‘But godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’
Religion is not meant only to fit us for heaven. It is for this present state no less. And if only we let religion have its proper place, and put it into everything, we should have little cause to be discontented with our condition; and we should arrive at the deepest and truest secret of the well-being of society.
I. That man must be entirely without faith in God’s moral government, who could doubt that He favours those who please Him, and that His blessing is upon the righteous.
II. The great end of Christianity, as respects the man himself, may be said to be to give him a sense of perfect safety. Composure is one great principle of success. And so the real Christian carries about with him the advantage in daily life, and illustrates, by his composure and its strength, the truth of the proposition of the text.
III. Follow a man into some of the relationships of life.
(a) Perhaps our first duty is to deal justly with our fellow creatures. The Christian will be a juster man in all his transactions than any other, because he has, more than any other, studied justice, and enjoyed justice, and stands the very monument of justice.
(b) The same principle will apply to love. Human love is an emanation of Divine love.
(c) In like manner, who will be the unselfish man but he who has contemplated and felt the vast unselfishness of Jesus?
IV. The conclusion of the whole matter: ‘Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.’ There is a deeper secret of ‘social science’ than the wisdom of the wisest of this world has ever known. The real remedy of all moral and physical evil lies in that restorative process, which God has provided for a disorganised and degraded world.
‘Godliness is not gloom, nor asceticism. It makes no man a monk, no woman a nun. To enjoy with God, all that God has created, is godliness. Godliness despises no good thing, no beautiful thing, but rather freely receives all good things in thanksgiving and turns them into gladness. In the enjoyment of this world’s blessings, cherish the confidence that they are shadows, and only shadows, of richer blessings—the perfectly human blessings and delights of our Father’s home-kingdom.’
GODLINESS AND REPOSE
How is godliness profitable for this life? It is profitable, affording us a temperate, steady strength in all action; a sweetening ingredient in pleasurable action; a solace in painful action. If we are in true sympathy with God, as God is in Christ, our longings will be for what is pure and perfect. We shall yearn for the common good.
The promise of godliness for the life to come is rest, satisfaction with God in that rest, and enjoyment of the results of our labour in that satisfaction. Rest is a sweet and necessary thing. Our day of rest is the Lord’s day; our country of rest, the Lord’s country. He is the Giver of rest. Very close then is the association between godliness and repose.
What shall we do to quicken and to cultivate that godliness which is strength here and rest afterwards?
I. We must pray.—God our Sun is no dead orb, but a conscious Sympathiser, Enlightener, and Enlivener.
II. We must revise our estimates of things temporal that are things desirable. The worst case is that of those who profess to be spiritual, yet care for only such things. The next worse case is theirs who seek both things above and things below. But there is another case: it is to give up ‘worldly’ things because so to do is right, yet to remain troubled because others less scrupulous have got them.
III. Does our mind move towards God naturally?—Is a feeling of eternity diffused through our days? He that lives in shade does not see his own shadow; he that walks in sunshine does. Living in God we live in sunshine.
‘St. Paul’s words are quoted sometimes as if he meant that through godliness we might make our future here and hereafter, and as if a skilful Christian man might find life a sort of palatable soup, pleasant to the dainty, by the due mixture of earthly and heavenly ingredients. Christ entered into His glory afterwards. Godliness paid its way, but that way led it to the Cross.’
‘THE LIFE THAT NOW IS’
The essential comfort and welfare of the life that now is depend mainly on three conditions, all of which are so far within the control of man himself, and all of which rather materially influence personal piety and godliness.
I. A healthy body.—That is one of life’s very choicest blessings, whose value we never know till we come to lose it. There can be no essential comfort without health. The preservation of health, speaking generally, there can be no doubt, is directly conducive to godliness. Whatever helps to make a man clean in his body, temperate in his habits, orderly in his life; whatever helps him from indolence on the one hand, or from excess on the other, from evil companions, and causes him to keep a seventh portion of his time for worship, is helpful to that godliness which ‘is profitable unto all things,’ both in ‘the life that now is’ and ‘that which is to come.’
II. A happy home.—This is oftener within our control than a healthy body. A happy home, that brightest spot on earth, the eye of God looks down on. Love and peace in his home sends sunshine round a man wherever he goes; disorder and trouble there is misery everywhere. There are few worries of life which a man cannot now and then shake off; but who can shake himself free from the skeleton in the closet, from the worry in the household, the blister on the heart? A day will tell how many a man carried that with him without wincing down to the grave. When husband and wife are helpmeets to each other in the best sense, when order and love and goodness prevail in the house, then the man who has a hard battle in life to fight can leave his struggles behind him when he enters there.
III. A clean conscience and a holy heart; and issuing thence like a stream from the fountain, there will be holy conduct, a holy life, a life well ordered, actuated by worthy aims, inspired by lofty hopes, at peace with the world and itself, because at peace with God, trusting in His merit, sanctified by His grace, and waiting for the rest of the eternal home.
‘An intelligent man, a Spanish marquis, while maintaining the Roman Catholic religion to be the only true one in the world, admitted the backward condition of Roman Catholic countries in comparison with others; but he held that the things of time were nothing compared to the things of eternity—an assertion which meant that the pursuit of the things of time is incompatible with the things of eternity—and that the surest way for a nation to be right with God is to neglect as much as possible the duties of earth. When this world is spoken of in such terms, and the hard duties of everyday life are treated with contempt in comparison with the duties of eternity; when to be religious is to be gloomy and morose, I understand why men should think harshly of a religion so presented, and say, If this is Christianity, I will have nothing to do with it. There is a great deal that is unreal published and preached in the name of religion, and men will not have unreality. To tell men who have to toil hard from sunrise to sunset, from day to day, from month to month, from year to year, that the matters of this world are of little consequence, is simply to tell them what they know to be nonsense.’