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Our Salvation Wrought Out With Fear and Trembling.

Our Salvation Wrought Out With Fear and Trembling.

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PHIL. ii. 12.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling^

PHIL. ii. 12.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling^

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 29, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ROBERT GORDO, D. D.PHIL. ii. 12.Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling^It may perhaps be supposed, that in ilhistratingso plain and solemn an admonition as that con-tained in the text, it is only necessary to remindthose whom we address, of the magnitude and im-portance of the work which the apostle urgesupon the Philippians, and to state the considera-tions by which his admonition is enforced. I ampersuaded, however, that there are few passagesof Scripture that are more liable to be misunder-stood, than this very sentence, and few, therefore,that require a more careful examination, to ascer-tain the precise import of the language which theapostle employs. The man who, in the pride of self-righteousness, takes a survey of the many vir-tues, by which his character has been dignified436 OUR SALVATIO WROUGHT OUT SER. 21.and adorned, and flattering himself that these vir-tues will be found immeasurably to outweighwhat he calls the failings and imperfections of his nature, confidently calculates on acquittal inthe day of reckoning, will be ready to urge theadmonition in our text in defence of his scheme,and to allege, that it recognises man's own righte-ousness, as the ground of his acceptance in thesight of God. In like manner, the perplexed in-quirer, who, from a misapprehension of the na-ture of the gospel, and in the despondency of a false humility, is laboriously striving to si-
lence an awakened conscience, by yielding theobedience in which he has hitherto fallen short,will be equally ready to infer from the text, thathowever far he may still be from a place of secu-rity and repose, yet the only way to it is thatwhich he is pursuing ; and that there is nothingfor him but just to struggle on, under the de-pressing weight of all the suspicion and uncer-tainty, in which he is already involved. The twocharacters may indeed appear to be very dif-ferent, and in many respects they may really beso. But they are nevertheless acting upon prin-ciples essentially the same — both are going aboutto establish a righteousness of their own, as thebasis of their hopes — and both will be ready to un-derstand the text as inculcating some work or ser-vice, in the way of personal righteousness, on theaccomplishment of which their acceptance with GodSER. 21. WITH FEAR AD TREMBLIG. 437is made to depend. It is not enough, then, that weearnestly inculcate that admonition, in the simpleand detached form in which it has now been stat-ed ; inasmuch as the one class might understandus as merely urging them to add to the numberof those virtuous qualifications, on the strengthof which they are already reckoning on the divineapprobation, while, by the other, we should beunderstood as asserting, that by laborious andpersevering efforts, they might hope one day totriumph over all the uncertainty which still hangsover the subject of pardon and justification inthe sight of God ; and thus it might happen,that the more earnestly we inculcate the apostle'sadmonition, the more directly should we ministerto the false hopes of both, and contribute to thestrength of opinions the most unscriptural, and
therefore the most unsafe.It is impossible to reflect on the undeniablefact, that much indistinctness of conception cleavesto many, on the subject of the sinner's acceptancewith God, without perceiving that the remarksnow submitted are but too well founded ; andthat without a careful inquiry into the preciseimport of the apostle's language, the admonitionbefore us is liable to be grievously perverted ormisunderstood. I would observe, therefore, inentering on the illustration of the text, that whenhe admonishes the Philippians to work out theirown salvation with fear and trembling, the apostle438 OUR SALVATIO WROUGHT OUT SER. 21.cannot be understood as intimating, that theywere required to work out for themselves such arighteousness as might procure for them the re-mission of their sins, and the acceptance of theirpersons in the sight of God — and for this plainreason among others, that such an admoni-tion would stand directly opposed to the wholescope and tenor of his own writings. On nosubject, indeed, has the apostle written at greaterlength, or with more apparent anxiety, if I mayso speak, to avoid being misunderstood, than thedoctrine of justification ; and if there be any onetruth more clearly established in these writingsthan another, it is just this, " that by deeds of law shall no flesh living be justified in the sightof God." To demonstrate the universal depra-vity of mankind as transgressors of the divinelaw, whether directly revealed and recorded, orhanded down by tradition, or suggested by theworks and providence of God — to show the utterimpossibility of a sinner being restored to the

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