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AUG. 10.-"He must increase, but I must decrease."
THIS was spoken of the Redeemer, by his forerunner John. And it is not to be considered as the language of complaint, or sullen acquiescence-as if he would say, "I dislike it; but it is unavoidable. It is my grief; and I must bear it." No. It was as agreeable to his feelings, as it was firm in his belief. And it showed a fine and a noble soul in this man. The spirit that is in us lusteth to envy. We love something distinguishing, and therefore exclusive. We wish to rise, even by the depression of others. It is trying, even to a good man, to withdraw, and see a successor filling his place better than himself, and, as the honours he has worn are transferred to another, to say, "He must increase, but I must decrease." It is not an easy thing to go down well; or for a setting star to exult in a rising sun.
But it was thus with John. He knew his rank, and approved of his place. He was the servant, not the master. The friend, not the bridegroom-The Church was not married to him. "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease."
What does he mean by this increase? Not an increase in his temporal condition. As he had been poor, so he was to continue. Many of his professed followers seek great things to themselves: but we may judge of his estimation of them by his choice: for they were all within his reach. But though he had a kingdom, it was not of this world.-Nor is it by any kind of earthly distinction and indulgence that he has characterized Christians, or raised their hope. He has nowhere engaged to make them
rich in this world's good, but only rich in faith. He has nowhere told them that they shall be free from trouble, but only that in him they shall have
The increase partly regards his personal ministry. Both John and Jesus were preachers and leaders. John's "course" was ending; but Jesus was only commencing his public work. John was going to lose his disciples; and Jesus to gain them; and to become a much more famous minister, by miracles, and clearness and grandeur of doctrine, and the permanency of his success. Indeed, we have no reason to believe that John ever preached after this. The end of his mission was answered. He was a voice; and, having made his proclamation, he was silenced. He was the morning star; and, having ushered the Sun of Righteousness in, he disappeared. He was the forerunner, to introduce the Messiah; but the Messiah was now come, and verified, and acknowledged.
But it was the same as saying, Christianity must increase. Christianity was small at first; but it was to resemble the shining light, which begins with the dawn, but becomes perfect day. Or to be like the mustard seed, which, however diminutive, grows the greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Or the portion of leaven, which, hid in the meal, continues to diffuse itself till the whole be leavened. His docrine was possessed only by himself for a time. He then communicated the secret to twelve; then to seventy. His followers, after this, were not numerous; and they consisted chiefly of the common people: for it was scornfully asked, "Have any of the rulers believed on him?" After various trials, the number of disciples in Jerusalem previously to the descent of the Spirit, were about one hundred and twenty. Then three, thousand were added in one day—and the Lord
added to the Church daily such as should be saved. Thus mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed. It soon spread beyond the bounds of Judea, and reached the ends of the Roman world-the heralds thanking God, who always caused them to triumph in Christ, and made manifest the savour of his knowledge by them in every place. How much has his cause done since! And how is it expanding now! -But a vaster increase is yet to take place. His glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. For now shall he be great to the ends of the earth. Such is the language of the Scripture; and nothing has yet taken place sufficient to fulfil it. It is therefore before us. We know that Heathenism, and Mahomedanism, and "the Man of Sin," shall be destroyed. And we know that the Jews shall look on him whom they have pierced-and if the casting them away was the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
And there is no uncertainty here-it must be. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. His death insures it. He has power over all flesh to accomplish it. Let those who love him, and are labouring to advance his cause, rejoice, and be encouraged they cannot fail. "His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him all nations shall call him blessed. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and amen."
AUGUST 11.-" Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence." Phil. ii. 12.
"THAT which is unsavoury cannot be eaten without salt." And therefore, to render it palatable, we season it. When we are going to reprove a fault, or enforce a duty, we should, as much as possible, commend: for praise opens the mind, and prepares for the reception of rebuke or admonition. This wisdom the Apostle here displays. There was nothing in him like flattery; but, to introduce his most solemn charge, that they would work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, he applauds these Philippians for four things.
First. Their obedience. Belief, knowledge, profession, talk; every thing is vain without this. The ospel was made known for the obedience of faithAnd these Philippians had "obeyed."
Secondly. The constancy of their practice. Lot's wife, at the angel's command, left Sodom; but "she looked back." The Galatians "did run well; but were hindered:" "they began in the Spirit, and ended in the flesh." The goodness of Ephraim and Judah was like a morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away-But these Philippians had "always" obeyed.
Thirdly. The increase of their diligence and zeal. They had "much more" obeyed. They not only held on their way, but waxed stronger and stronger: not only continued, but always abounded in the work of the Lord. Nothing is more desirable or pleasing than to see this progression-It is like the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. It is like the springing of the earth; first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear.
Fourthly. The progress of their improvement under disadvantages. They had much more obeyed "in his absence" than in his presence-When he was no longer with them as a witness to observe; as an example to excite; as a preacher to watch and to warn, to address and to animate. Some attend the word and worship of God from the influence of
a friend, or the authority of a father or a master. Jehoash followed the Lord all the days of Jehoiada, the high priest, who brought him up; but as soon as this eminent servant of God was dead, the young prince became an idolater, and even slew a prophet of the Lord. There are many who regard the eye of man more than the eye of God. It is well when our devotion springs from inward principle, and does not depend upon outward excitement: when we not only forsake, but abhor that which is evil; and not only follow, but cleave to that which is good. There is scarcely an individual, perhaps, that does not sometimes pray. But does he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God? There are few but are afflicted, or alarmed into occasional piety. But are we the same in health, as in sickness? In the house, as in the temple? On the week, as on the Sabbath?
What an immense loss must the Philippians have sustained in Paul's absence from them! Yet they obeyed much more in his absence than in his presence. Surely this shews that when he left them, God did not leave them. It teaches us that God does not depend upon instruments, though he is pleased to make use of them. It proves that, by His own Spirit, he can make up for the want of any creature advantage. When, by persecution, the Church has been deprived of their pastors; or, by accident or disease, Christians have been destitute of the public ordinances of religion; they have seen his power and his glory as they have seen him in the sanctuary. The streams were gone; but the fountain was near. And where the providence of God has denied the usual means of grace, we have known the sufferers to prosper in the divine life, even more than those who have enjoyed an affluence of privileges.
"I cannot bear thine absence, Lord-