Php_4:9. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and. seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
NO man was ever move averse to boasting than the Apostle Paul: and, when compelled to declare what God had done in him or by him, he appeared to himself “a fool,” for uttering it; though he was conscious that he acted, not from choice, but from absolute and indispensable necessity. But, in truth, what might be called boasting in an uninspired man, was not deserving of that name in him; because he knew that he had been raised up by God, to be an instructor to mankind, both in his doctrines and example. Hence he not only affirmed, that “his word was the word, not of man, but of God [Note: 1Th_2:13.];” but exhorted men to “be followers and imitators of him [Note: 1Co_4:16.],” “even as he was of Christ
[Note: 1Co_11:1. ì
.].” In the chapter preceding our text, he speaks strongly to this effect: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them who walk so, as ye have us for an ensample [Note: Php_3:17.].” Nor did he confine his exhortation to a reception of his doctrines merely: he suggested the same in reference to his conduct also [Note: 2Th_3:9.]. He was a great advocate for practical religion; and urged on his Philippian converts a diligent attention to “every thing which was true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report:” and then, in reference both to his precepts and example, he added, “Those things which ye have both learned and received, and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.”
To enforce this exhortation, I will set before you,
The lessons he has taught us—
Of course, I can speak of these but in a very general and superficial way. Your time would not suffice for a full consideration of them; nor does my present subject require more than a brief notice of what he inculcated as due,
[It was not “a divided heart” that he called on men to offer to their God and Saviour: he taught them to surrender up themselves as living sacrifices to him; and to be as entirely devoted to him, as a victim is when offered upon the altar. As for our own ease, pleasure, interest, he would not have us consult them for a moment, in comparison of, and still less in opposition to, the will of God: “No man,” says he, “liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Rom_14:7-9.].” And this duty he binds upon us by the strongest of all obligations, even that of redeeming love, which it were most criminal to resist: “Ye are not your own: ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your body and your spirit, which are God’s [Note: 1Co_6:20.].” He would have the whole spirit, soul, and body, sanctified unto the Lord [Note: 1Th_5:23.].”]
[This duty, also, is co-extensive with the former, only in subordination to God, and with a view to his glory. There is nothing which we are not to do for man, nor any thing which we are not willingly to suffer for him, if only we may be instrumental to the promoting of his spiritual and eternal welfare. And the Apostle inculcates this with the same precision and force as the former: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (We are to forget self, with a view to his benefit, as much as we are with a view to God’s glory.) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: Php_2:4-8.].” Did our blessed Lord, who was God equal with the Father, empty himself of all his glory, and suffer the most excruciating torments, for the salvation of men? There is nothing, then, which we also should not be ready either to do or suffer for the welfare of their souls.
It may however be asked, What are we to do, if they become our enemies, and seek to destroy us? I answer, Contend with them: if they will fight, so do ye fight: and the more they exert themselves, the greater let your efforts be also. Only remember, that your weapon must not be like theirs: They fight with evil; but you must have no weapon but good. Nor must you ever yield to them; but to your latest hour, and with your latest breath, you must keep up the conflict, even as the first martyr Stephen did. This is St. Paul’s own direction, “Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good [Note: Rom_12:21.].”]
Such are the duties which St. Paul inculcates: and this view of them will lead us to notice,
The example he has set us—
As, in his Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul says, “Thou hast fully known my doctrine, and manner of life [Note: 2Ti_3:10.];” so he here refers the Philippians, first, to what they had “learned and received from him;” and then, to what they had “heard and seen in him.”
What, then, were his principles?
[They were precisely and practically such as he had inculcated on others. Did he enjoin on others to be dead to the world, and to self? Hear what he declares to have been his own experience; “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me [Note: Gal_2:20.].” Yea, so entirely was he under the constrained sense of redeeming love, that he shuddered at the very thought of glorying in any thing but the cross of Christ,” and more especially because, “through the influence of that, the whole world was crucified unto him, as he also was unto the world [Note: Gal_6:14.].”]
With these his whole life was in perfect unison—
[Nothing could abate his zeal for God. Not all the trials which human nature is capable of sustaining could move him in the least: he counted not life itself dear to him, if he were called to sacrifice it for righteousness’ sake: on the contrary, he was ready to suffer bonds, or death, at any time, and in any way, for the honour of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: Act_20:24; Act_21:13.]. Nor were there any bounds to his love to man. He panted for the salvation of all men, and especially of those who were “his brethren according to the flesh:” and, when he could not prevail on them to embrace the Gospel which he offered to them, he called God to witness what grief their obduracy occasioned him: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in my heart, for my brethren’s sake [Note: Rom_9:1-2.].” Still more, for the prosperity of his converts he was so anxious, that his whole soul was, as it were, wrapt up in them: “Now I live, if ye stand fast in the Lord [Note: 1Th_3:8.].” And so far was he from regretting any thing that he suffered for their sake, that he accounted such sufferings his privilege, his honour, his happiness: “If,” says he, “I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all: for the same cause do ye also joy and rejoice with me [Note: Php_2:17-18.].”]
And, now, who can doubt,
The blessedness of taking him for our model?
Doubtless here is a high standard for us to aim at: but no lower standard can possibly be admitted. What, if we cannot attain to the eminence of St. Paul? we should not willingly rest in any thing short of it; or, if we had even attained to it, we should, like him, press forward for still higher attainments, that, if possible, we might be “pure as Christ himself was pure,” and “perfect even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect.” And to this we are encouraged by St. Paul, who says, “Those things which ye have learned and received, and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.” Now, it is certainly true, that if we aspire thus after universal holiness, God will be with us,
In a way of special manifestation—
[He assumes the endearing name of “the God of peace,” as he does elsewhere of “the God of love and peace [Note: 2Co_13:14.]:” and under this character will he reveal himself to his obedient people. Yes, “great peace shall they have who love his law,” “a perfect peace,” “a peace that passeth all understanding.” What terms would suffice to give any adequate idea of “the love of God shed abroad in the heart,” and of “the light of his reconciled countenance lifted up upon the soul?” You would in vain attempt to convey to a person who had all his days been immured in a dark dungeon, a just conception of the splendour and influence of the meridian sun: how then can the feeble language of mortality describe the action of Almighty God upon the soul, which he deigns to visit with his more immediate presence? Suffice it however to say, that such visits are realized in the souls of God’s faithful people; and that “both the Father and the Son will come down to them, and dwell in them, and make their abode with them [Note: Joh_14:21; Joh_14:23.],” and turn their very souls into the sanctuary of the Most High.]
In a way of effectual support—
[Persons who resemble the Apostle Paul in their spirit and conduct will be sure to resemble him, in some degree at least, in his trials and afflictions. It is not possible but that those who love darkness rather than light, should hate such lights as these. In truth the more bright a man’s light shines before an ungodly world, the more must he expect to be hated, reviled, and persecuted, even as our incarnate God himself was, during the time of his sojourning on earth: for “the servant cannot be above his Lord:” and “if they called the Master of the house of Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household [Note: Mat_10:25.].” But, need the godly indulge any fears on that account? No; for “greater is be He that is in them, than he that is in the world [Note: 1Jn_4:4.].” Men may assault you with all their might: but it may be confidently asked, “Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good [Note: 1Pe_3:13.]?” Men may keep all human aid from you: but who can intercept the visits of your God? Hear his own express promise, given for your encouragement and support: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” And then, lest a sense of your own weakness, and of the overbearing power of your enemies, should discourage you, he adds, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob: I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth; and thou shalt thresh the mountains [Note: Isa_41:10; Isa_41:14-16.].” Yes truly, “if God be for you, who can be against you [Note: Rom_8:31.]?”]
In a way of complete and everlasting fruition—
[“Whom God loveth, he loveth to the end [Note: Joh_13:1.]:” and if he be with us as a God of peace in this world, he will be with us under the same endearing character to all eternity. What he said to Abraham personally, he says to all the children of Abraham: “Fear not; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward [Note: Gen_15:1.].” The present state of the Church, with all her privileges and blessings, is only a prelude to, and a preparation for, a state of far higher blessedness; as St. John expressly informs us: “I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men; and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be with them, and be their God [Note: Rev_21:23.].” “Then will all trials, of whatever kind, have passed away,” and their bliss be absolutely perfect: “the sun itself shall be no more their light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto them; but the Lord himself shall be to them an everlasting light, and their God their glory [Note: Rev_21:4; Rev_22:5. with Isa_60:19.].”]
The lukewarm Christian—
[How unlike art thou to the Apostle Paul! Should not this very circumstance make thee tremble for thy state? How couldest thou venture, even in the most qualified manner, to address those who have witnessed thy life and conversation in terms resembling those which St. Paul used in my text? Thou hast not the divine presence even with thine own soul. Thou knowest not what it is to have God with thee as “a God of peace;” manifesting himself to thee, and filling thee with his consolations. If thou wert to address any as the Apostle did, thine own conscience would remonstrate with thee, as a deceiver, and an enemy both to God and man. So far from God approving of thy state, he speaks of it in such terms of abhorrence as modern delicacy almost forbids one to repeat [Note: Rev_3:16.]. I pray you, brethren, rest not in a state so fatal to yourselves, and so injurious to all around you. The very circumstance of your having some little regard for God, is that which is most likely to deceive yourselves and all around you. Awake, I pray you, from your delusion, lest you perish under the accumulated guilt of dishonouring God more than any professedly ungodly men can do; and of betraying, to their eternal ruin, multitudes, who fix on you for their standard and example.]
Those who desire to approve themselves truly unto God—
[Fix your standard high: take the Holy Scriptures for your guide; and the Apostle Paul as second only to Christ himself for your example. Be not afraid of being “righteous overmuch,” provided only that you are righteous in a proper manner. You can never love God too much: nor can you ever love man too much, provided you love him in subserviency to God. Methinks you may advance far beyond what you have already attained, before you will equal the Apostle Paul: and if at this moment you even equalled him, you would still be far from having already attained the perfection at which you should aim. Study then his character; mark it in its sublimest traits; and follow it in the whole of your life and conversation. Let his principles be yours; his spirit yours; his conduct yours. This is the way to honour God, and to be happy in your own souls: and “if you do these things, you shall never fall, but shall have an entrance ministered unto you abundantly into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: 2Pe_1:10-11.].”]