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Now Paul presents for our consideration an object of the first importance, viz.: the superior value of religion compared with all those things for which men strive so ardently, of which the prizes of the athlete are illustrations.
I. We notice that Godliness is experimental and practical.
It implies the right worship of God, true devotion, consecration to duty, yea, the whole of piety.
1. True Godliness is experimental. It implies a knowledge of God. A speculative knowledge is not sufficient.
We may contemplate His character as exhibited in the volume of nature, and as more fully made known in the volume of revelation, and recognize all the Divine attributes, and still be destitute of that piety requisite to our salvation. It is needful for us who are guilty sinners to know God in the pardon of our sins.' We are not merely to hope, but should know they are forgiven. And when we have attained unto this knowledge, we have, each one, the privilege to exclaim, “O Lord, I will praise Thee; though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is tuuned away, and Thou comfortest me.
This assurance of pardon is obtained with the consciousness of a renewed nature. By justifica
tion we understand the great work which God does for us, in the pardon of our sins; and by regeneration, or the new birth, the work He does in us, in the renewing of our nature. And when we are forgiven, we are likewise renewed. "Ola things are passed away, and all things are become new”; so that we have new views, new feelings, new desires, and new hopes. Yea, the whole man has undergone a transformation. The soul, with its faculties, and even the body with its members, find new employment in the service of God. All who are thus renewed are adopted into God's family, and have the evidence that they sustain this relation: “ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
Such can say,
“My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear;
I can no longer fear:
Being thus pardoned, renewed, and received into God's family, they “grow in grace and increase in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," until they comprehend with all saints the length and breadth, the depth and height of redeeming love, and are filled with all the fullness of God."
So now, being filled with the Divine fullness, their hearts are emptied of evil, and they are by the blood of Jesus made pure in the sight of God. This is godliness as realized in the experience of the believer.
2. Godliness is practical.
The various duties which God enjoins, the truly godly man observes. He meditates upon the sacred page, calls upon the Lord at a throne of grace, and constantly observes all the means of worship which have been divinely appointed or providentially approved. He fully accepts the Word which says, “Ye are not your own, but are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and spirit, which are His.” Moreover, godliness will direct him in duty to his neighbor. Influenced by this heavenly principle, he will observe the rule, “Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you."
True godliness will lead him, in person, in character, and in property, to act toward all men according to this Golden Rule.
Indeed, we may say, with the eloquent Saurin, “Godliness implies knowledge in the mind, by which it is distinguished from the visions of the superstitious; rectitude in the conscience, that
distinguishes it from superstition; sacrifice in the life, or renunciation of the world, by which it is distinguished from the unmeaning obedience of him who goes as a happy constitution leads him; and lastly, zeal in the heart, which distinguishes it from the languid emotion of the lukewarm.”
II. The advantages of godliness.
1. It is profitable to a nation. It is written, “Righteousness exalteth a nation." The history
‘ of all nations, which have received and acknowl. edged the authenticity of the Sacred Scriptures demonstrates the truth of this declaration. Just in proportion as a nation has been influenced and regulated by Heaven's ordinances, so has it prospered.
If we look at the history of those mighty nations which were, and are not, the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans, we discover that, with all their literary attainments, great power, and glory for a time, there was also gross ignorance, idolatry, superstition, and diabolical rites. Well might one of their wisest philosophers, after years spent in laborious research to obtain by philosophy what can only be received by Divine revelation, exclaim, “You may resign all hopes of reforming
the manners of men, unless it please God to send some person to instruct you."
Those nations which have the Bible are indeed favored with Divine instruction. And if their people practice the godliness it inculcates, the nation will be blessed. Christianity is a safe and perfect directory to rulers and the ruled. It directs the former to fear God and hate unrighteousness, and to be a “terror to evil-doers and a praise to those who do well”; and it instructs the latter to be submissive and obedient to those who in the providence of God are placed over them; yea, to pray for them, “that they may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
Alas! there is too much Christianity which is merely nominal. Were all real, then should we always rejoice in that “righteousness exalteth a nation." Were the different monarchs who profess Christianity truly devoted to God, how soon would the nations under their supervision rise in the blessings of peace and prosperity. Instead of war and bloodshed, anarchy and commotion, which now abound in
our world, we should behold peace and harmony, good rule, and quiet
Swords would then be beaten into plow. shares and spears into pruning-hooks, and nations