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MANKIND UNIVERSALLY APT TO TRUST IN THEIR
PHILIPPIANS, iii. 4-9.
If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof be might trust in
she flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharise ; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Tea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Cbrist, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
THE two leading points of St. Paul's ministry were, the fall of man, with its nature and extent, and the gracious recovery by Christ. He was indefatigable in his attempts to convince mankind of these, that so their lofty looks might be brought low, and the Lord alone exalted. These sentiments appeared to him of great importance ; hence it was that he embraced every favourable opportunity to propagate them. To this he was greatly excited by his own experi.
* Published by desire of the hearers, 1769.
ence of a deep-rooted enmity to Christ, and an aptness to trust in the flesh. A temper of mind which he knew, to be not only inveterate, but universal ; fallen human nature being the same in every age and nation ; against which the gospel of the grace of God is the only sovereign antidote. Sensible of this, when our apostle visited Philippi, a city of Macedonia, he made Christ and him crucified the subject of his ministry; and had this for his comfort, that many of the Philippians became obedient to the faith. These were incorporated into the gospel church state; and were happy for a time in the enjoyment of the special privileges of the church of Christ. But after St. Paul's departure, grievous wolves entered in, not sparing the flock; men of corrupt minds, who tried to draw away disciples after them. The apostle received the sorrowful tidings, and wrote them this epistle by the hand of Epaphroditus, who was a messenger from the saints at Philippi to him while confined at Rome; and had ministered to his wants. Its contents are various and useful, but come not under our consideration at present, except so far as they are connected with the text.
In the first verse of this chapter he assures the Philippians that it was far from being grievous to him, and would be safe for them, to repeat the same things in writing, that had been the subjects of his personal ministry among them. And for this there was at that time a special necessity, arising from the endeavours of false teachers to pervert his gospel; by leading them to the observance of circumcision, and other Jewish rites, in order to acceptance with God. These men
hë treats with a degree of just severity. Verse 2. Beware of dogs.“St. Paul here very properly calls the false teachers dogs, because as dogs, they did rend and tear the simplicity of the gospel, and divided the glory of man's salvation between faith and works; because as dogs, they barked out reproaches against the apostles and their doctrine, delivered in its native purity and simplicity.”* And as dogs they were without and as fierce dogs, they laboured to devour.
Beware of evil workers. A sentence farther de: scriptive of the same persons, who wrought not with St. Paul, but against him; and endeavoured to pull down what he had carefully built up. Between whom there was this important difference: Paul built on Christ, as the sure foundation which God had laid; they built on Moses. Paul taught, that if any man was circumcised, he be: came a debtor to do the whole law; and that by the deeds of the law no flesh could be justified; they taught that it was nécessary to be circumeised and to keep the law, in order to justification. Paul was under the influence of the Spirit of God; they were led away by a spirit of error and delu. sion. It is added,
Beware of the concision. A name which the apostle seems here to give to circumcision, by way of disapprobation; and as expressive of the injury which the church of Christ might receive from these men, who endeavoured to perpetuate. that rite, with the whole law of ceremonies thereby cutting themselves off; and those that adhered to them, as far as they could, from Christ, and the way of life through him.' For Christ is
Dr. Smith's Annotations in loc.
become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law ; ye are fallen from grace ; i. e. the doctrine of
grace. Having thus cautioned the Philippians against false teachers, the apostle proceeds to speak of himself and his brethren, in opposition to them. Verse 3. For we are the circumcision ; q. d. Though we lay aside that rite, and have nothing to do with the circumcision of the flesh, we have that 6 of which it was a shadow,” even the circumcision of the heart. For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Which worship God in the spirit ; i. e. with our soul or spirit, and in that spiritual way that God hath appointed; being assisted by the Holy Spirit, who helpeth our infirmities, &c.
And rejoice in Christ Jesus. This is said to distinguish them from those who rejoiced in themselves, and in their submission to legal institutions.
And have no confidence in the flesh; 4. d. whatever is our course of obedience, we lay no stress on it; but view it as a cypher in the great affair of justification. Though, says St. Paul, I might also have confidence in the flesh : meaning upon the principles of these false teachers; to prove which, he brings in the text, If any other man thinketh that be hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more : circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews ; as touching the law, a Pharisee ; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is
in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Pea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in hin, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
The former part of the passage is St. Paul's narrative of the privileges of his birth, his strict manner of life, and his confidence in them for justification before God. In the latter part of it, he declares that his apprehension of things was altered, and that he was now sensible of his former ruinous mistake; and therefore that he did most heartily count all those things which were gain to him before but loss and dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in him. The following particulars are proposed for consideration.
I. All unregenerate men are apt to trust in their own righteousness.
II. Such righteousness proved to be essentially defective.
III. The sinner, upon his becoming experimentally acquainted with the grace of the gospel, is thereby led to renounce all confidence in the flesh, and to expect acceptance with God only on account of the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
1. All unregenerate men are apt to trust in their own righteousness.
Self-approbation and self-confidence are first principles; they are natural to man, and grow up with him. Nothing is more common than for