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Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.—Phil. iii. 8.
THESE words are added to the former by way of amplification, for three reasons—
1. To show his perseverance in the contempt and disesteem of all outward and worldly privileges; he had counted them loss for Christ’s sake, and did still count them loss: ‘I have counted,’ and ‘do count.’ He repeats it over and over; he repented not of his choice in the review; he seeth no cause to recede from it. He had undervalued and quitted everything that might keep him from Christ; and this not only when first converted, but he still continued in the same opinion. We affect novelties, and are transported when we first change our profession, but repent at leisure. No; if he had done it, he would do it again.
2. To comprehend all other things besides the Jewish privileges, wherein he excelled the greatest pretenders among them. He had said before, ‘Those things which were gain to me.’ Now he extends this rejection to all things imaginable without Christ—honours, wealth, pleasures, all outward and worldly accommodations. A christian can deny anything for Christ’s sake, his own honour, his own ease, profit, name, estate, everything but his own God and Christ.
3. In this new proposal he shows the reality of this assertion: ‘Yea, doubtless.’ It was not a pretended business, nor a bare naked approbation of Christ as more excellent than other things; not a speculative, but a practical esteem: ‘Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’
In the words observe—(1.) His great contempt of all worldly and 13external privileges; (2.) The causes of this contempt, out of his esteem and value of Christ.
1. His contempt is set forth by two things—
[1.] The vehemency and greatness of it: ‘I account them loss,’ yea, I account them ‘dung.’ So excellent is Christ, and so precious to them that believe in him, that all things compared with him have so much baseness, that a word bad enough cannot be found to express them σκύβαλα, the word signifieth the inwards of beasts, or refuse things thrown to dogs.
[2.] The reality and sincerity of it; here was a real demonstration of it. Many approve the things that are excellent, Rom. ii. 18, yet have no mind to embrace them, because they cannot deny temptations. But the apostle saith not only ἡγοῦμαι τὰ πάντα, ‘I count all things but loss and dung,’ but ἐζημιώθην τὰ πάντα, ‘I have suffered the loss of all things.’ He proveth the sincerity of his purpose by his actual self-denial; he had suffered the loss of friends and country, and all things dear to him in the flesh, that so he might become a christian. He did not only count them nothing worth, and despise them all, but was content to be stripped of all. These were not brags; for he really suffered the loss of all, was hungry and naked, went in danger of his life often. We must either lose all, or be prepared to lose all for Christ when called thereto. Paul could value his natural interests as well as another, but in case of necessity, lose friends or lose Christ, then all is counted loss and dung. Men in a shipwreck throw overboard their most precious wares to save their lives.
2. The causes of this contempt were great, and such as did every way justify it. As he contemned great things, so he contemned them for weighty causes. Two are mentioned—
[1.] ‘The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord;’ that is, that he might obtain the knowledge of Christ, which is so excellent that it made all other things seem vile in his eyes. Those things could only yield a carnal, light, and temporary profit; this a spiritual, solid, and eternal felicity. To keep them and lose this would be a loss not to be recompensed.
[2.] ‘That I may gain Christ;’ that is, have the favour of Christ, which is the highest of all privileges.
I shall now insist upon the greatness and vehemency of his contempt of all worldly and carnal things in comparison of Christ.
Doct. That he that is or would be a good christian should have such an esteem of Christ as to count all things but loss and dung, yea, should readily quit and forsake all things rather than miss of Christ.
1. Let us consider Paul’s self-denial as it is here represented.
2. Give you the reasons why it bindeth all christians, and becometh them to have such a frame of spirit.
I. This instance of self-denial; and there—
1. The universality of its extent, ‘All things,’ whatever would detain us from Christ, be they honours, pleasures, profits, yea, life itself, what ever we are and have. This is to be observed—
[1.] Partly because some can deny a few things for Christ, but not all; their resignation is not entire and unbounded; but if we keep back any one thing, the price is too short. Any one lust reserved 14keeps afoot the devil’s interest in the soul; therefore if we esteem but one thing, though we prefer11 Qu. ‘postfer,’ or some such word?—ED. never so many, before Christ, though we renounce many profits and pleasures, yet that one darling contentment to which we have a special liking will prove a snare to the soul. Herod did many things, but was loath to part with his Herodias. The young man lacked one thing, Mark x. 21. If a woman love but one man in the world more than her husband, though she love him better than millions of others, yet it is a breach of the marriage covenant. Any one thing reserved may bring us to forsake and neglect him as much as if we had preferred a hundred things before him. That one thing will quickly prevail over us for the entertainment of more; therefore David prayeth, Ps. cxix. 133, ‘Order my steps in thy word, and let not any one iniquity have dominion over me.’ If a man be dead to pleasure, yet if he be alive to credit; if he have a slight esteem of honour and glory, yet the riches of the world have a great interest in him; if he can bridle passion and anger, and easily become meek, yet his fear may betray him; if he can withstand boisterous temptations, which by violence would withdraw him from Christ, yet if he be over come by vain appetites, and cannot tame his own flesh, he may finally miscarry. When men come to take possession of a house, all persons must be outed, or else the possession is not valid and good; you must deliver up all to Christ, or he will accept of none.
[2.] And partly to show that not only things apparently unlawful must be denied for Christ, but things lawful must be disesteemed, discountenanced, and rejected for his sake.
(1.) That our sins must be renounced is out of question. If I cannot deny adultery, gluttony, covetousness, pride, drunkenness, oppression for his sake, surely I am unworthy of him. Therefore there can be no question made of this, that I must put off the old man with his lusts, Eph. iv. 22. These were never worth keeping; these stick to us as our clothes or the skin on our backs, yet they must be put off, whatever interest they have in our affections. It is no strange motion of the physician if he should require the patient to part with his disease; or he that minds to bestow new apparel upon us, should require us to cast away our old rags. If we would try it once, it is more pleasant to be rid of sin than to keep it; and the pleasures of sin would be found more troublesome than the most painful course of obedience. Surely they can leave little for Christ that cannot leave one delightful or profitable sin, or are so far from preferring a saviour before the glorious pomp and vanities of this world, that they cannot leave the abominable crimes of it.
(2.) That lawful things which are not absolutely to be despised, but only comparatively, when they come into competition with Christ, may be comprehended also; such as are the comfort of our relations, esteem and honour in the world, the natural supports of the present life, yea, life itself. Such things are reckoned up by Christ: Luke xiv. 26, ‘If any man come to me, and hate not father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;’ where you see that not our lusts only are to be forsaken, but our natural interests, those things which otherwise lawfully we may and ought most dearly to affect; these must be forsaken, hated, trampled upon in comparison of our love to Christ; that is, we must resolve to gain Christ, and 15please and follow him, though with the loss of all things. Nothing must be preferred before the conscience of our duty to him. What ever is a help to Christ, be it honour, wealth, or pleasure, it must be cherished; and what is a hindrance, it must be cut off and renounced.
2. The degree of forsaking, with loathing and indignation; for the apostle here counteth them loss and dung, as if he could not sufficiently express his abhorrence of them. Whilst we stand peddling, and hanker after these things, the temptation is not fully off; but we are like crows and ravens, though driven from the carrion, yet we keep within scent of it. Pleasures, profits, and honours must be esteemed as dross and dung when they come in competition with Christ. We must not only undervalue these transitory earthly things if they hinder us from Christ, but hate and detest them: ‘If any man hate not father and mother,’ &c., Luke xiv. 26. The reason is, because none can deny themselves but those that have a low esteem of all worldly things, and a high esteem of Jesus Christ and his favour. Now the more either of these are greatened, the more we will express our holy indignation at the temptation. What! part with my Christ for paltry vanities and a little unsatisfying pleasure? hazard my eternal hopes for so slight a temptation, sell the birthright for a mess of pottage?
3. Here is the consent of his mind and resolution actually verified; he did not only count them dung and dross, but he had ‘suffered the loss of all things.’ Paul ran the hazard, and actually quitted his honour and credit, who before had a high esteem of them; and so must we if called thereunto. At first, before the way to heaven was a little smoothed by the holy martyrs and primitive confessors of the christian faith, it was a great deal more rough than now it is; yet there is no man can be true to his duty but he will meet with trouble in the flesh; some of his interests must be sacrificed for Christ’s sake, either his reputation, ease, and peace with the world, the opposition and scorn of dear friends and relations, or some expense and cost which his religion will put him upon. There are still duties lying upon us unpleasing to the flesh, or some uncompliance with the fashions of the world which will expose us to their contempt or hatred. A dull approbation of that which is good will serve no man in the most prosperous time of religion; but more or less he must manifest his esteem of Christ and contempt of the world by some act of self-denial, and therein be conformed to the Son of God and the rest of his brethren, that have trodden the way to heaven before him. And Moses, being assaulted with all kind of temptations at once, Heb. xi. 24, 25, honour, pleasure, and profit; the honour of the world, which so many greedily catch at, he refused; the profits of the world, which are wont to blind the hearts of men, he despised; the pleasures of the earth, which men so much affect, were no better to him than trash and dung compared with the reproach of Christ. And still the same spirit must be in us. All those things which are pleasing to the flesh, and will draw us off from our duty, must be actually denied, trampled upon, and contemned.
II. The reasons why it binds all christians, and becomes them to have such a frame of spirit.
1. Because this is plainly inferred out of the faith, love, hope, and obedience of the gospel.16
[1.] Out of the faith of the gospel. Faith looks on the great things God hath provided for us in Christ as true and good: 1 Tim. i. 15, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.’ As true, they call for a firm and strong assent; as good, so for our consent and choice, or hearty embracing these things above all others. Now take either notion, and it enforces what we have in hand.
(1.) For assent or a sound belief of eternal blessedness as offered by Christ, which, because it is future, the assent is fiducial, and implieth a dependence upon the veracity and truth of God, that he will make good his promise to us in the appointed way. Now certainly we do not know these things with any firm persuasion, unless we dare venture ourselves in the bottom of the promises, and are resolved to crucify the flesh and sacrifice our interests, and perform duties unpleasing to nature on the hopes they offer to us, and with confidence and joyfulness wait upon God in the midst of all pressures and afflictions.
(2.) As it is a consent, choice, or acceptance, because Christ and his benefits, which are the object propounded to faith, are good, and better than life and all its contentments. Now good is accepted; and because there is a competition, inferior and transitory good things offer and obtrude themselves upon us, and divert us from him. Therefore it is election and choice, which is a preference of Christ above other things, or such an esteem of his incomparable worth as lessens all other things in our opinion of and affection to them. But if our affections continue in strength to worldly things, we have neither this assent nor acceptance; we have not chosen them for our felicity and portion. So that the strength of faith is not to be measured by our overgrown confidence or persuasion of our interest in God’s mercy, but by mortifying our affections to present things, so as to be ready to do and suffer anything for Christ’s sake: 1 John v. 4, ‘This is the victory we have over the world, even our faith.’ In short, faith is an assent to the promises as true and good in themselves, and as offered to our choice, as far better than all the honours, profits and pleasures in the world.; and therefore we should part with all that is pleasant and profitable to obtain the benefit of them.
[2.] It is inferred out of the love of the gospel; we are to love Christ with a transcendent and superlative love: ‘For all men must honour the Son as they honour the Father,’ John v. 23. Therefore, as we love God, so we must love Christ above all. We love God above all: Ps. lxxiii. 25, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee.’ If we love him less than other things, or equal with other things, we do not love him at all; as you degrade a prince if you give him no more honour than you give a constable. Love anything above or equal with God, and in time it will tempt you to desert him or neglect his service: Mat. vi. 24, ‘No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or hold to the one and despise the other; ye can not serve God and mammon.’ Now, as you love God, you must love Christ above all, in whom the divine nature is made more amiable to us; therefore our Lord saith, Mat. x. 37, ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.’ Therefore certainly 17Christ is to be loved above all; and other things relating to him, as his doctrine, benefits, laws, ordinances, these must be prized above any inferior good whatsoever, and all things counted dung and dross rather than despise these things. This love is of the more value, because it is the heart of the new creature, as self-love is of original sin.
[3.] This may be inferred out of the hope of the gospel, which is everlasting life. If there be a certain and desirous expectation of such a blessedness, the will should be so far divorced from all transitory good things, and fixed on the supreme good, that we shall not be diverted either by the comfortable or troublesome things that we meet with here. Surely it is better to suffer a little misery for an eternal reward than to enjoy momentary pleasure and after that endure eternal torment. Eternal pleasures do far excel temporal, as holiness doth sin. Alas! what do we lose if this be our gain? Rom. viii. 18, ‘For I reckon the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us;’ 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;’ Mark x. 29, 30, ‘Jesus answered, There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or father, or mother, &c., for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and mothers, &c., with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.’ Time will be when we shall neither have miseries to fear nor blessings to desire beyond what we enjoy.
[4.] It may be inferred out of the obedience of the gospel. If we mean not to break with Christ, we must be of this disposition. Certainly Christ stands upon obedience if we would obtain his promises: John xiv. 21, 23, ‘He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me, &c. If any man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him,’ &c.; John xv. 10, ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,’ &c. Now as long as we are addicted to the world, and its baits and snares, which gratify this earthly life, we can make no work of christianity. The first lesson of Christ’s school is self-denial: Mat. xvi. 24, ‘Then said Jesus, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.’ Till we prefer Christ before the world and the ease of the flesh, we can never have solid comfort in ourselves. In one kind or other we shall be tried. We may cull out the easy, cheap, and safe part of religion, but that is a christianity of our own, which brings God no glory, and will yield us no comfort. If we will submit to the christianity established by Christ, there are in it many duties displeasing to the flesh, some that lay us open to the disgrace and reproach of the world. We must obey him when his service is most painful and cross to our humours; therefore he bids us sit down and count the charges: Luke xiv. 28, 29, ‘For which of you intending to build a tower, sits not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? lest haply after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.’ It is good to consider whether we can go on with this warfare or raise up this building, whether we are able to obey his strict laws, to renounce 18our accustomed delights and dearest interests, whether we shall endeavour to please God in all things, though never so much against our bent and humour; whether we will entertain afflictions and persecutions with all joy, if they come upon us for Christ’s sake. If we flow in wealth, can we live as having nothing, and rejoice that God hath made us low? If indeed we have nothing, can we be satisfied with the favour of Christ and our preferment by grace, use all things not as our own but God’s, and be guided by Christ in our whole course, and be contented to be anything or nothing so we may promote his glory?
2. Because Christ hath deserved this esteem—(1.) By what he is to us; (2.) By what he hath done for us.
[1.] By what he is to us, more excellent, more necessary, more beneficial than all things else.
(1.) He is more excellent; the rarest contentments of the world are but base things to his grace, all as dung and dross to one drachm of grace or comfortable experience of the love of God. This world’s good things are not only uncertain, but vain and empty as to any solid and real good, such as is hope toward God and peace of conscience: Job xxvii. 8, ‘For what is the hope of the hypocrite when God taketh away his soul?’ On the other side, Christ is incomparably more excellent: ‘If thou knewest the gift,’ John iv. 10; ‘If thou hast tasted that the Lord is gracious,’ 1 Peter ii. 3. All the world could not keep you from him.
(2.) Christ is more necessary, for the soul cometh to him under a deep want and broken-hearted sense of misery. If we want and lose the world, God can easily supply it to us, or give us more than this; and he will save us at last without these things. To want clothing or food is not so bad as to want grace; and to be exposed to temporal ruin is not so great a danger as to be obnoxious to eternal flames.
(3.) More beneficial to a poor guilty sinner; in him alone true peace and happiness is to be found: 1 Cor. i. 30, ‘But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.’ Therefore trample upon all things rather than offend God and lose a saviour, and come short of his grace.
[2.] Consider what he hath done for us. Christ requireth not so much at our hands as he himself hath voluntarily performed, and that for our sakes; he pleased not himself that he might promote the glory of God and our salvation: ‘He became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich,’ 2 Cor. viii. 9; ‘He was obedient to death, even the death of the cross,’ Phil. ii. 7; ‘Made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,’ 2 Cor. v. 21; ‘Made a curse for us, that we might have the blessing,’ Gal. iii. 13. Doth he require so much of us? Surely those who would have benefit by Christ must imitate him: 1 Peter iv. 1, ‘Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.’ It is grievous to the flesh to be crossed, but he hath suffered great sorrows. How can we manifest our thankfulness to him who by these bitter sufferings hath procured pardon of sins and eternal life for us?
Use. Is to press us to reflect upon ourselves. Have we such an esteem of Christ as to count all things but loss and dung, and to be 19ready to forsake all for his sake? It is a temper essential to christianity. A man’s heart is not sincere to Christ unless he doth prefer him before all the world. Now this esteem will show itself by these things—
1. In labouring to get Christ above all, and with the hazard of all; this must be the prime care: Mat. vi. 33, ‘First seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness;’ Ps. xxvii. 4, ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord.’ And it must be carried on whatever it cost us; the bargain will abundantly recompense the charges we are at: Mat. xiii. 45, 46, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls; and when he hath found one pearl of great price, he sold all he had and bought it;’ Prov. iv. 7, ‘Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom and with all thy gettings get understanding.’ Every man is in the pursuit of happiness; it lieth only in communion with God by Christ. This must be minded whatever is neglected. Now how few have this care to get Christ above all! Their time and labour is laid out upon unsatisfying vanities; if they may be rich, if they may live a life of pomp and ease, this taketh up their minds. But if indeed this be the business you look after, to be acquainted with God, to have an interest in Christ, and you are still attending upon this work as the great business of your lives, you may take comfort you have got that disposition which is essential to christianity.
2. A care in keeping Christ above all; superlative love shows itself in this, in a chariness and tenderness of your interest in Christ above all things which are dearest to you. He is your life, Gal. ii. 20, your strength, 1 John iv. 4, your blessedness, Col. i. 27. Now, then, if you keep your beloved as a bundle of myrrh, or, in plainer terms, if he constantly dwell in your hearts by faith, Eph. iii. 17, and you keep up an habitual dependence upon him, and a constant love to him as to your life, peace, and joy, and are loath to put your comforts to hazard for a little carnal satisfaction, surely then Christ is all in all to you. But when you are careless, and mind not how the spiritual life is obstructed, are not so chary of your respects to your Redeemer, who is so necessary for you, it is time to look about you, and say, Have I the spirit of the gospel? is Christ so dear and precious to me as he ought to be?
3. Grief for losing Christ above all. Love is seen in delighting in his presence and mourning for his absence: Mat. ix. 15, ‘When the bridegroom is taken away, then shall they mourn.’ Many times by our sin and folly we lose the comforts of his presence, the quickening influences of his grace. Now if you take occasion by every sin to renew the sense of the want of Christ, and keep his room warm for him till he return again, by your longings and lamentings after him, this discovers this temper and frame of heart. Certainly it is a great part of a christian’s work to observe the accesses and recesses of the Spirit; for the retiring of the Spirit is a great punishment of sin, as its continuance is a benefit to be prized above all the world. David was deeply afflicted with the one: Ps. li. 10-12, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit within me: cast me not away from thy 20presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me,’ &c. No judgment to be dreaded and lamented as the grieving of the Holy Spirit, Eph. iv. 30. But when men are stupid, and never mind whether the Spirit of Christ go or come, surely these have not the heart of christians. Now this holdeth good in cases without us, when Christ’s interest riseth or falls, to be affected with joy or grief: 1 Sam. iv. 20-22, ‘The women that stood by her said, Fear not, for thou hast borne a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel,’ &c. Though a son was born, she regarded it not; though she had lost a father and a husband, yet the ark of God is taken, and the glory departed from Israel. The ark was a type of Christ, and one of the highest mysteries of their religion. Are we thus affected with the dishonour done to Christ’s name? do you rejoice when his gospel flourisheth and prevaileth? All this floweth from the same spirit.
4. By delighting in him and the testimonies of his love above all things: Cant. i. 4, ‘We will be glad and rejoice in thee; we will remember thy loves more than wine.’ The choicest contentments of the flesh are not so comfortable and satisfying as Christ’s love, the joy which results from thence is unspeakable and glorious, 1 Peter i. 8, better felt than uttered. The strength of it is seen in that it can keep itself alive when all outward fuel and matter of comfort faileth.
5. By loving other things for Christ’s sake, everything that hath the stamp of Christ is honourable and precious. His ordinances, because Christ is to be found there: Ps. xxvi. 8, ‘I love the place where thine honour dwelleth.’ His ministers, as they have authority from him to treat with sinners about the greatest matters on earth: Phil. ii. 29, ‘Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such in reputation.’ They bring the Lord’s message to the soul: 1 John v. 1, ‘Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten.’ So in order to Christ, valuing all things more or less as they bring us nearer to Christ.
6. By seeking his honour, glory, and praise more than our own interests. They do not live to themselves; having fixed their end, they take their way as they find it: Phil. i. 20, 21, ‘Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or death; for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ The scope, end, and business of their living is to honour Christ. They are contented to decrease, so Christ may increase.
7. Things dishonourable are made honourable: Heb. xi. 26, ‘Esteeming the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt;’ Acts v. 41, ‘Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame and reproach for his name.’ The more the world despiseth him, the more they prize and worship him. The wise men worshipped him when in a stable. Joseph of Arimathea owned him at the lowest, when he had suffered an ignominious death. It is no great matter to own that which is of public esteem; and now Christ is everywhere received, it is easy to make a general profession of his name.21
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