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not suffer, who would not persevere with unshaken faith and immoveable constancy?
Let us, then, my brethren, press forward to the mark for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us seek for a hope full of immortality. Let us be looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.
GODLINESS PROFITABLE TO ALL THINGS.
1. Tim. iv. 8.
Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the prom
ise of the life that now is and of that which is to
WHATEVER advantage may have been allowed to godliness with respect to the world to come, it has been but too frequently considered as not only useless, but sometimes even hurtful, with respect to the present life. A strict regard to prayer and other devotional duties has been thought to unfit men for the business of the world; to throw a shade over the enjoyments of life; and to render it tedious to themselves and gloomy to others. This is a serious charge confidently brought by the dissipated and the profane, and too hastily believed by the young and thoughtless.
Without, however, entering into a very minute consideration of the nature of religion, and the improbability of its producing these bad effects, it might be justly concluded, at once, that this charge must be unfounded. For is it probable, is it possible, that a sin
cere desire to serve our Creator with the faculties he has given, in the station in which he has placed us in the world which he superintends, should only serve to produce unhappiness, and to disturb and confound the business and enjoyments of life?
Two mistakes have concurred to produce this injurious prejudice against religion; one respecting the nature of godliness, the other respecting the proper business of life.
1. It has been assumed, that godliness consists in prayer and devotion only; but this is an erroneous and partial view of its nature. Godliness, indeed, does consist partly in devotion; but, then, devotion is to be considered not as godliness itself, but as a means of acquiring it: it is the acknowledgment of the need we have of it; the serious review and confession of our neglect of it; the solemn determination of the mind to be more stedfast and immoveable in the pursuit and practice of it. Even the more speculative parts of religion; the truths which it develops and the motives which it prescribes, are intended to have a direct and powerful effect upon practice: “The grace of God hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."
2. A mistake has also prevailed with respect to the proper business of man in this world. If, indeed, it be considered as our proper business here to pursue, with insatiable eagerness, the honours or riches of the world, to despise a low situation, to grasp at all the advantages which are thrown in our way, without, perhaps, any scrupulous attention to the lawfulness of the end in view, or the purity of the means employed to attain it; if the enjoyments of life are regarded as consisting in the unrestrained indulgence of our appetites, in the gratification of a selfish and sensual disposition, in mirth and riot, in extravagance and debauchery; if such be the proper business of life, and such its best enjoyments, godliness, it must be confessed, unfits a man for both. But if the great business of life be to discharge, with fidelity and integrity, the various duties of the station in which God has placed us, to improve our time and talents, to watch over and regulate our corrupt affections, to prepare for our future audit at the bar of God; in short, to serve and glorify our God, and to assist others in doing the same; if the proper pleasures of life be such as spring from a thankful enjoyment of God's mercies, a spirit of good will to our fellow-creatures, a mind regulated by the precepts of Scripture, and a hope full of immortality; then godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.
It is, therefore, a great mistake, to suppose the advantages of religion to be confined to another world.
They equally affect the present life and all its employments: they extend not to individuals only, but to societies, to nations, to persons also of every temper and disposition, placed in all the diversified circumstances and situations of life. Godliness instructs and assists, encourages and animates us, in the great work of reforming whatever is amiss, and altering whatever tends to the general unhappiness of mankind. Its tendency is to make this life not merely a preparation for the kingdom of heaven, but a resemblance and portrait of it.
This will more evidently appear if we carefully consider the benefits of godliness, both to the person who practises it and to society at large.
1. Godliness, then, is profitable to the person who practises it, from the effects which it produces on his own mind. These effects are of two kinds: the regulation of the passions, and the production of inward peace; and that in all states and circumstances of life.
1. Godliness regulates the passions.--I need not observe, that it is the tendency of the passions to deceive, enslave, and hurry into misery and ruin those who, neglecting the Gospel, neglect the remedy which God has assigned against their too-powerful influence. Lust, vanity, envy, anger, impatience, pride, and avarice, like wayward children, torment the breast wbich nourishes them. How vast a multitude have been sacrificed ere they have lived out half their days, to excessive drinking! How many from the love of luxury and dissipation, plunge themselves into poverty, debt, and imprisonment! Not a few, urged by avarice, and lured by the hope of gaining at once a large fortune, ruin themselves, their families, and perhaps many other innocent and worthy persons, who had been induced to confide in their integrity. How many, from the peevishness, impatience, or impetuosity of their tempers, are perpetually disquieted themselves, and disquieting all around them!
Such are a few of the effects of the tyranny of ungoverned passions. Indeed, the world is full of misery through their influence. Now, it is the end of godliness to prescribe bounds to their operations, to counteract their evil tendency, and to resist their impetuosity. The man who is truly godly watches against their first movements, ere yet they have conceived, and brought forth sin. He is afraid of those earthly indulgences which minister fuel to their unholy fires; he is taught by the Gospel of his Saviour to deny himself, and to be engaged in mortifying the corrupt affections of the flesh, as well as in resisting the devil. And thus, while in others, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are gratified, and by gratification cherished and strengthened, the truly godly person is employed in crucifying them: he sets not his affections upon the things of the earth, but on the things above. He esteems himself dead to the world, and his life is hid with Christ in God.
2. Neither does godliness produce tranquillity of mind, merely by bridling the impetuosity of the passions; but it also directly communicates peace of soul, by means of the views which it imparts, and the hopes which it inspires: and this inward spiritual peace dif