Page images
PDF
EPUB

fuses a serenity over the mind under every change of temporal circunıstances, inclining the godly person to recognize and adore the goodness of God, even in the midst of tribulation and distress.—Who ever engaged in earnest prayer to God, without finding that he came from bis closet disposed to bear affliction more patiently, and to rejoice in his temporal mercies with a more pure and solid satisfaction?

Bui here it must be observed that this exemption from the dominion of turbulent passions, and this peace and serenity of mind, are confined principally to those who are really in earnest about religion. Let not such as are contented with a superficial knowledge, and still more superficial practice of the duties of godliness, imagine that they shall possess these high privileges. A slight degree of religious progress serves often only to irritate the passions; to awaken apprehensions; to produce anxiety and terror; and to fill the mind with a fretfulness and gloom, which extend their influence to all the circumstances of the temporal condition. The high and ennobling principles of the Gospel must be wrought into the very frame and texture of the soul, by much reflection and constant prayer; the hope of glory must be realized to the mind, by frequent and deep meditation, and the power of the Redeemer, in his various offices be babitually acknowledged and felt, before true peace,

, the

peace of God, is shed abroad in the heart.

3. Godliness is further profitable in all the various tempers and states of mind to which human nature is liable: for the religion of Christ, by which the godly person is influenced, applies itself with wonderful ease and readiness, as an universal remedy, to all the diseases of the soul.-Is any one hurried away by a fickleness and levity of temper, which prevents application; let him embrace, by faith, the truths of the Gospel; those truths which present to his view the awful realities of the invisible world, the shortness of time, the nearness of eternity, the strictness of the day

of judgment, and the worth of the soul. These subjects are calculated to make the most giddy sober, and the most dissipated serious; to correct the faulty dispositions of the mind, and to enable it to apply with vigour to the various duties of life. Is any one, on the other hand, a prey to melancholy thoughts, which throw a gloom over every earthly prospect of felicity? Would to God, that he knew those glad tidings of great joy, which are represented in Scripture as making the dumb to sing, and the lame man to leap as an hart! Oh that he understood what treasures of mercy are laid up by God for the penitent! what blessings are communicated to those who put their trust in God!--Does any one labour under a covetous temper; under a heart hardened against the wants of his fellow creatures? What is likely to soften him into liberality and compassion, if the free forgiveness and boundless grace of Christ Jesus do not produce this effect? Or would you reclaim the prodigal, whom the impending ruin of his family is unable to move? Behold how godliness is profitable to this end also; for it will bring back the prodigal, crying, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee?” True godliness will humble the proud, and make the timid bold: it can correct all the weaknesses of human nature, and supply all its wants. And as the Son of God, when upon earth, healed the sick, cast out devils, gave sight to the blind, caused the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak; so that there was not one disorder which baffled the power of his word: so his Gospel, the knowledge of which is the very foundation of godliness, is able to heal all the diseases under which the soul of man can labour.

4. Godliness is, in the last place, profitable in all the varying circumstances of life in which we can be placed. It is the ornament of youth; a crown of glory to the hoary head. It will preserve the rich from being elated by their wealth, or putting their trust in uncertain riches; the poor from being discontented or repining at their state, by making them rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God. In times of public calamity, and in scenes of private suffering, he that has made God his refuge will find a most secure abode. Changes and afflictions various and frequent, and as melancholy as they are unavoidable, are incident to us all. And how bitterly are they felt, when we are deprived of the consolations which true godliness holds out to us! How hard is it to bear the loss of property; to have our hopes of a comfortable subsistence for ourselves and our families at once cut off, perhaps through no fault, or defect of prudence on our part; and to be left a prey to melancholy fears of want, after the labour of a whole life has been spent, and supposed to be successfully spent, in acquiring a decent provision! How painful to be bereaved of those in whom our life was bound up; a dear wife, or an affectionate husband, or a dutiful child, the very stay and support of our lives! How painful to meet with unkindness in others, perhaps in those whom we have greatly served; and to see ourselves as we are growing older, less and less valued, and losing by degrees one and another of the comforts of our life! 'How painful to feel ourselves subject to some fatal distemper

which we know that medicine cannot relieve, which holds us as prisoners in our houses, which destroys our activity, consumes our vigour, drinks up our spirits, and leaves us melancholy and dejected; dead even while we live in the world! How painful to feel ourselves likely soon to be called away from a family that depends upon us for support, with the distressing reflection-worse than death to a parent's feelings—of leaving them destitute, dependent upon the bounty of strangers, and exposed to all the miseries of want! These are evils bitterly felt by thousands and tens of thousands in the world; and, could we open the book of futurity, which of us here present might not see that some of those evils await us? - Now, is not godliness profitable for this life, if it will help us through all these afflictions? Can its value be described, if it will enable us to bear such calamities as these with patience? Nothing but godliness, it is evident, can do this. All things beside do not even promise a resource. Wealth itself becomes disgustful under many of these circumstances: the heart turns with aversion even from the most favourite pursuits. But let godliness, in its sovereign power, be felt, and mark the effect which it will produce. It will instil into our minds patience and submission: it will lighten our burden, or communicate strength to support us under it. It will teach us to look at joys that never fade, at a portion which shall never be taken from us, to an Almighty God, and to a wise and gracious Father. Faith will inspire us with fortitude and hope; will cheer us with the prospect of a better world to come, where every tear shall be wiped from our eyes, and where all things shall be made new.

There is still one more trying scene through which all must pass, and in which the excellence of godliness is eminently conspicuous. When you come to a dying bed, supposing you to have lived without godliness, and there seriously reflect upon all you have heard of the righteous judgments of God against sin; when in these circumstances you look into the invisible world and consider what might have been gained in it, and what may now be dreaded: how awful the loss of the soul, and how intolerable the ruin which is to last for ever; melancholy indeed must your reflections be! Keenly will

you then feel that godliness might have been not only the repose of a dying bed, but its consolation and joy; for it is equally profitable at the extremity of our lives here, as at our entrance upon the life to come.

II. Hitherto we have only considered godliness as profitable to the individual who practises it, and noticed the peace which it secures to him in the various circumstances of life; but godliness is profitable also in a much wider extent. All who dwell near a truly righteous person will be partakers of the benefits and blessings derived from real religion. The children of a godly parent will have their minds stored with useful instructions, will be guarded against the influence of evil passions, will be treated with tender attention, be saved from many a hurtful lust, and many a pang of remorse, and reap an abundant harvest of prayers. Children that are pious will bear with patience the infirmities of age, and will be dutiful and affectionale; for piety will remind them of obligations which human nature is too apt to forget; and strengthen the bond of natural affection by the tjes of duty and gratitude.Sercunts and Masters who truly fear God, and are carefully endeavouring to please him, will live in

peace and mutual confidence. Angry passions will not disturb the quiet of the dwelling, nor will discontent embitter domestic enjoyment. How tranquil, how blessed, the family, where every member of it, possessing peace in his own soul, through the knowledge of God, meets the rest to minister to their comfort, and increase their inward happiness by acts of cheerful attention, kindness, and love: wbere no jarring string interrupts the harmony of the whole, no evil passion disturbs the tranquillity of the rest!

But, alas! where are such scenes to be found? Too rarely, I allow. Godliness flourishes not in this our polluted earth: it is like a plant in an unfavourable soil, where its growth is stinted and its beauty injured. But we see the tendency of religion to produce happiness in the earth, and wherever it is cordially embraced and seriously cultivated, there, in a proportional measure, is this tendency manifested. Let the precepts of the Gospel be assumed to have their full influence:let us suppose, for example, a family moving without dissimulation, kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another, not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; minding not high things, but condescending to men of low estate, recompensing to no man evil for evil, providing things honourable in the sight of all men;" and surely such a family would be a blessing to the whole neighbourhood.

VOL. 11.

4

« PreviousContinue »