Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure…
The gospel does more than hold out a refuge to the guilty; it takes all who accept Christ under its supreme and exclusive direction. Therefore, in his parting words to his converts, the last counsel of the apostle is of a beautifully practical character: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things."
I. SUBJECTS OF CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATION. There is a certain order in the series here exhibited.
1. Things that concern us absolutely. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable."
(1) Things true. That is, true as opposed to false; for lying is, according to the apostle, a breach of the social contract (Ephesians 4:25). True as opposed to insincerity; true in speech, true in conduct. Things true stand at the head of the series, because the truth is the ground of all God's commands, and the ground of our obedience. The love of truth is the intellectual part of piety. It raises the moral temper and tone of the world. As it is by the truth we are sanctified, it is natural that things true should be the subject of constant Christian thought.
(2) Things venerable. A man is very much what he thinks; therefore make venerable themes the subjects of your deepest thought. Grave things strengthen and deepen Christian character and intensify Christian feeling. Character formed on such a basis will be dignified. "Acceptable to God and approved of men" (Romans 14:18).
2. Things that concern us relatively. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure."
(1) Things just or righteous. Justice maintains right relations between man and man, holds the balance fairly between conflicting interests, co-ordinates the rights of each with all. Love of justice is the moral part of piety, as the love of truth is the intellectual part of it. Justice is peculiar in this respect, that there are no degrees of it, as there are degrees of goodness or generosity; for a man less than just is unjust. A man, again, may do a hundred kindly acts, but if he fail in one act of justice the blemish is fatal to character. There is, therefore, great need that Christian people should be just in all their acts. Religion does not exempt them from the laws which bind men of the world.
(2) Things pure. Not merely chastity, but purity in the widest sense. There must be pure thinking, pure reading, pure action. "Blessed are the pure in heart." Let the mind dwell on pure themes.
3. Things that suggest moral approbation from the outside. "Whatsoever things are lovely... of good report." The four things already mentioned describe their character in themselves. These two mark the impression made upon the world.
(1) Things lovely. They suggest the kindly graces of character. There is such a thing as being dignified, majestic, and venerable, but not lovely. A Christian ought not to be morose, unkind, or faultfinding. Nothing tends to injure the cause of religion more than an unlovely temper, an eye severe and unkind, a brow hard and stern. Yet the apostle gives only the fifth place to "things lovely," as if to indicate that personal kindness or good nature is not to supply the room of justice or purity.
(2) Things of good report. Things such as all men agree in commending - courtesy, urbanity, justice, temperance; purity, truth, respect to parents. Men of the world will not withhold their praise from men distinguished by these virtues. Christians ought to remember the words, "Let not your good be evil spoken of." They are to "walk in wisdom toward them that are without."
4. Things to be included in a larger category. "If there be any virtue, if there be any praise." This clause is thrown in as an after-thought, to cover possible omissions, for the subjects of Christian contemplation are endless.
(1) Virtue. The apostle never uses this old heathen term except in this place, but he seems to say that Christian people are not to neglect the study of that which is best in heathen conception,
(2) Praise. He had open despised the praise of men, but he concedes here that some consideration ought to be given even to what is worthy of praise among men.
II. THE DUTY AND ADVANTAGE OF CONTEMPLATING THESE THINGS. "Think on these things." I. The mind takes the stamp of what it thinks on. There is an assimilating process by which the graces or virtues we have specified are stamped deeply upon Christian character. It is with these graces as it is with Christ himself. He is the glass "in which we behold the glory of God, and so are changed into the same image from glory to glory."
2. There are blessed effects ,won the world. A life exemplifying the graces of holy living is the most likely to arrest the careless and the wicked. The living epistles of Christ are made to be known and read of all men. - T.C.
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.