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ON THE COLLECT FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY
PHIL. IV. 5, 6.
The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing ; but in every
thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
SOME expositors have interpreted this phrase, “the Lord is at hand,” as having reference to our Saviour's coming in judgment". From
* Dean Stanhope, after noticing that some understand by this phrase, that “. God is always present with us, a strict 'observer of our actions, a ready help,” &c. proceeds thus :“ Others, perhaps more agreeably to the Apostle's intent,-interpret this of Christ's coming to judgment: and, if we consider that particular judgment which each of us undergoes at the day of his death, which determines that state of our accounts wherein the general judgment will certainly find us; in this sense it is evident to demonstration, that the Lord is at hand,' and his coming cannot be at any great distance from any man whatsoever.”.
Grotius upon this passage, remarks" So the Apostles thought ;"_" tacitly insinuating," says Whitby," that they
the shortness and uncertainty of human life, and from the consideration that, when our
were mistaken in this matter." Whitby very ably repels this insinuation, and shews that all the passages in which the apostles appear to describe the day of judgment as "at hand,” are to be interpreted as having reference to Christ's coming in power, to punish the contumacy of the Jews by the awful destruction of their temple and city. Among these passages he classes that in the text-" the Lord is at hand."
For my own part, (notwithstanding the many commentators who have applied this passage to Christ's coming either in judgment or to the destruction of Jerusalem), I confess myself, with all deference to these authorities, unable to comprehend the necessity of interpreting it with reference to either the one or the other of these events. St. Paul in this part of his Epistleis consoling and encouraging his Philippian converts he is exhorting them to cheerfulness, to resignanation, and confidence; to cast off all anxious cares: (un μɛpiμvãrɛ. vide also Matt. vi. 25.) to "let their requests be made known to God," "who careth" for them. What is the ground on which he builds his recommendation of all these dispositions and consolations? It is, that "the Lord is at hand:" the Lord, who has promised to be " with us to the end of the world;" the Lord our helper, supporter, and protector. The coming of the Lord to punish the Jews, furnishes but a slender argument for Christian joy; for resignation, confidence, and reliance, compared with those derivable from the consideration, that the Lord is at hand, to help and support us. Indeed, Whitby himself seems to be pressed with the necessity of using the passage in this sense; or at least he supplies this very sense, in order to make it harmonise with the context, when he gives a paraphrase of it, in his comments on the word" Moderation." The following extract appears to prove this.
"For," saith the Apostle, (verse 4.) "though you are sufferers with me for the sake of Christ, yet rejoice always; and verse 6. μn pɛpiμvâre, be not anxious about any temporal
life is finished, our allotted period of trial is closed, and consequently our account, as it were, finally made up for judgment; from the consideration of these circumstances it is argued, that our judge may be always said to be" at hand;" no man knows how nearly he is so to him; no man knows when the awful and universal summons may arrive. To every man it may, therefore, be truly said, “The Lord is at hand."
It is by no means my intention to main, tain that the above phrase is incapable of this construction or that, from this sense of it, most important reflections and motives to diligence in our spiritual concerns,” 5, may not be derived. Every thinking man must be
concerns, or events; let not either your care for them, or fear of losing them, distract your spirits; but let your moderation,' as to these things, be known unto all men;" verse 5. * for the Lord is at hand,"to protect, preserve, support you, and to reward your patience and resignation as to these affairs."" Whitby on New Test. vol, ii. p. 386. sixth edit. folio.
Pyle, too, though he adopts the interpretation, that the "judge is not far off, who will take vengeance upon your furious adversaries, and reward your Christian patience," yet seems to find that the words which follow can be well reconciled with the bent of the Apostle's exhortation only by supplying in the next verse, (without any word there to convey it) the very sense of the phrase for which I contend. anxiously careful," &c. " and he will not fail to comfort and support you." And his whole paraphrase of the seventh verse follows up this idea.
sensible that he is indeed hourly in danger of being called from this state of trial; and the consciousness that “ the Lord is” thus 6 at hand," must suggest reasons and motives to exertion, most urgent and impressive.
But this does not appear to me to be the sense in which St. Paul employs it, in the passage taken for our text, and forming a portion of the Epistle appointed for this day. This construction does not agree with the context; it does not harmonise with the tenor of the Apostle's exhortations, which precede and follow it. I cannot but regard the phrase as intended by the Apostle, to describe the Lord as “at hand,” not as our Judge, but to protect us from all dangers, to assist us in all difficulties, and to make “ all things work together for good to them that love him.” In the preceding verse he says, “ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” Now it is in perfect unison with this exhortation to remind the Philippians, that the Lord, their helper and protector, is at hand; but it is to be apprehended, that in the Church at Philippi, as well as at the present day, few would have been found who would not have discovered grounds for vigilance at least, if not for alarm, rather than for rejoicing, in the consideration, that our Judge is at hand.
Immediately after this observation too, that “ the Lord is at hand,” he adds, “ Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
This, surely, is consonant with the notion, that “ the Lord is at hand” as our helper and protector. The Apostle tells the Philippians, that their help is at hand; and therefore, exhorts them not to be over-anxious for
any thing ; not to be depressed, desponding, or discontented, but to cast themselves upon him, to trust in him, and to pray to him, “ with thanksgiving," in all their distresses and necessities.
The only expressions of the Apostle which appear at all to sanction the idea, that he meant by the passage to allude to our Saviour's coming in judgment, are,
your moderation be known unto all men'. Here it might seem, that to enforce obedience to his injunction, he might remind them that their Judge is at hand; or to induce them to subdue their anger against their persecutors, he might urge that the Judge is at hand, who
y Pyle and others connect the words, 66 The Lord is at hand,” with, “Let your moderation," &c.
moderation,” &c. But surely they may be with equal propriety referred to, “Be careful for nothing," &c.