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and Jesus Christ alone MIGHTY TO SAVE, ABLĖ TO
SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST.
Surely St. Paul better understood that gospel which he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ, than to address a sinner, poor, and blind, and naked, in such a manner. First tell him that he can do nothing, and then exhort him to do every thing. Paul was not such a preacher. He assures us that it is by grace we are saved, through faith ; and that not of ourselves : it is the gift of God. Who hath saved us, and called us with an boly calling, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, (be they of the law or of the gospel) but according to his own PURPOSE and GRACE, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
2. Neither can the apostle mean by this exhortation, that salvation from the guilt of sin is wrought out partly by Christ and partly by the sinner; or that the sinner is to do what he can, in expectation that Christ will make up the deficiency. This sentiment is no less contradictory to the whole gospel, than the preceding; for it teaches us, that Christ is not a complete Saviour, and that our own arm in part brings salvation. It reflects grossly on the Redeemer, as though he were not every way able to save; and affords the sinner something to boast of before God. For suppose that part be ever so small, that he can perform, still it is a part; and for so much as he can do, by way of atonement for his sins, he may take the praise to himself.
Besides, what sort of a righteousness, suppose ye, must that be, that is wrought out partly by Christ, and partly by the sinner? The former, an infinitely perfect Being; the latter, a totally pol.
luted creature. It would bear resemblance to Neb. uchadnezzar's image, the parts of which it was impossible ever to unite.
Again—The work of salvation was finished by Christ, and he had ascended to the glory of his Father, before these Philippians had heard the gospel. Nothing remained, when Paul went to preach to them, but the special application of its inestimable blessings.
Accordingly, he took the greatest pains to persuade them, that all their own righteousness was loss and dung: and however warm he was in his exhortations to obedi. ence, he would always have them to know that salvation was alone of Christ.
Farther-The persons to whom the words were immediately spoken, were believers; and at that very time in a state of actual justification. By him all who BELIEVE are justified from all things. They could not, therefore, with any propriety be exhorted to do something, by which they might be justified before God.
3. Neither are we to suppose, that St. Paul designed by this exhortation to teach these believers, that by virtue of a stock of grace already received, they were to persevere till they should obtain final salvation. This would contradict all those passages of holy scripture, which declare a believer's weakness in himself, and his dependence on Christ, the only head of influence, for constant supplies of grace. His having been en. abled to believe in the Son of God does not ren. der him self-sufficient. Still, if left to himself, he may fall foully, like David and Peter. It is not in consequence of any degree of grace already received, that the believer shall safely per
severe to eternal glory; but by virtue of a vital union to the Lord Jesus Christ, out of whose fulness he is said to receive, and grace
grace. This important and comfortable sentiment is beautifully taught us by our divine Lord, in the metaphor of the vine and its branches. (John xv. 4, 5.) As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. Observe, Christ first introduces the simile, and then accommodates it : q. d. It is thus between me and you : I am the vine, to whom ye as branches are united. The branches are united to, and one with the vine; so are ye united to me, and one with me.
The branches, by a full supply of sap from the vine become fruitful : so ye being continually supplied with grace, out of that fulness, which it hath pleased the Father should dwell in me, bear much fruit.
This sentiment is confirmed by numerous passages of scripture. Christ assured his disciples in the same chapter, that without him they could do nothing. Without his abiding in them by his Holy Spirit, and their abiding in him by faith, they could do nothing comfortably, successfully, or acceptably. Their consolation is in Christ, and if left by him, they drag on heavily like Pharoah's chariots, when they had lost their wheels. Their successful opposition to the world, the flesh, and the devil, is owing entirely to help from Christ. In all these things we are more than conquerors, through bim who loved us. And the acceptance of their persons, and their obedience, is only through Christ. He is the sole medium of access to God,
and of acceptance with him wherein he hath made us accepted in the BELOVED.
But without multiplying quotations, I observe, that the latter part of the text militates against any such exposition of it. Work out your own sal. vation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleas
No exhortation could be better guarded. The apostle, with his usual caution, takes care that a faise construction might not be put on his words; and that the people, to whom he writes, might not receive any wrong impressions. In. stead of being self-confident, or of thinking that as believers they were amply furnished already for the duties and trials of the Christian life, he exhorts them to continue in obedience, with fear and trembling. Fear is often brought in by this apostle, as a necessary temper of mind for the Christian, while he abides in the flesh; because he has many enemies. It was expedient that these and that all other believers should be diffi. dent of their own abilities, and fear to trust in themselves. No persons are in so great danger as they who apprehend none, or who look upon themselves sufficient to overcome every enemy. This remark is exemplified in Peter's denial of his Master. Had he entertained this necessary fear, it might have kept him from the place of danger. Being suspicious of himself, he would rather have chosen to stay a little behind, than to go among the servants of the high priest.
The believers at Philippi had also reason to fear, lest animosities and divisons should take place among them, to the great injury of the cause of Christ ; lest they should be beguiled by false
teachers, who were then lying in wait to deceive; lest they should be overtaken by temptation, or led away by their own corruptions, to sin against the Lord; and lest they should be found to entertain a fondness for their own righteousness : all which would tend to hinder or mar their course of obedience.
The apostle adds, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. This sentence is explanatory of the former part of the text, and immediately calculated to unhinge the Philippians from self-confidence: i. e. I do not mean to set you to do something, by which you may be justified, either in whole or in part, before God; this is the sole work of Jesus ; nor yet would I have you to think, that as believers, and justified persons, you are already furnished with grace, sufficient for all the duties and trials that are before you. Rather, you are not sufficient of yourselves, to think any thing as of yourselves ; but your sufficiency is of God, who worketh in you to will and to do, those things, that are spiritually good. The apostle does not say, who hath wrought in you, but who now worketh in you, as the called according to his purpose.
Here we are plainly taught, that a will to choose, and the ability to perform that which is good, are of God. The sinner, while in unbelief, is an enemy in his mind by wicked works, and continually under the influence of a principle of enmity against God. He sees no excellency in Christ, no beauty in holiness. The things that suit his depraved taste, are infinitely opposite to the Divine Majesty : if he therefore gratifies himself, he must offend the Deity. In this condition he acts freely,