Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

peter of it: and it is the Spirit that gives the word its efficacy and power in the soul: the word of God, contained in the scriptures, is the sword by which the Spirit of God enables his saints to overcome and vanquish all their enemies. The seventh iml last piece of spiritual armour is mentioned, ver. 18. and that is prayer: Praying always with all prayer, 6rc . Here note, The time for prayer, praying always; the sorts and kinds of prayer, praying always with all prayer: the inward principle of prayer, from which it must flow, in the Spirit; the guard to set about the duty of prayer, watching thereunto; the constancy to be exercised in the duty, with all perseverance, the comprehensiveness of the duty, for all saints. Learn, That prayer is a necessary duty fur all christians, and to be used, with all other pieces of spiritual armour, by the christian soldier.

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Our apostle having directed the Ephesians to the duty of prayer in general, desired them here to pray for himself in particular. Where observe, 1. His exhortation and direction to pray for himself, and all the ministers of the gospel: And for me. Learn hence, That the ministers of Christ are and ought in a special manner to be remembered in the saints' prayers. Observe, 2. The mercy which he desires them to pray for: That utterance may be given: namely, a readiness to deliver to others what God has handed unto us. Ministers depend upon God for utterance, and it is their people's duty to be earnest with God to give it to them. Observe, 3. The end why he desires this utterance: That he may open his mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel. Where note, 1. The sublime nature of the gospel: it is a mystery. 2. The work of a gospel minister: and that is, to make known that gospel-mystery. 3. The manner how he is to perform this work: That I may open my mouth boldly; namely, in asserting truth, and in reproving sin, with a wise and prudent, with a meek and humble, with an active and zealous bold

ness. Observe, 4. A double argument to back and enforce his request to pray for him: 1. From his office; For which I am an ambassador. The ministers of the gospel are God's ambassadors; and shall not their people pray for the success of their embassies? 2. From his afflicted state: He was an ambassador in bonds; his zeal for God, and his truth, confined him to a prison; he preached himself into a gaol. Well, therefore, might they pray for him, who had now lost his liberty, and soon after was to lose his life, for them; no prayers can be too much to strengthen the hands, and to encourage the hearts, of such as suffer tribulation and persecution for the sake of Christ: Pray for me, that I may make known the mysteries of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds.

21 But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tyehictis, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: 22 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.

Observe here, 1. The tender love and affectionate regard which St. Paul bore to these Ephesians, in the midst of his sufferings, and during his imprisonment: he not only wrote, but sent to them. No doubt, the apostle had but few, very few, fast friends with him at Rome, whom he could repose an entire confidence in, and receive great consolation from; however, he will deny himself, to serve them. A faithful minister of Jesus Christ is so tenderly affectionate towards his flock, that he prefers their spiritual edification before his own private and particular advantage; though St. Paul was now a prisoner, and under a daily expectation of death, and had few to attend him, yet he sends one of his most beloved friends away to them, choosing rather himself to want an attender, than that they should want a comforter: nothing better becomes a minister of Christ than a public spirit. Observe, 2. The character of the person whom St. Paul sent unto them: he is described, 1. By his name, Tychicus. 2. By his state: he was a brother, that is, a christian, a beloved brother, a brother in Christ. 3. By his office: he was a minister, yea, a faithful minister in the Lord, that \t, in the work of the Lord; between whom and St. Paul there was a sweet harmony, an happy union of hearts, a joint care and endeavour in carrying on the interest of Christ amongst the churches. Behold, how good and pleasant a thing it is, when ministers of Christ are dear to each other; when instead of divisions, emulations, and strife, amongst them, they can give testimonials of each other, as well-deserving; without endeavouring to conceal and obscure the gifts and graces of God, which are eminent in any of their fellow-labourers, on purpose only to set off themselves, that their own performances may be the more taken notice of. St. Paul was far from this spirit, as appears by the character which, upon a fit occasion, he gave of Tyehicus. Observe, 3. The design and end which St. Paul had in sending'Tyehicus unto them: and that was two-fold; 1. That he might acquaint them with St. Paul's condition and state: That ye might know my affairs, how I do, and what I do, I have sent Tyehicus to declare unto you all things. What! all things without exception? Yes, both doings and sufferings; the apostle was ashamed of neither. Learn thence, That the life and conversation of ministers, both public and private, must and ought to be such, that they need not be ashamed to have it known, or concerned that the church should know, what they do, how they manage; to the intent that their people may be edified by their conversation, as well as instructed by their preaching: Tychicus shall declare unto you all things. The second end St. Paul had in sending Tyehicus from himself to the Ephesians was, that he might comfort their hearts. But how could Tyehicus do this r These ways: 1. By making known to them the true cause of his sufferings. St. Paul's enemies had laid heavy things to his charge, these might perhaps fly as far as Ephesus: now, though the apostle regarded little what the wicked world said of him, yet he desired to be set right in the thoughts of the churches, and accordingly sends Tychicus to acquaint them with the cause of his imprisonment. To keep them from discouragement, and being inordinately cast down at the report of his sufferings. No doubt, St. Paul's chain entered into their souls, and his sufferings were their sorrow; he therefore sends Tyehicus, to prevent their immoderate sorrow and mourning upon this

account. 3. To comfort their hearts with the report of that holy joy and cheerfulness of spirit which was found with him in and under all his sufferings. O! it is an excellent sight to behold the saints at liberty mourning over their afflicted brethren; and they that are sufferers become comforters of them that are at liberty. Lord! never doth thy holy religion appear more glorious, than what thy ministers commend it by their sufferings for it; and no way can they commend it higher, than by an holy, humble cheerfulness of spirit in their sufferings for it; thy ministers preach with far greater advantage from a prison, than they can from a pulpit. 4. Might not St. Paul send Tychicus now to the church at Ephesus, to engage the churches to pray with earnestness for himself, as well as to comfort them? O! none so covetous of prayers as the ministers of Christ, and no ministers like suffering ministers. St. Paul sets all the churches at work to pray for him in prison; and great reason for it; a prison has its temptations as well as a palace; when men play the persecutors, the devil forgets not to be a tempter; sometimes he will attempt to soften them with impressions of fear; at another time he hopes to overcome them, and weaken their courage, by their friends' tears and entreaties; sometimes the devil hopes to imbitter a suffering saint's spirit against his persecutors, and to sour him with the leaven of malice and wrath. O! it is no easy matter to receive evil, and yet wish none to him from whose hands we have received it; to reserve love for him that shows wrath and hatred to us, is a glorious, but a difficult, work. But if all this fails, yet the devil hopes to blow him up with pride, and a high conceit of himself, who dares suffer, when others shrink, and is ready to lay down their head, when others pull in their heads, and seek to save themselves in a whole skin. Pride is a salamander, that can live in the very flames of martyrdom; if any saint need the humility of many saints, it is he that is called to suffer for Christ. St. Paul was very sensible of this: he well knew that a suffering condition is full of temptation, that a Christian's strength to carry him through it is not in his own keeping; God must help, or the stoutest champion will quail. He also knows, that prayer is the best means to fetch in that help; and accordingly St. Paul here sends Tychicus

to Ephesus, to engage the auxiliary forces of the saints' prayers on earth, and the posse emit from heaven, that he might glorify God in a suffering hour.

23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our apostle being now come to the close and conclusion of this excellent epistle, he shuts it up with very fervent and affectionate wishes and prayers for them. 1. He wishes the brethren, the converted christians, in and about Ephesus, peace, peace with God, peace with conscience, peace especially one with another, and all manner of outward prosperity, comprehended in the word peace. 2. Mutual love among themselves. 3. The grace of faith, the fountain of the former; all which he wishes from God the Father, not excluding, but including, the Son and Holy Ghost, and from Jesus Christ the Mediator, through virtue of whose merit and intercession all saving benefits are conveyed unto believers. St. Paul's example is instructive to the ministers of Christ in all succeedmg ages. Would we have our ministerial endeavours attended with manifest success? we must be much in prayer, in serious and fervent prayer to God, to work those graces in our peopte,/aiM, love, and holiness, which we have been by our ministry recommending to their care and practice: that minister who B most prayerful is usually most successful.

24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincrritv. Amen.

Still our apostle goes on praying: he began and closes his epistle with prayer; and the blessings prayed for are grace and peace; peace in the former verse comprehending all temporal felicity; and grace in this comprehending the special favour and loving-kindness of God: this he prays may be the portion of all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, or incorruption, as the word signifies; that is, not for time only, but for eternity ; not in show and appearance] only, but in reality. Sincere love to our Lord Jesus Christ is a sure character and undoubted marie of such a person as has found grace in God's sight, and is very high in the divme favour. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ; he doth not say with a seraphim's, but with a sincere, love. Suest. But when, and how, may a person know that he loves Christ in great sincerity? Ans. If Christ be enthroned in thy heart as a chief commander; if he be esteemed by thee as thy chiefest excellency, and thy choicest treasure; if he be thy chiefest delight and joy; and if he be thy chiefest refuge, unto which thou fliest in all dangers and distresses; thou mayst conclude thy supreme love is placed upon him, that thou lovest him in sincerity. And the more thou lovest him, the more lovely wilt thou be unto him, and the more will thy heart be let out in desires after him, and in fervent longings for the full fruition and final enjoyment of him; for those whom we love we long to be with.

Come then, Lord! down to me,

Or take me up to thee.

vOL. tt.

EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL

PHILIPPIANS,

St. Paul being warned by the Holy Ghost to go ipto Macedonia and preach the gospel, aa we Sad, Acts xvi. he plants first a church at Philippi, a principal city in Macedonia, so called from Philip, king of Macedon, who beautified and enlarged it.

Hut St. Pauls charge being to preach the gospel to all the Gentiles, he travels from place to place till he came to Rome, where Tie was in bonds, and consequently in necessity and straits; which the Philippiaus understanding, they sent Epaphroditus their bishop or chief minister to him, with a liberal contribution, to supply hut wants: by whom St. Paul sends this affectionate letter to them, partly to testify his thankfulness for the relief received from them, but principally to confirm Hum io the faith, to prevent their being offended at his sufferings for the gospel, to encourage them to walk worthy nt the gospel, to warn them against seducers and judaising teachers, snd to quicken them to divers christian duties. And so concludes bis epistle with particular salutations, and an apostolical benediction.

CHAP. I.

The design and scope of our apostle in this first chapter, is to encourage the Philippians to constancy in the faith, to perseverance in holiness; not to be discouraged at bis sufferings for the gospel, seeing christianity had already gained very much, and would, he was very confident, gain'much more, by the sufferings he underwent for the sake of the gospel. Accordingly he exhorts them to courage and constancy, by several weighty arguments, to the end of the chapter.

"DAUL and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons;

Observe here, 1. The penman of this epistle, St. Paul, joining Timotheus with him in the salutation, because his companion and fellow-labourer, and one that had assisted in the instructing of the Philippians, and was a person much valued and esteemed by them. Observe, 2. The great modesty of St. Paul, in the character he gives of . himself; he doth not style himself here an apostle, but the servant of Jesus Christ; in his other epistles, which he wrote alone, he styles himself an apostle, Rom. i. 1. Gal.' i. 1. &c. He doth not say here, Paul an apostle, and Timotheus a servant of Jesus Christ, magnifying himself above Timothy, but sets himself upon a level with

him, saying, Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ. Learn hence, 1. That true humility teaches christians to speak sparingly of themselves, and of their own authority and credit, except upon a just and necessary occasion, and when weighty reasons do urge and oblige them to it. Learn, 2. That the mmisters and dispensers of the gospel are, in a special manner, the servants of Jesus Christ, wholly devoted to his service, and discharging themselves faithfully in the performance of it. Observe, 3. The superscription of this epistle, or the persons to whom it was directed: To all the saints in Christ Jesus, in general, which -mere at Philippi, and to the bishops and deacons. To all the saints at Philippi; so he calls them, because they were all holy by visible profession, and many of them, no doubt, by real sanctification, being inherently, as well as externally, holy; and the denomination is here taken from the better, though not the greater, part, for whose sake the whole community are here called saints. But why saints in Christ Jesus? Because as it is necessary, to make a man internally holy, that he be in Christ Jesus by a real implantation; so, to denominate a man externally and federally holy, requires a visible profession, and an external union with Christ, Tohn xv 2. In particular, this epistle is directed to the bishops and deacons: they were both the church's overseers; the bishops, to oversee and inspect the lives and manners of persons; the deacons, to oversee the necessities of persons, and to serve the church in taking care of the poor. Note here, The great and special care which our holy Lord has taken of his church, in appointing stated officers to undertake the oversight of ha whole family, to rule and govern, to direct and instruct it; yea, not only has he appointed officers for the oversight of the souls of his people, but others to inspect their bodily necessities, that those who are indigent might be supplied by their care, and the charity of the church: To the saints at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.

2 Grace he unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace from God the Father, or grace from God as a Father; intimating, that God bestows not his grace as a Creator, but as a Father, as a Father in Christ. And peace from our Ijord Jesus Christ; lie being the purchaser of our peace; he, upon ichom was laid the chastisement of our peace, and in whom, and for whose sake, God becomes reconciled to us, and at peace with us. Learn hence, 1. That such as have received most grace from God, do yet stand hi need of further measures and fresh supplies of it: grace to pardon sin, and grace to subdue sin. 2. That peace, as well as grace, may and ought to be the subject of a christian's prayer and care, to obtain peace with God, peace with conscience, peace with one another, and, if it be possible, peace with all men.

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 (Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,) 5 For your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now;

Observe, 1. The proper character of a gospel minister: he is his people's constant remembrancer, and the rememberer of his people: J remember you alt, says the apostle, J remember you always, and in every prayer. This is a very great part of our ministerial duty, to pray for the people; and not in our public offices only,

but in our private addresses also, and this continually, without ceasing: we should never rise off our knees, without bearing our people upon our hearts before the Lord. Did minister and people strive more together in their prayers one for another, there would be less strife and contention between them one with another. Ministers must be their people's remembrancers; St. Paul here remembered the Philippians, all the Philippians always, and in every prayer. Observe, 2. St. Paul could and did remember the Philippians with joy: though he was in sadness himself in a prison, yet he could think of them, as a people converted by his ministry, with joy; making request with joy. When the ministers of Christ see any success of their labours in the lives of their people, it is matter of inexpressible joy to them, how sad soever the case is with them as to their outward circumstances; when they sigh in a prison with respect to their personal sufferings, they can sing and rejoice, if they find their people's proficiency in knowledge and growth in grace: I thank my God for you, malting request with joy. Observe, 3. The ground and occasion of this his joy, ver. 5. For your fellowship in the gospel; that is, for your ready embracing of the gospel at my first preaching of it to you, for the real subjection of some, and the professed subjection of all, to the faith of Christ, whereby you were brought into fellowship with Christ and his church; and also for the continuance of you, in the faith and profession of the gospel, from the first day until now. Learn hence, That when a people, upon the plain and persuasive preaching of the gospel, do readily receive and obey it, and remain constant in their profession of it, and obedience to it, it is matter of unspeakable thanksgiving and praise to the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ. I thank God for your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until new, that is, for continuing in the faith, and persevering in your professed subjection to the gospel of Christ, I bless God for this.

6 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.

Here we have a further cause assigned of St. Paul's joy on the Philippians' behalf: namely, the firm and full assurance which i 2 D 2

« ElőzőTovább »