For physical exercise is of limited value, but godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for the present life and for the one to come.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF GODLINESS TO ANY MERE BODILY EXERCISE. "For bodily exercise profiteth to a small extent."
1. The allusion here is not to the ascetic discipline already noticed, because:
(1) Though it might apply to the more developed austerities of later times - flagellations, pilgrimages, and weary vigils - it cannot fairly apply to the disuse of marriage and of certain kinds of food. There is no bodily exercise implied in such a quiescent habit or aspect of life.
(2) It is impossible to think that the apostle should even concede that such austerity was profitable to the smallest extent, for he is opposed to the whole idea of it.
(3) Besides, this was not the immediate subject in hand, which was the excellence of true piety.
2. The allusion is to the gymnastic training which occupied so much of the time and energy of the Greek youth. It was profitable for the healthful development of bodily life, but by its very nature it was both temporal and temporary in its results and its rewards.
II. THE GROUND OF THE SUPERIORITY OF GODLINESS. "But godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." It has the profit and the promise of a double life.
1. It has the profit and the promise of this present life.
(1) There is the promise of length of days. "The wicked live not half their days."
(2) There is the prophetic promise that they "shall inherit the earth."
(3) There is the profit
(a) of a good name,
(b) of riches and honor; for they will want no good thing.
(4) Godliness is profitable for all things included in the scheme of a holy life.
2. It has the profit and the promise of the life to come.
(1) This does not signify that it merits eternal life, but that it is essentially connected with it in the Divine scheme of salvation.
(2) Thus godliness is "great gain" for the whole life of man in the next life. It involves the highest blessedness of man.
(3) Happy is the man whose future is provided for as well as his present.
III. CORROBORATION OF THE APOSTLE'S ASSERTION RESPECTING GODLINESS. "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation." It was a truth of universal acceptance among Christian people, because, in spite of all the drawbacks of a persecuting time, it had been happily realized in their checkered experience. - T.C.
For bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness is profitable unto all things.
I. WHAT IS GODLINESS? It is real, vital, experimental, practical religion — genuine Christianity — a religion concerning God, the great, the wise, the blessed God.
1. Godliness comprehends a genuine fear. For where there is no fear of God there is no genuine piety — there is no religion.
2. Godliness means the saving knowledge of God, "whom to know is life eternal."
3. And then, where there is knowledge of God, saving knowledge, there must be love to God; and no man can love an unknown object.
4. Then just in proportion as we love God (and this is essential to godliness) we shall be concerned to entertain intercourse with God.
5. Then perceive that this will lead to conformity to God — likeness to God. Such, indeed, is the very nature, such the constitution of the human mind, that it contracts a resemblance to those objects with which from inclination it is the most conversant. Apply the remark where you will, it will hold. Look at the man of this world; where are his thoughts? Why, the world is his object, and he becomes more and more worldly: and so of every other class. Now look at the man of God: his thoughts rise to God, his affections are spiritually placed on God: there is his object, there is his all; and, beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus, he catches the impress of it.
6. Let me say, too, that all Scriptural piety is practical. All that godliness which is genuine must lead to holiness of life and conversation.
II. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF GODLINESS? "Godliness is profitable." As though the apostle had said, "It is not merely a very harmless and innocent thing, and therefore no person should be afraid of it." This would have been very low praise, if it had been praise at all. It is not merely said "that it is profitable for some things"; nor is it affirmed concerning it that it is profitable for many things; but the affirmation is without qualification, "Godliness is profitable for all things." "The life that now is." You cannot hear this without at once in your minds adverting to the beneficial influence of godliness on a man's external circumstances. Then consistent godliness gives a man character. Besides, godliness saves a man from intemperance: and what a vast benefit is this! When a man becomes truly godly, he becomes industrious. You never saw an idle Christian. And then the Lord will bless the man that fears Him. Besides, godliness is beneficial considered in its influence in preserving and prolonging the life that now is. Then is it not true that ungodliness tends to impair and destroy life? Godliness is profitable in its beneficial influence on all the relations of life — on all the grades in society. Let me just add here that godliness is profitable at all the periods of life. It is profitable in the morning of life. Oh! how it brightens the morning: and is not morning the best part of the day? And if it be bright in the morning, oh! may it not bless the noon? Then if it brighten the morn and bless the noon, how will it cheer the evening of life! Learn the inconsistency and folly of those who, while they admit the profit of godliness, make no effort to avail themselves of its advantages. Let me recommend this religion to you on the principle of self-interest.
I. ITS TENDENCY IS TO SUBJUGATE THE PASSIONS. IT is more than its tendency; it is its direct effect. Not that man is wholly without restraint; there are three things which may operate to check the evil passions of the heart.
1. Conscience has some power.
3. Self-interest.Self-interest can do something to check the passions, because it will say, "This will do you an injury." But they are unable to do this perfectly, and that for two reasons.
1. That passion is greatly assisted by powerful allies. Satan sits at the right hand of the human heart, blowing up the coals of evil which are in the heart into a flame of sin, which marks the demon's power over fallen man. But religion comes to counteract this; the grace of God, by applying to the mind Divine truth and disposing the mind to love and embrace it, improves the mind —(1) By strengthening it. It gives such views, and principles, and motives, as direct the conduct.(2) By enlightening it. The tendency of religion on the mind is to make it see more accurately, reason more correctly, and feel more properly.
II. IT PRESENTS RIGHT PRINCIPLES OF ACTION.
1. It presents a principle extremely weighty to regulate the mind aright and make it decide right on such things as it is called to judge respecting it. It enables the mind to realize eternity; to be influenced by it at such times and in such places as an individual living in preparation for it should be influenced and guided in relation to an appearance before the great tribunal.
2. Religion produces the realization of another object which tends to guide the mind aright. What is that which will decide the rectitude of the whole life? The apostle has stated it — "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God"; because all that is not done according to this motive is not done according to the will of God.
3. Religion influences the mind and will aright, and therefore elevates the mind, because it furnishes a directory — the Scriptures. Religion has this influence, because —
III. IT PRESENTS TO THE MIND THE HIGHEST SUBJECTS OF CONTEMPLATION.
1. It brings to the mind the things of God. It takes the mind, by contemplation, up into the mount, as Moses was taken up to converse with God; or as the disciples were taken up into the Mount of Transfiguration to behold the glory of Christ and to hear Him talk with Moses and Elias. It has an elevating effect.
2. It makes the mind serious; and seriousness improves the mind. Trifling is the mark of a light mind, and does not improve it. Religion, as it induces habits of seriousness, cannot fail to improve the mind.
3. The study of God's Word tends to strengthen the mind; and that which strengthens the mind improves it.
4. Religion gives acquiescence to the will of God; and this improves the mind. The mind that is opposed to the will of God is always battling; but the mind that yields to the will of God is always going right.
IV. BY THE INTERNAL PEACE, the peace of soul which religion is calculated to produce, and which it actually does produce; it raises the human mind. When the mind is at peace, it can operate calmly, and is therefore more likely to regulate the judgment and guide it aright. It has often been remarked what effect religion produces in seasons of great danger. This was strikingly observed in the case of the loss of the Kent East Indiaman. There were some persons on board under the influence of religion; and some of these, even females, became objects of admiration, because of their remarkable presence of mind. And this power of religion has often been remarked in our pious soldiers and sailors: their minds have been composed in the hour of danger and of battle; and they have been distinguished by their energy and calmness. In fact, almost all that distinguishes the rational from the irrational is seen in the Christian. The Christian in this world is always in danger. We cannot but observe, then —
1. How superior is the state of the human mind in those who have religion to the state of the mind in those who have it not.
2. In attentively reading the history of the world, we may state, without fear Of contradiction, that the minds of men have been improved in proportion to the degree of religion they have possessed.
(R. Sibthorp.)1. "Godliness is profitable," as it tends greatly to alleviate the sorrows of life.
2. Godliness is profitable because it imparts sweetness to the enjoyments and an additional relish to the pleasures of life. It is a libel on piety, to represent it as something gloomy and morose.
3. "Godliness," because it confers upon its possessors pleasures peculiarly its own, "is profitable."
4. Godliness is profitable, as it disarms death of its terrors and the grave of its gloom.
5. "Godliness is profitable," for it prepares its possessor for eternal glory. From this subject we learn the importance — the value of religion. But, in fine, if religion is so profitable, I need scarcely, except for the purpose of excitement, remind you that it is personal religion that alone can be beneficial to any of you.
(Dr. Beattie.)I. THE NATURE OF GODLINESS.
1. Knowledge of the perfections of God — of the person and work of Christ as the Mediator — of man's state as a fallen creature — of his duty and privileges as redeemed by Christ.(1) As to the perfections of God. This knowledge is to be found nowhere but in the Book of God.(2) Here alone we obtain a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.(3) Here we are made acquainted with man's state as a fallen creature.(4) As to his duty and privileges. Now, the knowledge of all this is essential to true religion in any soul.
2. Obedience to the commands of God.
3. The transformation of the soul into the image of God.
II. THE FRUITS, OR TENDENCIES AND EFFECTS, OF GODLINESS.
1. For the increase of worldly comfort.
2. For the establishment of respectability of character in the world.
3. For the improvement of the human mind.
(P. M'Owan.)I. And, first, WHAT IS GODLINESS? It is a real belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; our Maker, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier. It is believing in Him, as He is made known to us in the Bible, in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us see, whether, even in this world, godliness is not great gain. In the first place, the Scripture gives a general promise that the godly man shall have good things in this world.
1. For godliness fits a man for every station. It is that character on which favour, honour, and esteem surely follow.
2. The godly man alone really enjoys the things which God gives him here.
3. But further, the godly man alone has the privilege of know ing that all things shall work together for his good.
4. But after all, if you would know the great gain of godliness, even in this life, you must try it.
II. And this word BRINGS US TO THE FULL GAIN OF GODLINESS. If in this life only the believer had hope in Christ, he might still be deemed of all men most miserable.
(E. Blencowe, M. A.)I. It is to be observed that under the Jewish dispensation temporal promises were most expressly made to obedience, and most particularly with regard to the national success of the righteous against their public enemies (Deuteronomy 32:29).
II. Therefore it is to be observed in the next place, and the observation holds more universally true, that religion and virtue, whenever they obtain generally so as to prevail in a nation, do bring along with them very great temporal blessings.
III. As to the case of particular and private persons, about whom is much the greatest difficulty, there are several considerations necessary to be taken in in order to determine with any exactness how far godliness having the promise of the present life can be applied to them in this mixed and disorderly state of things. And —
1. Religion and piety does not generally alter the natural circumstances or the relative states and conditions of men. If a man be poor or be a servant or slave, his being pious and religious will not certainly make him rich or gain him his freedom.
2. Godliness and true holiness does not exempt men from the unavoidable casualties of nature, such as sickness, death, and the like.
3. Righteousness and piety do not exempt men from such afflictions as God sees necessary either to make trial of their virtue or to make an example of it.
4. Religion and virtue do not always secure men from all the consequences of their own former sins.
5. Righteousness and true holiness do not secure men from the consequences of other men's sins also: from oppression and unrighteous judgment.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
1. We may consider that piety is exceeding useful for all sorts of men, in all capacities, all states, all relations; fitting and disposing them to manage all their respective concernments, to discharge all their peculiar duties, in a proper, just, and decent manner. If then it be a gross absurdity to desire the fruits, and not to take care of the root, not to cultivate the stock, whence they sprout; if every prince gladly would have his subjects loyal and obedient, every master would have his servants honest, diligent, and observant, every parent would have his children officious and grateful, every man would have his friend faithful and kind, every one would have those just and sincere, with whom he doth negotiate or converse; if any one would choose to be related to such, and would esteem their relation a happiness; then consequently should every man in reason strive to further piety, from whence alone those good dispositions and practices do proceed.
2. Piety doth fit a man for all conditions, qualifying him to pass through them all with the best advantage, wisely, cheerfully, and safely; so as to incur no considerable harm or detriment by them. Is a man prosperous, high, or wealthy in condition? Piety guardeth him from all the mischiefs incident to that state, and disposeth him to enjoy the best advantages thereof. It keepeth him from being swelled and puffed up with vain conceit. It preserveth him from being perverted or corrupted with the temptations to which that condition is most liable; from luxury, from sloth, from stupidity, from forgetfulness of God, and of himself; maintaining among the floods of plenty a sober and steady mind. Such a wondrous virtue hath piety to change all things into matter of consolation and joy. No condition in effect can be evil or sad to a pious man: his very sorrows are pleasant, his infirmities are wholesome, his wants enrich him, his disgraces adorn him, his burdens ease him; his duties are privileges, his falls are the grounds of advancement, his very sins (as breeding contrition, humility, circumspection, and vigilance), do better and profit him: whereas impiety doth spoil every condition, doth corrupt and embase all good things, doth embitter all the conveniences and comforts of life.
3. Piety doth virtually comprise within it all other profits, serving all the designs of them all: whatever kind or desirable good we can hope to find from any other profit, we may be assured to enjoy from it. He that hath it is ipso facto vastly rich, is entitled to immense treasures of most precious wealth; in comparison whereto all the gold and all the jewels in the world are mere baubles. He hath interest in God, and can call Him his, who is the all, and in regard to whom all things existent are "less than nothing." The pious man is in truth most honourable. The pious man is also the most potent man: he hath a kind of omnipotency, because he can do whatever he will, that is, what he ought to do; and because the Divine power is ever ready to assist him in his pious enterprises, so that "he can do all things by Christ that strengtheneth him." The pious man also doth enjoy the only true pleasures; hearty, pure, solid, durable pleasures. As for liberty, the pious man most entirely and truly doth enjoy that; he alone is free from captivity to that cruel tyrant Satan, from the miserable slavery to sin, from the grievous dominion of lust and passion. As for all other profits, secluding it, they are but imaginary and counterfeit, mere shadows and illusions, yielding only painted shows instead of substantial fruit.
4. That commendation is not to be omitted which is nearest at hand, and suggested by St. Paul himself to back this assertion concerning the universal profitableness of piety; "For," saith he, "it hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." As for the blessings of this life, although God hath not promised to load the godly man with affluence of worldly things, yet hath He promised to furnish him with whatever is needful or convenient for him, in due measure and season, the which he doth best understand. Particularly there are promised to the pious man, A supply of all wants. — "The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish." A protection in all dangers. — "The eye of the Lord is on them that fear Him, on them that hope in His mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine." Guidance in all his undertakings and proceedings. — "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." Success and prosperity in his designs. — "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." Comfortable enjoying the fruits of his industry. — "Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands." Satisfaction of all reasonable desires. — "The desire of the righteous shall be granted." Firm peace and quiet. — "Great peace have they which love Thy law." "The fruit of righteousness is sowed in peace." Joy and alacrity. — "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Support and comfort in afflictions. — "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." Deliverance from trouble. — "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." Preservation and recovery from mishaps, or miscarriages. — "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand." Preferment of all sorts, to honour and dignity, to wealth and prosperity. — "Wait on the Lord, and keep His way; and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land." Long life. — "The fear of the Lord prolongeth days." A good name endureth after death. — "The memory of the just is blessed." Blessings entailed on posterity. — "His seed shall be mighty on earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed." "The root of the righteous shall not be moved." It is indeed more frequently, abundantly, and explicitly promised unto God's ancient people, as being a conditional ingredient of the covenant made with them, exhibited in that as a recompense of their external performance of religious works prescribed in their law. The gospel doth not so clearly propound it, or so much insist on it as not principally belonging to the evangelical covenant, the which, in reward to the performance of its conditions by us, peculiarly doth offer blessings spiritual, and relating to the future state; as also scarce deserving to be mentioned in comparison to those superior blessings. But infinitely more profitable it is, as "having the promises of the future life," or as procuring a title to those incomparably more excellent blessings of the other world; those "indefectible treasures," that "incorruptible, undefiled, and never-fading inheritance, reserved in heaven for us."
(I. Barrow.)1. We may consider that religion doth prescribe the truest and best rules of action; thence enlightening our mind, and rectifying our practice in all matters, and on all occasions, so that whatever is performed according to it, is done well and wisely, with a comely grace in regard to others, with a cheerful satisfaction in our own mind, with the best assurance that things are here capable of, to find happy success and beneficial fruit. Of all things in the world there is nothing more generally profitable than light by it we converse with the world, and have all things set before us; by it we truly and easily discern things in their right magnitude, shape, and colour; by it we guide our steps safely in prosecution of what is good, and shunning what is noxious; by it our spirits are comfortably warmed and cheered, our life consequently, our health, our vigour, and activity, are preserved. The like benefits doth religion, which is the light of our soul, yield to it. Pious men are "children of the light"; pious works are works of light "shining before men." What therefore law and government are to the public, things necessary to preserve the world in order, peace, and safety (that men may know what to do, and distinguish what is their own), that is piety to each man's private state and to ordinary conversation: it freeth a man's own life from disorder and distraction; it prompteth men how to behave themselves toward one another with security and confidence.
2. We may consider more particularly, that piety yieldeth to the practiser all kind of interior content, peace, and joy; freeth him from all kinds of dissatisfaction, regret, and disquiet; which is an inestimably great advantage: for certainly the happiness and misery of men are wholly or chiefly seated and founded in the mind. If that is in a good state of health, rest, and cheerfulness, whatever the person's outward condition or circumstances be, he cannot be wretched: if that be distempered or disturbed, he cannot be happy.
3. Seeing we have mentioned happiness, or the summum bonum, the utmost scope of human desire, we do add, that piety doth surely confer it. Happiness, whatever it be, hath certainly an essential coherence with piety. These are reciprocal propositions, both of them infallibly true, he that is pious is happy; and, he that is happy is pious. All pious dispositions are fountains of pleasant streams, which by their confluence do make up a full sea of felicity.
4. It is a peculiar advantage of piety, that it furnisheth employment fit for us, worthy of us, hugely grateful and highly beneficial to us. Man is a very busy and active creature, which cannot live and do nothing, whose thoughts are in restless motion, whose desires are ever stretching at somewhat, who perpetually will be working either good or evil to himself; wherefore greatly profitable must that thing be which determineth him to act well, to spend his care and pain on that which is truly advantageous to him; and that is religion only. It alone fasteneth our thoughts, affections, and endeavours, on occupations worthy the dignity of our nature.
5. It is a considerable benefit of piety, that it affordeth the best friendships and sweetest society.
(I. Barrow.)I. GODLINESS IS PROFITABLE FOR THE OBTAINING OF ALL TEMPORAL GOOD THINGS THAT WE STAND IN NEED OF. In that catalogue of the Christian's possessions and treasures, which St. Paul has drawn up (1 Corinthians 3:22).
1. As to riches. "The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich (Proverbs 10:22). To all this we may still add, that religion brings contentment to the mind, and "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6). If it does not bring the estate to the mind, it brings the mind to the estate; and that is much the same thing, it is altogether as well. Thus it is that "a little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked" (Psalm 37:16). And he is truly richer with a little, than the others are with a great deal.
2. To honour and good reputation. A blessing which the wise man rates at a higher price than gold and silver, or any of the riches of this world (Proverbs 22:1).
3. Pleasure. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17).(1) As to bodily health, without which we can neither enjoy ourselves, nor anything.(2) A peaceable mind, If the mind be not in tune, the sweetest harmony will make no music in our ears. I must not here pass by an objection or two which may possibly be made against the pleasantness of religion. One is, that it requires some difficult and distasteful duties, as repentance, self-denial and mortification. But as well may one object against the pleasantness of health, because it may be sometimes necessary to take distasteful medicines, either to recover or to preserve it. Another objection against the pleasure of godliness is taken from the uncomfortable lives of some godly persons.
II. GODLINESS IS PROFITABLE FOR THE LIFE THAT NOW IS, TO SUPPORT US UNDER TROUBLES AND AFFLICTIONS WHENEVER THEY BEFALL US. Here let us inquire what those peculiar supports under afflictions are, which are the proper fruits of godliness. They are chiefly these —
1. The testimony of a good conscience. This, St. Paul tells us was his rejoicing in all his tribulations, and at last in the near views of death (2 Corinthians 1:12).
2. A sense of pardon and reconciliation with God is a further support under worldly troubles. Pardon takes away the curse from affliction, and a sense of pardon is a sovereign balm to ease the anguish of the mind.
3. The comfortable hope of heaven, where these present afflictions shall be felt no more, and where they shall be abundantly compensated with fulness of joy for ever.
4. There are the supporting influences of the good spirit of God, which are promised in the gospel to all believers.
III. THAT IT SECURES A SANCTIFIED USE OF AFFLICTIONS, AS WELL AS A HAPPY ISSUE OF THEM; which is therefore a present, as well as a future benefit.
The Homilist.1. It is a mysterious life.
2. It is a trying life.
3. It is a preparatory life.
4. It is a short life.
5. It is a precarious life.
(The Homilist.)I. THE PRINCIPLE.
II. THE PRACTICE. Godliness must be exercised; religion is a personal matter. He must exercise himself vigorously.
III. THE PROFIT.
(D. Thomas.)I. "BODILY EXERCISE" IS OF CONSIDERABLE PROFIT. St. Paul is speaking of the training in the gymnasium. He allows it profits a little. Yet it is not all. No man is necessarily better in heart and life for having the muscles of his arm increased in girth half an inch or an inch. A sound constitution does not necessarily involve goodness in character. If so the Kaffir or Zulu would be the best man upon earth, which he is not. "Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." The discipline of godliness does make a man better inwardly. And the goodness passes from the centre outwards. It includes even that measure of advantage which may be derived from the culture of the body.
II. There is another view of this phrase, "bodily exercise," which we ought to notice before passing on. A large class of writers understand by it not so much athleticism as ASCETICISM. The soul should bear empire over the body; but it should also reverence and care for the body. The laws of the body, of health, of sustenance are equally laws of God, with those of the soul. The perfection of manhood is attained when the laws of both, according to their kind and function, are duly observed. Asceticism is immoral, because it violates wantonly the law of God in one of the fairest provinces of His creation — viz., the delicate, sensitive, serviceable body of man. Yet even asceticism, in certain forms, profiteth a little. "Allow not nature more than nature needs," says Shakespeare. Self-denial in bodily indulgence might put some of us into more robust mental health, and impart to us a finer spiritual tone. I am not sure but that "bodily discipline" might (as St. Paul says) "profit a little." If any bodily appetite or habit rises into mastery over the mind or soul, it must be put in check with a firm hand, and with patient self-denial. So far "bodily exercise," discipline, is not only profitable, but imperative.
III. THE HIGHER PRINCIPLE INCLUDING ALL THAT IS SERVICEABLE IN BOTH ATHLETICISM AND ASCETICISM, AND IMMEASURABLY MORE BESIDE, IS GODLINESS. It grows also by use. "Exercise thyself unto godliness." We grow patient by being patient. We become industrious by refusing to be indolent and by working hard. We learn to love best by loving. We become religious by praying and communion with God. Begin to make God's law a ruling influence and power in your life. Think out what His will is about, say, that temptation which is coming to you to-morrow; then keep to His will, and pass the temptation by. That is the discipline of godliness.
IV. THIS IS PROFITABLE FOR ALL THINGS — unlike athleticism, which profits only for soundness of health and toughness of muscle.
1. For the body itself godliness is profitable. Disease, weakness, morbidness are far more the devil's work than God's.
2. For the mind. He who ordered the planets in their orbits, and the seasons in their unvarying round, has not left the human mind without its law; Godliness brings man into harmony with the Author of his being.
3. For faith. But godliness advances faith. The more godlike we grow, the simpler, clearer, stronger is our faith in God. Live holier lives, live less selfish lives, and you will believe more in God and His Son.
4. The affections. This great reverence for the God who is great and good and loving enlarges our heart and our affections. Godliness is instinctive chivalry. If by your evil passion and harshness, your self-indulgence, your weakness and wanton folly, you blight the lives of others, I tell you, you are ungodly men. Godliness is profitable to the home.
5. Business. Be a godly man. Fear God rather than turns of fortune or than opinion. De like God — true, reliable in your word and deeds.
(A. J. Griffith.)I. A MAN QUICKLY LEARNS IF HE WISHES TO LIVE PROFITABLY HE MUST HAVE REGARD TO LAW. We cannot violate law without suffering for it. Disobedience entails destruction, obedience informs with life.
II. Let us carry this examination into greater detail. THE MOST PROFITABLE HUMAN EXISTENCE IS THAT EXISTENCE WHICH SECURES THE GREATEST BENEFIT TO THE GREATEST NUMBER OF FACULTIES. If we resolve a human being into its elements, we shall find it divisible into body, mind, and soul, or, as some would put it, moral instincts. The true philosophy of living consists in the development of this tripartite. We pass, then, to consider the influence of rigidly religious life upon these sides of our nature.
1. If we practise the precepts of the gospel we will eschew those evil acts which occasion uneasiness and remorse; our temperament will maintain an even tranquility, our happiness will be full and satisfying. It has been truly said that an atheistic age is a barren age. We may safely say, then, that for the growth of the mind a godly life is best.
2. But the mind sends down its roots deep into the encompassing body upon which it acts and is acted upon. Physiologists tell us that a healthy mind conduces to a healthy body. If a Christian life produces vigour and clearness of intellect, then it must have a similar effect on the body. A religious life, then, we assert to be physically beneficial.
3. Passing to the region of the spiritual we are relieved from all necessity for discussion. Spirituality can only exist amid holy influences. The man who sins deadens his moral instincts, makes them useless here, and entails the penalty which such misuse is visited with hereafter.
4. But we cannot have obtained anything like a reliable knowledge of the relative value of two courses of life if we have excluded from our calculations all thought of suffering and sorrow. As we cannot by human device stave off sorrow, it behoves us to consider how it can be most successfully met. Mr. Spurgeon has said that if we take our troubles to God He will carry them for us; but if we take them anywhere else they will roll back again.
III. Passing from the individual man to his business interests, we proceed to CONSIDER WHETHER GODLINESS IS INIMICAL TO WORLDLY SUCCESS. NOW, all that Christianity enforces is the necessity of strict honesty. Religion will not transform the dunce into a genius, but sinfulness will transform the genius into a dunce. And if all things are considered, I feel confident that the just man gains in more than mere clear-headedness. Deceit is a most deceitful helper. Henry Ward Beecher tells a story of a man in the Canadian backwoods who, during the summer months, bad procured a stock of fuel sufficient to serve the winter's consumption. This man had a neighbour who was very indolent, but not very honest, and who, having neglected to provide against the winter storms, was mean enough to avail himself of his neighbour's supplies without the latter's permission or knowledge. Mr. Beecher states that it was found, on computation, that the thief had actually spent more time in watching for opportunities to steal, and laboured more arduously to remove the wood (to say nothing of the risk and penalty of detection), than had the man who in open daylight and by honest means had gathered it. And this is oftener the case than we are disposed to allow. What appear to be short cuts to wealth are never safe ones, and very generally they prove to be extremely circuitous. Relaxation, too, is necessary for all men. Consider, then, whether the frivolous and enervating gaiety so frequently indulged in, or the innocent and energizing merriment of the godly, will best enable a man to recuperate the waste occasioned by business life.
IV. WE CANNOT ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM OTHERS; WE ARE BOUND BY INNUMERABLE BONDS TO THE SYSTEM OF HUMAN INTERESTS. Our welfare is knit up with the welfare of the world. The man, then, who strives to suppress swindling, and who by the nobility of his own character rebukes all cheatery, is doing a grand service for mankind. He is making property more secure, and society more stable. If irreligion was crushed prosperity would visit this country with her brightest blessings and most permanent happiness. The gospel is also the more potent than all the antidotes which economists prescribe for the diminution of crime.
V. IT IS TRUE GODLINESS, NOT SHAM OR SELFISH GODLINESS, THAT PROVES PROFITABLE.
VI. Having thus glanced at the profitableness of religion in this life, LET US BESTOW A MOMENT'S THOUGHT UPON THAT OTHER LIFE WHICH IS ETERNAL. If we lose this, what profit is it that we have been successful in business! We have gained the lesser by losing the greater. The course which in the end will prove profitable cannot be a selfish one. Love to God is indissolubly intertwined with love to man, and the glory of God must issue in man's exaltation in the best and truest sense.
(J. G. Henderson.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. First, let me observe that GODLINESS CHANGES THE TENURE OF THE LIFE THAT NOW IS. It hath "the promise of the life that now is." I want you to mark the word — "it hath the promise of the life that now is." An ungodly man lives, but; how? He lives in a very different respect from a godly man. Sit down in the cell of Newgate with a man condemned to die. That man lives, but he is reckoned dead in law. He has been condemned. If he is now enjoying a reprieve, yet he holds his life at another's pleasure, and soon he must surrender it to the demands of justice. I, sitting by the side of him, breathing the same air, and enjoying what in many respects is only the selfsame life, yet live in a totally different sense. I have not forfeited my life to the law, I enjoy it, as far as the law is concerned, as my own proper right: the law protects my life, though it destroys his life. The ungodly man is condemned already, condemned to die, for the wages of sin is death; and his whole life here is nothing but a reprieve granted by the longsuffering of God. But a Christian man is pardoned and absolved; he owes not his life now to penal justice; when death comes to him it will not be at all in the sense of an infliction of a punishment; it will not be death, it will be the transfer of his spirit to a better state, the slumbering of his body for a little while in its proper couch to be awakened in a nobler likeness by the trump of the archangel. Now, is not life itself changed when held on so different a tenure? "Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is." That word changes the tenure of our present life in this respect, that it removes in a sense the uncertainty of it. God hath given to none of you unconverted ones any promise of the life that now is. You are like squatters on a common, who pitch their tents, and by the sufferance of the lord of the manor may remain there for awhile, but at a moment's notice you must up tents and away. But the Christian hath the promise of the life that now is; that is to say, he has the freehold of it; it is life given to him of God, and he really enjoys it, and has an absolute certainty about it; in fact, the life that now is has become to the Christian a foretaste of the life to come. The tenure is very different between the uncertainty of the ungodly who has no rights and no legal titles, and the blessed certainty of the child of God who lives by promise. Let me add that this word seems to me to sweeten the whole of human life to the man that hath it. Godliness hath the promise of life that now is; that is to say, everything that comes to a godly man comes to him by promise, whereas if the ungodly man hath any blessing apparent, it does not come by promise, it comes overshadowed by a terrible guilt which curses his very blessings, and makes the responsibilities of his wealth and of his health and position redound to his own destruction, working as a savour of death unto death through his wilful disobedience. There is a vast difference between having the life that now is and having the promise of the life that now is — having God's promise about it to make it all gracious, to make it all certain, and to make it all blessed as a token of love from God.
II. THE BENEFIT WHICH GODLINESS BESTOWS IN THIS LIFE. Perhaps the fulness of the text is the fact that the highest blessedness of life, is secured to us by godliness. Under ordinary circumstances it is true that godliness wears a propitious face both towards health and wealth and name, and he who has respect to these things shall not find himself, as a rule, injured in the pursuit of them by his godliness; but still I disdain altogether the idea that all these three things together, are or even make up a part of the promise of the life that now is. I believe some persons have the life that now is in its fulness, and the promise of it in its richest fulfilment, who have neither wealth, health, nor fame; for being blessed with the suffering Master's smile and presence, they are happier far than those who roll in wealth, who luxuriate in fame, and have all the rich blessings which health includes. Let me now show you what I think is the promise of the life that now is. I believe it to be an inward happiness, which is altogether independent of outward circumstances, which is something richer than wealth, fairer than health, and more substantial than fame. This secret of the Lord, this deep delight, this calm repose, godliness always brings in proportion as it reigns in the heart. Let us try and show that this is even so. A godly man, is one who is at one with his Maker.
1. It must always be right with the creature when it is at one with the Creator. But when godliness puts our will into conformity with the Divine will, the more fully it does so, the more certainly it secures to us happiness even in the life that now is. I am not happy necessarily because I am in health, but I am happy if I am content to be out of health when God wills it. I am not happy because I am wealthy, but I am happy if it pleases me to be poor because it pleases God I should be.
2. The Christian man starting in life as such is best accoutred for this life. He is like a vessel fittingly stored for all the storms and contrary currents that may await it. The Christian is like a soldier, who must fain go to battle, but he is protected by the best armour that can be procured.
3. With a Christian all things that happen to him work for good. Is not this a rich part of the promise of the life that now is? What if the waves roar against him, they speed his bark towards the haven?
4. The Christian enjoys his God under all circumstances. That, again, is the promise of the life that now is.
5. I am sure you will agree with me that the genuine possessor of godliness has the promise of the life that now is in his freedom from many of those cares and fears which rob life of all its lustre. The man without godliness is weighted with the care of every day, and of all the days that are to come, the dread remembrance of the past, and the terror of the future as well.
6. And as he is thus free from care, so is he free from the fear of men.
7. Moreover, the fear of death has gone from the Christian. This with many deprives the life that now is of everything that is happy and consoling. Another application of the text is this. There is a bearing of it upon the sinner. It is quite certain, O ungodly man, that the promise of the life that now is belongs only to those who are godly. Are you content to miss the cream of this life? I pray you, if you will not think of the life to come, at least think of this.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(W. M. Punshon.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. In order to show that happiness is attainable, I shall first appeal to the INFALLIBLE ASSURANCES OF GOD'S INSPIRED WORD (2 Chronicles 20:20; 2 Chronicles 26:5; Job 36:11). In the first Psalm there is an encomium upon the happiness of the godly (Matthew 6:33).
II. THE MANIFEST AND UNQUESTIONABLE TENDENCY OF TRUE GODLINESS TO IMPART AND INSURE HAPPINESS. Health is by universal consent considered an essential ingredient to happiness. Cheerfulness is a part of happiness. And who can pretend to cheerfulness on such just grounds as the real Christian, the man of genuine godliness? His principles make him happy. Look at the influence of those principles on friendship; which is essential to happiness. Mark how the principles of godliness bear upon a man's usefulness. How can I be happy unless I am useful?
III. THE EXPERIENCE OF THE POWER OF THE GOD WHOM WE SERVE. If I can show you that happiness has been actually attained, it will be quite clear that it is attainable. Look, therefore, at the history and experience of the servants of God. I will grant the straitness of their circumstances, for they are often a poor and an afflicted people. Let me call your attention to the case of the prophet Habbakuk. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail and the field shall yield no meat, the flocks shall be cut off from the fold and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Look at Paul and Silas — their backs lacerated with the Roman scourge, their feet made fast in the stocks, condemned to spend the night in a prison; "at midnight they prayed and sang praises to God; and the prisoners heard them." Now either these persons must be grossly deceived, or happiness is attainable.
IV. In the fourth place, I must make an appeal to the fact of the EXISTENCE OF HYPOCRITES IN THE CHURCH. The counterfeit itself proves the value and the existence of the genuine coin.
V. Finally, I make my appeal to the CONFESSIONS AND LAMENTATIONS OF THE UNGODLY THEMSELVES; who, having discarded religion, both in principle and in practice, have been left to rue their own folly, and to admit that their happiness was indeed illusory and vain, ending in bitter disappointment. Some have been honest enough to confess this; that they have "forsaken the fountain of living waters," and they have heaped to themselves immeasurable bitterness and sorrow of heart.
1. In conclusion, then, let this subject, in the first place, rectify our judgments.
2. In the next place, let this subject decide our choice. The consideration of it will do us good, if the decisions of the will should follow the enlightenment of the understanding.
3. Let this subject, thirdly, awaken our gratitude.
4. Finally, let this subject serve to stimulate our desire for a more full and complete and final happiness beyond the grave.
I. GODLINESS CONCERNING THE LIFE TO COME POSSESSES A PROMISE UNIQUE AND UNRIVALLED.
1. I say a unique promise, for, observe, infidelity makes no promise of a life to come. It is the express business of infidelity to deny that there is such a life, and to blot out all the comfort which can be promised concerning it. Man is like a prisoner shut up in his cell, a cell all dark and cheerless save that there is a window through which he can gaze upon a glorious landscape.
2. No system based upon human merit ever gives its votaries a promise of the life to come, which they can really grasp and be assured of. No self-righteous man will venture to speak of the assurance of faith; in fact, he denounces it as presumption. Godliness hath a monopoly of heavenly promise as to the blessed future. There is nothing else beneath high heaven to which any such promise has ever been given by God, or of which any such promise can be supposed. Look at vice, for instance, with its pretended pleasures — what does it offer you? And it is equally certain that no promise of the life that is to come is given to wealth. Nay, ye may grasp the Indies if ye will; ye may seek to compass within your estates all the lands that ye can see far and wide, but ye shall be none the nearer to heaven when ye have reached the climax of your avarice. There is no promise of the life that is to come in the pursuits of usury and covetousness. Nor is there any such promise to personal accomplishments and beauty. How many live for that poor bodily form of theirs which so soon must moulder back to the dust! Nor even to higher accomplishments than these is there given any promise of the life to come. For instance, the attainment of learning, or the possession of that which often stands men in as good stead as learning, namely, cleverness, brings therewith no promise of future bliss. "Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come," but to nothing else anywhere, search for it high or low, on earth or sea, to nothing else is the promise given save to godliness alone.
II. I pass on to notice, in the second place, that THE PROMISE GIVEN TO GODLINESS IS AS COMPREHENSIVE AS IT IS UNIQUE. In the moment of death the Christian will begin to enjoy this eternal life in the form of wonderful felicity in the company of Christ, in the presence of God, in the society of disembodied spirits and holy angels.
III. I have shown you that the promise appended to godliness is unique and comprehensive, and now observe that IT IS SURE. "Godliness hath promise"; that is to say, it hath God's promise. Now, God's promise is firmer than the hills. He is God, and cannot lie. He will never retract the promise, nor will He leave it unfulfilled. He was too wise to give a rash promise: he is too powerful to be unable to fulfil it.
IV. This promise IS A PRESENT PROMISE. You should notice the participle, "having promise." It does not say that godliness after awhile will get the promise, but godliness has promise now at this very moment. When we get a man's promise in whom we trust, we feel quite easy about the matter under concern. A note of hand from many a firm in the city of London would pass current for gold any day in the week; and surely when God gives the promise, it is safe and right for us to accept it as if it were the fulfilment itself, for it is quite as sure. You cannot enjoy heaven, for you are not there, but you can enjoy the promise of it. Many a dear child, if it has a promise of a treat in a week's time, will go skipping among its little companions as merry as a lark about it. When the crusaders first came in sight of Jerusalem, though they had a hard battle before them ere they could win it, yet they fell down in ecstacy at the sight of the holy city. When the brave soldiers, of whom Xenophon tells us, came at last in sight of the sea, from which they had been so long separated, they cried out, "Thallasse! Thallasse!" — "The sea! the sea!" and we, though death appears between us and the better land, can yet look beyond it.
V. This promise which is appended to godliness is A VERY NEEDFUL ONE. It is a very needful one, for ah! if I have no promise of the life that is to come, where am I? and where shall I be? Oh! how much I want the promise of the life to come, for if I have not that I have a curse for the life to come.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. First, notice SOME OF THE PROOFS THAT A "LIFE TO COME" DOES REALLY EXIST. There are evidences upon the subject of a future life, apart from any direct connection with revelation, to which nevertheless no insignificant weight must be assigned. I refer you especially to the masterly work of Dr. Butler, whence I imagine no candid mind can arise, without being satisfied that there is a strong probability, arising from analogy, of the continuance of conscious being after the death of the body, and entirely and absolutely uninjured by it. We may notice, again, the common consent of mankind, who, in all nations and in all ages, have admitted a futurity, although frequently with acknowledged and grievous defects: a fact, I conceive, which can only be properly accounted for by receiving the substantial and final truth of the thing which is believed. We may notice, again, the aspirations after something far beyond this transitory and mortal sphere — "longings of immortality." We may notice, again, the operations of the momentous faculty of conscience, in the judgment which it forms as to the moral qualities and deserts of actions and thoughts, and the feelings which it inspires in the bosom (by reason of its decisions) of pleasure or pain, hope or fear, satisfaction or remorse; and all these, which are entirely independent of the opinions of other men, are to be regarded as prophetic indications of a subjection to other principles of decision, and to a great system of moral government, the sanctions of which are to be found in the yet impervious and impalpable future. But we must direct our regard to revelation itself: by which, of course, we mean the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, "given by inspiration of God," and unfolding all the truths relating to the condition and to the destinies of man.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS BY WHICH "THE LIFE TO COME" IS DISTINGUISHED. It will appear to you important, besides the contemplation of the general fact, to notice the particular attributes, which the fact involves. It is very possible, to admit the general fact, and yet to indulge great and perhaps fatal mistakes as to the detail. The heathen admits the general fact, but grievously errs as to the detail.
1. And we observe, in the first place, that "the life to come" will comprehend the whole nature of man.
2. We are to observe, that "the life to come " is purely and entirely retributive. God has arranged it as the scene, where He will apply to His intelligent creation the sanctions of that great system of moral government, under which they have existed.
3. Again, "the life to come," which thus will comprehend the whole nature of man, and which is purely retributive, will be unchangeable and eternal. We can conceive nothing of what is indestructible in "the life that now is"; all around us breathes with decay arid dissolution. The attributes which now are noticed do not merely apply to abstract existence, but to the condition of existence. In other words, the rewards and the punishments, which have been adverted to, will be unchanging and will be everlasting too.
III. THE POWER, WHICH THE PROSPECT OF "THE LIFE WHICH IS TO COME" SHOULD POSSESS OVER THE MINDS AND HABITS OF MEN.
1. First, "the life which is to come" ought to be habitually contemplated. It has surely been revealed that it might be pondered; and admitting the fact that there is a life to come, a mere sciolist, a child, would be able to arrive at the conclusion, how it ought to be made the object of thought and of pondering. Think how noble and how solemn is your existence.
2. Again "the life to come" ought to be diligently prepared for. Your contemplations are for the purpose of leading you to preparation. And how are we to prepare, so as to escape the world of punishment and to receive the world of reward? The merit of penitence is nothing; the merit of what you regard good works is nothing. There is only one method of preparation; and that is, according to the announcements of the system of grace, in the volume which is before us. For the "life to come" many of you are prepared. Arc there not some, who have never offered these aspirations, who themselves are not vet prepared?
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