Christ "emptied Himself" (Philippians 2:7)
Ver. 21. "Unto Him be the glory," he concludes, "in the Church and in Christ Jesus, unto all generations forever and ever. Amen."
Well does he close the discourse with prayer and doxology; for right were it that He, who hath bestowed upon us such vast gifts, should be glorified and blessed, so that this is even a proper part of our amazement at His mercies, to give glory for the things advanced to us at God's hands through Jesus Christ.
"The glory in the Church." Well might he say this, forasmuch as the Church alone can last on to eternity.
It seems necessary to state what are meant by "families." (<greek>patriai</greek>) Here on earth, indeed there are "families" that is races sprung from one parent stock; but in heaven how can this be, where none is born of another? Surely then, by "families," he means either the and orders of heavenly beings; as also we find it written in Scripture, "the family of Amattari:" (1 Sam. 10:21. See Septuagint.) or else that it is from Him from whom earthly fathers have their name of father.
However, he does not ask the whole of God, but demands of them also faith and love, and not simply love, but love "rooted and grounded," so that neither any blasts can shake it, nor any thing else overturn it. He had said, that "tribulations" are "glory," and if mine are so to you, he would say, much more will your own be: so that to be afflicted is no token of men being forsaken, for He who hath wrought so great things for us, never would do this.
Again, if in order to understand the love of God, it was necessary for Paul to pray, and there was need of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who by following mere reasonings shall understand the nature of Christ? And why is it a difficult thing to learn that God loveth us? Beloved, it is extremely difficult. For some know not even this; wherefore, they even say, numberless evils come to be in the world; and others know not the extent of this love. Nor, indeed, is Paul seeking to know its extent, nor with any view to measure it; for how could he? but only to understand this, that it is transcendent, and great. And this very thing, he says, he is able to show, even from the knowledge which hath been vouchsafed to us.
However, what is higher than the being "strengthened with might," in order to have Christ within? Vast are the things we ask, saith he, yet is He able to do above even them, so that not only doth He love us, but cloth so intensely. Be it our care therefore, beloved, to understand the love of God. A great thing indeed is this; nothing is so beneficial to us, nothing so deeply touches us: more availing this to convince our souls than the fear of hell itself. Whence then shall we understand it? Both from the sources now mentioned, and from the things which happen every day. For from what motive have these things been done for us? from what necessity on His part? None whatever. Over and over again he lays down love as the cause. But the highest degree of love is that where men receive a benefit, without any prior service on their part to call for it.
Moral. And let us then be followers of Him; let us do good to our enemies, to them that hate us, let us draw near to those who turn their backs upon us. This renders us like unto God. "For if ye love them that love you," saith Christ, "what reward have ye?" "Do not even the Gentiles the same." (Matt. 5:46) But what is a sure proof of love? To love him that hates thee. I wish to give you some example, (pardon me,) and since I find it not among them that are spiritual, I shall quote an instance from them that are without. See ye not those lovers? How many insults are wreaked upon them by their mistresses, how many artifices practised, how many punishments inflicted: yet they are enchained to them, they burn for them, and love them better than their own souls, passing whole nights before their thresholds. From them let us take our example, not indeed to love such as those,--women, I mean, that are harlots; no, but thus to love our enemies. For tell me, do not harlots treat their lovers with greater insolence than all the enemies in the world, and squander away their substance, and cast insult in their face, and impose upon them more servile tasks than upon their own menials? And yet still they desist not, though no one hath so great an enemy in any one, as the lover in his mistress. Yea, this beloved one disdains, and reviles, and oftentimes maltreats him, and the more she is loved, the more she scorns him. And what can be more brutal than a spirit like this? Yet notwithstanding he loves her still.
But possibly we shall find love like this in spiritual characters also, not in those of our day, (for it has "waxed cold,") (Matt. 24:12) but in those great and glorious men of old. Moses, the blessed Moses, surpassed even those that love with human passion. How, and in what way? First, he gave up the court, and the luxury, and the retinue, and the glory attending it, and chose rather to be with the Israelites. Yet is this not only what no one else would ever have done, but would have even been ashamed, were another to have discovered him, of being found to be a kinsman of men, who were slaves and not only slaves, but were looked upon as even execrable. Yet was he not only not ashamed of his kindred, but with all his spirit defended them, and threw himself into dangers for their sake. (Acts. 7:24) How? Seeing, it is said, one doing an injury to one of them, he defended him that suffered the injury, and slew him that inflicted it. But this is not as yet for the sake of enemies. Great indeed is this act of itself, but not so great as what comes afterwards. The next day, then, he saw the same thing taking place, and when he saw him whom he had defended doing his neighbor wrong, he admonished him to desist from his wrong-doing. But he said, with great ingratitude, "Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?" (Acts. 7:27) Who would not have taken fire at these words? Had then the former act been that of passion and frenzy, then would he have smitten and killed this man also; for surely he on whose behalf it was done, never would have informed against him. But because they were brethren, it is said, he spoke thus. When he [the Hebrew] was being wronged, he uttered no such word "Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?" "Wherefore saidst thou not this yesterday?" Moses would say, "Thy injustice, and thy cruelty, these make me a ruler and a judge."
But now, mark, how that some, in fact, say as much even to God Himself. Whenever they are wronged indeed, they would have Him a God of vengeance, and complain of His long suffering; but when themselves do wrong, not for a moment.
However, what could be more bitter than words like these? And yet notwithstanding, after this, when he was sent to that ungrateful, to that thankless race, he went, and shrunk not back. Yea, and after those miracles, and after the wonders wrought by his hand, oftentimes they sought to stone him to death and he escaped out of their bands. They kept murmuring too incessantly, and yet still, notwithstanding, so passionately did he love them, as to say unto God, when they committed that heinous sin, "Yet now if Thou wilt forgive, forgive their sin; and if not, blot even me also out of the book which Thou hast written." (Ex. 32:32) Fain would I perish, saith he, with them, rather than without them be saved. Here, verily, is love even to madness, verily, unbounded love. What sayest thou, Moses? Art thou regardless of Heaven? I am, saith he, for I love those who have wronged me. Prayest thou to be blotted out? Yea, saith he, what can I do, for it is love? And what again after these things? Hear what the Scripture saith elsewhere; "And it went ill with Moses for their sakes." (Ps. 106:32) How often did they wax wanton? How often did they reject both himself and his brother? How often did they seek to return back to Egypt? and yet after all these things did he burn, yea, was beside himself with love for them, and was ready to suffer for their sakes.-
Thus ought a man to love his enemies; by lamentation, by unwearied endurance, by doing everything, by showing all favor, to aim at their salvation.
And what again, tell me, did Paul? did he not ask even to be accursed in their stead? (Rom. 9:3) But the great pattern we must of necessity derive from the Lord, for thus cloth He also Himself, where he saith, "For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good." (Matt. 5:45) adducing the example from His Father; but we from Christ Himself. He came unto them, in His Incarnation, I mean, He became a servant for their sakes, "He humbled Himself, He emptied Himself, He took the form of a servant." (Phil. 2:7, 8) And when He came unto them, He went not Himself aside "into any way of the Gentiles," (Matt. 10:5) and gave the same charge to His disciples, and not only so, but "He went about healing all manner of disease, and all manner of sickness. (Matt. 4:23) And what then? All the rest indeed were astonished, and marveled, and said, "Whence, then, hath this man all these things?" (Matt. 13:56) But these, the objects of His beneficence, these said, "He hath a devil," (John 10:20) and "blasphemeth," (John 10:36) and "is mad," and is a "deceiver," (John 7:12, and Matt. 27:63) Did he therefore cast them away? No, in no wise, but when He heard these sayings, He even yet more signally bestowed His benefits upon them, and went straightway to them that were about to crucify Him, to the intent that He might but only save them. And after He was crucified, what were His words? "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Both cruelly treated before this, and cruelly treated after this, even to the very latest breath, for them He did every thing, in their behalf He prayed. Yea, and after the Cross itself, what did He not do for their sakes? Did He not send Apostles? Did He not work miracles? Did He not shake the whole world?
Thus is it we ought to love our enemies, thus to imitate Christ. Thus did Paul. Stoned, suffering unnumbered cruelties, yet did he all things for their good. Hear his own words. "My heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them that they may be saved." (Rom. 10:1, 2) And again; "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God." And again; "If thou, being a wild olive tree wast grafted in, how much more shall these be grafted into their own olive tree?" (Rom. 11:24) How tender, thinkest thou, must be the affection from which these expressions proceed, how vast the benevolence? it is impossible to express it, impossible.
Thus is it we ought to love our enemies. This is to love God, Who hath enjoined it, Who hath given it as His law. To imitate Him is to love our enemy. Consider it is not thine enemy thou art benefiting, but thyself; thou art not loving him, but art obeying God. Knowing therefore these things, let us confirm our love one to another, that we may perform this duty perfectly, and attain those good things that are promised in Christ Jesus our Lord, with Whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, and honor, now, and for ever and ever. Amen.
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