The apostle expresses the ardent affection he had for them, and his concern for their spiritual welfare: I have you in my heart, Phil. 1:7. He loved them as his own soul, and they lay near his heart. He thought much of them, and was in care about them. Observe, 1. Why he had them in his heart: Inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace; that is, they had received benefit by him and by his ministry; they were partakers of that grace of God which by him, and through his hands, was communicated to them. This makes people dear to their ministers—their receiving benefit by their ministry. Or, “You are partakers of my grace, you have joined with me in doing and suffering.” They were partakers of his affliction by sympathy and concern, and readiness to assist him. Thus he calls being partakers of his grace; for those who suffer with the saints are and shall be comforted with them; and those shall share in the reward, who bear their part of the burden. He loved them because they adhered to him in his bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel: they were as ready to appear in their places, and according to their capacity, for the defence of the gospel, as the apostle was in his; and therefore he had them in his heart. Fellow sufferers should be dear one to another; those who have ventured and suffered in the same good cause of God and religion should for that reason love one another dearly: or, because you have me at heart—dia to echein me en te kardia hymas. They manifested their respect for him by adhering firmly to the doctrine he preached, and readily suffering for it along with him. The truest mark of respect towards our ministers is receiving and abiding by the doctrine they preach. 2. The evidence of it: It is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart. By this it appeared that he had them in his heart, because he had a good opinion of them and good hopes concerning them. Observe, It is very proper to think the best of other people, and as well as we can of them—to suppose as well of them as the matter will admit in all cases. 3. An appeal to God concerning the truth of this (Phil. 1:8): For God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. Having them in his heart, he longed after them; either he longed to see them, longed to hear from them, or he longed for their spiritual welfare and their increase and improvement in knowledge and grace. He had joy in them (Phil. 1:4), because of the good he saw and heard of among them; yet still he longed after them, to hear of more of it among them; and he longed after them all, not only those among them who were witty and wealthy, but even the meanest and poorest; and he longed greatly after them, or with strong affection and great good-will; and this in the bowels of Jesus Christ, with that tender concern which Christ himself has and has shown to precious souls. Paul was herein a follower of Christ, and all good ministers should aim to be so. O the bowels of compassion which are in Jesus Christ to poor souls! It was in compassion to them that he undertook their salvation, and put himself to so vast an expense to compass it. Now, in conformity to the example of Christ, Paul had a compassion for them, and longed after them all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. Shall not we pity and love those souls whom Christ had such a love and pity for? For this he appeals to God: God is my record. It was an inward disposition of mind that he expressed towards them, to the sincerity of which God only was witness, and therefore to him he appeals. “Whether you know it or not, or are sensible of it, God, who knows the heart, knows it.”
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