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Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.
IN the course of his laborious ministry the great apostle of the Gentiles had founded a church at Philippi, a city of Macedonia, Acts xvi. 12. That city had its name from Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great: and was famous for the battles which were fought in its neighbouring fields, between Augustus and Mark Anthony, on the one side, and Brutus and Cassius on the other. But memorable as it was on that account, it was much more honoured in being the seat of a Christian church. About ten years after that church had been erected, viz. about the year sixty, or as some say, sixty-three, the apostle directed this epistle to it. He who had been a miracle of mercy, and an herald of grace, was now a prisoner at Rome, as we learn from the epistle itself, chap. i. 13-16. and iv. 22. But though he was an ambassador in bonds, the word of God was not bound. He gives the Philippians to understand that the things, which in the depths of adorable Providence, had befallen him, had
turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel: so that his bonds for the sake of Christ were manifest in all the court of Cæsar. And many of the brethren in the Lord waxing confident by his bonds, were much more bold to speak the word without fear. Such success had attended the preaching of a crucified Christ, that now there were saints even in Cæsar's household; the last place where men would have thought to find them. These things were matter of holy triumph to Paul the prisoner. And doubtless, he and Timothy, who now was with him, chap. i. 1. and ii. 19. often sang praises in the hired house at Rome, Acts xxviii. 16, 30. as he and Silas had done in the prison of Philippi, Acts xvi. 25. Being solicitous to water the gardens he had planted, he now wrote this epistle to the saints who were at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: viz. those whom the Holy Ghost had made overseers over the flock, Acts xx. 28. and they to whom the care of the poor was committed, Acts vi. 3-6. and xxi. 8. It is a kind of twin epistle with that to the Ephesians, being both wrote from one place, and about one and the same time. And as was said of the orations of Demosthenes, that they smelled of the oil; so may we of these epistles, that they smell of the prison. Never does Christ appear more amiable to the saints than when they suffer for him. And never do they enjoy richer communications of his grace, than when in the furnace of affliction. Hence, says our apostle, as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounded by Christ, 2 Cor. i. 5. Jacob at Bethel, Moses at ' Horeb, Elijah in the wilderness, Ezekiel at the river Chebar, the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, and John on Patmos isle, could all attest the truth of this. Our apostle was now in bonds; but they could not hinder his access to his Master's seat. Never had he greater intimacies of fellowship with him than now. Never had he lower thoughts of himself, or more lofty of the Saviour. Never did he strike the strings of grace with a more skilful hand.
He had now been five and twenty years in the
school of Christ, learning more eagerly from him, than ever he did at the feet of Gamaliel : and counting all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, Phil. iii. 8. But though all that time he had been searching into the riches of Christ, and wrapt up in the contemplation of his love, he found that they were unsearchable, and that it passed knowledge, Eph. iii. 8, 19. The dignity of his person, the wonders of his love, and the glory to which as man and Mediator he is raised, were themes, though familiar to him, yet inexhausted, and inexhaustible. Never did he think on any of these, but his love broke forth as in a flame, and he was carried away as in a torrent of pleasant admiration. How much more when all the three presented themselves to his view. Of this we have striking instances both in the preceding and in the following epistle. For as they were wrote much about the same time with this where my text lies, so in them there is a remarkable coincidence of thought, and similarity of style, concerning the Saviour, compare Eph. i. 20-23. with Col. i. 15-20. But no where does the apostle descant more sweetly concerning our Lord, than in my text, together with the five following verses. He had expressed his confidence concerning the perseverance of the saints at Philippi, chap. i. 6. and his desire that they would stand fast in one spirit, striving together with one mind for the faith of the gospel, in nothing terrified by their adversaries, verse 27. In the beginning of this chapter where lies my text, he beseeches them to fulfil his joy, in being like minded, and in having the same mutual love. To engage them the more effectually to this, he suggests a variety of the most alluring motives: the consolations of Christ, the comforts of love, the fellowship of the Spirit, and bowels and mercies. In pursuance of the same purpose, he dissuades them from strife and vainglory. In humility of mind, says he, let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things. others.
To move them to this, he proposes the example of Christ, than which he could not name a stronger obligation, a more animating motive. "Let this mind be in you, says he, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God thought it not robberry to be equal with God: Nevertheless, he made himself of no reputation, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death; even the death of the cross." The apostle not only mentions the amazing humility of Christ, but also the glory to which he was exalted in consequence of it. No obscure intimation, that the Philippians humbling themselves in imitation of him, should be exalted to be with him where he is, to behold his glory. For it is an invariable rule with God, that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, Luke xiv. 11. 1 Pet. v. 6.
The apostle does not only mention the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which followed. He also takes notice of his pre-existence in a state of uncreated grandeur. Sensible that this was the leading link in the chain of celestial truth, he brings it first in view. It was this which infinitely heightened the wonder of Christ's humiliation, gave worth to his sufferings, and entitled him to that exceeding and eternal weight of glory to which he is now exalted. Had he not been originally in the form of God, the wonder of taking upon him the form of a servant, had sunk as into nothing For if not God, however high in the scale of being, he had been a creature only, and therefore a servant. Accordingly, all the wonder would have consisted in this, that from being a higher servant, he had become one of an inferior order. If not God by nature, all his sufferings and obedience had only been of finite value. If not God in his pre-existent state, he never could have been entitled to divine honours in his exalted. For that at the name of a mere creature, however exalted, every knee should bow in heaven, in earth, and under the earth,