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Christ should undertake this for you. You are supposed to be delivered from nature's ignorance, and doubts, and fears on this question, which is the undisputed starting-point of all remaining practical questions.
“Work out your own salvation,” i. e. work out salvation, which is your own-to which
you lay claim upon the footing of your union with Christ. Because you have through Christ a covenant right to that holiness or heavenlimindedness which is the substance of salvation, therefore press your claim for this holiness : pray for it--strive after it. God has made over to you the rights of His children ; therefore make use of these rights, and “ be followers of God as dear children."*
“Faith which worketh by love ” + is heaven upon earth; therefore, work from the principle of Scriptural faith, and with the motives of Christian love. The expression “ work out ” is sometimes applied to the mental work of calculation ; and it is a happy occupation to calculate — to attempt to work out the sum of blessings which Christ has promised, and put within your reach. If you knew how infinite Eph. v. 1.
+ Gal. v. 6.
and incalculable is the amount of spiritual strength, and power, and peace, and joy, to which you have a right, you would, with frank and forward gratitude, “ask and receive, that your joy may be full.” * You should work out, or put forth the melody which God's salvation puts into the heart, and the new song which He puts into your mouth.† And the true and most pleasing effect is produced by making your life a thank-offering, -one continued song of praise. Holiness, or sanctification—the consequence of justification, or the reception of the right to salvation,-is a believer's entrance upon
salvation itself. Picture to yourselves the position in which Paul has represented himself to be, when writing this epistle. He is in prison, and he cannot continue there long, whatever may happen to him. Having, like other believers, a right to salvation through Christ's merits, he is confident that, through the preaching of Christ, his salvation will be the result, at all events, whether life or death is to be the earthly judge's decision in his case. His deliverance from prison is secure; sight could * John, xvi. 24.
+ Ps, xl. 3.
teach him this, on the supposition of the prison-doors being set open to him ; and faith teaches him the same, on the supposition of his soul being separated from his body. On both suppositions, he looks forward to a life of salvation ; either he will personally join the spirits in heaven in their words and works ; or else, Christ shall be magnified in his body by a prolonged life of persevering faith, obedience, and patience. The possession of even such a life he can call “ MY salvation ; '* and having given his testimony as to his own salvation, he gives counsel to his Philippian fellow-Christians as to their own salvation, which has the same foundation, the same means, and the same end.
I conclude this preliminary discourse with one or two remarks, simply to remove preliminary difficulties or misapprehensions.
1. Good works are the working out of your own salvation, only when you have been united to Christ, and have obtained a right to salvation.
Without union to Christ by faith, you may be working in a manner satisfactory to your selves, but you are not working out your own
Chap. i. 19.
salvation. On the contrary, you are living in at least one known sin—the sin of not having found, because you have not sought, in faith the gift of the imputed merit of Christ's finished work. In order to begin the Christian life, you must simply and unreservedly cast yourselves upon the covenant mercy of God in Christ for pardon and acceptance,
and thus be set free from the guilt of the broken law, and the displeasure of the dishonoured lawgiver. Until this is done, your services as well as your persons are accursed in God's sight. To-day, therefore, accept Christ, and thus honour God and His law. Only then are you capable of performing good works; able for the first time—and for the first time willingto do God's will.
2. Good works are more than the evidence of faith.
Men are too apt to banish the business and work of salvation into a future state of being. According to this view, faith in Jesus Christ is of practical use for the first time when death comes upon us; and if so, the business of life is no more than to discover the existence of faith, from which faith no more action is to be ex.
pected than that it should satisfy us that it is in waiting, in readiness to be summoned at our last hours. But this is at least a limited and defective view of the Christian life. Working in will and deed according to God's pleasure is the living evidence of faith. But it is morethis working is the very substance of salvation -a real entrance upon complete salvationthe possession of a foretaste of eternal love and praise and obedience to God, of triumph over temptation, of separation from the world, and of freedom from sin.
3. Do any think that the precept before us means, “attend to your own salvation, and do not meddle with the salvation of other people ?"
This is not Paul's meaning. It is true, that each individual must himself come to terms with God as to his own right to salvation, and none can transact this business for another man in his name and stead. But it is not true, that salvation is a matter in which every man should be left to himself, not cared for and not advised. This very chapter commands the opposite : ver. 4, “ Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” On such a subject as the soul's