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The Love of Christians.
by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints' Day 

Rivingtons, London, 1875.
First part of Sermon LXIX. for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity.
 Phil. i. 3-11.    St. Matt. xviii. 21-35.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; 
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.ST. JOHN xiii. 34.

THERE is something peculiarly gentle and affectionate in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians; it is marked throughout with what we might call brotherly affections. So much was this the feeling of St. Paul towards these converts that we find him receiving support from them when he would not from other Churches. “Even in Thessasalonica,” he says, “ye sent once and again unto my necessity.” And full of interest is the account, in the Acts of the Apostles, of his sojourn with them; it was with them that on the Sabbath day he went out of the city by a river side, and sat down and taught them. They witnessed his being beaten with many stripes, and thrust with Silas into the inner prison. What a thousand tender recollections must he have had of them in all his painful travels; of his first and early stay with them; of their first knowledge and love of Christ, that wakening of the soul to things eternal like the first streaks of morning; what sympathy in their mutual afflictions and trials; what love and joy at their common deliverances, as when the angel opened the prison doors. Dear to him indeed must have been all his thoughts of his beloved Philippians, like the smiles and tears of an infant to its mother, who had borne so much for it. What hopes, what fellowship of prayers! All this is expressed in the opening of this Epistle.

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; being confident of this very thing, that He Who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to thin/c this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in. the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, ye are all partakers of my grace. For God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

Blessed Paul, a stranger and a captive in the great heathen Rome, the hearts of other men at such a time, when about to suffer and die, will turn to their home; but thou hadst on earth no home but in the hearts of these thy first children in the faith, “thy beautiful flock” by the still waters. But the light of the angel in thy midnight prison at Philippi was not so calm and bright as is the love, in the midst of thy bonds and imprisonment, which breathes throughout this sweet and Divine Epistle. Easy were thy chains and light thy sufferings when prayer bound thee more and more, in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ, to the objects of thy care and love with such hope and repose.  And here we may observe, that earnest prayer for the salvation of others fills us with a good hope that they will be saved, which may account for that strong confidence in their final perseverance which the inspired Apostle here expresses in the midst of his prayers, and longings, and thanksgivings.

This Divine love of brethren united together in Christ is well likened to a golden chain let down from the very throne of God; for it not only binds more and more one with another, but also at the same time lifts up and draws all together more and more towards Heaven. Thus these kind Philippians, with their worldly means, and their sympathies and prayers, were aiding St. Paul, and thus made “partakers of” his “grace ;“ and he, at the same time, by his most prevailing intercessions, was increasing in them more and more every spiritual blessing. For thus he proceeds, after calling upon God as the witness of his affection for them: 
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgement: that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offence, till the day of Christ: being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.  These last words of “fruits by Jesus Christ unto the glory of God” are even as our Lord Himself had said, in those His last discourses, in taking leave of His disciples, “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” And again, “in this is My Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit.”

And this brotherly love to each other of them that are found in Christ, this bringing forth much fruit in mutual affection and forgiveness, on account of the love of Christ, is nowhere set forth in a more striking manner than in the parable from St. Matthew in this day’s Gospel..... 

.... (for the second part, on the Gospel.)