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glory to God : for in this method of saving the guilty, there is an illustrious display of the divine perfections, such as wisdom, love, grace, sovereignty, justice, &c. Wisdom shines, in that God has secured the honour of his law and government, while he justifies the ungodly. Love appeare, in the manner in which he hath done this, even by giving his only begotten Son to suffer and die. Grace is conspicuous in his pardoning the sinner's guilt, and accepting his person as righteous on account of the obedience of one. Sovereignty is manifested in his having mercy on whom he will have mercy. Justice cannot be hid, seeing rather than sin should be pardoned without satisfaction, the Son of God must die. It brings comfort to the sinner who is brought to believe in Jesus : for he sees that he is the author of a perfect, spotless righteousness, such as he finds he must have, or never be admitted to see the Lord; and while he rejoices in it by faith, he ascribes the whole glory to God.
3. If only they are blessed whose iniquities are forgiven, it follows, that the wrath of God abideth on all the impenitent and unbelieving. This is an alarming consideration to such as have any sense of the nature of the divine displeasure. It will be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? Who can dwell with devouring fire ? A state of guilt is awful; the person in it is destitute of the comforts of the gospel here, and is liable every moment to be plunged into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone! and this is the condition of every natural man.
It becomes each of us to inquire, in the language of the disciples, Lord, is it I?
BELIEVERS EXHORTED TO CONTINUE IN THEIR
PHILIPPIANS, ii. 12, 13. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my
presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling : for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.
ST. Paul was a zealous and an accomplished advocate for all the important doctrines of Christianity: these he inculcated with plainness and frequency, always laying them down as the foundation of obedience, and from them urging a sacred regard to every necessary duty. We have an instance of this sort in the context. The apostle introduces subjects of the highest consequence, viz. the divinity of Christ, or his equal. ity with the Father-who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; his astonishing condescension—but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ; his course of obedience to the will of God, and his submitting to the ignominious and painful death of the cross. These grand, interesting truths, are the premises on which he founds the following exhortation ; Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my ab
ZEALOUS OF GOOD WORKS.
sence, work out your own salvation with fear and trenbling : for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure : q.d. Dearly beloved, I exhort you to labour to be like your Lord and Master; let the same mind be in you that was in him; behave with meekness and humility toward all men, and let it be seen that you delight in copying the most perfect example. And as Jesus became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ; know ye, that the great design of this stupendous act of his was, that he might redeem you from all iniquity, and purify you to himself, a peculiar people,
Be ye therefore, like him, obedient until death; stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. In farther speaking to the words, I propose,
I. To shew to whom they were addressed.
III. Consider the necessity of the believer's continuing in his obedience.
1. It is expedient, in the first place, to know to whom these words were spoken ; this should be a first inquiry in all our investigations of divine truth, in order to find out the sense of the sacred writers. The want of a due attention to this maxim, has led many to mistake their meaning : from hence it is that many scripture exhortations are misapplied, and the text among others, which is manifestly spoken to believers; this will appear from the following things:
1. The direction of the epistle, (chap. i. 1.) To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. The direction of a letter gives one man a right to open it rather than another, and without any regard to its contents, determines whose it is. So in this case. St. Paul carried on a very extensive literary correspondence. If any thing in providence prevented his paying a personal visit to the places where he had been successful in preaching the gospel, he generally took care to write to them. This circumstance more immediately gave rise to his several epistles, which are so many religious letters, written to the churches or to particular persons, on matters of importance. Each letter is directed with the greatest care, the epistle to the Hebrews excepted, which is generally supposed to have been written by this apostle. Now it is from the direction that we judge for whom the contents are designed; accordingly, we are led to conclude that this epistle to the Philippians was intended by the inspired author for believers, because he directs it to all the saints in Christ Jesus.
2. In confirmation of the above remark, it is necessary to examine the contents of this letter, from the beginning to the text. I might with propriety transcribe the whole preceding part of it, but shall only select a few passages, because they are sufficient for the purpose. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (chap. i. 6.) Here he expresses his confidence that the good work which had been begun in them would be finished by the same divine agent. To whom could such a passage be addressed, but to professed believers ? He also speaks of their furtherance and joy of faith. (ver. 25.) Sure we are, that such as have no faith can neither expect its furtherance nor experience its joy. He does
not hesitate to tell them, that to them it was given to believe in Christ. (ver. 29.) All which exactly agree with the direction of the epistle. To which I will only add the text; Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence. Observe that the apostle styles the persons to whom he writes beloved, an expression only used by him when addressing believers ; accordingly, after the conversion of Onesimus, he wrote a letter to his master Philemon, in which he exhorts him to receive him, not now as a servant, but above a ser. vant, a brother BELOVED. He also commends their course of obedience, both while present with them and in his absence from them; by which it became manifest that the gospel had not come to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. I proceed,
II. To inquire into the meaning of the apostle in this exhortation, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
1. I apprehend the apostle cannot mean, that salvation from the guilt and fatal effects of sin was to be wrought out by human endeavours, or that the salvation of a sinner from the wrath to come depends on any thing that he can do. Consider the being that is offended, the law that is violated, the guilt that is contracted, the circumstances of the offender, and the whole tenor of the gospel.
The being whom we have offended is the infinite Jehovah, a God of truth, and without iniquity : just and right is he. To him all our sins are naked, which the eternal holiness of his nature obliges him to view with abhorrence; while his justice, another essential attribute, calls for condign pun.