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Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of
the life that now is, and of that which is to come. THER WHERE never was a disposition more odious, or more
unjust than that of the profane Jews, of whom Jeremiah speaks in the forty-fourth chapter of his prophecies. He had addressed to them the most pressing and pathetical exhortations to dissuade them from worshipping the goddess Isis, and to divert them from the infamous debaucheries, with which the Egyptians, accompanied it. There reply was in these words, As for the word, that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, mee will not hearken unto thee: but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offering's unto her, as we have done, we and our
fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusatem, for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well and saw no evil: but since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword, and by the famine, ver. 16–18. Nothing can equal the sacrifices, which religion requires of us; therefore nothing ought to equal the recompence, which it sets before us. Sometimes it requires us like the father of the faithful to quit our country and our relations and to go out, not knowing whither we go, according to the expression of St. Paul, Heb. xi. 8. Sometimes it requires us to tread in the bloody steps of those who
had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea of bonds and imprisonment. Some were stoned, others were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, wandered about in sheep skins, and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, ver. 36, 37.- Always it calls us to triumph over our passions, to renounce our own' senses, to mortify the flesh with its desires, and to bring all the thoughts of our minds, and all the emotions of our hearts into obedia ence to Jesus Christ. To animate us to sacrifices so great, it is necessary we should find in religion a superiority of happiness and reward, and it would be to rob it of all its disciples to represent it as fatal to the interests of such as
As this disposition is odious, so it is unjust. The miseraa ble Jews, of whom the prophet Jeremiah speaks, did indeed consult the prophets of God, but they would not obey theit voice; they would sometimes suspend their idolatrous rites, but they would never entirely renounce them, they discovered some zeal for the exterior of religion, but they paid no attention to the spirit and substance of it, and as God refused to grant to this outside of piety such advantages as he had proinised to the truly godly, they coniplained that the true religion had been to them a source of misery
Were they the Jews of the prophets tiine? Are they only Jews, who make such a criminal complaint ? Are they the only persons, who, placing religion in certain exterior perform. ances, and mutilated virtues, complain that they do not feel that peace of conscience, those ineffable transports, that anticipated heaven, which are foretastes and earnests ot eternal joy? We are going to day, my brethren, to set before you the treasures, which God opens to us in communion with him : but we are going at the same time to trace out the character of those; on whom they are bestowed. This is the design of this discourse, and for this purpose we will divide it into two parts; First, We will examime what the apostle means by godliness, in the words of the text : And secondly, We will point out the advantages affixed to it, Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
I. What is godliness or piety? It is difficult to include an adequate idea of it in the bounds of what is called a definitiona Piety is a habit of knowledge in the mind--rectitude in the conscience--sacrifice in the life--and zeal in the heart. By the ledge, that guides it, it is distinguished from the visions of the superstitious; by the rectitude, from whence it proceeds, it is distinguished from hypocrisy; by the sacrifice, which justifies it, it is distinguished from the unmeaning obedience of him, who goes as a happy constitution leads him ; in fine, by the fervour, that animates it, it is distinguished from the languishing emotions of the lukewarm,
1. Piety supposes knowledge in the mind. When God reveals a doctrine of religion to us, he treats us as reasonable beings, capable of examination and reflection. He doth not require us to adınit any truth without evidence. If he would have us believe the existence of a first cause, be engraves it on every particle of the universe. If he would have us believe the divinity of revelation, he makes some character of that divinity shine in every part of it.. Would he have us believe the immortality of the soul, he attests it in every page of the sacred book. Accordingly, without previous knowledge, piety can neither support us under temptations, nor enable us to render to God such homage as is worthy of him
It cannot support us in temptation. When satan endeavours to seduce us, he offers us the allurements of present and sensible good, and exposes in our sight the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. If we have nothing to oppose against him but superficial opinions of a precarious and ignorant system, we shall not find ourselves in a condition to withstand him.
Nor can piety destitute of knowledge enable us to render to God such worship as is worthy of him ; for when do we render to God worship suitable to his inajesty? Is it when, submitting to the church, and saying to a inan, in the language of scripture, Rabbi, Rabbi, we place him on a sovereign throne, and make our reason fall prostrate before his intelligence ? No certainly; It is when, submitting ourselves to the decisions of God, we regard hiin as the source of truth and knowledge, and believe on his testimony doctrines the most abtruse, and mysteries the most sublime.
True piety is wise, it rises out of those profound reflections, which the godly man makes on the excellence of religion. Open thou mine eyes said the prophet formerly, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. Thy words is a lamp unto my feet, and
a light unto my path. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word, Psalm cxix. 18. 99. 105. 148.
This is the first character of godliness, and this character distinguisheth it from superstition. A superstitious man doth not derive his principles from the source of knowledge. A family tradition, a tale, a legend, a monkish fable, the reFerie of a confessor, the decision of a council, this is his law, this is his light, this is his gospel.
2. Piety must be sincere, and this distinguisheth it from hypocrisy. A hypocrite puts on all the appearance of religion, and adorns himself with the most sacred part of it. Observe his deportment, it is an affected gravity, which nothing can alter. Hear his conversation, he talks with a studied industry on the most solemn subjects, he is full of sententious sayings, and pious maxims, and so severe that he is ready to take offence at the most innocent actions. Mind his dress, it is precise and singular, and a sort of sanctity is affected in all his furnitnre, and in all his equipage. Follow him to a place of worship, there particularly his hypocrisy erects its tribunal, and there he displays his religion in all its pomp. There he seems more assidous than the inost wisę and zealous christians. There he lifts up his eyes to heaven. There he sighs. There he bedews the earth with his tears. In one word, whatever seems vénerable in the church he takes pains to practise, and pleasure to display,
Jesus Christ hath given us the original of this portrait in the persons of the pharisees of his time, and the only inconvenience we find in describing such characters is, that, speak where we will, it seems as if we intended to depict such individuals of the present age as seem to have taken these ancient hypocrites for their model. Never was the art of counterfeiting piety carried to such perfection by any men as by the old pharisees. They separated themselves from a commerce with mankind, whom they called in contempt people of the world*. They made long prayers. They fasted every Monday and Friday. They lay on planks and stones. They put thorns on the bottom of their gowns to tear their flesh. They wore strait girdles about their bodies. They tithes, not only according to law, but beyond what the law required. Above all they were great makers of proselytes,
* See Goodwin's Moses and Aaron. Book I. Chap: 10. Sect. Ze and this was in some sort their distinguishing character, and when they had made one, they never failed to instruct him thoroughly to hate all such as were not of their opinion on particular questions. All this was shew, all this proceeded from a deep hypocrisy ; by all this they had no other design than to acquire reputation for holiness, and to make themselves masters of the people, who are more easily taken with exterior appearances than with solid yirtue.
Such is the character of hypocrisy, a character that God detests. How often does Jesus Christ denounce anathemas against people of this character? How often does he cry concerning them, woe, woe? Sincerity is one character of true piety, O Lord, thou hast proved my heart, thou hast visited me in the night, thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing: Į am purposed that my inouth shall not transgress. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou lenowest that I love thee. Psal. xvii. 3. Johni xxi. 17. This character makes our love to God resemble his to us. When God gives himself to us in religion, it is not in mere appearances and protestations : but it is with real sentiments, emanations of heart.
3. Piety supposes sacrifioe, and by this we distinguish it from a devotion of humour and constitution, with which it hath been too often confounded. There is a devotee of temper and habit, who, really, hath a happy disposition, but which may be attended with dangerous consequences. Such a man consults less the law of God to regulate his conduct than his own inclinations, and the nature of his constitution. As, by a singular favour of heaven, he hath not received one of those irregular constitutions, which most men have, but a happy natural disposition, improved too by a good education, he finds in himself but little indisposition to the general maximns of christianity. Being naturally melancholy, he doth not break out into unbridled mirth, and excessive pleasures. As he is naturally collected in himself, and not communicative, he doth not follow the crowd through the turbulence and tumult of the world. As he is naturally inactive, and soon disgusted with labour and pains taking, we never see him animated with the madness of gadding about every where, weighing himself down with a inultitude of business, nor permitting any thing to happen in society without being himself the first mover, and putting to it the last hand. These are all happy incidents; not to run into excessive pleasure, not to follow the crowd in the noise G 2