Philippians 3:1-11 open_in_new
Finally, my brethren
What were the things not irksome and safe?
(1) Counsels in some lost Epistles.
(2) Messages delivered by word of mouth through his delegates.
(3) Earlier verbal communications.
(4) Something in the Epistle.
The latter probably referring--
(a) to the main topic of the letter--rejoicing, or making their boast in Christ; or
(b) to their dissentions, a reference in the making of which he was interrupted. Each supplies a good sense. In the first case he proposes to dwell once more on that which will be the sure antidote to false pride, in the other he will add some further counsels respecting their dissensions.
2. Since the apostle seems to be about to conclude, what occasioned the interruption? Probably some outbreak of Jewish proselytism respecting which he warns the Philippians in plain language. At the word “concision” he enters on a fresh line of thought which occupies the rest of the chapter.
I. He affirms that he and his gentile brethren have the most valid claim to what the Jews so dearly prized. “We are the circumcision.” He justifies his assertion by describing--
1. The nature of their worship. The one essential thing in worship is its spirit. The kind of worship the proselytizers offered rested largely on forms. If the form were only according to their pattern it was enough. The apostle, on the contrary, takes his stand on the requirement of our Lord: “God is a spirit,” etc. Heart, not hand, lip, knee worship was the main thing, and in this respect they and he were more in harmony with the purpose of circumcision than those who submitted to the rite.
2. The ground of their trust. They rested in position rather than privilege. Circumcision was the sum of Jewish privilege. It was the main thing about which the Jews boasted. But their high privilege had not led them to a high morality, but had been made a cloak for sin. In contrast with this Paul puts Christian conduct. Christians rejoiced, or made their boast, in Christ Jesus, and had no confidence in the flesh. They looked to Him as the fulfiller of all righteousness for us and the example of all righteousness in us. Theirs was a prideless pride.
II. He argues with the Jew on his own ground. The ground of their boasting might well be his as regards--
1. Inherited privileges.
(1) The Jews make much of circumcision and the time of its performance. If before the eighth day it is nothing; if after, of less value. That, then, which the strictest Jews demand is true of me.
(2) They also talk of the old stock. I belong to it.
(3) They pride themselves on their tribe. What will compare with mine?
(4) Nay, more; scattered among the Gentiles, exposed to taint, to loss of language and custom, yet my ancestors remained pure in every sense. I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews.
2. Personal acts.
(1) What of the law? I belonged by choice to the separated sect.
(2) What of zeal? These men are making much of that; but did not I persecute the Church?
(3) And as for righteousness, when was I a defaulter?
3. Here surely was ground for boasting had he been so disposed. But--
III. The whole of these most coveted things he now counts loss. He relinquished them all to win Christ. He changes the figure. He had been speaking of gain and loss; he now speaks of entering on a race.
1. He divests himself of all self-righteous robes. He felt himself disqualified for the contest in any such dress.
2. He desires to lay firmest hold of Christ.
3. He seeks to feel the full meaning of the resurrection power, the propulsion to a higher and nobler purpose.
4. He asks to share the sufferings of Christ. Note this, inasmuch as many talk as though the sufferings of Christ had dispensed with their own.
5. He would be fashioned to the likeness of His death.
6. And so he would reach the goal--resurrection, i.e., complete newness of life through Christ Jesus. Conclusion:
This delineation has its practical bearing on ourselves.
1. It puts privileges in their true place. They increase our obligation to serve God.
2. External religiousness is put in its right place.
3. We are shown where we shall only find the true safeguard against modern delusions on religious questions--in Christ. (J. J. Goadby.)
Rejoice in the Lord--
Grounds of Christian rejoicing
He who would rejoice in the Lord must--
I. Beware of error (verses 1-3).
II. Renounce all and trust in Christ only (verses 4-8).
III. Embrace the fulness of Christ (verses 9-11). (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. Rejoice in the Lord is the text of the whole chapter. After a long chapter on the suppression of self and the absorption of every faculty in the service of Christ, here seems to be the reward. Observe--
1. It is “in the Lord.” There are two estates of men, “in the flesh,” and “in the Lord.” To be in the latter estate is to possess all that can minister to happiness. So we are here reminded that we can command our own happiness. It is enforced as a duty. Joy is a feeling that ranges over all life and time. It remembers from what it has been rescued; it rejoices in present security; it hopes for more than it can conceive in the future.
2. But if the Christian is seduced from Christ the joy departs, and gives place to a deeper desolation than the soul has ever known. It was this danger that the apostle dreaded, arising from two errors; one doctrinal, which would teach them to cease to trust in Christ alone: another practical, which would make them selfish and carnal, and so enemies of the Cross.
II. Christian rejoicing “defended against its judaizing” enemies. The apostle bids the Philippians beware of the dogs, evil workers, concision, suggestive phrases, the last implying that circumcision having served its purpose had become dishonoured as well as disused; the word was now but a synonym of a Christian profession (Colossians 2:11; Romans 2:29). Those were the true circumcision who--
1. Worship God in the spirit, i.e., they offer a worship which is ordered, prompted, released from ceremony and made acceptable by the Spirit of God.
(1) The Holy Ghost is the Master of all Christian worship.
(2) The object of that worship or service is included in the term and not expressed (Romans 9:4; Act 26:-7; Romans 12:1).
(3) The worship presented is “in spirit and in truth,” because the communism of man’s spirit with God through the indwelling spirit (Romans 8:26; Jude 1:20) is His own temple. But this must be external also. The word “circumcision” indicates the fellowship of those who, by this symbolic rite, were dedicated to God. And Christian public worship is the common spiritual homage of men who are serving God in their spirits while they are serving Him in His house.
(4) But the Spirit unites no human spirit to God which is not holy; and so the cutting off of sin was what circumcision always signified (Romans 2:29).
2. Rejoice in Christ Jesus, i.e., confide or glory. They have learned that circumcision has given place to baptism; but they put trust in neither. They trust only in Christ, and as they trust they glory.
3. Have no confidence in the flesh.
(1) In the fleshly ordinance which cannot be retained without dishonouring Christ.
(2) In the “fleshly,” i.e., personal and national prerogatives of the circumcised members of the old covenant. They renounced Judaism with all its advantages.
(3) In anything that human nature can do to win the Divine favour. (W. D. Pope, D. D.)
It is God’s will that we should rejoice in Him
I. What is it to rejoice? Delight is the soul’s acquiescence, or resting itself, in what it apprehends to be good. There is a two-fold delight.
1. Bodily or sensitive called pleasure, which proceeds from some impression made by a suitable object upon the senses. Of which note--
(1) This in itself is not sinful, because both the sense and the object and the suitableness of them were all made by God.
(2) Hence it is permitted by God (Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:19).
(3) But corrupt man is too apt to sin in these sensitive pleasures, either--
(a) in the unlawful object (Psalms 62:4),
(b) or in the manner by excessiveness (Jude 1:12).
2. Rational or spiritual joy, seated in the soul itself.
II. What is it to rejoice in the Lord?
1. God was pleased at first to order the soul of man so that it bad a natural tendency and suitableness to the nature of God.
2. But the soul being disordered by sin is apt to rejoice in nothing but externals.
3. It is therefore God’s will that we labour after our primitive perfections and joys, so as to delight ourselves--
(1) In Him as God and our God (Psalms 28:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18).
(2) In His--
(a) works (Psalms 104:31);
(b) Word (Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:103);
(c) properties; goodness (Luke 18:19); mercy; justice; power (Psalms 63:5-7); wisdom; truth; omnipresence.
III. How doth it appear that we ought and may thus rejoice?
1. From Scripture.
(1) God commands it (Psalms 32:11; Philippians 4:4).
(2) Christ prays for it (John 17:13).
(3) This is one great end of His promises (Romans 15:4).
(4) It is one great end of the ministry (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15; 2 Corinthians 1:24).
(5) It is the end of Christ’s sending the Spirit (John 16:7). The Spirit comforts us by--
(a) Renewing us.
(b) Convincing us it is our duty (John 16:9).
(c) Witnessing our adoption (Galatians 4:6).
(d) Blessing His ordinances to us.
(e) Bringing and directing us to Christ for it (John 14:26).
(f) Weaning us from fleshly delights.
(g) Powerfully working comfort in us (Galatians 5:22).
2. From reason. We should rejoice because--
(1) God hath given us that power.
(2) There is nothing in this world that we can have any solid joy in, because not suitable to the soul.
(3) There is none but God we can rationally rejoice in.
3. But doth not God sometimes command us to mourn? (Ecclesiastes 3:4; Isaiah 22:12; Joel 2:12-13).
(1) This sorrow consists not in abstaining from spiritual but natural joy.
(2) It maketh way for spiritual joy.
(3) It should be accompanied with it (Psalms 2:11).
(1) Observe God’s goodness to His creatures in making it their duty to rejoice.
(2) The privilege of Christians above all others (John 16:22).
(3) The false calumny that is laid on holiness as depriving us of joy (John 14:1).
(4) Our misery is all from ourselves (Hosea 13:9).
(5) In the excellency of Christian joy above all others; it is in the Lord.
2. Exhortation: Rejoice.
(1) Consider the necessity. God commands it for His glory and the credit of religion.
(2) Consider the excellency, above all other joy.
(a) It is spiritual, the joy of the soul (Psalms 33:21).
(b) Pure and unmixed (Proverbs 14:13).
(c) Easy and cheap.
(d) Real and true
(e) Universal in respect of time, place, and condition.
(f) Surpassing (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
(g) Well grounded; on God’s mercy and Christ’s merits (1 Peter 1:8).
(h) Full and satisfying (John 17:13; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15).
(3) Consider this excellency in its nature.
(a) In the cause: God; the Father, the Son (John 17:13), the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
(b) In the subject; the soul (Luke 1:46-47).
(c) The object; the chiefest good.
(d) The end: the glory of God as the ultimate, the good of man the subordinate.
(e) The effects. It will destroy our sinful joy (Psalms 16:11); lessen our esteem of the world (Psalms 4:7); enlarge our hearts and make them more capacious of heavenly things; facilitate all duties (Nehemiah 8:10; Deuteronomy 28:47); make us long more alter heaven (Psalms 119:20); support us in our afflictions (1 Peter 1:6-8); defend us against temptations.
V. Means and directions.
1. Labour after a right know ledge of God (Psalms 9:10).
2. Endeavour to get an interest in Him.
3. Get thy evidences clear and keep them so (Job 19:25; Psalms 27:1).
4. Convince thyself it is thy duty to rejoice.
5. Live above the temperature of the body.
6. Study well the nature of justification (Romans 4:5; Romans 5:1).
(1) Christ was made sin for us;
(2) and we righteous in Him.
7. Have frequent recourse to the promises (Hebrews 13:5-6).
8. Let the eye of faith be constantly fixed on the attributes of God (Isaiah 45:24; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 57:7).
9. Have a care of what will damp thy joys.
(1) Wilful sins.
(2) Nice questions about election.
(3) Dark providences (Ecclesiastes 9:1).
10. Often meditate on a Christian’s privileges.
(1) That He hath God for His Father and portion.
(2) Christ for his Advocate (1 John 2:1).
(3) All things working for His good (Romans 8:28).
(4) A kingdom provided for him (John 14:1-2).
1. My sins are many and great. Answer:
(1) God’s mercies are more and greater (Isaiah 55:7).
(2) So are Christ’s merits (Hebrews 7:25).
(3) So are the promises (Ezekiel 18:21-22).
2. My corruptions are strong. Answer:
(1) They are not too strong for God.
(2) Christ came to subdue them.
(3) God has promised to subdue them (Hebrews 10:16; Ezekiel 36:2; Ezekiel 36:5-27).
3. The devil oft tempts me. Answer:
(1) So he did Christ.
(2) He can tempt thee no farther than God sees good.
(3) God’s grace shall be sufficient for thee.
4. God hath forsaken me. Answer:
(1) It is only for a while.
(2) He will again receive thee (Isaiah 49:13-15; Psalms 42:11).
5. I have many losses and crosses. Answer:
(1) That is no new thing to saints (1 Peter 4:12-13).
(2) It is often a sign of God’s love (Hebrews 12:6-7; Amos 3:2).
(3) Their end is good (Hebrews 12:10).
(4) And their effect (2 Corinthians 4:17; Psalms 42:11). (Bishop Beveridge.)
I. Rejoice in the Lord as your savior. When Candace’s treasurer found that Jesus had suffered for him on the cross, “he went on his way rejoicing.” Our acceptance with God makes heaven rejoice--the return of the prodigal affords the greatest happiness to himself and all others.
II. Rejoice in the Lord as your guide. They were journeying on in comparative fear. In tribulation even the saints rejoice because their Saviour will deliver them.
III. Rejoice in the Lord as your reward. (Weekly Pulpit.)
I. Its nature. The joy of faith--felt not seen--yet real and solid.
II. Its source and security. Christ supplies--sustains it.
III. Its perpetuity it is an apostle’s last injunction--must endure forever. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The joy of Christian brethren
The chapter contains a general exhortation to several duties. This verse tells you how to do them--“rejoicing.”
I. The appellation--“Brethren.” By loving compellation he labours to enter into their hearts. If exhortation comes from the pride of man, the pride of man will beat it back. Why are Christians brethren?
1. They have the same beginning of life from the same Father; the same common brother Christ; the same food, the Word of God; the same promises and inheritance.
2. The word is indicative of equality. This should fill up the valleys of hearts dejected here in regard to mean estates; as also pull down the mountains of proud hearts.
3. It is a name of dignity belonging to the heirs of heaven.
4. It is a word of love.
II. The exhortation.
1. It is the Christian’s duty to rejoice. It is commanded here.
2. It is reasonable that they should rejoice. They are free from the spiritual Egypt; why should they not sing as the delivered Israelites. They have peace with God and an assured hope.
3. It belongs only to Christians to rejoice. Others have neither cause nor commandment to do so.
III. The limitation--“In the Lord.”
1. In whom? Christ is our Lord--
(1) By gift. God has given us all to Him.
(2) By conquest. He hath gotten the victory over Satan for us.
(3) By marriage.
(1) By adherence to Him. We must rest contented with Him as our only and sufficient joy.
(2) Obedience to His laws; delighting in them.
IV. The means.
1. Faith. It is the sense of our reconciliation that makes us rejoice (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 1:6). Whatever strengthens or weakens faith, strengthens or weakens joy.
2. Peace. Whatever disturbs our peace disturbs our joy.
3. Prayer. Pray that your joy may be full.
4. Christian communion. As the two disciples’ hearts did burn within them when they talked with Christ.
1. Why, then, are God’s children sorrowful?
(1) Their sorrow proceeds from the want of the perfections necessary to make them absolute Christians indeed.
(2) They do not adorn their profession, and so God hides the comfortable presence of His Spirit.
(3) The sorrow may only be apparent, for their joy is a hidden joy. The feast is kept in the conscience and not always manifest.
(4) While they live here they have ever a mixture of joy and grief to temper one another.
2. Is not the Christian fuller of sorrow than of joy? If so, it arises from ignorance of the grounds of comfort or from want of application of them. Let him then--
(1) Compare all discomforts with the joy he may have, and he will find that it countervails a world of sorrow, for it is endless, and one day will be full.
(2) Take heed of the hindrances of this joy. Sins committed and not repented (1 Chronicles 2:7).
(3) Take heed of negligence in good duties and to do them thoroughly. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Joy in the Lord
Evangelical religion is often charged with making men gloomy, averse to sharing the innocent pleasures of life, and thus has been made repulsive to the young especially. The charge finds some support in the demeanour of many Christians in whom, from defective views of duty, the gospel is not permitted to exert its sweetening power. By such religion is grievously misrepresented. Jesus was “the man of sorrows” because He bore the world’s guilt; but when the bitter work was over He was “anointed with the oil of gladness.” Christians ought to share this. Being “in the Lord” they should be full of gladness.
I. To the unregenerate man Christian joy is unintelligible. It belongs to a sphere with which he has no acquaintance. He sees the restraints which religion imposes, but of its blessed communion with God he sees nothing. Its hopes to him are visionary. He cannot think the yoke of Jesus to be easy.
II. To the true Christian this joy is reasonable, and even when he is not happy he feels he ought to be.
1. It springs from love to Christ. Out in the world we find Marahs; its springs are full of bitterness. In Christ. “with joy we draw water from the wells of salvation.”
2. The citizens of the spiritual Zion may well be joyful in their King. What city is like ours? Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth. God hath called her walls Salvation and her gates Praise. Prosperity is within her palaces. Through her midst flows the river of life, and there is the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The King abides amongst us. To all our petitions His ear is open; to all our wants His bounteous hand. His service is glorious liberty.
3. We have perfect security. No power can pluck us out of our Saviour’s hand; for with His infinite goodness is conjoined an infinite grossness.
4. In the contemplation of providence there is an unfailing source of joy. The natural satisfaction which outward comforts bring is pervaded and glorified by the thankfulness of hearts rejoicing in their Father’s goodness. Anxiety, pain, and bereavement may be appointed to us, but that they are a Father’s appointment will prevent despondency and maintain peace.
5. Innocent enjoyments have a new charm “in the Lord.” He who began His miracles by contributing to social pleasure, changes the common into the noble and refreshing. Friendship has one added sweetness, nature a new and glorious beauty, and study a satisfaction altogether peculiar, now that intellectual improvement is felt to be polishing a shaft for the Master’s quiver.
6. Next to the ineffable delight of seeing Jesus as His Saviour is the delight which fills the believer’s heart in helping others to see Him as theirs.
III. The reasons why many Christians have little of this joy are various. In some it is due--
1. To temperament. Of this class the Apostle Thomas may be taken as a type. In many, the nervous tendency to religious melancholy developes insanity, as in the case of Cowper. The care of a physician and the watchful love of friends may be of service to joyless Christians.
2. To defective apprehension of the fulness and freeness of the gospel. The glorious liberty has been so little understood that while living in the air of freedom many have fallen back into “the spirit of bondage again to fear.”
3. To feeble spirituality and indulgence in sin. Worldliness, like a killing parasite, has wreathed itself round the energies of the soul. The pleasures of life have stolen away the time from duty. Mists rise from a mind cherishing sinful desire and hide the face of God. We know why David had to pray, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” And all that is well, and it is to be hoped that this gloom is the harbinger of repentance, and the opening of his heart to the Sun of Righteousness. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)
Joy in the Lord
The greatest painter--at least one of the greatest painters--of the devoutest period of the Middle Age, a man who, as men said, used to kneel and pray till the angels came to him to be painted, whose works, as they adorn the walls of Florence, open up to us a world we had hardly dreamt of before,--that greatest of painters--Fra Angelieo da Fiesole--in some of his most beautiful pictures, has, amidst a multitude of exquisitely pencilled faces combined in groups, made each face of varying expression, but each expressive gaze of joy and thankfulness steadily fixed upon one central figure--the figure of the Redeemer. (Knox Little.)
The elevating power of joy
You go out on a bright spring morning into the green fields, you hear above you a voice that thrills you through with pleasure; you don’t see anything distinctly; but from the clouds there comes a warbling note, a rising splendour of music, as the lark ascends towards heaven. There is in every cadence the outwelling of an unconscious, yet real, joy. It is a parable of God’s working. The little creature, as she ascends and sings, sings and ascends, is simply proclaiming the truth that was seen in the life of Jesus: joy is a power to exalt. (Knox Little.)
Joy is not always ecstasy
We ought not to seek too high joys. We may be bright without transfiguration. The even flow of constant cheerfulness strengthens; while great excitements, driving us with fierce speed, both rack the ship, and end often in explosions. If we were just ready to break out of the body with delight, I know not but we should disdain many things important to be done. Low measures of feeling are better than ecstasies for ordinary life. God sends his rain in gentle drops, else flowers would be beaten to pieces. (H. W. Beecher.)
The importance of Christian joy
The duty is an important one. The tone of the apostle here and elsewhere brings this out very clearly. Nothing is more calculated to commend the gospel to those around us, than proof that its influence on the hearts which receive it is to make them bright and happy. This commendation is, of course, specially impressive where outward circumstances are of a kind naturally tending to sadden. When, in deep poverty, or on a bed of pain, a Christian is contented, calm, joyous, there is here “an epistle of Christ” written in letters so large and fair, that even careless observers can hardly help reading its testimony to the reality and potency of Divine grace. Where the lights of this world have been in so large a measure withdrawn, it must be plain that such brightness of heart can come only through a beam of sunshine straight from heaven to that heart. For the spiritual progress of the believer himself, too, it is of very much moment that he “rejoice in the Lord.” Nehemiah’s statement holds true for all time: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” We know the power of happiness, of a genial, buoyant spirit, in carrying forward the ordinary work of life. In the work of the spiritual life--resistance to temptation, and earnest labour for the Master--there is no sustaining power to be compared with joy. Walking in darkness, enveloped in spiritual gloom, we move slowly, stumble, fall. In the sunshine, we press forward with bounding step in the way of God’s commandments, “running, and net weary”; wherefore, “O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)
To write the same things to you--
That can never be too much taught which cannot be too well learned. By learning the same things often--
I. Dull and unexpert understandings are much helped.
II. You are stirred up into greater wariness than otherwise ye would. (H. Airay, D. D.)
Dwelling on the same things is necessary even for the best Christians, because--
I. Truth is supernatural, and our minds are carnal. That therefore which is to keep our changeful minds must be assiduous, or else our minds will sink into their first estate.
II. We often disregard the truth at the first, second, or third presentation (Job 33:14).
III. There is such a breadth and depth in the word of God, that although we often hear the same thing we never come to understand the full extent. Our souls are narrow. Spiritual meat requires digestion, and therefore repetition.
IV. Corruptions and worldly business tend to thrust out the consideration of the truth. We cannot have two things in our mind at the same time in strength. Whence it comes to pass that the better being ever subject to be thrust out needs to be hammered in with often repetition.
V. Our memories are very weak to retain anything that is good. Good things sink through them as water through a sieve; there is need therefore of remembrances. After this manner God hath dealt with man in renewing the promises, and Christ in His parables (Matthew 13:1-58), although with variety, teaching ministers to avoid tediousness. Conclusion:
1. Let it not be grievous to ministers to do what is for the safety of God’s children. Peter cast often and got nothing, yet at Christ’s word he cast again. God, that blesseth not every cast, may bless the cast to the catching of many.
2. If we hear the same things often, let us hear them as an impression which may carry force and work upon our hearts more strongly than before. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
The usefulness of repetitio
1. A story we have often heard or read, however fascinating at first, will gradually lose much of its interest. If read for amusement it would be quite out of the nature of things that a book should please us so much on the second or third perusal as on the first: but if read for instruction the case is somewhat altered. We are conscious that many parts are imperfectly mastered, and we do not hesitate to apply ourselves again and again to the study. But even when instruction is the object, a truth which has once settled in our minds will lose its power of gaining our attention.
2. When we pass from human literature to Divine, we carry our dispositions and habits with us, and we shall be tempted to reckon ourselves so well acquainted with certain portions of the Bible as to reckon further study of them superfluous. Now there is no truth of Christianity that will not repay further outlay of time and attention. Whatever our progress, we are only beginners. Yet while the text sets itself against that craving for novelties in religion which is the mark of a mind diseased, it does not circumscribe the range of inquiry. “The same things” were confined to no narrow groove.
I. The nature of scriptural truth demonstrates that repetition can never be useless. It is a property of the truths of the Bible that the simplest involve the most difficult, while the more sublime and mysterious prove, under some shape or another, the plain and the elementary. It is a simple truth, e.g., that the Eternal Son of God died as the Surety of the lost human race, but you introduce with it a whole library of divinity, for there is not one truth of our religion that is not contained in it--the guilt of sin, the love of God, the Trinity, etc. And if the most elementary doctrine is virtually a summary of the Bible, then to ply men with it is virtually to ply men with the whole system of Christianity. And then if I have the fact that Christ died for sin put continually before me, it is a mistake to suppose that it will always call up the selfsame idea. I shall sometimes view the atonement as demonstrative of Christ’s love; sometimes of the greatness of man’s sin, etc., etc. And these doctrines derived from the atonement will gain power and clearness from their association with it. And so with the rest.
II. The agency by which scriptural truth is expounded proves the usefulness of repetition. That agency is the Spirit of God. Hence it comes to pass that a text may have been read or heard a hundred times without making any impression, and yet on the next occasion it may seem charged with electric light and the whole mind within disturbed. And what holds good in conversion holds good for the whole course of Christian experience, and thus the Bible, however diligently studied, is always a new book, and its best known portions instead of being exhausted will often seem to have been indicted again. We have, therefore, an incontrovertible reason why “the same things” should be always useful. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The repetition of old truth is
I. Often necessary. Men let it slip--fail to improve it.
II. Never wearisome. It is precious to those who believe it--who deliver it.
III. Always safe. It quickens memory--stirs the heart--provokes effort--and helps to secure salvation. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Repeating the same teaching
It was the Sophists who scoffed at Socrates because he was always teaching “the same things,” and in this their mockery of the great heathen teacher they but disclosed their own folly. It was the Romanists in Reformation times who frequently laid to the charge of the Reformers that they were always harping upon the same string. It is a mark of the present day still to show a craving for what is new, and to find that craving too eagerly met and administered to; but as Paul knew, so do all preachers of the doctrines of grace know, that if the Divine Word Himself chose to utter the same truths ofttimes in the same form, they have their ample justification in that example of His which to them is also of necessity precept. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)
Philippians 3:3 open_in_new
Beware of dogs
The enemies of the Church
I. Their character--“dogs.”
II. Their conduct--“evil wore.”
III. Their destructive creed--“Concision.” (Professor Eadie.)
The apostolic warning
I. The persons warned.
1. All the Philippians, and not merely the pastors. They must beware of false teachers. Christ’s sheep can discern between a wolf and a shepherd (John 10:4-5), and therefore they are bidden to “try the spirits,” and “prove all things.” But how, say the Papists, should common people know the Word to be the Word of God? For answer I would ask such how they know the pope’s canons to be the pope’s? They will say their teachers bring them in the pope’s name, and they believe their teachers. So we believe our teachers, who tell us this is and that is not the Word of God. But they object that this makes every man a judge. I answer, there is a manner of judging, viz., that by which we discern of anything, which every Christian must have, so that it cannot be a plea to him at the day of judgment to say, “My teacher did mislead me.” Everyone must discern between good and bad. For he that knows not his Master’s will shall be beaten.
2. Not only young and ordinary Christians are to beware, but also the best settled. The Philippians were a Church established in the truth.
II. The warning given--“Beware,” which signifies to discern, and then to avoid. Those who are aware of evil will beware of it. The Church is even subject to danger; and God suffers it to be so.
1. To try those who are true and who false.
2. To try the good so as to make them better.
III. The persons warned against.
1. Wicked men and dogs.
(1) Without the Church all are dogs.
(2) The dogs within the Church first fawn upon their intended victims (Romans 16:18), and when they cannot prevail by flattery they snarl and bark against them, by slanders and open scoffs, when they cannot bite. When they can they persecute with fire and sword.
2. Evil workers.
(1) Seducing men from Christ.
(2) Wicked livers.
3. The concision. They make divisions in the Church.
IV. How to take the warning.
1. Get fundamental truths into the heart and love them (2 Thessalonians 2:10). None are seduced but such as are cold in love.
2. Practice that we know, and God will give us a fuller measure of knowledge, whereby we shall know seducers. (John 7:17).
3. Pray to God for wisdom to discern of schisms and ill-disposed persons.
4. Let us look that we keep in us a holy fear and reverence of God (Psalms 25:12). (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Paul calls the false teachers such in respect of--
I. Their snarling and barking, because as dogs they barked at him and snarled at his doctrine, and that, as dogs again, not upon reason but custom. Abishai called Shimei a dog in respect of his causeless barking against David (2 Samuel 16:9).
II. Their greediness, making, as he afterwards said, “their belly their god” (Isaiah 56:11).
III. Their absurdness, because as the dog returneth to his vomit, so they made the converted Jews return to their old Judaism. (H. Airay, D. D.)
St. Paul retorts upon the Judaizers the term of reproach by which they stigmatized the Gentiles as impure. In the Mosaic law the word is used to denounce the foul profligacies of heathen worship (Deuteronomy 23:19). Among the Jews of the Christian era, it was a common designation of the Gentiles involving the idea of ceremonial impurity. St. John applies the term to those whose moral impurity excludes them from the new Jerusalem, the spiritual Israel (Revelation 22:15). As a term of reproach, the word on the lips of a Jew signified chiefly “impurity;” of a Greek, “impudence.” The herds of dogs which prowl about Eastern cities, without a home or owner, feeding on the refuse of the streets, quarrelling among themselves, and attacking the passer by, explain both applications of the image. Thus St. Paul’s language is strikingly signifiSong of Solomon They speak of themselves as God’s children; they boast of eating at God’s table; they reproach us as dogs, as foul and unclean, as outcasts from the covenant because, forsooth, we eat meat bought at the shambles, and do not observe the washing of cups and platters. I reverse the image. We are the children of God, for we banquet on the spiritual feast which God has spread before us: they are the dogs, for they greedily devour the garbage of carnal ordinances, the very refuse of God’s table (verse 8). (Bishop Lightfoot.)
Evil workers--Paul calls them so in respect--
I. Of the works they urged; because by preaching the necessity of works unto salvation, and joining them with Christ as workers together with Him of our salvation, they made those works which in themselves were not evil, evil works.
II. Of the evil mind wherein they urged those works, in hatred of him, and to cross that which he had taught touching the sole sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness unto salvation.
III. Of their unfaithful working in the lord’s vineyard, because together with good seed they did sow tares, joining with Christ the works of the law in the work of our salvation. (H. Airay, D. D.)
Beware of the concision--These Philippians had admitted certain new men that preached traditional and additional doctrines, the law with the gospel, Moses with Christ, circumcision with baptism. To these new converts these new doctors inculcated often that charm, “Ye are the circumcision” whom God hath sealed to Himself; will you break this seal? Now St. Paul meets with these men in their own haunt, and even in the sound of the word they so often pressed. “They press upon you circumcision, but beware of concision, of tearing the Church of God; for we are the circumcision. If, therefore, they set up another, and continue a figure after the substance Christ Jesus is manifested, a legal circumcision in the flesh after the spiritual circumcision of the heart, their end is not circumcision but concision.”
I. Beware. This caveat shows us--
1. God’s loathness to lose us. That we are here now is sufficient argument for this. Who of us has not done something since yesterday that has made him unworthy to be here today? If God were weary of me, and would fain be rid of me, He could find enough in me now and here to let me perish. Is not the spirit of slumber in me, the spirit of detraction in another, of impenitence and facility to admit temptations in others, enough to justify Him? But He would not have the death of any, but would have all men be saved, and so says, “beware.”
2. Consider the way by which He leads us to Him. He declares His will towards us in a law. He bids and forbids. There had passed a contract between us and Him--Believe, do, and thou shalt live. We say, “Thy will be done,” which supposes that that will is made known. And that will has been manifested in the law within, the Mosaic law, and the gospel, and not only does God thus speak to us, but He calls upon us; gives us a law and bids us “beware” of breaking it.
3. Nothing exalts God’s goodness more than this, that He multiplies the means of mercy, so that no man can say, Once I might have been saved, once God opened to me a door, but I neglected that, and God never came more.
(1) God hath spoken once in His Scriptures, and we have heard Him twice (Psalms 62:11) at home in our own reading, and again and again in His ordinances.
(2) There is a language in the heavens (Psalms 19:2). This is the true harmony of the spheres which every man may hear. Though he understand no tongue but his own, he may hear God in the seasons, in the vicissitudes of Church and State, etc. This is God’s English to thee, and His French, Latin, Greek, to others.
(3) But then God translates Himself in particular works. Nationally: He speaks in particular judgments or deliverances to one nation. Domestically: He speaks that language to a particular family; and so personally. God will make a fever speak to me that there is no health in me; my adversity that there is no safe dependence but in Him; even my sin shall be a sermon to me.
(4) God hath spoken to us in the death and resurrection of His Son.
II. Beware of the concision. There is a certain elegant and holy delicacy and juvenility in St. Paul’s choosing the words of musical cadence--circumcision, concision; but then this presents matter of gravity. Language must wait upon matter, and words upon things. Concision is the severing of that which should be entire--in the state, the aliening of the head from the body; in the Church to constitute a monarchy, an universal head; in the family, to divide man and wife. But more particularly consider--
1. The concision of the body; disunion in doctrinal things.
(1) This that should be kept entire is Jesus.
(2) “Every spirit which dissolveth Jesus” (1 John 4:3), that makes religion serve turns, that admits so much gospel as may advance present businesses, every such spirit is not of God.
(3) Not to profess the whole gospel, not to believe all the articles of faith, this is a breaking of what should be entire.
(4) The advancement of a private interpretation to an article of faith mars the peace and rends the unity of the Church. Let us therefore (Psalms 137:6) prefer Jerusalem before our chief joy, love of peace by or forbearance on all sides, rather than cictory by wrangling and uncharitableness.
2. The concision of the garment; disunion in ceremonial things. To a circumcision of the garment, to a paring away such ceremonies as were superstitious and superfluous, we came at the beginning of the Reformation. But those churches that came to a concision of the garment, an absolute taking away of all ceremonies, neither provided so safely for the Church itself nor for her devotion. Ceremonies are nothing, but where there are none order and obedience, and, presently, religion, will vanish.
3. And therefore beware of tearing the body or the garment, lest the third be induced, the tearing of thine own spirit from that rest it should receive in God; for when thou has lost thy hold of those handles which God reaches out to thee in the ministry of His Church, and hast no means to apply the promises of God to thy soul, when anything falls upon thee to overcome thy moral constancy; thou wilt soon sink into desperation, which is the fearfullest concision of all. When God hath made me a partaker of the Divine nature, so that now in Christ Jesus He and I are one, this were a dissolving of Jesus of the worst kind imaginable to tear myself from Jesus, or by any suspicion of His mercy, or any horror of my own sins, to come to think myself to be none of His.
1. This is treason against the Father; a cutting off of the power of God.
2. Treason against the Son; a cutting off of the wisdom of God.
3. Treason against the Holy Ghost; the cutting off of comfort. (John Donne, D. D.)
For we are the circumcision--In all ages and under all dispensations there have been two antagonistic principles at work, two classes among the professed people of God; the carnal and the spiritual; those who relied on externals and those who relied on what is internal, an Israel according to the flesh, and an Israel according to the spirit.
The great question between the two has ever been and is, Who are the circumcision? the true people of God?
I. What is meant by “we are the circumcision?” Circumcision in the Old Testament was--
1. The symbol of regeneration.
2. The sign and seal of a covenant. It distinguished the people of God from other men, and assured them of their interest in the blessings of the covenant. The question therefore is tantamount to this: Who are the people of God in such a sense as to be His spiritual children and heirs of His kingdom? The Judaizers said they were--Paul said Christians were.
II. The characteristics of those who are the true people of God or the true circumclsion.
1. They worship God in the Spirit, i.e., under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
(1) This includes
(a) that the inward principle of worship is no mere principle of nature, whether fear, natural reverence, or sentiment, but that love and devotion of which the Holy Spirit is the author.
(b) That the mode of worship is that which the Holy Spirit has enjoined. It is not a will worship, not the assiduous performance of things uncommanded of God, whether in matters of worship or life.
(2) It therefore stands opposed to
(a) insincere, hypocritical service;
(b) mere external and ceremonial service;
(c) all such service as the unrenewed and unspiritual do or can render. Such was Jewish and Judaizing worship; and all formalism, whether Papal or Protestant.
2. They rejoice or glory in Christ Jesus. This includes the recognition of Him
(1) as the ground of our confidence
(2) as the source of honour;
(3) as the object of delight.
How opposite is this spirit to that of the Judaizers, who gloried in the law, the theocracy, and their descent from Abraham.
3. They do not confide in the flesh. “Flesh” includes
(a) what is external, whether Abraham’s descent or circumcision; external obedience to the law, or religious ceremonies; baptism or membership in the true Church. This is Paul’s interpretation as given in the immediate context.
(b) What is opposed to spirit, i.e., nature.
(2) To have no confidence in it, therefore, means to have no confidence in ourselves, our own righteousness or strength. This also is included in Paul’s amplification. Those who do not trust in the flesh are those who renounce their own righteousness and embrace that of God: which is by the faith of Christ. Conclusion: It is by these criteria that we are to judge ourselves, and to determine the true form of religion, and of the Church. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
The true circumcision
I. Spiritual worship. There must be present worship. The rite of circumcision was administered once for all, and as an external badge this was sufficient. But true religion is a matter of daily life. A circumcised Jew who lived in sin was no true Jew; a baptized Christian may behave like a man of the world, in which case his baptism counts for nothing. The heart and soul of religion is personal devotion, daily worship.
2. This worship must be an inspiration of the Spirit of God. All worship requires some support. The formal worship of the Jew rested on ceremonies. When these were absent the worship perished. The Christian rests upon the influences of the Spirit, and where this is there is Divine life.
II. Christian enthusiasm. The expression “glory in Christ Jesus,” points to this.
1. The secret of the deepest religious life is personal devotion to Christ. Jesus at once demands adoration by His Spiritual greatness, and wins affection by His human sympathy.
2. This devotion is inspired by joyous enthusiasm. The Jew gloried in Abraham, but a greater than Abraham is here.
III. Freedom from superstition. For us, like Paul (see sequel),to cast off all confidence in privileged birth in a Christian home, membership in a historic Church, observance of venerable rites, and to trust wholly in spiritual religion, is a confirming sign of Divine sonship better than any rite such as circumcision. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
The true circumcision
I. The sacraments of Old and New Testaments are in substance the same. The Philippians who were baptized with water and the Holy Ghost are said to be circumcised. And so the apostle attributes our baptism and Lord’s supper after a sort to the Church of the Jews (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). As the covenant was always the same in substance, so the seals of it were the same too.
II. The reality of that which seducers pretend to, will more readily be found in those that conscientiously oppose them. These men ran down the apostle and others, giving out themselves only for the circumcised ones. But the apostle proves he had the better claim. Thus the works of holiness are to be found more with those that press justification by faith, than with others who would be looked on as great patrons of good works. Be not, then, deceived with fair speeches; examine matters to the bottom. Often those who have the highest pretences to right on their side go farthest from it.
III. The sign in religion without the thing signified is little worth.
1. All it can do is to give a name before men which they lose before God (Romans 2:28-29). Christian may be an honourable title before men, and an empty title before God.
2. The sign is a mere external thing on which nothing of weight for salvation can hang, and therefore when the Lord comes to judgment, He throws down all together (Jeremiah 9:25-26). For He looks not to the outward appearance but to the heart.
3. It is an inefficacious thing; as a body without a spirit. He who has got the sign only, has only the meanest half of the sacrament. Sacraments are seals of the covenant; but where there is no covenant there can be no seal; and what avails a seal at a blank.
4. Men in Christ’s livery may abide in the devil’s service and meet with his doom (Luke 13:26-27).
5. To apply all this.
(1) Baptism with water without the Holy Spirit is little worth. Many never reflect seriously on their baptism. Hence they live as though they had never sworn allegiance to the King of heaven, and were entirely their own, and will never renew it. Let me ask as touching this baptism:
(a) Baptized ye were with water, but were ye ever baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire--the thing signified? Alas, in consequence of the want of this, the universal coldness in the things of God.
(b) Hast thou realized that only the blood and Spirit of Christ can cleanse thee? In baptism is a profession of this. If not what avails thy baptism.
(c) Wast thou ever made partaker of the washing of regeneration? (Titus 3:5-6). Unto what then were ye baptized? (Acts 19:2).
(d) Where ye ever cut off from the old stock of Adam and ingrafted into Christ? (1 Corinthians 12:13). Baptized into the name of Christ, and yet not in Christ, but without Him makes sad work.
(e) Are lusts reigning: or are they dying, and your souls living a new life? (Romans 6:5-6). Has the water been but as that thrown upon a corpse?
(2) The Lord’s supper without the thing signified is little worth. To be partakers of the bread of the Lord without the bread which is the Lord will go but small length (John 6:57).
IV. Believers in Christ are the true circumcision. They have in spirit which the Jews, by this ordinance, only had in the letter. Circumcision was--
1. A token of God’s covenant (Genesis 17:7-11). This honour have all God’s saints to have God Himself to be ours.
2. A distinction between Jews and others, as God’s people (Genesis 17:4). So believers are God’s people, His garden, while others are but His out field.
3. A cutting off of part of the flesh, signifying the believer’s privilege and duty (Colossians 2:11). Their hearts are circumcised to love the Lord; their ears to hear Him; their lips to speak for Him. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The marks of a true Christian
There are many things that have a name to live and are dead: faith without works; the form of godliness without the power; sacraments without holy desires; Christians without union with Christ. In exposing this the apostle’s intention was not to disparage the Old Testament sacraments, but to show that in common with the New their value consisted in their spiritual use and significance, in their connection with the moral affections, in their leading to Him who is the end of all sacraments. Consider--
I. The nature of a believer’s worship.
1. The word worship may be taken in the larger sense which includes all religious service. From which we learn that the believer’s life is to be one continued act of worship; his body is a living temple; his heart an altar for daily sacrifice; his calling that of “a priest unto God;” his whole conversation one hymn of praise. To worship God in the spirit, then, is to worship Him in the life. The fire of sacrifice is to come down on the domestic hearth, and “holiness unto the Lord” is to be written “on the bells of the horses.”
2. Still the reference to the Old Testament ritual would suggest that “worship” points to certain religious actions. To worship God in the spirit, then, is to worship Him--
(1) In simplicity as distinguished from hypocrisy. It is a fearful thing when a miser prays to be delivered from covetousness, a vindictive man from “malice, hatred,” etc.
(2) With reverence, as distinguished from all permitted indifference, deadness, reluctance, clockwork piety. Our heart and tongue should go together. Moses left his sandals at the foot of the mount, too many take their sandals and leave their hearts behind.
(3) In earnestness, as if we felt that important interests were suspended. The two worships are distinguished in that in one case an end is looked for, in the other the only care is to get the work done.
II. The object of the believer’s joy. We rejoice in Christ Jesus.
1. For the glory of His character.
2. For the dignity of His offices.
3. The blessedness of His work.
4. The completeness of His salvation.
5. The freedom of His service.
6. The reasonableness of His commands.
7. The unutterable recompences of His rewards.
III. The ground of a believer’s trust.
1. By “the flesh” St. Paul means anything that we are or have. The flesh in its best estate is a corrupt thing, and can therefore be no proper ground for confidence.
2. The apostle would take away our confidence from everything that is not Christ. He not only excludes all outward distinctions, national privileges, moral excellencies and attainments, but he strikes at that refined and subtle fallacy of Romanism which would lead us to have confidence in some indwelling grace, which would give efficacy to tears and perfection to human sanctity. St. Paul knew that it was not grace in the saints, but grace in Christ, that was to save him, and in that he could feel unbounded confidence. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The inheritors of the promises
I. The ground of the apostle’s claim.
1. To worship God in the spirit is--
(1) To worship God as a spirit.
(2) With our own spirit.
(3) By the help of the Holy Spirit.
To worship God in the flesh would be to worship God as though He were flesh, with the powers of the body alone, and by the influences and aids which work on the body (John 4:23; Malachi 1:11).
2. To rejoice in Christ Jesus is not only to believe in Him and receive Him, but gladly and gratefully to accept all His work and gifts and services, being cleansed by His blood, made righteous by His obedience, and being reconciled by His mediation (1 Peter 1:8). And if we connect this with the former, then it means to worship, pleading Christ’s sacrifice, trusting in His advocacy, and making Him in all respects our way to God.
3. Having no confidence, etc. What he means by flesh is evident from the words following--the administration of ordinances, birth of high noble blood, earnest external obedience. The flesh is the outward and material, not the inward and spiritual. Now, if we connect this third qualification with the first, to have no confidence in the flesh is to use the material without abusing it, making it secondary and subservient, to employ as much of the outward form in worship as is essential to spirit and life, but never as a substitute.
II. The lofty position Paul claims. The practice of circumcision existed, it may be, before it was imposed on Abraham, but it was ordained by God mainly with a spiritual object (Genesis 17:10, etc.), as the sign and seal of the Divine covenant; it testified to God’s faithfulness. What advantages then, hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? (Romans 9:4-5). Like privileges are possessed by such as worship God in the spirit, etc.
1. They are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.
2. They behold the bright ness of the Father’s glory (John 1:14; John 1:18).
3. They are the inheritors of great and precious promises. Even the promises made to Abraham are theirs (Romans 4:11-13; Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7-9). But the believer is interested in a better covenant, established in better promises.
(1) A country was promised to Abraham--a good land; but Canaan shared in the universal curse. But the land promised to the Christian is a better country.
(2) It was promised to Abraham that his seed should become a great nation--those who rejoice in Christ are a holy nation, a peculiar people.
(3) God promised to Abraham to be his God, etc., and so (2 Corinthians 6:15)--
4. They are favoured with special Divine revelations (Hebrews 8:10-11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
5. They are a royal priesthood.
6. They are connected with an ancient and sacred lineage. The Jew claimed Abraham as his father, and all the illustrious patriarchs and prophets as ancestors; but they whom Paul describes may claim as ancestors all who have like precious faith in every age.
7. While of the Israelites as concerning the flesh Christ came; of those, whom Paul describes, Christ comes as a gospel and a revelation to the world (2 Corinthians 2:14-15; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
1. Let us claim to be the circumcision in the presence of the Jew. To him, if he rejoice not in Christ Jesus we say, Your circumcision is counted uncircumcision: We are Abraham’s seed, and he is an alien. We envy not his connection by blood; we have a tie less corruptible. 2, We claim this position as Christians of simple customs, in spite of some who would withhold it because we follow not with them. We notice the stress which such lay upon consecrated edifices, sacramental efficacy, an authorized ministry, uniformity. We affirm that spiritual worship consecrates any structure, constitutes the worshipper a priest, and renders the simplest forms full of power and life.
3. We claim this in the face of the world; and if men demand of us a style and order of worship which would undermine spirituality, divert our complacency from Christ, and foster confidence in the flesh, let us not only not conform to their requirements, but let us deny that conformity would secure any increase of acceptableness or power.
(1) Of power! What is mightier than spiritual worship? What show of strength exceeds that manifest by rejoicing in Jesus? And is “no confidence in the flesh” loss of power (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
(2) And is there no beauty in simplicity? The utmost and highest is to be found in an assembly which worships God, etc.
4. Let us in godly fellow ship with all true churches maintain this position. (S. Martin.)
1. A scholar trained at the feet of Gamaliel kneels before the Father “in spirit”; a Pharisee of the strictest sect has his shrunk heart expanded into “joy in Christ Jesus”; a proud professor feels “no confidence in the flesh.” “We are the circumcision,” he says, after this thorough readjusting of His religious relations. He thought so, as a Jew, when there was none to dispute the claim. As a Christian, with all Jewry despising that claim, he is sure of it.
2. Now to be able to say, “We are the circumcision,” to be clearly conscious of standing in the right line of spiritual descent is no mean distinction, no unproductive element in our expectations, that we should alienate it without cause.
I. Thoughtful students can hardly doubt that God has meant his Church to maintain an historic unity. No bend in its growth has ever been so abrupt as to choke the sap or sever the commerce of any branch with the root. Each moral revolution no less than each theological variation proves that the essence of faith is not perishable. Something of primitive power goes into the least offshoot. The three dispensations lay their ordaining hands on its head, with patriarchal blessings, Levitical unction, and gospel baptism. Let any holy family pitch its tent where it will, it shall not be out of that Divine order; reaching backward and forward--Calvary, Sinai, Mamre.
II. But blended with this law of its history, the church has to recognize another, constantly counterbalancing the gravitation towards indolence which might accrue from the former alone, and checking its complacency. For as it advances, some unexpected crisis is always breaking up the old distribution of forces; the original Providence readjusts the lines. Dismissing former tests of legitimacy, it brings fresh affiliations into the family, showing those often to be of “the circumcision” that had before been reckoned of the alienage; and disowning sons who forfeit favour by sinning against the Holy Ghost. Men claim to be Christians by birth; offer as a spiritual qualification, not a confession of faith, but a pedigree. Something like this has always been a presumption of religious majorities. And, as if to rebuff it, the propensity to proscription is no sooner settled, than a reformation is sent to disturb it. Some Paul of Samosata, some Constantine, or some Popish lineage is always secularizing the Church, and then some impracticable Wycliffe, dissenting Baxter, or erratic Huss, sloughs the form to act out the substance. Hypocrites vitiate the succession, and heretics ennoble the new blood. When the Jews refuse the apostle of their salvation, lo! he turns to the Gentiles. As if purposely to break up confidence in mere ecclesiasticism and clear the gospel of bondage, the visible Church is scarcely at any epoch suffered to enfold the Church spiritual with a clear circumference. And the instant any majority begins to be at ease in Zion, some terrible prophet comes crying out of the wilderness, “Repent!” shows what circumcision is, and turns the world of the Rabbis upside down. But always, observe, the old faith goes into the living body. (Bishop Huntington.)
Worship God in the Spirit--
I. What it is to worship God in the spirit.
1. Christ has respect to the whole of our service and obedience to God. The parts of it are two: holiness, or our duty to God; righteousness, or our duty to man (Luke 1:74-75). The Christian life is, as it were, one continued act of worship, where all our actions, natural, civil, and religious, meet in God (Acts 26:7; Revelation 7:15).
2. It has respect to those duties which are properly parts of worship. The Christian
(1) worships God with his heart, soul, and spirit, and not with his body only (Romans 1:9; John 4:24). This implies
(a) internal worship, called for by the first commandment. The true Christian’s soul is a temple of God.
(b) Outward joined to inward (1 Corinthians 6:20).
(c) Spirituality--faith; love; goodwill; sincerity.
(2) By assistance from and influence of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 1:20).
(a) The Spirit gives habitual grace to make men capable of spiritual worship (John 3:6).
(b) He gives actual grace, influences to stir up grace (Rom 7:26).
II. This worship is a distinguishing mark of the true Christian.
1. All true Christians have it, for--
(1) All of them are spiritual (John 3:6). Everything that brings forth, brings forth its like.
(2) All of them have the Spirit of God dwelling in them (Romans 8:9).
(3) That worship which is merely outward is but the carcase of duties, unacceptable to God; and they who never perform more are hypocrites (Matthew 15:7-8).
(4) External worship is properly but the means of worship. Prayer, hearing, etc., tend to the promotion of love, trust, etc., and the enjoyment of God can never be found but in worshipping Him in the Spirit.
2. That none but true Christians have this privilege is plain from this, that all others are in the flesh (Jude 1:19). (T. Boston, D. D.)
God should be worshipped
I. With a knowledge of his true character. Otherwise it is mere Athenian worship. This is the great fault of the heathen. Hence the great importance of religious knowledge. This may be obtained from nature, and our own persons. And yet with all the perfections of deity before their eyes men do not like to retain God in their knowledge. But as man is a fallen creature, the knowledge which reason can furnish is not sufficient. Christ does not reveal His mercy, and show how sinners can be pardoned and restored. So God has revealed Himself in His Word, and now man is utterly without excuse if he do not know God and worship Him.
II. With reverence. This sentiment is natural when we come before any superior, how much more when we come before God. This is no slavish or superstitious dread, but that by virtue of which God’s children are distinguished from the wicked who have no fear of God before their eyes. God is a jealous God, and abominates levity. Reverence is the most prominent feature of angelic worship. How shocking then is familiarity in the worship of man.
III. Humility. Nothing is more odious to God than pride, and nothing more acceptable than the contrite spirit. He dwells with such. It is most proper in regard to man’s moral and God’s exalted state, and upon it Christ pronounced his beatitudes.
IV. Faith. Without this it is impossible to please God, and all worship must become an empty form. Its principal exercise has respect to Christ as the Mediator.
V. Concentration. Spiritual worship is interrupted by nothing so much as the wandering of our thoughts, and is one of the accusations brought against God’s ancient people.
VI. Fervency. The crying defect of our worship is want of heart.
VII. Scriptural, with such rites as God has appointed, and those only. As to external circumstances, time, place, attitude, these should be regulated by the apostle’s rule, “Let all things be done decently and in order;” but as it relates to the worship itself, nothing should be introduced but what is authorized by the Scriptures, such as prayer, singing, reading, administering the sacraments. “In vain do they worship Me,” etc. “Who hath required this at your hands.”
VIII. Frequency. Men are not required to spend their whole time at it. But God should be worshipped morning and evening; and the Lord’s day should be entirely devoted to the Lord’s service. We cannot go to an excess here unless we make this duty exclude others which are equally incumbent. “Pray without ceasing.” (A. Alexander, D. D.)
Rejoice in Christ Jesus--
Rejoicing in Christ Jesus
I. Its nature.
1. It is an act of love. The acts of love are desire and delight, and they both agree in this Chat they are conversant about good, and are founded in esteem. But they differ because desire is the motion and exercise of love, and delight the quiet and repose of it. All, however, meet in Christ.
2. It is an act of love begotten in us by the sense of the love of Christ (1 John 4:19). The object of love is goodness.
(1) The goodness that is in Christ, moral and beneficial (Psalms 119:140; Psalms 100:5; Psalms 119:68).
(2) The goodness that floweth from Him (Titus 3:4).
(3) The goodness we expect from Him in this world and the next (Luke 7:47; Matthew 5:12).
3. This love of Christ--
(1) Is revealed in the gospel (Acts 13:48).
(2) Is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5).
(3) Is received by faith (1 Peter 1:18; Romans 15:13), which faith is
(a) assent, a certain belief of the truth of the gospel concerning Christ as the only sufficient Saviour (John 4:42; John 6:69).
(b) Consent, a readiness to obey the gospel.
(c) Affiance, a reposing of our hearts on God’s promise of pardon and eternal life (Hebrews 3:6).
(4) Is improved by meditation (Psalms 104:34).
(5) Is enjoyed more than all other things whatsoever (Psalms 35:9; Psalms 63:5; Psalms 73:25).
II. The spiritual profit of it.
1. It is such a joy as doth enlarge the heart in duty and strengthens us in the way of God (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalms 119:14; Psalms 40:8). The hardest services are sweetened by the love of Christ.
2. It is a cordial to fortify us against and to sweeten--
(1) Common afflictions (Habakkuk 3:17-18; Romans 12:12; Hebrews 12:2).
(2) Persecutions (Acts 5:41; Hebrews 10:34; Mat 5:12; 1 Peter 4:13; James 1:2).
3. It draws off the heart from the delights of the flesh.
III. The helps by which it is raised in us.
1. A sense of sin and misery. The grievousness of the disease makes recovery the more delightful.
2. An entire confidence in Christ (1 Peter 2:7; Philippians 3:8).
3. A constant use of the means.
(1) The Word;
(2) prayer (John 16:24).
(3) The sacraments.
4. Sincerity of obedience (1 Corinthians 5:8). (T. Manton, D. D.)
Rejoicing in Christ is
I. A holy complacency in him. We cannot be well pleased with anything unless we see a suitableness in it to us. There is a three-fold suitableness of Christ.
1. A suitable ness to the Divine perfections concerned in the salvation of sinners that is sweetly discerned by the believer and acquiesced in (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
2. A suitableness of Christ to the ease of the soul which the believer sees and is pleased with. If you lodge a starving man in a palace, clothe him with costly attire, and fill his pockets with gold, what good can these do him? They are not meat, and so are not suitable to his case. But Christ is to ours every way (1 Corinthians 1:30-31), and no one else is.
(1) As He is God-man; the Mediator answering at once the honour of God and the sinner’s necessities.
(2) In His offices. As Prophet, the Interpreter of the Father’s mind; as Priest, the Atonement and Intercessor; as King, the Conqueror and Ruler.
3. A suitableness to the mind, or we could not rejoice in Him. He is suited to every unbeliever’s case, but alas! not to their minds. Give a natural man his idols, the drunkard his cups, the miser his gold, these are suitable to their mind, but as unsuitable to their case as a sword for a madman or poison for the sick. But the believer is made partaker of the Divine nature, and Christ is, therefore, suitable not only to his case but to his mind (1 Peter 2:4; Psalms 73:25). There is none beside Him, none like Him, none after Him--the altogether lovely. Believers are pleased at heart--
(1) That He should build the temple of the Lord, and have the glory of it (Zechariah 6:12-13) as is appointed of God. But this suits not the minds of natural men (1 Peter 2:7-8).
(2) With His laws (Isaiah 33:22). Christ’s yoke is welcome to them because His law is suitable to them, and they to it (Psalms 119:128), for it is written on their hearts.
(3) With the fulness of the spirit of sanctification which He communicates (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). There is nothing the true believer rejoices in more than the Christ-given spirit of holiness imparted, enjoyed, and acted out.
II. A rolling of the soul over on him for all.
1. Their weight of guilt--“through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25). Christ is the city of refuge from the law.
2. Their weight of duties.
(1) For performance. Christ lays His yoke upon the believer, and he receives it and lays himself and it again on Christ the fountain of strength. Hence it becomes an easy yoke, which before was insupportable. For duties are a dead weight while laid on by the hand of the law (John 15:5), but from Christ the believer receives a kind of derived omnipotency (Philippians 4:13; Philippians 2:13). He makes the will for the work, and the work for us when He has wrought the will for it.
(2) For acceptance (Hebrews 11:4). Duties rightly done are the returns of influences from heaven which are communicated from Christ, and so go back through Him.
III. A rest of the heart in Christ as a fit match for the soul. For as in marriage there is first a view of such a person as a fit match, whereupon follows choice and acceptance; and in case the person chosen answer the expectation, there ariseth a rest which is solid joy, so it is when the soul is pleased with Christ. There is found in Him--
1. Rest for the conscience: otherwise there is none except where it be lulled to sleep. Now Christ finds His elect seeking rest and finding none in the law; He gives it them through His blood (Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7).
2. Rest for the heart.
(1) Our hearts are full of desires of happiness which crave for satisfaction. Hence universal human restlessness.
(2) The natural man goeth through the dry places of the creature seeking rest and finding none (Jeremiah 2:3; Ecclesiastes 10:15; Isaiah 55:2). Christ finds His elect thus wandering, and discovers Himself as the fountain of satisfaction, and the desires of the soul centreing and meeting in Christ abide in Him and are satisfied (Psalms 73:25; Philippians 4:18; 2 Samuel 23:5).
IV. A confession of Christ unto salvation. This is plainly intimated in the original “glorying in Christ.” As the image of God impressed on man’s soul at creation shone through his body, as a candle through a lantern, so that complacency, confidence, and rest of the heart in Christ will shine forth in the life.
1. With respect to the believer’s ordinary conversation.
(1) This inward rejoicing wears off the air of pride (1 Peter 5:5).
(2) Grace will circumcise the self-commending lips.
(3) Gracious souls will readily discover in their serious converse a tendency towards the grace of Christ.
(4) Rejoicing in Christ will make men tender in their judgment of others (Galatians 6:1).
(5) Such as rejoice in Christ will have familiar converse with the Word, and relish of it (Isaiah 59:21).
(6) They will have a respect to the place where Christ’s honour dwells, and to ordinances (Psalms 63:1-2).
2. With respect to suffering.
(1) The saints will keep on Christ’s side though it be lowest.
(2) They will be resigned and contented.
(3) They will glory in any cross Christ puts upon them. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Glorying in Christ
I. Negatively. The true circumcision gloried not--
1. In themselves.
2. In anything about themselves--circumcision or Abrahamic descent.
3. In Christ and something else--in Him and Moses.
II. Positively. They gloried in Christ.
1. In His great condescension.
2. In His birth and its wonders.
3. In His life and its blessings.
4. In His death and its benefits.
5. In His resurrection and ascension, and their pledges.
6. In His return, and its stupendous and permanent results. (Professor Eadie.)
Have no confidence in the flesh--This is an inference from the last, and means that the Christian who rejoices in Christ hath no confidence in anything that is not Christ or in Christ.
I. In point of justification.
1. The saints have no confidence in external things.
(1) Man’s externals--things which God never made duty, but are made so by man (Matthew 15:9). All unscriptural institutions, opinions, and practices, under whatever pretensions of holiness, carry off men from Christ and are subservient to self (Matthew 15:4-6; Corinthians 18-21).
(2) Nor even in God’s externals. E.g.
(a) In their external condition in the world which we receive by God’s providence. The carnal poor think that thereby they will be relieved of eternal poverty, and the carnal rich in this world, that they will be before others in the world to come (Hosea 12:8; Romans 14:17). You may be miserable here and through eternity (Job 15:23-24); or fare sumptuously here and be in torment by and by (Luke 16:1-31).
(b) In their external privileges (verses 5, 7; 2 Corinthians 5:16; Luke 13:26-27).
(c) In their external attainments (verses 6-7). Great confidence have some in their negative holiness (Luke 18:11; Matthew 5:20).
(d) In their external duties (verse 8). There are two classes opposite to the Christian in this--the ignorant, who do little or nothing, and yet say they serve God as well as they can; and those who have the full form of godliness and rest in that. But as they are mere external duties they are abominable to God (Isaiah 1:11, etc.; Mark 10:20-21).
(e) In their external sufferings. The glorified put nothing down to their tribulation, but all to Christ’s blood. “Therefore are they before the throne.”
2. The saints have no confidence for the favour of God in internals. There is no exception but one (Colossians 1:27). They have no confidence in internal--
(1) dispositions (Proverbs 28:26). Many have a confidence in what they call their good hearts; but if God’s testimony is to be believed, it is a false confidence (Jeremiah 17:9).
(2) Exercises on their own spirits.
(3) Attainments (Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:8).
II. In point of sanctification. As they have taken Him alone for justification, so for this (1 Corinthians 1:30). The saints have no confidence for this.
1. In their stock of natural and acquired abilities (2 Corinthians 3:5), knowledge, utterance, good temper, etc.
2. In the means, such as the Word, sacraments, prayer, etc. Knowing that it is the Spirit that quickeneth (John 6:63).
3. In their purposes and resolutions for holiness (2 Timothy 1:12).
4. In their vows and engagements to holiness (Isaiah 45:23-24).
5. In their own endeavours after holiness (Psalms 127:1).
6. In the good frame and disposition of their hearts, i.e., in actual grace, a most desirable thing, but no staff to lean upon (1 Chronicles 29:17-18).
7. In habitual grace. Paul had a good stock of it, but he did not venture to live on it (Galatians 2:20). Grace within the saints is a well whose springs are often dry; but the grace without them in Christ is an ever-flowing fountain (John 6:57). (T. Boston, D. D.)
Philippians 3:4-10 open_in_new
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh--Observe
Paul’s advantages--Superior to those which men generally put confidence in--respecting his birth and religious training, his rigid profession and orthodoxy, his zeal and blameless conduct.
II. The insufficiency of them as a ground of confidence--they could not confer peace, secure the favour of God--supersede the necessity of an inward change.
III. His renunciation of thee was necessary, complete, wise, and intelligent. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The faith of St. Paul
St. Paul is here speaking of himself. Generally this is not wise, but circumstances may sometimes justify it,
1. The man who has been healed has a right to speak of the remedy, and ought to do so. St. Paul had been changed; the selfish man had become unselfish; the wild persecutor had been tamed.
2. The experience of St. Paul was very profitable. If you can do good by telling your experience, tell it. It is a delicate thing to speak of one’s self; people who have little experience are often the greatest speakers; but there is a false delicacy which must be overcome.
3. Paul’s purpose was also to glorify his Master. These verses resemble a tree with many branches, but they have but one root. The central thought is--
1. It was of the right nature. There is a faith which never goes deeper than the intellect. It is like the smile of some people who do not know how to smile, and which only touches certain places on the face. There is another faith that breaks right through the soul, and moves the man to his very centre. Such was Paul’s; it took possession of heart, soul, and mind.
2. It was a mighty faith. There is a faith right enough in its way, but very feeble. It resembles a man who is walking in a path about which he has some doubt. He looks to the right, to the left; behind and before; he proceeds slowly, hesitatingly, but he does proceed. But Paul received Christ with open arms, without caution or reserve.
II. The working of this faith and what it did in Paul. On faith taking possession of the heart two things are sure to follow.
1. Self-renunciation. If your faith has not made you cast anything away, you ought to look into it. Now Paul had three things of which he was very proud.
(1) Jewish extraction. Men in all ages have been proud of their ancestors. The Jews had many things of which they could boast. They were the chosen people. They had Divine revelation. The worship of the true God was established among them. They had a great history. Angels walked their valleys; wondrous things were done on their mountain tops. They have had greater influence over the world than any other nation. It is a great thing to belong to such a stock, and to belong to it was regarded as being safe forever. St. Paul, however, cast it aside as loss for Christ.
(2) Legal righteousness. Paul was a Pharisee, and as such--
(a) He knew the laws of Moses well. He had a most correct creed.
(b) He practised the religion of the Pharisees. There was a two-fold righteousness; real as before God, love to God and man; apparent as before man, the observance of rites and public duties. Paul had little of the former; he had the latter to perfection, but he cast it out.
(3) Religious zeal. Zeal is about the strongest word you can use to express a warm state of mind, and if there is anything of which a man is proud it is this. It is one of the noblest of virtues, but do not seek to display it as Jehu--it will come out of itself. Better do with your zeal what Paul did. “I count it loss for Christ; I will not hope for salvation from it.”
2. Reception of Jesus Christ. Observe--
(1) His estimate of the knowledge of Christ. There are three things in this which make all other knowledge dim, and all other possessions worthless; the Fatherhood of God, the mediation of Christ, and immortality with Christ in heaven. These destroy man’s three great enemies.
(a) The mediation of Christ--sin;
(c) the Fatherhood of God--fear.
(2) He desired to be united to Christ. How can a person be united to another? You have friends in Australia, but you are as near them as ever, by confidence, sympathy, and the deepest feelings of your nature. To be united to Christ is for you to love Him, and for Him to send forth His sympathy towards you. In the one case you are “found in Him,” in the other He is “in you.”
(3) He believed that there was an infinite fulness of blessing in Christ, and that by union with Christ this would become His. The soul that is united to Christ shall not want.
(a) It shall have full and free pardon.
(b) It shall be justified before God through the sacrifice of Christ.
(c) Be quickened with the life that is in Christ.
(d) Have a true rightness which is produced by God in and on the soul, that will bear the test of judgment, and be beautiful in the light of heaven.
(e) End its journey by sitting with Christ, and enjoying His glory. (T. Jones, D. D.)
Privileges no ground of trust
The list sounds much as if you or I were to say something of this kind: “I am of a good Presbyterian stock. One of my ancestors fought at Bothwell Bridge for ‘Christ’s crown and covenant,’ and another died as a martyr in the same cause in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh. There have been several ministers in my line, and many elders. I was baptized in a Presbyterian church, attended the Sabbath school, and became a communicant when I was eighteen. I have always attended the church regularly, kept up family worship, and lived a decorous life. I am well read in sound theology; hold rigidly in my opinions by the Westminster Confession; and have now and again taken a part in controversies about election, or the extent of the atonement.” This is all well, very well, so far as it goes. But if you or I be in any degree looking to these things--to any of them, or to all of them taken together--as a ground of hope for eternity, we are, in so far, occupying a religious position corresponding very exactly with that of Paul before his conversion to Christ. (R. Johnstone, LL. D.)
Philippians 3:7-9 open_in_new
What things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ
The Christian’s accounts
The Christian keeps an accurate account book.
He reckons up with an enlightened judgment his gains and losses. And most important is it that he should: for the question of questions is, What is gain to me and what is loss?
I. The answer given by the world. Examine the accounts of nine-tenths and you will find--
1. Health and money entered as clear gains, comfort, ease, tranquillity, prosperity, carried to the side of profit.
2. Sickness, disappointment, contraction of the means of pleasure, decay of trade, sorrow, bereavement, entered as unmixed loss.
3. And when we come to matters bearing on the interest of the soul we find that the natural heart has entered on the side of eternal gain, good character, punctuality of attendance at Christian ordinances, a conscience silent as to definite injuries against neighbours. And gain it is in a sense, for it is better to have a good conscience than a bad one, to be moral than immoral. St. Paul says no word about morality being a loss, or that he would have valued Christ more had he been a greater sinner.
II. The Christian’s answer. For Christ’s sake Paul now accounts as loss all that he had once accounted gain. He was an Israelite of direct descent. Would he have been a better man had he been born a Gentile and an idolater? He had been blameless in his observance of the ceremonial, and, as he understood it, of the moral law--does he regret that he had not habitually broken it? None of these things. The loss was that he had trusted in these things, and looked to them for salvation. He thought that God must be satisfied with so unexceptionable a genealogy, so diligent a worshipper.
2. In this point of view many of us need instruction and warning. What are we trusting in?
(1) Some of us are putting off the question altogether and saying, “I will live while I can and die when I must; I will not torment myself before the time--many years hence I hope.”
(2) But this childish and suicidal infatuation is not in all of us. There are those who have religion. What is it? Is it more than a moral life, a Sunday worship, a trusting in God’s mercy? But where is Christ in all this? What know you of the thought, “What things were gain to me,” etc? What of your own are you discarding in order to rest in Christ alone? Where are your transfers from one side of your reckoning to the other because of Christ? And many of us die in the strength of a gospel which has no Christ in it; no demolition of self, either of self-confidence or seeking, and no exaltation of Christ on the ruins of self, either as Saviour or Lord. We are at best what St. Paul was before his conversion--alas, without his good conscience or scrupulous obedience. (Dean Vaughan.)
A business-like account
Our Saviour’s advice to those who wished to be His servants was to count the cost. He did not wish to enlist any one by keeping him in ignorance of the requirements of His service. The exercise of our judgments in the gospel is required. Do not imagine that religion consists in wild fanaticism which never considers. The apostle here gives us the word “count” three times over. He was skilled in spiritual arithmetic and very careful in his reckoning. He seems here to be in a mercantile frame of mind, adding and subtracting and balancing.
I. The apostle’s calculations.
1. His counting at the outset of his Christian life “What things were gain,” etc.
(1) He dwelt on the several items, noting each with great distinctness. The list reads like a catalogue. His Jewish advantages had been as precious pearls to him once.
(2) What is there per contra. Nothing on the other side but one item; but that one outweighed the many. That one was not Christianity, the Church, or the orthodox faith, but Christ.
(3) Not only after putting the one under the other and making a subtraction did he find that his earthly advantages were less than Christ; he found these gains transformed into a loss. There was not a plus on that side to stand in proportion to a plus on this; they were turned into a minus of actual deficit. Not that he meant that to be a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” etc., was in itself a loss--the advantage was “much every way;” but he meant that with respect to Christ those things became a disadvantage, because their tendency had been to keep him from trusting Christ. It is a grand thing to have led a virtuous life; but this blessing may, by our own folly, become a curse, if we place it in opposition to the righteousness of Christ, and dream that we have no need of a Saviour.
2. His estimate for the time then present. We are always anxious to hear what a man has to say about a thing after he has tried it. After twenty years of experience Paul had an opportunity of revising his balance sheet; and makes the strong affirmation--“Yea, doubtless I count,” etc. He has made the original summary even more comprehensive, but he stands to the same estimate and uses not barely the word “Christ,” but the fuller expression, “the excellency of the knowledge,” etc. Now he has come to know the Christ in whom before he had trusted. Christ is better loved as he is better known.
(1) The words show the points upon which he had fullest knowledge. He knew the Lord as--
(a) Christ, the Messiah anointed and sent of the Father.
(b) Jesus, the anointed and actual Saviour.
(c) My Lord. His was an appropriating knowledge.
(2) The text implies that he knew Christ by faith. He believed, and hence he knew.
(3) He knew Him by experience, “and the power of His resurrection.” This is excellent knowledge when the power of a fact is realized within and shown in the life.
(4) More than that Paul aimed to know more by a growing likeness to Him.
(5) There is no knowledge in this world comparable to this, for it concerns the highest conceivable object, and no man hath it but by the Holy Ghost.
(6) If you would see its excellency look at its effects--it makes us humble, delivers us from the power of sin, elevates the motives, sweetens the feelings, gives nobility to the life, and will continue to progress when every other knowledge is laid aside.
3. His third counting may be regarded as his life estimate. “For whom I have,” etc. Here his estimate sets out with actual test and practical proof. He is a prisoner, with nothing in the world; he has lost caste, has no longer his own righteousness: Christ is his all and nothing else. Does he regret the loss of all things? No, he counts it an actual deliverance to have lost them.
(1) In his first and second countings these things were “loss,” now they are “dung.”
(2) In his second estimate he spoke of “knowing” Christ, but now he speaks of “winning” Him, or rather “gaining,” for he keeps to the mercantile figure all through.
(3) Further, his aim is to be “found in Him,” as a bird in the air, a fish in the sea, a member in the body--as a fugitive shelters himself in his hiding place; so in Christ as never to come out of Him, so that whenever any one looks for him he may find him in Jesus.
(4) Notice how Paul keeps to what he began with, viz., his unrobing himself of his boastings in the flesh, and his arraying himself with Christ--“not having mine own righteousness,” etc.
II. our own calculations.
1. Do we join in Paul’s earlier estimate. You will never be saved till you lose all your legal hopes.
2. After many years of profession do you still continue in the same mind and make the same estimate? Not if you have settled down on something other than Christ.
3. You cannot join Paul in the last calculation--“I have suffered the loss of all things,” but do you think you could have done so if required for Christ’s sake? Your forefathers did so.
4. Seeing God has left you your worldly comforts have you used all things for His sake.
5. If Christ be to you so that all things are dung and dross in comparison, do you not want Him for your children, your friends, etc. What a man values for himself he values for others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ is true gain
I. Brings no peace, Christ does.
II. Can give no satisfaction, Christ can.
III. Loses its power to gratify, Christ never.
IV. Is attended with care and trouble. Christ is full of consolation.
V. At best of the earth earthly. Christ opens heaven.
VI. Has its limit. In Christ all fulness dwells.
VII. Must have its period. Christ lives forever. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Life for Christ
The life which we owe to Christ and hold in Christ we are bound by the strongest claims to use for Christ. Life is a thing to be used. And if you admit that it was once forfeited, but that Christ has bought it back for you by His death, and that you keep it only by your connection with Him, then you hold it on false pretences if you use it in any other way but for Him. There are two ways in which “life for Christ” may be understood.
(1) In order to obtain Him--“that I may win Christ,” i.e., finally enjoy Him; or
(2) as the Master puts it, “for My sake.” We take it in the latter sense. A man may live a very good life--he may have a natural tendency towards it, or a conscientious feeling may lead him to it; but all the while he may fall short of this--that it is not for Christ. The motive is diluted by worldly motives and is very feeble, while God measures everything by the loving standard of the one motive--was it for Christ? This life for Christ--
I. Must not be an uncertain thing. Taken up and laid down at pleasure, by fits and starts, remembered and forgotten, but must be the result of deep conviction. To this end--
1. Consecrate your life to Christ in the most express and solemn way you can, on your knees. Lay the sacrifice upon the altar. Invest it with the sacredness of an irrevocable pledge.
2. Renew that act of self-dedication at not very long intervals.
3. Write it on everything you have and are, body, soul, time, talents, business, family, etc.
II. Must enter into your trials. When you are in bodily or mental distress, and when you are going through the discipline of bitter daily friction, think thus--“I will sanctify and ennoble this suffering by bearing it for Christ.” He bore much more for me, and these are the “marks of the Lord Jesus” now laid upon me.
III. Must eater into your happiness. Christ is happy in your happiness and for His sake you must be happy: and your happiness must not fail to make others happy.
IV. Must be a life of ministry.
1. In defence of Christ.
2. In the extension of His cause.
3. In having some positive work to do for Him. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The importance of spiritual accounts
Turning to the mercantile figure we are reminded of the paramount importance of having the record books of our inner life rightly kept. The great German satirist, Heinrich Heine, has scornfully depicted the mere worldling thus: “Business men have the same religion throughout the whole world. They find in their office their church, in their desk their prayer cushion, in their ledger their Bible. The warehouse is their inner sanctuary; the exchange bell is their summons to prayer; their God is their gold; their faith is their credit.” The apostle was never so low in the scale as these words represent justly the mere worldling to be. He was, even as Saul the persecutor, of a very different and a far higher type. None the less these scathing words describe too closely the character and conduct of countless thousands, who all the time are not ashamed and not afraid to bear the name of Christian. But in contrast to such a picture we have the new man, renewed in heart and life; he, too, has his all-engrossing concerns. He, too, has his books, recording the transactions which take place in his inmost soul. He keeps them rightly. No false entries are seen there. The things of the world, whatever their value in themselves may be, are, as related to the soul’s interests, entered as loss. The things of the kingdom alone appear as gain. True wealth--that which alone can claim the name of sub stance--is summed up in righteousness: life in Christ Jesus--life which in Him is everlasting. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)
The gain of loss
He who loses anything and gets wisdom by it is a gainer by the toss. (L’Estrange.)
Loss for gain
When the captain leaves the harbour he has a cargo on board of which he takes great care, but when a tremendous wind is blowing and the ship labours, being too heavily laden, and there is great fear that she will not outride the storm, see how eagerly the sailors lighten the ship. They bring up from the hold with all diligence the very things which before they prized, and they seem rejoiced to heave them into the sea. Never men more eager to get than these are to throw away. There go the casks of flour, the bars of iron, the manufactured goods: overboard go valuable bales of merchandise; nothing seems to be worth keeping. How is this? Are not these things good? Yes, but nor good to a sinking ship. Anything must go to save life, anything to outride the storm. And so the apostle says that in order to win Christ and to be found in Him he flung the whole cargo of his beloved confidences over, and was as glad to get rid of them as if they were only dung. This he did to win Christ, and that fact suggests another picture: an English war ship of the olden times is cruising the ocean, and she spies a Spanish galleon in the distance laden with gold from the Indies. Captain and men are determined to overtake and capture her, for they have a relish for prize money; but their vessel sails heavily. What then? If she will not move because of her load they fling into the sea everything they can lay their hands on, knowing that if they can capture the Spanish vessel the booty will make amends for all they lose and vastly more. Do you wonder at their eagerness to lose the little to gain the great? Sailor, why cast overboard those useful things? “Oh,” says he, “they are nothing compared with that prize over yonder. If we can but get side by side and board her we will soon make up for all that we now throw into the sea.” And so it is with the man who is in earnest to win Christ and to be found in Him. Overboard go circumcision and Phariseeism, and the blamelessness touching the law, and all that, for he knows that he will find a better righteousness in Christ than any which he foregoes, yea, find everything in Christ which he now, for his Lord’s sake, counts but as the slag of the furnace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Self-renunciation for Christ not to be regretted
The poet George Herbert was so highly connected, and in such favour at court, that at one time a secretaryship of state seemed to him not unattainable. But he gave up all such prospects for the work of a humble clergy man, and in looking back upon the time he made his choice, he could say, “I think myself more happy than if I had attained what then I had so ambitiously thirsted for. And I can now behold the court with an impartial eye, and see plainly that it is made up of frauds and bitters, and flattery, and many other such empty imaginary and painted pleasures--pleasures which are so empty as not to satisfy when they are enjoyed. But in God and His service is a fulness of all joy and pleasure and no satiety.” (J. F. B. Tinling.)
Raymond Lully, or Lullius, to whom the Arabic professorship at Oxford owes its origin, was the first Christian missionary to the Moslems. When shipwrecked near Pisa, after many years of missionary labour, though upwards of seventy, his ardour was unabated. “Once,” he wrote, “I was fairly rich; once I had a wife and children; once I tasted freely of the pleasures of this life. But all these things I gladly resigned that I might spread abroad a knowledge of the truth. I studied Arabic, and several times went forth to preach the gospel to the Saracens. I have been in prison, I have been scourged, for years I have striven to persuade the princes of Christendom to befriend the common cause of converting the Mohammedans. Now, though old and poor, I do not despair; I am ready, if it be God’s will, to persevere unto death.” And he did so, being stoned to death at Bergia, in Africa, in 1314, after gathering a little flock of converts. (Sunday at Home.)
Worldly honour consecrated to Christ
T.A. Ragland, an eminent mathematician, and a devoted Christian, gained the silver cup at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, four years in succession. One of these was dedicated to God for the communion service of a small native Church, mainly gathered by him in Southern India, and all were set apart for the same purpose in connection with his itinerating missionary service. (J. F. B. Tinling.)
Diverse estimates of Paul’s sacrifices
Porphyry, the philosopher, said that it was a pity that such a man as Paul was thrown away upon our religion. And the monarch of Morocco told the English ambassador in King John’s time that he had lately read Paul’s Epistles, which he liked so well that were he now to choose his religion, he would before any other embrace Christianity. “But every one ought,” said he, “to die in his own religion”; and the leaving of the faith in which he was born was the only thing he disliked in that apostle. (J. Trapp.)
Philippians 3:8 open_in_new
Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord--These words are added by way of amplification.
1. To show his perseverance in the contempt of all outward advantages. “I have counted,” and “do still count.” He had not repented of his choice.
2. To comprehend all other things besides Jewish privileges. A Christian can deny anything for Christ’s sake.
3. To show the reality of his assertion--“Yea, doubtless.” It was not pretension, or naked approbation, or speculation, but practical esteem.
(1) This contempt is set forth
(a) in its vehemence and greatness, “loss,” “dung;”
(b) in its reality and sincerity. Men approve things that are excellent (Romans 2:18), yet have no mind to embrace them, because they cannot deny temptations--but St. Paul says, “I have suffered,” etc.
(2) The causes of this contempt were--
(a) The excellency of Christ’s knowledge.
(b) To gain Christ. Let us now consider--
I. Paul’s self-denial.
1. The universality of its extent--“All things.” This is to be observed--
(1) Partly because some can deny a few things for Christ, but not all. But if we keep back anything the price is too short (Mark 10:21). If a woman love but one man more than her husband, though she love him better than millions, it is a breach of the marriage covenant. When men come into possession of a house all persons must be outed, or possession is not valid; you must deliver up all to Christ, or He will accept of none.
(2) Partly to show that not only things unlawful must be denied, but even things lawful must be rejected or disesteemed for His sake.
(a) That our sins must be renounced is out of question (Ephesians 4:22). These were never worth keeping. It is no strange notion of the physician if he require the patient to part with the disease, or he who gives us new apparel to bid us part with our rags.
(b) Lawful things when they come into competition with Christ, such as the comfort of our relations, honour, natural supports, and even life (Luke 14:26).
2. The degree--with loathing and indignation. Whilst we stand peddling and hanker after these things, the temptation is not fully off; but we are like crows, though driven from carrion, keep within scent of it.
3. Here is his resolution actually verified. He had “suffered the loss of all things.” We have not realized this, not being called upon, but the same spirit must be in us. All things that draw us off from Christ must be actually contemned.
II. The reasons why it binds all Christians.
1. This is plainly inferred out of--
(1) The faith of the gospel.
(a) As that faith is sound belief of the veracity of God we are pledged to crucify the flesh, and wait with confidence on God in the midst of afflictions.
(b) As it is acceptance of good so we refuse worldly things as our felicity and portion.
(2) The love of the gospel; for we are to love Christ superlatively (Psalms 73:25; Matthew 6:24); therefore (Matthew 10:37).
(3) The hope of the gospel which is everlasting life (Rom 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Mark 10:29-30).
(4) The obedience of the gospel (Matthew 16:24).
2. Because Christ hath deserved this esteem.
(1) By what He is to us.
(a) More excellent than all things else. The world’s good is uncertain and empty.
(b) More necessary--we can dispense with everything else.
(c) More beneficial; in Him alone is salvation and happiness to be found.
(2) By what He hath done for us (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
3. This esteem will show itself.
(1) In labouring to get Christ above all, and with the hazard of all (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 13:45-46).
(2) In a care to keep Christ above all. He is your life (Galatians 2:20), your strength (1 John 4:4), your blessedness (Colossians 1:27).
(3) In grief for losing Christ above all (Matthew 9:15; Psalms 51:10-12).
(4) By delighting in Him, and in the testimonies of His love above all (1 Peter 1:8).
(5) By loving all other things for Christ’s sake. (T. Manton, D. D.)
The knowledge of Christ
1. The analysis of our faculties into--thought, feeling, and volition, may be important to the understanding and classification of the phenomena of our nature; but these faculties are neither independent nor distinct. The exercise of one includes that of the other. There is always an exercise of will in thought, of feeling in cognition. In the Scriptures knowledge is not mere intellectual apprehension; it includes the proper apprehension not only of the object, but of its qualities; and if those qualities be aesthetic or moral, it includes the due apprehension of them, and the state of feelings which answers to them.
2. The knowledge of Christ, therefore, is hot the apprehension of what He is, simply by the intellect, but also a due apprehension of His glory, and involves not as a consequence merely, but as one of its elements, the corresponding feeling of adoration, delight, desire, and complacency. This knowledge--
1. A knowledge of Christ’s person as God and man.
2. The knowledge of this work in the redemption of man.
3. Of His relation to us, and of the benefits we derive from Him, justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life.
II. Is superlatively excellent: because--
1. He is Himself the perfect object of knowledge.
2. Because eternal life, the hope of the soul, consists in that knowledge. The possession of it enlightens and enlarges the intellect, purifies the heart, and renders perfectly blessed.
3. Without this knowledge we are not only ignorant of God, but of the way of salvation. We know not how to be justified or sanctified. We of necessity, therefore, are left to seek and trust in other ineffectual methods of obtaining these blessings.
1. All religion is included in this--to know Christ. To this we should concentrate all our attention and efforts. It is vain to seek the knowledge of God or His favour, to strive after holiness and peace in any other way.
2. The only test of Christian character is found here. Men may be benevolent, in a certain sense pious, but they cannot be Christians unless they know Christ, and find in that their spiritual life.
3. The only way to save men is not by preaching the doctrines of natural religion, nor by holding up the law, nor by expounding the anthropological doctrines of the Bible. These things are important in their place, but they are subordinate to preaching Christ, i.e., holding Him up in His person, His work, etc., as the great object of knowledge, and, as such, the great object of love, the only ground of confidence, and our only and all-sufficient portion. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
The knowledge of Christ
I. Its nature.
II. Its excellency in--
2. Its use.
3. Its effect.
III. Its value. Incomparable; all else but dung and dross.
IV. Its power.
1. To sway the judgment.
2. Induce sacrifice.
3. Excite effort. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The more we know of some things, the less we admire them; a minute inspection reveals deficiencies; but the reverse is true about Jesus Christ. So St. Paul felt, and so feels every genuine Christian.
I. The value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. This knowledge--
1. Contains all that can satisfy the understanding. If we derive pleasure from the knowledge of art, science, literature, history, how much more may we derive from the discoveries of Divine truth? This leaves all the discoveries of scholars at an immense distance. If men were to propound to the wisest, “How shall man be just with God?” it would baffle them. But the knowledge of Christ solves this. The truths of the incarnation, death, etc., of Christ, while the profoundest are yet the most simple. To regard this knowledge, therefore, with indifference is a mark of a weak mind. And, besides, it is the constant study of the angels of heaven who behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2. Pacifies the conscience. Some men would give all the world for a peaceful conscience. Think of what they do to procure it--amusement, repentance, business, etc., alas, are only opiates. But let a man be alive to the discoveries of the gospel, see justice satisfied in the death of Christ, and know that God is reconciled through His Son, and the storm will be stilled.
3. Purifies the heart. In all the lessons of human wisdom there are two incurable defects.
(1) They are often only conjectures.
(2) They propose no motives of sufficient weight. Now this knowledge has been tried, and has been found to be saving, and no imaginable motives could be stronger than “for the sake of Christ,” and “to win Christ.”
4. Saves the soul. “This is life eternal,” etc.
II. The distinguishing characters of the Christian’s regard for that knowledge.
1. It is personal--“I count.” The error of the Jews was that they substituted relative for personal piety. They gloried in their relation to Abraham, etc. So now a great many depend upon the merits of others. The religion of some is hereditary, or by proxy. But neither the devil nor Christ will be served in this way.
2. Decided and unequivocal. “Yea, doubtless.” The Christianity of many is very vacillating; but this Christ rejects, and even man contemns.
3. Rational--“I count.” Men sometimes set up a blazing profession because their feelings have been wrought upon, and without any idea of what the profession involves. But the cost ought to be counted, and must be if there is to be any stability.
4. Supreme--“All things.”
(1) We are to count all things sinful as loss for this knowledge.
(2) Things that are lawful. All that is valued on earth must be subordinated to this. (W. Henry.)
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ appears
I. In the sacrifices the apostle made to secure it.
II. In the benefits it secures.
2. Resurrection power.
3. A glorious hope.
III. In the disposition it creates.
1. A correct estimate of ourselves.
2. Earnest purpose.
3. Persevering effort.
4. Love and unity. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. The knowledge of Christ is so excellent, that a gracious heart counteth all things dung and dross rather than miss it.
1. The knowledge here spoken of. Knowledge is two fold.
(1) A bare speculative knowledge. Even this is a great privilege (1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:10); but if we are content with it we shall perish. It was not those who saw the ark, but those who entered it who were saved.
(2) A saving knowledge such as is accompanied by
(a) Faith, i.e., a certain persuasion of the truth of our redemption by Christ upon evidence so as we may venture our souls and all our interest in His hands (John 6:69; Acts 2:36; John 17:8).
(c) Obedience (1 John 2:4).
2. Why is this knowledge so prized?
(1) It is valuable in itself; better than all other.
(a) From the Author (Matthew 16:16; John 6:45; 1 John 2:20).
(b) The matter to be known, Christ the Saviour of the world. This is comfortable knowledge if we consider our deep necessity (Colossians 1:21; Job 14:4; 2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Thessalonians 1:10), and His sufficiency to do us good (Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:27).
(c) The effect. It is a renewing and transforming knowledge (Colossians 3:10; 1 John 2:2).
(2) The subjects who thus esteem Christ.
(a) Their minds are changed (Jeremiah 31:34). By this they have a spirit of discerning.
(b) Their hearts (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
(1) Of reproof.
(a) To those who study all things but Christ. If God hath laid out the riches of His grace and wisdom to do us good, surely it deserveth our best thoughts.
(b) To those who content themselves with the form of knowledge (Romans 2:20). Christianity is not only to be believed, but felt (1 Peter 2:3). Experience is the best seal and confirmation (2 Peter 1:8).
(2) Of exhortation. Consider--
(a) The necessity. You must know Christ before you can believe and love Him (2 Timothy 1:12).
(b) The pleasantness.
(c) The profit (John 17:3).
(3) Bless God that He hath given thee this knowledge, and do not murmur if He hath denied thee other things. Remember
(a) how it excelleth all other gifts.
(b) How a true value and esteem of Christ lesseneth all other things.
II. Jesus Christ must be known as Lord.
1. What this Lordship of Christ is--the new light of propriety and government over all men which Christ now hath as being the Sovereign of the world.
(1) It is superadded to the former sovereignty and dominion which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost had as Creator (Revelation 5:12).
2. It is derivative, and cannot be supreme, but subordinate (Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Philippians 2:11).
(3) It is beneficial to us. Its end is to effect man’s recovery to peace with and loyalty to God.
2. How this right accrueth to Christ.
(1) By purchase (Romans 14:9).
(2) By grant (Acts 2:26).
3. How we come to be concerned in it.
(1) By our passive subjection, and
(2) voluntary submission (2 Corinthians 8:5).
4. What our concern is.
(1) Our privileges and immunities.
(a) Freedom from the curse and rigour of the law (Galatians 5:18);
(b) from the guilt of sin (Colossians 1:13-14);
(c) the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10); and deliverance to grace and glory.
(2) Our duties (Hebrews 5:9). Privilege and duty must not be separated (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21).
5. Use, to persuade us to own Christ as a Lord.
(1) Let us enter into the state of servants and vassals to Him by renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, who were once our lords, but were, indeed, our enemies (Isaiah 26:13).
(2) Be not subjects in name add by profession only (Colossians 1:10).
III. There should be some application when we consider Christ and address ourselves to know Him.
1. What is this application?
(1) Some distinctions.
(a) The application of comfort is when I respect Christ under such a term as implies some privilege to me, that He is my Saviour, etc. (Galatians 2:20); ,but the application that respects duty is when I apprehend Him under a term which inferreth my obligation to obedience--“my Lord.”
(b) The application of faith is a particular application of Christ and the promise to ourselves, so as to excite us to look after the benefits for which Christ is appointed: the application of assurance is when I actually determine that my own sins are pardoned and I adopted into God’s family (1 John 3:19).
(c) The application may be implicit, dark, and reserved, when we have not so full a persuasion of our good estate, but comfortable encouragement to wait upon God in the way of duty; it may also be explicit, clear, and open (Ephesians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 5:1).
(2) Some observations.
(a) The application of faith may be without the application of assurance; sometimes they go together.
(b) The one is necessary, the other comfortable.
(c) It is a support to have the darker way of applying Christ and His benefits, when we have not the full certainty that they belong to us.
2. Why there should be such an application of Christ.
(1) Because things that nearly concern us do most affect us. The love of God in general doth not so affect me as when I know “He loved me and gave Himself for me.”
(2) Without some application there can be no interest and benefit to us. General grace must be made particular. Christ’s blood will not avail unless it be sprinkled.
(3) The Scripture insisteth much on a personal entering into covenant with God (2 Chronicles 30:8).
(4) Our personal interest in Christ is the ground of our comfort and confidence (Habakkuk 3:18; Luke 1:17). Application:
1. Resolve to give yourself up to Him to serve Him. A believer cannot always say, “Christ is mine”; but he can say “I am His” (Psalms 119:94).
2. In applying Christ seek necessary grace rather than comfort.
3. When God draweth--run (Song of Solomon 1:4). When He knocketh, open (Revelation 3:10). (T. Manton, D. D.)
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ
Its notes are--
I. Certainty. Concerning moral and religious truth men have been most uncertain, and have bewildered themselves in endless speculations. And yet, on such subjects, certainty is of the utmost importance. The knowledge of Christ is certain. What God teaches must be absolute truth. He can neither deceive, nor be deceived. That Christianity is a system of Divine knowledge from God is proved--
1. By prophecy.
3. Experience (John 7:17).
II. Majesty and grandeur. Great thoughts in religion are necessary for man; and true religion must in its own nature have them. It is one of the characteristics of false religion to inculcate low thoughts of God and Divine things. Take the Christian conception of God--eternal, just, merciful, redeeming.
III. Suitableness and adaptation. It is in all its parts knowledge for us. No kind of useful knowledge is to be undervalued. Many branches are of great importance. But all such is--
1. Partial. A king may be a criminal before God.
2. Temporary. But look at the knowledge of Christ.
(1) It is salvation for sinners.
(2) Communion with God for them who have been afar off.
(3) Comfort in affliction.
(4) Life in death, and all this for us, not for devils or angels.
IV. Comprehensiveness. It is not only light itself, it gives light to everything beside, not a star, but a sun. He who knows Christ knows--
1. Creation (Colossians 1:16).
2. History. Human writers narrate the events, in Christ their purpose is discovered. The call of Abraham, etc., all stand connected with the designs of providence in regard to the spiritual interests of mankind. The Roman Empire was designed to be the wide field for the triumphs of Christ. The voyage of Columbus was intended to bring America into the Christian fold.
3. Daily providence.
4. The sepulchre.
V. Holiness. Human knowledge does not sanctify, it often pollutes, and there is also a knowledge of Christ which leaves us in sin and under condemnation. But this knowledge leads to holiness. Conclusion:
1. Would you possess this knowledge? You must count all this but loss for it.
2. If this knowledge is incalculably excellent, then it is our duty to diffuse it. (R. Watson.)
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ
I. It surpasses all other.
II. Is only communicated by the spirit of God.
III. Exalts the nature of man.
IV. Brings peace, holiness, salvation.
V. Is permanently valuable.
VI. Is worth any sacrifice.
VII. Secures eternal gain. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. What this knowledge is.
(1) It stands opposed to the ignorance of the heathen (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:21; Acts 17:23).
(2) It is distinguished from the knowledge of the law of Moses (John 1:17; Hebrews 10:1).
(3) It is superior to the speculative unsanctified notions of nominal Christians (Titus 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:19; Luke 13:27).
2. Positively. It is--
(1) Spiritual (Ephesians 1:17; John 6:63).
(2) Supernatural (1 Corinthians 2:14); the sole prerogative of the supernaturally renewed man.
(3) Experimental (2 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Peter 2:2-3).
(4) Practical It is sometimes put for the whole of religion (1 John 2:3-4).
3. Specifically. It is the knowledge of Christ.
(1) Christ Himself is the object of it.
(2) His character, also, and office and work (1 Corinthians 2:2; John 1:14).
(3) Faith is included (Isaiah 53:11; Psalms 9:10).
II. Its excellency.
1. It is most necessary. Of many things we may be ignorant, because we cannot attain the knowledge of them; and of many others we may safely be ignorant; but this knowledge is necessary to salvation (Proverbs 19:2). There can be no faith in or love to Jesus without it. Satan takes the greatest pains to prevent its attainment, and God to communicate it (1 Timothy 2:4).
2. Most heavenly. Every good gift comes from God, but this especially (2 Corinthians 4:6; Isaiah 54:13).
3. Most useful.
4. Every kind of knowledge is useful in its place; for it is to the mind what light is to the eyes; but this exceeds all other.
(1) It converts the soul (Acts 26:18);
(2) regenerates (Colossians 3:10);
(3) humbles; other puffs up (Isaiah 6:5; Job 40:4; Revelation 1:17);
(4) encourages (Psalms 9:10; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 1:12).
4. Is most pleasant. Knowledge in general is grateful to the mind, yet some kinds are painful (Ecclesiastes 1:18). There must be a good deal of pains to get it, a good deal of care to keep it; the more we know the more it seems to us remains to be known, and the folly and misery of man the more apparent. But this knowledge is easily attained, and he who increaseth it increaseth joy (Psalms 119:72; Psalms 119:162; Jeremiah 15:16).
Conclusion: Is this knowledge so excellent, then?
1. Do we possess it? (1 Corinthians 15:34; John 3:19). If not, seek it at once (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:3-7).
2. If so, be thankful (Matthew 13:16; Luke 10:21; Jeremiah 9:23-24).
3. But do not be proud. The wisest know but little of what is to be known (Hosea 6:3; 2 Peter 3:18). (G. Burder.)
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ
If the soul be without knowledge it is not good. This is true in regard to worldly knowledge; much more to heavenly.
I. Its object--Christ Jesus. It--
1. Comprehends adoring views of the Divinity of His Person. Do away with these, and scriptural revelation becomes chaos.
2. Involves intelligent apprehensions of the mediatorial and vicarious character of His work (Romans 3:25).
3. Includes a believing and experimental acquaintance with the way in which sinners become interested in the blessings of redemption by being reconciled to God through faith in Christ.
4. Implies an obedient regard and solemn recognition of the high authority of Christ as King and Lawgiver.
II. Its nature.
1. It is not visual and corporeal, but intellectual and theoretical. The former was the ease in the days of our Saviour’s flesh, and yet to many it was of no avail. While something more than head knowledge is required, yet that is essential. Ignorance is not the mother of devotion.
2. Experimental and appropriating; this is unintelligible to carnal men. Who can make a blind man understand colours, or a deaf man sounds. Sin has got into the heart, Christ also must get there.
3. Practical and constraining. Mere uninfluential knowledge of Christ will only aggravate the sinner’s doom. Hell is full of it, Does your knowledge, then, lead you to love good works, to hate sin, to be humble and obedient?
III. Its excellency.
1. It is the essence of all gospel truth.
2. By it alone we obtain a comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the Divine character. “The world by wisdom knew not God,” but he that hath seen Christ, hath seen the Father.
3. It may be seen in the excellency of those who have made and still make it their chief study. Angels, Prophets, Apostles, and the greatest of uninspired geniuses--Bacon, Newton, Milton, Locke.
4. In the excellent effects it produces on individual character. There is no necessary connection between science and sanctity, but that between the knowledge of Christ and purity and charity is inevitable.
5. In its improving influence on society at large. Compare heathen nations with Christian.
6. The possession of it stander in inseparable connection with the salvation of the soul. What is civilization compared with this?
7. It shall outlive and eclipse all other knowledge. (Josiah Redford.)
The excellency of this knowledge
arises from the fact--
I. That in Christ all Divine and human excellencies are combined. Whatever beauty resides in the Divine attributes, for “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” and whatever perfection of human virtues, because He was “holy, harmless, undefiled,” etc.
II. That it has a transforming and assimilating effect on all who believingly contemplate it. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love,” etc. “Beholding His glory, we are transformed,” etc.
III. It is intimately connected with our justification. As faith is belief of the truth, this knowledge includes it.
IV. Its tendency is to generate lively hope, and fill the soul with peace and joy.
V. It fits the soul for heaven. “This is life eternal,” etc.
VI. It will be forever increasing. However high the saints may rise, still Christ will be the inexhaustible source of their increase of knowledge. Conclusion: If the knowledge of Christ be so excellent--
1. It should be our constant and vigorous effort to increase in it daily.
2. We should endeavour to extend it to as many of our fellow creatures as we can reach. (A. Alexander, D. D.)
I. What knowledge of Christ is that which is so excellent? It is--
1. Extensive. Apprehending Him as--
(1) Christ, i.e., His nature and offices--the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.
(2) Jesus, i.e., His intention and execution of those offices--viz., salvation.
(3) Lord, i.e., the consequents of those offices--dominion in Christ, subjection in us (Romans 14:9). Many will take Christ as Saviour who will not own Him as Lord, but this is to apprehend Christ without His crown, and so not an excellent knowledge.
2. Appropriating. The marrow of the gospel lies in the pronouns “my” and “ours.” To apprehend Christ yours on good grounds is the excellency of this knowledge.
3. Effectual. It has a powerful efficacy on the heart and life.
(1) On the judgment; when this knowledge in Christ is exalted as the chiefest among ten thousand, and the richest treasure esteemed dross in comparison with His riches.
(2) On the affections. To kindle desire and raise joy in Christ.
(3) On the practice. The profits of sin and its pleasures are renounced as well as self-righteousness.
4. Fiducial. It brings the soul to rest in Christ and His righteousness alone for pardon and acceptance, and to cast away all those rotten proofs of good nature, harmlessness, accomplishments, etc.
6. Useful. He that has it studies to improve Christ, and to use Him for those blessed purposes for which He is given (Philippians 3:9-10).
II. Why this knowledge is excellent. Because--
1. It is that knowledge which the most excellent creatures on earth and the most exalted in heaven desired, obtained, and gloried in. Abraham (John 8:56); Moses (Hebrews 11:26); the Prophets (1 Peter 1:10-11); and Kings (Luke 10:23-24); Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1-2); angels (1 Peter 1:12; Exodus 37:9).
2. In knowing Christ we know the glorious excellencies of God (John 14:7; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
3. It makes those who have it excellent (2 Corinthians 3:16; 2Co 3:18; 1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:3). Note the degrees by which fallen man is raised by this knowledge.
(1) The removal of that which makes him vile (2 Peter 2:20).
(2) Partaking of the Divine nature, i.e., of His holiness, the image of God (Colossians 3:10). All things pertaining to life and godliness are given through this knowledge (2 Peter 1:3-4).
(3) Investing us with the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 53:11).
(4) Eternal glory (John 17:3).
III. Christ Himself is most excellent, therefore this knowledge is excellent knowledge.
1. There is nothing in Him but is excellent. There is a mixture in all created beings--the heavens (Job 15:15); angels (Job 4:18); but Christ is altogether lovely and higher than the heavens.
2. All the excellencies that are in the creatures are eminently in Christ.
3. All these excellencies are in Him in a more excellent manner.
(1) Perfectly, without a shadow of imperfection.
(2) Infinitely, without limit.
(3) Unchangeably and eternally.
4. Innumerably more excellencies than are in all creatures together are in Christ alone, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
1. Reproof to those who neglect or despise this knowledge.
(1) Those who are not diligent to get and increase it. No knowledge worth having is to be had without diligence, and how sad that many are so busy about lower knowledge that they say they have no time for this.
(2) Those who strive not to communicate this knowledge. To this may be attributed the ruin of families and commonwealths, and lays you under dreadful threatenings.
(1) To those that want it--be you persuaded to get it.
(2) To those of you who have some of it--grow in it.
(3) To attain it.
(a) Be convinced of and humbled for your want of it.
(b) Lay a good groundwork in the principles of the knowledge of Christ, otherwise you will but build in the air (Hebrews 6:1).
(c) Let the Word of God be familiar to you (Colossians 3:16; John 5:39; Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
(d) Make use of those who are already acquainted with Christ (Hebrews 10:25; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 15:7).
(e) Be much in seeking God (James 1:5).
(4) To grow in it.
(a) Make all your other knowledge subservient to this. See Christ in everything that is good, make your knowledge of what is evil heighten your desire of Christ.
(b) Get nearer Him and keep near.
(c) Fix the eye of your souls upon Him (Exodus 37:9). Study the excellences of His person, the advantages of His offices, the riches of His grace.
(d) Seek it not for curiosity, but that you may enjoy Christ more.
(e) Content not yourselves with light without heat. Let every spark of knowledge kindle zeal and love.
(f) Live up to the knowledge you have; that is the way to attain more. Let the light that shines in your minds shine in your lives (John 7:17).
(g) Let humility keep pace with knowledge.
(h) Make use of Christ’s prophetical office. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
The more excellent knowledge
I. The object of this knowledge. Unlike all other objects of human study it is single. Human science diverges into several branches. And then it is not a thing or a system, but an individual. It is a knowledge of Christ Jesus as--
1. God. To take a lower view of Him is to degrade His dignity and destroy His atonement. He is the Creator, and as the creator of a thing, must be greater than the thing created, so the knowledge of Christ must be superior to that of nature.
2. The only revealer of God. You may study science in all its branches and be totally ignorant of God. The heathen world is an evidence of this. But Christ is the revealer of the Father’s mind and heart.
3. The Redeemer. As guilty sinners, under the curse and condemnation of the law, we wanted a Saviour who should bear our sins and provide such a salvation as would harmonize the moral attributes of God, and make it honourable in God to pardon. Jesus Christ is such a Saviour.
4. The Provider and the channel of the Holy Spirit, by whose power alone we become living souls. Unspeakable as is God’s precious gift to us, without the gift of the Spirit it had been of no avail. Take out the science of dynamics from the other sciences and you reduce them to a shadow. The Spirit provides the spiritual dynamics of Christianity and makes redemption effective.
II. Its transcendent excellency.
1. Its majesty and grandeur. What is there that can be compared to it. The time will come when those around whose name an halo of scientific glory exists will stand upon the confines of eternity. Where will the splendour of human science be then?
2. Its certainty. There is a degree of uncertainty attaching to all science. You will rarely find two scientists perfectly to coincide. But there is no doubt as to Christ’s personality, the lustre of His Deity, the efficacy of His atonement, etc. The only uncertainty is that which man’s depraved nature invents.
3. Its adaptation to the highest interests of our nature, and its supply for all our yearnings after happiness, knowledge, and a nobler state of being.
4. The only knowledge that meets the solemnity of a dying bed is this. Here Bacon and Butler had to lie their dying heads. (O. Winslow, D. D.)
The excellency of Christian knowledge
Knowledge is one of the most valuable of all attainments. Happiness and usefulness depend upon it. The image of God consists in “knowledge” as well as righteousness, etc. It is indispensable for the formation of character and the regulation of conduct. All knowledge is good, but its highest subject is the greatest Being. Hence it follows that religion must of necessity embrace the highest kind of knowledge, and the knowledge of Christ is that of “God manifest in the flesh,” exemplifying the perfections of the Divine character, fulfilling the purposes of the Divine mind. This is the theme to which the apostle deliberately bent his unequalled powers, and the more we know of it the less shall we wonder that he determined to know nothing else. This is the theme in which he prays that believers may be well instructed (Ephesians 1:16-19; Ephesians 3:14-19.)
I. What is implied in this knowledge of Christ. The whole substance of gospel truth, because every truth in Scripture relates to Him, and derives its value and use from this connection. In this view the knowledge of Christ is not limited to the facts of His personal history, but represents the sum and substance of saving knowledge. It is remarkable how Paul makes every other topic tributary to this. When he refers to the principles of natural religion it is to awaken sinners to their need of Christ. When he speaks of the past history of the world it is to show how it was a preparation for Him. He expounds the prophets, the types, the obligations of the moral law, all with reference to Him. He cannot recommend charity without speaking of Christ, nor express gratitude for temporal mercies without thanking God for His unspeakable gift (Colossians 3:11). Christ, then, is the one grand subject of the gospel, and everything, whether in nature, providence, or Scripture, is to be viewed in its relation to Him.
II. Its peculiar excellency and transcendent value. Knowledge is excellent in proportion to--
1. The greatness and dignity of its subject. Some subjects are so inconsiderable that the knowledge of them is of little value, and a mind may be full of them without being enlarged, because the subject of its thought is insignificant. There is a distinction between the subject of our thoughts and the mere fact which may give rise to them; e.g., in examining a flower a peasant may be studying the Divine perfections; in examining a world a philosopher may be studying the mere laws of matter; and hence the grandeur of a subject is not to be estimated by the magnitude of the object, but by the quality or relation which occupies the mind. On this principle the humblest disciple may be occupied with loftier contemplations than ever occur to an irreligious philosopher.
2. Its certainty. The mind may be dazzled by a splendid conjecture, and astonished by a wonderful narrative, but it can rest in neither until verified. The knowledge of Christ excels all other, inasmuch as it rests on the infallible testimony of God.
3. Its necessity. There are many interesting subjects of curious research, but they are not of urgent concern. There are others necessary for some, but not for all. But in the knowledge of Christ all men are deeply interested, inasmuch as their safety and happiness depend upon it.
4. The magnitude of the evils it averts and the value of the benefits it secures. Secular knowledge is valuable because it averts temporal calamities and promotes temporal comfort, but the knowledge of Christ has reference to the interests of the immortal soul.
5. The moral influence it exerts. Many kinds of knowledge have no direct influence on character or conduct, but in this knowledge, all that is useful in truth is blended with whatever is beautiful in morals, and both are so represented that no man can be familiarized with the Bible without being elevated. Take, e.g., the character of Christ.
6. The stability of its objects and the permanence of its use. “The things which are seen are temporal,” etc. Religion only, of all the forms of human knowledge, is immortal; the usefulness of every other is only temporary. (J. Buchanan, D. D.)
Christ Jesus duly prized
I. The manner in which the apostle delivers himself on this great subject.
1. He openly professeth his esteem of Christ above all, and that not in general, but from his own experience, which teacheth us that the saints should avowedly profess their superlative esteem of Christ. Christ is not only to be enjoyed but to be confessed. This is for His glory, and that others may fall in love with Him.
2. With the utmost certainty--“yea, doubtless.” He was not halting between two opinions. This is necessary for us with respect--
(1) To the outward truths of religion, because--
(a) Doubts are both afflictive and sinful.
(b) They are enemies to our faith.
(c) They are the spring of apostasy.
(d) They are prejudicial to the growth of religion. So, then, for confirmation, study the word of truth; give yourselves up to the teaching of the Spirit of truth, and walk in the truth.
(2) To the inward truth of religion. We should seek this certainty.
(a) Because the saints may attain to it. “He that hath my commandments” etc. “Give diligence to make your calling,” etc. sure.
(b) Because doubts are hurtful.
(c) The case of our day calls for it. A doubting Christian is unfit to act for Christ in a difficult time. Therefore awake from sleep; walk closely with God; examine yourselves; receive the Spirit so freely given of God to bear witness with yours.
3. With affection, counting all things loss and dung. The excellency of Christ naturally fires gracious hearts, because--
(1) All their hopes are in Him, and
(2) all their desires.
II. The grand scope of the apostle. Jesus is absolutely matchless. All sheaves bow to Him. The transcendent excellency of Christ is proved.
1. By testimony on the part of--
(1) God (Isaiah 13:1; John 3:16).
(2) Angels (Luke 2:10-14).
(3) Saints in heaven.
(4) Saints on earth.
(5) His enemies.
2. By evidence.
(1) He is God, “the true God and eternal life;” therefore His excellence is infinite.
(2) He is commensurate to the desires of the soul, which all the creatures combined are not. But “it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.”
(3) Whatever excellence is in anything else, it is derived from Him.
(4) All things besides Christ cannot make a man happy, but Christ can.
(a) The creatures want sufficiency; but Christ is completely satisfactory (Psalms 73:25).
(b) Certainty; but Christ is unchangeable.
(5) He can do for us what no other can, procure pardon for sin, peace with God, a right to heaven.
3. By comparison. No person or thing is to be compared with Him.
(1) Men on earth; the greatest one His vassals, the best only good through Him.
(2) Saints in heaven are only like the lilies wearing a glory for which they never toiled.
(3) Angels are all servants.
(4) The highest earthly good is a broken cistern, and even grace and glory are but His gifts.
1. They have a poor portion who are without Christ.
2. They have made a good choice that have received Christ.
3. We are to stand on nothing so as we may gain Christ. (T. Boston, D. D.)
I. That only is the true knowledge of Christ which terminates in an interest in and enjoyment of Him. To confirm this consider--
1. That all the knowledge of Christ that brings not to Him is but splendid ignorance according to the Word.
2. That knowledge of Christ which is not an interest in Him is mere opinion which is dubious and uncertain. It may be a good opinion, but it is not certainty. You will not commit your money to a stranger of whom you have only a good opinion. So it is with those who have only a speculative knowledge of Christ. Two points of saving knowledge exemplify this. Do you take Him for and instead of all? (Matthew 13:45-46). Have you committed your soul unto Him?
3. The true knowledge of Christ engages the heart and captivates the soul--“They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” As the loadstone draws iron, so does Christ the sinner.
4. The saving knowledge of Christ differs not in kind, but degree, from heaven’s happiness (John 17:8).
II. All things are but loss is comparison with this knowledge.
1. In what respect?
(2) All together. What are the stars without the sun?
2. Proofs and illustrations.
(1) An interest in Christ makes God ours, for lie is God.
(2) This interest is the one thing necessary.
All things must go for necessaries (Matthew 6:25). Other things are mere conveniences. Man’s desire is to be happy, and nothing outside of Christ is necessary to this end, for with Christ man may be happy and lack every earthly blessing (Philippians 4:13). Everything that one really needs is comprehended in this: “He that spared not His own Son” etc.
(3) This interest is satisfying to the soul, while nothing else can give satisfaction, He is substance, all else is shadow and dream. In Him are both suitability and fulness.
(4) This interest is a most enriching interest--“All things are yours.”
(a) The Christian hath more in possession than the greatest on earth. What so great as a kingdom? The Christian hath the kingdom of God within him. Monarchs lose their kingdoms because they are outside them. Christ is in us the hope of glory.
(b) The little that a Christian hath, having Christ, is more valuable than the abundance of a Christless man.
(c) The Christian makes a sanctified use of what he possesses, and so “all things work together for good.” The abundance of the ungodly is their curse.
(d) What the Christian hath he hath for nothing, but others will have to pay a dear reckoning for what they have--“What is a man profited,” etc.
(e) The Christian hath a far better right to his little, for it comes by covenant and not simply by common providence.
(f) The Christian’s portion is but an earnest.
(5) This interest is the only lasting interest. It will abide when we have lost all other things (Matthew 6:19-20).
3. An induction of particulars.
(1) Knowledge of other things is no way comparable to the knowledge of Christ either for pleasure or profit. Grotius said, “I have destroyed life, laboriously doing nothing.”
(2) Compared with Christ riches are lighter than vanity (Proverbs 23:5).
(3) Worldly reputation depend, upon the uncertain thoughts of others and may be easily stained; but the Christian shall shine with eternal honour.
(4) There is no ease that is permanently pleasant but in Christ.
(5) Friends are much valued, but how often do they prove themselves like brooks dried up (Job 6:15). Christ is a friend that will help in all cases.
(6) Domestic and social relations are great mercies, but we must part from them.
(7) Liberty is but a devil’s chain without Christ.
(8) Life and self are loss without Christ.
1. Of Information.
(1) How foolish are men who, like Martha, are diligent to get other things, but who neglect the one thing needful.
(2) Men are gainers, lose what they will for Christ.
2. Of exhortation.
(1) Christ is willing to receive you.
(2) Consider what you are without Him.
(3) An interest in Christ is the best interest you can have in the world. (T. Boston, D. D.)
That I may win Christ.
1. Christ is gained when we get an interest in Him and in His benefits (1 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 3:14). The ungodly have no part in Him. The apostle had won Christ already, but he would win a full enjoyment of Him.
2. The word κερδησω is put in opposition to the loss he had incurred, and means that there was enough in Christ to compensate him.
I. What gain we have in having Christ.
1. He is our ransom from the wrath of God, and so you have somewhat whereby to appease your guilty fears (Colossians 1:14).
2. He hath purchased God’s favour that we may have comfortable access to Him (Hebrews 10:19).
3. Our natures are renewed, and not only the favour and fellowship of God restored, but His image also (Titus 3:5-6; 2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 12:10).
4. Christ is our treasury and storehouse, from whence we fetch all our supplies (1 Corinthians 1:30).
5. By Him we are made heirs of eternal life (Romans 8:17).
II. How much this gain excels all other.
1. It is most comfortable, for here is comfort at all times and in all cases (Philippians 1:21).
2. Most universal (1 Corinthians 3:22-23; 1 Timothy 4:8).
3. Everlasting (Luke 10:42).
1. For reproof of--
(1) Those who take no pains to get it (Matthew 16:26; Luke 16:25).
(2) Those who part with Christ for temporal profit (Hebrews 12:16).
2. Per instruction.
(1) If Christ be gain then we may make some losses for Christ if we may not have them and Him too (Hebrews 11:26; Mark 10:29-30).
(2) We should not murmur when others go away with other things, if we have Christ (Psalms 17:14-15).
3. To persuade you to get Christ.
(1) He is the best gain if God be preferred before the creature, eternal glory before finding riches, the soul before the body.
(2) This gain may be gotten at a cheap rate (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 3:18). (T. Manton, D. D.)
I. It is the Christian’s grand object, and should be the design of every one to win or gain Christ.
1. What it is to win Him and how. It is to get Him to be ours and enjoy Him. It imports that we are naturally without Him (Ephesians 2:12).
(1) We must work and win as labourers do (Philippians 2:12).
(2) We must fight and win as soldiers--“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,” etc. Whenever a soul is on its way to Christ, the alarm is sounded in hell, and if the soul would bare Him it must be in opposition to flesh and blood, and principalities and powers.
(3) We must wrestle and win as those do who strive for the mastery (Ephesians 6:12-14).
(4) We must run and win as racers do.
(5) We must trade and win as merchants do (Mark 10:22).
2. Some reasons.
(1) If we win Christ we gain all (Matthew 13:45-46).
(2) If we win not Christ we gain nothing and lose all (Matthew 16:26).
II. Those whose grand object is to win Christ, will count all but dung that comes in competition with this bargain. They will count--
1. Nothing too much for Him, but be content to have Him on any terms.
2. Cost what it will they will not think they are even hands but gainers.
3. Have what they will they will count they have nothing while they have not Christ.
4. Be about them what they will, if Christ be not in them they will count them loathsome.
5. Be in their way what will, to hinder them from Christ, they will shovel it out of the way rather than be kept back from Christ.
III. They are truly winners, lose what they will, who gain Christ. Winning Christ--
1. We gain a ransom for our souls.
2. A treasure. Solomon counted all that was in the world as two great cyphers--“vanity and vexation.” But in Christ all is precious; grace, pardon, peace. They were purchased with precious blood (1 Peter 1:19; they are wrapped up in precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).
3. That which will turn everything to our advantage--“All things work together for good.” This is the stone that turns all to gold.
4. A heirship. (T. Boston, D. D.)
To win Christ
I. Is great gain.
II. Is the noblest object of ambition.
III. Is worthy of every sacrifice.
IV. Requires self-renunciation and faith (verse 9).
To the apostle Christ was--
I. So identified with the truth, that when he gained Him he gained the highest knowledge.
II. So identified with the life that when he gained Him he was endowed with the noblest form of it.
III. So identified with spiritual influence, that when he gained Him his whole nature was filled with power and gladness. (Professor Eadie.)
The world has ever shown curiosity with regard to the inner lives of its great men. Hence it is that few branches of literature are more popular than autobiographies. The Church shares this curiosity with regard to the eminent servants of Christ; and it has pleased God with regard to two of them to gratify this feeling. David and St. Paul are to us more than historic characters; we are admitted into the inner workings of their hearts. In the text we have the key and master spring of all the apostle’s actions and motives.
I. What is meant by winning Christ.
1. Remember that St. Paul did not write these words in the first fervour and flush of a new conversion. It often happens with new converts that their impressions and resolutions are like the early blossoms of spring, which perish in the bitter winds. When the apostle wrote these words he had been serving Christ for thirty years, and had derived no earthly advantage, but had suffered every earthly loss for Him. Can any votary of pleasure after thirty years’ service of self, sin, and Satan say that there is nothing more he desires so much as a few more of those sinful gratifications?
2. That which was before St. Paul was not Christianity but Christ. There is a wide difference between a system and a Saviour, between abstract truth and a living, loving person. This is always the object which St. Paul sets before himself and his readers; hence the vital interest of his life and writings.
3. The apostle desires to win Christ and be found in Him. Here we have the key phrase of St. Paul’s writings; but it is only a continuation of the Master’s teaching (John 15:1-27)
(1) This has reference to the believer’s legal condition before God. By faith man becomes one in Christ, and when God looks upon him, He looks upon him as being “a man in Christ.”
(2) But this has also a moral reference, being quickened in Christ from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. There is a great distinction between all human morality and the morality of the gospel. Heathen morals are many of them very beautiful, but they lack the grand disideratum--the motive power. In the gospel we get not only perfect precepts, but the motive union with Christ. And there is this distinction. In ancient times there were thousands of followers of the systems of Aristotle or of Plato, but whoever heard of such an expression as “in Aristotle.” Christ, however, is not an external teacher, but He is in me and I in Him, and so I have power to obey His law.
II. What is involved in this.
1. The loss of all that St. Paul counted gain. If ever a man could have gone to heaven without Christ it was he. He was conscientious, earnest, and ecclesiastically all that could be required. He had a high position and brilliant prospects. But he gave up everything to come as you must come, an empty handed, empty hearted sinner to Christ. But besides self-righteousness and worldly advantages to be given up, a Christian must expect to bear ridicule and persecution.
2. But for all this loss he was amply compensated by the gaining of Christ. What will be the wealth of all the Indies to us when we come to die. (Canon Miller.)
I. The person who wishes to win Christ. This coming from Paul awakens--
1. Admiration. What an instance of the influence of Divine grace I He had been Christ’s bitterest foe. Here we see the prophecy fulfilled, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree,” etc.
2. Inquiry. Had not Paul won Him already? Yes, but his experience was the same as that of all other Christians in whom we find the good work begun but not completed. The Christian finds the war still going on in his members, desires a livelier assurance, wishes to grow in grace and to know more and more of Christ. It was exactly so with St. Paul.
II. The value of the prize. Saints are said to be the excellent of the earth; but He is fairer than the children of men--“altogether lovely.” They have some excellencies, He has all; theirs are derived, His original; theirs imperfect, His complete; theirs finite, His infinite. He is the fountain of life.
1. Are wisdom and knowledge valuable? In Him are hid all the treasures of them.
2. Are power and strength? “He giveth power to the weak.”
3. Wealth? His are unsearchable riches.
4. Life? He that hath the Son hath life.
5. Peace? “In Me ye shall have peace.”
6. Security? “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” All this gain is to be reaped in life; but the believer gains much more by death: for then we shall awake in His likeness.
III. The possibility of winning this prize. To what purpose otherwise is its display? Two questions arise.
1. Am I now a partaker of Christ? Have you ever felt your need of Him, sought Him, received Him? Do you believe in His name, renounce every other foundation, build upon Him, place all your dependence in Him? Then you may claim all the benefits of His salvation as your own.
2. May I become a par taker of Him? “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” That you may win Him He sends forth His servants with invitations; He offers His blessings gratuitously; He throws a thousand impediments in your downward course, so that you may go to Him.
IV. The dreadfulness of losing this prize. What would you do without Christ if you were to meet with--
1. Prosperity. If a Christian met with it, he would possess it with safeguards, receive it with thankfulness, use it with diligence, as a good steward. In a worldly man’s hands it is as a razor in the hands of a child--“The prosperity of fools destroys them.”
2. Adversity. The Christian in this has “the consolation of Israel,” and has more left in Christ than he has lost; but the worldling loses all without compensation.
3. Death. Only the Christian can meet that with equanimity, for Christ has robbed it of its terrors.
4. The day of judgment. (W. Jay.)
The great prize
To win Christ is the supreme achievement of this life.
I. Substitutes for Christ. Some have one thing, and others another in His place. Paul had just enumerated several things, whose possession, while he was without Christ, gave him a certain sort of pleasure.
II. But circumstances change the value of things.
III. Things he had gained by the exchange.
IV. Queries of profit and loss.
1. What is our gain without Christ?
2. What is our loss without Christ?
3. What must we lose to gain Christ?
4. What do we gain with Christ?
5. What must we do to win Christ?
6. What is the danger of losing Christ?
7. To what extent have we given up all things for Christ and the excellency of His knowledge? (L. O. Thompson.)
To win Christ and be found in Him
is perfect security and consummate blessedness. The language suggests a goal and a starting post; that “I may win Christ,” the goal or end I have been seeking to reach; that “I may be found in Him,” ready not only for resistance to old adversaries, but for a new start and onward movement towards Divine perfection. Consider--
I. What it is to win Christ.
1. To count Him gain in opposition to what Paul once counted gain. There is an entirely new estimate of gain and loss. What is gain to me is what puts me on a right footing with God. Thus I once thought that my personal qualifications of birth, privilege, attainment might do. Now I see that for any such purpose they are worthless. In view of the end for which I once pressed then I now perceive Christ to be gain. There is much implied in your perceiving this.
(1) You are in earnest as regards the end with reference to which you estimate what is gain (verse 2). Is this so? Naturally it is not so. You care little about righting your position towards God; or is it your anxiety to stand well with Him?
(2) If the latter, it is no wonder that what things were gain to you are now counted loss, for they seem but to aggravate your condition of wrong standing, however good they may be in a sense, and however you may multiply them.
(3) But just as all else is thus felt to be worthless Christ is seen to be gain. What a relief to find in Christ the reconciler and the peacemaker; the justifier of the ungodly and the revealer of God. How thoroughly He meets our case. I see an instant end of the weary attempt to amend the old position, and a way wonderfully open for the immediate occupying of a new one.
2. Christ is coveted and sought as gain. It is not enough to count Christ as gain. This is often done by those who evince an unconquerable repugnance to accept the gospel. But Christ must be really and earnestly sought as well as desired.
3. Christ is appropriated as gain. It is for nothing short of this that you are called upon to count all things but loss. This is to be done by faith alone.
4. Christ is, won so as to be enjoyed as gain; and yet not as the miser wins wealth to hoard it, or the spendthrift to waste it, but for profitable use.
II. To be found in Christ is it the fitting sequel of winning Christ.
1. For defence, that I may meet every adversary.
2. To meet and obey the high calling of God, that I may press on. As one with Him I would know more of Him. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
The believer’s refuge
Paul had previously sheltered himself in fleshly confidence.
I. The refuge.
1. There are many refuges of lies.
(1) The refuge of wilful ignorance. “We are no scholars” is often only an excuse for negligence and indifference. Do they wish to know better? if not the excuse will not screen the sinner in the day of God’s visitation.
(2) The refuge of carnal ease. Many live as though there were only the body to care for, and cry, “Peace, when there is no peace.” Remember the rich fool!
(3) Worldly pleasure. This is the refuge of many of our youth particularly. But unblessed of God it is delusive and borders close on misery.
(4) Self-righteousness, a house built on sand as Paul found it.
(5) A hasty inconsiderate profession of religion from whatever motive.
2. Opposed to all this is Christ.
(1) In His person.
(2) In His love.
(3) In His offices and work.
II. The believer’s safety in it against--
1. The world.
2. The flesh.
3. The devil.
1. Abide in your refuge.
2. Welcome others to it. (W. Mudge, B. A.)
The superfluosness of the law
According to the design of God the advantages and sacraments of the law are of no avail since the manifestation of His Son, and that those who now beguile themselves with them lose their time and their trouble, as completely as though, after the rising of the sun, they still used the light of a lamp; or as if, in the strength of manhood, a person were retained in all the exercises and sports of childhood. (J. Daille.)
Loss for gain
Even as a poor beggar discovering a rich mine or some vast treasures, is ready to leap for joy that he has found that which will make him rich forever; he casts away his former rags, he despises his former poor and wooden furniture, for he has discovered that which will enrich him and make his condition plentiful; so the soul to whom the Lord has made this rich, this excellent discovery of Christ, he has found a mine more precious than gold, and larger than all the face of the earth; he casts off the rags of his own righteousness; his former accomplishments are now but as a beggar’s furniture; his heart is full of joy; he says, Rejoice, O, my soul; rejoice with me, my friends, for I have discovered the unsearchable riches of Christ. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ in the excellence of its subject
If the real worth and dignity of our knowledge in any department depend on the subject to which our thoughts are directed, it were easy to show that the religious peasant may find a nobler subject of thought in the structure of a flower, than the irreligious philosopher finds in the structure of a world! (J. Buchanan, D. D.)
The relation of the knowledge of Christ to the gospel scheme
It is said of Phidias, the celebrated sculptor, that in preparing the design, and in executing the elaborate carving of the shield of Minerva, over the portico of the Acropolis of Athens, he so curiously wrought and intertwined his own name with the work, that it could not be obliterated or taken out anywhere without injuring the whole. So Jesus Christ cannot be taken away from any part of the system of Divine truth, without doing irreparable injury to the beauty and perfection of the whole Christian system--“for to Him gave all the prophets witness.” Christ was typically seen in Melchesidec, King of Salem; in the binding of Isaac as a sacrifice; in the persecution of Joseph. There was a knowledge of Christ Jesus set forth in the paschal lamb, as eaten by the Israelites, and in the lifting up of the brazen serpent. Christ was painted in hieroglyphics and read by the Jews in all their ceremonial observances. Look in what varied views and degrees the ancient seers had an apprehension of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, for he was the Shiloh of departing Jacob; Isaiah’s “Root of Jesse;” Jeremiah’s “Branch;” Ezekiel’s “Ruler among the people;” Haggai’s “Desire of all nations;” Daniel’s “Ancient of Days;” Zechariah’s “Fountain;” and Malachi’s “Sun of Righteousness.” All these figures had their substance in their great Antitype. All their predictions had their measure of accomplishment in Jesus Christ. The writers of the Old and New Testaments are like the cherubim overshadowing the ark--face to face, and looking down at the propitiatory, which is Christ. (J. Redford.)
The superiority of the knowledge of Christ
When we are in the dark we are glad of candlelight, and glow worms will make a fair show in our eyes; but when the sun is risen and shines in his full strength, then candlelight seems needless or offensive, and the worms that glittered in the dark, made no better show than other vermin. So when men are in the state of nature and darkness, then their Church privileges and carnal prerogatives, then their outward performances and self-righteousness, make a fine show in their eyes. They are apt to glory in them, and rely on them, as that by which they may gain the favour of God and eternal life. Ay, but when Christ appears, when the Sun of Righteousness arises in the heart and discovers His excellency, His all-sufficiency, then a man’s own sparks vanish; then all his formerly beloved and rich esteemed ornaments are cast off; then all he has, and all he has done, privileges and outward services, are loss and dung. None but Christ for pardon, acceptance, life. This is the excellent effect of this excellent knowledge. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
The excellent effect of the knowledge of Christ
The practical applications and uses of this knowledge are as important as its direct and immediate influence on the mind. The least practical kind of knowledge is useful, if it raise the mind above those sordid tendencies to which ignorance is allied; but the knowledge of geometry is the more valuable by reason of its many useful applications to mechanical arts; and astronomy itself, the sublimest of all the sciences, by reason of the aids which it affords to the practical art of navigation. The spiritual astronomy, which points to Christ as the Morning Star, gives a directory also to guide our course amidst the storms and tempests of that voyage in which we are all embarked. It lays down for our guidance a clear, simple, and comprehensive rule for the whole conduct of life, marking out the end at which we should steadfastly aim, and the means by which we should seek to attain it: and it affords us the blessed assurance that Christ Himself will be our leader, and His Spirit our guide. It is applicable, not only for our direction in every condition of life, but also for our comfort and support in the hour of trial: imparting those blessed consolations which the world can neither give nor take away; and even, in the hour of death, when all other knowledge fails, and leaves the soul to sink alone and unbefriended into eternity, this knowledge gives us that hope which is an anchor, sure and stedfast, entering into that which is within the veil. (J. Buchanan, B. D.)
The necessity of letting go every false confidence
One night an inquirer, long under deep conviction, but still unsaved, dreamt that he was walking along the edge of a terrible precipice, and fell over it into a terrible abyss. As he was failing he grasped a little branch of some bush that was growing halfway down. There he hung and cried for help. He could feel the branch giving way. He looked into the black yawning gulf beneath, and again cried out for help. Looking up he saw, in his dream, Christ standing on the edge, and saying, “Let go the twig and I will save you.” Looking at the terrible abyss below, he could not. He cried again; and again came the same answer. At length he felt the branch slipping, and, in the utter desperateness of his despair, he let go the branch--when, lo! in an instant, the arms of Jesus were about him, and he was safe. He awoke. It was but a dream of the night. Yet from the vividness and instructiveness of its imagery, he was enabled to let go every false confidence and rely only on the true. Would that every anxious soul would go and do like wise! (J. L. Nye.)
The true method of reflection
If we rightly reject the world it is because, in the pure processes of our spirit, we have taken from it its nutriment. And, therefore, viewing what was in Christ as in comparison with Judaism, Paul felt that the old forms and types and usages were now as the refuse which the spirit had put away on receiving for itself, and appropriating for its full health and growth and nutriment, Christ’s revelation. (T. T. Lynch.)
Willinghood lightening sacrifice
Men who have made the greatest sacrifices for the cause of Christ have hardly been conscious of them. So Livingstone, as late as 1857, said, “I never made a sacrifice;” and Hudson Taylor, the leader of the China Inland Mission, has publicly made the same statement of himself. It was in this spirit that Samuel Rutherford said, “The Cross of Christ is the sweetest burden I ever bore; it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or as sails are to a ship.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
Philippians 3:9 open_in_new
And be found in him
IV. Complete. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Found in Christ
I. Show how or when God comes to search and the saints are found in Christ. The world is a confused heap, and many times the counterfeits are found among the jewels, but God hath searching times and will find them out.
1. The preaching of the Word is a time of plain searching in Christ.
2. A time of temptation.
3. A season of the Church’s trouble and persecution. A true friend is known in adversity, so is Christ to the believer, and he to Christ.
4. The time of death and judgment.
II. How and when they shall be found who are found in Christ.
1. As branches in the true vine (John 15:1-6). So are they safe, for barren trees shall be cut down for the fire, but Christ mystical is a tree the axe cannot approach.
2. In a place of refuge. “The Lord shall be as a sanctuary to them.” They are in the city of refuge where one drop of wrath cannot fall.
3. Under a covert, in a hiding place--even the Mediator’s covenant blood.
4. In the covenant, in Christ’s chariot (Song of Solomon 3:9-10; Isaiah 27:4-5).
III. The reasons.
1. God will search and find out every one of us, be where we will. We may deceive ourselves and others, but God is not mocked who searchest the reins.
2. If God find us out of Christ we are undone. We shall have nothing to shelter us when He draws us out of our lurking holes.
3. if we are found in Christ we shall be safe in time and eternity, blow the storm as it may. Over trouble He will lift up our head; and when death comes it shall be without its sting.
IV. The uses. Let it be your great care to be found in Christ as Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar.
1. Let not the searching time find you at a disadvantage.
(1) In an unregenerate state--“dead in trespasses and sins.” This is a soul-ruining state, fire meeting stubble; the judge the criminal.
2. Be found in Christ.
(1) United to Him by His Spirit through faith.
(2) Walking in Him.
(3) Living in Him and upon Him (Galatians 2:20).
V. The motives.
1. If you be found in Christ, He will be found in you, so shall you have a double security in time of trial (John 17:21-23). Christ is found in believers as in His own house.
(1) His dwelling, and who will not defend that.
(2) His banquetting house. What provisions He brings with Him for storm and Beige.
(3) His fortified house. “None shall pluck them out of My hand.”
(4) His temple, which He will not allow to be profaned.
(5) His garden. He “will water it every moment,” hedge it about and preserve it.
(6) As the soul in the body (Colossians 3:4; Galatians 2:20; Acts 2:25-27).
2. If you be not found in Christ you will be found in a bad case in time and in eternity. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Found in Christ
The phrase implies--
1. That there is an estate in Christ.
2. An abiding in it.
I. Let us explain the phrase. It is taken from plants which are grafted into stocks, or from the branches which are in the tree. Of this union there are three degrees.
1. We are in Christ in the eternal love and purpose of God.
2. When Christ died we were in Him as a public person.
3. More properly now by faith, as friends are in one another by love. But as Christ is in heaven, how can we be united to Him? I answer, If a tree did reach to heaven and have its root in the earth, doth this hinder the union of root and branches. And although Christ be in heaven, yet are we united to Him by His Spirit, and receive influence from Him of all grace and goodness.
II. The doctrines that are cleared hereby.
1. Justification by faith. For if the question is, How are we saved by Christ’s righteousness? I answer, Christ and we are one, and whatsoever He hath is ours.
2. The sacrament. The Paoists would have the bread transubstantiated, that the body of Christ may be united to us. But I ask, How is the foot united to head? By spiritual vigour passing to and fro through the body. It is not, therefore, necessary that there should be corporal union. Christ comforted His disciples more by His Spirit when He departed, than He did by His corporal presence.
III. The comfort of this. Before we were in Christ we were in a state of horror and condemnation. But now we are in Him--
1. Our nature is exalted to the Godhead.
2. Whatever we may lose in other states here is a state that cannot be shaken.
3. Blessed are those who die in the Lord.
4. After death we shall be with Him in our Father’s house. 5, All who touch us touch Him (Acts 9:4).
IV. The duties which spring out of this.
1. In duties towards God how thankful we ought to be to Him.
2. It ought to stir us up to duties in respect to our fellow members, particularly in charity to Christ’s poor.
3. Towards ourselves. We are to carry ourselves with dignity, and to grow up into our living head.
V. How shall we come to be found in Christ.
1. We must come where He is.
2. We must separate ourselves from what is contrary to Christ.
1. That a Christian is continually under Christ’s wing till he be in heaven.
2. There is such a time when God will search men out and lay them open as they are.
3. The foundation of future happiness must be laid now. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Not having mine own righteousness--
The two righteousnesses
I. The distinction between two sorts of righteousness.
1. His own is either.
(1) The false, superficial righteousness which He had as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:6), or
(2) any that might stand in competition with Christ.
2. The righteousness of God is His gracious method of pardoning penitent believers in the gospel, and accepting them to life in Christ. This is so called because--
(1) It is found out by God (Job 33:24).
(2) Given by God (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
(3) Accepted by God (Matthew 3:17).
II. The description of these opposite righteousnesses.
1. His own is by “the law,” the other that which is “by the faith of Christ,” i.e. appointed by God, merited by Christ, and received by faith.
2. These are often opposed (Romans 3:21-22; Romans 10:3).
3. The law may be taken in two ways, either for--
(1) The law of works, which required a man to be justified by a perfect, sinless obedience of his own. This is opposed to the righteousness of God by faith in Christ (Romans 1:17-18; Romans 3:20), and by justification is impossible, for none of us have it. If we had, there were no sin, and no place for Christ; but we have all broken with God, and can show no work justifiable by the law (Romans 3:12).
(2) Or the ceremonial law. By this Paul proves that no man can be justified, and therefore the Jews sought righteousness where it was not to be found, and were guilty of a three-fold error.
(a) They thought that pardon and acceptance were to be secured by the bare works of that law.
(b) They overlooked and rejected Christ, who is the end of righteousness to every believer.
(c) They would keep up this law when it was to be abrogated.
III. His different respect to either.
1. That which he renounced was
(1) partly the superficial righteousness of conformity to the external law, a mere speculative righteousness, and
(2) partly the righteousness of the law covenant which some falsely fancied they might fulfil.
2. That which he affected was “to be found in Christ,” etc.
(1) The state of His person, or the way this is applied.
(a) The word “found” is emphatic, and often used with respect to the day of judgment (2Co 5:3; 2 Peter 3:14; Matthew 24:46). It implies that the last day is one of exact search and trial.
(b) “In Christ,” i.e., incorporated into His mystical body, or united to Him by the Spirit (John 15:2; Romans 8:1). Being united to Him by faith, love, and holiness, we are made partakers of His righteousness.
(2) The righteousness with which He would appear before God. The righteousness of the new covenant is two fold.
(a) The supreme righteousness is Christ’s obedience unto death (Romans 5:18-19), i.e., our great righteousness before God by which His justice is satisfied, and by the merit of which all the blessings of the new covenant are procured for us.
(b) The subordinate righteousness, or the way and means and conditions by which we get an interest in and a right to this supreme righteousness is faith (Romans 4:3), and our continuance in it is conditional on a new obedience (1 John 3:7; 1 John 2:29). This has respect to the final judgment (Matthew 25:46), where the righteous are those who are fruitful in good works. Conclusion: We are justified by faith only, without works, as Paul asserted; and by works and not by faith only, which is the assertion of James. Justification hath respect to some accusation, and as there is a two-fold law of works and grace, there is a two-fold accusation and justification. Now when we are accused as breakers of the law of works we plead Christ’s satisfaction as our righteousness, no works of our own. But when we are accused as non-performers of the conditions of the covenant of grace, as being neglecters of Christ the Mediator, we are justified by producing our faith or sincere obedience. Whence learn--
1. That the day of judgment will be a day of exact search and trial (Romans 14:12).
2. That in this day there is no appearing before God with safety and comfort without righteousness of some sort or another (1 Samuel 6:20).
3. The righteousness of the law of works we cannot have (Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:23; Psalms 143:3).
4. Man having broken this law, is lost or disabled to his own recovery, or to do anything whereby to satisfy God (Romans 5:6).
5. Because man was under such an impotency Christ became the Mediator, and
(1) Became a sacrifice to offended justice (Ephesians 5:2).
(2) A ransom for sinners (1 Timothy 2:6).
6. Upon His death Christ acquired a new right of dominion over the world, to save on His own terms (Romans 14:9 : Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:7-11).
7. Being possessed of this Lordship, He has made a new law of grace for our recovery (Mark 16:16; John 3:16-18).
(1) He hath set down the terms of life and death.
(2) The privileges of the new grant are exceeding great--pardon, peace, adoption, the gift of the Spirit, and the right to glory.
(3) The danger of final impenitency and refusing these things, and not submitting to this righteousness is very grievous (Hebrews 10:39).
8. The terms of the new law are repentance, faith, and new obedience. (T. Manton, D. D.)
I. The righteousness of the law--
1. Consists in works.
2. Is our own.
3. Is defective and useless.
II. The righteousness of faith--
1. Is through Christ.
3. Acceptable to God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. What is meant by Christ’s righteousness. Righteousness is the result of obedience to the law. Christ fulfilled the law in our room.
1. By His active obedience to its commands. Now the law demands of the sinner were very high.
(1) Spotlessness of nature, for if the fountain be poisoned, how can the streams be wholesome. The Son of God satisfied this demand by taking on Himself a sinless body and soul.
(2) An obedience as broad as the law--“Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things.” Christ fulfilled all righteousness and did no sin.
(3) An obedience raised to the highest degree the law requires. It is not enough to be sincere or do one’s best. Christ answered this by His perfect love to God and man.
(4) Continuance to the end without the least failure (Galatians 3:10). Christ became obedient unto death.
2. By his passive obedience. Failing in active righteousness the law takes hold of the sinner and says, “Pay what thou owest.”
(1) The law required life as the penalty of transgression--“In the day that thou eatest,” etc. Christ satisfied this demand by dying “the just for the unjust.”
(2) The sufferings must be voluntary, for God hates robbery for burnt offering. Christ for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.
II. This righteousness is received by faith. It is received and becomes ours by faith, as faith unites us to Christ. Upon this union follows a communion with Christ in His righteousness. The soul by faith marries with Christ and the righteousness is its dowry. The soul flies to Christ for refuge, and that righteousness is its cover.
III. Confirm the doctrine.
1. That only can shelter us from the wrath of God which satisfies His law, and this righteousness alone satisfies His law.
2. It is the righteousness of God, so called because--
(1) It is of Him who is God (Jeremiah 23:6).
(2) Accepted of God.
3. It is the righteousness of the only wise God to save sinners, when nothing else could do it (Psalms 40:6-7).
1. Never entertain low thoughts of sin. It is the worst of evils, which could not be remedied but by the sufferings of Christ.
2. Never entertain low thoughts of forgiveness. Every pardon is the price of blood more precious than a thousand worlds. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The believer’s righteousness
I. Its nature.
1. Not personal, but through Christ.
2. Not of the law but by faith.
II. Its enjoyment.
1. In Christ in whom the believer dwells.
2. Is found here and hereafter.
III. Its sufficiency.
1. It is purposed.
4. Approved by God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Christ and faith
History and our own personal life has no more strange and pathetic page than is suggested by the words, “I have suffered the loss of all things.”
1. We are started on an infinite journey; and no surer witness to this exists than in the easy and familiar way in which we let object after object fall from our lives in our pursuit of what seems to be greater. Or like a general who leaves the stronghold he is defending, deserting cannon and baggage and the unfinished toil of months because the tide of battle has set elsewhere and all his force must be concentrated there, so are we in the great battle of life.
2. The same thing is true in higher regions. We cannot rest in intellectual attainment. We climb where thought is giddy; and at last, here is law. Where is God? Without that discovery know ledge is dross, and we can suffer the loss of it if we can but reach Him and be right with Him.
I. The failure of legal righteousness to being us peace. Through such a process as that to which we have referred the apostle had passed in the urgent march of his spirit to its home in the heart of Christ. There is a tone almost of solemn mocking in the appeal he makes to the past. “My Saviour did not find me among the offscourings of the world. He did not pick me from the mire. If any man had a right to boast I had.” But it all led him to the “O wretched man that I am,” etc. This law, under the mountain shadow of which we have been standing, brought him, brings us, no peace. All that it can do is to open the doors of the temple, which by faith we must enter if we would behold God.
II. The heart’s cry for a righteousness of God.
1. There is a condition where no such cry is heard--the Pharisaical. A man may go on looking at the outward so long, and so succeed in stifling his spiritual aspirations as to arrive at the conclusion that all he can do is to obey the letter of the law.
2. But a man who has found out that even strict obedience to the moral law cannot reveal God will understand this cry. The highest commands that law ever laid, and the lowliest obedience ever rendered, have no Divine significance but in the revelation of an Infinite Person, to whom we stand personally related. We ask to be clothed with Himself.
III. The righteousness that is revealed to faith. To the apostle the voice of faith that is in Christ was a sufficient answer to this cry. “Not having mine own righteousness.” The Incarnation was the only possible answer for God to give and for us to receive. The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might receive Himself. This is enough, and in Christ we have the righteousness of God. (L. Mann.)
The righteousness of God by faith
This righteousness is the only ground of acceptance with God. It is not of mine, but of God, as in His grace He has provided it, so that it is said of us we are “justified freely by His grace.” It is wrought out by Christ and in His blood (Romans 5:9); or it is “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” It becomes ours through faith. This faith is “counted for righteousness,” or subjectively “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Of the possessor of such righteousness it may be said that “a man is justified in the sight of God.” Christ obeyed the law for us and suffered its penalty, and the merit of this obedience unto death becomes ours as soon as we can say, “We have believed in Jesus.” He that was unrighteous becomes righteous, and escapes the condemnation which sin merits (Romans 8:1; Romans 1:18); nay, enjoys the benefit of redemption (Ephesians 1:7). When works of law are disclaimed, and faith is simply reposed on God, guilt is cancelled, acceptance enjoyed, and such a change of state involves a change of character (Romans 8:4). The sinner is not indeed held by any legal fiction to be innocent. The entire process implies his guilt, but he is no longer exposed to its penalty; he is held, or dealt with, as a righteous person, “the external justice of Christ Jesus being imputed to Him” (Hooker). And the result is (Romans 8:30). This righteousness, Divine in its origin, awful in its medium, and fraught with such results, was the essential element of Paul’s religion and the distinctive tenets of His theology. (Professor Eadie.)
The grand truth of this doctrine lies just here--when a sinner casts himself in penitence on the mercy of his Saviour, God estimates him not according to what he has been, or is in himself, but according to what he is in relation to Christ. We ourselves are constantly estimating things and persons as they stand related to other things and persons. The geologist estimates the significance of certain remains according to the strata in which they are “found.” The chemist estimates the action of certain elements according as they are “found in” this or that combination. The merchant estimates goods according as they stand related to the needs of this or that market. You present your sample; he refuses. “These things won’t sell now out yonder in Brazil.” You say, “Oh! but judge them on their own merits; see what excellent cloth, what beautiful patterns.” But it is of no use. You go into a garden in the early spring when the leaves are just beginning to appear. Two branches are touching each other. The gardener says, “This branch will be laden with fruit, but that will have little or none upon it.” You see no difference. The leaves are as fresh and green on the one as on the other. But the gardener judges them according to their relations. The one branch is “found in” a tree which he knows to be fruitful, the other in one he knows to be almost barren. Is it a fiction when he imputes the qualities of the stock to the branch? Or he comes into your garden and sees in one of your borders a plant which is not thriving. “That plant,” he says, “will die here, put it in the hothouse.” He comes back in a few weeks, and the same plant is “found in” the hothouse. “It is all right now,” he says. He does not mean that it has recovered vitality or beauty, but it is in the fair way to health. Its change of relation has “saved” it. Or, say that you go into the studio of a famous artist, and you see him sketching a picture on the canvas. It is but little--only a faint outline; but he tells you his idea, and you know how he has worked out other ideas. It is only a beginning as yet; but it stands related to a master hand, and you can imagine what it will be when finished. Your estimate of the same picture would be very different if you “found” it in the studio, and under the hand of an inferior artist. Or again, you may be told that a newborn babe and a newborn ape are each a mere piece of flesh and blood, and that under the dissecting knife little difference could be detected between them. But the babe is “found in” humanity. It stands related to the human race, and you estimate it according to its latent capacities, although at present there may be no sign of distinctive intelligence. Or, you may apply to have your life insured, and you go to a physician to be examined. He inquires as to any illness you may have had, and into your present state. But he also asks about your parents; when, and of what they died, and also about your brothers and sisters. You might say, “Why not judge of my case purely upon its own merits?” No; his judgment will depend partly on the family stock in which you are found, and he will “impute” to you the healthy or unhealthy qualities of the family stock. And is God not to estimate men according to their relation to Himself, and to His Son? No man is “justified” in living a life of sin, nor in living a life of self-confident Pharisiasm; but when a man comes in a humble and contrite heart and throws himself on the mercy of the righteous One, praying for pardon, and cleansing, and strength to live a better life, his relation is changed and he is justified. (T. C. Finlayson.)
Salvation in Christ
A man had been condemned in a Spanish court to be shot, but being an American citizen, and also of English birth, the consuls of the two countries interposed, and declared that the Spanish authorities had no power to put him to death. What did they do to secure his life when their protest was not sufficient? They wrapped him up in their flags, they covered him with the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack, and defied the executioners. “Now fire a shot if you dare, for if you do so, you defy the nations represented by those flags, and you will bring the powers of those two great empires upon you.” There stood the man, and before him the soldiery, and though a single shot might have ended his life, yet he was as invulnerable as though encased in triple steel. Even so Jesus Christ has taken my poor guilty soul ever since I believed in Him, and has wrapped around me the blood-red flag of His atoning sacrifice; and before God can destroy me or any other soul that is wrapped in the atonement, He must insult His Son and dishonour His sacrifice, and that He will never do, blessed be His name. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Philippians 3:10 open_in_new
That I may know Him
The path of life
III. Fellowship with Christ.
IV. Conformity to his death. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The believer’s aspirations
It is said that St. Augustine wished to have seen three things before he died; Rome in its glory, Christ in the flesh, and Paul in his preaching. But many have seen the first without being the holier, the second without being happier, and heard the third and yet went to perdition. But Paul, in this and the previous Chapter s, expresses seven wishes which centre in Christ--that he might know Christ, win Christ, magnify Christ, be conformed to Christ, be found in Christ, rejoice in the day of Christ, and be forever with Christ. Now these correspond perfectly with the desires of every child of God. Here Paul desires--
I. To know Christ. St. Paul appreciated the value of other departments of knowledge. He was a scholar and a theologian; but after he had learned Christ they seemed to fade in interest. This knowledge was the subject of his preaching everywhere, as he told the Corinthians and the Galatians. He wished to know Christ.
1. Increasingly. The more he knew Him the more he wanted to know, and no wonder, for
(1) in Him is everything worthy to be known.
(2) This knowledge never cloys.
2. Experimentally. To know in Scripture is to see and to taste. It is not the speculative knowledge that devils have, nor mere historical knowledge, but such as a hungry man has when he eats, and a thirsty man when he drinks. It is appropriative of Christ--“My Lord,” “My Saviour.”
3. Superlatively (verse 8). For what is the widest and most delightful knowledge in the presence of this? but as sounding brass, vanity.
II. The power of his resurrection. The word “power” makes all the difference between religion in the head and in the heart, between possession and profession. It is one thing to have knowledge, and another to have it vitally and brought into action. Christ’s resurrection has a vast power.
1. In our justification. His ransom could avail nothing without His resurrection. “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain.” But by it the Father publicly testified His approval
2. In our sanctification, which is the renewing of our nature and the strengthening of our graces by the Holy Spirit, who is the fruit of the resurrection.
3. In our edification. Every sermon, etc., is vain if Christ be not risen. All the means of Christian growth are dependent upon it (Ephesians 4:7-14). What power it gave to apostolic preaching.
4. In our glorification. There had been no resurrection for us without Christ’s. As in Adam, the covenant head, all died; so in Christ, the covenant head of Adam’s posterity, all shall be made alive.
III. The fellowship of his sufferings. Not in His merits: the crown must be forever on His head. We know this.
1. By partaking of the benefit of His sufferings, pardon, etc.
2. By communion with Him through the channel of His sufferings--His Divine humanity, hanging on the Cross, and commemorated in the sacrament.
3. By enduring for His sake the same sufferings which He endured--the world’s frowns, Satan’s temptations. “Is the servant above his master.”
IV. Conformity unto his death. Why not His life? That is not excluded. But His death presents in a condensed form all that we could desire to he on earth. We see in Him--
1. Great patience under suffering.
2. Great faith.
3. Great compassion for dying men.
4. Great filial tenderness.
5. Great love for repenting sinners. (J. Sherman.)
He who of mortal men knew Christ best confesses that he knew Him but imperfectly.
1. How much, then, must there be in Him to know. Do we lose a sense of the Redeemer’s majesty by familiarity with His name? See, then, His chief disciple, after years of contemplation, imitation, and adoration, confessing that the great object of God, manifest in the flesh, seems greater than ever, so that at the last he offers the prayer suitable to a novice.
2. This is true of all the works of God, whether in the material or the spiritual world, and is illustrated by what a climber sees of the starry firmament: from the bottom the mountain tops seem among the stars, but as he ascends they seem to recede, and their vastness and distance are best seen from the summit.
3. What Paul meant is clearer from the following explanations.
I. Knowing the power of His resurrection. Paul laboured and suffered much, and was pursued by great infirmity and frequent depression; but he saw above him the figure of the once suffering but now risen Christ--his brother throned and crowned. Looking up it seems as if he were moved to say, “Would that I could be raised out of what I am, and become as He is--victor over sin, sorrow, and death.” In this sense we may feel the power of Christ’s resurrection. In Christ, risen and glorified, is the image in which we may behold what we may become.
II. A share of Christ’s sufferings the condition of a share in His resurrection. He has just expressed a desire to resemble Christ glorified, but he here checks himself in order to show that what he desires is not an easy and instantaneous change. What he seeks is not simply repose and relief. He is perfectly willing to resemble Christ glorified by passing through the intermediate stages. He, too, would reach the crown through the Cross, remembering that “it is enough for the disciple to be as his Master.” Whoever then would know Christ must face--
1. Suffering--the suffering of arduous effort, patient resignation, and trust when faith is tempted to fail.
2. Death--the death to much that is attractive here, and especially to sin, as well as to the death of the body. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)
The experimental knowledge of Christ
I. An experimental knowledge of Christ is so great a blessing that we should count all things but loss to get it. It is sometimes expressed by taste. Sight is the knowledge of faith, taste that of experience (1 Peter 2:3; Psalms 34:8). When we taste His goodness or feel His power we have an experimental knowledge of Christ. Many know how to talk about Him but feel nothing. Men speak of His salvation from day to day, but have not the effects of it. When we find within ourselves the fruits of His sufferings, the comfort of His promises, the likeness of His death, the power of His resurrection, then we know Christ experimentally. The benefits it confers show its value. Experience--
1. Gives us a more intimate knowledge of things. While we know them by hearsay we know them only by guess and imagination, but when we know them by experience we know them in truth. He that reads about the sweetness of honey may guess at it, but he that tastes it knows what it is (Colossians 1:6). A man who has travelled through a country knows it better than he who knows it only by a map.
2. Gives greater confirmation of the truth. A man needs no reason to convince him that fire is hot who has been scorched, or that weather is cold who feels it in his fingers. So when the promises of God are verified we see that there is more than letters and syllables (Psalms 18:30; 1 Corinthians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
3. Gives greater excitement to the love of Christ and His ways. The more we feel the necessity of Christ and know His usefulness in binding up our broken hearts, the more we shall love Him as our Saviour (1 John 4:19). We may know the truth of the gospel by other means, but we cannot know that it belongs to us by any other means.
4. Engages us more to zeal and diligence in the heavenly life, which reports and exhortations often fail to do.
(1) Because when, e.g., we have experience of the power of Christ’s resurrection it begets a new life within which inclines us to heavenly things--there is a principle to work with (Galatians 5:25).
(2) When this life is gratified with the rewards of obedience, such as peace and comfort, it is an argument above all others to press for more. The Cauls when they had once tasted the Italian grape must get into the country where it grew. The spies were sent to bring the clusters of Canaan into the wilderness to animate the Israelites to put in for the good land. So God gives us the Spirit not only as an earnest (1 Corinthians 1:22) to show us how sure, but as first fruits to show us how good (Romans 8:23).
(3) When this life is obstructed by folly and sin, you find more of Christ’s displeasure in your inward man (Ephesians 4:30) than can possibly be represented to your outward condition.
1. It is a dangerous temptation when the gospel comes in word only (1 Corinthians 4:20). It must follow either that you settle in a cold form (2 Timothy 3:5) or into an open denying of Christ and the excellency of His religion.
2. If you have not this knowledge how will you be able to carry on this spiritual life with any delight, seriousness, or success? (1 John 5:3-10).
3. Without it you can have no assurance of your own interest (Romans 4:4-5; 1 John 4:17).
4. Without it you will neither honour Christianity nor propagate it.
(1) By word (Psalms 34:8). A report of a report at second or third hand is no valid testimony. None can speak with such confidence as those who feel what they speak (2 Corinthians 1:4).
(2) By work (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7).
1. A sound belief of the doctrines of the gospel (1 John 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). We cannot feel the power of the truth till we receive it.
2. Serious meditation and consideration (Psalms 45:1; Acts 16:14).
3. Close application. Things work not upon us at a distance (Job 5:27). Conclusion:
1. Look for experience rather in the way of sanctification than of comfort. The one is not so necessary as the other, and the Spirit may cease to comfort that He may sanctify.
2. Look to the thing end not to the measure or degree (T. Manton, D. D.)
Experimental knowledge of Christ
1. A man may have a competent and very extensive acquaintance with the whole doctrine of the Christian religion, and yet if he has not an experimental knowledge of Christ it is all vain as to salvation.
2. In the previous verse the apostle deals with his gain in point of justification, here in point of sanctification.
I. What this experimental knowledge is. An inward and spiritual feeling of what we hear and believe, concerning Christ and His truths, whereby answerable impressions are made on our souls (Psalms 34:8; John 4:42).
1. The Scripture says of Christ that He is the way to the Father (John 14:6). Now the man who has tried many other ways and finds no access, at length comes by Christ and finds communion with God. This is experimental knowledge (Romans 5:1-2).
2. Christ’s blood purges the conscience, etc. (Hebrews 9:1-28). The experimental Christian knows that sin defiles the conscience and unfits him to serve God. At length he looks to God in Christ and throws his guilt into the sea of Christ’s blood; then the sting is taken from the conscience and the soul is enabled to serve God as a son with a father.
3. Christ is fully satisfying to the soul (Psalms 73:25; Habakkuk 3:17-18). We all know this by report, the Christian knows it by experience. Sometimes in the midst of all his enjoyment he says, “These are not my portion,” and when deprived of these he can encourage himself in God (1 Samuel 30:6; 1 Samuel 1:18).
4. Christ helps His people to bear afflictions and keeps them from sinking under them. The Christian sometimes tries to bear his burden alone and finds it too heavy for him. Then he goes to Christ and lays it on the great burden-bearer and is helped (Psalms 28:7; Isaiah 43:2; 2 Corinthians 8:9-10).
5. Christ is made unto us wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20). When the Christian leans to his own understanding he mistakes his way at noonday, but when he gives himself up to be led by Christ as a blind man, he is conducted in a way he knew not, and blesses the Lord who has given him counsel.
6. Christ is made unto us sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), Apart from Christ the Christian wrestles in vain and his graces lie dead; but when he renews the actings of faith in Christ, and flings down self-confidence, he becomes more than conqueror.
II. Confirmation of the point. Consider--
1. The Scripture testimonies concerning this.
(1) To learn religion in all the power and parts of it is to learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20-24).
(2) There needs no more to be known, for this comprehends all (1 Corinthians 2:2).
(3) It is the sum and substance of a believer’s life (Philippians 1:21). Yea, eternal life itself (John 17:3).
2. All true religion is our likeness to God. This is impossible without Christ, for He is the only channel of those influences which makes us partakers of the Divine nature (2 Corinthians 4:6).
3. Whatever religion a man seems to have that does not come and is maintained in this way, is but nature varnished over: for “he that honoureth not the Son,” etc.
III. The means. Faith closing with Christ.
1. Belief that Christ is such a one as He is held out in the gospel to be. It is the want of this that mars this knowledge (Isaiah 53:1).
2. Closure with Christ, to the very end that the soul may so know Him.
3. Union with Christ, so making way for this knowledge which is the happy result of union.
1. Religion is not a matter of mere speculation to satisfy curiosity, but a matter of practice. An unexperimental professor is like a foolish sick man who entertains those about him with fine discourses of the nature of medicines, but in the meantime is dying for the want of application of them.
2. The sweet of religion lies in the experience of it (Psalms 63:5; Psalms 19:11). Religion would not be the burden it is if we would by experience carry it beyond dry, sapless notions.
3. All the profit of religion lies in the experience of it (Matthew 7:22). Painted fire will never burn, and the sight of water will never wash.
4. The experimental Christian is the only one whose religion will bring him to heaven, which is experimental religion perfected. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Do you know Him
I. Let us pass by that crowd of outer-court worshippers who are content to live without knowing Christ. I do not mean the ungodly and profane, these are altogether strangers and foreigners, but--
1. Those who are content to know Christ’s historic life. These know the life of Christ, but not Christ the life.
2. Those who know and prize Christ’s doctrine, but do not know him. Addison tells us that the reason why so many books are printed with the portraits of their authors is that the interested readers want to know what appearance the author had. This is very natural Why then do you rest satisfied with Christ’s words without desiring to know Him who is the “Word”?
3. Those who are delighted with Christ’s example. That is well as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. His example will be better understood as we know Himself.
4. Those who are perfectly at ease with knowing Christ’s sacrifice. This is a blessed attainment, but we should not forget that He was the sacrifice and is greater than it.
5. Those who look for His coming and forget His presence.
6. Those who are satisfied with hearing or reading about Christ: but Paul did not say, “I have heard of Him whom I believe,” but “I know.”
7. Those who are persuaded to their ruin that they know Him but do not.
II. Let us draw curtain after curtain, which shall admit us to know more of Christ.
1. We know a person when we recognize him: and to this extent we know the queen, because we have seen her, and so by a Divine illumination we must know Christ who He is and what He was.
2. By a practical acquaintance with what He does. They tell me Christ is a cleanser, I know Him because He has washed me in His blood; that He is a deliverer, I know Him because He has set me free; that He is a sovereign, I know Him because He has subdued my enemies; that He is food, my spirit feeds on Him.
3. We know a man in a better sense when we are on speaking terms with him. I know a man not only so as to recognize him, and because I have dealt with him, but because we are speaking acquaintances. So we know Christ if we pray to Him.
4. But we know a person better when he invites us to his house; we go and go again, and the oftener we go the better we know him. Do you visit Christ’s banquetting house, and has He permitted you to enjoy the sweets of being one of His family?
5. And yet after frequent visits you may not know a man in the highest sense: you say to his wife, “Your husband never seems to suffer from depression, or to change.” “Ah,” she says, “you do not know him as I do.” That man has grown much in grace who has come to recognize his marriage union with his Lord. Now we have the intimacy of love and delight.
6. But a Christian may get nearer than this. The most loving wife may not perfectly know her husband, yet a Christian may grow to be perfectly identified with Christ. Looking at all this might not Christ well say now, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me.”
III. Consider what sort of knowledge this is.
1. If I know Him I shall have a very vivid sense of His personality. He will not be to me a myth, a vision, a spirit, but a real person. Then there must be a personal knowledge on my part, not a hearsay, second-hand knowledge.
2. It must be intelligent. I must know His nature, offices, works, and glory.
3. Affectionate. It was said of Garibaldi that he charmed all who got into his society. Being near Christ His love warms our hearts.
5. Exciting. The more we know the more we want to know.
IV. Seek, then, this knowledge.
1. It is worth having. Paul gave up everything for it.
2. There is nothing like this to fill you with courage. When Dr. Andrew Reed found some difficulty in founding one of his orphan asylums, he drew upon a piece of paper the cross, and then he said to himself, “What, despair in the face of the Cross;” and then he drew a ring round it and wrote, nil disperandum! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Uses of the knowledge of Christ
Paul’s acquaintance with Christ--
I. Reconciled him to the painful vicissitudes of outward circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).
II. Brought him help under the emergencies of special danger (2 Timothy 4:16-18).
III. Secured him support amidst the special inward trials of his personal life (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). (Dean Vaughan.)
Characteristics of the knowledge of Christ
The apostle aimed to know Him as being in Him. Such knowledge is inspired by the consciousness--not elaborated by the intellect. It rises up from within; is not gathered from without. It does not accumulate evidence to test the truth--it “has the witness” in itself. It needs not to repair to the cistern and draw--it has in itself “a well of water springing,” etc. It knows, because it feels; it ascertains, not because it studies, but because it enjoys union, and possesses the righteousness of God through faith. She that touched the tassel of His robe had a knowledge of Christ deeper and truer by far than the crowds that thronged about Him: for “virtue” had come out of Him, and she felt it in herself. Only this kind of knowledge possesses “the excellency,” for it is connected with justification, as was intimated by Isaiah; and it is “eternal life,” as declared by Jesus (Isaiah 53:11; John 17:3). The apostle could not set so high a value on mere external knowledge, or a mere acquaintance with the fact and dates of Christ’s career. For it is quite possible for a man to want the element of living experience, and yet be able to argue himself into the Messiahship of the Son of Mary; to gaze on His miracles and deduce from them a Divine commission without bowing to its authority; aye, and to linger by the Cross, and see in it a mysterious and complete expiation, without accepting the pardon and peace which the blood of the atonement secures. (Professor Eadie.)
The knowledge of Christ a personal knowledge
The knowledge about which the apostle speaks is a personal knowledge. It presupposes intellectual knowledge, but is something else. It is the knowledge of which we speak when we say of a man “I know him.” What do we mean when we say this? Do we not mean, I have seen him, observed him, conversed with him, interchanged thoughts with him, spent time with him, done things with him, have been admitted into his confidence, written to him, and heard from him? These things and such as these are what make up personal knowledge between man and man. We should never say, “I know such or such a great man of history--I know Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon”--merely because we have read of them, and could give an account of their exploits. We should not say this even of the great men of our own time, its statesmen, generals, or philosophers--no, not even if we had seen them in public, or heard them speak, or read their writings--unless also we had been admitted to their society, and had exchanged with them the confidences which a man gives his friend. Even thus is it with the knowledge of Christ. We have no right to say, “I know Christ,” merely because we have read of Him in Scripture, or because He has taught in our streets. We have no right to say so unless He has spoken to us, and we to Him. Unless we have access to His privacy, and can tell Him our secrets. Unless we can go in and out where He dwells, and talk with Him as a man talketh with his friend. Unless we have not only read in Scripture that He is wise and merciful, etc., but have also acted on that information, and found Him so for ourselves. Unless in temptation we have cried unto Him, and received strength; unless in trouble we have applied to Him and experienced a very present help. (Dean Vaughan.)
The natural desire of a Christian for the knowledge of his Saviour
Suppose yourself a man condemned to the lions in the Roman amphitheatre. A ponderous door is drawn up, and forth there rushes the monarch of the forest. You must slay him or be torn to pieces. You tremble; your joints are loosed; you are paralyzed with fear. But what is this? A great unknown leaps from the gazing multitude and confronts the monster. He quails not at the roaring of the devourer, but dashes on him till the lion slinks towards his den, dragging himself along in pain and fear. The hero lifts you up, smiles into your bloodless face, whispers comfort in your ear, and bids you be of good courage, for you are free. Do you not think that there would arise at once in your heart a desire to know your deliverer? As the guards conducted you into the open street, and you breathed the cool, fresh air, would not the first question, be, “Who was my deliverer, that I may fall at his feet and bless him?” You are not, however, informed, but instead of it you are led away to a noble mansion, where your wounds are healed with salve of rarest power. You are clothed in sumptuous apparel; you are made to sit down at a feast; you rest upon the softest down. The next morning you are attended by servants who guard you from evil and minister to your good. Day after day, week after week, your wants are supplied. I am sure that your curiosity would grow more and more intense. You would scarcely neglect an opportunity of asking the servants, “Tell me, who is my noble benefactor, for I must know him?” “Well, but” they would say, “is it not enough for you that you are delivered from the lion?” “Nay,” say you, “it is for that very reason that I pant to know him.” “Your wants are richly supplied--why are you vexed by curiosity as to the hand which reaches you the boon? If your garment is worn out, there is another. Long before hunger oppresses you, the table is well loaded. What more do you want?” But your reply is, “It is because I have no wants, that, therefore, my soul longs to know my generous friend.” Suppose that as you wake up one morning, you find lying upon your pillow a precious love token from your unknown friend, and engraved with a tender inscription. Your curiosity now knows no bounds. But you are informed that this wondrous being has not only done for you what you have seen, but that he was imprisoned and scourged for your sake, for he had a love to you so great, that death itself could not overcome it, you are informed that he is every moment occupied in your interests, because he has sworn by himself that where he is there you shall be; his honours you shall share, and of his happiness you shall be the crown. Why, methinks you would say, “Tell me, men and women, any of you who know him, who and what he is;” and if they said, “But it is enough for you to know that he loves you, and to have daily proofs of his goodness,” you would say, “No, these love tokens increase my thirst. If ye see him, tell him I am sick of love. The flagons which he sends me, and the love tokens which he gives me, they stay me for awhile with the assurance of his affection, but they only impel me onward with the more unconquerable desire that I may know him. I must know him; I cannot live without knowing him. His goodness makes me thirst, and pant, and faint, and even die, that I may know him.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The progressive knowledge of Christ
Did you ever visit the manufactory of splendid porcelain at Sevres? I have done so. If anybody should say to me, “Do you know the manufactory at Sevres?” I should say, “Yes, I do, and no, I do not. I know it, for I have seen the building; I have seen the rooms in which the articles are exhibited for sale, and I have seen the museum and model room; but I do not know the factory as I would like to know it, for I have not seen the process of manufacture, and have not been admitted into the workshops, as some are.” Suppose I had seen, however, the process of the moulding of the clay, and the laying on of the rich designs, if anybody should still say to me, “Do you know how they manufacture those wonderful articles?” I should very likely still be compelled to say, “No, I do not, because there are certain secrets, certain private rooms into which neither friend nor foe can be admitted, lest the process should be open to the world.” So, you see, I might say I knew, and yet might not half know; and when I half knew, still there would be so much left, that I might be compelled to say, “I do not know.” How many different ways there are of knowing a person--and even so there are all these different ways of knowing Christ; so that you may keep on all your lifetime, still wishing to get into another room, and another room, nearer and nearer to the great secret, still panting to “know Him.” Good Rutherford says, “I urge upon you a nearer communion with Christ, and a growing communion. There are curtains to be drawn by, in Christ, that we never shut, and new foldings in love with Him. I despair that ever I shall win to the far end of that love; there are so many plies in it. Therefore, dig deep, and set by as much time in the day for Him as you can, He will be won by labour.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
And the power of His resurrection.
The power of Christ’s resurrection
There are those who think it indicative of an unspiritual state of mind to lay stress on the physical resurrection of Christ. They tell us that the all-important matter is His resurrection in the hearts of His disciples. But Paul regarded it as a fact of transcendent importance. He and the other apostles regarded it as a power.
I. For inspiring faith in Christ as the son of God.
II. For our justification (Romans 4:25). The resurrection was a pledge that God had accepted the sacrifice.
III. For inspiring within us the hope of glory. Death is to the eye of sense a mystery, and the materialistic doctrine darkens what faint hope of immortality may be within us. But Christ’s resurrection “brought life and immortality to light.” He conquered death, and to believe that He is “the first fruits of them that slept,” is to receive power to break the tyranny of death (verse 21).
IV. To sanctify our nature. This is perhaps Paul’s leading idea. To identify ourselves with a risen Redeemer must exert a purifying effect on our souls (Colossians 3:1). (T. C. Finlayson)
The power of Christ’s resurrection
I. As seen in Christ himself (Ephesians 1:17-21).
1. In it Christ as man was invested with all the power and glory of the Godhead. “All power is given unto Me.”
2. When He returns it will be in the fulness of the resurrection glory.
II. In the justification of the believer.
1. Resurrection implies death, and to know Christ in His resurrection is to know that we died in His death as our surety (Romans 6:7)
2. As judicially one with Christ in His death, the believer is one with Him in His resurrection.
III. In the life of the believer.
1. We who were dead in trespasses and sins are quickened by it into life.
2. This life is sustained by a constant supply from the fountain head.
3. By this power we rise above the world and sit in heavenly places with Christ.
IV. Is the believer’s service.
1. Observe its acting in the earliest possessors of it.
2. Employ it in testifying to its power.
V. In the believer’s resurrection.
1. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of ours.
2. Ensures the triumph and glorification of the Church. (C. Graham.)
The power of Christ’s resurrection
I. In relation to sin.
1. The death of Christ, had the redemptive effort ended there, had sealed man’s doom forever; the resurrection made it vital, the spring of purifying and renewing for the world. From the ground the blood of Christ, like that of Abel, cries out against humanity. It is from heaven that Jesus preaches peace through His blood, and makes it a power to save.
2. The resurrection brought to man precisely the power he needed for victorious resistance to that by which his higher life was in process of being destroyed. The risen form threw glorious light on the flesh, as completing the incarnation. The body was redeemed by it from degradation, and consecrated as the Spirit’s organ and shrine forever.
3. When Christ had risen, men saw that the vileness, the curse, the stain, was the work of an alien and intrusive force which might be expelled, and in the might of that belief men for the first time rose in victory over those passions which had defiled the body.
II. In relation to sorrow.
1. The mountains of the world are great or as nothing according as we view them from a valley or from a star, so all the storms and crosses of life dwindle looked at from the height of “Jesus and the resurrection.”
2. The resurrection maintains the continuity of the life of the man of sorrows and the reigning king. So we need not shrink from our sorrows if we but bear in mind the glory that shall follow.
3. Nay, the men who first realized the power of the resurrection, “gloried in tribulations.” It made them one with Christ, which guaranteed the ultimate victory.
III. In relation to death.
1. We have little power of realizing the anguish with which the men of old peered into the unseen. This was the world of light, of life--that of shadows and ghosts. To the children of the resurrection it is exactly the reverse. The sorrow and gloom is of time, the light and joy are everlasting.
2. The resurrection wedded the two worlds. Who now dreads to live or to die? Because “living or dying we are the Lord’s.” (Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
The power of Christ’s resurrection
I. As a fact. That is our faith. Your philosophers who do not believe in miracle do not believe it possible, because they do not allow that God can interfere with, and is above the system He arranged. But we believe that God who made the world administers His own laws and interposes if He thinks fit. The power of the resurrection, proving the truth of Christianity as a whole, proves its exclusiveness as a system of Divine thought which is to constitute the religion of man.
II. As a doctrine. The fact enshrines a thought. Simply considered as a fact, having power over the reason, as a part of the evidence of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus is the same as that of Lazarus. But as a doctrine it is very different. “Jesus died,” according to the Scriptures, and according to the Scriptures “He rose again.” It is the fulfilment of a Divine purpose; and its power is an appeal to our spiritual nature, our conscience, and sense of guilt.
III. As a type. As Christ died and rose, we are to die to sin and live to God, “as those who are alive from the dead.”
IV. As a motive. Observe how these thoughts interweave. The resurrection as a fact operates upon the intellect and gives assurance of truth; as a doctrine it deepens the truth and touches consciences and expresses reconciliation with God; as a type, we rising from the dead and walking with Christ--that is the developed experience of the Christian man in the life of God. Christ was not glorified immediately. He lived for forty days a different life from His former one. So must we under the power of the resurrection. Christ is risen, therefore “Seek those things that are above.”
V. As a model (verse 21). Conclusion: These transcendental thoughts, so far from unfitting us for the sober duties of life, ennoble and beautify life. A servant girl may act on a principle which may bring her into harmony with the angels. You need not wait for Sunday to engage in Divine service. You have but to realize in the shop or the market the power of the resurrection. (T. Binney, D. D.)
The power of Christ’s resurrection
1. We need more and more to look at the facts of the Christian dispensation; the doctrines we are required to believe have their foundations in these facts. Our tendency is to treat Christian doctrines as if they were speculations.
2. The resurrection is an accomplished fact. It is sometimes attributed to Christ alone; sometimes to the Father; sometimes to the Spirit; so that it is brought before us as a blessed manifestation of the power of the redeeming God.
3. The power of the resurrection may signify--
(1) The power which effected it;
(2) the power of the fact itself, or--
(3) the power with which Christ was endowed at it, and these words may include all.
4. To know the power, etc., is--
(1) To recognize it as a reality.
(2) To comprehend and appreciate it in its relation with man’s redemption.
(3) To feel its force upon the life. The resurrection of Christ is--
I. An example of the almighty life-giving power of God. To know its power is to be conscious of the working of the same upon ourselves, quickening, renewing, enlightening, invigorating.
II. A confirmation forever of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. To know its power is to feel assured that the son of Mary is the Son of God. This is essential to our taking full advantage of His riches and resources.
III. The sign and seal of the truth of the gospel. To know its power is to see that truth sealed not by His blood simply, but by His hand in the newness of His glorified life. Why is it we do not declare that truth more constantly and zealously? Because of our unbelief. Those who cordially believe it are constantly repeating it.
IV. Adapted to strengthen our trust in him. To know its power is to feel our confidence strengthened in sorrow and death.
V. Calculated to awake within us the most glorious hopes. To know its power is to become the subjects by its influence of new and enlarged expectations, desires, aspirations and affections.
VI. Fitted to raise us into newness of life. To feel its power is to rise with Him and set our affections on things above. VII. Able to give courage in approaching suffering. To know its power is to feel strengthened to endure all the will of God. VIII. Suited to raise the believer above the fear of death. To know its power is to feel that it is a pledge of immortality. (S. Martin.)
The power of the resurrection
I. As the assurance of immorality (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:14, etc.).
II. As the triumph over six and the pledge of justification (Romans 4:24-25).
III. As asserting the dignity and enforcing the claims of the human body (1 Corinthians 6:13-15; Philippians 3:21).
IV. Thus stimulating the whole moral and spiritual being (Romans 6:4, etc.; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:12). (Bishop Lightfoot.)
I. What is intended by the power of Christ’s resurrection. The influence which that great event has upon the other parts of His mediatorial character and offices, connected with the safety and happiness of His people. This may be traced--
1. In the open and uncontroverted declaration of His Divine Sonship (Romans 1:4; Psalms 2:1-12; cf. Acts 13:32; Hebrews 1:3-5).
2. In its influence upon our justification (Romans 4:25).
3. In its lainly resolves it by the testimony, of his experience. It however requires great resolution and diligence in conquering our desires; hence it is an art which few study.
I. In regard to God, we may consider that equity exacts, gratitude requires, and reason dictates that we should be content; or that, in being discontented, we behave ourselves unbeseemingly and unworthily, are very unjust, ungrateful, and foolish towards Him.
1. The point of equity considered, according to the gospel rule, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”
2. That of gratitude; inasmuch as we have no right or title to anything; all we have coming from God’s pure bounty and designed for our good.
3. That of reason; because it is most reasonable to acquiesce in God’s choice of our estate, He being infinitely more wise than we are; loves us better than we love ourselves; and has a right to dispose of us as He pleases.
II. In regard to ourselves we may observe much reason for contentment.
1. As men and creatures, we are naturally indigent and impotent; have no just claim to anything, nor can maintain anything by our own power. Wherefore how little soever is allowed us no wrong is done and no reason to complain.
2. And on a moral account we have still less.
(1) As sinners we are obnoxious to wrath and should therefore complain of nothing.
(2) We are God’s servants and shall a mere servant, or slave, presume to choose his place, or determine his rank in the family? Is it not fit that these things should be left to the Master’s discretion and pleasure?
(3) Again, if we consider ourselves as the children of God by birth and nature, or by adoption and grace, how can we be discontented with anything?
III. If we consider our condition, be it what it may, we can have no reasonable ground for discontent.
1. Our state cannot if rightly considered and well managed be insupportable. The defect of some things is supplied by other enjoyments. If we think highly of some things no wonder our condition is unpleasant if we want them; and if we consider others mighty evils, if they come upon us we can hardly escape being displeased; but if we estimate all things according to the dictates of true reason, we shall find that neither the absence of the one nor the presence of the other is deplorable.
(1) Take poverty; that is, the absence of a few superfluous things which please our fancy rather than answer our need, and without which nature is easily satisfied.
(2) Take his case who has fallen from honour into contempt; that may be only a change in the opinion of giddy men, the breaking of a bubble, the changing of the wind.
(3) Take him who is slandered; is not every man subject to this? and the greatest and wisest most exposed to it? Or is thy reproach just? Then improve this dealing and make it wholesome.
(4) Take him who is disappointed and crossed in his undertakings. Why art thou disquieted on this score? Didst thou build much expectation on uncertainties? Didst thou not foresee a possibility that thy design might miscarry? and if so, why art thou not prepared to receive what happeneth?
(5) Take one who has met with unkindness and ingratitude from friends. Such misbehaviour, however, is more their calamity than ours. The loss of bad friends is no damage, but an advantage.
(6) Take him who mourns the death of friends. Can he, after all, lose his best friend? Neither is it loss which he laments but only separation for a short time. He is only gone as taking a little journey. But--
(7) It may perhaps displease us, that the course of this world does not go right, or according to our mind; that justice is not well dispensed, virtue not duly considered, industry not sufficiently rewarded; but favour, partiality, flattery, craft, and corruption, carry all before them. Yet why should this displease thee? Art thou guilty of contributing to it? then mend it thyself: if not, then bear it; for so it always hath been, and ever will be. Yet God is engaged competently to provide for us. God observeth this course of things, yet He permits it. But He has appointed a judgment hereafter.
2. As there is no condition here perfectly and purely good, so there is none so thoroughly bad, that it has not somewhat convenient and comfortable therein. Seldom or never all good things forsake a man at once, and in every state there is some compensation for evil. We should not pore over small inconveniences and overlook benefits. This hinders us reaping satisfaction in all other things.
3. Is our condition so extremely bad that it might not be worse? Surely not. God’s providence will not suffer it. There are succours always ready against extremities--our own wit and industry; the pity and help of others. When all is gone we may keep the inestimable blessing of a good conscience, have hope in God, enjoy His favour. Why, then, are we discontented.
4. Then look at the uses of adversity--the school of wisdom, the purifying furnace of the soul, God’s method of reclaiming sinners, the preparation for heaven. Who ever became great or wise or good without adversity.
5. Whatever our state it cannot be lasting. Hope lies at the bottom of the worst state that can be. “Take no thought for the morrow.” Mark the promises that none who hope in God shall be disappointed. And then death will end it all and heaven compensate for all earthly ills.
IV. Consider the world and the general state of men here.
1. Look on the world as generally managed by men. Art thou displeased that thou dost not prosper therein? If thou art wise thou wilt not grieve, for perhaps thou hast no capacity nor disposition. This world is for worldlings.
2. We are indeed very apt to look upward towards those few, who, in supposed advantages of life, seem to surpass us, and to repine at their fortune; but seldom do we cast down our eyes on those innumerable good people, who lie beneath us in all manner of accommodations; whereas if we would consider the case of most men, we should see abundant reason to be satisfied with our own.
3. If even we would take care diligently to compare our state with that of persons whom we are most apt to admire and envy, it would often afford matter of consolation and contentment to us.
4. It may induce us to be content, if we consider what commonly hath been the lot of good men in the world. Scarcely is there recorded in holy Scripture any person eminent for goodness, who did not taste deeply of wants and distresses--even our Lord. Have all these then, “of whom the world was not worthy,” undergone all sorts of inconvenience, being “destitute, afflicted, tormented;” and shall we disdain, or be sorry to be in such company?
V. Consider the nature of the duty itself.
1. It is the sovereign remedy for all poverty and suffering; removing them or allaying the mischief they can do us.
2. Its happiness is better than any arising from secular prosperity. Satisfaction springing from rational content, virtuous disposition, is more noble, solid, and durable than any fruition of worldly goods can afford.
3. Contentment is the best way of bettering our condition, disposing us to employ advantages as they occur, and securing God’s blessing (Isaac Barrow, D. D.)
The best lesson
:--The world is a school, and we have to learn our lessons in it. The best lesson we can learn is contentment.
I. Why it is the best lesson.
1. Because it makes those who learn it happy. Nothing in the world can make a discontented person happy. There was a boy once who only wanted a marble; when he had the marble, he only wanted a ball; when he had a ball, he only wanted a top; when he had a top, he only wanted a kite: and when he had marble, ball, top, and kite, he was not happy. There was a man once who only wanted money; when he had money, he only wanted a house; when he had a house, he only wanted land; when he had land, he only wanted a coach; but when he had money, house, land, and coach, he wanted more than ever. I remember, when I was a boy, reading a fable about a mouse that went to a spring with a sieve to carry some water in it. He dipped the sieve in the water, but, of course, as soon as he raised it up the water all ran through. He tried it over and over again, but still no water would stay in the sieve. The poor mouse hadn’t sense enough to know where the trouble was. He never thought about the holes in the sieve. The fable said that while the mouse was still trying, in vain, to get some water in the sieve to carry home, there came a little bird and perched on a branch of the tree that grew near the spring. He saw the trouble the poor mouse was in, and kindly sung out a little advice to him in these simple words:
“Stop it with moss, and daub it with clay, and then you may carry it all away.”
Trying to make a discontented person happy is like trying to fill a sieve with water. However much you pour into it, it all runs out just as fast as you pour it in. If you want to fill the sieve, you must stop the holes up. Then it will be easy enough to fill it. Just so it is with trying to make discontented people happy. It is impossible to make them happy while they are discontented. You must stop up the holes; you must take away their discontent, and then it is very easy to make them happy. If we were in Paradise, as Adam and Eve were, we should not be happy unless we learned to be content. Nay, if we were in heaven even, as Satan and the fallen angels once were, we should be unhappy without contentment. It was because Paul had learned this lesson that he could be happy, and sing for joy, when he was in a dungeon, and his back was all bleeding from the cruel stripes laid upon it.
2. Because it makes those who learn it useful. When people or things are content to do or be what God made them for, they are useful: when they are not content with this, they do harm. God made the sun to shine; the sun is content to do just what God made it for, and so it is very useful. God made the little brooks to flow through the meadows, giving drink to the cattle, and watering the grass and the roots of the trees, so as to make them green, and help them to grow. While they do this they are very useful. But suppose they should stop flowing, and spread themselves over the fields, they would do a great deal of harm. God made our hearts to keep beating, and sending the blood all over our bodies. While they are content to do this, they are very useful Let them only stop beating, and we should die.
II. Why we should learn it.
1. Because God puts us where we are. God puts all things in the places where they are. The sun and moon and stars in the sky, the birds in the air, the fish in the sea, the trees in the woods, the grass in the fields, the stones and metals in the earth. He knows best where to put things. When people try to change what God has done, because they think they can arrange things better, they always make a mistake.
2. Because God wants us to learn it. This we know
(1) from what He has said (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5).
(2) From what He has done. He has filled the world with examples of contentment. All things that God has made are content to be where He has put them, except the children of Adam. God has done more for us than for any other of His creatures. We ought to be the most contented of all, and yet we are generally the most discontented. The fish are content with the water; the birds are content with the air. The eagle, as he soars to the sun, is content with his position; and so is the worm that crawls in its slime, or the blind mole that digs its way in darkness through the earth. All the trees of the forest are content to grow where God put them. The lily of the valley is content with its lowly place, and so is the little flower that blooms unnoticed on the side of the bleak mountain. Wherever you look you may see examples of contentment. Only think of the grass. It is spread all over the earth. It is mowed down continually; it is trodden on and trampled under foot all the time; and yet it always has a bright, cheerful, contented look. It is a beautiful image of contentment.
3. Because Jesus learned and practised it. It must have been very hard for Jesus to be content with the way in which He lived in this world, because it was so totally different from what He had been accustomed to before He came into it. A bird that has been hatched and brought up in a cage may be contented with its position, and live happily in its little wire prison. The reason is that it has never known anything better. But take a bird that has been accustomed to its liberty in the open air, and shut it up in a small cage. It cannot be contented there. It will strike its wings against the cage, and stretch its neck through the wires, and show in this way how it longs for the free air of heaven again. Just so a person who was born and brought up in a garret or cellar, and who has never known anything better, may manage to be content there. But one who has lived in a beautiful palace for many years would find it very hard to live in a damp, dark cellar, among thieves and beggars. But Jesus lived in heaven before He came here. There He had everything that He wanted. (R. Newton, D. D.)
The condition of contentment
To be contented is to be contained, to be within limits. Whatever is within limits is likely to be quiet. A walled garden is one of the quietest places in the world; its high walls are a sign of contentment; within them are so many attractions and objects of delight; the world is shut out, and through the great gates one can look out upon it with all the affectionateness of distance and all the enchantment borrowed therefrom. An enclosed garden is a calm, quiet place, place in which to be content. So, the soul of man, being as it were in an enclosed garden, man’s spirit being within limits, is thus shut into a calm, quiet, sunny content. Now there are limits which a man need not trouble himself much about making; the walls of circumstances will build themselves about you. But if you are a very wise man you will give up scraping when you have got enough, and put yourself within limits. Just as an enclosed garden becomes a place of peace and delight, so the spirit should have limits round it and let those limits become grounds of quietness, reasons of peace and content, a content which leads a man to be easy, within these walls to be so satisfied as not to pine, fret, complain, fuss, kick, or go to the gates and scream for deliverance, asking passers by, “Did you ever see such a woe as mine.” The contented man limited and bound by circumstances, makes those very limits the cure of his restlessness. The warrior and conqueror is not content, but seeks to add kingdom to kingdom. The miser is not content with much, but seeks to make more money. It is not whether your garden is one rood or three acres, but what you should remember is that there is a wall, that so living within bounds, be they large or small, you may possess a quiet spirit and a happy heart. Things would then serve you, instead of your being the miserable servant of circumstances. You would then make life bring tribute to its King, instead of doing as people do, hire themselves out as servants to their goods, as waiters upon their chattels; allowing things to ride over them instead of their being masterful over things. A man should be within bounds, but within those bounds there is room for pleasure and service. (G. Dawson, M. A.)
is not one of the distinct and separate sensibilities of the heart, standing by itself and to be examined and understood alone, so much as it is a general sensibilility which mingles with and tempers all others--which spreads its cast and character over the whole. It is not the rock on the landscape nor the rill--it is not the distant mountain of fading blue which loses its head in the heavens--it is not the tree, or the flower, or the contrast between light and shade, or that indescribable something which seems to give it life, as if the grass grew, and the flowers breathed, and the winds were singing some song of pleasure or sighing some mournful requiem. It is none of these. These can be more clearly described. But it is rather that softness, that mellow light, which lies over the whole--which sleeps on rock, and river, and tree, on the bosom of the distant mountain, and on the bosom of the humble violet that blushes in the sweetness of its lowly valley. Content is a general cast of sensibility which lies all over the heart. (L. S. Spencer, D. D.)
Contentment the outcome of a right view of circumstances
“How dismal you look,” said a bucket to his companion as they were going to the well. “Ah!” replied the other, “I was reflecting on the uselessness of our being filled; for, let us go away ever so full, we always come back empty.” “Dear me! how strange to look at it in this way,” said the bucket. “Now I enjoy the thought, that however empty we come, we always go back full. Only look at it in that light, and you will be as cheerful as I am.”
St. Paul’s contentment
If his trials were clouds upon his heavens, his contentment was the deep sunlight in which they bathed; and, just like the clouds of an evening sky, they made the heavens more beautiful than if no clouds were there. (L. S. Spencer, D. D.)
Contentment does not always imply pleasure
I may be content; that is to say, I may have a calm patience in waiting over night at a miserable inn where have congregated smugglers, and drunken sailors, and the rift-raff of a bad neighbourhood. If, after fighting for my life in my little yacht, I had at last been driven up on shore, myself a wreck, and had crawled out of the water, and staggered to the light, and gone in there, would it not be proper for me to say: “I thank God for my deliverance and for my safety”? And yet every element is distasteful to me. The air reeks with bad liquor and worse oaths; and the company are obscene, and vile, and violent; the conditions are detestable; but that have escaped from the sea can say: “I am content to be here. Not that I am pleased at being there particularly; but as compared with something else it is tolerable. I have learned how to bear this.” How did I learn it? I learned it by being swirled around for an hour in the whirlpools of the sea. I learned it by being thumped and pounded by the waves. I learned it by being chilled to the very marrow. So I learned to be patient with the surroundings in the midst of which I found myself. But it does not follow that a man is obliged to say: “I like these circumstances,” in order to be content with them. (H. W. Beecher.)
Contentment looks at what is left
Am I fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators who have taken all from me? What now? Let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends So pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse: and unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance, and a cheerful spirit, and a good conscience; they have still left me the providence of God, and all the promises of the gospel, and my religion, and the hopes of heaven, and my charter to them too; and still I sleep and digest, I eat and drink, I read and meditate, I can walk in my neighbours’ pleasant fields and see the varieties of natural beauties, and delight in all which God delights--that is, in virtue and wisdom; in the whole creation, and in God Himself. And he who hath so many causes of joy, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down on his little handful of thorns. (Jeremy Taylor.)
Contentment not found in an exchange of places
In a room, there was a gold fish, in a glass globe, in water; and there was a canary up in a cage by the window. It was a very hot day; and the fish in the globe, and the canary in the cage began talking (of course you know in fables anything can talk). The fish said, “I wish I could sing like that canary. I should like to be up there in that cage.” And the canary, who was uncommonly hot, said, “Oh, how nice to be down in that cool water where the fish is!” Suddenly a voice said, “Canary, go down to the water! Fish go up into the cage!” Immediately they both exchanged places. Weren’t they happy? Wasn’t the fish happy up in the cage? Wasn’t thee canary happy down in the cool water? How long did their happiness last, do you think? Ah! God had given to the canary and the fish “according to their ability.” He had given each a place suited to their natures. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Bad might be worse
For every bad there might be a worse; and when a man breaks his leg, let him be thankful it was not his neck. (Bishop Hall.)
Contentment not inconsistent with discontent
No doctrine of contentment must be so taught as to lessen a man’s labours in the removal of his miseries and the improvement of his state. Contentment is of the spirit, and should be no discouragement to labour. If I have only one coat to my back, am I to sit down and say, “I am perfectly content”? No. I must be content with one whilst I have but one, but my contentment must not hinder me from trying to see my way to get two. Cinderella, while among the ashes, was content in spirit, though she strove to get out of the nastiness of the ashes. But I see people sometimes who are so friendly with their miserable circumstances that they never want to mend them--men at home with dirt and women with slovenliness, until they come to like it. It is true that if you have got to live with an ugly person you must try to settle down; but not with dirt, disease, ignorance, poverty. Under no plea of content should a man refuse the lawful means of enlargement and betterment. If you took possession of a new garden and allowed it to remain always full of weeds, and then if you took me round and said, “I have been here so many years; my garden is always full of weeds, but I am perfectly content”--my duty then would be to worry you, and try to make you discontented. A man who is content in the midst of a weedy garden is ingloriously content; he lets his circumstances degrade him. No wise contentment bears for one moment longer than is necessary a removable misery. It is our duty rather to unite with the utmost care for the healing of the wound, the patientest bearing of the suffering from the wound. He who, having a wound, did not seek to cure it, would degrade himself; but he who, while patiently bearing the necessary wound, seeks to cure it, is a contented man. (G. Dawson, M. A.)
Content not found in circumstances
I knew a man that had both health and riches, and several houses all beautiful and ready finished; and would often trouble himself and family to be removing from one house to another; and being asked by a friend why, replied: “It was to find content in some one of them.” But his friend, knowing his temper, told him if he would find content in any of his houses he must leave himself behind him; for content will never dwell but in a meek and quiet soul. And this may appear from the beatitude--“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth;” not that the meek shall not also obtain mercy, and see God, and be comforted, and at last obtain the kingdom of heaven; but in the meantime he, and he only, possesses the earth, as he travels towards that kingdom, by being humble and cheerful and content with what his good God has allotted him. (Izaak Walton.)
The art of divine contentment
I. I begin with the first: the scholar and his proficiency--“I have learned.” Out of which I shall, by the by, observe two things by way of paraphrase.
1. The apostle doth not say, “I have heard that in every estate I should be content,” but “I have learned.” It is one thing to hear and another thing to learn, as it is one thing to eat and another thing to concoct. St. Paul was a practitioner. Christians hear much, but, it is to be feared, learn little. There are two things which keep us from learning.
1. Slighting what we hear. Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce worth learning?
2. Forgetting what we hear.
II. This word, “I have learned,” is a word imports difficulty; it shows how hardly the apostle came by contentment of mind; it was not bred in nature. The business of religion is not so facile as most do imagine. There are two pregnant reasons why there must be so much study and exercitation.
1. Because spiritual things are against nature.
2. Because spiritual things are above nature.
III. I come to the main thing, the lesson itself--“In whatsover state I am, therewith to be content.”
1. It is a hard lesson. The angels in heaven have not learned it; they were not contented. They kept not their estate because they were not contented with their estate. Our first parents, clothed with the white robe of innocency in paradise, had not learned to be content; they had aspiring hearts. O then, if this lesson was so hard to learn in innocency, how hard shall we find it who are clogged with corruption?
2. It is of universal extent; it concerns all.
(1) It concerns rich men. Rich men have their discontents as well as others!
(2) The doctrine of contentment concerns poor men.
It is much when poverty hath clipped our wings then to be content, but, though hard, it is excellent; and the apostle here had “learned in every state to be content.” A contented spirit is like a watch: though you carry it up and down with you, yet the spring of it is not shaken nor the wheels out of order, but the watch keeps its perfect motion. So it was with St. Paul. Though God carried him into various conditions, yet he was not lift up with the one, nor cast down with the other; the spring of his heart was not broken, the wheels of his affections were not disordered, but kept their constant motion towards heaven; still content. The ship that lies at anchor may sometimes be a little shaken, but never sinks; flesh and blood may have its fears and disquiets, but grace doth check them; a Christian, having cast anchor in heaven, his heart never sinks; a gracious spirit is a contented spirit.
IV. The resolving of some questions. For the illustration of this doctrine I shall propound these questions.
1. Whether a Christian may not be sensible of his condition, and yet be contented? Yes; for else he is not a saint, but a stoic.
2. Whether a Christian may not lay open his grievances to God, and yet be contented?
3. What is it properly that contentment doth exclude? There are three things which contentment doth banish out of its diocese, and which can by no means consist with it.
(1) It excludes a vexatious repining; this is properly the daughter of discontent. Murmuring is nothing else but the scum which boils off from a discontented heart.
(2) It excludes an uneven discomposure: when a man saith, “I am in such straits that I know not how to evolve or get out, I shall be undone;” when his head and heart are so taken up that he is not fit to pray or meditate.
(3) It excludes a childish despondency; and this is usually consequent upon the other. A despondent spirit is a discontented spirit.
V. Showing the nature of contentment. The nature of this will appear more clear in these three aphorisms.
1. Contentment is a divine thing; it becomes ours, not by acquisition, but infusion; it is a slip taken off from the tree of life, and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul; it is a fruit that grows not in the garden of philosophy, but is of a heavenly birth; it is therefore very observable that contentment is joined with godliness, and goes in equipage; “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
2. Contentment is an intrinsical thing; it lies within a man; not in the bark, but the root. Contentment hath both its fountain and stream in the soul. The beam hath not its light from the air; the beams of comfort which a contented man hath do not arise from foreign comforts, but from within.
3. Contentment is a habitual thing; it shines with a fixed light in the firmament of the soul. Contentment doth not appear only now and then, as some stars which are seen but seldom; it is a settled temper of the heart. It is not casual, but constant. Aristotle, in his rhetoric, distinguisheth between colours in the face that arise from passion and those which arise from complexion; the pale face may look pale when it blusheth, but this is only a passion. He is said properly to be ruddy and sanguine who is constantly so; it is his complexion. He is not a contented man who is so upon an occasion, and perhaps when he is pleased, but who is so constantly; it is the habit and complexion of his soul.
VI. Reasons pressing to holy contentment.
1. The first is God’s precept. It is charged upon us as a duty: “Be content with such things as you have.”
2. The second reason enforcing contentment is God’s promise, for He hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Here God hath engaged Himself under hand and seal for our necessary provisions. True faith will take God’s single bond without calling for witnesses.
3. Be content by virtue of a decree. Not chance or fortune, as the purblind heathens imagined; no, it is the wise God that hath by His providence fixed me in this orb. We stand oft in our own light; if we should sort or parcel out our own comforts, we should hit upon the wrong. Is it not well for the child that the parent doth choose for it? were it left to itself, it would perhaps choose a knife to cut its own finger. A man in a paroxysm calls for wine, which, if he had it, were little better than poison; it is well for the patient that he is at the physician’s appointment. God sees, in His infinite wisdom, the same condition is not convenient for all; that which is good for one may be bad for another; one season of weather will not serve all men’s occasions--one needs sunshine, another rain; one condition of life will not fit every man no more than one suit of apparel will fit everybody; prosperity is not fit for all, nor yet adversity.
VII. Showing how a Christian may make his life comfortable. It shows how a Christian may come to lead a comfortable life, even a heaven upon earth, be the times what they will, by Christian contentment. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. Let a man have the affluence and confluence of worldly comforts, a drop or two of discontent will imbitter and poison all contentation is as necessary to keep the life comfortable as oil is necessary to keep the lamp burning; the clouds of discontent do often drop the showers of tears. Why dost thou complain of thy troubles. It is not trouble that troubles, but discontent; it is not the water without the ship, but the water that gets within the leak, which drowns it; it is not outward affliction that can make the life of a Christian sad; a contented mind would sail above these waters, but when there’s a leak of discontent open, and trouble gets into the heart, then it is disquieted and sinks. Do therefore as the mariners, pump the water out and stop the spiritual leak in thy soul, and no trouble can hurt thee.
VIII. A check to the discontented Christian. Every man is complaining that his estate is no better, though he seldom complains that his heart is no better. How is it that no man is contented? Very few Christians have learned St. Paul’s lesson. Neither poor nor rich know how to be content; they can learn anything but this.
1. If men are poor, they learn to be envious; they malign those that are above them. Another’s prosperity is an eyesore.
2. If men are rich, they learn to be covetous. God will supply our wants, but must He satisfy our lusts too? Many are discontented for a very trifle; another hath a better dress, a richer jewel, a newer fashion. Nero, not content with his empire, was troubled that the musician had more skill in playing than he.
IX. A suasive to contentment. It exhorts us to labour far contentation; this is that which doth beautify and bespangle a Christian, and as a spiritual embroidery doth set him off in the eyes of the world. God is pleased sometimes to bring His children very low and cut them short in their estate; it fares with them as with that widow who had nothing in her house “save a pot of oil”: but be content.
1. God hath taken away your estate, but not your portion. Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her.
2. Perhaps, if thy estate had not been lost, thy soul had been lost; outward comforts do often quench inward heat. God can bestow a jewel upon us, but we fall so in love with it, that we forget Him that gave it. What pity is it that we should commit idolatry with the creature! Be content. If God dam up our outward comforts, it is that the stream of our love may run faster another way.
3. If your estate be small, yet God can bless a little. It is not how much money we have, but how much blessing.
4. You did never so thrive in your spiritual trade; your heart was never so low as since your condition was low; you were never so poor in spirit, never so rich in faith. You did never run the ways of God’s commandments so fast as since some of your golden weights were taken off.
5. Be your losses what they will in this kind, remember in every loss there is only a suffering, but in every discontent there is a sin, and one sin is worse than a thousand sufferings. The sixth apology that discontent makes is disrespect in the world. I have not that esteem from men as is suitable to my quality and grace. And doth this trouble? Consider--The world is an unequal judge; as it is full of change, so of partiality. Discontent arising from disrespect savours too much of pride; an humble Christian hath a lower opinion of himself than others can have of him. The next apology is, I meet with very great sufferings for the truth. Your sufferings are not so great as your sins. Put these two in the balance and see which weighs heaviest; where sin lies heavy, sufferings lie light. The next apology is the prosperity of the wicked.
Well, be contented; for remember--
1. These are not the only things, nor the best things; they are mercies without the pale.
2. To see the wicked flourish is matter rather of pity than envy; it is all the heaven they must have. “Woe to ye that are rich, for ye have received your consolation.” The next apology that discontent makes is lowness of parts and gifts. I cannot (saith the Christian) discourse with that fluency, nor pray with that elegancy, as others. Grace is beyond gifts. Thou comparest thy grace with another’s gifts, there is a vast difference. Grace without gifts is infinitely better than gifts without grace. The twelfth apology that discontent makes for itself is this, It is not my trouble that troubles me, but it is my sins that do disquiet and discontent me. Be sure it be so. Do not prevaricate with God and thy own soul. In true mourning for sin when the present suffering is removed, yet the sorrow is not removed. But suppose the apology be real, that sin is the ground of your discontent; yet, I answer, a man’s disquiet about sin may be beyond its bounds in these three cases.
1. When it is disheartening, that is, when it sets up sin above mercy.
2. When sorrow is indisposing it untunes the heart for prayer, meditation, holy conference: it cloisters up the soul. This is not sorrow, but rather sullenness, and doth render a man not so much penitential as cynical.
3. When it is out of season. I see no reason why a Christian should be discontented, unless for his discontent.
X. Divine motives to contentment. The first argument to contentation.
1. Consider the excellency of it. Contentment is a flower that doth not grow in every garden; it teacheth a man how in the midst of want to abound. Now there are in species these seven rare excellencies in contentment.
(1) A contented Christian carries heaven about him, for what is heaven but that sweet repose and full contentment that the soul shall have in God? In contentment there is the first fruits of heaven. The sails of a mill move with the wind, but the mill itself stands still, an emblem of contentment; when our outward estate moves with the wind of providence, yet the heart is settled through holy contentment.
2. Whatever is defective in the creature is made up in contentment. Wicked men are often disquieted in the enjoyment of all things; the contented Christian is well in the want of all things. He is poor in purse, but rich in promise.
3. Contentment makes a man in tune to serve God; it oils the wheels of the soul and makes it more agile and nimble; it composeth the heart and makes it fit for prayer, meditation, etc. How can he that is in a passion of grief or discontent “attend upon the Lord without distraction?” Contentment doth prepare and tune the heart.
4. Contentment is the spiritual arch or pillar of the soul; it fits a man to bear burdens; he whose heart is ready to sink under the least sin, by virtue of this hath a spirit invincible under sufferings. The contented Christian is like Samson that carried away the gates of the city upon his back. He can go away with his cross cheerfully, and makes nothing of it.
5. Contentment prevents many sins and temptations. It prevents many sins. In particular there are two sins which contentation prevents.
(2) It prevents murmuring.
Contentment prevents many temptations; discontent is a devil that is always tempting. It puts a man upon indirect means. He that is poor and discontented will attempt anything; he will go to the devil for riches. Satan takes great advantage of our discontent; he loves to fish in these troubled waters.
6. Contentment sweetens every condition. Hath God taken away my comforts from me? It is well, the Comforter still abides. Thus contentment, as a honeycomb, drops sweetness into every condition. Contentation is full of consolation.
7. Contentment hath this excellency. It is the best commentator upon providence; it makes a fair interpretation of all God’s dealings. The argument to contentation is, Consider the evil of discontent. Malcontent hath a mixture of grief and anger in it, and both these must needs raise a storm in the soul. Have you not seen the posture of a sick man? Sometimes he will sit up on his bed, by and by he will lie down, and when he is down he is not quiet; first he turns on the one side and then on the other; he is restless. This is just the emblem of a discontented spirit. Evil
1. The sordidness of it is worthy of a Christian.
(1) It is unworthy of his profession.
(2) It is unworthy of the relation we stand in to God. Evil
2. Consider the sinfulness of it, which appears in three things--the causes, the concomitants, the consequences of it.
(1) It is sinful in the causes, such as pride. The second cause of discontent is envy, which Augustine calls the sin of the devil. The third cause is covetousness. This is a radical sin. The fourth cause of discontent is jealousy, which is sometimes occasioned through melancholy and sometimes misapprehension. The fifth cause of discontent is distrust, which is a great degree of Atheism,
(2) Discontent is joined with a sullen melancholy. Cheerfulness credits religion. How can the discontented person be cheerful?
(3) It is sinful in its consequences, which are these.
(a) It makes a man very unlike the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is a meek Spirit.
(b) It makes a man like the devil; the devil, being swelled with the poison of envy and malice, is never content; just so is the malcontent.
(c) Discontent disjoints the soul; it untunes the heart for duty.
(d) Discontent sometimes unfits for the very use of reason. Jonah, in a passion of discontent, spake no better than blasphemy and nonsense: “I do well to be angry even unto death.” This humour doth even suspend the very acts of reason.
(e) Discontent does not only disquiet a man’s self, but those who are near him. This evil spirit troubles families, parishes, etc.
Evil 3. Consider the simplicity of it. I may say, as the Psalmist, “surely they are disquieted in vain,” which appears thus--
(1) Is it not a vain, simple thing to be troubled at the loss of that which is in its own nature perishing and changeable?
(2) Discontent is a heart breaking: “by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” It takes away the comfort of life.
(3) Discontent does not ease us of our burden, but it makes the cross heavier. A contented spirit goes cheerfully under its affliction.
(4) Discontent spins out our troubles the longer. The argument to contentation is this, Why is not a man content with the competency which he hath? Perhaps if he had more he would be less content. The world is such that the more we have the more we crave; it cannot fill the heart of man. When the fire burns, how do you quench it? Not by putting oil on the flame, or laying on more wood, but by withdrawing the fuel. The argument to contentation is the shortness of life. It is “but a vapour.” The argument to contentation is, Consider seriously the nature of a prosperous condition. There are in a prosperous estate three things.
1. More trouble.
2. In a prosperous condition there is more danger.
3. A prosperous condition hath in it a greater reckoning; every man must be responsible for his talents.
The argument to contentation is the example of those who have been eminent for contentation. Examples are usually more forcible than precepts. Abraham being called out to hot service, and such as was against flesh and blood, was content. God bid him offer up his son Isaac. The argument to contentation is this, To have a competency and to want contentment is a great judgment.
XI. Three things inserted by way of caution. In the next place I come to lay down some necessary cautions. Though I say a man should be content in every estate, yet there are three estates in which he must not be contented.
1. He must not be contented in a natural estate; here we must learn not to be content.
2. Though, in regard to externals, a man should be in every estate content, yet he must net, be content in such a condition wherein God is apparently dishonoured.
3. The third caution is, though in every condition we must be content, yet we are not to content ourselves with a little grace. Grace is the best blessing. Though we should be contented with a competency of estate, yet not with a competency of grace.
XII. Showing how a Christian may know whether he hath learned this divine art.
1. A contented spirit is a silent spirit. He hath not one word to say against God: “I was dumb and silent, because thou didst it.” Contentment silenceth all dispute: “He sitteth alone and keepeth silence.”
2. A contented spirit is a cheerful spirit. The Greeks call it euthema. Contentment is something more than patience; for patience denotes only submission, contentment denotes cheerfulness.
3. A contented spirit is a thankful spirit. This is a degree above the other; “in everything giving thanks.”
4. He that is content no condition comes amiss to him; so it is in the text, “in whatever state I am.” He could carry a greater sail or lesser. Thus a contented Christian knows how to turn himself to any condition.
5. He that is contented with his condition, to rid himself out of trouble, will not turn himself into sin.
XIII. Containing a Christian directory, or rules about contentment. And here I shall lay down some rules for holy contentment.
Rule 1. Advance faith. All our disquiets do issue immediately from unbelief. It is this that raiseth the storm of discontent in the heart. O set faith a work! How doth faith work contentment?
(1) Faith shows the soul that whatever its trials are, yet it is from the hand of a father.
(2) Faith sucks the honey of contentment out of the hive of promise.
Rule 2. Labour for assurance. O let us get the interest cleared between God and our souls!
Rule 3. Get an humble spirit. The humble man is the contented man. If his estate be low, his heart is lower than his estate, therefore be content.
Rule 4. Keep a clear conscience. Contentment is the manna that is laid up in the ark of a good conscience.
Rule 5. Learn to deny yourselves. Look well to your affections; bridle them in.
(1) Mortify your desires.
(2) Moderate your delights. Set not your heart too much upon any creature. What we over love, we shall over grieve.
Rule 6. Get much of heaven into your heart. Spiritual things satisfy. The more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us.
Rule 7. Look not so much on the dark side of your condition as on the light.
Rule 8. Consider in what a posture we stand here in the world.
(1) We are in a military condition; we are soldiers. Now a soldier is content with anything.
(2) We are in a mendicant condition; we are beggars.
Rule 9. Let not your hope depend upon these Outward things.
Rule 10. Let us often compare our condition. Make this five-fold comparison.
(1) Let us compare our condition and our desert together.
(2) Let us compare our condition with others, and this will make us content.
(3) Let us compare our condition with Christ’s upon earth.
(4) Let us compare our condition with what it was once, and this will make us content.
(5) Let us compare our condition with what it shall be shortly.
Rule 11. Get fancy regulated. It is the fancy which raiseth the price of things above their real worth.
Rule 12. Consider how little will suffice nature. The body is but a small continent, and is easily recruited.
Rule 13. Believe the present condition is best for us. Flesh and blood is not a competent judge.
Rule 14. Meditate much on the glory which shall be revealed.
XIV. Of consolation to the contented Christian. To a contented Christian I shall say for a farewell--God is exceedingly taken with such a frame of heart. (T. Watson.)
The blessedness of contentment
The habit of looking on the best side of every event is better than £1,000 a year. (S. Johnson, LL. D.)
Sources of contentment
Four of us were one day climbing together a beautiful hill in Switzerland, and when we reached a bend in the road, we stopped to rest, and to enjoy the widespread prospect. “How charming is this clear fresh air, how lovely that green valley, and how graceful is that silver river winding all along!” But suddenly regarding my companions I noticed that not one of the three enjoyed the view at all. “The fact is,” said the first, “I have had no pleasure in my walk; I have a thorn in my foot.” And so is our passage through life hindered in enjoyment by one troubling sin, a conscience ill at ease, that makes each step a lame one. The next traveller was gazing, it is true, at the prospect, but not with pure enjoyment, for he said: “How I wish that house down there were mine! “He, too, lost the true delight of looking at fine scenery, being wholly absorbed in the wish for something that never could be his. As for my third companion, he seemed less happy even than the others, saying, as he looked into the sky with a face of anxious foreboding: “I’m afraid it’s going to rain.” Let us not mar the prospects of happiness by a halting walk, a greedy wish, or by undue fear of that evil which we cannot prevent. (Sunday at Home.)
Contentment is rare
Suppose I could have these faces gathered and brought to me, and could hold them thus, and should ask, “Whose image and superscription is stamped on this face?” “Care marked this face,” would be the (frequent) answer. “Who marked this one?” “Fretfulness.” “And this?” “Selfishness?” “This?” “Suffering stamped this.” “What this?” “Lust! Lust!” “And this?” “Self-will.” “And who stamped this face?” I should ask of one--a rare and sweet one. “This I why, where did you get it? Whose face is this? How beautiful! It is marked by the sweet peace of a contented spirit.” I never saw more than a dozen of these in my life. (H. W. Beecher.)
A minister of the gospel, passing one day near a cottage, was attracted to its door by the sound of a loud and earnest voice. It was a bare and lonely dwelling; the home of a man who was childless, old, and poor. Drawing near this mean and humble cabin, the stranger at length made out these words, “This, and Jesus Christ too! this, and Jesus Christ too!” as they were repeated over and over in tones of deep emotion; of wonder, gratitude, and praise. His curiosity was roused to see what that could be which called forth such fervent, overflowing thanks. Stealing near, he looked in at the patched and broken window; and there in the form of a grey, bent, worn-out son of toil, at a rude table, with hands raised to God, and his eyes fixed on some crusts of bread and a cup of water, sat piety, peace, humility, contentment, exclaiming, “This, and Jesus Christ tool” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Contentment: a parable
A violet shed its modest beauties at the turfy foot of an old oak. It lived there many days during the kind summer in obscurity. The winds and the rains came add fell, but they did not hurt the violet. Storms often crashed among the boughs of the oak. And one day said the oak, “Are you not ashamed of yourself when you look up at me, you little thing down there, when you see how large I am, and how small you are; when you see how small a space you fill, and how widely my branches are spread?” “No,” said the violet, “we are both where God has placed us; and God has given us both something. He has given to you strength, to me sweetness; and I offer Him back my fragrance, and I am thankful.” “Sweetness is all nonsense,” said the oak; “a few days--a month at most--where and what will you be? You will die, and the place of your grave will not lift the ground higher by a blade of grass. 1 hope to stand some time--ages, perhaps--and then, when I am cut down, I shall be a ship to bear men over the sea, or a coffin to hold the dust of a prince. What is your lot to mine?” “But,” cheerfully breathed the violet back, “we are both what God made us, and we are both where He placed us. I suppose I shall die soon. I hope to die fragrantly, as I have lived fragrantly. You must be cut down at last; it does not matter, that I see, a few days or a few ages, my littleness or your largeness, it comes to the same thing at last. We are what God made us. We are where God placed us. God gave you strength; God gave me sweetness.” (Paxton Hood.)
Equanimity reasonable to faith
When Archbishop Leighton lost his patrimony by failure of a merchant, he only said: “The little that was in Mr. E--’s hands hath failed me, but I shall either have no need of it, or be supplied in some other way,” On his brother-in-law expressing surprise that he took the matter so easily, he answered: “If when the Duke of Newcastle, after loosing nineteen times as much of yearly income, can dance and sing, the solid hopes of Christianity will not support us, we had better be in another world.” (Sunday at Home.)
Making the best of circumstances
Sydney Smith, when labouring at Foston-le-Clay, in Yorkshire, though he did not feel himself to be in his proper element, went cheerfully to work in the determination to do his best. “I am resolved,” he said, “to like it and reconcile myself to it, which is more manly than to feign myself above it, and to send up complaints by the post of being thrown away, of lying desolate, and such like trash.” So Dr. Hook, when leaving Leeds for Chichester, said, “Wherever I may be, I shall, by God’s blessing, do with all my might what my hand findeth to do, and if I do not find work, I shall make it.” (S. Smiles.)