute to its power that there should be saints in the household of Nero Caesar. Mark:
(1) The place of these saints. "In Caesar's household." Whether they were members of the Praetorian Guard or retainers in the emperor's family, they were
(a) in the most important position in the world—at Rome, the seat of empire, with communications reaching to the ends of the earth;
(b) they were tolerated in their religion, during the brief interval when Rome, with a glorious impartiality, opened its gates to all the faiths of the world, but in two years' time, indifference turned to hatred, and hatred to persecution;
(c) they were in the most corrupt household in the world, in the last place where we should have expected to find saints.
(2) The character of their saintship.
(a) It was heroic saintship;
(b) it showed independence;
(c) it showed constancy.
The catacombs of Rome convey the record of this saintship in the original purity of gospel life.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The life of joy and peace.
Celestial citizenship, "other-worldliness," as it has been called, should have a further issue than the expectation of the advent. It should have practical issues in a life of great peace and joy. It is, therefore, to such a life Paul calls his Philippian converts. Let us look at the interesting details.
I. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR UNITY AND COOPERATION IN THE WORK OF THE LORD. (Philippians 4:1-50.) Nothing is so productive of unity as our assurance that we are citizens of the same heaven. Why should compatriots fall out in this distant land? Should we not bury our differences and march forward shoulder to shoulder? Euodias and Syntyche must be of the same mind in the Lord. The workers male and female at Philippi are cordially to co-operate. They ought to be a united band. As heaven overarches us all and unifies the population of the globe, so should the thought of our celestial citizenship make all one. For in heaven there shall be no divisions and vexations. The brotherhood shall never there be broken. For unbroken brotherhood, therefore, we should long and labor here.
II. CHRISTIAN CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR JOY IN THE LORD AT ALL TIMES. (Philippians 4:4.) The art of enjoying life is what Christianity alone can teach us. Man's effort at first was to rejoice apart from God; to eat and enjoy the fruit, no matter what charges God had given. And this idea still haunts mankind. Prodigals and legalists imagine that they can enjoy life most away from the heavenly Father (Luke 15:11-42). But we learn a different lesson in the gospel. We learn that the Father's house is full of "music and dancing;" in other words, heaven is the home of joy—joy, too, that is everlasting. And we realize that in the Lord alone the sources of true and lasting joy are to be found. When we look to him and confide in him, then we come as citizens of heaven to rejoice in him at all times. In seasons of sorrow as well as in seasons of mirth there may be an undertone of celestial joy. Man is called to joy, not to trouble. The art is in going straight to Jesus the infinite Fountain, and in avoiding the broken cisterns that line our way.
III. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP BESPEAKS MODERATION. (Philippians 4:5.) It ill befits a citizen of heaven to be ostentatious and venturesome to the utmost brink of Christian liberty. Display is not the outcome or issue of a consciousness of our citizenship above. Especially when we live with the abiding persuasion of the Lord's speedy advent, all want of moderation seems out of place. In proportion as we rejoice in the Lord shall we be distinguished by moderation in our life and carriage. If God gives abundance, it is that we may manifest the spirit of moderation and never be the least intoxicated by success. Ostentation must be left to the world.
IV. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR A LIFE WITHOUT CAREFULNESS. (Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7.) Just as in heaven the saintly souls keep nothing back from God and so live an unclouded life before him, so ought celestial citizens to live the open life with God here and be correspondingly free from care. And here it may be observed that an old divine has quaintly put our duty as expressed in these verses thus, that we should "be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything." The result of such confidence is peace. "God's peace which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds," or, as the Revised Version has it, "shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Freed from anxious care, why should we not be peaceful?
V. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS UPON US TO LOOK OUT FOR AND THINK UPON THE TRUE, THE HONOURABLE, THE JUST, THE PURE, THE LOVELY, THE GRACIOUS, THE MANLY, AND THE PRAISEFUL. (Philippians 4:8.) Now, it is truly wonderful how a joyful Christian spirit will discover upon his path, be it ever so lowly, such food for thought as is sketched for us here. It has been said with great beauty, "If we do but open our hearts at a single point, the spiritual water and blood will find an entrance, will purge our egotism and complete the sacrifice. In this confidence, 'as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,' we shall go freely on our appointed way, knowing that it may become to us a discipline of God, and that there is no way so beaten but that things true and honest, and just and lovely, may be found in it." The joyful, heaven-centred soul discerns food for meditation where others cannot find it, and moves upward upon a path of increasing light towards "the perfect day."
VI. THE GOD OF PEACE GRANTS FELLOWSHIP TO SUCH CITIZENS. (Philippians 4:9.) If we honestly enter upon the joyful, peaceful life of heavenly citizenship, the felt presence of God as the God of peace shall be always with us. Over the peace he has made in our once tempest-tossed hearts he will rejoice with singing, and in his love and fellowship we shall be enabled to rest. The King of the celestial country can keep his citizens company all the time they are here on earth; they are at home with God all their happy days; he takes their burdens from them and soothes them in sorrow and makes them somewhat worthy of their heavenly hopes. With such well-filled minds and hearts may we journey onward towards the fatherland above!—R.M.E.
The art of Divine contentment.
The Philippians, having sent by Epaphroditus certain love-tokens to the apostle, must have a receipt from the magnanimous receiver. Most likely they were not of much intrinsic value, but Paul's great heart rejoices over them and calls them "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well-pleasing unto God." At the same time, he lets them know that he could have been content without these love-tokens, though he is delighted with them; for he has learned the lesson of the years, to be content with any state in which a loving Lord might be pleased to place him. And here we have to notice—
I. CONTENTMENT IS AN ART. (Verse 11.) It must be "learned." We cannot acquire it at a bound. We must serve our apprenticeship to it as to any other art. It is not a science to be theoretically mastered, but an art to be practically obtained. We must go to the "school of art," we must set ourselves earnestly as scholars to learn the lesson, and we must "keep our hands in" by constant practice.
II. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT MAKES LITTLE OF ITS WANTS. (Verses 11-13.) Paul had not sent any word to Philippi about his needs. He had become so superior to circumstances that abasement and abundance made no difference to him. Faith in Christ made him independent. It is the humble spirit which trusts the omnipotent Savior which proves to be really the independent spirit. It is humility and independence which always go together. When we control our desires, minimize our wants, we can reach independence more really than by acquiring vast estate. The rich are often discontented. Their desires outstrip all acquisition, and they are discontented in spite of their abundance.
III. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT MAKES MUCH OF ITS BOUNTIES. (Verses 12-18) With the independence Paul manifests magnanimity. See how he speaks of the attention of the Philippians. He makes it out that they have been always sending to him—that every time they had an opportunity they were sending him their love-tokens. "Once and again" they had sent to his necessity. Now, it requires a big contented spirit to take the kindness of others cordially. Emerson says, "You cannot give anything to a magnanimous person. After you have served him he at once puts you in debt by his magnanimity. The service a man renders his friend is trivial and selfish compared with the service he. knows his friend stood in readiness to yield him, alike before he had begun to serve his friend and now also. Compared with that good-will I bear my friend, the benefit it is in my power to render him seems small. Besides, our action on each other, good as well as evil, is so incidental and at random that we can seldom hear the acknowledgments of any person who would thank us for a benefit without some shame and humiliation. We can rarely strike a direct stroke, but must be content with an oblique one; we seldom have the satisfaction of yielding a direct benefit which is directly received. But rectitude scatters favors on every side without knowing it, and receives with wonder the thanks of all people." In the same way, we find the magnanimous Paul making as much of the kindness of the Philippians as led them, we may be sure, to wonder at such mention being made of their gifts at all.
IV. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT LOOKS AT ALL IN A SPIRITUAL LIGHT. (Verses 19-23.) Paul was glad of their gift, for it was spiritual "fruit." It was a benefit to them more than to him. Did they not realize that "it is better to give than to receive"? They had pleased God by their goodness to his servant. And he would supply all their need, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. He would give them spiritual compensation. They would get a benefit in soul which was cheaply bought by what they had given.
He then sums up the joy-inspiring Epistle with salutations, among others, from those saints in Caesar's household. This shows what success Paul's mission had enjoyed at the capital, how even the entourage of the emperor had felt the spell of the aged prisoner. Paul had shown that he could live a heavenly, joyful, contented life, in spite of his imprisonment and possible martyrdom. The hero made heroes of others. The guardsmen who were chained to him cleaved to him in love May such a celestial life be ours!—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
I. STEADFASTNESS. "Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved." As in the first chapter our performing our duties as citizens is followed by the exhortation to stand fast, so here our possession of the privileges of heavenly citizens is more formally made the ground of the same exhortation. We are to stand fast so as has been pointed out, i.e. as heavenly citizens. There might be a standing fast against becoming heavenly citizens. And even as heavenly citizens they were to stand fast in the Lord, i.e. within the limits and to the extent prescribed by Christ, and in the strength offered by Christ. But the duty of steadfastness is almost lost sight of in the wealth of epithets of endearment with which it is surrounded. The Philippians were his brethren beloved; he cherished the warmest feelings toward them. They were his longed for; he had in absence a great desire to see them. They were his joy; he had a great delight in their Christian excellences. They were his crown, or wreath of victory round the diadem; they were evidence that he had not run in vain. And, having stated the duty with all brevity, he falls back on the first epithet, as if he had difficulty in breaking away from affectionate expression. Let them not, then, grieve such love by neglecting to stand fast.
II. THE RECONCILIATION OF EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE.
1. Direct appeal "I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord." It is a strange destiny by which the names of these women have been handed down from generation to generation in God's Book, in connection with a difference which existed between them. It is well that our differences are soon forgotten, as even our names will be after we are gone. And yet the record is kept of our differences, as of our names, in God's book of remembrance. It would be a surprise to these women to be thus referred to by name in the apostle's letter, read before the assembled congregation. And so it will be a surprise to us to hear many things in connection with our names read out before the assembled universe. The apostle appeals to each separately, as being both to blame, though not necessarily equally to blame. Their own conscience would tell them how much they were each to blame; and so our conscience, appealed to at the last day, will tell us how much we are each to blame. It would be humbling to these women to have public notice taken of their difference; and so we ought to be humbled now on account of our differences, that we may not be humbled by publicity hereafter. The difference between these women arose from their not being in the Lord in the matter concerned, i.e. not following Christ's leading, not cherishing Christ's spirit. And so it is when we are not true to Christ that differences arise between us. The way in which these women were to be of one mind was by returning to the leading and influence of Christ; and there is no other way in which a reconciliation can be satisfactorily effected.
2. Assistance of the apostle's yokefellow at Philippi solicited. "I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life." The true yokefellow not being named, we are to understand the one to whom it properly belonged to grant assistance in the work of reconciliation, viz. the minister of the Church at Philippi. Had Paul been present he would have undertaken the work; but, in his absence, it fell to him who was set over the Church and over these women in the Lord, and who was of like spirit with him, to undertake it. The ground on which the apostle was so anxious to have the reconciliation effected was that they were deserving women. And it was satisfactory that, when their names were to go down to all ages in connection with a difference, there was also something to be added which was to their credit. They had labored in the gospel, and in honorable company. That is the testimony that is borne regarding them. The influence of women seems to have been a feature of the Macedonian Churches. At tnessalonica it is said, "Of the chief women not a few." At Beroea, "Many of them believed: also of the Greek women of honorable rank not a few." And in connection with the start of the Philippian Church, it is said, "We spake to the women that were gathered together." "The extant Macedonian inscriptions," says Lightfoot, "seem to assign to the sex a higher social influence than is common among the civilized nations of antiquity. In not a few instances a metronymic takes the place of the usual, patronymic; and in other cases a prominence is given to women which can hardly be accidental. But whether I am right or not in the conjecture that the work of the gospel was in this respect aided by the social condition of Macedonia, the active zeal of the women in this country is a remarkable fact, without a parallel in the apostle's history elsewhere, and only to be compared with their prominence at an early date in the personal ministry of our Lord." We can think of Euodia and Syntyche as of the number of those who assembled at the riverside, It may have been in connection with their work that they differed. The Greek word translated "labored" suggests that, while they strove with each other in a way that was not to their honor, they at the same time strove, as in the games, in the sphere of the gospel. Of the honorable company in which they thus nobly strove, the first was Paul. The next is Clement, whose identity with Clement of Rome is very doubtful. Of the others, the names are not given, but the honorable thing is said regarding them that they, as well as Clement, were Paul's fellow-workers, and that their names are in the book of life. Not known now to men, they are known to God, written among the living in Jerusalem. Their names are in the register of the covenant people kept in the heavenly Jerusalem, and will yet be read out before the assembled universe as among those who have title to all covenant privileges.
III. THE DUTY OF REJOICING. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: again I will say, Rejoice." The apostle takes up the parting address which was broken off at Philippians 2:1, strengthened here by the addition of "alway," and repeated with emphasis in a form which points to the maximum of deliberation, "Again I will say, Rejoice." All wish to rejoice, but mistakes are made even by Christians as to the object. According to the teaching here, we are to rejoice in the Lord. Or, as Christ says, bringing us back to the pure fount of joy, "Howbeit in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." We are not to rejoice in ourselves, or in any of God's creatures, as though they were the first cause, the primal source of joy. Nay, we are not even to rejoice primarily in works which God may do by us. When one is eminently successful in conversion-work, we say, perhaps not without a feeling of envy, "What a joy must fill that man's soul!" If we were the instrument of converting sinners like him, we think we could rejoice too. But it is to be noted that the most successful laborer in the vineyard is not before the humblest Christian in the deepest source of his joy. What we have all alike to rejoice in is this, that our names are written in heaven; in other words, that we ourselves are the children or people of God, that we have God as our Portion, that he regards us individually with judicial favor and fatherly love. There is thus a very humble, self-excluding element in our joy. The ground of rejoicing in the Lord, for us who were born in sin, is the atoning work of Christ. To atone for sin entailed great sorrow on our Substitute. From eternity having joys most exalted in himself, he endured pains which, considering their cause, were infernal The pains of hell got hold upon him. Think of Gethsemane; think of Calvary. But he never veered a hairbreadth from the purpose of our salvation. He set his face like a flint, and so the work was done, and done for ever. And now, in Christ, God stands in a gracious relation to his people. He has entirely altered their relation to him, from being objects of his regard to being objects of his complacent regard. Double reason, then, have we for rejoicing in God. "O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." Ours, then, should be a deep and a perennial joy. Even under depreciation of earthly comfort, there should be more gladness in our heart than men of the world have in the time that their corn and their wine and their oil abound. God, in Christ, is more to us than corn, or wine, or oil; ay, more than the dearest earthly friend, and One who will never fail us; and therefore we may alway rejoice.
IV. DUTY OF FORBEARANCE.
1. Stated. "Let your forbearance be known unto all men." Forbearance is reasonableness (to which the derivation points) on its gentle side. It is the opposite of rigorism. It is "considerateness for others, not urging one's own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustice of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of his Law against us, as we deserve, though having exacted fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety." It was a grace especially to be "known" unto their persecutors. It was a grace to be "known" unto the worst offenders. As inseparable from them, it was to be "known" unto all men; i.e. in all their dealings with men.
2. Enforced. "The Lord is at hand." Rigorism "would be taking into our own hands prematurely the prerogative of judging, which belongs to the Lord alone; and so provoking God to judge us by the strict letter of the Law." Let us think kindly of men, even of the worst of men, as those who are still under trial, and who, by our forbearance, may be won over to the Lord's side. And, as judgment lingereth not, let us fully embrace the opportunity.
V. MEANS TO BE USED AGAINST ANXIETY.
1. The evil to be avoided. "In nothing be anxious." "Nothing" has the emphasis. To not one thing is our anxiety to extend. Anxiety is harassing care, very different from the providential care of God. We cannot help having cares in the world—cares about getting a livelihood, cares about health, cares about higher matters, cares about those who are near and dear to us, and cares, beyond our immediate circle, for men generally and for the Church. But, though we cannot help having cares in this world, we are not to be harassed by cares, as though we had to bear them ourselves.
2. Means to be used against the evil. "But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Over against the "nothing" of anxiety is the "everything" by prayer. Every part of our life is to be connected with prayer. There is nothing too small to be connected with prayer. Specially on every occasion of care are we to pray. And, while we pray generally, we are to make our prayer turn upon our special need. We are to supplicate to be relieved from care, or to be strengthened under care. And while we thus supplicate for relief or strengthening, we are to be thankful for our freedom from other cares, for the number of our mercies, for the special mercy that is mingled with our care. In our supplication we are to have special petitions which we are to make known unto God. For though known unto God are all our wants, yet it is good for the work of communion, for the exercise of faith and of other graces, that we should make our wants known in the proper quarter. If we have cares, what more natural than that we should go with them to him from whom they have come as their First Cause? That must be more satisfactory than going to an intermediate cause or burdening ourselves with them. We can feel assured of his thoroughly understanding our case, of his power to help as having inexhaustible resources at his command, and of his being invested, not with a mere earthly greatness such as might repulse us, but with a greatness which is fitted to be a home and a shelter to us. He will not cover himself with clouds, so that our prayer shall not pass through. He will not turn away our prayer nor his mercy from us.
3. Blessed results of using the means. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." This is the peace of God, i.e. of which God is the source and origin. It is not the peace of unfallen beings, but the peace of those who have been sinners and are now reconciled, the sweet sense of sin forgiven, the blessed feeling that the condemnation which was resting upon us is now removed. More than that, it is, in its essence, a holy tranquillity, that comes from resting in God, such a tranquillity as fills the mind in God. It is a peace which passeth all understanding, which has a mysterious, unspeakable sweetness about it, so that he who has once felt what it is would never like to lose it. This peace is to guard our hearts and our thoughts, is to be stationed as a strong guard, so that no disturbing influence shall pass through to the center of our being or into the workings of our mind. So effectually is anxiety to be excluded. Our wisdom, then, is to seek repose by prayer. "If your mind be overcharged or overwhelmed with trouble and anxiety, go into the presence of God. Spread your case before him. Though he knows the desires of your heart, yet he has declared he will be sought after; he will be inquired of to do it for you. Go, therefore, into the presence of that God who will at once tranquillize your spirit, give you what you wish or make you more happy without it, and who will be your everlasting Consolation, if you trust in him. He will breathe peace into your soul, and command tranquillity in the midst of the greatest storms."—R.F.
Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:9
Categories of morality.
Conclusion announced. "Finally, brethren." This is his second attempt to conclude. In the usual form he intimates that all he has to say, in addition to what he has already said, he is now to state shortly. In other Epistles Paul gives a considerable place to ordinary morality, including the relative duties. He does not deem it necessary (there being no urgency) to write at length to the Philippians upon this subject. He only puts it into his conclusion, where brevity is a necessity. And there is not that plain mode of expression which is found elsewhere: ' Let him that stole steal no more." But, as for advanced or skilled Christians, there is a certain transcendental mode of expression, with an added reference to apostolic interpretation.
I. CATEGORIES OF MORALITY FOR THOUGHT. The summarizing under "virtue and praise" points to morality, as does also their being presented for practice in the ninth verse. They are emphatically separated as categories by the repetition of "whatsoever things," while the summary is made emphatic by the repetition of the words, "if there be any." They seem to be arranged in pairs, according to the following division.
1. Things in themselves.
2. Things in relation to law.
3. Things in relation to the estimation in which they are held.
It will be most suitable to our homilectic purpose to name them separately. "Whatsoever things are true." There are things that are true in themselves—that would have been true if there had never been a Bible, that would have been true if there had never been the placing of man under law. There is an eternal standard by which things are to be judged. There are immutable principles which lie at the foundation of morality. The things that are necessarily true subsist in God, and as subsisting in God he is immutable—a rock on which we can absolutely depend. The things that are true are also to be in ourselves. That certainly means that we are to speak the truth. For veracity belongs to the eternal order of things, while a lie, however glossed over, is an infringement of that order. But our whole life is to be founded in truth. If it is to be founded in the work of Christ, yet is it in the work of Christ, as wrought out in accordance with eternal principles, and in that work as giving, relatively to us, added sanction and lustre to those principles, as what must regulate our life. We are, therefore, under all temptation to have to do with falsehood, to hold close by the true as that alone which can give stability to our life. "Whatsoever things are honorable." There are things which are honorable in themselves. They are more than venerable from antiquity. They are to be honored from their essential and eternal worth. As subsisting in God, they are the ground of his being infinitely to be honored. The things that are honor-able are also to be in ourselves. That certainly means that we are to be honest, as the word used to be in the translation. For there is disgrace necessarily attaching to a dishonest action. But more than that, it means that our whole life is to be based on what can be thoroughly respected—on what can bear looking into as in its nature and bearings honorable; on what is to be honored, whether men honor it or not; on what we cannot respect ourselves if we do not honor. If we, amid all temptation to act basely, keep our mind open to the honorable, then we shall have a dignity, gravity, taken from that to which we look and with which we converse. "Whatsoever things are just." This brings in relation to law. The things that are just are in God in the position in which he is placed as Lawgiver and Administrator. He absolutely fills up what belongs to him in the position; he acts according to the eternally true and honourable, i.e. according to his own eternal excellence as moral Governor. He is just in placing us under law, in the nature which he has given us, in what he exacts of us, and in all his dealing with us as under law. He never can do wrong to any of his creatures. Though clouds and darkness are round about him, yet judgment and justice are the habitation of his throne. And the things that are just are to be in us, as placed under law to God. We are to fill up the measure of duty that belongs to us in the position. Obedience, compliance with the Divine will in all matters, is what we owe to God. Justice requires that, as dependent creatures, we should humbly acknowledge and worship him. We are to do the duty of every relation in which we stand to our fellow-men. We are to be in subjection to the higher powers, and not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience sake. We are to honor all men, whatever their condition, because of the dignity of their nature. And far be it from us that we should do any of our fellow-men the injustice of defrauding them or of treating them uncharitably. We are to be characterized by universal, deep-reaching conscientiousness. "Whatsoever things are pure." There is not only justice, but purity in relation to law. The things that are pure are absolutely in God. He is so pure that even the stars are not pure in his sight. He rules in the interests of purity. He holds up before us a high conception of purity in his Statute-book. "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times;" "The commandment of the Lord is pure." He looks upon purity wherever it is with complacency, and it has a place with him; but he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and evil shall not dwell with him. The things that are pure are also to be in ourselves. We are to be pure in the narrower sense. We are to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions. More than that, we are to have chastity as a preservative and a defense to our whole nature. We are to be kept within the Law, by our great sensitiveness and strong attraction to snow-white purity, to heavenliness, and by our repelling the slightest suggestion of impurity, by our shrinking from the slightest touch of worldliness. We are to have God's own love for that which makes and keeps us pure, and his own abhorrence and loathing of sin as that which defiles. "Whatsoever things are lovely." This brings in relation to the estimation in which things are held. For the Greek word seems to point to things which are worthy of love. There are, indeed, things which are lovely according to the eternal standard of taste. As subsisting in God they are the ground of his being infinitely to be loved. We read of the beauty of the Lord our God. He is beautiful in his whole character, but especially in his love in Christ. God is love; and herein is love. In this he as it were surpasses himself. He magnifies his Word above all his Name. He is beautiful as he comes forward and does not spare his own Son, but delivers him up for us all. He is beautiful in his forbearance towards sinners and his exercising towards them the prerogative of pardon. His beauty is manifested in him who, standing upon our earth, said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will. draw all men unto myself." And the things which are lovely are to be in us. It is true of virtue as a whole that it is lovely. Cicero says, there is nothing more lovely than virtue, nothing which more allures to loving." But the things that are lovely are especially those that rise to a high standard. We must not be merely righteous; but we must be good. Even Lot is called righteous in Scripture; but there was one that towered high above him, having the things that are lovely. How beautiful to see Abraham exercising the grace of hospitality! How beautiful to see his generous treatment of Lot, his not standing on his rights with him, his forgiving his selfishness, his heaping on his head coals of kindness! How beautiful especially to see him going so far in his self-denial toward God as not to withhold from him his son, his only son! Did he not have the qualities of a noble, royal nature? "Whatsoever things are of good report." This is distinctly estimation. There are things which sound well in the ear. Of even God in connection with the redemption from Egypt it is said that he had gotten himself a name. It sounded well in the cars of the Israelites, and of the uncovenanted nations too. And so God has gotten him a name in connection with the great redemption from sin. It can be said of the name of Redeemer that it sounds well. And we are to have the things of good report in us too. Virtue, says an ancient philosopher, is the concurring voice of the good. The things that are well reported of are especially those that rise above the common standard—that show disinterestedness and devotion. If a thing is lovely in itself, it is an additional advantage that it is well spoken of, especially among the good. "If there be any virtue." This, showing a change of form, but still universality, seems to summarize the preceding, with the sole exception of the last. The derivation of "virtue" points to manliness or valor. But it is to be taken as inclusive of every form of moral excellence. We are to have the excellence that comes from the true, from the honorable, from the just, from the pure, from the lovely. But, lest that should not cover the whole ground of excellence, he adds, "If there be any virtue." "And if there be any praise? We are not to understand anything that is praiseworthy, but the actual bestowment of praise. It covers the things that are of good report; but points rather to the distinct embodiment of moral judgment regarding things in eulogy, such as Paul's praise of love in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and our Lord's praise of humility and other virtues in the beatitudes. "Think on these things." We come to the things which have been mentioned partly by intuition, but we must dwell upon them and converse with them, if we would have a clear apprehension of them and have skill in detecting their counterfeits. The thought of the psalmist is that the use of the understanding is necessary to the right keeping of God's Law. If we allow the intellect to slumber, do not examine into circumstances and carefully investigate the moral character of what we are doing, we may go far enough astray from the true, and honorable, and just, and pure. It is by constantly judging our conduct by these things that they come to have the shaping of our life. "To cover human life with beauty, to carve it into nobleness, requires thought as truly as to cover canvas with lovely forms or to make the hard and unwilling marble assume a shape of majesty and grace. Is there any nobler use of the intellect of man than this, to serve the conscience and the heart with faithful loyalty, to master the moral laws by which life should be ruled, and the motives which may assist the vacillating will in keeping them? Among common men, what restless, incessant thought there is about how they may extend their trade and increase their profits, come to live in a larger house and keep a better table, and how little thought about the eternal law of righteousness and their obligation to keep and honor it! Do Christian men believe that he who gave them their intellect meant them to think incessantly of the price of iron, the rate of wages, the condition of the money market, the furniture of their houses, the fruit in their gardens—never or only sluggishly about his own awful majesty, his glorious perfection, his ideas of what human life ought to be?
II. THESE CATEGORIES OF MORALITY ALSO FOR PRACTICE WITH THE HELP OF APOSTOLIC INTERPRETATION.
1. Interpretation of his teaching. "The things which ye both learned and received." The only difference between these verbs seems to be that in the former we are pointed more to the activity of the taught, in the latter more to the activity of the teacher. The fact that Paul holds up these high categories before the Philippians shows that they were in an advanced state. At the same time, it was not long since they had come out of heathenism. And the apostle refers them to such simple rules as he had laid down for their conduct, of which there are examples in other Epistles.
2. Interpretation of his example. "And heard and saw in me." They heard when he was absent and saw when he was present. It is well when both teaching and life go together. It was a great advantage to the Philippians that, when the rules of their life were completely changed for them, these were not only presented in their particularity, but were exemplified in their teacher of whom they heard, or, what was better, whom they saw among them. Thus could they be led on from the state of childhood to the state of maturity, in which they could be thought of as conversing with the high categories of morality. "These things do." Calvin properly remarks, "Meditation precedes, practice follows." Once we have carefully thought of our conduct in the light of the great categories, there is the carrying our thought into practice. If we have thought well beforehand, we have a great advantage; but it will never be but difficult, considering the treachery of our hearts, the strength of our temptations, to bring our daily practice up to our thought. It is difficult enough to do the things that are true, that are honorable, that are just, that are pure; how much more to do the things that are lovely, that are of good report!
III. PROMISE ATTACHED TO PRACTICE FOLLOWING ON THOUGHT OF THE CATEGORIES, "And the God of peace shall be with you." There is a recurrence with a difference of form to the thought of Verse 7. There peace was to guard those who prayed. Here the God of peace is to be with those who practice the moralities. He has peace in his own mind, in his own balanced perfections; and he has peace in what he thinks of us. And, as we strive to carry out his holy purposes, he stands by us to banish our fears, to soothe our minds. "Great peace have they who love thy Law; and nothing shall offend them." Let us bring the six great categories into our life, and we shall assuredly have the peace which God himself has in their absolute possession.—R.F.
Paul thanks the Philippians for their contribution.
There is noticeable throughout mingled dignity and delicacy. He is careful on the one hand to maintain his independence, and on the other hand to show his sense of their kindness.
I. THE REVIVED THOUGHT SHOWN IN THEIR CONTRIBUTION. "But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity." The occurrence was associated in his mind with joy. He verily thought that the Lord had put it into the hearts of the Philippians to scud that contribution to him. His joy rose to a great height. What made him rejoice so greatly was that then at length (an indefinite period, which went back at least to the coming of Epaphroditus) their thought for him was putting forth new shoots as trees do in spring. This was a revival which by no means reflected on their past. It had been winter with them, and, while winter lasts, no one expects nature to revive. But as soon as the proper season came round the fresh shoots appeared.
II. STATEMENT REGARDING CONTENTMENT.
1. Introduced. "Not that I speak in respect of want." He was not to be understood as thinking merely of want. He was in such a relation to a state of want that the mere escape from it could not make him jubilant.
2. His state generally. "For I have learned, in whatsoever state i am, therein to be content." To be content is, literal]y, to be self-sufficient, independent. He was thus content relatively to his being in one state or another. He had learned to be content. "These words signify how contentedness may be attained, or how it is produced; it is not an endowment innate to us; it doth not arrive by chance into us; it is not to be purchased by any price; it springeth not up of itself, nor ariseth from the quality of any state; but it is a product of discipline—'I have learned.' It is an art which cannot be acquired without studious application of mind and industrious exercise; no art, indeed, requireth more hard study and pain toward the acquiry of it, there being so many obstacles in the way thereto; we have no great capacity, no towardly disposition to learn it; we must, in doing it, deny our carnal sense, we must settle our wild fancy and suppress fond conceits; we must bend our stiff and stubborn inclinations; we must repress and restrain wanton desires; we must allay and still tumultuous passions; we must cross our humor and curb our temper: which to do is a hard chapter to learn; much consideration, much practice, much contention and diligence are required thereto. Here it is an art which we may observe few do much study, and of the students thereof few are great proficients; so that 'Qui fit, Mecaenas?' Horace's question, 'How comes it to pass that nobody liveth content with the lot assigned by God?' wanted not sufficient ground. However, it is not like the quadrature of the circle, or the philosopher's stone, an art impossible to be learned, and which will baffle all study; there are examples which show it to be obtainable; there are rules and precepts by observing which we may arrive to it" (Barrow). The apostle for one had learned. The force of the language is, "I for my part, have learned." "With noble self-consciousness," is the remark of Meyer. He had been exceptionally placed for learning this lesson. There were few, if any, who could compare with him in the changes he had seen in providence, in the states through which he had been made to pass. And he had rightly improved his experiences. He had learned to be independent of his outward state, in looking to the sufficiency of his inward enjoyments in God's favor and love and the prospects of everlasting bliss. He had learned farther to be independent by looking to his outward state, whatsoever it was for the time being, as appointed him by God, as therefore better than he could choose for himself, as the best possible for him in view of his discipline and usefulness.
3. Contrasted states. "I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want." He condescends and dwells on particular states with variety of expression. As the result of his learning, he knew how to be abased, i.e. by any adverse state, and not merely by want. And he knew also how to abound, which is more specific, being the opposite of being in want. The knowing is next amplified, being made to extend to everything and all things (distributively and collectively). It is further amplified in being made to refer to acquired knowledge which is hidden from the uninitiated. He had learned the secret. The two states are now plainly described as a being filled and a being hungry, an abounding (in the means of subsistence) and a being in want (of the means of subsistence). We do not know so much about Paul being in the former state, but about the latter state there are affecting notices. "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place" (1 Corinthians 4:11); "In hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness' (2 Corinthians 11:27). He knew how to maintain the right attitude to both states, and we are to understand the right attitude to be independence. He was so independent that he was "neither exalted by abundance nor crushed by want," as Pelagius properly remarks. There is a contentment (to use the narrower word) which extends even to a state of abundance. For in a state of abundance men are apt to make themselves poor by enlarging their desires. The apostle had "stayed affections," and that was the secret of his contentment in both states.
4. Source of support generally. "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." The apostle rises from the special to the general, and points triumphantly, but humbly, to what supported him, not only in want, but in every state. The Strengthener here is the same who is said to make us more than conquerors, viz. Christ.
(1) How Christ comes to have strength to give to his people. We are not to conceive of this strength as that belonging to him by original right as the Son of God. If we had not fallen from our original condition that would have been the source of strength to us, as it is to unfallen angels. The creature naturally finds strength in the Creator, and we should have found unfailing strength in him by whom God made the heavens and the earth, by whom also he made us. But Christ, as the Savior, had no blessing for his people until he had acquired it. All the strength that we need for our being raised out of sin into holiness had to be labored for, struggled for, bled for. The work for which Christ was set apart needed strength for its accomplishment. And this he was constantly augmenting until, at the last, in the depths of suffering, in conflict with all the powers of darkness, under the eclipse of the Divine countenance, he struggled out into perfect spiritual strength. He became strong, not by ease, but by "resisting unto blood, striving against sin." His own strength was not the result of his atoning work; it was rather that which accomplished it. But that he should give strength to his people, that follows on his atoning work, and does not go before it. We are taught to think of it as part of the reward which the Father gave him for finishing his appointed work. Raised to the right hand of God, he received gifts for men, even for the rebellious; and one of these gifts is strength to support us in the doing of God's will. He has acquired for us that strength in which he himself overcame. That, then, is the hard-won manner in which Christ has become the Source of strength. He has risen out of the great glorious work of redemption to be strength to his people. He is our Strength, because our Redeemer.
(2) What the nature of the strength is which Christ gives to his people. There is ascribed to the holy a kind of omniscience: "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things." That does not mean that we know all things in the sense in which God knows them, but that we know them so far as our duties are concerned, and are delivered from all that would obscure our vision. There is, in the same way, ascribed to us here a kind of omnipotence: "I can do all things." That does not mean that we can
"Rift the hills or roll the waters,
Flash the lightning, weigh the sun."
Such an omnipotence is not like us; it is only like One, and such glory he cannot give to another. Besides, it would not make us better beings that we possessed this power, while the possession of it would be accompanied with tremendous peril. It must mean that we can do all things such as are like us or can be expected of us. We have omnipotence within the range of our duties. We can feel out all round where our duties lie, and realize that we are perfectly equal to them. "'Impossible' is not a French word," said a warrior of that brave nation; with much more truth may we say that "impossible" is not a Christian word. We have strength equal to our believing on Christ at the first, even in the inability of our will. We have strength equal to the most difficult duty to which we can be called. We have strength equal to the most trying position in which God may see fit to place us, which is the special application in the context.
(3) How Christ strengthens his people. He does not do it miraculously, as though we should retire at night in an ordinary state of mind, and rise in the morning miraculously strengthened in spirit. The Spirit may come as he does at first, without seeking; but he who would sit still and wait for a miracle shall never be strengthened. Where the Spirit is, there will be a seeking spirit. We are to seek strength in prayer, according to the direction, "Seek, and ye shall find." We are to seek it in the Word. Such a word as this before us, appropriated by faith, is fitted to strengthen us for duty and trial. But we are also to seek it in connection with providences. Prepared beforehand, we are, in the actual doing or bearing, to have a habit of reliance upon Christ. That is the secret of strength in working and in suffering. We are only promised strength according to our day, and not beyond the present day, in order that we may have a habit of reliance upon Christ for each day's strength. At the same time, it should be true that we are ever, in holy habit, acquiring strength against the future. The way to be prepared for the future is to live well in the present. The way to be prepared for the more important duties of life is to do well the humble everyday duties. The way to be prepared for the great emergencies of life and especially for the last emergency is to bear well our lesser trials and annoyances.
III. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR KINDNESS.
1. Kindness to him at Rome. "Howbeit ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction." Having so carefully guarded himself, he feels that he must now guard against any appearance of slighting their kindness. Having already excluded the idea of mere pecuniary relief, in his acknowledgment he looks to the moral excellence which they had displayed in their contribution. They had done well in that they had shown sympathy with him, not in his poverty (for he does not admit the existence of that), but in his affliction, i.e. in the sufferings generally to which he was subjected for the gospel in Rome. They had fellowship with him in the gospel. Having fellowship with him in greater matters, they had also fellowship with him in lesser matters. Their heart was open to all that the Christian preacher, to whom they as well as others had been so much indebted, might need in his prison in Rome. And that was the aspect of the contribution which made it peculiarly acceptable to the afflicted apostle.
2. Early kindness.
(1) When he was going forth from Macedonia. "And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only." He had dwelt upon his own independence; he must now dwell upon their kindness. They, the Philippians, whom he mentions affectionately by name, knew as well as he that their kindness had not been of late growth. It had dated from the beginning of the gospel. For "he places himself in their situation, dates from (so to speak) their Christian era." It had dated from the time when he was going forth from Macedonia. Then they alone of the Churches had fellowship with hint in the matter of giving and receiving. We are here supplied with a general name for finance, from the two sides of the ledger—credit and debit. In the Philippian ledger there was an account opened with Paul, in which there were only entries under the head of giving; nevertheless (to keep purely to finance, and not to complicate the thought by bringing in spiritual benefit received by the Philippians), it was categorically an account of giving and receiving. In our ledger (for business ideas ought to be carried into our whole income and expenditure) there should never be wanting a missionary account, an account opened with those who are in need of the gospel of Christ, or are our suffering fellow-Christians.
(2) When he was still in Thessalonica. "For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need." Before the going forth from Macedonia, while he was still laboring in Thessalonica (within the bounds of Macedonia), they had sent once and again unto his need. The exceptional character of this proceeding is to be explained, on the one hand by the intensity of their affection for the apostle, and on the other hand by his consciousness that he was so well understood by them that, without misinterpretation, he could accept of their gifts.
IV. UNSELFISHNESS OF THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
1. He did not seek gifts. "Not that I seek for the gift: but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account." By enlarging on their liberality he might be thought to be coveting their gifts. To guard himself he would have them understand that he did not seek for the gift, i.e. gifts of that kind. But he sought for the fruit corresponding to the gifts. Every time that they gave they were sowing; and the fruit would grow up for them in the next world. Every time that they gave there was an entry made in their name and to their account in the ledger of God, increasing the amount which God, as Debtor, would yet make good to them.
2. He did not need their gifts. "But I have all things, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." There is a climax. He had all things he needed; he had more than he needed; he was filled to abundance beyond what he needed. It was the contribution of the Philippians sent by Epaphroditus that had put him in this position. The contribution was pleasing to him; but what was he to be thought of in the matter? It was rather pleasing to God. Given to God in him, the servant, it was pleasing to God; nay, it was peculiarly pleasing. Every morning and evening incense was burned in the Jewish temple. Every morning and evening an animal was slain. That symbolized the offering and sacrifice of Christ. The apostle makes bold to say that the contribution of the Philippians, savouring so much of Christ, was "an odour of a sweet smells a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." Let us take encouragement from such an example. "But to do good and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
V. PROMISE. "And my God shall fulfill every, need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." He makes the promise, not in his own name, but in the name of his God. The Philippians had supplied Paul's need; Paul's God, in turn, would, for him, supply their need. He would supply the whole extent of their need, temporal and spiritual. He would do this according to his riches. A rich God, he would, with no stintedness, supply their need. The mark up to which he would supply it, and which would best manifest his wealth, would be their glorification. And all this, as he is always careful to note, was only to be realized within Christ as the ever-blessed sphere. Let us, then, fulfill the condition of the promise. In Old Testament form, condition and promise thus run: "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness."
VI. Doxology, "Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen" The thought of the rich God glorifying his people, coincident with the close of the Epistle, calls forth an ascription of glory. It is an ascription of glory to him as our God and Father, the God of whom the brightest feature is his fatherhood, and to whom we are brought into the closest relation by adoption. The glory would be ascribed to him for the ages and ages that would roll on after his people were glorified.—R.F.
Salutation and benediction.
1. Paul. "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus." He salutes the Philippians individually. With a knowledge of many of them, he was interested in every one of them as contributing to the strength of the cause of Christ at Philippi. Besides this general salutation by letter, to be read before the assembled congregation, there would be special salutations, to be delivered privately by Epaphroditus.
2. Personal companions. "The brethren which are with me salute you." These companions are not mentioned by name. Timothy was the only available companion for Philippi. Some might be told off for other work. Others, although they showed selfishness, were not debarred from sending fraternal greetings.
3. Christians resident in Rome. "All the saints salute you." Although not acquainted with the Philippian Christians, they belonged to the same Christian brotherhood, were interested in the common cause, looked forward to the common home; and therefore they too sent their greetings.
4. Of Roman Christians one class singled out. "Especially they that are of Caesar's household." "Nero (the Caesar here referred to) Was a prince that as far surpassed others in infamy as Augustus did in royalty; a man who, if every soul beside himself in his household had been a saint, concentrated inhumanity and pollution enough in his person to have darkened all their virtue by the blackness of his unnatural crimes; a man that expended more ingenuity in contriving new modes of dishonoring humanity than most Christians have in serving it, and who earned the reputation of introducing into history as facts crimes so enormous and combinations of wickedness so revolting that but for him they would have been held too fabulous for the wildest fancy; a man that hunted up and down his vast domains to find some fresh species of murder, with exquisite and aggravated accompaniments to season it to his monstrous appetite, with the same eagerness that gluttons search out a fresh delicacy for a sated palate; a man that tried three different ways of butchering his own mother, and at last despatched her by a vulgar execution, in a petulant rage at being baffled so often; and who added the tyrant's caprice to the incendiary's, by undertaking at once to throw off the suspicion of his own agency in the diabolic conflagration of his capital, and to comfort his bloodthirsty temper by imputing the fire to the innocent Christians; who tortured his Christian subjects by unheard-of torments, dressing them in the skins of wild animals to provoke dogs to tear them to pieces, or wrapping their bodies in clothing smeared with pitch and then setting them on fire to light up the Roman night with their burning; a man, in short, that wrought so awful an impression of his attributes of superhuman atrocity on the minds of the believers that that a common rumor went abroad among them, after his horrible death, that he would return again alive to vex the world anew, and to be the antichrist of prophecy." In the household of Nero, including the highest functionaries and lowest menials, were found saints. Their saintliness shone out all the more against the neighboring blackness. And, with such blackness in their neighborhood, there were sure to be seen burning around them fires of persecution. To be saints, then, in Caesar's household required extraordinary courage and modesty, independence and constancy. "This saintliness is possible and is much wanted also wherever an adverse influence frowns on Christian purity or hinders Christian fidelity. For that bad influence may proceed from things not held in much suspicion—from a false social standard, from a set of surrounding associations hostile to holiness, from a dominant worldliness in a nation, or a city, or a college, or a literal household. Our Nero is self-love. The senses are the Caesars of all ages. The reigning temper of the world is the imperishable persecutor and tyrant of the faithful soul. And so in every home and street, seminary and dwelling, there are chances for the reappearing of saints in Caesar's household. Wherever a fearless man deems any bribe to do wrong an insult to his clean heart; wherever an incorruptible merchant refuses to conform to popular deceptions; wherever a righteous mechanic refuses to let down his performance to the standard of superficiality; wherever an honest statesman stands above his party the moment his party cast away their principles; wherever a self-commanding woman dares to be a rebel against extravagance and insincerity; wherever a disciple of Christ is not ashamed to own and praise that holy Lord, by whom only he has forgiveness, though unbelieving associates taunt and ridicule;—there we behold saints of Caesar's household."
II. BENEDICTION. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." The blessing invoked is grace, or unmerited favor. It is invoked, as belonging to him who, from his saving work, has the right to dispense it to his people. It is invoked on their spirit; for from the spirit as the center must blessing go forth upon the whole nature.—R.F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
"Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." These words suggest to us certain ideas concerning genuine Churchism. Churchism, of course, implies a Church or Churches, i.e. community or communities of men. Here in England we have what is called the Church, which its ministers seemed delighted to call "our Church." Here also we have Churches which sectarian leaders somewhat arrogantly call "our Churches." Such Churches are too frequently assemblages of men characterized often by ignorance, exclusiveness, and intolerance. Now, neither in "our Church" nor "our Churches" do we always find genuine Churchism. But the text suggests certain things essential to genuine Churchism. It suggests—
I. How the members should be esteemed by their TRUE PASTOR. They should have the deep tender love and strongest and devoutest wishes of the pastor. "Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." What an accumulation of strong epithets of affection are here! "Longed for;" yearned after. "My joy;" that is, the source of my joy; his chief interest was in them. "And crown;" by this is meant that he gloried in them, he prided himself in them. Then follows his ardent desires for their highest good. That they should "stand fast in the Lord," that they should be "of the same mind in the Lord," that they should help one another, etc. An affection of this kind implies the existence of two things.
1. The existence in the pastor of a loving nature. There are men who claim to be pastors of conventional Churches, not always blest with the most amiable natures; they are irascible, splenetic, etc., belonging to the generation elsewhere called the "children of wrath"—that is, their nature is more or less malign. You have only to hear the querulous tones of their voice and the ideas they express in their discourses to feel this. Their ideas are more like yelping curs scratching the earth than singing birds soaring into sunshine. They irritate their audience.
2. The existence of a lovable character in their disciples. The audience must have a loving nature; for if the pastor, however lovable himself, is amongst people of a morally unlovable character, how can he feel affectionately towards them? Genuine Churchism, then, implies a spiritually loving pastor and a morally lovable charge.
II. How the members should act in relation to THEMSELVES. Three things are indicated here.
1. Moral firmness. "Stand fast in the Lord." Moral firmness implies not only deeply rooted convictions, but a strongly settled love. Moral firmness is as opposed to obstinacy as to vacillation. It is a state of mind settled in its chief faiths and loves; it is "rooted and grounded in the faith." Where there is not moral firmness in the members of Churches there is no genuine Churchism. Genuine Churchism implies moral manhood of the highest type.
2. Spiritual unity. "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord." These names in all likelihood represent women. Paul had many women belonging to his charge, and who co-operated with him in his work. in the long list of greetings to the Church at Rome (Romans 16:1-45.) we have the names Priscilla, Phoebe, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, etc. It is not improbable that the two women mentioned here, Euodias and Syntyche, had fallen out, as is not very uncommon with the sex. The apostle's request is that they should be reunited, that they should be harmonious in sentiment, affection, and aim. Unity is essential to genuine Churchism; all must be one.
3. Religious happiness. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." Be happy in your religion. Happiness is an essential element in genuine religion. "I am come that ye might have life [happiness], and that ye might have it more abundantly." Christly men are filled with all "joy and peace in believing." Happiness is not only a privilege of the disciples of Christ, but a duty. It would seem that it is as wrong for the disciple of Christ to be unhappy as for him to break any of the ten commandments; for the command to rejoice is founded on the same authority as "Thou shalt not steal." A community that is sad and gloomy is destitute of genuine Churchism.
III. How the members should act in relation to EACH OTHER.
1. They should exercise mutual helpfulness. "I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also." Who the "true yokefellow" was, whether Luke, or Lydia, or Epaphroditus, no one knows. It matters not. It was some one who was well known to be a co-worker with Paul, and he asks, on behalf of the women who labored with him and others, for co-operation. Genuine Churchism implies mutual co-operation: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ."
2. They should exercise social forbearance. "Let your moderation [forbearance] be known unto all men." In most social circles there is much to try men's patience one with another. All are more or less imperfect; hence the need of forbearance, magnanimous self-control. Pray ever for our enemies; do good to them that spitefully use us.
IV. How the members are connected with THE EMPIRE OF CHRIST. "Whose names are in the book of life." (For the "book of life," see Daniel 12:1; Revelation 2:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27.) From that book the name may be blotted out now (Revelation 2:5; Exodus 32:33) till the end fixes it for ever. There is a peculiar beauty in the allusion here. The apostle does not mention his fellow-laborers by name; but it matters not—the names are written before God, in the book of life. If they continue in his service those names shall shine out hereafter when the great names of the earth fade into nothingness. The names of all the citizens in a city have a registration; so metaphorically the names of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem are duly enrolled. God registers the names in this book. He omits none who are entitled to it, makes no mistake in the record. The "hook of life." Ah, what names are there! How illustrious, how multitudinous, how increasing! Genuine Churchism implies the registration of names in this "book."
V. How the members should act in relation to the GREAT GOD. "Be careful for nothing [in nothing be anxious]; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
1. All-confiding. "Be careful for nothing." "Take no anxious thought for the morrow." Unbounded confidence in the paternal government that is over all.
2. Ever prayerful "In everything by prayer." Prayer is not words, it is a life; not a service, it is a spirit. "Pray without ceasing." An abiding, practical realization of dependence on God is prayer, and this should be constant as life—the very breath of the soul.
3. Always thankful. "With thanksgiving." Being the recipients of mercies, unmerited, priceless, and ever increasing every minute, the spirit of thanksgiving should throb with every beating pulse.
Conclusion: Brothers, have you genuine Churchism? Talk not to me about your Churches. You must have genuine Churchism in order to be identified with the "Church of the Firstborn written in heaven."—D.T.
Philippians 4:7, Philippians 4:8
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." These words direct attention to the highest good in the universe—peace; highest because it implies the existence and development of every conceivable moral virtue. These words suggest three remarks concerning Divine peace.
I. ITS NATURE IS OF DIFFICULT INTERPRETATION. "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding." "That is, which surpasses all that men had conceived or imagined. The expression is one that denotes that the peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The Apostle Paul frequently used terms which had somewhat of a hyperbolical cast, and the language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order." Elsewhere Paul says, concerning the love of Christ, "it surpasseth knowledge;" that is, the knowledge of the understanding. You cannot put it into propositions.
1. Who can interpret peace as it exists in the mind of God? We may have negative conceptions of it, exclude from it that which cannot possibly belong to it and which is opposite to its nature. It is not stagnation. Not the peace of the lake that has no ripple. He is essentially active. It is not insensibility. Not the quiescence of the rock which feels not the greatest violence of storms. He is feeling, the infinite Sensorium of the universe. But what is it? It transcends all intellectual understanding. We cannot measure the measureless, we cannot fathom the fathomless.
2. Who can interpret Divine peace as it exists in the mind of the Christly? The peace of God comes from God; it is the gift of Christ. "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." In truth the highest states of mind, such as love, joy, peace, cannot be explained. These are matters of consciousness, not logic. You can no more put the divinest and deepest emotions of the heart into a proposition than you could put the ocean into a nutshell. They are things that "cannot be uttered."
II. ITS EXISTENCE IN MAN IS A TRANSCENDENT GOOD. "Shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds [your thoughts] through [in] Christ Jesus." It keeps the heart and mind, it garrisons the soul from every distressing element. what are the disturbing elements of the soul? The three chief may be mentioned.
1. There is fear. Foreboding fears are agitating elements. Under the influence of fear all the powers of the soul often tremble and shake like the leaves of a forest in a storm. But "perfect love casteth out fear," and peace is the fruit of love.
2. There is remorse. Sense of guilt fills the soul with those feelings of self-loathing and self-denunciation which lash Auto fury. But in the case of Christly men this sense of guilt is gone. Being made right, or justified, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
3. There are conflicting tendencies. In every soul there are instinctive tendencies towards. God and the true. In every unregenerate soul there are tendencies towards the devil and the false. These are ever in battle on the arena of un-Christly minds. Hence the wicked are like the troubled sea. He who is Christly is delivered from this conflict. The corrupt tendencies are exorcised, and all the corrupt passions and forces of the soul are brought into one grand channel, and will flow on translucently and harmoniously with ever-increasing volume to the great ocean—God.
III. IT CAN ONLY BE REACHED BY THE PRACTICE OF GOODNESS. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest [honorable], whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Whatever minute definition we may give of these terms, they all stand for the elements of moral goodness; and to these elements we are bidden to give a practical regard. "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." The practice of the morality of Christ is the ladder by which alone we can climb through all that is dark and tumultuous in the atmosphere of the soul into the pure heavens of peace. It is the "doer" of the Word that is blessed, not the hearer. There are some, alas! who recommend other means to this glorious end, but they are utterly worthless. Some recommend ritualistic observances and sacerdotal services. Some recommend faith in an event that transpired on Calvary eighteen centuries ago. They say you have only to believe on this and peace will come at once. A philosophic absurdity and a monstrous delusion! Some recommend a mechanical religiousness. They say, "Go to church regularly, join in the liturgy, listen to sermons, partake of the communion, and all will be right." Ah me! The peace which such things give is like that peace in nature which cradles the thunder-storm. I tell you peace is only reached by the practice of that morality proclaimed in that grand sermon on the mount and embodied in the life of its matchless Preacher, and this requires faith in him.
Though my means may be small and name quite obscure,
Live only by labor and dwell 'mid the poor,
I'm resolved upon this, and I'll follow it through,
To love and to practice the "things that are true."
The things that are showy are things in request,
The empty and thoughtless regard them as best.
I've pondered the matter, and I will pursue,
Despite of all customs, the "things that are true."
I'm resolv'd upon this, and I'll follow it through,
To love and to practice the "things that are true."
The things most imposing are things for the proud;
The pomp and the glitter enamour the crowd;
Pretences and shams I'm resolved to eschew,
And walk in the light of the "things that are true."
Though things most in vogue are the things to ensure
Most gold for the pocket, most fame for the hour;
The vain and the greedy, for them they may do,
To me all is worthless but "things that are true."
I'm resolved, etc.
The "things that are true" are the things that will last,
All seemings will vanish as dreams that are past;
Like clouds that are swept from the face of the sky,
All falsehoods of life they shall melt by-and-by.
The things of a party Heav'n knows how I hate!
The blight of the Church and the curse of the state;
The minions of cliqueship, what mischief they do!
Avaunt to all canting! All hail to the true!
I'm resolved, etc.
The transmission of the knowledge of Christ.
"Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." This verse is supposed by some to close the letter. The remaining verses are considered to be the postscript in which the apostle gracefully acknowledges the generous contributions he had received from them through the hands of Epaphroditus. The text directs attention to the transmission of the knowledge of Christ. Observe—
I. This knowledge of Christ is to be transmitted FROM MAN TO MAN. "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received," etc. It is suggested that the transmission of this knowledge includes two things.
1. Teaching on the part of the minister. Paul had received the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:12), and received it as a message, received it to communicate. This he did—did to the Philippians as well as to others. He did it in two ways.
(1) By words. "And heard." After his commission Paul used all his oratoric force for this purpose. He spoke to men rationally, devoutly, intelligently, earnestly, and with invincible persistence. The story of Christ is to be handed down from man to man by human lips. The pen can no more do the work of the tongue in this respect than the moon can do the work of the sun. Under the influence of the former the landscape will wither and the rivers will freeze.
(2) By example. "And seen in me." Paul embodied the gospel. His life confirmed the doctrine that his lips declared. In him, as in his Master, the "word became flesh." Here, then, is the Divine way of transmitting from generation to generation the story of Christ. Men have tried other ways and have signally failed; hence the wretched moral condition of the world to-day. This way is, to a great extent, practically ignored.
2. Learning on the part of the hearer. "Ye have both learned, and received, and heard." A man may tell the story of Christ with the utmost accuracy and fullness. The spirit of the story he may breathe in his life and embody in his conduct, but it is only vitally transmitted so far as it is learnt by the auditors. We live in an age when people, through a vitiated moral taste, theological prejudices. and sectarian proclivities, turn away their ear from the true teachers of their time. They resort to places where they can be tickled, not taught, flattered, not corrected.
II. This knowledge of Christ is to be transmitted IN ORDER TO BE PRACTISED. "Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do." A gospel sermon should never be regarded as a lecture on philosophy, literature, or art—a mere subject for speculative thought or a subject of discussion. The gospel is a law, it comes from the highest authority and with a binding force. What is said is to be done, not merely approved, criticised, thought on, or sighed about, but done. The ideas communicated are to be translated into actions, and such actions will ever be Christly in spirit and tendency. But into what actions are the conventional sermons of England translated? Turn to the columns of our daily journals and read of the mercantile swindlings, the courtly depravities, idlenesses, and sports, the political intrigues, senatorial slanderings and quarrellings, the barbaric executions, the bloody wars, and other nameless iniquities sanctioned and enacted by the hearers of what are called gospel sermons. Ah me! What boots preaching?
III. The practice of this knowledge of Christ ENSURES THE SUBLIMEST GOOD. "The God of peace shall be with you." In verse 7 we read of having the "peace of God," here of having the "God of peace." To have his peace is something glorious; but to have himself is something transcendently greater. "The God of peace." Elsewhere he is called the "God of salvation," the "God of consolation," the "God of hope," etc.; but this title seems to transcend all others.
1. He is at peace with himself. A moral intelligence to possess peace must be absolutely free from the following things—malice, remorse, forebodings. The mightiest revolutions through all the millenniums and the hostilities of all the hells of the universe awake no ripple upon the boundless sea of his ever-flowing love.
2. He is at peace with the universe. He has no unkind feeling to any sentient being; he contends with no one; he is at peace with all. He contend, forsooth! Does the immovable rock contend with the waves that break at its feet? Does the sun contend with the fleeting clouds? Now, they who translate the gospel into their life shall have the "God of peace" ever with them—with them as the sunny heavens are with the earth.—D.T.
Man in model aspects.
"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account." The apostle now turns his attention to a new subject, and the verses that follow to the close of the chapter seem to be a kind of postscript, acknowledging in a very graceful manner the various offerings which he had received from the Philippians by the hands of Epaphroditus. The passage before us may be regarded as presenting man in certain model aspects.
I. Here is a man represented as an OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN BENEFICENCE, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again."
1. He received their beneficence with religious gratitude. "I rejoiced in the Lord," etc. "There is," says Dr. Barry, "in these words an expression of some hitherto disappointed expectation, not wholly unlike the stronger expression of wounded feeling in 2 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:16. At Caesarea St. Paul would have been necessarily cut off from the European Churches; at Rome, the metropolis of universal concourse, he may have expected some earlier communication. But fearing to wound the Philippians by even the semblance of reproof, in their case undeserved, he adds at once, 'in which ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.' Epaphroditus would seem to have arrived early, almost as soon as St. Paul's arrival at Rome gave them the opportunity which they previously lacked." The contributions which came from the Philippians to him he traced to the Lord. He saw the hand and felt the love of God in their gifts. There is not a man on earth who is not in some measure the object of human beneficence. We are all receiving from others, every day in our life, some kind of good—physical, intellectual, social, or spiritual. All this good we should devoutly ascribe to the Father of lights, from whom cometh "every good and perfect gift." Whether those of our fellow-men, who confer on us good, do it with their will or against their will, selfishly or disinterestedly, it matters not so far as our obligation to Heaven is concerned. From him all the good of all kinds and through all channels proceeds.
2. He received their beneficence with hearty appreciation. "Notwithstanding [howbeit] ye have well done, that ye did communicate [had fellowship] with my affliction." "Ye have well done." Your beneficence was dictated from a generous sympathy with my affliction, and it was timely withal. True beneficence is a blessed virtue. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." His appreciation seems to have been deepened by the fact that their beneficence preceded that of other Churches. "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated [had fellowship] with me as concerning [in the matter of] giving and receiving, but ye only." The time referred to is the period of his leaving Macedonia and Athens for Corinth (Acts 17:14). They rendered him help, not only after he had left Macedonia, but before that time, when he had just passed from Philippi to Thessalonica. "At Thessalonica, as at Corinth—both very rich and luxurious communities—he refused maintenance and lived merely by the labor of his own hands (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:8). But it appears from this passage that even then he received, once and again (that is, occasionally, once or twice), some aid from Philippi to supply his need, that is (as in all right exercise of liberality), to supplement, and not to supersede his own resources." In this also he acts in a model way. There are those ingrates in society who receive help from others as a matter of course, attach little or no value to the good which they are constantly receiving. Ay, and moreover, there are those, too, who, instead of becoming bound to the benefactor as friends through gratitude for the favors, not unfrequently become enemies. Ah me! this worst of human vices is, perhaps, the most common. "As there are no laws against ingratitude," says Seneca, "so it is utterly impossible to contrive any that in all circumstances shall reach it. If it were actionable, there would not be courts enough in the whole world to try the causes in. There can be no setting a day for the requiting of benefits, as for the payment of money; nor any estimate upon the benefits themselves; but the whole matter rests in the conscience of both parties; and then there are so many degrees of it, that the same rule will never serve all."
3. He received their beneficence with entire unselfishness. "Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound [increaseth] to your account." He means to say, I do not "desire a gift" for my own sake as much as for yours. I value the gift as an expression and evidence of your faith in Christ. An old writer says, "It is not with any design to draw more from you, but to encourage you to such an exercise of beneficence as will meet with a glorious reward hereafter." True men always value a gift, not simply because of its intrinsic value, or even because it will serve their temporal interest, but because of the priceless sentiments of the heart, love, disinterestedness, and friendship, which it represents. We are all objects of beneficence. Let us act as Paul did in this character, accept all human favors with religious gratitude, with hearty appreciation, and with entire unselfishness.
II. Here is a man represented as a SUBJECT OF PROVIDENTIAL VICISSITUDES. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith [therein] to be content." "Whatever state." How constantly changing are our states! Life is in truth a checkered scene. Every hour we pass from one condition or mood to another. We change in mind, body, and circumstances. We alternate between friendship and bereavement, prosperity and adversity, sunshine and storms. Now, the aspect in which Paul is seen in passing through these changes is that of contentment, and in this respect' he is a model to us all. His contentment does not mean insensibility, a kind of Stoicism; does not mean indifference to the condition of others, or a satisfied complacency either with his own moral condition or that of the world. It is a cordial acquiescence in the arrangements of Heaven. "Not my will, but thine, be done." This state of mind is not innate, it is attained. Paul "learnt" it. This is moral scholarship of the highest kind.
"Some murmur when their sky is clear
And wholly bright to view,
If one small speck of dark appear
In their great heaven of blue.
And some with thankful love are filled,
If but one streak of light,
One ray of God's great mercy, gild
The darkness of their night."
III. Here is a man represented as a GENUINE REFORMER. "I can do all things through Christ [in him] which strengtheneth me." Paul was a genuine reformer. The reformation he sought was not in corrupt legislation, in outward institutions—social, political, or ecclesiastical—in theological systems, or in external behavior. Such reformations are of little worth. He wrought.
1. In the realms of motive, the springs of action, to change the moral heart of the world. Every man on earth should act in this character and become a moral reformer. All should study and imitate Paul in this aspect. How did he act as a reformer?
2. In conscious dependence on Christ. "I can do all things through Christ." "All things" pertaining to this work as a reformer, not by my own talents, skill, or industry, not in my own strength, but in "Christ which strengtheneth me." Indeed, in Christ's strength what cannot a man do? He can work miracles as the apostles did, he can turn the moral world upside down, he can create men "anew in Christ Jesus," he can sound a trumpet whose blast shall penetrate the ears of slumbering souls and awake the teeming millions that are sleeping in the dust of worldliness and depravity. "Through Christ which strengtheneth me." Strengthens me by turning me away from things that are temporal to things that are spiritual, rooting my faith in eternal realities, filling and firing me with the love which he had for human souls and for the everlasting Father.
Conclusion. Study well these model aspects of a man who, as an object of Christian beneficence, is always religiously grateful, heartily appreciative of the favors he receives, and entirely unselfish; as a subject of providential vicissitudes, magnanimously contented in every condition and mood of life; and, as a get, aide reformer, does his work, not in his own strength, but in the power of Christ.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY V. HUTTON
Philippians 4:2, Philippians 4:3
The healing of dissensions.
A dissension between two women, probably persons of prominence in the Church. Women occupy an important position in the Church at Philippi (Acts 16:13-44). This fact may account somewhat for its orthodoxy, its fervent devotion, and its special temptation to want of unity. This particular dissension is regarded by St. Paul to be of sufficient importance to demand a notice in this Epistle, and to call for his personal interposition.
1. The only method of healing dissension. Persons alienated from one another must be brought to be of one mind in the Lord. No reconciliation is abiding except it be in him who is the Peace-maker.
2. To heal dissension is a work worthy of the highest ministry of the Church. St. Paul calls to his aid their chief pastor, Clement, who was afterwards Bishop of Rome, and others whose names are in the book of life. No error in the Church is worse than the error of uncharitableness and envy.
3. To remove such dissensions is truly to help (Philippians 4:3) those who are the victims of them. Note that even they who labored with St. Paul were not free from human infirmities. They who could stand by him in his work now need all his entreaties and endeavors to bring them into reconciliation. A warning to all Church workers.—V.W.H.
Philippians 4:4, Philippians 4:5
I. THE POSSIBILITY OF IT. The command to rejoice always appears to be one which it is impossible that we should obey. This impossibility vanishes when we remember that we are to rejoice "in the Lord." Note the frequency of this expression in this Epistle. St. Paul profoundly realizes that the Christian soul is living in a sphere not recognizable by the outward senses, but which is ever present to the eye of faith. If we are living in the Lord we can always rejoice, because in him all things work together for good, and even our sorrows he turns into joy.
II. THE METHOD OF IT. By letting our forbearance be known unto all men. He who is living in the Lord is always rejoicing, not with the joy which triumphs over the sorrows of others, but with the self-restrained joy which recognizes that, being yet in travail, we must yet have sorrow mingled with our joy. This sense of self-restraint is the truest preventive of dissension and dispute.
III. THE REASON FOR IT. "The Lord is at hand." He is ever ready to appear visibly in our midst, and for this appearing we are constantly to watch. How can we be doing so unless we are rejoicing in him, and rejoicing in him with gentle forbearance towards our fellow-Christians? He is, indeed, always at hand, even if he yet appear not in visible form; for where two or three are gathered together in his Name he is in the midst of them. Is not this a reason for joy and for forbearance?—V.W.H.
Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7
I. WHAT IT IS. God's own peace; that which he himself possesses. It is the peace which our Lord had and which he promised to his disciples: "My peace I give unto you." It is, therefore, no mere superficial freedom from external troubles, but a deep-seated harmony with God the Source of all peace. Thus it transcends human understanding and human expression.
II. WHAT PREVENTS OUR POSSESSING IT? Over-anxiety and worry. These are a kind of practical atheism, since they prevent us from leaving all things to him who is supreme over all circumstances.
III. HOW TO OBTAIN IT. By prayer, which rests upon him for all things; by cation, which brings our own special causes for anxiety into his presence; by thanksgiving, which recognizes that his will must be full of blessing. By thus turning our cares into prayers we throw them upon him who gives us in return his peace.
IV. WHAT IT DOES FOR US. It keeps our hearts and minds, preserving them from undue anxiety, and making them realize the strength of the peace which Christ bestows. How do these words come home with sublime force at the end of our Communion Service! Having received him who is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14), we have entered into and taken possession of the Face of God which passeth all understanding.—V.W.H.
Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:9
Meditation and action.
Having insisted on the duties of prayer and thanksgiving and the reward which accompanies them, St. Paul proceeds to point out the need of meditation on all that is of God, and of practically living out the God-like life upon earth. To such also is attached a special reward.
I. THE NEED OF MEDITATION. This is. universal. All persons meditate on that which is to them of absorbing interest. By meditation the stock of our ideas is increased and a mental atmosphere is formed in which we live and move. Every great work and every great life has been produced by much meditation.
II. THE BEST SUBJECTS FOR MEDITATION. "Whatsover things are true," etc. We need not limit these to the subject-matter of the Christian revelation, although undoubtedly each of these forms of goodness will find its highest expression in that. But since all good things are of God, we may find him reflected in every act of virtue, in every prompting of love, in every aspiration after a higher life, in whatever way these may be manifested. The terms selected include all that is noble towards God, all that is purifying to ourselves, and all that commends itself to the better instincts of men. Meditating on such an exhaustive catalogue of high ideas, how can we become anything else than filled with all that is true and Divine?
III. TRUE MEDITATION WELL PRODUCE ACTION. If it does not do this it enervates the will and dissipates the motive forces of the character. A truth acted upon provides us with an unanswerable evidence that it is a truth. It becomes worked into our nature and forms part of ourselves.
IV. TRUE ACTION IS LEARNED FROM EXAMPLE RATHER THAN FROM PRECEPT. "That which ye have … seen in me, do." Action is in life and not in theory. Note how the same truth is to be found in the Beatitudes. They begin with a description of abstract blessedness, such as is to be found in poverty of spirit; they end by translating this idea of blessedness into a living reality in the ease of the disciples who were being taught. "Blessed are they" turns into "Blessed are ye," and their blessedness is to be found in such an active life of righteousness as is to involve persecution for Christ's sake.
V. THE REWARD OF TRUE ACTION PROCEEDING OUT OF PROFOUND MEDITATION. "The God of peace shall be with you." The peace of God is the reward of prayer and trustfulness; this is an inward gift bringing God into the soul. But true action secures the presence of the God of peace, externally defending and guiding, as well as internally teaching and blessing.—V.W.H.
To be contented with one's lot is a thing to be desired; to be contented with one's self is a thing to be dreaded. Our lot is that which God has been pleased to choose for us. Our self is that character or disposition which is being daily built up by our co-operation with God's grace.
I. ST. PAUL'S DISCONTENT WITH HIMSELF. (See Philippians 2:12-50.) It is his sense of need which aroused the desire for, and therefore secured the possession of, spiritual growth. To be contented with one's own spiritual state is to prevent the possibility of spiritual progress. All progress springs out of a sense of insufficiency. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
II. ST. PAUL'S CONTENT WITH HIS LOT. So far as worldly advantages are concerned it was not an enviable one. But he had received sufficient of his Master's Spirit to know that man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth. This contrast between Divine discontent and Divine content is paralleled by the "Thou shall not covet" of the Decalogue and the "Covet earnestly the best gifts" of St. Paul.—V.W.H.
Philippians 4:12, Philippians 4:13
The difficulties of prosperity.
1. Contentment needs to be cultivated, not only when we possess little, but likewise when we possess much. It may be thought that to be contented with plenty is an easy task. But this is not so. It is often easier to know how to be abased than to know how to abound. We may be in greater danger when our prayers are answered than when the answer is withheld.
2. St. Paul, having learned many things, can teach us many things. Not only does he know theoretically how difficult it is to abound, but he knows it experimentally, and experimentally he has overcome the difficulty. He has been initiated in the experience of both need and abundance, and has known how to bear either tot with safety.
3. This he had been able to do, not through any Stoical superiority to the things of this life, nor yet through any force of natural character, but in the power in which his whole life was now being lived, the strength given by union with Jesus Christ.—V.W.H.
Almsgiving a part of Christian life and worship.
I. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THOSE who GIVE AND THOSE WHO RECEIVE ALMS IS ONE OF COMMUNION. (Philippians 4:15.) It is a mistake to suppose that the benefit of almsgiving is all on the side of the recipients. They who possess, possess in order that they may show their brotherhood with those who possess not. To receive is just as much an act of brotherhood as to give. Never regard the bestowing of alms as an act of patronage, or the receiving of them as an act of homage.
II. THE BENEFIT OF ALMSGIVING TO THE ALMSGIVER. It is fruit (Philippians 4:17), which abounds to his account. Fruit is the production of life.
III. ALMSGIVING IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. A sacrifice well-pleasing to him (Philippians 4:18). He sees in every act of self-denial a reflection of the sacrifice of his dearly beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.
IV. ALMSGIVING A PART OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. Worship is the offering of ourselves and our substance to God. We can only do this through receiving of his grace. We give him back in offerings what he gives us in bounty He returns our offerings multiplied with his blessing and full of his grace (Philippians 4:19). There is a Divine circulation of grace as there is a natural circulation of the blood. So long as we are true to Jesus, who is the very heart of God, so long does he pour forth his grace into us the living members of his body. We return that grace to him in the shape of our poor prayers and deeds of service, and we are again quickened by him from the boundless riches of his grace.—V.W.H.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
I. THE DUTY.
1. It is important. Christian faithfulness does not consist in a few occasional heroic acts done in the excitement of temporary enthusiasm. It is a constant faithful living; it is holding the citadel throughout life against the assaults of temptation. Though great deeds have been done and a considerable time well spent, all is vain if we give up at the last and make shipwreck at the end of the voyage.
2. It is difficult. It is easier to be the faithful martyr of a day than the faithful servant of a lifetime. To stand fast when we are weary, to hold on through a long cheerless night of adversity, to have patience with the fretting of small trials, and to endure to the end, are the hard tasks.
II. THE CONDITION. We are to "stand fast in the Lord." Steadfastness in our own condition, opinion, and habit, is stagnation. We may be in a state when anything but steadfastness is necessary, when to be upset is to be saved. There are men who need to be made to doubt. Christ was a most unsettling preacher, and true Christian teaching must aim at disturbing those who are holding on in a wrong way. Let us not confound a right steadfastness with obstinate self-will. The first essential is that we are "in the Lord," and the one steadfastness commended is abiding in him.
III. THE METHOD. "Wherefore … so stand fast," etc. These words carry us back to the preceding thoughts. There we have a description of the Christian's heavenly citizenship, and his hope of the second advent of Christ. A persistent hope is a security for steadfastness, an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19). Just in proportion as we live in heaven, with thoughts, affections, motives, and efforts centred in Christ and his kingdom, shall we be able to hold out on earth firmly against the storms of trouble and temptation.
IV. THE MOTIVE. The motive which inspires St. Paul to urge the duty of steadfastness upon the Philippians is his personal affection for them. The expression of this must have been felt by them as a strong incentive to a true response. The apostle seems to have regarded his Macedonian converts at Philippi and Thessalonica as the choicest of his friends. They were his brethren, beloved, longed for in absence, still a source of joy to the imprisoned apostle as he thought of them, and regarded as a crown of victory and proof of the glorious success of his labors for the day of the Lord. We can wish nothing better for those we love than their Christian fidelity. Ministers have a strong hold upon their people when they can urge personal affection and joyous recognition of good done as a motive for further progress. The love and honor of those who have labored and suffered for the Church are great motives to inspire faithful steadfastness in all Christians.—W.F.A.
No doubt the apostle used a common expression of parting salutation, similar to our "farewell," when he wrote the word which we translate "rejoice." But it is certain that he was not one to employ conventional language as an empty form. Old familiar words, often repeated quite thoughtlessly, were taken by him in their full original signification. So when Christ said, "Peace be with you," he uttered a familiar phrase of parting; but he breathed into it a deep meaning, and gave peace with the words. Christ's salutation was a benediction; St. Paul's salutation was at least an utterance of a heartfelt desire for the joy of his friends.
I. WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO REJOICE. Christianity grows out of a gospel. It was heralded by angel-songs of gladness. The funeral dirge is not the suitable expression of our worship. Hosanna shouts and hallelujahs more become its glad character. We are encouraged to rejoice on many grounds.
1. For our own sakes. If there is no virtue in melancholy, it is foolish to refuse the gladness offered by God.
2. For the sake of our work. Joy is invigorating. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Needless melancholy is sinful when it paralyzes our energies.
3. For the sake of others. Our joy will be sunshine to others if it be a true, generous, Christian gladness. Our gloom will make others miserable. Moreover, by manifesting Christian toy we invite others to share in the benefits of the gospel.
4. For Christ's sake. It pleases him and honors him.
II. OUR JOY SHOULD SPRING FROM CHRIST. We are to "rejoice in the Lord." Other innocent joys are permitted and consecrated by Christ; for was he not a helpful Guest at the marriage feast? and did he not scandalize some gloomy hypocrites by taking a very different course from his ascetic forerunner? Indeed, many earthly joys are safe to the Christian which are perilous to others, because the Christian enters them with Divine safeguards. "All things are yours" is said to Christians, partly because "to the pure all things are pure." But a peculiarly Christian joy is derived directly from Christ.
1. The joy of his love, receiving and returning it. Love is the source of the greatest joy.
2. The joy of his service, delighting to do his will.
3. The joy of his blessing. The heavenly citizenship and its inheritance are ours in Christ.
III. OUR JOY IN CHRIST SHOULD BE CONTINUOUS. The difficulty is to rejoice alway. It requires much faith and nearness to Christ. It is only possible to those who live in the unseen and eternal. But if, believing in our heavenly citizenship, we set our affections above, with our heart anal our treasure in heaven, and with the heaven of Christ's presence in our soul here, there will spring up a joy in the midst of earthly trouble. It is remarkable that this Epistle to the Philippians, written under the most adverse earthly circumstances, by the worn and aged apostle in prison, is the fullest of gladness. The secret is the richness of the inner life of St. Paul, as this was made bright by his close fellowship with Christ.—W.F.A.
The cure for anxiety.
I. THE DISEASE. We must, of course, be careful for many things, in the sense of taking thought about them or taking pains in working on them. Christianity does not favor indolent improvidence; for it teaches, "If a man will not work neither let him eat." Nor does it encourage reckless carelessness; for it everywhere instils a thoughtful, conscientious sense of responsibility. What it does discourage is anxiety.
1. This is painful. How painful most of us know only too well. The wear and fret of care sometimes make the advice to rejoice alway read like a mockery.
2. This is injurious. Men rarely die of hard work, but often of vexing anxiety. It is not toil, but trouble, that turns the hair grey before its time.
3. This hinders spiritual energy. The "cares of this world" choke the good seed as much as its pleasures and riches. When absorbed in worldly anxiety, men have no energy, heart, nor time for spiritual concerns. In the petty cares of a day they drown the grand claims of eternity.
II. HUMAN REMEDIES.
1. Reason. Care is foolish and useless.
"Care is no cure, but rather corrosive,
For things that are not to be remedied."
Often it is groundless, a shadow of our own imagination, and of no real trouble. Thus Burns says—
"But human bodies are sic fools,
For a' their colleges and schools,
That when nae real ills perplex them,
They make enow themsel's to vex them."
But anxiety is too strong for reason. It persists against reason.
2. Phitosophic complacency in the best of all possible worlds. We cannot think that "whatever is is best." Philosophers may say so in their calm seclusion; toilers and sufferers will never believe it in the rough experience of real life (Christianity does not require this optimism, or it would not encourage prayer for changes).
3. Stoical indifferences. Here and there this may be possible; but it is not natural, and it is only got with the loss of much human tenderness.
4. Cyclical carelessness. This may come with despair. It is not the cure of anxiety, but its fatal victory over a ruined life.
III. THE DIVINE CURE. Christ taught us to conquer earthly anxiety in two ways, by trusting in our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32), and by transferring our care to more worthy objects, by which means it becomes itself transformed into a noble concern for the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). St. Paul follows on the same lines.
1. Prayer is the remedy for care. we are distinctly invited to bring our anxieties to God. We are to be anxious about nothing, by making supplication about everything. Thus, as the area of prayer advances, that of care recedes. The conventional limitation of prayer is the secret of much unconquered anxiety.
2. Thanksgiving perfects the remedy. This is a ground of encouragement in prayer for future help and a direct relief from pressing anxiety. Care has a bad memory. Grateful recollections of the past will greatly allay anxieties about the future.—W.F.A.
The peace that is better than intellectual satisfaction.
I. GOD ANSWERS THE PRAYER OF ANXIETY WITH A GIFT OF PEACE, The promise of peace follows close upon the exhortation to convert our anxieties into prayers. The result of such conduct is not the immediate removal of the source of care: the old trouble may still be with us, and the dreaded danger may not yet be averted; but we have an inward peace and acquiescence in the assurance that all must be well in our Father's hands. Thus the prayer is answered, though not exactly as we expected.
1. This peace is given by God. It is not the product of our own reasonings, nor of altered circumstances, but of Divine grace.
2. It is directly dependent on communion with God; for it is not so much a blessing bestowed in response to prayer as the natural consequence of approaching God in prayer. As we turn from the fretting cares of life to talk with God, we enter a new serene atmosphere above the tumults of earth, and the peace of it steals into our souls.
3. It is a peace like that of God himself. Given by God, growing out of communion with God, it has the character of God. It is a solid, deep, pure, true, lasting peace, quite different from any peace the world can give (John 14:27).
II. THIS PEACE IS BETTER THAN ANY INTELLECTUAL SATISFACTION. We are impatient for an explanation of the mysteries of providence. We would know why God has dealt with us so differently from what we had expected. We would have the veil of the future uplifted that our anxious hearts might be set at rest. But it is not possible. We are left to grope among many dark secrets while we learn to walk by faith. Nevertheless, if we have not the understanding, the peace is better. If we cannot know all, we can live trustfully with an inward quiet. Better a calm in midnight darkness than a storm in the glare of noon. For our training it is well not to know many things that God has mercifully hidden from our imperfect comprehension. If we can trust God in the darkness and be at peace in our own souls, we have the highest blessing.
III. THIS DIVINE PEACE PREVENTS OUR MINDS FROM WANDERING FROM CHRIST. It is represented as a sentinel on the watch, guarding our hearts and thoughts, and keeping them in Christ. The cares of this world tempt us from Christ with vexing doubts and distracting claims. In peace of heart our thoughts return to him. No understanding of providence and its mysteries would thus settle the Soul on the true foundation of its rest. That would not guard our hearts and thoughts because it is not the ideas of our minds but the spirit of our lives, the tone and temper and character of them, that dissuades our affections and thoughts from wandering from Christ. This, therefore, is the great commendation of the Divine peace which is given in response to the prayer of anxiety, It does not remove the trouble that causes the anxiety, but it prevents that trouble from driving us from Christ, and so secures to us the supreme blessedness of abiding in him.—W.F.A.
The contemplation of goodness.
I. OUR MINDS SHOULD BE OCCUPIED WITH THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOOD THINGS.
1. It is not enough that our deeds are pure, our thoughts must be pure also,
(1) because the inner life is the true life, and
(2) because our ideas will ultimately color our actions.
2. Good thoughts spring from the study of good things. We cannot touch pitch and remain undefiled. But the consideration of worthy characters and actions will insensibly fill our minds with a kindred spirit. This fact. should govern our choice of literature, friends, scenes, and occupations. It is particularly important to study objective goodness outside ourselves. This is a cure for dreamy subjectivity, for self-conceit, and for narrow notions.
II. THE GOOD CHARACTERISTICS OF MEN OF THE WORLD SHOULD BE GENEROUSLY ADMITTED. It is remarkable than the list of good things here drawn out by St. Paul consists chiefly of pagan virtues. He appears to be calling upon Christians to consider the goodness that is to be found outside the pale of the Church. I. These good characteristics exist. The world is not wholly depraved. It was not even so in the dark days of the Roman empire. One who had a keen sympathy with goodness was able then to detect the genuine indications of light amidst the gloom. The life of Care and the writings of Seneca, for example, contain much that commands our profound admiration. "There is a soul of goodness in things evil."
2. These good characteristics should be ungrudgingly recognized
(1) in justice to men;
(2) for the glory of God, who is the Source of all goodness in the world as well as in the Church, pagan as well as Christian;
(3) for our own sakes. A narrow censorious spirit is most unchristian. A follower of the innocent Christ should be a lover of all things good.
III. CHRISTIANS MAY GREATLY PROFIT BY THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE GOODNESS OF MEN OF THE WORLD. It might be thought that, if this is a lower form of goodness, it would be useless to study it. But:
1. The consideration of it will widen our sympathies. It will help us better to appreciate and love our brother man. Approaching them through their good points, we shall the better influence them (e.g. see Acts 17:22). Compare Clement and Origen in their recognition of what was good in paganism, with Tertullian and his denunciation of heathen religion and philosophy as diabolical, and with Arnobius and his railing against human nature itself. Surely the Alexandrian apologists were wisest as well as most charitable.
2. The contemplation of these good things will reveal virtues not sufficiently studied by Christians. The Church has not the monoply of the virtues. If she excels in the higher graces men who do not own her name may sometimes shame her with their excellence in other respects. Christians may learn much from Plato and Epictetus and from Goethe and Carlyle.
IV. DETAILS OF GOODNESS MAY BE USEFULLY CONSIDERED. St. Paul makes a list of good things. He was in the habit of drawing out such lists. We must begin with the inward spirit of holiness in love to God and man, but we must develop our character by attention to details.
1. This excites our attention. Our imagination flags at generalities. Objective details please it best.
2. This prevents our goodness from evaporating in value sentiment.
3. This gives breadth and variety to our character. Good things are numerous and of varied types. We must beware of a narrow morality. "Whatsoever things are good," etc., are worthy of study, in order that every possible attainment of character may be reached in every possible direction.—W.F.A.
Philippians 4:11, Philippians 4:12
The secret of contentment.
I. CONTENTMENT IS A RARE AND PRECIOUS CHRISTIAN GRACE. It must be distinguished from spiritual self-satisfaction, which is sinful and fatal, and is concerned with our own inner condition, while true contentment has regard to our external circumstances. It must also be distinguished from the recklessness of folly and from the apathy of despair. It is a quiet restfulness in the midst of all kinds of changing events.
1. It is rare and difficult of attainment, because
(1) outside events are frequently untoward;
(2) our own hearts are unhealthily restless; and
(3) we live too much in dependence on this world and its fortunes.
2. Contentment is most desirable. For without it the most propitious circumstances can minister little pleasure, and with it the hardest privations can produce little distress. The important question in regard to our happiness is not—What things do we possess? but—What kind of thoughts and feelings do we experience?
3. Contentment is requisite in every condition of life. It is not only the virtue of the poor and the solace of the disappointed. Rich and prosperous people are too often also discontented people. It is harder for some to know how to abound than to know how to suffer want. Wealth brings the thirst for more wealth. Pleasure palls. Prosperity wearies. It is a grand attainment to be able to pass up and down the whole gamut of social change and to behave one's self with equanimity and contentment in every stage up from abasement to abundance and then down again from fullness to need.
II. THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT IS TO BE LEARNED FROM CHRIST. There is a secret. Some have not yet found it out. But it exists and it is well worth seeking. To be fully understood and enjoyed it must be learned as a long, difficult, painful lesson. St. Paul had learnt it, and his example should win fresh pupils to study the same great lesson.
1. Christ gives us strength to bear varying fortunes. St. Paul could speak of his contentment because he could also say, "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." If we know and feel nothing beyond this, there is a certain satisfaction to be got from the mere sense of new power given to bear that which before seemed to be unbearable.
2. Christ enables us to live in faith. Thus believing that even now all things are ordered wisely and kindly by our heavenly Father, that they are working together for good not yet seen, working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, we learn to bear the present mystery of trial in hope of the future revelation of blessedness.
3. Christ leads us to live in the spiritual. This is the real secret. External circumstances are constantly changing. At best they will not satisfy the soul's deep hunger. While we live in them we are necessarily often disappointed and discontented. In the inner world of spiritual things we must find our best experience, and when this opens up to the higher world of Divine and heavenly things we have a source of unfailing peace. Resting in God we shall be content in every variety of earthly affairs.—W.F.A.
The language of faith resembles in form the language of boastful presumption. But the two are essentially dissimilar. So long as our ground of confidence is not in ourselves, but in Christ, it is no mark of humility, but rather a sign of unbelief and ingratitude, for one to make little of it. There is a legitimate boasting in Christ which is quite different from the boasting of the braggart in his own resources. "My soul will make her boast in the Lord"—this the humblest may say.
I. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IS A STRONG SOUL. He is not simply pardoned the failures of past weakness; he is prepared to be more successful in future trials. For those trials he is not merely protected by Divine armor; he is also girded by Divine strength. God does not simply hide his child in the cleft of a rock while the storm passes; he also inspires him with might wherewith to face and brave and conquer the storm even out in the open. He who protects the feeble fledglings in their warm nest also braces the strong branches of the oak to wrestle with the gale. Moreover, if strength is possible to the Christian, weakness is culpable. No one can plead his feebleness as an excuse for falling when he might have been strong in the energy of God.
II. CHRIST IS THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN STRENGTH. We are made strong in Christ, not in ourselves. By himself the Christian is as weak as any one else. It is union with Christ that supplies Christ's strength made perfect in our weakness.
1. Christ strengthens with an inspiration of Divine energy. The language of the apostle points to a real supply of strength, not a mere sense of courage, etc. There is a positive outflow of God's might into a soul that is united to Christ.
2. Christ strengthens by his union with us. We must be in him and he in us. Then his life-power flows through us.
3. Christ strengthens though our faith. We are able to receive Christ's energy just in proportion as we trust him, as they who were cured by him had. blessings according to their faith. The energy is not in our faith, but in Christ. Still, faith is the channel of communication. Faith can move mountains, not by reason of its own inherent virtue, but because it invokes the omnipotence of God, as the engineer starts the train when he turns on the steam.
III. THERE ARE GREAT CLAIMS ON CHRISTIAN STRENGTH. It is not allowed to rust in idleness. St. Paul writes of "all things," as though there were many things to be done in the power of Christ.
1. Troubles, temptations, and changing circumstances of life must be borne with contentment. It is in regard to this requirement that the apostle more immediately records this assurance of sufficiency of strength.
2. Duties have to be fulfilled. Christ gives strength for work as well as strength for endurance. The Christian must not only stand firmly like a rock; he must put forth active power like a Samson. The calls for strength are many and various, flesh and heart fail before them; but "they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength," so that in Christ the heaviest burden may be borne and the hardest task accomplished and the weakest soul win the victory over the most powerful foe, with a strength which is practically omnipotent, because it is derived frown an almighty source.—W.F.A.
A full supply.
The Philippians had "sent once and again unto" St. Paul's need (Verse 16). In return the apostle assures them that the recompense which is beyond his power will be made for him by his God, who will supply all their need. We are most enriched when we most sacrifice ourselves (Proverbs 11:24). What we give to the work of Christ we shall receive back with far more than the worth of our offerings.
I, WE ALL HAVE GREAT NEEDS THAT ONLY GOD CAN FULFIL. "Every need of yours." What a vast field this expression covers!
1. Earthly need. Few but are pressed by such need in some direction, and often to an extent that no human aid can satisfy. But we must observe that what God will supply is the need, not the desire; the two cover very different ground. God will not give what we wish, but what is requisite for us. Moreover, we cannot distinguish between the real need and our idea of what we need. It is the former only that God will supply.
2. Spiritual need. This is far larger and more important than all material wants. We need forgiveness, purification, strength, knowledge—great and glorious graces that no man can give.
II. GOD WILL FULFIL EVERY NEED OF HIS FAITHFUL SERVANTS.
1. He will fulfill the need. The fulfillment will not be as we expect it; perhaps because the need is not exactly what we imagine it to be. As God only knows the real wants of our lives, he only can rightly supply them. But not one true need will he ultimately leave unsatisfied. There is a royal abundance in the treasury of Divine grace and an unstinting generosity in the gifts from it.
2. This assurance is only for those who are faithful. St. Paul gives it to the Philippians after they have given abundant evidence of their devotion. It is not every one who can rightly be promised that his every need shall be fulfilled, nor to the unspiritual will the Divine supply of the soul's true needs seem to be such, as they will be blind to these wants and at the same time much con-corned with fancied needs of no real importance which God will certainly not supply.
III. THE SOURCE OF THE DIVINE SUPPLY IS IS CHRIST JESUS.
1. The riches with which to supply our poverty are found in Christ. His unsearchable riches (Ephesians 2:8) consist in the grace that he brings to us in his advent and the grace that he secures for us by his death and resurrection. As we receive the highest blessings for Christ's sake they may be regarded as riches that are stored up in Christ.
2. The method of supplying our need is through sharing in the glory of Christ. The riches are in glory. They are the fruits of the triumph of Christ. Fighting under our Captain's banner, we share his triumph, enter into the same glory with him, and so enjoy his wealth of blessings.—W.F.A.