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and deluded from the paths of strict sobriety; do what lies in your power as you have opportunity, by the inost proper and likely, the most effectual, the most acceptable, or least offensive methods, not only to preserve your own purity, but also to strengthen the wise and boly resolutions of others; that they may be stedfast in their purpose, overcome in a time of temptation, and pass through the world pure and unsullied.
" Whatever things are lovely,” or amiable. So the original word seems most properly to signify. But herein, very probably, is included what is loving and friendly. For such things are usually lovely, and agreeable in the eye of the world.
All such things the apostle desires his christian friends at Philippi to think of; to “ follow after the things that make for peace," Rom. xiv. 19, among themselves and others. Says the Psalmist, “ How good, and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity !” Psal. cxxxiii. It is not only a great happiness to those persons themselves, but it is likewise agreeable to others to behold and observe.
It is not unlikely, that the apostle intends here some exalted acts of virtue, care of the sick, bounty to the necessitous and indigent, readiness to appear in the behalf of such as are injured by prevailing power, endeavours to clear up doubtful points, and vindicate innocence, accused, censured, and reproached.
The Philippians, very probably, would be led by this advice, to think of benevolence toward each other, and toward their fellow-christians, and also toward other men, their heathen and Jewish neighbours; a readiness to do good to them, when they had opportunity and ability, and their services and kind offices would be accepted.
Herein may be also included steadiness in the faith, and in the profession of the truth, free from any appearance of obstinacy, and without unreasonable scorn and disdain of others of different sentiments; a readiness to give a reason of their belief and hope to all who demand it; and doing it with meekness and modesty.
Hereby may likewise be intended condescension upon many occasions, forgiveness of injuries, meekness and gentleness, mildness in precepts and reproofs, and doing every thing, so far as may be, in the most acceptable and agree
Once more: Think of whatever things are lovely. Show an affable carriage to all men. And if any of you have it in your power to be extensively useful, manifest cheerful
ness of mind, in such good designs as you engage in, and promote them to the utmost.
Whatever things are of good report, or well spoken of, and generally commended.
But hereby the apostle intends those things only, that are justly commended, or are really commendable. It can never be imagined, that he advises any christians to pay such deference to prevailing customs as to approve of any thing that is in itself evil. No: Christians were at that time few in number, in comparison of others, and were obliged to be stedfast in the faith, whatever others might think or say of it. And at some seasons, and in some places, there are some so degenerate and corrupt, as to vilify those who join not with them in shameful practices. “ For the time past of our life may sutlice us,” says St. Peter, “ to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange, that you run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you," 1 Pet. iv. 3, 4. Nevertheless there are some branches of virtue and real goodness, which are generally approved, and well spoken of. St. Peter bimself supposeth as much in another exhortation, Having your conversation honest, (or good, fair, and unspotted,] among the gentiles; that wbereas they speak against you, as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation,” 1 Pet. ii. 12.
This particular may in some measure coincide with the preceding. Such things as are amiable, taking, and agreeable, will be generally commended. In both, especially the latter, I apprehend the apostle to recommend some sublime acts of virtue and goodness, which depend upon much self-denial, and consist in discreet compliances, and a departing from our just right upon some occasions, for weighty reasons and considerations, and out of a regard to the honour of religion, or with a view to the welfare and advantage of some particular persons, or the good of society in general.
There are particular directions in some other epistles, which may be recollected by you, and may illustrate this general advice, and help us to discern what is included in it.
In an argument, which the apostle has in the epistle to the Romans, he says, “ Let not then your good be evil spoken of,” Rom. xiii. 16. The christian liberty or freedom from an obligation to observe a distinction of meats, and such like indifferent things, was, in the general, good and reasonable. Yet he advises, not to assert it always, but to decline the so doing, when there should be a manifest danger of offending a weak and scrupulous person, so as to cause him to fall. Whereby it might happen, that what was good would be evil spoken of.
Another particular, which I suppose may suit this general direction, is that in the first epistle to the Corinthians. “ 1 speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded ?" 1 Cor. vi. 5–7. Those persons had not a due regard to the circumstances of things. Contention and strife are unreputable ainong friends and relatives, and those who are of the same religious society and communion. It would therefore have been a good work, if some, who were of the best capacity and understanding among the christians at Corinth, had endeavoured to reconcile disagreeing parties, and to induce them to make up their differences in an amicable way. And it might have been fit and commendable, supposing untractableness and obstinacy on one side, if the other would for peace sake quit a part of his right, or what might be justly claimed
And there may be many occasions, wherein this direction will take place and be obligatory. A true christian, and a wise man, will often think of those things that are of good report, and will resign somewhat, and comply against his own particular interests, when some valuable purposes are to be served thereby.
The last clause in the text is: If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise. In which two particulars it may be either supposed, that the apostle would summarily comprehend every thing already mentioned; or, that he would be understood to say: And if there be any thing else that • is virtuous and praise-worthy, think of it, and reckon yourselves obliged to it.'
One thing, which I apprehend to be designed and implied, both here and elsewhere, is discretion or prudence; which, certainly, is praise-worthy, for the honour of particular persons and societies, and religion in general.
You are to condescend very often; but yet it must be sometimes without familiarity. You are to reprove with
mildness; but yet you are not to connive at faults that are manifest. You are to be kind and charitable; but yet you should not be iinposed upon. And it will neither be for your credit, nor for the credit of religion, to maintain the robust and strong in sloth and idleness. You are to comply; but still you must consider, when, to whom, and how far. You are to be courteous and affable and condescend. ing; but yet you should keep the dignity of your character. You should forgive, if men repent and acknowledge their fault; and you should pray for them that persecute you,
, and speak evil of you. But you are not obliged to confide : in all without discrimination, nor to put trust in those who show enmity to you. There is a necessity of weighing circumstances, and calmly considering persons, tempers, times, and seasons. We should join those two considerations, and observe those two properties; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise; whatever things are true, and of good report. Meekness is a virtue. But it is apt sometimes to invite injuries. He who by an imprudent exercise of what he calls meekness, neglects his own safety and security from unreasonable men, and thereby often brings troubles upon himself, and those concerned with him, consults not his own credit, nor the credit and reputation of the religious principles he professes.
These are the several branches of virtue and goodness which the apostle here recommends. And they should be thought of by all in the sense and manner before explained and described. For the exhortation is addressed to all. Every one should think of what suits his station and condition. The bishops or overseers, and the deacons in this church, to whom the apostle was writing, were to attend to and perform the duties of their offices. The rich and the honourable were in like manner to perform the duties of their circumstances and station; they should endeavour to be useful in the world, and think of every thing that is good and laudable. The poor likewise were to think of what suited them, and be resigned, contented, humble, industrious, faithful, thankful. For such things are virtuous and praise-worthy in them. Such is the exhortation to the christians of that time; and it is to be attended to by the followers of Jesus in every age.
III. I shall now conclude with a few inferences by way of application.
1. We hence learn, that there are some things, which are fit and excellent in themselves, true, just, and virtuous.
2. We also perceive hence, that the christian religion
teaches and recommends every branch of virtue and goodness; and that christians ought to reckon themselves obliged to every thing that is true, just, lovely, of good report, virtuous and commendable, according to the stations they are in.
3. The christian doctrine does not exclude, or altogether neglect and overlook any reasonable argument to the practice of real duty. Indeed many precepts are delivered in the scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, in an authoritative way, as the will of God, and with promises of happiness, or threatenings of woe and misery, which none but God can perform and accomplish. Nevertheless arguments from the internal excellence, or the apparent comeliness of things, are not entirely omitted. Nor ought they to be overlooked or slighted by us.
us. The apostle here advises, and directs : “ If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on those things."
4. We cannot easily forbear observing, that this exhortation of the apostle is not only excellent for the sense, but engaging also for the manner of address. He treats the Philippian christians as men of understanding. And without a prolix enlargement propounds it to them to think of, and reckon themselves obliged to,“ whatever things are true, honest, virtuous, and praise-worthy.” The same things are now in a like manner proposed to you. The fewer words are used in recommending them, the more do you think of them; that you may be fully satisfied of their reasonableness, and be ever ready to practise them as occasions require, in the most agreeable and acceptable manner.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR WORDS.
But I say unto you, that
idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and
by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matt. xii. 36. IN the preceding part of this chapter several things are related, which may be reckoned to have given occasion for what is here said. To observe those particulars therefore,