Imágenes de páginas




I WOULD call attention to a fact, little noticed in general, in Jacob's history. Isaac blessed him twice, and not only once. When Jacob sought, by deceit, to get the blessing, Gen. xxvii, Isaac did give him a blessing, then and there, but it was not the blessing. The blessing came out, afterwards, just when he was reaping the sorrowful fruits of his deceit, as above ; viz., in chap. xxviii.

This will be clear if we compare Isaac's first blessing of Jacob and of Esau, in Gen. xxvii., and Isaac's second, and God's first, blessings of Jacob, in chap. xxviii. Thus:Isaac blessed Jacob.

Isaac blessed Esau. See, the smell of my son is “ Behold, thy dwelling shall as the smell of a field which the be the fatness of the earth, and Lord hath blessed: therefore the dew of heaven from above; God give thee of the dew of and by thy sword shalt thou heaven, and the fatness of the live, and shalt serve thy broearth, and plenty of corn and ther; and it shall come to pass wine : let people serve thee, and when thou shalt have the donatious bow down to thee : be minion, that thou shalt break lord over thy brethren, and let his yoke from off thy neck" thy mother's sons bow down to (Gen. xxvii. 39, 40). thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. xxvii. 27–29).

Isaac blessed Jacob. “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of

people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham” (Gen. xxviii.3, 4).

God blessed Jacob. “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to thé south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land ; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of" (Gen. xxviii. 13-15).


No. VII.


In the Epistle to the Philippians, we find much more of Christian experience and the development of the exercise of the heart than in the generality of the epistles. Doctrine and practice are found in them all, but with the exception of the 2nd to Timothy, which is of another nature, there is none that contains, like this, the expression of the Christian's experience in this toilsome life, and the resources which are open to him in passing through it, and the motives which ought to govern him. We may even say that this epistle gives us the experience of Christian life in its highest and most perfect expression. God has condescended to furnish us with this beautiful picture of it, as well as with the truths that enlighten us, and the rules that direct our walk The occasion for it was quite natural. Paul was in prison, and the Philippians, who were very dear to him, and who, at the commencement of his labours, had testified their affection for him by similar gifts, had just sent assistance to the apostle by the hand of Epaphroditus; at a moment when, as it appears, he had been for some time in need. A prison, need, the consciousness that the Church was deprived of his watchful care, this expression on the part of the Philippians, of the love that thought of him in his necessities, although at a distance – what could be more adapted to open the apostle's heart, and lead to his expressing the confidence in God that animated him, as well as that which he felt with regard to the Church, now unsupported by his apostolic care, and having to trust in God himself without any intermediate help. And it was most natural that he should pour out his feelings into the bosom of these beloved Philippians, who had just given him this proof of their affection. The apostle,

[blocks in formation]

therefore, speaks more than once of the Philippians? fellowship with the gospel: that is to say, they took part in the labours, the trials, the necessities which the preaching of the gospel occasioned to those who devoted themselves to it. Their hearts united them to it-like those of whom the Lord speaks, who received a prophet in the name of a prophet.

This brought the apostle into a peculiarly intimate connection with this Church; and he and Timotheus, who had accompanied him in his labours in Macedonia, his true son in the faith and in the work, address themselves to the faithful and to those who bore office in this particular Church. This is not an epistle which soars to the height of God's counsels like that to the Ephesians, or which regulates the godly order which becomes Christians everywhere, like the two to the Corinthians; nor is it one which lays the foundation for the relationship of a soul with God, like that to the Romans. Neither was it destined to guard Christians against the errors that were creeping in among them, like some of the others which were written by our apostle. It takes the ground of the precious inner life, of the common affection of Christians towards each other, but of that affection as experienced in the heart of Paul, animated and directed by the Holy Ghost. Hence, also, we find the ordinary relationships which existed within a Church; there are bishops and deacons, and it was the more important to remember them, since the immediate care of the apostle was no longer possible. The absence of this immediate care forms the basis of the apostle's instructions here, and gives its peculiar importance to the epistle.

The affection of the Philippians, which expressed itself by sending help to the apostle, reminded him of the spirit they had always shown; they had cordially associated themselves with the labours and trials of the gospel. And this thought leads the apostle higher, to that which governs the current of thought (most precious to us) in the epistle. Who had wrought in the Philippians this spirit of love and of devotedness to the interests of the gospel? Truly it was the God of the

gospel and of love; and this was a security that He who had begun the good work would fulfil it, unto the day of Christ. Sweet thought-now that we have no longer the apostle, that we have no longer bishops and deacons, as the Philippians had in those days. God cannot be taken from us, the true and living source of all blessing remains to us, unchangeable, and above the infirmities, and even the faults, which deprive Christians of all intermediate resources. The apostle had seen God acting in the Philippians. The fruits bore witness of the source. Thenceforth he counted on the perpetuity of the blessing they were to enjoy. But there must be faith in order to draw these conclusions. Christian love is clearsighted and full of trust with regard to its objects, because God Himself, and the energy of His grace, are in that love.

To return to the principle. It is the same thing with the Church. It may, indeed, lose much, as to outward means, and as to those manifestations of the presence of God, which are connected with man's responsibility; but the essential


of God cannot be lost. Faith can always count upon it. It was the fruits of grace which gave the apostle this confidence, as in Heb. vi. 9, 10, and 1 Thes. i. 3, 4. He counted, indeed, in 1 Cor. i. 8, and in Gal., on the faithfulness of Christ, in spite of many painful things. The faithfulness of the Lord encouraged him with regard to Christians, whose condition in other respects was the cause of great anxiety. But heresurely a much happier case-the walk itself of the Christian led him to the source of confidence about them. He remembered, with affection and tenderness, the way in which they had always acted towards him, and he turned it into a desire for them that the God who had wrought it would produce for their own blessing the perfect and abundant fruits of that love. He

his own heart also to them. They took part, by the same grace acting in them, in the work of God's grace in him, and that with an affection that identified itself with him and his work; and his heart turned to them with an abundant return of affection and desire. God, who created these feelings, and to whom he presented all that passed in his heart, this same God who acted in the Philippians, was a witness between them (now that Paul could give no other by his labour among them) of his earnest desire for them all. He felt their love, but he desired, moreover, that this love should be not only cordial and active, but that it should be guided also by wisdom and understanding from God; by a godly discernment of good and evil, wrought by the power of His Spirit; so that while acting in love, they should also walk according to that wisdom, and should understand that which, in this world of darkness, was truly according to divine light and perfection, so that they should be without reproach until the day of Christ.


Now, the fruits produced were already a sign that God was with them; and He would fulfil the work unto the end. But the apostle desired that they should walk throughout the whole of the way according to the light that God had given, so that when they came to the end there should be nothing with which they could be reproached; but that, on the contrary, set free from all that might weaken or lead them astray, they should abound in the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. A fine practical picture of the Christian's normal condition in his daily walk towards the end; for in the Philippians we are always on the way towards our heavenly rest in which redemption has set us.

Such is the introduction to this epistle. After this expression of the wishes of his heart for them, reckoning on their affection, he speaks of his bonds, which they had remembered; but he does so in connection with Christ and the gospel, which he had most of all at heart. But before I go beyond the introduction into the matter of the epistle, I would notice the thoughts which lie at the foundation of the sentiments expressed in it.

There are three great elements which stamp their character on it.

Ist. It speaks of the Christian's pilgrimage in the wilderness: salvation is viewed as a result to be obtained at the end of the journey. Redemption, accomplished by Christ, is indeed established as the foundation of this

« AnteriorContinuar »