5Your moderation This may be explained in two ways. We may understand him as bidding them rather give up their right, than that any one should have occasion to complain of their sharpness or severity. “ Letall that have to deal with you have experience of your equity and humanity.” In this way to know, will mean to experience. Or we may understand him as exhorting them to endure all things with equanimity. (228) This latter meaning I rather prefer; for is a term that is made use of by the Greeks themselves to denote moderation of spirit — when we are not easily moved by injuries, when we are not easily annoyed by adversity, but retain equanimity of temper. In accordance with this, Cicero makes use of the following expression, — “ mind is tranquil, which takes everything in good part.” (229) Such equanimity — which is as it were the mother of patience — he requires here on the part of the Philippians, and, indeed, such as will manifest itself to all, according as occasion will require, by producing its proper effects. The term modesty does not seem appropriate here, because Paul is not in this passage cautioning them against haughty insolence, but directs them to conduct themselves peaceably in everything, and exercise control over themselves, even in the endurance of injuries or inconveniences.
The Lord is at hand Here we have an anticipation, by which he obviates an objection that might be brought forward. For carnal sense rises in opposition to the foregoing statement. For as the rage of the wicked is the more inflamed in proportion to our mildness, (230) and the more they see us prepared for enduring, are the more emboldened to inflict injuries, we are with difficulty induced to possess our souls in patience. (Luk_21:19.) Hence those proverbs, — “We must howl when among wolves.” “ who act like sheep will quickly be devoured by wolves.” Hence we conclude, that the ferocity of the wicked must be repressed by corresponding violence, that they may not insult us with impunity. (231) To such considerations Paul here opposes confidence in Divine providence. He replies, I say, that the Lord is at hand, whose power can overcome their audacity, and whose goodness can conquer their malice. He promises that he will aid us, provided we obey his commandment. Now, who would not rather be protected by the hand of God alone, than have all the resources of the world at his command?
Here we have a most beautiful sentiment, from which we learn, in the first place, that ignorance of the providence of God is the cause of all impatience, and that this is the reason why we are so quickly, and on trivial accounts, thrown into confusion, (232) and often, too, become disheartened because we do not recognize the fact that the Lord cares for us. On the other hand, we learn that this is the only remedy for tranquillizing our minds — when we repose unreservedly in his providential care, as knowing that we are not exposed either to the rashness of fortune, or to the caprice of the wicked, (233) but are under the regulation of God’ fatherly care. In fine, the man that is in possession of this truth, that God is present with him, has what he may rest upon with security.
There are, however, two ways in which the Lord is said to be at hand — either because his judgment is at hand, or because he is prepared to give help to his own people, in which sense it is made use of here; and also in Psa_145:18, The Lord is near to all that call upon him. The meaning therefore is, — “ were the condition of the pious, if the Lord were at a distance from them.” But as he has received them under his protection and guardianship, and defends them by his hand, which is everywhere present, let them rest upon this consideration, that they may not be intimidated by the rage of the wicked. It is well known, and matter of common occurrence, that the term solicitudo (carefulness) is employed to denote that anxiety which proceeds from distrust of Divine power or help.
(228) “En douceur et patience;” — “ sweetness and patience.”
(229) “TranquilIus animus meus, qui aequi boni facit omnia.” Calvin here gives the sense, but not the precise words, of Cicero, which are as follows: “Tranquillissimus autem animus meus, qui totm istuc aequi boni facit;” — “ mind, however, is most tranquil, which takes all that in good part.” See Cic. Art.7,7. — Ed.
(230) “D’ plus que nous-nous monstrons gracieux et debonnaires;” — “ more that we show ourselves agreeable and gentle.”
(231) “Afin qu’ ne s’ point a l’ de nous a leur plaisir et sans resistance;” — “ they may not rise up against us at their pleasure, and without resistance.”
(232) “Que nous sommes tout incontinent et pour vn rien troublez et esmeus;” — “ we are all at once and for nothing troubled and moved.”
(233) “Ni au plaisir desborde des meschans;” — “ to the unbridled inclination of the wicked.”