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A RECOMMENDATION OF THINGS VIRTUOUS, LOVELY,
AND OF GOOD REPORT.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever
things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report : if there be any virtue, and if
there be any praise, think of these things. Philip. iv. IN these words, and those which follow, we have the concluding exhortations and advices of the apostle to the christians at Philippi. They are brief and concise, yet full and comprehensive; and in them, if any thing of moment had been hitherto omitted, every branch of conduct that has in it any real excellence, or outward comeliness, would be included; and the well-disposed and intelligent Philippians would bring it to mind.
The words of the text may be partly explained in this short paraphrase: • Finally, to conclude and sum up all, my • brethren, whatever “ things are true," or sincere; "whatever things are honest,” or grave and venerable; “ whatever things are just,” or righteous between man and man; • " whatever things are pure,” or chaste; “ whatever things • are lovely," agreeable, and amiable; " whatever things are • of good report,” generally well spoken of and commend• ed; “ if there be any virtue, if there be any praise;" and • whatever is virtuous and reasonable, worthy of praise and • commendation; " think of these things;" such things do
you attend to, and reckon yourselves obliged to observe • and practise.
In farther discoursing on this text I shall,
II. I shall endeavour to explain and illustrate the several particulars here mentioned.
III. After which I intend to add some reflections by way of application.
I. I would show what is meant by “ thinking of these things."
And doubtless every one presently perceives, that the apostle does not barely intend meditating on them, and contemplating them in a speculative way, but in order to prac
tice. This must be the design of such an exhortation as this. And it is rendered more manifest by the immediately following words. “ Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do. A the God of peace shall be with you.”
* By thinking of these things,” it is likely the apostle means the examining and observing the reasonableness and fitness of them; seriously attending to the several branches of each particular here mentioned ; not omitting to take notice of every thing implied and contained therein; observing how far each of these things may be especially suited to their several stations and characters; accounting themselves under an indispensible obligation to practise them as occasions offer; and likewise studying and contriving, how they may be best able to show an exact and cheerful conformity to such a direction as this, and guard against every thing contrary to it.
II. In the next place I shall endeavour to explain and illustrate the several particulars here recommended.
The first is “ whatever things are true.” And it should be observed, that this comprehensive word “ whatever” is prefixed to every particular. It is used for the sake of brevity. St. Paul designed not to enumerate the several parts of each character here mentioned. But he desires, that his christian friends and brethren would themselves observe and attend to every thing included in them.
Whatever things are true,” or sincere. There is a truth of words and actions. We are to be sincere and upright in our profession of religion, in the worship of God, and in our dealings with men. We should be what we appear to be; and be far from desiring or aiming to be esteemed what we are not, when there is any the least hazard of any damage or injury thereby accruing, either to religion or to
“ Whatever things are true, think of these things." Reckon yourselves obliged to every branch of truth and sincerity. Show a love of truth in your studies and inquiries. And when you are upon good grounds convinced of the truth of any principles, be not shy of owning them upon proper occasions,
Never disown or deny the truths you are convinced of, for any worldly considerations whatever. As you have taken upon you the name of christians, steadily acknowledge and profess the principles of that doctrine. Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, nor be moved from
your stedfastness by the reproaches, or other ill-treatment, which you may meet with.
Let your worship of God be sincere and fervent. Never appear
before him with your body only; but always worship bim in spirit and truth.
In your conversation and dealings with men, whatever is your station and character, maintain your integrity. Be faithful and upright in your words and actions, in your professions of your respect and esteem, in your promises and contracts; that no one may have cause to suspect or doubt of your sincerity, and all men who have dealings with you may be readily disposed to confide in you. And never let any be disappointed, or have reason to complain of falsehood, and to repent of the trust they have reposed in you.
“ Whatever things are honest.” In the margin of some of our Bibles the original word is rendered, venerable. And in divers places our English translation has the word grave, instead of that in the text. Among the qualifications of a bishop this is one, that “ he rule well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity-Likewise must the deacons be grave- -Likewise must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things," 1 Tim. iii. 4, 8, 11. In the epistle to Titus, " But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine, that the aged men be sober, grave,” Tit. ii. 1, 2. And, “ In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works, in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,” ver. 7.
These instances may help us more distinctly to conceive the design of the apostle in this place, where the same word is rendered honest. It seems that he intends to recommend to christians a concern for their character, a care so to behave, as to secure to themselves some degree of respect and esteem; that they should avoid unbecoming levity in word, action, habit, and outward behaviour, which tends to render men despicable; whereby they appear weak, mean, and of no consequence in the eye of others.
Doubtless the practice of this rule must be different and various, according to men's several characters and stations in the world. We perceive from the texts just cited, that gravity is more especially recommended to the aged, and to those who have the honour of some office or trust in the church. But here St. Paul gives this advice to christians in general, to reckon themselves obliged to whatever things are honest, grave, or venerable.
It is not needful, nor scarce proper, to be very particular in such a direction as this. Every one who thinks, as St. Paul here desires all christians to do, may be the best judge what is most suitable to his own station and character. However, such a hint as this in the text may be of use to awaken the attention of every one, and induce men to consider what does best become them in their stations, and what tends to diminish them in the esteem of others. It may be of use to excite men to labour after some useful qualifications, and to be furnished with some valuable branch of knowledge. It may raise a desire of weight and solidity. It tends to caution men against extravagant and excessive mirth. In a word, whatever is becoming, and is rather suited to secure respect, than expose them to contempt and scorn; and whatever tends to make others wiser and better, rather than what tends to divert and please them; such things men should think of, and reckon themselves obliged to.
" Whatever things are just.”. A comprehensive rule. And yet its several branches of duty are so obvious, as to be generally known and understood. There is no necessity therefore to enlarge in the enumeration of the several parts of righteousness to be done, or unrighteousness to be avoided. The great difficulty is, to bring men to an equitable temper and disposition of mind; and to subdue selflove and partiality, or an improper affection for worldly things, and their own particular interests; which often mislead them, and cause them to act contrary to the plainest rules, Our blessed Lord therefore comprised and recommended this branch of duty in that one convincing and persuasive rule: “ All things wbatever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.”
At other times, however, both Christ and his apostles have insisted on particular duties, and enforced them with very moving considerations.
Here the direction is general. “ Whatever things are just, think of them.” So consider this point, that you may perform all acts of justice, and avoid every thing unjust, unfair, unequal.
May not a regard to this rule induce some to caution and circumspection in their dealings, and to avoid extending their commerce beyond the measure of their ability ? Should not wise and equitable persons take heed, not so much as to run the bazard of ruining those who depend upon them, or deal with them, or trust them? The wisest and best of men are liable to unavoidable and unforeseen accidents. But the thinking on whatever things are just might discourage
some schemes and projects, which are as likely to miscarry, as to succeed ; and if not successful, may reduce a man
; beyond the possibility of his returning to all what he has received.
The thinking of this part of duty may also be of use to discourage and prevent au expensive course of life, beyond the proportion of a man's income and substance. For is he to be reckoned just, who consumes in luxury, and excess of any kind, not only his own patrimony, but likewise the right and property of other men ?
Might not a respect to every thing that is just be of extensive use, and vast advantage to mankind, and prevent distresses and inconveniences, inexpressible and innumerable!
“ Whatever things are just think of them.” Avoid lesser as well as greater acts of injustice. Think what is just and equitable toward those of your own family, whether relatives, servants, or dependents; what is fair and equitable in the
way of commerce with other inen your equals; what is just and due to superiors and governors; what regard you ought to have for the welfare of the public society, of which you are a part, in whose prosperity you are interested, by the powers of which you are protected in your commerce, and the secure possession of your property. Says St. Paul to the Romans : “ Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another,” Rom. xii. 7, 8.
“ Whatever things are pure, (or chaste,] think of them.” Reckon yourselves obliged to all purity, in body and mind, in thought, word, and action, in every state, and in every age, and part of life, and in every circumstance, upon every occasion. Think and consider, how you may best be able to preserve that purity, which is acceptable to God, for the honour of religion, and your own peace and comfort. Think and consult with yourselves, how you may avoid temptations, and how you may resist and overcome them, if you should unexpectedly and suddenly meet with them. Meddle not with writings where a proper decorum is neglected, or in which, under specious appearances, the worst and most dangerous poison is insinuated. Never be present at indecent shows and spectacles, much less be at any time delighted with them, or applaud them. Decline resolutely, and with the utmost care, ensnaring and vicious conversation. So far from tempting and enticing others, or contributing by any means whatever to their being ensnared,