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he had of their perseverance in grace unto the end. God, that has begun, will perfect, that is, augment, and increase it, till it arrive at perfection in glory. Note here, 1. The nature of grace described, or the proper title deservedly given to the grace of God; it is called a good work; he that hath begun a good work, Fr. Well may regenerating grace be called a good work, because it is the living foundation and vital principle from whence all good works do proceed and flow; the grace of God in the heart is the root of all true holiness in the life; as good works are necessary to salvation, so renewing grace is necessary to good works. Note, 2. As the nature of grace described, so the author and augmenter of grace declared, and that is, God. He that hath begun a good work in you, will perform it, that is, augment it, and increase it. As the good work of grace in the heart is God's work, and he is the author of it, so he will maintain it, and carry it on to perfection, and be both the increaser and perfecter of it ; God never doth his work by halves. Note, 3. The certainty of grace asserted; Being confident of this very thing. But what ground had St. Paul for this confidence? Ans. Because grace is the care of the whole Trinity: all the Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, do concern themselves both in the production, preservation, and perfection of it; the Father decrees it, the Son purchases it, the Spirit infuses it: the Father begets it, the Son excites it, the Holy Spirit conducts it: and as they all did concur to its production, so did they all co-operate and work together for the preservation of it. Learn hence, That such persons, in whose souls Almighty God has begun a good work of grace, may with much assurance expect by the influence of God's care, and the exercise of their own endeavours, that they shall hold out and persevere in a state of grace unto the end; until the day of Christ, that is, the day of judgment.
7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
In these words our apostle assigns a ground and reason of that confidence which he expressed himself to have of the
Philippians' perseverance in grace and holiness, in the foregoing verse, namely, because they were partakers of the same grace with himself, and were ready to suffer for Christ, as he was; we may warrantably be persuaded of their perseverance in grace unto the end, in whom we see both readiness of obedience to the gospel, and also zealous and cheerful suffering for and in defence of the gospel. Thus did St. Paul here: where observe, the apostle accounted it a grace and favour from God, that he was thought worthy to suffer for the gospel, and the Philippians with him: Ye are partakers of my grace. Learn hence, That to suffer bonds and imprisonments for the gospel's sake is a special grace and favour of God, not considered in itself, but in the fruits and consequences of it. A second ground of his confidence was, their respect to him: I have you in my heart, and I find you have me in your hearts; you partake of the misery of my bonds, you suffer with me in my sufferings, and sympathize with me in my sorrows. They relieved and refreshed him in his imprisonment, which he underwent for the sake of Christ.and his gospel; and from hence he had a good confidence that they would persevere unto the end. An operative love to the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, especially when they are under persecution, is a good evidence of the sincerity of their love to Christ, and of their stedfastoess and perseverance in grace unto the end.
8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
These words are expressive of that passionate degree of christian love which St Paul bore to the Philippians; he durst appeal to God, as to the sincerity and fervency of it: God is my record, I call him to witness, and can appeal to him as the searcher of hearts, how greatly I long after you; that is, how passionately and sincerely I love you, with the most intense and hearty affection, in the bowels of Jesus Christ. The expression may denote the efficient cause, and the exemplary cause, of his love. 1. That the author of this his love unto them was Christ, he was the spring and procurer of it; and consequently it was no carnal or selfish love, to serve his own ends and designs upon them, but truly spiritual. 2. That Christ's love to him was the pattern and example, according to which he loved them, with no common love, but with an entire and intense affection, from the ground of the heart and the most intimate bowels: no words can be more expressive of that fervent love and earnest longing which St. Paul had for the welfare of the Philippians; a love which very far exceeds the love of all relations. He doth not say, I long after you in the bowels of a father, or in the bowels of an husband, but in the bowels of Jesus Christ; humbly comparing his love towards them to the love of Jesus Christ; not for the degrees of it, not for the fruits and advantages of it, but for the truth and sincerity of it: I greatly long after you all in t he bowels of Jesus Christ. Learn hence, That there is no stronger love, no more endeared affection, between any relations upon earth, than between such ministers of Christ, and their beloved people, as they have been happily instrumental to convert to God: when present with them, they passionately love them; when absent from them, they affectionately long after them; imitating, as much as they can, their Lord Jesus Christ, both in reality and sincerity, and also in the measure and degree, of endearing affection: God is my record, how greatly I long after you all, in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
S And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; JO That ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere, and without offence, till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.
After salutations given by St. Paul to his beloved Philippians, he next pours out his soul in fervent prayer and supplication for them ; and the mercy which he prays for s observable, first, namely, growth and proficiency in grace: This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; that their love to God, their love to him, and their love one to another, may yet more and more abound. Love is the root-grace from which most graces spring; therefore he prays for the strengthening of that grace in particular, and that there may be found
with them judgment, as well as affection, in the exercise of it: we ought to love judiciously, as well as affectionately. The more judicious a saint grows in his christian course, and the more understanding and judgment is found with him in the way of his duty; the stronger his grace is, and the more glory will he bring to God. The understanding and judgment being the guiding and leading faculties in man, there can be no more acceptable holiness in the will, than there is knowledge in the understanding. I can hate sin, and love God, no more than I know of the evil of sin, and of the perfections that arc in God: the more judicious then a christian grows, the more his holiness grows; and accordingly St. Paul's prayer is, that they may grow more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. Observe, 2. The great ends mentioned by the apostle for which he did so earnestly desire their proficiency in knowledge and judgment, and their growth in love, and every other grace; namely, 1. That they might approve things that are' excellent, that is, all such things as the gospel requires: implying, that the things prescribed to us in the gospel, are things excellent and good for us, things worthy to be prescribed by God, and things reasonable to be practised by us; and that the approbation of these things, by a steadiness in judgment and practice, is every christian's duty, and ought to be their great endeavour. 2. That they might be sincere in their holy profession, incorrupt and pure both in doctrine and manners. 3. That they might be without offence, unblameable in conversation, and be kept from being occasions of stumbling unto others, even to the end of their days. 4. He prays that they may not only be inoffensive persons, but fruitful christians: Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God; that is, that they may abound in good works, undertaken in Christ's strength, and with an eye at God's glory. Learn hence, 1. That a negative holiness is not sufficient to salvation: it is not enough that christians be harmless and inoffensive towards others, but they must labour after an holy fruitfulness in good works; they must be filled with all the fruits of righteousness. Learn, 2. That our works be truly good, and fruits of righteousness, it is necessary that they he done by Christ's strength and assistance, and with an eye at the glory and praise of God,
in order to their acceptance: Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which arc by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Learn, 3. That no shorter time ought to be assigned for our inoffensive walking, and fruitfulness in conversation, than the day of our death: Unto the day of Christ, says our apostle, that is, till the great reckoning-day, when Christ will render to us our complete reward: if we be faithful and fruitful to the death, we shall then receive the crown of life.
12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other 'places: 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Our apostle's design in these words is, to prevent the Philippians' stumbling, and being scandalized at his present sufferings, assuring them that the things which happened to him, through the malice of his persecutors, have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel, than any ways to the hinderance of it, as they feared. Learn hence, That the sufferings and persecutions which the messengers and ministers of Christ do undergo for the sake of the gospel, are oft-times so overruled by the wisdom of God, that they rather increase than diminish the church, and rather promote than prejudice the interest of the gospel. Nexl, he declares the special and particular advantages which had redounded to the gospel, by those sufferings which he had patiently endured for the gospel's sake. 1. His bonds in Christ, that is, his imprisonment for the gospel of Christ, were manifest in the palace; that is, were manifestly taken notice of in Nero's court, and elsewhere in the city; so that people enquiring into the cause of his sufferings, found that it was not any misdemeanor, but that his preachmg and practising the doctrine of christianity was the only reason of his sufferings. 2. Another advantage which accrued to the church by his bonds, was this, namely, that many ministers of Christ, who preached the word of God far and near, hearing of his constancy under suf
ferings, were both encouraged and emboldened thereby; encouraged to shake off fear, and emboldened to preach Christ with greater resolution. Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the .word without fear. Note here, The title given by this great apostle to the inferior ministers of the gospel: he calls them, brethren, and brethren in the Lord, putting himself and them in mind of their mutual and respective duties, which was to live and love as brethren: to admonish, exhort, and encourage one another, to stand up in defence of the just credit and reputation of one another, and jointly to set their shoulder to the work of Christ together. Note, 2. That the ministers of Christ, observing how God upholds some of their brethren under sufferings and persecutions, should encourage themselves to go on with resolution in the work of the Lord, not fearing their own personal sufferings, knowing that the same assistance which supported one, stands ready to succour others: The brethren in the Lord waxed confident by my bonds.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good-will. 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in troth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Our apostle had declared in the foregoing verses, that several of his brethren in the work of the ministry, through his constancy in suffermg, were emboldened to preach Jesus Christ with more resolution than before. But here he discovers, that there was a vast difference between those preachers: all did not preach Christ alike, with the same mind, from the same motives, for the same sincere ends. Some, alas! preach Christ out of envy and strife ; that is, envying the success of the apostle's ministry, and endeavourmg to draw people off from approving him, to applaud them, hoping tc grieve and gall him thereby : but others preached the gospel of Christ of good-will, with a purity of intention, and sincerity of affection, both towards Christ and towards himself, who, for the defence of the gospel, now lay in prison. However, seeing Christ was preached and made known by both, by some in pretence, by others in truth, the apostle rejoiced at it, and took comfort in it. Learn hence, 1. That such ministers of the gospel are gladly and joyfully to be beard, who preach Christ and his pure word soundly and truly, with what mind soever, from what motive soever, and for what end soever, they preach Christ and his holy gospel. The word is his which they bring, bow vicious soever the person, and how bad soever the intention be of him that brings it ; and, if the message be his, it is our duty to receive it without prejudice, be the principle what it will in him that delivers it. Many preach in Christ's name, who perish in his wrath; for Christ takes notice of the inward intention, as well as of the outward action, and observes not only the matter which ministers preach, but the end for which, and the motives from which, they preach, whether from love and good will, or from envy and strife. Learn, 2. That such christians wbo find their hearts inflamed with zeal for the glory of Christ, and the salvation of souls, do and will rejoice exceedingly that Christ is preached, whoever the person is, or whatever the principle may be in him that preaches: If Christ be preached, says St. Raul, J therein rejoice, yea, and cUt rejoice.
19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
Still our apostle pursues and prosecutes bis former design, namely, to prevent the Philippians being offended at his sufferings; and accordingly, he shows that as the gospel of Christ had gained much already, it should gain yet more, by his imprisonment and afflictions, which he was very confident would tend to the furtherance of his salvation, through the help of their prayers, and the supplies of grace from the Spirit of Christ; where, by salvation, a meant deliverance out of his present suf
ferings, which he fully expected by the help and benefit of the church's prayers. Great are the expectations of the saints, even as to temporal salvation and outward mercies, from the joint prayers and intercessions of the church of Christ. This shall turn to my salvation through your prayer. But if by salvation be meant eternal happmess, then his confident persuasion was this, That all the designs of his adversaries against him should be so overruled and ordered by God, that through the influences and supplies of the Holy Spirit, all should work together for good, and his eternal salvation be advanced thereby, through the concurrence and assistance of their prayers. In the 20th verse he tells them, that according to his former expectation and hope, he was resolved that no terror should ever make him ashamed to own the truth of Christ, but that, with a convincing boldness, he would now, as heretofore, appear in the defence of it, and that Christ should be magnified by him in the body, whether by life or death; that is, whether rny life be further prolonged, or be now by martyrdom ended, Christ will be magnified: if I live, the power of Christ will be magnified in my deliverance from death: if I die, his power will be magnified in enabling me to undergo death for his name and sake: so that I am at a point, either to live or die, as the wisdom of Christ shall determine; I am, as to myself, indifferent for either, well knowing that Christ will be glorified in me, and by me, both by life and death. Learn hence, That nothing lies so near the heart of a saint as the honour and glory of Christ; this he resolves shall be promoted by him, living and dying; by his great services, supposing his life, and by his extraordinary sufferings and martyrdom, in case of his death.
21 For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Our apostle had declared, in the foregoing verse, his firm expectation that Christ would be magnified and glorified by him, both in life and death; in this verse he discovers what reason he had to think so; for, says he, To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain; that is, If I live, Christ shall be the scope of my life, and the end of my living; I resolve to live to his service; if I die, death will be a real gain and advantage to me; intimating, that both life and death are gain to a good man, and that it is Christ that makes both life and death gainful and advantageous. To me to live is Christ, to die is gain. Words both short and sweet, few in expression, but large in extension: m them we are taught both how to live, and how to die.—Observe, 1. The scope and end of a christian's life, To me to live is Christ. 2. The hope and fruit of a christian's death, To die is gain. Learn, That Christ is the believer's life, and death the believer's gain. The life of a real christian is resolved into Christ, and his death is resolved into gain. Note, 1. Christ is the believer's life; both his life of grace, and his life of glory, is resolved mto Christ. As to his life of grace, Christ is the life of this life; he is the efficient or principal cause of this life; he is the exemplar, cause, or pattern, of it; he is the final cause or scope of it; and he is the conserving cause, or preserver and maintainer of it. So for the life of glory, which believers have in reversion, Christ is also t he life of that life; thus he has purchased it for them, he has given it to them, he has taken and keeps possession of it in their names, he has prepared it for them, and them for it, and will put them into the full and actual possession of it, in his own time. Note, 2. That death is the believer's gain; death in general, violent as well as natural death; it is not only not injurious, but advantageous: no hurt, but profit; no loss, but benefit; not only to die for Christ, but to die in Christ is gain. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, as well as those that die for the Lord. Death appears gain to the believer, if we consider the private evils it frees and delivers him from, namely, from sin, from all temptations to sin, from all inclinations to offend, from :ill possibility of sinning, from all temporal afflictions, from all sufferings for God, from all sufferings from man for God's sake; especially if we consider the positive good that the believer gams by death, namely, perfection in grace, fulness of'joy, the blessed vision, the society of glorified saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. So then, if a state of perfect holiness and purity be better than a state of corruption and temptation, if a state of rest and peace be better than a state of labour and sorrow, if it be better to be triumphing above, than sighing and groaning below, then dead saints are better where they are, than where they were, and death to them is gain, and infinitely advan
tageous. Note, 3. That the gain which comes by death to the believer, is procured by Christ, namely, by his meritorious satisfaction, by his glorious ascension and possession, by his prevailmg intercession: To live is Christ, to die is gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour; yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 34 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh it more needful for you.
But if I lire in the flesh, that is, if I shall continue to live longer in this mortal body, this is the fruit of my labour; that is, I foresee what will be the blessed fruit of my labour, namely, the conversion and gaining of more souls unto God and Christ; at least, as it is worth my labour, so shall it be my endeavour, to glorify Christ, by my continuance in the world. Learn hence, That as it is the end of a minister's life, so he makes it the end of his living, to glorify Christ, by gaining souls unto him; and in order to the obtaining this great end, he is willing, for the present, to deny himself the advantage of being with Christ. Observe next, St. Paul's strait which he was now in, which to choose, either life or death, if God should leave it to his choice; I am in a strait bel-wixt two .that is, I am divided in my thoughts and desires, whether to wish for life or death; his ardent love to Christ and himself inclined him to desire a dissolution, I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ; but his affectionate regard to his beloved Philippians inclined him to desire a continuation of his time and talents; nevertheless to abide still in the flesh is more needful for you. Learn hence, 1. That the life of pious ministers is far more profitable for their people than death. 2. That their death, being a departure unto Christ, is far better, and more desirable to themselves, than life: their life is profitable to civilize some, to convert others, to convince the erroneous, to confirm the weak: the world wants them, the church wants them, their flocks want them, their families want them, and they want them most that think they could spare them best. Bnt their death being a departure, an immediate departure unto Christ, is far better, and more desirable to themselves, than life.