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And thus also, in this chapter, after the Apostle had soared up very high in those transcendent mysteries of Christ's Godhead, in the 6th verse; of his Incarnation, in the 7th verse; of his Humiliation, Obedience, and Passion, in the 8th verse; of his Glory r and Exaltation above every thing both in heaven and in the earth and in hell, 9th 10th and 11th verses: after he had thus soared aloft in these transcendent mysteries, he makes a
sudden descent to the exhortation in the text, Wherefore work
out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
This illative particle wherefore looks back as far as to the 6th verse: where the Apostle exhorts them, that the same mind should be in them, that was in Christ Jesus: who, though he was essentially equal with God, yet mediatorily became subject unto God : though he was in the form of God, yet he took upon him the form of a servant; laid aside his glory, emptied and humbled himself, and became obedient even to the lowest duties and to the vilest sufferings: he was obedient unto the death; that is, he was obedient to God's law till death, by fulfilling of it, and he was obedient unto God's will in death, by suffering of it. For which exinanition and obedience, God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow. Now, says the Apostle, be you also of the same mind with Christ. Wherefore, as he was obedient, so be you also: do you work; that is, do you obey. As he was humble and emptied himself, be you
also humble and lowly: work with fear and trembling; that is,
obey with humility and reverence, as the phrase imports and is often used in Scripture. That so, as Christ obtained glory and exaltation, you also may be exalted and glorified with him: Work out your own salvation. For these words come in as a parallel with Christ: as he was obedient, so be you: as he was humble and emptied himself, so be you also humble: that so, when he is glorified, you may be saved. Wherefore....work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. '.
And this I judge to be the Apostle's scope in drawing this conclusion.
In the words, you have Three parts.
A Duty pressed upon us by a most serious and rational exhortation: Wherefore....work out your own salvation. An express Way and Manner how it is to be performed; and that is, with fear and trembling.
Here is the Reason of this exhortation: For it is God, which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.
FIRST. Here is a Duty pressed upon us: and that is, To work nit our own salvation.
To explain the words a little:
First. For Salvation, you may take it for the whole supernatural state of a Christian; begun here in grace, and to be finished hereafter in glory. And,
Secondly. To Work Out this salvation, is nothing but to continue and persevere in ways of obedience, until, through them, that salvation, that is begun here on earth, be perfected in heaven.
To Work out our Salvation, therefore, implies Three things:
First. Pains and Labour. Salvation is that, which must be wrought out: it is that, which will make the soul pant and breathe to obtain it.
Secondly. It implies Constancy and Diligence. A Christian, that would work out Salvation, must always be employed about it. It is a web, into which we must weave the whole thread of our lives. That man, that works at salvation only by some passionate fits, and then within a while undoes it all again by foul apostacy and notorious sins, will never work salvation out. No: it must be diligence and constancy, that must effect that.
Thirdly. It promises Success and Accomplishment also. And this is a mighty encouragement to enforce the exhortation. Though the work be difficult, our strength little, the enemies many, and the oppositions powerful; yet continue working, your labour shall not be in vain. Though it be hard work, it shall not be long work: for it shall be wrought out; and, what before was your work, shall be your reward; and, what before was your labour, shall be your wages: and this salvation, that was so painful in working, shall be most blessed in the enjoyment.
Secondly. Here is the express Way and Manner, how this work should be done: and that is, with fear and trembling. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
This fear is not to be taken for a fear of diffidence, perturbation, or despondency: for this is so contrary to the duty of 'Working out salvation, as that it only stupifies and dulls us; and. as in other matters, so in spirituals, it hinders both counsels and performances. But this fear and trembling, that must qualify our obedience, is nothing else, but an humble ielf-resignation, self-denial, and a holy awe and reverence of God: with which humility and reverence, the highest degree of spiritual joy and assurance is so far from being inconsistent, that it usually springs from it, and is built upon it This is meant by/ear and trembling; and so the phrase is often used in Scripture: so the Psalmist, Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling: Ps. ii. 11: it is not meant of any desponding diffident fear, but only of an awful reverential fear of God, joined with self-abasement: and so St. Paul, to the Corinthians, says of Titus, that he was received with fear and trembling: 2 Cor. vii. 15: there was no reason why Titus's coming should cause fear and trembling, which was so much desired; only the meaning is, they received him with fear and reverence: and, so, servants are commanded to be obedient to their masters: Eph. vi. 5: so, here, Work cut your own salvation with fear and trembling; that isr work it out with humility, self-abasement, and reverence.
Thirdly. Here is the Reason of this exhortation: For it is God, which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.
Wherein lies the strength of the reason? Possibly, it might seem rather, to a carnal judgment, an encouragement to sloth, than an encouragement to working and obedience. For, if God work in us both the will and the deed, what need we then be s» solicitous about the accomplishment of our salvation; which, not so much we ourselves, as God works out for us? it would rather seem to be a greater motive for us to work, if the Apostle had said, " God will not assist you, and therefore look to yourselves."
Yet there are two ways, without torturing the words, whereby we may make them confess wherein their great strength lies: the one is, by reducing this reason to the Duty: and the other is, by referring it to the Manner of Performing the duty.
First. If we refer it to the Duty of working out salvation, then the force and strength of it lies in the consideration of that aid and assistance, that God, by working in us, affords us, to the working out of our own salvation.
"Work! alas!" may some say, " How can we work? Are not the duties of obedience, divine and supernatural? And is it not an Almighty power alone, that can enable us to do what is supernatural? Are we omnipotent? Doth not God herein plainly seek advantages against us, in bidding us thus to work, who have no hands nor strength to work with?"
No, by no means: for, what God commands us to do, he will assist us in the doing of it. And, though obedience be supernatural, and we weak and impotent; yet God is omnipotent. Work, therefore: for this omnipotent God works in you, both to will and to do.
And thus appears the force of the reason, if you apply it to the Duty. Now, if you thus refer it, then observe, that all ability in and all encouragement to obedience proceeds from God's working in us what he requireth from us. 'And thus, as Christ said, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work; so may a weak Christian say, " What I do is above my own strength, indeed; but my God and my Father worketh hitherto in me; and therefore it is, that I am enabled thus to work."
Secondly. If we refer this reason to the Manner of Performing obedience, that it must be with fear and trembling; as if the exhortation ran thus, Be humble and awful in your obedience, For it is God, which worketh in you, both to will and to do: then, it carries a double force with it.
First. That the due consideration of God's working in us, is the greatest inducement imaginable to a self-debasing humiliation. There is nothing, that will sooner take down pharisaical pride and boasting, than sometimes to be catechising ourselves with those two or three questions and interrogatories of the
Apostle: Who made thee to differ? what hast thou, that thou
didst not receive? Now if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast, as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Cor. iv. 7. Why dost thou boast and glory, O vain weak man, when all thou hast and all thou dost is from God's free and arbitrary working in thee? alas! there is nothing of all thy graces or duties to be ascribed unto thyself, unless it be the imperfections and weaknesses of them. And this should cause us, when we are most strongly carried out in the ways of God and in the duties of holy obedience, most of all to renounce ourselves and our own sufficiency; and look. upon it as an evident argument, that, of ourselves we are able to do nothing, because through God we are enabled to do so much, yea to do all things.
Secondly. Since all we do is wrought in us by God, this should cause us to obey with a holy fear and reverence; lest, by our miscarriages, we should provoke God to withdraw from us, on whom depend all the ability and power we have to obey. It is God, which worketh in you: and, therefore, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
VOL. III. I
This shall suffice for the opening and explaining of the words.
I. .That, which I shall press upon all, is the Duty contained in this exhortation of the Apostle. And the Proposition, which I shall lay down from them, is this:
That IT IS THE DUTY OF EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN TO WORK
Every Christian, Nay Every Man, Ought To Work For His Living, Even For An Eternal Life.
To mention places for the proof of this were to transcribe the Bible: we can no where open this Blessed Book, but we find this truth proved to us, either directly or by consequence; for it is the very genius of the Scripture. And, yet, it is strange in these days to see how dubiously some men, who would be thought admirers of free grace, speak of obedience and working: as if it were the brand of a legal spirit; and as great a stranger to a Christian's warrant, as it is to their practice. Oh, it is a soft and easy doctrine to bid men sit still and believe; as if God would translate men to heaven upon their couches: to tell them, that all that they have now to do, is but to labour for more assurance, to praise God, and to sing hallelujahs unto him. And so also it conduces much to their abundant comfort; does it not? to tell them, that God sees no sin in them, nor requires no duty from them! that repentance and humiliation are legal things, belonging only to younger persons, and not to the heirs of the promises! Oh, who could think it possible, that such dreams and fantastic delusions could possess so many men's hearts, that ever heard the Scripture speak in its own language; or that ever read what Christ himself, the Holy Ghost, or the Blessed Apostles have written, who bid us to work the works of God, to give all diligence, to abound in all the fruits of righteousness? Is it possible, that these notions should be dispersed by some, and entertained by others, but because it always hath been the policy of the Devil, wherein lie hath sped so well, still to vent those doctrines that indulge the flesh, under the name and patronage of free grace and gospel attainments? But, of this, more hereafter.
Let us now consider the REASONS of this truth.