Page images
PDF
EPUB

which occurred to him was, that he must certainly have done something amiss ; and if the hostility shewn to him was manifestly quite unprovoked, he would discover so many excuses for what at first seemed perfectly inexcusable, that the offending party appeared almost to be a gainer by his misconduct; so that those who knew him intimately would observe, that next to enjoying his friendship, the most desirable thing was to be his enemy.

ON THE

EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS.

This Epistle is addressed by St. Paul to the Philippians in his own name and in the name of Timotheus. It is probable that this association of Timothy with himself, was owing to the peculiar modesty and liberality of the Apostle, who, though he was alone invested with a general authority over the Gentile converts, and claimed so to be when the occasion required, was so far from being unnecessarily jealous of his dignity, that he was wilJing, in the eyes of the Philippians and others, to share it with the faithful partner of his labours and sufferings. The authority however of this Epistle, is not in any manner diminished by the circumstance last mentioned, for though it is addressed to the Philippians in the name both of Paul and Timotheus, the former is evidently the writer of it, and speaks throughout in his own proper person.

Paul and Timotheus are entitled “ the servants of Jesus Christ." This was the highest character the Apostle wished to assume. The high commission with which he was entrusted, the ample authority with which he was invested, seemed to him to confer no dignity proportioned to that of being the “ Servant of Christ.” It was not merely humility that led him thus to think. It was rather a comprehensive wisdom, and a just knowledge of things, which enabled him to estimate them as they truly are; and which shewed him, that to be subject to the governance, and to execute the commands of his ever-blessed Redeemer, was an employment more truly and permanently glorious, than the possession of the highest earthly office,

The Epistle is directed to the Saints or holy persons in Christ Jesus at Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons. This expression seems to have been used by the Apostle as synonymous with the words “ Church and Churches," which we find in the beginning of other Epistles, Holiness is so indispensable a consequence of the Christian profession, that the Apostle employs the word “ Saints” in this and other places as having the saine import with

Believers,” or “ Church," that is, a congregation of Believers ; thereby plainly intimating, that they who were not holy, whatever name or profession they might assume, were in truth not Christians. neither members of the Church, nor true Believers. At the same time, it appears from the manner in which the Apostle usually addressed himself to Churches at large, that he thought it right to presume, in charity, that those who called themselves by the name of Christ, were really such as they professed to be.

Grace and Peace are the blessings which St. Paul, in the introduction of most of his Epistles, prays to be bestowed on those whom he addresses.

They seem to imply that favourable regard of the Almighty, which will secure to us the communication of his spiritual mercies, and that tranquillity of soul, which naturally arises from a perception of such mercies, and from an attendant sense of our effectual reconciliation to God through Christ Jesus. They are the natural, and it' may even be said, the necessary accompaniments of true Religion; its evidence, its fruits, and its reward. They grow immediately out of the great doctrine of justification by the death and merits of our Redeemer; the cordial acceptance of which, united with that 'entire abandonment of sin which belongs to it, places us in a relation to the great Author of all things, which carries with it the inestimable assurances of Grace and Peace: assurances as effective and necessary to the advancement of sanctification in our hearts, as they are to our happiness ; for it is scarcely possible for us to love God with our whole hearts, while we believe that he entertains sentiments of hostility towards' us; or to submit cheerfully and entirely to his will, till we have at least a lively hope that it is consistent with our final good, and may tend to promote it.

If the Apostle so frequently prays for grace and peace in behalf of his Christian converts, we too, may well offer up the same petition for ourselves and for others. And while we beseech the Father of all goodness to increase upon us these spiritual blessings, let us not be insensible to his peculiar and amazing mercy, in having brought us to that state, and bestowed on us that religious light, to which alone they can belong. Men, who are sinful by nature, and still more sinful by habit, could not possibly, in their natural condition, enjoy any reasonable hope of possessing the favour of God, a being of perfect holiness; and without his favour, what is there that could afford to a reflecting mind any lasting tranquillity ? Even if, in his abundant mercy, he had found a way for our pardon and reconciliation, still, unless he had so graciously communicated to us this joyful intelligence, how sad and cheerless, how full of doubt and darkness must have been our condition here. What misgivings, what inquietude, what agitating apprehensions would have harassed our happiest days; what a deep and awful gloom would have hung over the bed of death! When the friends to whom our hearts had been allied through life by gratitude and affection were called away, how little consolation could we have found in the bright hope of being again united to them in happier regions ! And when we, in our turns, were preparing to follow them, would not the kind attentions and sympathy of those who sur vived, have awakened in our hearts at that awful moment, a pang almost as bitter as their neglect ? Far different is our present condition. The knowledge of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, has destroyed the fear of death, by opening a scene of joy and triumph beyond it, which the warmest imagination, unenlightened by divine truth, could not have conceived. The veil has been drawn up

« PreviousContinue »