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THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
THE OMNIPRESENCE OF THE LORD.
Philippians iv. 5.
THE LORD IS AT HAND.
The Epistle for this day seems to have been selected on account of its containing these words. They apply both to what goes before them, and to what follows in it. If they should be considered to mean, according to the language of St. James, The coming of the Lord draweth nigh, it becomes believers in Christ to rejoice in the prospect of it. Since they are then commanded to look up, and lift up their heads, because their redemption draweth nigh.29 If they be applied to the celebration of the approaching festival, in which we commemorate the first coming of our most adorable Redeemer, it is the privilege of Christians to rejoice that unto us was born a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And if they be supposed to intimate merely,
according to the declaration of the Psalmist, that the Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth,50 His praying people may well rejoice in this consideration; and take encouragement from it to commit themselves and all their concerns to the care and disposal of His overruling providence, which ordereth all things in heaven and earth.
Let us then enter upon the consideration of the Epistle for this day with prayer that the Spirit of God would be pleased to apply to our hearts the exhortations which are here addressed to us, that our joy may be in the Lord our Saviour, and we may cultivate that communion and fellowship with our heavenly Father in Christ Jesus which is here inculcated, so as to enjoy the peace of God in our consciences, and His love in our hearts, to our consolation, and to the glory of His holy name.
The Epistle commences with the exhortation, Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again, I say, rejoice. This is a disposition of mind peculiarly suited to the season in which we commemorate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The event occasioned joy in heaven, when a multitude of the heavenly host sang in joyful concert, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men „31 and therefore the commemoration of it may well be a cause of rejoicing to those whom God came to redeem. But it is the privilege of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who are interested by faith in His great salvation, to rejoice in the Lord alway. They have great reason to rejoice in their Lord and Saviour; to rejoice because He came into the world to save sinners; and that by His obedience to the law of God, and His sufferings and death in human nature, He accomplished all that was requisite for the reconciliation of sinful man to the God of infinite justice and holiness. The joy of the true Christian is not the joy of self-complacency, which is in general the cause of rejoicing with the people of the world; but the joy of gratitude
29 Luke xxi. 28.
30 Psalm cxlv. 18.
31 Luke i. 14.
for mercies received from the God of all grace. . We are called upon to keep Christmas, because
of the blessings which flow to us from the incarnation of our Divine Redeemer. These unspeakable blessings we ought to call to mind with gratitude of heart, and expressions of joy at all times. This the apostle insists upon by repeating the exhortation, And again I say, Rejoice. The repetition implies that the persons addressed needed encouragement. They were in a state of affliction. The apostle had before said to them, Unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.32 He therefore showed them that it was their privilege to rejoice, inasmuch as they were partakers of Christ's sufferings, since, when His glory should be revealed, they should be glad also with exceeding joy.33 So the prophet Isaiah declared, The meek shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of
Israel.34 The meek, the humbled, the self-abased before God, those who are lowly in their own eyes, the poor in spirit, the contrite in heart, are the persons who need to be encouraged to rejoice; and they have also abundant reason to comply with the command, for it is their privilege to look forward to the time when their sorrow shall be turned into joy indeed, when, as our Saviour said to His disciples, I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.35 It becomes them therefore to rejoice in the Lord alway, in the prospect of what He has promised to do for them, as well as on account of what He has done on their behalf. But the joy of the Christian is not a noisy boisterous joy like that of the worldling. It is a calm and silent joy, a joy which a stranger doth not intermeddle with.36 It is not like the laughter of a fool, which is as the crackling of thorns under a pot, 37 that makes a great noise for a time and then goes out in darkness. It is everlasting joy, as well as joy un
32 Phil. i. 29. 33 1 Pet. iv. 13. 34 Isai. xxix. 19. 35 John xvi. 22. speakable and full of glory. 38 And it is perhaps intended to be intimated by the next exhortation, that it is a joy accompanied with moderation or gentleness, as the word is rendered in other places, a joy mingled with serenity and peace.
The apostle proceeds to say, Let your moderation be known unto all men. Be meek and mild, gentle and patient, forbearing and forgiving in your conduct towards others, as well as moderate and temperate in your pursuit of the things of this life. What honour would be put upon Christianity were all who bear its name affable and kind in their intercourse with each other, as it was said of old by the heathen, “See how these Christians love one another.” But what a different aspect does religion assume, when selfishness and unkindness usurp the place of these Christian virtues; and when those who talk a great deal about religion, and frequent the ordinances of the house of God, are as eager in the pursuit of the things of life as others who are looking to the world as their only portion.
The apostle enforces his exhortation to joy and moderation by a powerful incentive to obedience. The Lord is at hand. This declaration applies, as has been observed, both to what goes before, and to what follows. The Lord Jesus is near you, is with His people alway,39
36 Prov. xvi. 10. 37 Eccl.vii.6. 38 1 Peter i. 8. 39 Matt. xxviii. 20.