Tit_2:11-14. The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
WHEREVER Christianity has been professed, the standard of public morals has been raised: and in proportion as it has gained an ascendant over the hearts of men, it has approved itself the friend and parent of good works. That many have perverted its principles, and walked unworthy of them, is true; but this can form no solid objection against the Gospel itself, any more than the abuse of reason or of the blessings of Providence can disprove the benefit of them when rightly used. We will not concede one atom of the freeness or riches of divine grace; yet will we maintain that the Gospel is conducive to morality: for at the same time that it brings salvation to men, it inculcates every species of moral duty, and enforces the practice of godliness in the most authoritative and energetic manner. This is evident from the words before us; in which we may notice,
The character of the Gospel—
The Gospel is supposed by many to be no other than a remedial law—
[The law given to man in Paradise, and republished on Mount Sinai, required perfect obedience. But fallen man can never obtain happiness on those terms. Hence many imagine, that Christ came to publish a new law, suited to our weak and fallen state. They suppose that his death atoned for our past transgressions; and that it purchased for us a power to regain heaven by an imperfect but sincere obedience. Thus they make the Gospel to differ very little from the law. They reduce indeed the standard of the law; but they insist upon obedience to its requirements, as the terms on which alone we are to be saved. They ascribe to Christ the honour of obtaining salvation for us on these favourable conditions; but they make our performance of the conditions themselves to be the true and proper ground of our acceptance with God.]
But the Gospel, as described in the text, is widely different from this—
[Such a law as these persons substitute for the Gospel, could not properly be called “grace;” nor could it be said to “bring salvation;” for it does not bestow life as a gift, but requires it to be earned; and brings only an opportunity of earning it on easier terms. But that Gospel, which in the Apostle’s days “appeared to all men,” was “a dispensation of grace [Note: Eph_3:2.]:” it revealed a Saviour; it directed our eyes to Christ, as having wrought out salvation for us; and it offered that salvation to us freely, “without money and without price.”
This is the true character of the Gospel. It is grace, mere grace, and altogether grace from first to last. It brings a free, a full, a finished salvation. It requires nothing to be done to purchase its blessings, or to merit them in any measure. In it God gives all, and we receive all.]
Yet there will be no room to charge the Gospel as licentious, if we consider,
The lessons it inculcates—
We have before said, that it requires nothing as the price of life. But as an evidence of our having obtained life, and in a variety of other views, it requires,
A renunciation of all sin—
[By “ungodliness” we understand every thing that is contrary to the first table of the law; as profaneness, unbelief, neglect of divine ordinances, &c. And, by “worldly lusts” we understand “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life [Note: 1Jn_2:15-16.];” or, in other words, the pleasures, riches, and honours of the world. All of these are to be “denied” and renounced. As, on the one hand, we are not to dishonour God; so neither, on the other hand, are we to idolize the creature. Nor is it against open transgressions merely that we are to guard, but against the secret “lusts” or desires. The very inclinations and propensities to sin must be mortified. This is indispensably necessary, to prove that we have embraced the Gospel aright: for, “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [Note: Gal_5:24.].”]
A life of universal holiness—
[We have duties to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. Those which relate to ourselves are comprehended under the term “sobriety,” which includes the government of all our passions, and the regulation of all our tempers. “Righteousness” fitly expresses our duty to our neighbour, which briefly consists in this, The doing to him as we would that he, in a change of circumstances, should do unto us. “Godliness” pertains more immediately to the offices of piety and devotion, and marks that respect which we ought to have in our minds to God in all that we do. Thus extensive are the injunctions of the Gospel: it makes no abatement in its demands: it gives no licence to sin: it does not allow us to reduce its requisitions to our attainments; but urges us to raise our attainments to the standard which God has fixed. Nor is it on some particular occasions only that it requires these things: it enjoins us to “live” in this way as long as we are “in this present world,” having the tenour of our lives uniformly and perseveringly conformed to these precepts. Such is that holiness which the Gospel requires, and “without which no man shall see the Lord.”]
Sufficient has already been stated to shew the practical tendency of the Gospel. But its tendency will yet further appear from,
The motives it suggests—
The instructions which the Gospel affords, are not mere directions, but commands, enforced with the most powerful motives that can actuate the mind of man. Those suggested in the text may be considered as referring to,
Our own interest—
[There is a day coming, when our adorable Emmanuel, who once veiled his Deity in human flesh, will appear in all the glory of the Godhead. At that period, all that we have done for God shall be brought to light: and though our good works shall not be the meritorious ground of our acceptance with him, they shall be noticed by him with approbation, and rewarded with a proportionable weight of glory. This is “that blessed hope” which the Gospel has set before us, and to which it directs us continually to “look.”
And is not this sufficient to instigate us to holiness? If we kept this in view, how unremitted would be our diligence, and how delightful our work!]
[At the first appearance of the Lord Jesus, the scope and tendency of his doctrine were shadowed forth in miracles: the devils were cast out by him, and all manner of diseases were healed. But the full intent of his incarnation and death were not understood till after the day of Pentecost. Then the honour of his Gospel was completely vindicated. Then the most abandoned characters were changed: the lion became a lamb; and those who had borne the very image of the devil, were changed into the image of their God. At his next appearing, this will be more fully manifest. Then the lives of all his people will bear testimony respecting the end of his voluntary sacrifice. It will then be seen, beyond controversy, that “he gave himself to redeem us,” not merely from condemnation, but from sin; from the love and practice of all iniquity; and to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Then “will he see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied:” then also will “the ignorance of foolish men be silenced:” and then will “Christ be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe [Note: 2Th_1:10.];” for every grace they have exercised will “tend to his praise and honour and glory” in that solemn day [Note: 1Pe_1:7.].
And is not this also a strong motive to influence our minds? Can we reflect on the honour which will accrue to him, when the purifying efficacy of his Gospel shall be seen in all the myriads of his redeemed;—can we reflect on this, I say, and not long to add a jewel to his crown?]
How little do they know of the Gospel who live in any kind of sin!
[It matters little whether men profess themselves followers of Christ, or not, if they indulge iniquity in their hearts. “Can one born of God habitually commit sin?” No [Note: 1Jn_3:9.]: “we have not so learned Christ, if so be we have heard him, and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus [Note: Eph_4:20-21.].” The Gospel “teaches us to deny and renounce all sin” without exception. Whoever ye be, therefore, who live by any other rule than that which the Gospel proposes, know that ye will surely be confounded in the day of Christ’s appearing. And the only difference between those who professed, and those who despised, the Gospel, will be, that “they who knew their Lord’s will and did it not, will be beaten with the more and heavier stripes.”]
How happy a world would this be, if all embraced and obeyed the Gospel!
[All kinds of iniquity would be renounced, and all heavenly graces be kept in exercise. There would be no public wars, no private animosities, no wants which would not be relieved as soon as they were known. Evil tempers would be banished: the pains arising from discontent or malice would be forgotten. Peace and love and joy would universally abound. Surely we should then have a heaven upon earth. Let the Gospel be viewed in this light. Let us conceive the whole world changed like the converts on the day of Pentecost; and then we shall indeed confess its excellence, and pray that “the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”]