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and His humiliation; follow Him into the place of His agony ; stand by and behold Him on the cross; see His body broken and His blood shed for you ; listen to Him, still speaking by His word, His providences, His ministers, His sacraments, and then ask whether any but a soul which is dead in trespasses and sins-dead to the accents of mercy, dead to the influence of love, dead to all the motives by which it might be expected that a rational being should be persuaded-can continue insensible and unmoved?
Is not this, my brethren, a fair test by which the religion of every one of us may be tried ? “ How am I affected by the loving kindness and faithfulness of my God and Saviour ? What are my emotions of gratitude for all the benefits which I daily receive? With what feelings do I bend the knee, or approach the table of the Lord ? Is there nothing of pure devotion, nothing within my heart which excites me to blessing, adoration, and praise? What, then, is my religion? What interest have I in this Saviour ? What sense or perception have I of these great and abundant blessings, which have flowed in so many streams from the Fountain of mercy ?" May it please God to take away respect as well as in others; that their dispositions and conduct may be worthy of the gospel of Christ. So deeply was St. Paul impressed with the vast importance of the subject, that he omits no opportunity of enforcing it upon his converts. In this epistle he bestows great commendations upon the Philippians: they were remarkable for the fruits of the Spirit: he regarded them as his brethren, dearly beloved, and longed for; and they sympathized most kindly with his afflictions, and ministered to his wants : yet even to these men does he think it expedient to state the importance of cultivating the spirit of christian unity and brotherly love; and the terms in which he urges the duty are remarkably impressive : If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
We may consider,
We are to regard the passage as addressed not less to ourselves than to the people at
Philippi; may it be effective, by the influence of the Divine Spirit, in promoting among us these holy dispositions !
I. THE EXHORTATION. It is in substance A CALL TO CHRISTIAN CONCORD: that
be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. In each clause of this exhortation there is probably a distinct meaning; and we shall not materially err, if we understand the apostle, as in these words inviting the Philippians to cultivate unity of doctrine and unity of heart: to maintain in all purity the doctrines of the gospel, and to show the effect of it in their love to God and to each other.
1. Now in requiring this unity of sentiment, it will scarcely be supposed that St. Paul, with all the knowledge which he possessed of the difficulties belonging to many subjects of revelation, and all the experience which he at that time had of the prejudices and passions even of pious and well intentioned men, could expect an exact and perfect similarity: he knew full well, that notwithstanding the instruction afforded even by the apostles, who were divinely inspired, and who personally endeavoured to correct error and to maintain
the simplicity of truth, some diereses că scinion was erer creepisz into the charges: 2 that after all the care which could be sea, este things would still appear in a manger 21 best ambiguous and obscure. What thes is to be expected in these latter times? Is it to be supposed, that when we can have recourse. only to the written oracles of God, without any inspired teacher to throw light upon what is obscure, and to check with authority the slightest deviation from the paths of heavenly wisdom, there shall be among all the members of the Christian church a perfect accordance of opinion ? Neither experience nor the character of divine revelation itself would lead us to such a conclusion. That holy influence, which brings men to the knowledge of salvation by Jesus Christ, does not convert them into infallible beings; it does not give them in all its fulness and extent that knowledge which they shall possess hereafter ; however strong be their faith, however ardent their charity, however exemplary their conduct, it is still true that now they know but in part; they will, therefore, almost necessarily differ in judgment upon some points of their belief, and that difference does thus far necessarily involve error.
Should any person conclude from this statement, that a man is at liberty to believe just what he pleases; and that from regard to the acknowledged difficulty of some parts of divine revelation, and the acknowledged infirmities of our common nature, the Almighty looks with indifference upon our creed; not only would such a reasoner arrive at a conclusion which the argument does not warrant, but the whole tenor of the Scriptures would most decisively reprove him. There are certain doctrines which, by the very manner of propounding them, are declared to be essential to salvation. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him : * and there is a certain course of life, grounded upon these doctrines, which it is the bounden duty of every man to pursue: without holiness no man shall see the Lord: t what doth it profit though a man say he hath faith and have not works? can faith save him? I Some doctrines, therefore, are contained in Scripture which will be received by every honest and good heart: it is at the peril of our souls that we reject them : but concerning a multitude of propositions which
* John iii. 36.
+ Heb. xii. 14.
| James ii. 14.