Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure…
I. OUR MINDS SHOULD BE OCCUPIED WITH THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOOD THINGS.
1. It is not enough that our deeds are pure, our thoughts must be pure also,
(1) because the inner life is the true life, and
(2) because our ideas will ultimately color our actions.
2. Good thoughts spring from the study of good things. We cannot touch pitch and remain undefiled. But the consideration of worthy characters and actions will insensibly fill our minds with a kindred spirit. This fact. should govern our choice of literature, friends, scenes, and occupations. It is particularly important to study objective goodness outside ourselves. This is a cure for dreamy subjectivity, for self-conceit, and for narrow notions.
II. THE GOOD CHARACTERISTICS OF MEN OF THE WORLD SHOULD BE GENEROUSLY ADMITTED. It is remarkable than the list of good things here drawn out by St. Paul consists chiefly of pagan virtues. He appears to be calling upon Christians to consider the goodness that is to be found outside the pale of the Church. I. These good characteristics exist. The world is not wholly depraved. It was not even so in the dark days of the Roman empire. One who had a keen sympathy with goodness was able then to detect the genuine indications of light amidst the gloom. The life of Care and the writings of Seneca, for example, contain much that commands our profound admiration. "There is a soul of goodness in things evil."
2. These good characteristics should be ungrudgingly recognized
(1) in justice to men;
(2) for the glory of God, who is the Source of all goodness in the world as well as in the Church, pagan as well as Christian;
(3) for our own sakes. A narrow censorious spirit is most unchristian. A follower of the innocent Christ should be a lover of all things good.
III. CHRISTIANS MAY GREATLY PROFIT BY THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE GOODNESS OF MEN OF THE WORLD. It might be thought that, if this is a lower form of goodness, it would be useless to study it. But:
1. The consideration of it will widen our syrmpa-thies. It will help us better to appreciate and love our brother man. Approaching them through their good points, we shall the better influence them (e.g. see Acts 17:22). Compare Clement and Origen in their recognition of what was good in paganism, with Tertullian and his denunciation of heathen religion and philosophy as diabolical, and with Arnobius and his railing against human nature itself. Surely the Alexandrian apologists were wisest as well as most charitable.
2. The contemplation of these good things will reveal virtues not sufficiently studied by Christians. The Church has not the monoply of the virtues. If she excels in the higher graces men who do not own her name may sometimes shame her with their excellence in other respects. Christians may learn much from Plato and Epictetus and from Goethe and Carlyle.
IV. DETAILS OF GOODNESS MAY BE USEFULLY CONSIDERED. St. Paul makes a list of good things. He was in the habit of drawing out such lists. We must begin with the inward spirit of holiness in love to God and man, but we must develop our character by attention to details.
1. This excites our attention. Our imagination flags at generalities. Objective details please it best.
2. This prevents our goodness from evaporating in value sentiment.
3. This gives breadth and variety to our character. Good things are numerous and of varied types. We must beware of a narrow morality. "Whatsoever things are good," etc., are worthy of study, in order that every possible attainment of character may be reached in every possible direction. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.