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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 con troversy, 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 ques tions 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 virtu ous, 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. We 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 what
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.
That is godliness, which, as the apostle here says, "is profitable for all things, [and in particular] has a promise of the life which is to come.'
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 recommend it to men to forsake all sin, and practise all virtue. For, says St. Paul, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; 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 store, -a 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 recompence 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 will 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, bis 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. Ånd 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 death of children or other relatives and friends; at other times, by the unkindness and sad miscar riages of those whose spiritual and eternal interests are most precious and desirable to them.
In such a world as this, wherein all are frail and mortal, where there are different characters, wise and foolish, good and bad; where there are different tempers and dispositions, where there is much peevishness and perverseness, as well