Sermon 2154. The Pastor's Joy and Confidence
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JULY 13, 1890,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for yourfellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now being confident of this very thing that He which has begun a good workin you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have youin my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel, you all are partakers of my grace."Philippians 1:3-7.
THE Epistle to the Philippians is the epistle ofjoy. Bengel sums it up in two Latin words, which, being interpreted, signify,"I rejoice, rejoice you." Here we come to that sweet fruit of the Spirit which we call "Joy." The statement Paul makes aboutthe Philippian Church shows to what a high estate a Church can come. Beloved, we of the Tabernacle never wish to be like theChurch in Galatia which was bewitched by false teachers who led away the people from the vital doctrine of justification byfaith. Paul had to be very sharp with them and to lay down the grand fundamentals of Free Grace so as to bring them back tothe one sure Rock on which they ought to have built. Into that condition, by the Grace of God, we have never fallen.
At the same time I am afraid we have never reached as far as the Philippians went and this morning it is my intense desirethat while I show you what they attained, every member of this Church may resolve, in the Holy Spirit, that he will laborto bring us to that happy condition. May God the Holy Spirit fire us with a devout ambition not to be a whit behind the bestof the Apostolic Churches! The possibilities of a great Church like this are immeasurable. We may not sit down and dream ofwhat we can do. We must feel our heart pulsing with a strong desire that whatever God can do with us and by us may be carriedout to the fullest. If in anything there has been a falling short, may each member be determined that the responsibility shallnot lie at his door!
I invite you to think, first, that the Apostle speaks of the Church of Philippi as of a people whom he always remembered withjoy. Secondly, as of a people whom he regarded with confidence, for he says of them, "Being confident of this very thing,that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." And thirdly, we perceive that heviewed them as a people concerning whom he gave all the glory to God alone. This fact is very conspicuous throughout the wholepassage.
I. First, in the Church at Philippi we see A PEOPLE WHOM THE APOSTLE REMEMBERED WITH JOY. This is seen in his declarationthat all his memory of them was happy-"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." A better rendering is, "I thank my Godupon all my remembrance of you." Taking the long run of his acquaintance with them-remembering them from the time when hepreached by the riverside and Lydia was converted-even until the moment of his writing to them as a prisoner in Rome-he knewnothing of them but that which gave him joy. He thought how they had, of their own free, will ministered again and again tohis necessities when no other Church was mindful of him.
He says, "Now you Philippians know, also, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicatedwith me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only." Their grateful benevolence caused him to thank God. He had no dashof bitter in the cup of his happy memory of them. As long as he remembered their prayers, their courage, their faith, theirlabor, their unity, their constancy, their zeal, their thoughtfulness and their liberality, he felt unmingled gratitude tothe Author of all these excellent things. I trust there are many ministers who, with perhaps some slight reserve, can sayof their people, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."
If any man can say this, I claim to be that man! All have not been faithful to God in the long years of my ministry, but,taking you as a whole, you have been true to the core. This was a great wonder at Philippi, for wanderings from
sound doctrine, or noticeable departures from the way of rectitude, or acts of unkindness to their spiritual leader wouldhave destroyed this happy memory of Paul. A consistent life may be marred in any one Christian-and when there are many unitedin fellowship-what a risk there is to the whole Church from the power for mischief which lies in any one person! One cantankerous,over-bearing, changeable mind, or one hypocritical professor may blot the record of a Church of God. Truly, "one sinner destroysmuch good."
It had not been so at Philippi. Again, all the Apostle's remembrance of them was tender. I am sure it was so because he doesnot say, "I thank God," but, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." When his faith was lively and his joy in Godwas overflowing-when in his closest approaches to the Throne, in his most hallowed familiarities with his great Lord, he couldsay-"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." There existed between Paul and the Philippians a loving tenderness. Theyhad been most kind to him personally and most hearty in their cooperation with him in his labor of love so that when he wasthanking his own God for His choicest mercies, his mind brought before him these dear people.
Brethren, in the relation of pastor and people I notice in many places an absence of anything like tender affection. And whenthat is gone the very joy of the Gospel is gone from the preacher and, to a very large extent, from the people. They invitehim to take office. They pay him a wage more or less scanty and then they send him about his business because they are tiredof him. Can they expect a blessing upon such a hireling ministry from which every element of holy relationship is absent?But in the case in which the pastor is the spiritual father of his Church and a true shepherd of souls, how different is therelationship! When they were sad, he has cheered them. When they were in difficulties, he has guided them. When their handshung down, he has strengthened them. And because of all this, there exists a near fellowship and a tender love, as of childrento a father, or of brother to brother-so that he rejoices in them and they rejoice in him. May it be so among us forevermore!If it is not so among us, where is it so?
Again, all Paul's memory of Philippi excited gratitude in his mind. He could not have said of the Galatians, "I thank my Godupon every remembrance of you." Oh, no! He said, "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" There were persons of whomhe said, "I thank God that I baptized none of you." He was pleased that Believers should be baptized, but he was glad thathe had not baptized certain persons who would have made capital out of it and boasted that they were baptized by the handsof Paul! All good people are not equally good. There are some in the world whom we hope to meet in Heaven with whom fellowshipis difficult. If they were on the other side of the Atlantic we might love them better than when we see much of them. I knowseveral Christian people with whom I would sooner sit in Heaven throughout all eternity than sit ten minutes with them ona sofa here below-distance-in their case, might add enchantment to the view.
It was not so with the Philippians-Paul thought of them with devout gratitude to his God that there were such people and thathe had come into personal contact with them. He knew the ins and outs of them and yet he could thank his God whenever he thoughtof them. Dear Friends, may it be so with us, that men of God may thank God for the existence and the work of this Church!It is well with a man when he so rejoices in the excellence of others that he thanks God about it and prays about it. It iswell with men when there is a something in their lives for which holy men can devoutly thank God. I have seen a good dealof testimony-giving and of public laudation of prominent men-but the happiest condition of things would have arrived if inour heart of hearts we delighted in the holiness of other Christian men and made a point of praising God on that account.To see another to be more gracious than oneself and then to praise God for it-is this common? We pray for those that err-dowe praise those who stand firm? It is a beautiful spirit to cultivate. May the Holy Spirit increase it in us all!
Again, all his prayers for them were joyful. He says, "Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy."For some we have had to pray with tears and sighs and for others with trembling. But the Lord so heard Paul in the past withregard to these Philippians that every time he began to pray he felt liberty in prayer-a joy in bearing their names beforethe Lord-and a sweet assurance that he was not praying in vain. His was not the cry of anguish but the request of delight!When we pray for those who are our joy and for that which will be their joy, we may well mingle joy with earnestness. Forthese beloved ones Paul approached the Mercy Seat with boldness and confidence-he felt sure of being heard on their account.
In very truth, I can say the same of you all in this place. Never can I pray with greater peace of soul than when I pleadfor you. I believe, on the other hand, thousands of godly people find a joy in making request for me. So I am constantly toldand I have no doubt upon the matter. Now, why was all this joy in the Apostle's mind with regard to the saints in Philippi?This is the point I desire to press upon you. Paul rejoiced because all along they had been in hearty fellowship with himin the best things. Observe-"For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now." There are Churches wherein theminister is nominally the leading officer, but he cannot lead for the Church does not follow. See that young officer, swordin hand, leap the rampart. He looks back, but alas, his troop is yards behind him!
He cries, "Come on! Come on!" But there is no answer. He might as well call to stones. This is poor work. But see another-whereverhe advances his soldiers are at his side-they are as eager as he is, the victory is as much for them as for him and they feelit is so. Well may there be an outcry against "the one-man ministry" when the one man is not backed up by all who are in Churchfellowship! But, Brothers and Sisters, it need not be so-indeed, it is not so among us! True and hearty have been the effortsof many in this Church. Paul seemed to stand alone when he was with the Galatians, but the Philippians were at his side andall around him, bearing him on from victory to victory by their unanimous fellowship.
For this he thanks God and well he might! They were in fellowship with him concerning his one sole object-"For your fellowshipin the Gospel." If you look at the Revised Version it is, "for your fellowship in furtherance of the Gospel." The Apostlelonged to spread the Gospel! And so did they. He was earnest to carry it to the regions beyond-so were they. If he preached,they would be there to encourage him. If he held special meetings, they were ready to help. If money was required, every manwas ready according to his means, without pressing. Each one felt as earnest about the work as did his minister. They wereenthusiastic for the furtherance of the Gospel-they were heartily with him where he most valued their sympathy.
This fellowship began early-"from the first day" of their conversion. I think we can predict what converts will be from whatthey are at first. Some begin warmly and gradually cool down-and we seldom know them to develop much heat or zeal if theybegin in lukewarmness. When we join a Church, it is well that from the first day we enquire of the Lord, "What would You haveme do?" The kind of recruits which we desire in Christ's army are those who are in fellowship with us for the furtheranceof the Gospel from the very first! I like to see the convert at the Prayer Meeting, the cottage meeting, the Bible-class,or the Ragged-school, or the Sunday school, or the Tract Society doing what he can to help others! He that begins early beginshopefully. Concerning some older Christians, we could not speak of their fellowship in the Gospel from the first day, forthey were slow in coming forward-but I hope they will do all the more now to make up for it.
I have heard of an advertisement of a burial club which began thus, "Seeing that many persons find it extremely difficultto bury themselves." That is not my experience, for I would have to say, "Seeing that many Church members find it exceedinglyeasy to bury themselves"-we receive them into our number with pleasure but we hear no more of them. We have the distinguishedprivilege of enrolling their names in our book and that is all. We give them our right hand of fellowship, but they do notgive us their right hand of labor. Where are they? Where? Echo answers, Where? The Philippians had fellowship in furtheringthe Gospel from the first day! Then mark that they were men of good wind, who could keep up the running. They were as patientand persevering as they were zealous at the first. "From the first day until now." Until now.
Some run well for a time but that time is short. Oh, for the men who will live as long as they live and not die while theyare alive! How many who should have been our helpers are lost to us! They have grown indifferent or they have become advancedin years and fancy that they can now do nothing because they cannot do all they once did. We can always do something for Jesusif we are willing! As we are not too old to receive Grace, let us not think ourselves too old to use it-for it is given tobe used. The aged are capable of the noblest work which can be performed. Encouragement of the sad and feeble almost necessitatesan experience which only age can bring. There is as truly a service in the Church for the most venerable as for the most active.Let no man cut himself off from the privilege of serving the Lord Jesus "from the first day until now."
And what they did appears to have been so general as to be practically unanimous. He speaks of them all as in full fellowshipwith him in his lifework. When shall we get Churches alive all through? When false doctrine taints a Church it
usually sours the whole of it, for "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." But if they are good Churches, I am sorry tosay the perfume of consecration does not sweeten every part. In most Churches there are a few who, to a large extent, do everythingand give everything-then another portion assist occasionally-so far as they are urged on by the consecrated ones. And afterthese you find a large number who are practically the baggage of the Church-the lumber which has to be carried by the efficientmembers. Alas, that we have so many in ambulances when every hand is needed in the fight! A Church is in a poor conditionwhen it is largely so-but it is in fine health when all are hearty in the service of the Lord, as at Philippi.
It was practical fellowship. Some of them preached, all of them prayed. Some of them contributed money and all gave love.Nobody shirked his work-which was not looked upon as a labor-but as a privilege. You will not wonder that Paul rejoiced, forit gives joy to every earnest man to see others earnest! The great cause is as much yours as it is mine. A Church which feelsthat holy service is not for a few, but for all the members, is a credit to Divine Grace. It is a lovely piece of Divine mosaicwork in which jewels of costly price are set about with solid gold and the whole exhibits a design of matchless beauty. Fellowshipwith the Holy Spirit and fellowship with great saints is a rare jewel-may we each one possess it! I will not stay longer onthis point, for I shall have to return to it when considering our next head.
II. Paul saw in the Philippians A PEOPLE WHOM HE REGARDED WITH THE UTMOST CONFIDENCE- "Being confident of this very thing,that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." What was Paul's confidence, then?His confidence was that the work in their hearts was a Divine work. The Lord Himself had begun a good work in them! This isa vital matter. Everything turns upon the question, "Is this conversion a Divine work or not?"
The man is altered for the better. The woman is certainly improved. A work has been done-but is it God's work? Or is it thework of the flesh? Ah, dear Friends, a moral change may sometimes look so much like a spiritual change that onlookers cannotdetect the difference! The child of Nature, finely dressed, is not the living child of Divine Grace-and how are we to tellthe one from the other? "By their fruits you shall know them." The Apostle had found the Philippians true in their partnershipin the Lord's work. They suffered for their Lord patiently. They defended the faith bravely. They spread it zealously andtheir lives confirmed it! And so Paul said to himself, "This is the finger of God! The Lord Himself has begun this work."How happy we are when we can have this confidence of every member of the Church- that from the beginning of their religionGod has been at work in their hearts!
I pray you, do not be satisfied, any of you, with the most promising religiousness if it is not God's work! If you have undergonea change, take care that it is such a change as only the Creator could have worked in you-a resurrection from the dead, anopening of blind eyes, a turning from darkness to light! If you have not undergone a renewal which betokens heavenly handiwork,be uneasy. Be restless until God Himself, who made you, makes you new in Christ Jesus! My heart silently entreats the Lordto begin this good work in you at once-and may there be signs following which shall give us the joy of knowing that, indeed,and of a truth, the Lord has done it!
Paul could see, in the next place, that it was a growing work, for the Lord was still performing it. The work of God is alwaysa growing work. If things do not grow they lack one of the chief marks of life. You put into the ground something which lookslike a living plant and after it has been there six months you find it just the same, without a single bud or shoot. Whatdo you say of it? Why, you conclude that it is an artificial production devoid of life. If we do not grow better, surely itis because we have no goodness worked in us! If we do not grow in Divine Grace it must be because we have no Divine Grace!Paul saw God carrying on the work in the heart of the Philippians so that they went from strength to strength and about thishe was confident.
He was also confident that God would perfect it. He says, "He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Shall we beabsolutely perfect until then? I think not. Perfection in a modified sense is possible through Divine Grace-but not absoluteperfection. Old Master Trapp very well says a Christian may be perfect, but not perfectly perfect. Perfection in the Scripturaluse of it is not at all what those make of it who boast of perfection in the flesh! A child is perfect when it is newly born-thereis every toe on the tiny foot and its eyes, ears, nose and other organs are all there-but if you tell me that a child is aperfect man, I smile at you. So the Christian may be perfect as to all his parts, "perfect and entire, lacking nothing," andyet he may not be perfect as to development by a very long way.
One says, "We shall be perfect at death, shall we not?" It is not so written here, but, "He will perform it until the dayof Jesus Christ." We may be perfect in death, doubtless, as to the moral and spiritual Nature-but a man has a body as wellas a soul-and it needs both parts to make the perfect man. While the worms are devouring the body the man is not yet perfect.He will be perfect as to his whole manhood when the Lord shall come and the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raisedincorruptible! Paul delights to make the Christian leap over that little rivulet called death and swallow up the thought ofdissolution in the far grander fact of the coming of the Lord!
The Second Advent ought to be much more on our minds than the hour of our death! The Lord will perform the work which He hasbegun until He perfects it in the day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall receive His Church unto Himself. Then shall be thegeneral judgment and oh, what a blessing to be found perfect in that day of decision! He shall separate the righteous fromthe wicked as the shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. When that great day is ended, then shall the righteous shineforth as the sun! Our Lord Jesus will be covered with the Infinite splendor of God in that day and then shall we be like He-HisGlory will be reflected upon all Believers. You have no idea of what a perfect man will be like. "You see not that body thatshall be." God will give us such a body as it pleases Him and to each one a body of his own.
If you had never seen wheat growing, you would never imagine that the shriveled grain of corn would produce the blade, theear and the full corn in the ear. Take an example still more striking-many very tiny seeds produce flowers which excel inbeauty of form and color-could you have ever guessed that the insignificant seeds could have come to this? Even so, the bodyis sown in weakness but it is raised in power! It is sown in corruption but it is raised in incorruption! The star of todaywill be the sun of tomorrow. All glory lies in the bud of our struggling humanity when once Divine Grace has quickened it.O Brothers and Sisters, He that has begun a good work in us will not only give us perseverance until death, but what is evenmore, He will give us perfection in the day of Christ! It is altogether a more comprehensive thought than the great Truthof God of Final Perseverance-it includes that blessed Truth of God within its sweep, but it also secures eternal glory bothto soul and body!
Was Paul justified in being so confident, not only that these people were converted, but that they would be eternally saved?Leave out of the question his writing as an Inspired man-how did he gain his confidence? His confidence partly arose out ofhis love-"Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart." His love to them was not themere glow of Nature, but the flame of Divine Grace! He saw so much of Christ in them that he could not help admiring and lovingthem. And he felt sure that they were of the sort that never draw back unto perdition, but believe to the salvation of theirsouls. He perceived that the Grace which was in him was in them, also-and therefore, as he hoped to be kept to the end-hefelt that they would, also, be so kept. As he felt sure that the work of Grace in them was of God, and of God alone, so hewas confident that they would never fail. A good foundation is a grand security that the house will be substantial. Thosewe love in the Lord, because of what the Lord has done for them, we feel sure about as to their future.
Furthermore, their long-continued character confirmed the Apostle in his confidence, for he adds, "Inasmuch as both in mybonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel, you all are partakers of my grace." When he was bound they were notashamed of his chains. When he was in prison the jailer washed his stripes and refreshed him at his table and this provedan omen of loving liberality throughout life. When Paul was taken away to Rome, the Philippians took care that he should notbe left penniless-they sent out of their poverty to his assistance. He felt confidence in a people who could do this. Shameturns many of the weaker sort aside, but the faithful despise it. Those who love holiness when others despise and ridiculeit are the people to stand fast. Besides, they were partners with Paul in the defense of the Gospel.
If any Galatian teachers came their way, they gave them the cold shoulder for they would not give up the grand old Gospelto please the wise men of the period. In this way, my Brothers and Sisters, have you also stood by your own minister in thoseprotests against error which have cost him so dear. Your faithfulness gives me great confidence concerning you. The peoplewho can bear the attacks made upon you and the baits held out to you can be relied upon under God. You are not ashamed ofmy bonds, for you are heartily with me in the defense of the Gospel in this day of falsehood. They were also with the Apostleas to the confirmation of the Gospel. Their lives proved the truth of the Word
of Grace. When Paul was preaching, if he wanted to show that the Gospel is the power of God, he pointed to what had been accomplishedin Philippi-and none could deny the argument.
A living argument is invincible. Reasoning is very well, but fact is overwhelming. Oh, that every Christian would so liveas to prove the power of the Gospel! He adds another reason why he was so sure of them, namely, that they were partakers ofhis grace. The same Grace which had saved him saved them. They ascribed their salvation to Sovereign Grace even as he did.The life in them as babes in Grace was the same life which dwelt in him as a father in Israel. Their Gospel and his Gospelwere identical-and their spirit and his spirit were cast in the same mold. His Grace was such that he could not be seducedinto hoping for salvation by works and nor could they. He believed in Divine Sovereignty, in electing love, in effectual Atonement-andso did they. They were with him in all things-not in a forced union, but in hearty love to the same Truths of God. Besides,he loved the souls of men and was always laboring to lead men to Jesus and they did the same. He delighted best to preachwhere Christ had never been made known and not to build upon another man's foundation. And in this they supported him. Theywere with him in every loving endeavor to spread the Gospel.
Now, it is a grand thing when a minister has great confidence in his people based upon the fact that he sees the Grace ofGod in them bringing forth fruit unto the Glory of God. Foolish fondness is to be avoided, but a confidence which is justifiedby evidence is a great solace to the heart. What strength holy living in his people gives to the preacher of the Word of God!A man comes before you and says, "There is, somewhere about here, an invisible lake containing the purest, coolest and mostrefreshing water that you ever drank. You never saw water so pure and delicious." We ask the gentleman to let us see thislake. No, he cannot show the lake, but he will allow us to examine the streams which flow out of it. That is a fair test andwe agree to abide by it.
Here is one of the outflows. We fill a glass from it and hold it up to the light. Why, here are little whales and elephantsswimming in it and no end of tiny sea monsters disporting themselves-that lake is hardly the place to drink from unless onewould have meat as well as drink at every draught! Our informant assures us that there must be a mistake somewhere. So wehope. This stream has evidently gone wrong-he will take us to another outflow. Again we dip our cup, and lo, it is filledwith water of a strange color as if the filth of some great city had run into it. We loathe to drink. Again we are told thatthere is some failure here, also, and we are begged to try again. After three or four such experiments, we feel quite unableto believe in this crystal lake. Such streams as these have not come out of an expanse of purity-we will keep to our old-fashionedwaterworks till we have more reliable information.
See the parallel? If Paul had begun praising the Gospel and the people had said, "Show it to us by its effects," he mighthave said, "Let us pay a visit to Lydia, the seller of purple." They go to her store and look at her wares. Somehow her purpledoes not seem to be dyed after the ancient Tyrian fashion. The color is not true or fast. If she tries to pass off a baseimitation as the original article we reckon the woman an old cheat and by no means a good evidence of the power of the Gospel!If she uses a trademark which does not belong to her, we conclude that her religion is worthless! Let us call upon the jailer,who is another instance of the work of Grace in Philippi.
When we come to the jail the porter tells us that the jailer is beating the prisoners! And on enquiry we find that the prisonis a little Hell and those in it are wretched in the extreme under his tyrannical hand. "He is worse," says the porter, "sincePaul came here. He talks a great deal about religion, but we do not see much of it unless it lies in being harsh, suspicious,cruel and selfish." If these things happened, Paul would feel sorry that he brought us to Philippi and he would be unableto preach the Word with boldness. I will not make any application, dear Friends-you can do that for yourselves.
III. My third point is this, that although Paul speaks concerning the excellence of the Philippians, he views them as A PEOPLEFOR WHOM HE GAVE ALL GLORY TO THE GRACE OF GOD. He did not praise them, but the Lord who had saved them. Observe how he began,"I thank my God." In what was done he sees reason for gratitude to God. Brothers and Sisters, if we win a single soul, letus humbly thank God for it. If, after years of labor, any one of you should bring but two or three children to Jesus, youwill have reason to thank God for all eternity! A friend said to me on Wednesday, when the sun was shining, "We ought to begrateful for this fine weather." I replied, "I go farther than that-I am grateful for it."
We should not only acknowledge what we ought to do, but we should do it. If God gives you any success in His service, do notsay, "I ought to be thankful," but be thankful from the bottom of your heart up to the brim of it. I remember a Brother whoused to pray, "The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we desire to be glad." The Bible does not say so-the Bible says,"whereof we are glad." Another cries, "The love of Christ ought to constrain us." The Bible does not talk in that fashion.It says, "The love of Christ constrains us." What we ought to do we should do. A Christian's life should be the Decaloguewritten large and somewhat more.
But Paul also, after he had thanked God, kept on praying for what was still needed. "Always in every prayer of mine for youall making request." See, dear Brethren-at Philippi he has not only begun with God, but he goes on with God. He has much moreto do but he does not attempt to do it without his Lord. Oh, that all workers were of this mind! We deal with God too little.A person exclaimed, "Let us get up a revival." The revivals which men can get up had better be left alone-we need to get revivalsdown. If we get a revival up it must come from beneath-but if we get a revival down, it comes from above. Lord, revive us!We pray for it and when it comes we will praise You for it. Brothers and Sisters, we must mix up our constant service withmore prayer and praise if we desire it to be largely effectual. If the work is worth anything, it is God's work in us andby us-He begins it, carries it on and completes it!
What, then, can we do, if we do not draw near to Him? Our labor must have a constantly distinct reference to God. Sunday schoolteachers, your work requires you to begin with God-do not dare to go to the class even once without fervent prayer in theSpirit. When you have given the lesson, go straightway and ask God's blessing on it. Do not omit this even once! Paul's wayis to thank God and to pray to God-and it must be yours if you would have Paul's joy. As to his confidence about the futureof his converts, it was all in God. It was not confidence in them apart from the work of God in them. He says God began itand God will carry it on. He does not depend on the strength of their principles, nor the force of their resolutions, northe excellence of their habits-he relies upon God, who will perform what He has begun.
Did not Paul begin it? No, no! For if he had begun it he would have to carry it on and that could not be. Did not they beginit themselves? Certainly not! Does the sinner take the first step? How can he? He is dead in sin! If he does take the firststep apart from the Spirit of God, he can take all the rest without God. It is with the sinner as with the Romish Saint Denis.You have heard the old fable that when he had his head cut off he picked it up and walked a thousand miles with it in hishand! A scoffer said that the thousand miles' walk was not at all remarkable-it was only the first step that had any difficultyin it.
Just so, when a soul goes to Heaven, if it takes the first step in its own strength, it can walk all the way-and then it willhave all the glory. Brothers and Sisters, we may truly sing-
"No sinner can be Beforehand with You."
God commences the good work, however faint and feeble the beginning may appear. The tiny brook at the riverhead of repentanceis of God as much as the broad river of heavenly character. This is a solemn Truth of God. How deeply it should humble us!We cannot even begin-we cannot dig the foundation-how can we bring forth the top stone? All is of Grace from first to last.While the Apostle is so practical, as I have shown him to be, yet see how sound in doctrine he is! He never quits the granddoctrine of free, Sovereign, effectual Grace-"He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of JesusChrist."
Beloved Friends, I close when I say the Apostle derives his confidence from a great principle. The great principle is thatwhat God begins He will perfect. For if He did not do so, where was the wisdom of beginning? It is a word of derision whenthose who pass by a half-finished building say, "This man began to build and was not able to finish." We never praise a manfor wisdom who makes an attempt which he does not carry through. Could angels rejoice in a work which God began and then leftto fall through? It might also suggest a lack of power. If a man is wise in his beginnings, he may break down because, throughunforeseen difficulty, he has not sufficient means to complete his design. You often see the carcass of a house and it isnever a happy sight-it suggests lack of means.
But can there be any lack of power with God? Nothing is impossible with Him. But there might also be lack of perseverance.Some men are always great at beginnings but they have no stay in them-they change their minds. Does the Eternal God sufferchange? Is it not said that He is "without variableness or shadow of turning"? Granted an Immutable God we may be sure thatDivine Grace will complete what Divine Grace begins. Nor can God forsake the
work of His own hands from lack of long-suffering. A man might begin to bless another and that other might be so ungratefulthat the benefactor grows impatient and gives up on him. Will God fail in Divine Grace? Assuredly not. "His mercy enduresforever." The top and bottom of it is that our confidence in one another must only be confidence in God- and our confidencefor ourselves must rest in God or it will be sheer delusion.
But, Beloved, albeit that where God has begun a good work He will carry it on, this does not put prayer aside, for Paul praysfor these very people. Neither does this lessen the necessity of a holy life, for Paul is only confident about saints whowere hearty "in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel" and partakers of Divine Grace. He felt confident of the ultimateperfection of those only who had a Divine work within them and proved it by their fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel.How can we profess that Grace is in our hearts by Divine implanting if we live in secret sin? How can we hope to persevereif we have not begun? If we do not join in the prayers and efforts of the Church of God, how can we hope to partake in thereward at the coming of the Lord?
The question as to whether God has begun saving work in us must be answered by our faith and our life-and if it is satisfactorilyproved that He has begun it, we can depend upon Him to finish it! If, on the contrary, we have reason to fear that He hasnot begun it at all, we should not deceive ourselves, but take up our true position. We may still cry to Him as sinners andlook to Jesus as the Author of faith. This will be wise and this will be successful, for Jesus says He will cast out nonethat come to Him. "This Man receives sinners."
I hope every unconverted person here this morning who sees that salvation is God's work, will say to himself, "I will evenlook out of myself to Him who is able to begin the work in me. If He begins, carries on and completes salvation, then my lackof strength need not make me despair, for He is able, though I am not. He will work all my works in me and I shall praiseHis name."
Oh, that the Spirit of God would lead my hearers to think of these things! Come and trust in Jesus Christ, the only Savior,and the good work will then have begun in you-a work which neither the world, the flesh, nor the devil can destroy! And thenin the day of judgment you shall stand perfect in Christ Jesus before the Truth of God.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON- Philippians 1. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-427, 742, 739.