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" 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 likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
The religion of Jesus Christ was meant to be a never-failing source of peace on earth and good-will to men. This is the spirit which it uniformly breathes, and which marks the character of all who duly partake of its healing and heavenly influence. Such however are the infirmities of human nature, even among those who are born of the Spirit,* and have tasted the powers of the world to come,t that they need to be continually put in remembrance of their duty, and to be earnestly admonished in this * John iii. 6.
+ Heb. vi. 5.
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 difference of opinion was ever creeping into the churches; and that after all the care which could be used, some things would still appear in a manner at best ambiguous and obscure. What then 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 : 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 wbich * John iii. 36. + Heb. xii. 14. | James ii. 14.