Project Canterbury


A Steadfast People the Pastor's Joy and Crown.












Christmas Night, Sunday, Dec. 25th, 1859.











Transcribed by the Reverend Donne E. Puckle 2006


Phil. 4: 1. "Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord."--

The Church at Philippi was a tree of Paul's planting. It was rooted in love and fostered with zeal; and God gave it a bountiful increase. From the day that the Macedonian cry boomed across the sea, and invited the Apostle to enter upon his great evangely, until this hour, when by the hand of faithful Epaphroditus, he sends words of greeting and warning and gospel encouragement to those at Philippi, who had bowed to the power of the truth he proclaimed; from first to last, the fellowship of the Phillippian saints had been to Paul, occasion of great searchings of heart, and great exercise of mind, no less than much joyfulness of spirit and much gratitude to God. His love to this Church seemed to penetrate and temper his whole frame. It was a love which grew not only out of the gospel fellowship in which he stood related to Philippi--not only from the paternal office he exercised towards these babes in Christ, [5/6] to whom he had administered from the first the sincere milk of the word;--there were other ties which bound the heart of Paul and the heart of Philippi, as by links of gold. Not that they were precious, or as strong as the other connecting cords, which their common faith in Jesus had woven and fastened, but they completed the brotherhood, and made it a perfect communion by the interweaving of natural with spiritual affection, by adding to the love of Christ, which constraineth, the love of the human heart, which yearneth.

Paul writes that in "the beginning of the gospel when he departed from Macedonia;' "no church" but this "communicated with him as concerning giving and receiving;' and that "even when in Thessalonica" they "sent once and again unto his necessity." And now when he was lying in bonds in a distant land, when far removed from the scene of his ministry, and the sight of those to whom he "held forth the word of life" effectively, the gratitude of Philippi reached out to him its hand of love and help, and relieved the rigor of his Roman bondage by contributions to his personal comfort, and lifted somewhat of the burden from his spirit by messages of sweet sympathy and loving remembrance, borne to Paul in the heart and upon the tongue of his "Brother," and "companion in labor," and "fellow soldier," the good and brave Epaphroditus. How all this must have appealed to the noble nature of Paul, and how it [6/7] must have excited to quick and violent action the exquisite mechanism of his sensitive constitution. The faith of Philippi vindicating its true life, by this work of "distributing to the necessities of the saints;" the hope of Philippi which proved its gospel character, by regarding Paul the prisoner, as much the messenger of Christ, as Paul the Preacher, standing on Macedonian plain; the love of Philippi asserting its kinship to the love of heaven, by following its object, independently of the prejudice, or persecution or caprice of man; all these revealing to the eye of the great Apostle as the mission of his friend from Philippi is announced, amply explains his passionate outburst, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you;" amply explains his most affectionate manner of address. "My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for?" Ah! well might the breast of Paul heave and his eye swim as he remembered the loved ones at Philippi. It had been his happy lot to open their blind eyes and apply the torch to the heaps of their abandoned idols. It had been his office to lift up Jesus there, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. He had heard the cry of the prisoners and dashed the manacles from their limbs. He had been a shepherd there and folded the lambs in his bosom. I had been a teacher not only but a defender of the truth there, and had bared his breast, as a shield to the faith which burned within it. He had entered into the penetralia of the religious and [7/8] home life of Philippi, and had carried away as he tuned to pursue his mission elsewhere, a rich treasure of blessed memories, and left behind in the hearts of the people a wealth of christian gratitude and human love.

And Paul was proud of Philippi. It was his "joy." That he might make full proof of his ministry, he had labored in season and out of season. His labor was not in vain in the Lord. Souls were given him for his hire; as seals to his ministry,--freshly impressed upon his commission as each emancipated spirit leaped into life, under the power of the gospel he preached; souls who were to shine as stars in his crown of rejoicing in the upper kingdom forever. Philippi was his "joy," less, however, because of the newly-born souls there, less, because of the testimony it offered to the divine force which impelled his efforts for Christ, than because of the eloquent praise of God which breathed upward from every converted soul--the reflected glory of Jehovah which beamed fro every man rescued from idolatry--the living tributes to the power and goodness of God in the persons of all these Philippians, in whose hearts the truth had triumphed over error. Thus was Philippi a quick and holy joy to Paul. It was moreover an earnest of reward. It was his "crown?" As they who turn many to righteousness are to shine as the stars forever and ever, so did he receive sweet assurance that in the day of the great harvest, he [8/9] should be permitted to return with joy, bringing these his sheaves with him. And while this faithful man of God doubtless enjoyed richly, upon the present, the sweet returns of his service, though he saw in the faithful Promiser the sure Rewarder, though he had visions and antepasts, though he could look upon Philippi as in some sense a present "crown;" yet it was in the future, it was through the atmosphere of such untiring devotion to Christ as had characterized his labors in Macedonia, that Paul saw "the crown which the righteous Judge would give him at that day." What crown he now had was in places corroded by sin, where the alloy of the flesh had mingled with the pure gold of the word, was studded with jewels which at times reflected nothing but a dull earth-light. But the crown reserved, whereof Philippi gave promise to the Apostle, was of a metal as pure as the word which pledged and the hand which fabricated it, was gemmed with brilliants from "Siloa's brook;' lustrous with the light of that excellent glory in which they had always basked. Paul's eye of faith looked with longing desire upon this heavenly diadem. The contemplation extorted from him the confession, that "to depart hence and be with Christ was far better;' though content the while to remain and for so long as he could serve the cause to which he was solemnly consecrated. He beheld this crown, never, as the reward of personal merit or personal labor--never as a prize to be earned [9/10] by delving in the vineyard; but as the gift of God's free grace--as the gift of Him who will do what he will with his own, and who hath promised abundantly to reward those who diligently seek and. serve him. So was Philippi the earnest of a bright reward, and so was Philippi to Paul his present and precious guerdon, his "crown" as well as his "joy" brilliant crown, a gushing joy, an unfading crown, an unending joy, the crown of his mission and the joy of his soul.

We take a step further in the analysis of this scripture and our path is darkened by a shadow. "Stand fast in the Lord," implies a conflict. This is the rallying cry of man's spiritual energies. It invokes a steadfast adherence to doctrine and to duty. It pictures danger and points to the weapons of defense. It tells of probation, and holds up delight and despair as the prize and the punishment. It suggests the attitude and character of our defense of the soul. It declares man the Worker and Christ the Helper. It distinctly designates the position of safety. "Stand fast." Not in the Church but in the Lord. Not near the Lord, not by the Lord, but stand fast in the Lord. Only here can security be guaranteed. Only thus could Philippi continue to be a "joy." Only upon the foundation of such unrelaxing vigilance could the Apostle base his confidence, that "He who had begun a good work in them would perform the same until the day of Jesus Christ." But this injunction to stand fast is linked to an exhortation precedent. [10/11] "Therefore--so stand fast," &c., is the reading of the text. In those days, as in our own, there were those who clung for justification to the sacraments and ordinances of the Church, rather than to the cross of Christ. The Church of Philippi had been invaded by Judaizing teachers who sought to pervert and mystify the simple doctrine of "salvation by the faith of Christ;' by interweaving the externalisms of the old dispensation. These sacramentists, by teaching the necessity of circumcision would turn the disciples at Phillippi from active Christians into inert churchmen, from active workers into passive recipients, would shift the reliance of the disciples from Christ who ministers by the Holy Ghost, to the Church which is administered by feeble and fallible men. Regarding the danger thus threatened, as not only great but imminent, Paul warns against it in a trumpet blast of certain sound: "Beware of dogs, beware of evil-workers, beware of the concision."

Would to God we had in our day another such as Paul to warn our blinded brothers against the same fatal heresy, now so rife. Would to God we could have the same plain-speaking denunciation of this insidious but fatal error of sacramentalism, so that the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States could be purged from this element of a dead faith. But who now dare preach from the text; "Beware of dogs, beware of evil-workers, beware of the concision?'

[12] After declaring that the true circumcision are they who "worship God in the Spirit;" and "rejoice in Christ Jesus," and "have no confidence in the flesh;" after recounting what grounds of confidence he might have in the circumstances of birth and education, and then repudiating them all as elements in his hope of salvation, Paul boldly avows that he "counts all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord:" and as for birth or education, or ecclesiastical privilege, he counts them "but dung that he may win Christ and be found in Him, not having his own righteousness which is by the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness Which is of God by faith." This he declares his doctrine and his hope, the "hope set before him in the Gospel," the "hope which maketh not ashamed;' and which drives its conquering chariot wheels over the weak and beggarly elements of the world and the natural man. Then in a strain of sublime exhortation he urges to earnestness and singleness of purpose and pursuit--commending the right and condemning the wrong, and lifting up the hearts he addresses from the earthly and sensual to the heavenly and spiritual, declaring the "conversation" or communion of Christians to be, not directly with each other, not in the ordinances of the visible Church, but in "heaven;" that is, in and through Christ, who there has established his throne, and that thither their eyes should be turned with their hearts, [12/13] looking for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. "Therefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord." "Therefore, stand fast," because your victory is sure if you cling to the cross. "So stand fast;" even as you first heard the truth as in Jesus. "Stand fast, my brethren beloved and longed for," and the believing heart and praying mouth of your Christ-sent teacher shall "make request for you with joy?' "Stand fast," "my joy and crown," that we may together share the "fullness of joy;" which is the "joy of our Lord;" and be crowned with eternal blessings, in that land where all are crowned and all are blessed forever. "Stand fast in the Lord;" having your lives hid with Christ in God. "Stand fast" as against the temptations of sin and the overtures of a hollow churchmanship. "Stand fast" by the standard of the Captain of your salvation.

So wrote Paul exhorting Philippi, and so he writes exhorting you and me to a persistent fidelity in Christian living.

With this much of remark upon the scripture under review and the argument which introduces it, I proceed to observe generally that this language of St. Paul is descriptive of a relation peculiar to the Christian dispensation, a relation here shadowed forth in the words of lively and absorbing affection used by the Apostle, as also in this stimulating appeal to stability in faith and practice. The Pastoral relation, so true a type of which is presented in Paul's [13/14] attitude toward the disciples in Philippi, is a normal element in the true life of the Christian Church. It was inaugurated and defined by the Saviour both in his teaching and practice, and shines out from every page of the inspired record of his character and acts. Both in his biography and his doctrine, we behold Christ as the Pastor; and here it is that the tenderness and strength of his love beam forth in blended light. As a Saviour he is revealed to us in an atmosphere of love and power. As the Eternal Word he stands before the soul as the embodiment of infinite wisdom. As the Pastor he adapts himself to the exigencies of our daily life, and our spiritual necessities, and interchanging human sympathies with us, opens avenues of entry to the heart paved with offices of kindness and promises of blessing, and over-arched with yearning desires for our welfare. The office of Pastor, as established and illustrated by Christ, embraces at once the ideas of instruction and sympathy. And like everything else in the regimen of Christian salvation, this office is, when rightly administered by those who have commission from its great prototype, not only a radiating centre of gospel truth, but a germinating influence of marvellous power, starting to life the affections and emotions, and developing the hidden wealth of the heart, displaying its reserved powers and voicing its reticent sensibilities. In the instance before us, and in all the records we have of the ministry of the early Church, [14/15] these consequences of the Pastoral relation are largely observable. Nay, are not the same consequences patent now, and may we not thence infer, not only that this relation is divinely instituted, but that the same hand which plants faith in the hearts of Pastor and people, has planted love there as well, and has made the Pastoral office an instrument for its development. Be this as it may, certain it is that nowhere in the wide world do we find the same rapid and wholesome growth of love, nowhere so much ingenuousness and unselfishness in love, as where it has germinated and been fostered by the Pastoral relation. Paul was but a little time at Philippi, and yet as we read this epistle, his heart seems aflame with love for this people. The Philippians had enjoyed but a brief ministry from him, and yet how vocal their offices of kindness to Paul with the eloquence of the affections. They were to see his face no more. His voice was no more to be raised in their midst in condemnation of sin, and in commendation of righteousness. He was no more to "go in and out before them" as a "living epistle known and read of all men," not only as "set for the defense of the gospel," but as reflecting the power and purity of that gospel in his character and works. He was no more their Pastor. They had their Bishops and Deacons. Epaphroditus was with them, and Timothy was shortly to be there. But still were they bound to Paul, and Paul to them, by the marriage of the [15/16] heart. Ties the most tender, memories fondly cherished, associations never to be forgotten, sympathies which could not grow cold or torpid, bound this Pastor and people together as with chords which were ever vibrating with the music of the affections. The hand of the Destroyer long ages ago snapped and silenced those chords, and yet are these living faithful hearts united still, not drawing now from their connecting heart-strings the music of humanity--but a nobler strain, a strain in unison with the unending Hallelujah chorus, which swells upward in mighty tone from before the throne of the Lamb.

"My Brethren dearly beloved and longed for;' in the providence of God I am called to speak to you to-night for the last time as your Pastor. It has cost me an effort, greater than I care to describe, to pre pare for the utterance of such words as these. I have hoped, that the day was distant which should witness our separation; and you my people, have so often and with such warmth and unanimity, united with me in this hope, that now when it lies in ruins before us, I scarce feel myself equal to the duty devolving upon me, of bidding you a gospel God-speed and turning away to labor in another field. It is a hard thing to leave old friends for new. It is harder still to leave a vineyard where one has labored until just the ripening of the harvest. It is still more hard to leave when so many hands make kind resistance. But the commission I have from the [16/17] Master speaks of fidelity to God and the ministry of his word, and does not recognize human friendships and anticipated results and multiplied kindnesses, as signs on the compass of duty. I go hence simply because I hear a voice calling me, which I deem the voice of God, because I see a hand beckoning me to follow, which I deem the hand of the Great Head of the Church. Thus penetrated by conviction of duty, the path before me is distinctly marked out. It has been discovered to me by no act of yours, through no wish of mine. The finger of God has pointed to it, and I enter upon it, at once saddened by the painful parting it necessitates, and cheered by the hope that the Master may design to employ me elsewhere as a more efficient instrument for good.

Standing here and looking back over the scenes of my ministry in your midst, I have presented a happy retrospect, except where the landscape is marred by the results of my very imperfect husbandry.

In things spiritual we have been largely blessed. The great revival of 1858, brought to us a "season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord;" and many now before me, will, I trust, have occasion to remember with gratitude through all eternity, that mighty visitation of the Spirit of God. And at other times we have received assurances that God was with us, and had we only been more faithful in waiting before him, I doubt not He would have poured out his Spirit more largely upon us. As it is, our communion has [17/18] been very greatly increased, and, as we trust, by those whom the Holy Spirit has awakened from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. May that Spirit strengthen and defend them, and liken them more and more to Christ, so that when He shall appear, they may also appear with him in glory.

In things temporal this parish has shared in the general depreciation of business and property interests which has so cramped the energies of our people for the last two years. It was very shortly after I entered upon my work here that the revulsion occurred, and though it has continued until the present, without substantial alleviation, yet, in discharging a heavy indebtedness incurred by the enlargement of our place of worship, and in very liberal contributions to objects of Christian benevolence, has this congregation evinced a determination to "honor God with their substance" in adverse as well as prosperous days. The Parish has not only been faithful to all its obligations, as ordinarily recognized, but has done much toward Church extension within the limits of the city. Two commodious houses of prayer have been erected and two ministers of the Word sustained, upon foundations to which members of this congregation have largely contributed. May the Lord honor those who thus seek to enhance his honor, and may the offerings thus cast into his treasury bring back a double portion of the divine blessing upon those who made them.

[19] As I come to speak of the social aspect of my ministry here, and recall the many kind things you have done and said, and. look out upon these faces which have always worn to me expressions of affection; when I think of your forbearance in my short-comings and your many acts and words of encouragement; when I think how nobly you have sustained me in my efforts to extend the knowledge of the gospel of salvation both within and without the limits of this Parish; when I dwell upon the scenes of pleasing and painful interest in which we have been associated,--the baptism, the bridal and the burial, the chambers of sickness where we have met and wept together, the retreats of poverty where we have gone hand in hand to hear the story of "man's inhumanity to man;" when I think how we have prayed together and together plodded on along the highway to eternity,--when meditation thus roams through the past and gathers up the treasures of memory, and ponders the present to point to the warm hearts that surround me, how other can I look upon you, my Christian friends, than as the Apostle looked upon the Philippians, as "my joy and crown?" Oh, may it indeed be so! "My joy and crown" even now, as I behold you through a glass darkly. "My joy and crown" in the upper kingdom, where we shall meet face to face. My joy and crown now, because you so stand fast in the Lord as to testify in your whole in-dwelling and developed religious [19/20] life, of the gospel of the grace of God. My joy and crown hereafter, because you shall have so stood firmly by the truth, that the truth shall have made you free--free forever and forever.

Will you permit me one word with reference to the character, position and mission of this Parish, in which we have lived so peacefully and worshipped so happily together? I only venture this because of its importance to yourselves and the Church generally in this city and throughout the Northern Mississippi Valley. The circumstances of your position are remarkable. You are planted in the heart of this great and rapidly growing city, which is itself the heart of this widely-extended North-West. The single fact of your position at once discloses to view a duty to the Church around you, and more especially a duty looking to the Church as in the providence of God it will be a half century hence. As the largest evangelical Parish in the North-West, you are and will be closely scanned, to note whether, indeed, you so stand fast in the Lord, as to have your skirts clear from the mire of Sacramentalism The force of circumstances has made you a radiating centre. God has appointed you a most important agency for the conservation of Evangelical truth in the North-West--for resisting the surges of Romish error under a Protestant guise, and advancing our Church upon the old Evangelical principles of the Reformation. It becomes you, therefore, to look well [20/21] to the internal life of the Parish. See to it that the elements of spiritual and Church life are thoroughly coalesced. Make yourselves a unit, by being sweetly blended in Christ. And when you have secured all your anchorages, then look to your external life. See to it that a new house of worship be speedily erected, such an one as shall he more worthy the character and ability of the Parish, such an one as shall afford facilities for the proper working of our Evangelical Church system. Then look to your mission, study it and discharge it. In this great Diocese and this great North-Western field, there are many hearts which turn to you, as the hope of the Evangelical element in our Church in this vast region. Aside from the influence which must involuntarily go out from this centre for so long as the pure Gospel is dispensed here, it is necessary that you should enlist other agencies, it is necessary you should enlist every agency, if you would ever make head against that elevated Churchmanship which now looks with scorn upon things Evangelical. I have been from the first, profoundly convinced that the power of the press and the principle of independent missionary operation must be invoked, if we would sustain and advance the Evangelical doctrines of our Church, here or anywhere. In bequeathing to this people the active interest I have held in the "Pastoral Aid Society" and the "Western Churchman;" I invite you to sustain instrumentalities without which you [21/22] may not expect to propagate throughout this Diocese, the principles which it has been my privilege to preach from this place, and to which I know you to be so dearly and indissolubly attached. If the members of this Parish will be true to their profession of Christ, will but adopt generally, as some have adopted, the plan of systematic benevolence, will exercise their Christian liberty in independent missionary effort,--only giving to sustain such missionaries as preach a simple and complete Gospel, will avoid all entangling alliances with those who with hold their sympathies from us, will avail themselves of the agency of the press, as it is now operating, and will wait for results, and persist inexorably in the line of Evangelical principle, if the members of this Parish will accept tins role, they can do a work for Christ and the Church in Illinois and the North West, such as will be remembered with gratitude through many generations. And I believe you will do it. The attitude you now assume and the sup port you are now giving to the agencies I have named, are to me a sufficient guarantee that old Trinity will not only continue the Gibraltar of the truth in the North-West, but a port of shipment whence richly-freighted Gospel argosies will always be spreading sail. That your mission to the souls here, and the Church around you, be fully discharged, discriminate distinctly the truth and condemn uncompromisingly all error. Understand that coming to [22/23] the Church through Christ makes a very different religion from that which is obtained by coming to Christ through the Church. Understand that being in Christ and being in the Church may be two very different positions. Understand that everything except a simple reliance upon Christ and his Holy Spirit, is unessential--that faith and repentance are the only necessary doctrines of salvation. Under stand that the preaching of the Church to the exclusion of Christ, is the eulogizing of the husk and the ignoring of the grain. Understand that the diluted Romanism which is presented you so often in Protestant vessels, is deeply drugged with Jesuitism, that we have not only the Judaism of doctrine, but the Pharisaism of practice, reproduced to us in the modern Church, and that it is our duty to preach against it, and resist it, and trample it down, as much as it was the duty of Paul and the Philippians. "Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord.

When I first stood in this place as your teacher in spiritual things, I lifted up Jesus as a "stronghold;' and invited you to turn to it. As I stand here to night for the last time in the discharge of this office, and raise my voice to pronounce a Gospel benison, I know not how to be more true to you or more faithful to my duty, than to point you to that same "stronghold;' and that same doctrine, and appeal to you that you "so stand fast in the Lord?' Stand fast [24/25] by the faith once delivered to the saints, which is yours by inheritance. Stand fast by the hope of your calling, grasping with masculine energy that only rod and staff which will avail you in the hour of trial. Stand f by that lively doctrine which has paved your way to Christ, and which now warms your heart with love and heaves your breast with gratitude. Stand fast in the position which as a Parish you have taken in this city and diocese. Stand fast, beloved, and leave the results with God. As regards the dangers which threaten you, you are not dissimilarly situated from those to whom Paul sent this injunction to steadfastness. As regards the defenses which may cover you with safety, you are, like them, especially privileged. The Gospel arsenal throws wide open its door and admits you to equip with the impenetrable mail which the love and strength of Christ has forged. Oh! beloved, may I hope that you will so stand fast by Godly principles and Christian practice as that you shall prove in the Church and at the end, conquerors and more than conquerors.

It is very painful, my much loved friends, bound to me by so many different links of love, it is very painful for me to cut, as I now do, the tie which has held us together in the Pastoral relation. To-night we drift apart after having floated together for many a mile on life's placid river. We drift apart, and yet [24/25] how often shall my eye be turned to the bark in which you and yours are launched. Let us keep the love-flag flying, that we may descry each other and know each other's hearts--even when wide leagues stretch out between us.

I give you, my people, a reluctant "Good bye." I have friends here from whom I would wish never to part. I have invested feelings here which can never be diverted to other objects. I have been here but a little time and yet I seem to have old ties and old associations and old friendships.

I give you, my people, a Pastor's blessing; I give it to you warm from my heart; I waft it to you on the wings of love. It may avail you nothing, coming from one so unworthy; yet be assured that my desire for your prosperity is no less fervent than my prayers for it shall be unceasing.

Farewell, my people. To-night we part--to-morrow we meet. To-night we wring the hand in parting--to-morrow we shall grasp it in joyous greeting. I speak of this night of earth and sin and trial--and of the morrow of heaven, bright, beautiful and blessed!

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