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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 him 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
6 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 whatever 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 hazard 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 an 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 men 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. xiii. 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,
and deluded from the paths of strict sobriety; do what lies in your power as you have opportunity, by the most 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 agreeable manner.
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 im, 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 suffice 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 whereas 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 apprebend 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