Philippian Studies - Lessons in Faith and Love from St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians
by Handley C. G. Moule
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines

Transcriber's notes:

In the original book, each odd-numbered page (except for the first page of a chapter) had its own header. In this e-book, each chapter's headers have been collected into an introductory paragraph at the start of the chapter.

Italicised words in the original have also been indicated with underscores, but such words are always English.

Bold-face text in the original book has been enclosed between plus (+) signs in this ebook.

Footnotes have been renumbered consecutively and moved to the end of their host chapter.


Lessons in Faith and Love from St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians


H. C. G. MOULE, D.D.

Principal of Ridley Hall and Formerly Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge

"Let us pray to God, that we may speak, think, believe, live, and depart hence, according to the wholesome doctrine and verities of His Word." THE HOMILIES, i, 1.

Third Edition

London Hodder and Stoughton 27, Paternoster Row 1900










"Thou the Way art, Thou the Prize That beyond the journey lies; Thou the Truth art, Thou the Guide, Gone before, yet at our side; Everlasting life below It is truly Thee to know: Such to Thy Saints wast Thou of yore; Unchangeable Thou art, and shall be evermore." MONSELL.


The plan and purpose of the following pages will be soon evident to the reader. The whole aim is towards edification. What is said in the way of historical introduction, what is done in the course of the chapters in the way of rendering and grammatical explanation, all has this aim in view. The Epistle is handled throughout with the firm belief that it is an Oracle of God, while that Oracle is conveyed through the mind and heart of one of the greatest of the sons of men; and the Expositor's aim accordingly is always, and above all things, to expound. To put it otherwise, his highest ambition is to call attention to the sacred text, and let it speak.

May the Lord of the Apostle, of the Philippians, of ourselves, only grant that His mercy may rest upon this poor contribution to the exegesis of His inexhaustible Word. May it be permitted to throw a quiet light upon some of the treasures of this apostolic casket, to the help, in any measures, of the disciples of our day. Then will the Expositor indeed give thanks to the Master at whose feet he lays his work.



























"Holy Scripture is the Letter of God Almighty to His creatures; learn God's heart in God's Words."

GREGORY THE GREAT, Epist., iv. 31.


O Gracious GOD and most mercifull Father, which hast vouchsafed us the rich and precious iewell of thy holy worde, assist us with thy Spirit, that it may be written in our hearts to our euerlasting comfort, to reforme us, to renew us according to thine owne image, to build us up, and edifie us into the perfect building of thy Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heauenly vertues. Graunt this O heauenly Father, for Iesus Christes sake. Amen.

From the GENEVA BIBLE, 1557.



Characteristics of the Epistle—The Bible is ever young—Littera Scripta Manet—"This Same Jesus"—Philippi—How the mission church had grown—Where was the Epistle written?—When was the Epistle written?—"The word endureth"

The Epistle of St Paul to the Philippians is, to careful and loving Bible-students, one of the fairest and dearest regions of the Book of God. It is true that the Christian who genuinely believes that "every Scripture is God-inspired" (2 Tim. iii. 16), and who realizes that the "Divine Library" is nevertheless, and from a higher point of view, One Book all through, will be always on the guard against a mistaken favouritism in his Scripture studies. He will strive to make himself in some sense familiar with the whole Book, as a whole, and to recognize in all its parts the true Author's hand and purpose. Yet it is inevitable that in this supreme Book, as in other books, though all parts are "co-operant to an end," all parts are not equally important for the deepest needs of the reader. The reader therefore will have to be more familiar with some parts than with others. Acquaintance with the whole will indeed deepen insight into the part. But it will not supersede our study, loving and special, of the part which, in a degree and manner peculiar to itself, "is able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

The present simple Studies in the Philippian Epistle will accordingly be pursued with the desire to remember as we go the whole scriptural revelation of God and salvation. But we shall also approach the Epistle as a peculiarly precious Scripture in itself, containing in its few short pages a rare fulness of messages and teachings, meeting the inmost wants of the heart and the life.

Amongst the Epistles of St Paul Philippians shines out with singular light and beauty. In such a comparison we scarcely need consider the great Epistles to Rome and Corinth; their large scale and wide variety of topics set them apart. Nor need we consider Hebrews, with its difficult problem of authorship. Looking at the other Epistles, each with its own divine and also deeply human characteristics, we find Philippians more peaceful than Galatians, more personal and affectionate than Ephesians, less anxiously controversial than Colossians, more deliberate and symmetrical than Thessalonians, and of course larger in its applications than the personal messages to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Meanwhile it is as comprehensive almost as it is brief. It presents more than one important passage of doctrine, some of these passages being revelations of the first order. It is full of pregnant precepts for Christian character and conduct, whether seen in the individual or in the community. It discloses in a way of the utmost interest and significance the circumstances and experiences of the writer, and also, in a measure, of the readers. And the whole is suffused with a singularly sweet light of "joy and peace in believing." It is written by one who was, as he wrote, at once resting and moving in the peace of God which passes understanding, and in the love of Christ which passes knowledge; and what is felt in his soul comes out inevitably on his page. The letter, written in a prison, and addressed to a mission-church always exposed to insult and assault, yet seems in a wonderful way to call us "apart, to rest awhile." "A glory gilds the sacred page," the glory of the presence of the Lord in all His majesty of Godhead and nearness of Manhood; in His finished work, and living power, and wonderful coming again. A peculiar sort of joy, which is impossible without at least the experience, if not the presence, of sorrow, rests and shines over the whole. It is the joy of the heart which has found at length "the secret of the Lord," His hiding-place from the tyranny of circumstances and time; the way how always to be of good cheer, naturally yet also supernaturally, not by a hard-won indifference to life, but by living, amidst everything external, "hidden with Christ in God."

Let us approach the beloved pages once again. They can never wear out; there will always prove to be "more to follow." Perhaps we have loved and pondered them for long years ourselves. Perhaps we have heard them expounded by voices silent now, "in days that never come again," in chambers or in churches which we seem still to see, but which in fact have passed from us very far away. The heart is full and the eyes are wet as we look back. But the melancholy of the past has no permanent place in Bible-study. The Book is divine, immortal, and ever young. He who was in it for our fathers is in it for us. And since He is in it, as He is in no other literature in the world, (because no other literature is His Word Written,) therefore it springs up to us ever new; it is always contemporary with every generation of believers. Even so, come, Lord Jesus, and let us meet Thee in Thy Scripture now again.

A very simple "Introduction" will suffice for our present purposes. These chapters make no pretension to be, in the technical sense, critical. I say next to nothing, for example, about the Authenticity and Genuineness of the Epistle. Let me only remind the reader that from the early dawn of the literature of the Church we have unmistakable testimonies to its existence as an apostolic Scripture. Ignatius and Polycarp, quite early in the second century, shew us that they have read it. A little later, in the "Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne" (A.D. 177),[1] it is quoted. Clement of Alexandria, and Irenaeus, and Tertullian, all in the second century, use it as "the sword of the Spirit" to assert truth and confute error. So it floats down into the broad stream of the patristic literature at large. Not till the rise of an ultra-sceptical criticism in quite modern times was Philippians ever seriously questioned as the work, in its integrity, of St Paul. And Baur's objections, all due to an a priori theory, not to an impartial literary enquiry, have been repudiated even by critics even less orthodox than himself: Renan, for example. It is quite as certain, in a literary sense, that in Philippians we have the very words and heart of St Paul as that we have Addison in the papers signed C. in the Spectator, or Erasmus in the correspondence with Colet.

And what a thought of strength and joy this is to the believer of our latter day! Littera scripta manet. How impressive is the permanence of every written reflexion of the mind, and of the life! Who has not felt it, even in the reading of a private letter to himself, written years and years ago? We have St Paul speaking to us in this indelible page as really as if we were seated with him in "his own hired house," and were listening as he dictates to the friend beside him. And as we recollect this, we reflect that all he is saying, all he has thus left written, is just so much testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ, contemporary, direct, inspired. When the words we are about to read were written, scarcely thirty years had passed away since the Son of Man died outside the gate of Jerusalem, and rose again. Perhaps my reader cannot look back over thirty years, perhaps not over twenty, with conscious memory. But I can; and beyond the thirty I can see a long vista of the still earlier past. Thirty years ago[2];—at that time the great conflict between Austria and Prussia was preparing, the issue of which was so long a step towards the unification of Germany. I was then a master in a public school. The discussions of the impending war in our common-room, and the men who joined in them, are very present still to my mind; certainly not the faintest haze of mythical change or disproportion has had time to gather over those scenes in the interval. With some differences, no doubt, the world of this day is yet essentially the same as the world of that day; I certainly still, in my whole personal consciousness, am the man of that day, only somewhat developed in experience. Well, what the date of the battle of Sadowa (Koeniggratz) is to me, such was the date of the Crucifixion to St Paul, when he wrote from Rome to his dear converts at Philippi. And I venture to say that, while St Paul's tone about the Lord of Calvary is of course immeasurably different in the highest respects from what mine might be had I to speak of the makers of European history of 1866, it is in one respect just the same. It is as completely free from the tone of legend unreality, uncertainty. With the same entire consciousness of matter of fact with which I might write of the statesmen or generals of my early manhood, he writes of One who, in his early manhood, overcame death by death, and "shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs."

Only, there is this wonderful difference; that for St Paul the Jesus Christ of recent history is absolutely One with the Jesus Christ of his present spiritual experience. The Man of the Cross is also, for him, the Lord who is exalted to the throne of heaven, and is also so related to the writer that Paul is "in Christ Jesus," with a proximity and union which enters into everything. "In Him" are included the very actions of the disciple's mind and the experiences of his heart. He is the Lord who lives in the inmost being of His servant, and who yet is also expected to return from the heavens, to transfigure the servant's very body into glory. The Christ of history, the Christ of the soul—it was "this same Jesus" then; it is "this same Jesus" now.

"Can length of years on God Himself exact, Or make that fiction which was once a fact? Fix'd in the rolling flood of endless years The pillar of the eternal plan appears; The raging storm and dashing wave defies, Built by that Architect who built the skies." [3]

For me and for my reader may the two aspects of "this same Jesus," the historical and the spiritual, ever combine in one mighty harmony of certainty; faith's resting-place to the end, "the rock of our heart, and our portion for ever"; at once our peace and our power, in life and in death, and through the eternal day also, in which we shall need Him still in the experiences of heaven.

What shall we say of the place to which the Epistle was sent, and of that from which it was written; and of the writer, the bearer, the readers; and of the occasion and the time?

Philippi now, so travellers tell us, is a scene of beautiful and silent ruin. Near the head of the fair Archipelago, amidst scenery of exquisite beauty, near the range of Pangaeus, now Pirnari, on the banks of the quiet Gangas, lie the relics of the once busy city, visited only by the herdsman and the explorer. By it or through it ran a great road from West to East, called by the Romans the Egnatian Way. The double battle of Philippi, B.C. 42, when the Oligarchy fell finally before the rising Empire, made the plain famous. Augustus planted a colonia in the town. It thus became a miniature Rome, as every "colony" was. It had its pair of petty consuls (duumviri; the strategoi of Acts xvi. 20) and their lictors (A.V. "serjeants," rhabdouchoi). And it faithfully reproduced Roman pride in the spirit of its military settlers. It had its Jewish element, as almost every place then had; but the Jews must have been few and despised; their place of worship was but a "prayer-house" (proseuche), outside the walls, on the river's bank (Acts xvi. 13). We need not recount in detail the history of the first evangelization (A.D. 52) of the difficult place. We recollect sufficiently the address to the pious Jewesses and proselyte-women in the "prayer-house"; the conversion and baptism of Lydia; the rescue of the poor girl possessed with the "spirit of Pytho"; the tumult, and the trial before the duumvirs; the scourge, the inner prison, the hymn at midnight, the earthquake, and the salvation of the jailor's life and soul; the message sent through the lictors in the morning, then the respectful approach of the magistrates themselves, and the retirement of the Missionaries "to another city," along the Egnatian road. It is enough now to remember, what the very existence of the Epistle reveals to us, the growth and life of the little mission-church planted amidst such storms, and in a climate, so to speak, full of possible tempests at any hour. In the Epistle, we arrive at a date some nine years later than the first visit of St Paul. Twice during that period, and perhaps only twice, we find him at Philippi again; late in A.D. 57 (Acts xx. 1) and early (it was the sweet spring, the Passover time) in A.D. 58; this last may have been a visit arranged on purpose (in Lightfoot's words: Philippians, p. 60) "that he might keep the Paschal feast with his beloved converts." No doubt, besides these personal visits, Philippi was kept in contact with its Missionary between A.D. 52 and A.D. 61 by messages and by the occasional visits of the Apostle's faithful helpers. But on the whole the Church would seem in a very large degree to have been left to its own charge. And what do we find as the issue when we come to the Epistle? A community large enough to need a staff of Christian ministers, "bishops and deacons," "overseers and working-helpers" (episkopoi kai diakonoi); full of love and good works; affectionately mindful of St Paul in the way of practical assistance; and apparently shewing, as their almost only visible defect or danger, a tendency to separate somewhat into sections or cliques—a trouble which in itself indicates a considerable society. If we may (as we may, looking at the ordinary facts of human nature) at all estimate the calibre of Philippian Christianity by the tone in which the Apostle addresses the Philippians, we gather that on the whole it was a high tone, at once decided and tender, affectionate and mature. The converts were capable of responding to a deep doctrinal teaching, and also to the simplest appeals of love. Such was the triumph of the mysterious Gospel over place, and circumstance, and character; the lily flowered at its fairest among the thorns; grace shone and triumphed in the immediate presence of its "adversaries."

But the evil we indicated just above was present in the otherwise happy scene. When Epaphroditus crossed the mountains and the sea to carry a generous gift of money to St Paul, risking his life (ii. 27) somehow by dangerous sickness in the effort, he had to carry also news of differences and heart-burnings, which could not but cloud the Apostle's loving joy. The envoy found it needful to speak also of the emissaries of error who at Philippi, as everywhere, were troubling the faith and hope of the believers; "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness"; professing a lofty spirituality, and worshipping their appetites all the while. And side by side with them, apparently, might be found Pharisaic disputants of an older type (iii. 3, 18, etc.).

Such was the report with which Epaphroditus found his way from Macedonia to Rome. Where, in Rome, did he find St Paul, and at what stage of his Roman residence? Our answer must begin with affirming the conviction that it was to Rome, not elsewhere, that Epaphroditus went. The reader is aware that the Epistle itself names no place of origin; it only alludes to a scene of imprisonment. And this does not of itself decide the locality; for at Caesarea Stratonis, in Palestine, as well as at Rome, St Paul spent two years in captivity (Acts xxiv. 27). Some modern critics have favoured the date from Caesarea accordingly. They have noticed e.g. the verbal coincidence between Herod's praetorium (A.V. "judgment-hall") of Acts xxiii. 35, and the praetorium (A.V. "palace") of Phil. i. 13. But Lightfoot[4] seems to me right in his decisive rejection of this theory and unshaken adherence to the date from Rome. He remarks that the oldest Church tradition is all for Rome; that the Epistle itself evidently refers to its place of origin as to a place of first-rate importance and extent, in which any advance of the Gospel was a memorable and pregnant event; and that the allusion to "Caesar's household" (though it is not so quite decisive as it might at first sight appear to be) "cannot without much straining of language and facts be made to apply to Caesarea."

If now the Epistle was written from Rome, during the "two whole years" of Acts xxviii. 30, at what point in that period may we think that the writing fell? Here again is a problem over which much thought and labour has been spent. A majority of opinions no doubt is in favour of a date towards the end of the imprisonment, so that Philippians would follow after Colossians and Ephesians. It is held that (1) the tone of the Epistle betokens the approach of a closing crisis for St Paul; and that (2) it seems to indicate an already developed Christian mission work at Rome, as if St Paul had worked there some while; and that (3) Epaphroditus' visit cannot be adjusted with any probability if we do not allow a good time for previous communications between Rome and Philippi. But here again Lightfoot's view commends itself to my mind decisively. He holds that Philippians was the first of the "Epistles of the Captivity," and was written perhaps within the first few months of the "two whole years." Two of his reasons seem adequate of themselves to make this likely. The first is, that St Paul's allusion to the profound impression made on the Roman Christians by his "bonds in Christ" (i. 13, 14) goes well with the hypothesis of his recent arrival as a prisoner for Christ's sake, but not with that of his having been long present on the scene. The other is that the great doctrinal passage (iii. 4-9), where he repudiates "his own righteousness" and commits himself to "the righteousness which is of God by faith," is evidently akin to the group of Epistles to which Romans belongs; and that it seems more likely that the divine Inspirer, in His order of revelation, led His servant so to write while the occasion for the writing of Romans was still comparatively recent, than long after, when the different (though kindred) sides of saving truth dealt with in Ephesians and Colossians had become prominent in his teaching. With reason, I think, Lightfoot "cannot attach any weight" to the argument from Epaphroditus' visit, which may well have been planned at Philippi before St Paul actually reached Rome, and planned thus early on purpose, so as to reach him promptly there with the collected gifts of love. Nor are the allusions to a probable impending crisis in the trial before the Emperor important for the date; for quite early in the imprisonment it may well have seemed likely that the case would be soon decided. As for the comparatively advanced state of Roman Christianity, the Epistle to the Romans is evidence enough that a vigorous and extensive mission-church, however it was founded, existed at Rome some years before St Paul arrived.

I will venture then to take it for granted that it was some time in A.D. 61, or at latest early in A.D. 62, that Epaphroditus came, with his collection and his reports, and struggled through his illness, and then prepared to return to Macedonia, carrying this precious Letter with him. We seem to see the scene as he converses day by day with St Paul, and as at length he takes his leave, in charge of this Message of "faith and love." We see a large chamber in one of those huge piles of building, storey over storey, of which imperial Rome was full. The window looks perhaps north-westward, up the stream of the Tiber, towards the distant hills of which Soracte is the most prominent. The sentinel, perhaps himself a convert to the Lord, sits motionless at a little distance, chained to the Apostle. The saints pray, converse, and embrace; and then Epaphroditus descends to set out for Ostia, or for Puteoli, on his way home to Philippi.

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever." The graves of the blessed ones who worked for the heavenly Master then are more than eighteen centuries old now. But the Letter to Philippi is to-day as new as ever. It is addressed to us, that we too may "believe, unto life everlasting," on "that same Jesus."

[1] Preserved by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., ii.

[2] Written early in 1896.

[3] Cowper, Conversation.

[4] Philippians (ed. i.), p. 30, note.

"Man, like the grass of morning, Droops ere the evening hour; His goodliness and beauty Fade as a fading flower; But who may shake the pillars Of God's unchanging Word? Amen, Himself hath spoken; Amen,—thus saith the Lord. BISHOP E. H. BICKERSTETH.


"I learned without booke almost all Paules Epistles, yea and I weene all the Canonical! Epistles, save only the Apocalyps. Of which study, although in time a great part did depart from me, yet the sweete smell thereof I trust I shall cary with me into heaven."





The Apostle and his converts one—The possible isolation of hearts—Union with and in Christ—Christ and the personality—Christ the secret of intimacy—Is the secret ours?—Reserve in Christian intercourse

Let us begin our verbal study of the Letter which Epaphroditus carried to Philippi. We attempt first a translation of its first main section, interspersed with an explanatory paraphrase. This will be followed by a brief meditation upon one of the main "Lessons in Faith and Love" suggested by the section.

Ver. 1. Paul and Timotheus, bondservants of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in union with Christ Jesus who are living at Philippi, Overseers, Workers, and all.[1]

Ver. 2. Grace to you, and peace—all the free favour of acceptance and of divine presence, and all the repose which it brings, within you and around you—from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

Vers. 3, 4. I give thanks to my God (He is mine, as I am His) over my whole memory of you; always in each request of mine on behalf of you all forming and expressing (poioumenos[2]) that (ten) request with joy;

Ver. 5. on account of your participation with me in regard of the Gospel, your active co-operation with me, by prayer, by work, by gifts, in the Gospel work,

Ver. 6. from the first day up to this present. For (the thought of your long consistency suggests the assertion) I am quite sure of just this, that He who inaugurated (enarkamenos: the word has solemn, ceremonial connexions) in you the[3] good work will perfect it, will evermore put His finishing touches to it (epitelesei), up to Christ Jesus' Day, the Day of His promised Return, and of our glorification with Him. But this is by the way; I return to my joy and my

Ver. 7. thanksgivings over you: Even as it is just that I, I above all men (emoi, emphatic, not moi), should feel (phronein) like this over you all, on behalf of you all,[4] because of my having you in my heart, as those who, alike in my imprisonment (desmois) and in the vindication and establishment of the Gospel, the defence of it against its enemies, the developement of its truths and its power in the believing, are copartners, all of you, of my grace; my grace, the grace granted me, the glorious privilege of suffering and of doing as a Missionary of Christ. Your loving, working sympathy has inextricably united you and me, alike in my prison and in my apostolate.

Ver. 8. Yes, I feel this in my inmost being. For God is my witness, how I yearn, as with a homesick affection (epipothia), for you all, in the heart (splagchna) of Christ Jesus; for to His members His heart is as it were theirs; our emotions are, by the Spirit, in contact with His.

Ver. 9. And what are those "requests" which I make for you with joy? This is my prayer, that your love, in the fullest Christian sense, but above all in the sense of your love to one another, may abound yet more and more in the attendant and protective blessing of spiritual knowledge (epignosis) and all needed

Ver. 10. discernment; so that, amidst life's many temptations to compromises of conviction or inconsistency of spirit, you may test the things that differ (ta diapherona), sifting truth and holiness from their counterfeits; in order to be singlehearted (eilikrineis[5]) and without a stumbling-block, such as error and inconsistency so easily lay in our further path, against, in view of, Christ's Day; so that when that Day dawns you may be found to be not servants whose time has been half lost for their Lord's work and will, but

Ver. 11. rather those who have been filled with the fruit (karpon, not karpon) of righteousness—the result, in witness and service, of your reconciliation and renewal,[6] fruit which is borne through Jesus Christ, the Procurer and the Secret of your fruit-bearing life, to God's praise and glory, the true goal and end of all our blessings and of all our labours.

So the Letter opens; with greeting, with benediction, and then with an outpouring, of sympathies full at once of the warmest and tenderest humanity and of the inmost secrets of divine truth and life. It is a preamble beautifully characteristic not only of St Paul but of the Gospel. It illustrates from many sides the happy fact that there is nothing which so effectually opens human hearts to one another as the love of Christ. We are all sadly familiar with the possibilities of isolation between heart and heart. Poets have written with eloquent melancholy of our personalities as islands which lie indeed near together, but in an unfathomable ocean, over whose channels no boat has ever passed. Schools of pessimistic thought have positively affirmed that never really has one ego found its way into another through the hermetic seal of individuality; all that we seem to know of others is but the action of our own mind within itself, occasioned by a blind collision with a something not itself, which we can strike upon but can never really know. Such lucubrations are artificial, not natural; a distortion of mysterious facts, not an exposition of them; the result of an arbitrary selection from the data of our consciousness, and then the treatment of the selection as if it were the whole. Quite apart from the Gospel, the facts of human intercourse are full of evidence to wonderful and beautiful possibilities of insight and intercourse between human spirit and spirit. But if we want to read the best possible negative to the gloomy dream of impenetrable isolation, we must come to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must make experiment of what it is, in Him, to know and love others who are in Him too. Then indeed we shall find that we can, in the common possession of a living Lord who dwells in our hearts by faith, see as it were from heart into heart, in the warm light of His presence. We shall find how wonderful is the friendship with one another to which the friends of Jesus are called, and for which they are enabled in Him.

"IN HIM": those words are the key to this deep, tender, healthful union, and as it were fusion, of souls. We have the truth which they convey prominent already in the Philippian Letter. It is addressed (ver. 1) to "the holy ones in Christ Jesus." That is to say, it comes to men and women who, taken on their profession, assumed to be in fact what they were denoted to be in baptism, were separated from self and sin to God by their union in covenant and life with their Redeemer. It regards them as personalities so truly annexed by Jesus Christ, in the miracle of converting grace, so articulated spiritually into Him, that no language short of this wonderful "in Him" will worthily express their relation to Him. Later (ver. 11), they are regarded as so united to Him that "the fruit of righteousness" which they are to bear in rich abundance is to be borne only "through Him"; He, the Vine, is the one possible secret by which they, the branches, can possibly be productive of the sweet cluster of "the fruit of the Spirit." And between those two places comes a sentence (ver. 8) where, just in passing, in a mere allusion to his own experience, the Apostle takes for granted this profound "continuity with Christ" in a peculiarly impressive way:

"I long after you all in the heart of Jesus Christ." As we have seen above, he regards himself (not as an Apostle but simply as a believer) as so "joined unto the Lord" that, if I may dare so to expand the phrase, the heart of Jesus Christ is the true organ and vehicle of his own regenerate emotions. The whole Scripture, and particularly the whole Pauline Scripture, assures us what this does not mean. It does not mean the least suspension or distortion of the humanity or of the personality of Paul. It means no absorption of his ego, and nothing whatever un-natural in either the nature or the exercise of his affections. His "homesick longing" to see the dear Philippian people again is quite as simple, natural, personal, as any longing he ever felt in his boyhood for his home at Tarsus when he was absent from it. Yes, but this personality, working so freely and truly in its every faculty, is now, by the Holy Ghost, so put into spiritual contact with the will and heart of Jesus Christ, who now "dwells in it by faith," that the whole action moves, so to speak, in the sphere, in the atmosphere, of HIM. The love which passes so freely through and out of the believer to his brethren would not be what it is if the believer were not "in Christ." He is still all himself; nay, he is more than ever himself, being in the Lord; for indeed that blessed union has a genial and developing power upon its happy subject. But such is that power that it deeply qualifies the mental and spiritual action of the being who enters into it; never violates but always qualifies.

The fact, the experience, of course transcends our analysis. But it is not beyond our faith, nor beyond our reception and inward verification.

"Thy love, Thy joy, Thy peace, Continuously impart Unto my heart; Fresh springs that never cease, But still increase." [7]

Our immediate purpose meanwhile is not to discuss the believer's union with his Lord, but to remark on this one precious result of it, the opening of his inmost sympathies to the sharers of the same blessing. We see that result displayed in all its brightness in this first paragraph of the Epistle; and we shall see it to the end. In the particular case of St Paul and the Philippians it was indeed a remarkable phenomenon. Here on the one side was a man who, not very many years before, had been the devotee of the Pharisaic creed, a creed which tended powerfully not to expand but to annihilate every sympathy which could touch "the Gentiles." Here on the other side were people whose life and thought had been moulded in the proud political and national ideas of a Roman colonia; no kindly atmosphere for the growth of affections which should be at once intense and comprehensive. But these two unlikely parties are now one, in the strongest and most beautiful union of thought and heart. If we may use again a word ventured just above, they are mutually (not confused but) fused together. Their whole beings have come into living touch, not on the surface merely but most of all in their depths. An interchange of idea, of sympathy, of purpose has become possible between them in which, while self-respect is only deepened and secured, reserve is melted away in the common possession of the life and love of Jesus Christ. The Apostle writes to his friends as one whose whole soul is open to them, is at their command. His memory and reflexion are full of them. He not only prays and gives thanks for them but delights in telling them that he is doing so. He says without difficulty exactly what he is sure of about them, and exactly what things he is asking for them as yet more developed blessings. Above all, the name of Him who is everything to himself and to them flows from his heart with a holy freedom which is impossible except where the parties in religious intercourse are indeed "one" in Him. Seven times in these eleven short verses "Christ Jesus" is explicitly named; as the writer's Possessor; as the Philippian saints' Life and Head; as the Giver to them, with His Father, of grace and peace; as the Lord of the longed-for "Day," that dear goal of hope; as the mighty Sphere of regenerate family-love; as the Cause and Condition of the Christian's fruitfulness for God. His presence, as it were, moves in the whole message, in the whole intercourse of which the message is the expression. Writer and readers perfectly "understand each other," for they both know Christ, and are found in Him.

The same divine Cause tends always to similar effects. Unhappily it does not always act without obstruction—obstruction which need not be. There are no doubt obstructions to its action which are inherent in our mortality; things which have to do really with physical temperament, or again with external circumstances which we may be helpless to modify. But the Cause, in itself, tends always to the effects visible in this noble passage of Christian affection. The possession and knowledge of Jesus Christ, in spirit and in truth, tends always, by an eternal law, to warm and open as well as to purify the human heart; to anchor it indeed immoveably to God, but also to suffuse it with a gracious sympathy towards man, and first and most of all towards man who is also, in Christ, cognizant of the "free-masonry" of faith.

Let this be our first main Lesson in Faith and Love in our Philippian studies. The section which we have traversed is full of points of interest and importance otherwise; but this aspect of it is so truly dominant that we may rightly take it for the true message of the whole. Let us welcome it home. Let us question ourselves, in presence of it, and before our Lord, first about our personal possession of the Cause, and then about our personal manifestation of the effects. Let us put to our own hearts some very old-fashioned interrogations: Am I indeed in Jesus Christ? Is He to me indeed Possessor, Lord, Giver of grace and peace? Is my life so lived and my work so done in contact with Him that through Him, and not merely through myself, "my fruit is found"? Is His promised Day the goal and longing of my heart, as I submit myself to Him that He may perfect His work in me by the way, and watch over myself that I may meet Him single-hearted and "without offence" at the end? Is He the pervading and supreme Interest of my life? Is He the inward Power which colours my thought and gives direction and quality to my affections?

No answer which a heart fully wakeful to God can give to such deliberate inward questionings can possibly be an easy or "light-hearted" answer. The gladdest and most thankful utterance of such a heart will carry along with it always the prayer, "Search me, O God, and try my heart"; "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant." Yet we are assuredly meant, if we are in Christ, so to know the fact as to rejoice in it, and to be strong in it; we are invited, without a doubt, so to know Him as to know we know Him, and to find in Him "all our salvation, and all our desire." Let us not rest till, in great humility but with perfect simplicity, we so see Him as to leave behind our doubts about our part and lot in Him, and, "believing, to rejoice."

And then let us covet the developement of those results of possession of Christ, of union with Christ, which we have specially studied in the opening section of our Epistle. Let us welcome the Lord in to "the springs of thought and will," with the conscious aim that He should so warm and enrich them with His presence that they shall overflow for blessing around us, in the life of Christian love. I do not mean for a moment that we should set ourselves to construct a spiritual mannerism of speech or of habit. The matter is one not of manufacture but of culture; it is a call to "nourish and cherish" the gift of God which is in us, and to give to it the humble co-operation of our definite wish and will that it may be manifested in the ways commended in His Word. It is a call to desire and intend to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour," in the outcoming of His presence in us in our tone, temper, and converse, towards those around us, and especially where we know that a common faith and common love do subsist.

If I mistake not, there is far too little of this at present, even in true Christian circles. A certain dread of "phraseology," of "pietism," of what is foolishly called "goody-goody," has long been abroad; a grievously exaggerated dread; a mere parody of rightful jealousy for sincerity in religion. Under the baneful spell of this dread it is only too common for really earnest Christians to keep each other's company, and even to take part in united religious work, and to be constantly together as worshippers, aye, perhaps as ministers of the Word and Ordinances of Christ, and yet never, or hardly ever, to exchange a word about HIM, heart to heart; still less to "speak often one to another," and share fully together their treasures of experience of what He is and what He has done for them. The very dialect of the Christian life has greatly lost in holy depth and tenderness, so it seems to me, since a former generation in which this over-drawn fear (it is a mere fashion) of "phraseology" was less prevalent. It ought not so to be.

Let us each for himself come closer to our eternal FRIEND, converse more fully with Him, "consider HIM" much more than many of us do. And then we too shall discover that "our mouth is opened, our heart enlarged," for holy converse with our fellow-servants, in that wonderful interchange of souls which is possible "in the heart of Jesus Christ."

"Oh days of heaven, and nights of equal praise, Serene and peaceful as those heavenly days, When souls, drawn upwards in communion sweet, Enjoy the stillness of some close retreat; Discourse, as if releas'd and safe at home, Of dangers past and wonders yet to come, And spread the sacred treasures of the breast Upon the lap of covenanted rest." [8]

[1] Sun episcopois kai diakonois. I render the words as literally as possible, not to discredit the distinctive functions of the Christian ministry, but to remind the reader of the natural origin of the titles by which Christian ministers are designated. And it is important here to remember that our word bishop, while derived from episkopos, cannot properly translate it as it is used in the New Testament. For episkopos is not used there as the special title of a superintendent pastor set over other pastors. Such superintendents, however the office originated, are found in the New Testament, and early in the second century are called distinctively episkopoi: but the term so used is later, on any theory, than the origin of the office. But I do not purpose in these devotional chapters to discuss at length such a question as that raised here. The reader should by all means consult Bishop Lightfoot's Excursus in his Commentary on this Epistle, The Christian Ministry. The views advanced in that essay were, as I personally know, held by the writer to the last.

[2] The middle suggests a certain fulness of action.

[3] I think the definite article should be supplied in English; the reference is to the work of works.

[4] I give both the possible renderings of huper. Both would certainly be in place, as he thought of them and prayed and gave thanks for them.

[5] The derivation is doubtful, but the idea of the word in usage is clearness, freedom from complication.

[6] With some hesitation I assign to dikaiosune here the meaning of the righteousness of justification, as in iii. 9.

[7] F. R. Havergal.

[8] Cowper, Conversation.


"Yield to the Lord, with simple heart, All that thou hast and all thou art, Renounce all strength but strength divine, And peace shall be for ever thine." MME DE LA MOTHE GUYON, translated by COWPER.




Disloyal "brethren"—Interest of the paragraph—The victory of patience—The Praetorian sentinel—Separatism, and how it was met—St Paul's secret—His "earnest expectation"—"Christ magnified"—"In my body"

St Paul has spoken his affectionate greeting to the Philippians, and has opened to them the warm depths of his friendship with them in the Lord. What he feels towards them "in the heart of Christ Jesus," what he prays for them in regard of the growth and fruit of their new life, all has been expressed. It is time now to meet their loving anxieties with some account of his own position, and the circumstances of the mission in the City. Through this passage let us follow him now; we shall find that the quiet picture, full of strong human interest in its details, is suffused all over with the glory of the presence and the peace of Christ.

Ver. 12. Now I wish you to know, brethren, that my position and circumstances (ta kat eme, "the things related to me") have come out, have resulted, rather for the progress of the Gospel message and enter-

Ver. 13. prise, than otherwise; so that my bonds, my imprisonment, with its custodia militaris, are become unmistakable (phanerous) as being in Christ; as due to no social or political crime, but to the name and cause of the Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world. This is the case in the whole Praetorium,[1] in all ranks of the Imperial Guard, and among other people in general (tois loipois pasi[2]). And

Ver. 14. another result is[3] that the majority (tous plaionas) of the brethren in the Lord, the converts of the Roman mission, feeling a new confidence in connexion with my bonds,[4] animated by the fact of my imprisonment, realizing afresh the glory of the cause which makes me happy to suffer, venture more abundantly, more frequently, more openly, fearlessly to speak the Word, the message of Christ, of the Cross, of Truth, of Life. There is a drawback in this

Ver. 15. welcome phenomenon: some indeed actually (kai) for envy and strife, while others as truly (kai) for goodwill, are proclaiming the Christ. The latter[5]

Ver. 16. are at work thus from motives of love, love to the Lord and to me His captive Messenger, knowing that on purpose for the vindication (apologian) of the Gospel I am posted (keimai, as a soldier, fixed by his captain's order) here. The former from

Ver. 17. motives of faction, partizanship (eritheia) in a self-interested propaganda of their own opinions, are announcing the Christ, not purely, thinking and meaning to raise up (egeirein, so read) tribulation for me in my bonds; as so easily they can do, by detaching from me many converts who would otherwise gather round me, and generally by the mortifying thought of their freedom and activity in contrast to my enforced isolation. Shall I give way to the trial, and lose patience and peace? Must I? Need

Ver. 18. I? Nay; what matters it (ti gar)? Is not the fiery arrow quenched in Christ for me? Is it not thus nothing to me? Yes—yet not nothing, after all; for it brings a gain; it spreads the Gospel so much further; so that to my "What matters it?" I may add, Only, in every way, fair or foul, Christ is being announced; and in this I rejoice, aye, and rejoice I shall; the future can only bring me fresh reasons for a joy which lies wholly in the triumphs of my Lord, and can only bring fresh blessings to

Ver. 19. me His vassal. For I know that I shall find (moi) this experience result in salvation, in the access of saving grace to my soul, through your supplication for me, which will be quickened by your knowledge of my trials, and through a resulting full supply (epichoregia: the word suggests a supply which is ample) of the Spirit of Jesus Christ; a developed presence in me of the Holy Ghost, coming from the exalted Saviour, and revealing Him, and applying Him. Such blessing will be exactly

Ver. 20. according to my eager expectation (apokaradokia) and hope, that in no respect shall I be disappointed (aiochunthesomai: with the "shame" of a miscalculation), but that in all outspokenness (parresia) of testimony, whether in word or deed, as always, so also now, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by means of life or by means of death.

The passage is full of various points of interest. It is interesting, as we saw in our first chapter, in regard of the historical criticism of the Epistle. It gives a strong suggestion (I follow Lightfoot in the remark) in favour of dating the Epistle early in the "two years" of Acts xxviii. For it implies that the fact of the Apostle's imprisonment was a powerful stimulant to the zeal of the Roman Christians; and this is much more likely to have been the case when the imprisonment was still a new fact to them, than later. St Paul's arrival and first settlement, in the character (totally new in Rome, so far as we know) of a "prisoner of Jesus Christ," would of itself give a quickening shock, so to speak, to the believing community, which had suffered, so we gather, from a certain decadence of zeal. But when he had been some time amongst them, and the conditions of the "hired house" had become usual and familiar in their thoughts, it would be otherwise; whatever else about St Paul might rekindle their ardour, the mere fact of his imprisoned state would hardly do so.

The passage is further interesting as it indicates one particular direction of the Apostle's influence upon the pagans around him. It was felt, primarily, "in all the Praetorium," that is to say, in the large circle of the Imperial Life-guards.[6] We gather here, with reasonable certainty, that from the Life-guards were supplied, one by one, "the soldiers that kept him" (Acts xxviii. 16); mounting guard over him in turn, and fastened to him by the long chain which clasped at one end the wrist of the prisoner, at the other that of the sentinel. It needs only a passing effort of imagination to understand something of the exquisite trial to every sensibility which such a custody must have involved, even where the conditions were favourable. Let the guardian be ever so considerate and civil, it would be a terrible ordeal to be literally never alone, night or day; and too often, doubtless, the guardian would be not at all complaisant. To many a man, certainly to any man of the refined mental and moral nature of St Paul, this slow fire of indescribable annoyance would be far worse to endure than a great and sudden infliction of pain, even to death. It is a noble triumph of grace when such a test is well borne, and turned by patience into an occasion for God. When Nicholas Ridley, for a long year and a half (1554-5) was committed at Oxford to the vexatious domestic custody of the mayor and his bigoted wife, Edmund and Margaret Irish, it must have been nothing less than a slow torture to one whose fine nature had been used for years to the conditions of civil and ecclesiastical dignity and of a large circle of admirable friends. And it was a spiritual victory, second only to that of his glorious martyrdom (Oct. 16, 1555), when the close of that dreary time found the once obdurate and vexatious Mrs Irish won by Ridley's life to admiration and attachment, and also, as it would seem, to scriptural convictions.[7] But it was a still nobler result from a still more persistent and penetrating trial when St Paul so lived and so witnessed in the presence of this succession of Roman soldiers that the whole Guard was pervaded with a knowledge of his true character and position, evidently in the sense of interest and of respect. It must have been a course of unbroken consistency of conduct as well as of openness of witness. Had he only sometimes, only rarely, only once or twice, failed in patience, in kindness, in the quiet dignity of the Gospel, the whole succession of his keepers would have felt the effect, as the story passed from one to another. As a fact, the "keeping power of Christ" was always with him, and always used by him, and the men went out one after another to say that here was a prisoner such as never was before. Here was no conspirator or criminal; his "bonds" were evidently (ver. 13) due only to his devotion to a God whom he would not renounce, and whose presence with him and power over him were visibly shewn in the divine peace and love of his hourly life.

We can please ourselves if we will by imagining many a scene for the exercise of that influence. Sometimes the Saint would be left much alone with the Praetorian. Sometimes a long stream of visitors would flow in, and for a whole day perhaps the two would scarcely exchange a word; the Guardsman would only watch and listen, if he cared to do so. Sometimes it would be a case where ignorant and ribald blasphemies would have to be met in the power of the peace of God. Sometimes a really wistful heart would at once betray its presence under the Roman cuirass. Perhaps the man would attack the Apostle with ridicule, or with enquiries, after some long day of religious debate, such as that recorded in Acts xxviii., and the silent night would see St Paul labouring on to win this soul also.

"These ears were dull to Grecian speech; This heart more dull to aught but sin; Yet the great Spirit bade thee reach, Wake, change, exalt, the soul within: I've heard; I know; thy Lord, ev'n He, JESUS, hath look'd from heaven on me.

* * * * *

"A Christian, yes—for ever now A Christian: so our Leader keep My faltering heart: to Him I bow, His, whether now I wake or sleep: In peace, in battle. His:—the day Breaks in the east: oh, once more pray!" [8]

The passage before us is interesting again because of the light it throws on the very early rise of a separatist movement in the Roman mission-church, and on the principles on which St Paul met it. Extremely painful and perplexing the phenomenon was, though by no means new in its nature to St Paul, as we well know. It was a trouble altogether from within, not from without. The men who "preached Christ of envy and strife" bore evidently the Christian name as openly as their sincerer brethren. They were baptized members of the community of the Gospel. And their evangelization was such that St Paul was able to say, "Christ is preached"; though this does not mean, assuredly, that there were no doubtful elements mingled in the preaching. Now for them, as for all the Roman Christians, he had every reason to regard himself as the Lord's appointed centre of labour and of order. There he was, the divinely commissioned Apostle of Christ, at once the Teacher and the Leader of the Gentile Churches; only a few short years before he had written to these very people, in his inspired and commissioned character, the greatest of the Epistles. Yet now behold a separation, a schism. That such the movement was we cannot doubt. These "brethren," he tells us, carried on their missionary efforts in a way precisely intended to "raise up trouble" for him in his prison. The least that they would do with that object would be not only to teach much that he would disapprove of, but to intercept intercourse between their converts and him; to ignore him altogether as the central representative of the Church at Rome; to arrange for assemblies, to administer Baptisms, to practise the Breaking of Bread, wholly apart from the order and cohesion which he would sanction, and which he had the fullest right to enjoin. All this was a great evil, a sin, carrying consequences which might affect the Christian cause far and wide. Is it not true that no deliberate schism has ever taken place in the Church where there has not been grievous sin in the matter—on one side, or, on the other, or on both?

Yet how does the Apostle meet this distressing problem? With all the large tolerance and self-forgetting patience which come to the wise man who walks close to God in Christ. No great leader, surely, ever prized more the benefits of order and cohesion than did St Paul. And where a fundamental error was in view, as for example that about Justification in Galatia, no one could meet it more energetically, and with a stronger sense of authority, than he did. But he "discerned things that differ." And when, as here, he saw around him men, however misguided, who were aiding in the "announcement" of the Name and salvation of Christ, he thought more of the evangelization than of the breach of coherence, which yet most surely he deplored. He speaks with perfect candour of the unsound spiritual state of the separatists, their envy, strife, and partizanship. But he has no anathema for their methods. He is apparently quite unconscious of the thought that because he is the one Apostle in Rome grace can be conveyed only through him; that his authority and commission are necessary to authenticate teaching and to make ordinances effectual. He would far rather have order, and he knows that he is its lawful centre. But "the announcement of Christ" is a thing even more momentous than order. He cannot stay to speak of that great but inferior benefit, while he "rejoices, aye, and is going to rejoice," in the diffusion of the Name and salvation of the Lord.

It is an instructive lesson. Would that in all the after ages the Church had more watchfully followed this noble precedent! The result would have been, so I venture to hold, a far truer and stronger cohesion, in the long run, than we see, alas, around us now.

What was the secret of this happy harmony of the love of order and the capacity for tolerance in the mind of St Paul? It was a secret as deep but also as simple as possible; it was the Lord Jesus Christ. Really and literally, Jesus Christ was the one ruling consideration for St Paul; not himself, his claims, position, influence, feelings; not even the Church. To him the Church was inestimably precious, but the Lord was more. And all his thoughts about work, authority, order, and the like, were accordingly conditioned and governed by the thought, What will best promote the glory of the Lord who loved us and gave Himself for us? If even a separatist propaganda will extend the knowledge of HIM, His servant can rejoice, not in the separatism, not in the unhappy spirit which prompted it, but in the extension of the reign of Jesus Christ in the human hearts which need Him. Surely, even in our own day, with its immemorial complications of the question of exterior order, it will tend more than anything else to straighten the crooked places and level the rough places, if we look, from every side, on the glory of the blessed Name as our supreme and ruling interest.

This view of the supremacy of the Saviour in the thoughts of St Paul about the Church leads us to a view, as we close, of that supremacy in all his thoughts about his own life. Our paragraph ends with the words which anticipate a great blessing, a new developement of "salvation," in the writer's soul, in answer to the believing prayers of the Philippians; and then comes the thought that this result will carry out his dearest personal ambition—"that Christ may be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." Let us take up those final words for a simple study, before God.

"According to my eager expectation," my apokaradokia, my waiting and watching, with outstretched head, for some keenly wished-for arrival, or attainment. Such is this man's thought and feeling with regard to the "magnification" of Christ through his life and death. It is his "hope," it is his absorbing "expectation." It is to him the thing with which he wakes up in the morning, and over which he lingers as he prepares to sleep at night. It is the animating inner interest which gives its zest to life. What art is to the ambitious and successful painter, what literature is to the man who loves it for its own sake and whose books have begun to take the world, what athletic toil and triumph is to the youth in his splendid prime, what the fact of extending and wealth-winning enterprise is to the man conscious of mercantile capacity—all this, only very much more, is the "magnification of Christ in his body" to the prisoner who sits, never alone, in the Roman lodging. It is this which effectually forbids him ever to find the days dull. Its light falls upon everything; comforts, trials, days of toil, hours of comparative repose, prospects of life, prospects of death. It quickens and concentrates all his faculties, as a great and animating interest always tends to do; it is always present to his mind as light and heat, to his will as rest and power. It secures for him the quiet of a great disengagement and liberty from selfish motives; it continually drives him on, with a force which does not exhaust him (for it is from above) in the ambition and enterprise which is for Christ; giving him at once an impulse toward great and arduous labours, and a patience and loving tact which continually adjusts itself to the smallest occasions of love and service.

Reader, this is admirable in St Paul. But after all, the ultimate secret of the noble phenomenon resides not in St Paul but in Jesus Christ. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. i. 15, 16). The man had seen his Saviour with his whole soul. And because of—not the man who saw but—the Saviour who was seen, behold, the life is lifted off the pivot of self-will and transferred to that of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The same "revealing" grace can lift us also. We are not St Pauls; but the Jesus Christ of St Paul is absolutely the same, in Himself, for us. We will, in His name, place ourselves in the way of His working, that He may so shew us His fair countenance that we may not be able not to live, quite really, for Him as the enthralling Interest of life.

Let us look at the words again: "That Christ may be magnified," may be made great. In what respect? Not in Himself; for He is already "all in all"; "filling all things"; "higher than the heavens." Such is He that "no man knoweth the Son but the Father"; the mind of Deity is alone adequate to comprehend His glory. But He may be magnified—relatively to those who see Him, or may see Him. To eyes which find in Christ only a distant and obscure Object, however sacred, He may be made to occupy the whole field of the soul with His love and glory. As when the telescope is directed upon the heavens, and some "cloudy spot" becomes, magnified, a mighty planet perhaps, or perhaps a universe of starry suns; so it is when through a believer's life "Christ is magnified" to eyes which watch that life and see the reality of the power within.

Ah, have we not known such lives ourselves? Has not the Lord been made very near to us, and very luminous, in the face of father, mother, brother, sister, friend, or pastor? Have we not seen Him shining large and near us in their holy activities, and in their blessed sufferings, shedding His glory through all they were and all they did? He has been magnified to us by saints in high places, whose dignity and fame have been to them only so much occasion for the exercise of their "ruling passion"—the glory of Christ. And He has been magnified to us also by saints in comfortless cottages, imprisoned upon sick-beds in gloomy attics, but finding in everything an occasion to experience and to manifest the power of their Lord. May He make it always our ambition to be thus His magnifiers. But may He keep it a really pure ambition. For even this can be distorted into the misery of self-seeking; an ambition not that Christ may be magnified, but that His magnifier may be thought "some great one" in the spiritual life.

"In my body." Because through the body, and only through it, practically, can we tell on others for the Lord. Do we speak to them? Do we write to them? Do we make home comfortable and happy for them? Do we "meet the glad with joyful smiles and wipe the weeping eyes"? Do we travel to those who want us? Do we nurse them? Do we think for them? All has its motives in the regenerate spirit, but all has its effect through the body. Without brain, eyes, ears, lips, hands, feet—how could we serve, how could we shine? Our life would have no articulation to others, nor our death.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." So be it, for writer and for reader. Then blessed will be our life, as day by day brings ceaseless occasions for the pursuit of our dear ambition—"that Christ may be magnified."


*** En holo to praitorio (ver. 13).—The word praitorion occurs in e.g. Matt. xxvii. 27. Acts xxiii. 35, in the sense of the residence of a great official, regarded as praetor, or commander. The A.V. here evidently reasons from such passages, and takes the word to mean the residence at Rome of the supreme praetor, the Emperor; the Palatium, the vast range of buildings on the Mons Palatinus which has since given a name to all "palaces." Bishop Lightfoot however has made it clear (a) that such a use at Rome, by Romans, of the word Praetorium was probably not known; (b) that the word Praetorium was a familiar word for the great body of the Imperial Life-guards; and that it would probably be often so used by the (praetorian) "soldiers who kept him." On the whole it seems clear that, at Rome, the word would denote a body, not a place. It never appears as a name for the great camp of the Praetorians, outside Rome at the east.

[1] See note at the end of this chapter.

[2] The A.V. rendering "in all other places" is obviously due to the belief that praitorion signified a place, not a body of men.

[3] I thus convey the force of hoste, across the break we have made in the original sentence.

[4] Literally perhaps, "relying on my bonds," as a new ground for their assurance of the goodness of the cause.—It is possible to render here, "the brethren, having in the Lord confidence, are, in view of my bonds, much more bold," etc. But the rhythm of the Greek is in favour of our rendering (which is essentially that of A.V. and R.V.).

[5] I adopt here the order of the Greek clauses which is best attested.

[6] See note at the end of this chapter.

[7] I venture to refer to my book, Bishop Ridley on the Lord's Supper (Seeley), pp. 54, 55, 72.

[8] See the close of the volume.


O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; Give unto Thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey Thy commandments, and also that by Thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

The Second Collect at Evening Prayer.




He will be spared to them—Spiritual wealth of the paragraph—Adolphe Monod's exposition—Charles Simeon's testimony—The equilibrium and its secret—The intermediate bliss—He longs for their full consistency—The "gift" of suffering

Ver. 21. For to me, to live is Christ; the consciousness and experiences of living, in the body, are so full of Christ, my supreme Interest, that CHRIST sums them all up; and to die, the act of dying,[1] is gain, for it will usher me in from an existence of blessing to an existence of more blessing still. But

Ver. 22. if living on, in the flesh, be my lot; if the present suspense issues in my being acquitted at the Roman tribunal, this will prove to me (touto moi) fruit of work; it will just mean so much more work for the Lord, and so much more fruit; I shall welcome it not as being the best thing in itself, as if I chose mortal life for its own sake, but because of its ceaseless opportunities for my Lord. And which alternative I shall choose, I do not know, I do not recognize (gnorizo, as one who seeks to be sure of the face of

Ver. 23. a friend amidst other faces). Nay (de), I am held in suspense on both sides;[2] my personal desire being[3] in the direction of departing, striking my tent, weighing my anchor (analysai),[4] and being with Christ (for this is what "departing" means for us Christians, on its other side); for it is far, far better, by far more preferable, pollo mallon kreisson—aye even than a "life in the flesh" which "is Christ"! But

Ver. 24. then the abiding by (epimenein) the flesh, the brave, faithful, holding fast to the conditions of earthly trial, is more necessary, more obligatory, more of the nature of duty as against pleasure, on account of you, and your further need of me in the Lord. And feeling

Ver. 25. confident of this, I know that I shall remain—aye and shall remain side by side (parameno) with you all, as your comrade, your helper, in order to your progress and joy in your faith;[5] so as to promote your growth in the exercise of loyal reliance on your Lord, and in the deep joy which is the natural issue of such

Ver. 26. reliance; so that your exultation may be overflowing in Christ Jesus, in your living union with Him, in me (en emoi), "in" whom you see a living example of your Lord's love, shewn to you by means of my

Ver. 27. coming back to you again. Only, whether I am thus actually restored to you or not, order your life[6] in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ (above all, worthy of the unifying, harmonizing power of the Gospel); so that whether coming and seeing you, or remaining absent, I may hear[7] about your circumstances, your condition, that you are standing firm in One Spirit,[8] in the power of the One Strengthener, and, with one soul, one life and love, the resultant of the One Spirit's work in you all, wrestling side by side, with enemies and obstacles, for [9]the faith of the Gospel, for the maintenance and victory of that reliance which embraces

Ver. 28. the truth of Christ; and refusing to be (me) scared out of that attitude in anything by your (ton) opponents, the unconverted world around you. Such (hetis) calm united courage is to them an evidence, a sure token, an omen, of the perdition which awaits the obstinate foes of holiness, but to you of the salvation which awaits Christ's faithful witnesses. And this, this condition of conflict and courage, is from God; no mere blind result of accidents, but His purpose.

Ver. 29. Yes, because to you there has been granted[10] as an actual boon—for the sake of Christ not only the believing on Him but also the suffering for His sake;[11] a sacred privilege when it is involved by

Ver. 30. loyalty to such a Master! So you will be experiencing[12] (echontes) the same conflict in kind (oion) (as you wrestle side by side for your Lord against evil) as that which you saw in me, in my case, when I was with you in those first days (Acts xvi.), and which you now hear of in me, as I meet it in my prison at Rome.

The translation of our present section is completed. It has presented rather more material than usual for grammatical remark and explanation; constructions have proved to be complex, contracted, or otherwise slightly anomalous; and points of order and emphasis have claimed attention. But I trust that this handling of the texture has only brought more vividly into sight the holy richness and brightness of the design. Sentence by sentence, we have been reading a message of the first order of spiritual importance, as St Paul has spoken from his own experience of the Christian's wonderful happiness in life and death, and then, in his appeal to the Philippians, of the Christian's path of love and duty.

Let us listen anew to each part of that precious message.

i. The Christian's Happiness in Life and Death.

In Adolphe Monod's volume of death-bed addresses, his Adieux a ses Amis et a l'Eglise, one admirable chapter, the second, is devoted to the passage before us, Phil. i. 21-26. From the borderland of eternity the great French Christian looks backward and forward with St Paul's letter in his hand, and comments there upon this divine possibility of "Happiness in Life and in Death." "The Apostle," he says, "is asking here which is most worth while for him, to live or to die. Often has that question presented itself to us, and perhaps we, like the Apostle, have answered that 'we are in a strait.' But I fear we may have used the words in a sense far different from St Paul's. When we have wished for death, we meant to say, 'I know not which alternative I ought most to dread, the afflictions of life, from which death would release me, or the terrors of death, from which life protects me.' In other words, life and death look to us like two evils of which we know not which is the less. As for the Apostle, they look to him like two immense blessings, of which he knows not which is the better. Personally, he prefers death, in order to be with Christ. As regards the Church and the world, he prefers life, in order to serve Jesus Christ, to extend His kingdom, and to win souls for Him. What an admirable view of life and of death!—admirable, because it is all governed (dominiee), all sanctified, by love, and is akin to the Lord Jesus Christ's own view of life and death. Let us set ourselves to enter into this feeling (sentiment). Life is good; death is good. Death is good, because it releases us from the miseries of this life, but above all because, even were life full for us of all the joys which earth can give, death bids us enter into a joy and a glory of which we can form no idea. We are then to consider death as a thing desirable in itself. Let us not shun what serves to remind us of it. Let all the illnesses, all the sudden deaths, all that passes round us, remind us that for each one of us death may come at any moment. But then life also is good, because in life we can serve, glorify, imitate, Jesus Christ. Life is not worth the trouble of living for any other object. All the strength we possess, all the breath, the life, the faculties, all is to be consecrated, devoted, sanctified, crucified, for the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. This crucified life is the happy life, even amidst earth's bitterest pains; it is the life in which we can both taste for ourselves and diffuse around us the most precious blessings. Let us love life, let us feel the value of life—but to fill it with Jesus Christ. In order to such a state of feeling, the Holy Spirit alone can transform us into new men. But observe; it is not only that our spirit must be sustained, consoled, fortified; the Spirit of God must come to dwell in us. We often set ourselves to work on ourselves, to set our spirit in order; this is well, but it is not enough. We want more. Jesus Christ Himself must dwell in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

"My friends, let us reflect upon the character of the promises of the Gospel, and we shall see how far we are from possessing and enjoying them. May God open the heavens above our heads; revealing all to us, filling us with all wisdom, granting us to see that even here below we may attain to perfect joy, while looking forward to possess hereafter the plenitude of bliss and of victory. May He teach us how to gather up the blessings which the heavens love to pour upon the earth which opens to receive them. And so may He teach us to know that if earth is able to bear us down and trouble us, it is unable to quench the virtues of heaven, to annul the promises of God, or to throw a veil, be it even the lightest cloud, over the love with which God has loved us in Jesus Christ."[13]

"He being dead yet speaketh." On his bed of prolonged and inexpressible sufferings Monod, called comparatively early to leave a life and ministry of singular fruitfulness and rich in interests, found in Jesus the inexhaustible secret of this blessed equilibrium of St Paul. And what a cloud of witnesses have borne their testimony to that same open secret, as the most solid while most supernatural of realities! As I write, the memory comes up before me of a beloved friend and kinsman, my contemporary at Cambridge, called unexpectedly to die in his twenty-second year. Life to him was full of the strongest interests and most attractive hopes, alike in nature and in grace. He had no quarrel with life; it had poured out before him a rich store of social and mental blessings, and a large wealth of surrounding love, and the Lord Jesus, taking early and decisive possession of the young man's heart, had only augmented and glorified, not rebuked or stunted, every interest. But a slight fever, caught in the Swiss hotel, was medically mismanaged, and when perfect skill was summoned in, it was too late. His mother came to her son on his sofa to tell him that he was not only, as he knew, very poorly; he was about to die. In a moment, without a change of colour, without a tremor, without a pause, smiling a radiant smile, he looked up and answered, "Well, to depart and to be with Christ is far better!"

So the young Christian passed away, exchanging life which was sweet for death which, because of the life it would reveal, was sweeter. And "the veterans of the King" say just the same. If ever a man enjoyed life, with a vigorous and conscious joy, it was Simeon of Cambridge. And till the age of exactly seventy-seven he was permitted to live with a powerful life indeed; a life full of affections, interests, enterprises, achievements, and all full of Christ. Yet in that energetic and intensely human soul "the desire was to depart and to be with Christ." It was no dreamy reverie; but it was supernatural. It stimulated him to unwearied work; but it was breathed into him from eternity. "I cannot but run with all my might," he wrote in the midst of his youthful old age, "for I am close to the goal."

It is indeed a phenomenon peculiar to the Gospel, this view of life and death. It is far more than resignation. It is different even from the "holy indifference" of the mystic saints. For it is full of warmth, and sympathy, and all the affections of the heart, in both directions. The man who is the happy possessor of this secret does not on the one hand go about saying to himself that all around him is maya, is a dream, a phantasm of the desert sands counterfeiting the waters and the woods of Eden. He is as much alive in human life as the worldling is, and more. He cordially loves his dear ones; he is the open-hearted friend, the helpful neighbour, the loving and loyal citizen and subject, the attentive and intelligent worker in his daily path of duty. Time with its contents is full of reality and value to him. He does not hold that the earth is God-forsaken. With his Lord (Ps. civ.), he "rejoices in the works" of that Lord's hands; and, with the heavenly Wisdom (Prov. viii.), "his delights are with the sons of men." But on the other hand, he does not banish from his thoughts as if it were unpractical the dear prospect of another world. He is not foolish enough to talk of "other-worldliness," as if it were a selfish thing to "lay up treasure in heaven," and so to have "his heart there also." For him the present could not possibly be what it is in its interests, affections, and purposes, if it were not for the revealed certainties of an everlasting future in the presence of the King. "He faints not," in the path of genuine temporal toil and duty, because "he looks at the things which are not seen."

But now, what is the secret of the equilibrium? We saw in our last chapter what was the secret of the unruffled peace with which St Paul could meet the exquisite trials occasioned by the separatist party at Rome. It was the Lord Jesus Christ. And the secret of the far more than peace with which here he meets the alternative of life and death is precisely the same; it is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has no philosophy of happiness; he has something infinitely better; he has the Lord. What gives life its zest and charm for him? It is, that life "is Christ." What makes death an object of positive personal "desire" for him, matched, let us remember, against a "life" with which he is so deeply contented? It is, that "to depart" is to be with Christ, which is "far, far better." On either side of the veil, Jesus Christ is all things to him. So both sides are divinely good; only, the conditions of the other side are such that the longed-for companionship of his MASTER will be more perfectly realized there.

We might linger long over this golden passage. It would give us matter for more than one chapter to unfold adequately, for example, its clear witness to the conscious and immediate blessedness in death of the servants of God. We may ponder long what it implies in this direction when we remember that its "far, far better" means "better" not than our present life at its worst but than our present life at its holiest and best; for, as we have observed already, it is "far, far better" than a life here which "is Christ." Whatever mysteries attend the thought of the Intermediate State, and however distinctly we remember that the disembodied spirit must, as such, be circumstanced less perfectly than the spirit lodged again in the body, "the body of glory," yet this at least we gather here; the believer's happy spirit, "departing" from "this tabernacle," finds itself not in the void, not in the dark, not under penal or disciplinary pain, but in a state "far, far better" than its very best yet. It is, in a sense so much better in degree as to be new in kind, "with Christ."

"Yes, think of all things at the best; in one rich thought unite All purest joys of sense and soul, all present love and light; Yet bind this truth upon thy brow and clasp it to thy heart, And then nor grief nor gladness here shall claim too great a part— All radiance of this lower sky is to that glory dim; Far better to depart it is, for we shall be WITH HIM." [14]

ii. But even on this theme I must not linger now. Not only because "the time would fail me," but because we have to remember that the main incidence of the Apostle's thought here is not upon the blessedness of death but upon the joy of duty, the "fruit of labour," in continued life. He looks in through the gate, not to sigh because he may not enter yet, but "to run with all his might," in the path of unselfish service, "because he is close to the goal"—the goal of being with Christ, to whom he will belong for ever, and whom he will serve for ever, "day and night in His temple." He "knows that he shall remain, and that, side by side with" his dear converts at Philippi. And his "meat is to do the will of Him that sent him, and to finish His work."

The remainder of our chosen portion is altogether to this purpose. He has said enough about himself now, having just indicated how much Christ can be to him for peace and power in the great alternative. Now his thoughts are wholly at Philippi, and he spends himself on entreating them to live indeed, to live wholly for Christ; and to do so in two main respects, in self-forgetting unity, and in the recognition of the joy and glory of suffering.

"Only let them order their life in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ." "Only"; as if this were the one possible topic for him now. This will content him; nothing else will. He "desires one thing of the Lord"—the practical holiness of his beloved converts; and he cannot possibly do otherwise, coming as he has just come from "the secret of the presence," felt in his own experience. Will they be watchful and prayerful? Will they renounce the life of self-will, and entirely live for their Lord's holy credit and glory? Will they particularly surrender a certain temptation to jealousies and divisions? Will they recollect that Christ has so committed Himself to them to manifest to the world that it is the "only" thing in life, after all, in the last resort, to be practically true to Him? Then the Missionary will be happy; his "joy will be fulfilled."

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse