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to glory. And all who follow him sincerely are to be made perfect and happy, like him, and to be for ever with him.
They who attend to this must be disposed to do somewhat considerable. And, if they should meet with temptations, they will be able to surmount them.
Accordingly, the apostles of Jesus, who did " abide in him," and retained his words, did bear much, and good fruit. Their conduct was excellent and exemplary; and they could endure shame and all manner of sufferings for his name's sake, and in hope of partaking in the recompences of his heavenly kingdom.
Under what discouragements Peter with the eleven first preached the gospel at Jerusalem, and under what discouragements it was professed by their first converts, and by many others afterwards, the history in the Acts, and other things in the epistles of the apostles, plainly show.
And the power and efficacy of the divine word are attested to by every part of scripture.
Says holy David: "Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way y? By taking heed thereto, according to thy word," Ps. cxix. 9. And "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee," ver. 11.
The word of God is represented as the great mean of forming, and of cherishing and improving, good dispositions. The christians, to whom St. Peter writes, " had purified themselves in obeying the truth:" And had been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible," even "by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,' 1 Pet. i. 22, 23. And he exhorts them, "as new-born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby," ch. ii. 2. And St. James: "Receive with meekness the ingraffed word, which is able to save your souls, Jam. ii. 21.
What St. Paul says at Miletus to the elders of Ephesus, very observable: "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am free from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God. And, now, brethren, I recommend you to God, and to the word of his grace; which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified,” Acts xx. 26, 27.
How earnest, and how frequent that apostle is in exhorting christians to retain the pure gospel of Christ, in order to their establishment and increase in virtue, is well known to all men. He and Barnabas visited the churches which they had planted, " confirming the disciples, and exhorting
them to continue in the faith," Acts xiv. 22. And to the Colossians he writes: "You that were sometime alienated,
hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblamable, and unreprove able in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard," Col. i. 21-23.
II. I shall now mention two or three remarks briefly, by way of application.
1. We e may hence infer that, generally speaking, sad will be the condition of those, who, having once known the doctrine of the gospel, afterwards forsake and disown it, and wilfully act contrary to its holy laws and commandments.
The apostles of Christ in their epistles, make the supposition of such instances, and speak of them with much concern, as past hope. It would be exceeding difficult" to renew them again to repentance," Heb. vi. 6; and "it had been better for them, not to have known the way of righteousness, than to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them," 2 Pet. ii. 21.
2. This discourse of our Lord with his disciples should induce us to a strict regard to his genuine doctrine.
This is the best way to be steady and eminent in things excellent and commendable. We have not seen Christ; but we have good reason to believe in him and love him. His words and his works, and all his transactions on this earth for our welfare, have been carefully transmitted to us. We should abide in him, and endeavour to know more the power of his death and resurrection, and all the forcible considerations which his doctrine contains to the practice of virtue and perseverance therein.
3. We here see cause to lament the degeneracy of christians, and the absurdities that have been introduced into the christian profession.
Says God with regard to the Jewish people: "I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" Jer. ii. 21. The statutes delivered to the people of Israel were good and right. The laws of moral righteousness had the preference; and the others were wisely ordained at that time, and suited to answer valuable ends. Nevertheless they diverted to idolatry, or made additions of human observances, to the great detriment of true piety. The doctrine of Jesus is excellent and important; and yet numberless superstitions and absurdities have been graffed in. Whence comes this? It is because men do not attend
to their true interest; because they do not love truth and simplicity; and so it has been from the beginning. "God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Ecc. vii. 29.
We should not be offended. The fault is not in the doctrine itself; nor has Providence been wanting in any thing requisite for the good of men. And our Lord foresaw and foretold what has since happened. Good grain was sowed in the field; but whilst men were negligent, an enemy has cast in tares, which have sprung up and mingled with the good corn, Matt. xiii. 24, 25.
This should excite our care and diligence; and with a sincere love of truth we should study and endeavour to understand the religion of Jesus Christ. It is not, in its original form, the most mysterious, loaded with doctrines hard to be believed; either almost or quite contradictory. The worship which it teaches is not the most showy and pompous that ever was contrived; consisting of a long and tedious ceremonial, in which a hypocrite might be as exact and punctual as any man; but it is undissembled virtue, from a respect to God, and hope of his favour.
If all men would receive this excellent doctrine, and come under the power of it, the world might be happy, and our life here on earth easy and comfortable. But as such an agreeable scene has not yet appeared, and we are not able to reconcile all men to truth and virtue; the knowing, and pious, and zealous for God will often meet with difficulties; but then here comes in to their aid the prospect of a great joy set before them. Hence this struggle and contention, this holy warfare; which we must resolve upon if called out to it, and should acquit ourselves like men. Here is a difficulty. But this contention gives occasion for the exercise and improvement of virtue; and so lays the foundation of transcendent glory and happiness hereafter. And "our light affliction, which is but for a moment," according to the sublime apprehensions of the apostle, "worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," 2 Cor. iv. 17.
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. 8. 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; "what' ever 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 commended; "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,
I. Show what is meant by "thinking of these things." 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. And 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