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Men who had hitherto lived in strife, hateful " and hating one another,” now felt their fierce and malevolent passions fubfide and die away, and their bosoms glow with all the godlike ardour of divine friendship and love.
Of this character the apostle Paul was an eminent instance. No man better understood the gospel, and no man ever drank more deeply into the spirit of it, than he did. In his fermons and epistles he soberly reasons on the great truths of Christianity, and in the course of his life shews what admirable effects the belief of those truths is capable of producing. Persuaded of their divine authority, and feeling their efficacy on his own heart, he suffers himself to be transported, under the influence of the noblest enthusiasm, into a series of the most benevolent exertions for the good of mankind. With a disinterestedness that reflects a real lustre upon his character, he affures the Philippians in this context, that the spread of the gospel, though it were by men, whose motives were base and unfriend. ly to himself, afforded him a sublime joy. And however he could not but ardently wish, fatigued as he was with the inceffant labours of his public ministry, to be dismissed hence to the society of the blessed above, yet “ for their furtherance and joy of faith, “ he was willing to abide in the flesh.” And having thus, upon the most generous grounds, conciliated their affections to himself, he improves the interest he had therein to the purpose of animating them to the duties of a public spirit. " If there be,” says he, “ any “ consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if a. “ ny fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mer“ cies; fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, hav“ing the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. “ Let nothing be done through strife, or vain-glory, “ but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better " than themselves.” And so he adds in our text, “ Look not every man on his own things, but every 66 man also on the things of others.”
No pains, I presume, need be taken to Mew that this admonition is as properly addressed to us as to the Philippians, especially those of us who are united in the bands of Christian fellowship. It consists, you fee, of two parts. The apostle earnestly diffuades us from a private selfish spirit, and as passionately exhorts us to a public and benevolent spirit.
First, Each of these tempers we will explain. And then,
Secondly, Consider our obligations to avoid the one, and to cultivate the other.
First, Let us explain the evil we mean to diffuade you from, and the duty we wilh to recommend.
I. The evil we are cautioned against is, a private and selfish spirit-Look not every man on his own things.
In the same manner, the apostle addresses the Co. rinthians, “ Let no man seek his own : but every man “ anothers, wealth *;" reminding them, in another place, that “ Charity seeketh not her own +.” By our own things he means our own proper interest, emolu. ment, or advantage: and by looking on our own things, the considering of our interest, being anxious about it, and taking every neceffary measure to promote it. Now the prohibition is not absolute. This
* 1 Cor X. 24;
† 1 Cor. xiii. s.
is evident from the reason and nature of the thing, and from the apostle's using the connective particle also in the latter clause of the text : “ Let not every man, look on his own things,” that is on his own things only, “ but also on the things of others.” Here then it will be of importance to enquire, how far, and under what restrictions, we may be allowed to consult our own interest. Our interests may be considered as either spiritual or temporal. • By our spiritual interests we mean the health, profperity, and final salvation of our souls. It is of infinite consequence to a guilty depraved creature, that he be restored to the favour and likeness of his offended Creator ; and fo escape the wrath to come, and attain to the happiness of heaven. Wherefore, if dread of misery, and desire of happiness, are passions connatural to us, and if the evils and blessings just mentioned are the greatest imaginable ; doubtless it is not only allowable, but our incumbent duty, to take every possible measure to avoid the former, and obtain the latter. To be indifferent about our salvation, is highly criminal; to make it our first and principal object, highly commendable. Such is the language both of season and scripture. And it were easy to shew, that the minding religion is not only infinitely beneficial to a man himself, but is the direct means to dispose him to look after the interests of others, and to enable him more effe&tually to promote them. If however, under a notion of taking care of their fouls, and acquiring an extraordinary degree of exalted piety, men retire from society into silence and inactivity, they give too fad evidence that they are of a private Selfilh spirit: and it is much to be questioned, amidst.
all their splendid professions, whether they have any just idea of the nature of religion, or have ever entered into the genuine fpirit of it. But the conduct we are cautioned against in our text, hath respect chiefly to our temporal interests.
Now our temporal interests may be all comprehended under the ideas of health, prosperity, and reputa-, tion. And surely no one will affert that these are to be treated with perfect indifference and contempt. Indeed enthusiasm, under the specious pretence of piety, has precipitated some people into austerities strongly expresiive of this. But enthusiasm itself can never make men fall in love with poverty and misery. The utmost it can do is to reconcile them to these evils upon the idea of acquiring applause, a kind of good which in their apprehenfion will more than balance all their painful feelings. For this boasted mortification of theirs is only a bartering two sorts of earthly good, namely ease and wealth, for a third, fame, which they account more splendid. But the truth is, these enjoyments, in their proper place, have, each of them, their value.
As to Health, we not only may, but ought to take care of it. The same apostle who spake the words of our text, bids us “ do ourselves no harm *,” and assures us“ that no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it +." Nor is it mere. ly for the purpose of enjoying life that we are to covet health, but for the further purpose of usefulness. For it is impossible that a man oppressed with pain and fickness should attend with vigour, however benevolent his heart may be, to the active duties of so
cial * Acts xvi. 28.
† Eph. v. 29.
cial life. If, therefore, we would serve our generation, we may, we ought, to take every measure in our power, to preserve and establish our health. .
In like manner, we may affirm concerning Wealth, that it is a real good. It will procure us the necessaries and accomodations of life, and put it in our power to make multitudes of our fellow.creatures happy. There is, therefore, neither wisdom nor virtue in treating riches with an air of haughty contempt, as certain visionaries have done. Indeed, as to these men, it is to be apprehended, without breach of charity, that a criminal passion for ease and sloth is at the bottom of all this affected self-denial of theirs. No. Industry is a virtue. “He that is diligent in business shall “ stand before kings, and not before mean men*." And“ he who provides not for his own, especially. “ for those of his own house, has denied the faith, and " is worse than an infidel +.” “ Study to be quiet,” says our apostle, “ and to do your own business I." And in another place, “ If a man will not work, nei“ther should he eat ||.” The ingenuity, shrewdness, and strength our Creator has endowed us with, are applied to their proper objects, when used, under the reftritions that will be hereafter mentioned, to the purposes of improving our worldly circumstances, and fo augmenting our own happiness and that of others.
And if bodily health and worldly prosperity may be lawfully desired and purlued, fo may reputation and honour likewise. It is an argument of a benevolent heart to wish to please, and of a generous mind to aim to excel. “A good name is better than pre
* Prov. xxii. 29.
t i Tim. v. 8.