"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 on these things."—Phil. 4:8.
"KEEP thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life," is one of the wise sayings of the inspired Word (Prov. 4:23); and it was with the same thought in mind that the Apostle penned the above words to the Church at Philippi, whom he addressed with great affection and appreciation as his "joy and crown." (4:1.) The little company of consecrated believers there were the firstfruits of his ministry, and were specially remarkable for their loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord, the truth and the beloved Apostle, who at this time was a prisoner in Rome. Thither, in his time of need, they sent their gifts, and these expressed their love and sympathy and care for his temporal welfare, which they had always been forward to do while he ministered to them in spiritual things. (4:10-19.) In them the Apostle was comforted and cheered, and he rejoiced even in his afflictions in that they also were for their sakes; for the example of his patience in tribulation and joy and in self-sacrifice was as valuable a lesson to the saints as were any of his most profound and logical instructions.
Being desirous that these disciples should continue to manifest the fruits of the spirit and to grow in grace, this epistle is one of encouragement and wise counsel—to stand fast in the faith and spirit of the gospel and to learn more fully how to deny themselves even as Christ did (1:27,29; 2:1-11); to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (2:12); to beware of false teachers and evil workers (3:2,18,19); and to seek to be all of the same mind—the mind which was in Christ Jesus; to esteem each other in the Lord; and to do nothing even for the cause of Christ through any spirit of strife or vain-glory.
Then follows this beautiful final admonition of our text, so in keeping with the thought that out of the heart are the issues of life. The heart represents the will, the intentions. The will must be kept true and centered in God: it is the governing power of the whole man. Blessed are the pure in heart—those of fixed, uncompromising purpose. Yet though the will is the controlling power of the man, it is also subject to influences. If the thoughts be impure, unjust or unholy, the power of the will becomes more and more impaired. Hence the wisdom of the Apostle's advice as to what should be the character of our thoughts. In those who are striving to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord—to adorn themselves with the beauty of holiness—the thoughts must not be neglected and permitted to browse in every pasture, but must be disciplined to feed upon convenient and healthful food, such as the Apostle directs, viz.:—
(1) "Whatsoever things are true." That would exclude indulgence in visionary and foolish fiction, which does so much to corrupt the mind and squander time. It would also exclude [R1703 : page 292] all the idle speculative theories of men who, ignoring the true gospel, seek to draw away disciples after them. It would banish also the vain philosophies of the creeds of "Christendom," when once the symmetry and beauty of the divine plan of the ages has been seen. It would avoid all idle gossip and evil surmisings; and, having escaped the gloom and discontent and the perplexity, care and worry consequent upon entertaining such thoughts, the mind can be at peaceful leisure for the contemplation of that which is true. Then it may draw from the abundant storehouse which our bountiful God has supplied, both in his Word of law and prophecy and precept and promise and in the open book of Nature.
How richly the mind is rewarded that dwells upon these things. The law of God and its application to all the minutiae of life's affairs should be the most constant theme of meditation among the saints, since it is to be applied in all our business and social relations; and its often intricate problems require close discernment and discrimination. "Oh, how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day," is the sentiment which the inspired Psalmist (119:97) would put into the mouth of all the Lord's people. Then the prophecies, so laden with good tidings of great joy for all people, and the promises, so exceeding great and precious, how full of blessing they are to all who delight in their contemplation! And in the light of the glorious gospel nature itself wears a brighter face and speaks a loftier language, emphasizing the love and power and praise of our God. Whatsoever things are true, brethren, think on these things.
(2) "Whatsoever things are honest." That would exclude all deceit and hypocrisy, all evil scheming and intrigue, as well as thoughts of deliberate plunder of falsehood or evil speaking, giving place to frank and open honesty of thought, developing daily into good and noble deeds.
(3) "Whatsoever things are just." This would discard all unjust weights and balances in estimating the character and motives of our fellow-men, and particularly our brethren in Christ. It would make all due allowances for the infirmities of the flesh, remembering that we also are subject to infirmity, if not so much in one direction, then in another. It would [R1704 : page 292] consider surroundings, estimate the bias of influences and calculate the force of temptations, in order to find, if possible, extenuating circumstances for favorable judgment. Yet it would not ignore facts, and so blindly encourage evil.
The mind, where justice is enthroned, not only seeks always to judge justly, but it has also a fine appreciation of justice. It delights to trace the lines of justice in God's wonderful plan of human salvation. It so clearly sees the value of justice, which is the very foundation principle of God's throne, that the value of the precious blood of Christ in satisfying the demands of justice and thus reclaiming the forfeited life of the world is keenly appreciated. And so fully is this feature of the divine plan and the grandeur of the principle of justice seen and realized, that no vain philosophy of men, which suggests other schemes of salvation which ignore the just claims of justice, can be tolerated. No other plan but this, which is founded in justice and executed in love, can claim the attention of those whose habit of thought is just and to whom the divine plan has been revealed.
(4) "Whatsoever things are pure." Blessed are the pure in heart and mind. Pure thoughts, devoid of the slime and filth of sin, how they invigorate and energize the soul in every high and noble work! The pure mind demands a pure body and clean clothing, though it may be ever so coarse. It courts the society of only the pure and good and shuns the contamination of all others. It seeks also only that which is pure, in literature or in art. The vile insinuation, the rude jest, the unchaste in art, are alike an abomination to the pure mind. The pure mind finds delight in the society of the pure and in the contemplation of the virtues and graces and of the true and beautiful. The blessedness of such a condition of mind and heart is too far above the comprehension of the impure to be to any extent appreciated. Its happifying and ennobling influence is best illustrated by the effects upon the body of thorough [R1704 : page 293] cleansing and clean clothing which give new energy and vigor to the physical man.
(5) "Whatsoever things are lovely; whatsoever things are of good report [worthy of praise]; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Added to all the solid virtues of truth, honesty, justice and purity, let all the lovely graces and adornments of meekness, patience, faith, godliness, benevolence, kindness and charity occupy our thoughts. And as we hold these virtues before the mind's eye as a mirror, they gradually become more and more assimilated, and the transforming work goes on in our own characters. Thus, too, the will is strengthened and inspired with fresh energy to fulfil its great work in governing and controlling the whole man.
This the Apostle saw to be the philosophy of the influence of the thoughts upon the will and vice versa. Therefore, he would have us set a watch and a governor upon our thoughts and feed them with wholesome and life-giving food, that thus the thoughts may re-inforce the will, and the will may govern and control the thoughts to the end that both the present and the future blessing of the pure in heart may be realized by those who are diligently seeking for them.—Matt. 5:8.
THESE many years!
What lessons they unfold
Of grace and guidance through the wilderness,
From the same God that Israel of old
In the Shekinah glory did possess.
How faithful he, through all my griefs and fears
And constant murmurings, these many years!
God of the Covenant!
From first to last,
From when I stood within that sprinkled door
And o'er my guilt the avenging angel passed,
Thy better angel has gone on before;
And naught but goodness all the way appears,
Unmerited and free, these many years!
Thy presence wrought a pathway through the sea;
Thy presence made the bitter water sweet;
And daily have thy hands prepared for me
Sweet, precious morsels—lying at my feet.
'Twas but to stoop and taste the grace that cheers,
And start refreshed, through all these many years!
What time I thirsted and earth's streams were dry,
What time I wandered and my hope was gone,
Thy hand has brought a pure and full supply,
And, by a loving pressure, lured me on.
How oft that hand hath wiped away my tears
And written "Pardoned!" all these many years!
And what of discipline thy love ordained
Fell ever gently on this heart of mine;
Around its briers was my spirit trained
To bring forth fruits of righteousness divine;
Wisdom in every check, and love appears
In every stroke throughout these many years!
Lord, what I might have been my spirit knows—
Rebellious, petulant, and apt to stray:
Lord, what I am, in spite of flesh and foes,
I owe to grace that kept me in the way.
Thine be the glory! Merit disappears
As back I look upon these many years.
Thine be the glory!
Thou shalt have the praise
For all thy dealings, to my latest breath;
A daily Ebenezer will I raise,
And sing Salvation through the vale of death—
To where the palm, the golden harp appears,
There to rehearse thy love through endless years.