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DISCOURSE LIV.

The EPISTLE for the Two and Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

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I thank my God upon every Remembrance of you, always, in every Prayer of mine for you all; making request with Joy, for your Fellowship in the Gospel, from the first Day until now, &c.

T

HE Collect for this Day prays to God, to keep his Houfhold the Church in continual Godliness; that thro his Protection it may be free from all Adverfities, and devoutly given to ferve him in good Works. Suitable whereunto,

The Epiftle for the Day contains St. Paul's Prayer for these things in the behalf of the Philippians, that God would prosper the Church among them, and that they might perfevere in Godliness and good Works. It begins,

First, With Thanksgiving unto God, for the good Work begun in them.

Secondly, It goes on with Petitions for the farther Increase and Perfection of it.

Thirdly, It concludes with fome Helps and Means of continuing of it to the Day of Chrift. Of which particularly; beginning,

First, As the Epiftle doth, with Thanksgiving unto God, for the good Work that was begun in them: I thank my God (faith he) upon every Remembrance of you. St. Paul at the time of writing this Epiftle was a Prifoner at Rome for the Name of Chrift, where thefe Philippians, whom he had lately converted to Chriftianity, fent him fome Relief by the hands of Epaphroditus their Bishop. In return whereof, he fent them by the fame hands this Epiftle, full

of

of Kindness and Acknowledgments; wherein he declares his hearty and frequent Remembrance of them, who had fo kindly remember'd him. Their liberal Bounty towards him, had left fuch deep Impreffions on his Mind, that nothing could wear them off; for he could neither forget the Kindness, nor the Perfons that bestow'd it: both which put him upon thanking and praifing God upon every Remembrance of them. And because he had no other way of requiting of them, but by praying for them, he lets them know, that he was always mindful of them in every Prayer of his, that Grace and Peace, with all other fpiritual and temporal Bleffings, might be multiply'd on them all: Making request with Foy for your Fellowship in the Gospel, from the first day until now; mingling Rejoicing with his Petitions, for their being receiv'd into the Houfhold of Chrift's Church, and their liberal contributing to the propagating of the Gofpel: which he obferv'd in them from their first receiving the Faith to the present time, and therefore he never ceas'd praying and praifing God for them, from the day that he first knew them till now. Being confident of this very thing (as he goes on) that he who hath begun a good Work in you, will perform it until the day of Chrift. The good Work here faid to be begun in them, may be underftood either of their firft receiving the Gospel, whereby they were turn'd from the Darkness of Paganifm to the Light of Christianity, and from the Power of Satan to the Privileges of the Sons of God; or elfe of this good beginning of their Charity, in relieving the Neceflities of the diftreffed Saints: in both which, the Apostle is here perfuaded of the Philippians, that they will perfevere to the coming of Chrift; that is, that he who inclin'd them to embrace the Chriftian Faith, will keep them ftedfast in it to the laft; and that he who open'd their Hearts in Bounty and Liberality to the Needy, will extend and enlarge their Bowels to the Day of Chrift, when they fhall receive the Reward of fo doing.

And this Opinion, he tells them in the next words, it was but meet for him to have of them all, not only for the great Affection he bore to them, as having them all in his Heart, but forafmuch as both in his Bonds, and in the Defence and Confirmation of the Gospel, they were all Partakers of his Grace: meaning, that in the Defence and Maintenance of the Gospel they all join'd and participated with him, both in the Joys and Sufferings that attended fo difficult a

Work.

Work. And therefore he calls God to witness what a fincere and entire Affection he harbour'd in his Breaft towards them; God is my Record (faith he) how greatly I long after you all in the Bowels of Jefus Chrift.

But, Secondly, what was the Matter of his Prayer, or the things he interceded for in their behalf? Why, that the following part of the Epistle for the Day will inform us: which goes on thus ;

Ift, And this I pray, that your Love may abound more and more in Knowledg, and in all Judgment. And then it follows, 2ly, That ye may approve things that are excellent.

3ly, That ye may be fincere, and without offence till the Day of Chrift.

4ly, That ye may be filled with the Fruits of Righteousness, which are by Jefus Chrift, unto the Glory and Praife of God.

These are the chief Heads of the Apoftle's Prayer for thefe Philippians; which being all matters of great weight and benefit, may be recommended to the earnest Desires and Endeavours of all Chriftians.

1. The firft and great thing here pray'd for, is for the Increafe of the Grace of Love, which is the Bond of Perfectness, and the fulfilling of the Law; And this I pray, that your Love may abound more and more in Knowledg, and in all Judgment. And this Love relates both to God and Man; the one being to be lov'd for himself, and the other for God's fake.

(1.) As for the Love of God, that is the prime Duty of Religion, that includes all other parts of it: it hath the first and fupreme Being for its Object, being fix'd on God the great Creator and Difpofer of all things, who is the most amiable and lovely of all Beings, having all Goodness in himself, and fhewing all Goodness to his Creatures; and therefore this Grace is well worth the praying for. So did the Apostle here for the Philippians, that the Belief of the Gofpel might beget in them a hearty Love to God, with an inward Delight and Complacency in him: fo fhould we likewife, that God would fhed abroad his Love into our Hearts, and that too not in low and weak measures, but in the moft ardent and intenfe degrees, that it may daily increase, and abound in us more and more. Which we should the rather do, because the Love of the World is too apt to abate, and fometimes to extinguifh the Love of God. Earthly things have a falfe Byafs, and draw ftrongly be

ing prefent to our view, they affect and inveigle our Senfes, and thereby take off the Heart from divine and fpiritual Objects. Hence we find many to ferve Mammon more than their Maker, and others to be Lovers of Pleafure more than Lovers of God: and therefore we have great need to pray both for our felves and others, that our Love to God may abound more and more, that it may not be weaken'd by any worldly Comforts or Enjoyments, but may prevail over all the Wiles of the World and the Devil. To which end, our Love muft abound in Knowledg and in all Judgment, i. e. in the Knowledg of God's infinite Power, Wisdom, and Goodnefs, with all other his amiable and adorable Perfections; and we must likewife weigh in the Ballance of a found Judgment all earthly things, which in comparison of him are nothing, lefs than nothing, and Vanity. And as this Prayer here is, that our Love to God may abound and increase in us; fo is it,

(2.) For the Increase of our Love to the Brethren, and that our Love to one another may abound more and more. A true Love of God will neceffarily draw after it the Love of our Neighbour; for he being God's Creature and Servant, that hath his Image ftamp'd upon him, and in fome measure Partaker of the divine Nature, he is to be lov'd not only for his own, but for God's fake: which made St. John affirm, That be that faith he loves God, and hates his Brother, is a Lyar; for if he love not his Brother whom he hath feen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 1 John 4. 20. Sight and Converfation is apt to breed and beget Love, whereas 'tis not eafy to love one whom we never faw, and if our Love extend not to our Neighbour, whom we daily behold and converfe with, how can it reach to Heaven, where our Eye cannot pierce? Indeed, the Comfort and Happiness of human Society depend upon the mutual Amity and Good-will of all its Members; for that will incline them to be helpful to each other, and make them willing both to relieve the Neceflities, and rejoice in the Welfare of one another. Such a Temper as this both needs and deferves our Prayers; for Men are naturally envious and malicious, hateful and hating one another; Satan is ever adminiftring Occafions of Strife, and the World is as ready to embrace them, and to add Fewel to the Fire. And therefore 'tis highly requifite, that we should pray for a Spirit of Meekness and Charity, and that our Love may abound more and more to one another,

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and

and that too in Knowledg and in all Judgment; that we may wifely perform all the good Offices of Mercy and Kindness, by a difcreet Choice of fit and proper Objects for them, viz. not the idle and the lazy, but the aged Poor, and fuch as by unavoidable Accident and Neceflity are caft upon us. This is the first thing that the Apoftle here prays for in the behalf of the Philippians, to wit, that their Love might abound, and increafe more and more, and that it might appear in all the judicious Acts of Bounty and Charity.

2. The next thing is, That they might approve things that are excellent. Where by things that are excellent we are to understand things that relate to another' Life, which are of the highest nature, and the greatest worth; fuch as the Favour of God, the Pardon of Sin, a Title to Heaven, an Intereft in Chrift and the Promifes of the Gospel, and the like: things that may be justly accounted truly excellent, and preferable to all other matters.

Some Tranflations, inftead of approving things that are excellent, read, difcerning between things that differ; that is, diftinguishing fpiritual and heavenly things from all carnal and earthly Enjoyments, which are of an inferior and different nature, and vaftly below them.

Now to approve the things that are excellent, implies, (1.) The knowing or right understanding of them; for none can approve of a thing of which he hath no knowledg, no more than a blind Man can judg of Colours, or a deaf Man of Sounds. To approve, is an Act of the Will and Affections, which muft ever follow the Dictates and Guidance of the Understanding, or elfe they cannot go aright. Ignorance is to the Mind what Blindness is to the Eye, its Blemish and Imperfection, that hinders it from difcerning of Truth,and fo mifleads into Error. The natural Man (faith the Apostle) difcerns not the things of God; and he that difcerns them not, to be fure can never like or approve them. The Cock in the Fable prefer'd a BarleyCorn before a Jewel, because he knew not either the Meannefs of the one, or the Worth of the other; and for the fame reafon the Worldling prefers the Toys and Trifles of this Life, before an ineftimable Treafure in the next, for want of a right understanding of either. So that to approve the best things, evermore fuppofes the knowledg of them, which for the Excellency of the Object may be well reckon'd the moft excellent Knowledg. St. John files it Life eternal, to know God, and Jefus Chrift, whom he

hath

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