The Good Work Carried On

”Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

And why did Paul think so? Because they were partakers of his grace and his disgrace: “Inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ya all are partakers of my grace.” (Philippians 1:7) I find when I talk with the least of the people of God, that they say many things which astonish me. I say, “Why, they are better instructed then I am now;” and thus I get this testimony for myself, “In honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).

Therefore is Paul confident that God will carry on this work, that their “love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment,” — not simply to visit the sick, to give to the poor, and in works of the kind, but upon every fresh contraction of guilt, to get a fresh sense of God’s mercy to their souls. And in the light of this we shall see what God calls us to, and have power to walk therein — “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:11) For what Paul says in Colossians 3: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,” he repeats in everyone of his Epistles; that if we have this sprinkling of blood, and if we have really risen with Christ, it must be shown in all our life, walk, and conversation; that the Holy Spirit will assuredly work these fruits, wherever there is a genuine work begun.

And he says, “The things which happened unto me” — in my bonds — “have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). As if he said, “Why, you have seen me in my trouble, how God supported my hopes, and how He did clearly deliver me out of my troubles; and He has wrought in you desires that He would so appear for you. So you have found a secret unity with me, and your spirit has been softened by it, and you have thus got much spiritual profit.” “Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear” (Philippians 1:14). The apostle describes the beginning of this work in Ephesians 2: “You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Now this quickening is known by his thing — a secret fear of God’s judgments. “I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed. My sore ran in the night and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted” (Psalm 77:2-3). This fear sets us to work, to know how we may walk so as to please God, forgetting that we are already under the curse, and that nothing but the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus will do us any good. If these things are found in us, God will carry it on unto the day of Jesus Christ.

Once we had all our conversation in the world, and were speculating what we should do, and were “by nature children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:3); but God quickened us when we were dead, and for this very reason — that “He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:7-8). It is His work from first to least, which He begins and He will carry on; but it must be manifested to our conscience and to the world by the witness and by the fruits for the Holy Spirit. It is not just having a word spoken to us, but it is to be shown by our being in the fear of God all the day long. For you were formerly without hope and “without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus,” Paul says, “ye who sometimes far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13). How is this? Why, the Spirit powerfully persuades your heart that the Fatherloves you for His sake, and gave Him for you, and that the Son loves and that the Holy Spirit loves you, and testifies of these things, and works in you these fruits of righteousness. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,” says Paul, “but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

May God impress this deeply on your hearts, that you are not to be strangers. Be sure you do not get strange to God, but be frequent in your visits, and abide with Him; for strangeness is a thing much to be avoided and dreaded. And how does this strangeness come on? Why, there is some foolish vanity indulged, some idol or other. And how is it to be got over? Only by much confession and prayer. In this state you can only complain when you meet the people of God, which will do them no good; whereas if you could tell them of God’s goodness to you, and how you had called upon Him in trouble and He had answered you, this would encourage them to seek the same. O, it is sad to be as I fear some of you are — for weeks and months without these visits to such a Friend, and to and to go on in a dark way, having no light no your path; for by these frequent visits you would be made to understand your way.

James Bourne

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