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all nations, beginning at Jerusalem," Luke xxiv. 47. And after our Lord's ascension, when the Jews at Jerusalem were much moved by the discourse Peter had made, and " said to him, and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost," Acts ii. 37, 38. And afterwards, Peter, in the presence of the Jewish council, says: "Him hath God exalted-to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins," Acts v. 31.
St. Paul reminding the elders at Miletus of his past conduct among them, observes, "how he had kept back nothing that was profitable to them, but had shewed them, and taught them publicly, and from house to house: testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx. 20, 21. And giving an account of his conduct, and the doctrine taught by him, since his conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ, he declares to king Agrippa, and the great company with him, how he had "shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance," ch. xxvi. 20.
Sincere repentance therefore is the condition, upon which sinful men may obtain the forgiveness of their past sins. Yea our Lord assures us," there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." He also says, that "there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance," Luke xv. 7-10.
It is certain therefore, that God in his great goodness, will pardon and accept of penitent sinners. But the great difficulty is to bring men to forsake their sins, and return to the practice of virtue. This, and our great want of consideration, our affection for earthly and sensible things, the little regard which men have for the things of religion, have rendered the most awakening arguments necessary. These are set before us in Christ Jesus. And Christ has died, in order to bring us to God, and to induce us to continue in the ways of righteousness. "Who his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray: but are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of your souls," 1 Peter ii. 24, 25.
4. And lastly. Our meditations on this text may assist us in discerning the divine wisdom in the time of the Christian revelation. The apostle says, "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son-made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons," Gal. iv. 4, 5. The purpose was formed very early. And Christ is spoken of as "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world," Rev. xiii. 8. But the full manifestation of this design was deferred. The world was not sooner fit for the mild and gracious dispensation of the gospel. It is true, that Abraham, and the Patriarchs, were free from many incumbrances afterwards introduced. And for a while true religion, the worship of God, was upheld by the piety of the heads of that family. But when that family became a nation, it evidently appeared, that a number of discriminating rites was needful to keep them separate from their idolatrous neighbours, and to maintain true religion in that which was the only nation and people, that worshipped the only true God.
We ought not therefore to surmise, that the coming of the Messiah was too long deferred. If the expectations of men had not been raised beforehand, if there had not been great preparations made for his reception: the Christian revelation, and the death of Christ itself, might have been either in vain, or however, not to so good purpose, as it was.
Let us then acknowledge and celebrate the wisdom of the Divine Being in affording the world the advantage of so reasonable, so spiritual, and so gracious an institution. Let us be thankful, that the knowledge of it has been brought to us, and that the evidences of the divine original of this religion are still so clear and satisfactory.
And as we in these late ages of the world have the blessing of Abraham, which was so early designed, free from the incumbrances afterwards introduced, and imposed even upon his own posterity by nature; let us prize it, and steadily adhere to the essential articles, and indispensable laws of it, cheerfully "serving God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life," Luke i. 74, 75.
THE PROMISE ANNEXED TO GODLINESS.
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. iv. 8.
THESE Words comprise in them three propositions.
I. Bodily exercise profiteth little.
II. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having, particularly, promise of the life that is
III. Godliness has also promise of the life that now is.
I intend to consider each proposition, in the order just mentioned.
Bodily exercise profiteth little." Which words are differently explained by expositors. 1. Some interpret these words in this manner: all that men do outwardly in religion, though commanded by God, if it be separated from the devotion of the heart, profiteth little. This cannot procure acceptance with God, nor make amends for defects and miscarriages, in point of true holiness.
But there seems to be little ground for this interpretation. It is not favoured by any part of the connection, except that godliness, which is opposed to bodily exercise, does indeed undoubtedly include in it the devotion of the heart, as well as outward acts and performances of religion.
2. Some suppose the apostle herein to refer to the exercises of the Greeks, in their olympic and other games, and any exercises of the body preparatory to those public contentions.
This interpretation has an appearance of probability. St. Paul had just before exhorted Timothy to exercise himself unto godliness. And the original word for exercise is a technical word, often used concerning the preparatory exercises of the Grecian racers and combatants, and the vigour and activity which they exerted in the public contention.
The apostle then adds: for bodily exercise, such as that of those who contend for victory in the celebrated games of Greece, or polite parts of the world as they are esteemed, though it be very difficult, painful and laborious, profiteth little. It may conduce to the increase of bodily strength and vigour, and secure the victory in those combats, and the crown, and other honours, and temporal advantages annexed to it in this world. But all this is a trifling matter in comparison of the advantages of godliness. And after this manner St. Paul writes to the Corinthians. 3. Hereby some understand a severe and excessive discipline, practised by some persons, which is mere will-worship, consisting of long and painful fastings, and abstinence from things in themselves lawful and innocent.
Bodily exercise, says a learned expositor, is here bodily discipline, lying in abstaining from certain meats, keeping set fasts, watchings, lying upon the ground, going barefoot, wearing sack-cloth, or hair-cloth, abstaining from wine, or marriage: all this is of little advantage: the mind of man is not bettered hereby.
This interpretation seems to be not a little favoured and supported by the coherence. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, says the apostle at the beginning of the chapter, "that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,-speaking lies in hypocrisy,-forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.-If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.- But refuse profane and idle fables; and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: whereas godliness is profitable unto all things."
This sense is received by many expositors of good note: bodily exercise, says one, intends useless mortifications and macerations of the body, and other superstitious practices then in use
among the Jews and some other people. And, says another, by bodily exercise St. Paul means abstinences and austerities, which simple or hypocritical men had introduced. And he makes use of an expression, which properly signifies the combats or exercises of those who contended in the Grecian games: because those persons observed a certain diet, or regimen, to render themselves more fit for the combats. The apostle's observation in this place may be illustrated by what he says to the Colossians, ch. ii. 20-23. "Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world; why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? (touch not, taste not, handle not; which are all to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men:-which things have indeed a shew of will-worship and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." A passage likewise of a polite Jewish writer, contemporary with our Saviour and his apostles, though no Christian, may cast some light upon this interpretation. If, says he, you see a man designedly mortifying himself with hunger and thirst when the circumstances of things lay him not under any such necessity, omitting the usual refreshments of bathing and anointing, greatly negligent, or even sordid in his dress, often lying upon the bare ground instead of a bed, and pleasing himself with such sort of temperance; have pity upon him, and shew him wherein that virtue (of temperance) consists: for all those exercises are useless torments of body and mind.
The apostle's design then is this: bodily exercise, such as is practised in the public games of Greece, or in the preparatory exercises: and that which some others observe according to rules and institutions of human invention, is of little advantage.
That is the first proposition.
II. The second proposition contained in the text is, that godliness is profitable for all things, having, in particular, promise of the life that is to come.
This indeed stands last. But I have chosen to invert the order, and speak of this first, because the promise, or happiness of the life that now is; as to godliness, or godly persons; very much depends upon the promise of the life that is to come: for which reason I hope this method will not be disapproved.
By godliness I think we are here to understand every branch of religion and virtue, which is reasonable in itself, or expressly required and commanded of God. Indeed the word is sometimes used in a more restrained sense, for that part of our duty which more immediately respects God: as when it is said, that we are taught by the gospel to live "soberly, righteously and godly in this present world," Tit. ii. 12. But at other times the word has a more comprehensive meaning. So at the end of the preceding chapter of this epistle to Timothy, ch. iii. 16. “ And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness." Again, in another chapter, 1 Tim. vi. 3, 4. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing." What the apostle intends by godliness here we may learn from a parallel exhortation in the second epistle to this same evangelist: "Flee also youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart; but foolish and unlearned questions avoid," 2 Tim. ii. 22, 23. There he directs Timothy to follow the several branches of that godliness, to which here in the text he only in general exhorts him to exercise himself.
Undoubtedly godliness in the comprehensive, which is a just sense of the word, includes every thing holy and virtuous, the love of God and our neighbour, and all the duties included in these general precepts and principles of religion.
It includes the fear or reverence of God, trust in his care and providence, faith in his promises, and a readiness to bear and endure whatever he lays upon us.
It includes likewise the practice of truth, righteousness and goodness toward men. should also be meek, patient and long-suffering. And we are to govern and regulate our affections, senses and appetites, according to the rules of reason, using all the comforts and innocent enjoyments of this life with sobriety and moderation.
If we will complete the character of godliness, we should walk in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless, without any wilful, designed, or allowed exceptions and omissions, or presumptuous transgressions whatever.
And we should maintain and profess the truths, which God has made known to us, whether by reason or by revelation, whoever denies or opposes them.
This is godliness, which, as the apostle here says, ticular] has a promise of the life which is to come."
"is profitable for all things, [and in par
They who live godly, who adhere to and observe the doctrine which is according to godliness, and practise the several parts of piety just described, shall obtain everlasting life; happiness and glory in a future state, when the life that now is has a period.
This is so certain and so manifest a truth, that to you it needs no proof or demonstration. Jesus himself assures us, he came, that his people "might have life; and that they might have it more abundantly," John x. 10. He has declared, that when he shall come again to judge the world, and shall finally separate men according to their different characters, "the righteous shall go away into life eternal," Matt. xxv. 48. He said to his disciples: "If I live, ye shall live also:" John xiv. 19; and bid them "not to fear," though a little "flock," since it "was their Father's good pleasure to give them a kingdom," Luke xii. 32. This is, as it were, his last will and testament: "Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me, where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me," John xvii. 24. It would be tedious. to recite only a small part of the passages of the gospels and epistles of the New Testament, where this is clearly taught. I shall only remind you of the beginning of the second epistle to Timothy, and of the epistle to Titus. The former is: "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, according to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus." The latter: "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness: in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began."
Upon the foundation of this well-grounded hope, the apostles recommended it to men to forsake all sin, and practise all virtue. For, says St. Paul, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live," Rom viii. 13. And in the last chapter of this epistle to Timothy, 1 Tim. vi. 17-19. " Charge them that are rich in this world, that they do good, that they be rich in good works,-laying up in storea good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” 1 Tim. vi. 17-19.
"This then is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation."
III. The third proposition in the text is, that "godliness has also the promise of the present life, or the life that now is."
This, possibly, may require some proof and evidence. The former proposition, some may be ready to say, is indeed unquestioned, and without controversy true and certain. There does "remain a rest to the people of God," Heb. iv. 10. When Christ shall come again to render to every one according to his work, there will be equal and exact retributions made to all. And . the righteous shall receive a full recompense of all their services, labours and sufferings. But here it is not so. Here the religious and virtuous seem not to have any very desirable portion allotted to them. They are often neglected and scorned: and even hated and oppressed. They are truly and properly styled pilgrims and strangers on this earth. And this world is to them a very vale of tears. Did not Paul and Barnabas, as they went on confirming the churches which they had planted, acknowledge, "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God," Acts xiv. 22. Does not St. Paul likewise say, that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution," 2 Tim. iii. 12. And Solomon under the ancient Mosaic dispensation, when promises of temporal good things for the righteous are thought to have been more express, declares from his observation of things: "that no man knows love or hatred by all that is before him,” and that "all things come alike to all," Eccl. ix. 1, 2..
To which I would answer, that nevertheless it ought to be supposed, that there is a truth in the observation of the text, that "godliness is profitable for all things, and has promise of the life that now is." We have no good reason to charge the apostle with inconsistency. Nor has he forgot what he said upon other occasions, of the afflictions and persecutions endured by himself or others in the service of truth. No, these things were ever present to his mind. And he immediately adds after the words we are considering: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe."
Let me attempt an illustration of this point in the following observations.
1. It is certain, that God's providence is over all his works, and that he has an especial, and
more favourable regard to righteous and sincerely good men than to others. As David says: "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness, his countenance doth behold the upright," Ps. xi. 7. which ought to be admitted as an undoubted maxim, never to be called in question: and is equivalent to what St. Paul says in the words cited just now, "God is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe."
2. It ought to be owned, that the great promise of the gospel is eternal life, or happiness in a future state, the life which is to come, as it is expressed in the text. "And this is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life," 1 John ii. 25. Again, "And this is the record, that God has given us eternal life: and this life is in his Son," ch. v. 11. And to the like purpose many other texts of the New Testament. See 2 Tim. i. 1. Tit. i. 1—3. Heb. viii. 6.
3. Nevertheless there are under the gospel dispensation promises and assurances of comfort, peace and happiness to good men in the present world. Says our Lord, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth," Matt. v. 5. Arguing against solicitude for the things of this present life, he says: "Therefore take no thought," that is, be not anxious," saying, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you," Matt. vi. 31, 32. And, every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life," Matt. xix. 29. Or, as in another gospel, "shall receive an hundred fold, now in this present time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come, eternal life," Mark x. 30. And when he forewarned the disciples, that " in the world they should have tribulation," John xvi. 33, he sufficiently assured them, that through him they would have peace and comfort.
4. But yet neither the law nor the gospel makes promises and assurances of remarkable prosperity and greatness to all good men in this world. Not much wealth, or great honour and respect from men: but rather only a competence of good things, favour and esteem with good men, and those among whom they live. This seems to be what our Lord means, when he says, all these things, food and raiment, before spoken of, shall be added unto you.
Nor is it any thing more that is promised in the Old Testament. So particularly in the thirty-seventh Psalm, a remarkable portion of scripture, with regard to this point. "Trust in the Lord, and do good. So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed,” Ps. xxxvii. 3.—" For the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace," ver. 11.-" I have been young, and now am old: yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread," ver. 25. And at the sixteenth verse of that psalm: "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked." Which is entirely conformable to what our Lord observes: "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance which he possesseth," Luke xii. 15. And considering the snares and temptations of this present world, some wise men have chosen a competence as the most desirable condition, preferable as to want, so also to abundance. Says Agur: "Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." Prov. xxx. 8, 9.
5. Some inequality and diversity of circumstances, with a variety of afflictions, is not unsuitable to the present state and condition. In this world the nature and constitution of all men is frail and mortal; it is a state of trial not of recompense. All therefore must unavoidably be liable to some, yea to many inconveniences, troubles, pains, sorrows, and disappointments. And all without exception must in the end submit to the stroke of death.
Good men, as well as others, may meet with trials and afflictions. It is the necessary consequence and result of the present frame of things. It cannot be otherwise, without a continued series of miraculous interpositions, and overthrowing the present course of nature, and turning this world, which appears to be a state of trial, into a state of remuneration and reward. Good men being mortal as well as others, they are liable to various bodily weaknesses and indispositions, to pining and tedious sicknesses, and even to long-continued exquisite and tormenting pains. And they may be tried and exercised with other disasters and afflictions, the