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have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” Isa. lv. 7.
It is the same under the dispensation of the gospel. There also forgiveness is annexed to repentance. This is the important doctrine preached by Christ himself, and his forerunner John the Baptist, and his apostles after him. Of John the Baptist, St. Luke says:
66 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” Luke iii. 3. The same is the character of our Lord's ministry, in all the EvangeJists. “ From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So in Matthew, cb. iv. 17. To the like purpose in Mark, cb. i. 14, 15. And our Lord, when risen from the dead, tells his disciples, that now “ repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke xxiv. 47. And after our Lord's ascension, when the Jews at Jerusalem were much moved by the discourse Peter had made, and " said to him, and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” Acts ii. 37, 38. And afterwards, Peter, in the presence of the Jewish council, “ Him hath God exalted- to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins,"Acts v. 31.
St. Paul reminding the elders at Miletus of his past conduct among them, observes,“ how he had kept back nothing that was profitable to them, but had showed them, and taught them publicly, and from house to house; testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx. 20, 21. · And giving an account of his conduct, and the doctrine taught by him, since his conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ, he declares to king Agrippa, and the great company with him, bow he had “ showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance," ch. xxvi. 20.
Sincere repentance therefore is the condition, upon which sinful men may obtain the forgiveness of their past sins. Yea, our Lord assures us, “ there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” He also says, that “ there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety
and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” Luke xv. 7-10.
It is certain therefore, that God in his great goodness, will pardon and accept of penitent sinners. But the great difficulty is to bring men to forsake their sins, and return to the practice of virtue. This, and our great want of consideration, our affection for earthly and sensible things, the little regard which men have for the things of religion, have rendered the most awakening arguments necessary. These are set before us in Christ Jesus. And Christ has died, in order to bring us to God, and to induce us to continue in the ways of righteousness. “Who his ownself
. bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of your souls,” 1 Pet. ii. 24, 25.
4. And lastly. Our meditations on this text may assist us in discerning the divine wisdom in the time of the christian revelation.
The apostle says, “ When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons," Gal. iv. 4,5. The purpose was formed very early. And Christ is spoken of
“the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Rev. xiii. 8. But the full manifestation of this design was dea ferred. The world was not sooner fit for the mild and gracious dispensation of the gospel. It is true, that Abraham, and the Patriarchs, were free from many incumbrances afterwards introduced. And for a while true religion, the worship of God, was upheld by the piety of the heads of that family. But when that family became a nation, it evidently appeared, that a number of discriminating rites was needful to keep them separate from their idolatrous neighbours, and to maintain true religion in that which was the only nation and people, that worshipped the only true God.
We ought not therefore to surinise, that the coming of the Messiah was too long deferred. If the expectations of men had not been raised beforehand, if there had not been great preparations made for his reception; the christian revelation, and the death of Christ itself, might have been either in vain, or however, not to so good purpose as it was.
Let us then acknowledge and celebrate the wisdom of
the Divine Being in affording the world the advantage of so reasonable, so spiritual, and so gracious an institution. Let us be thankful, that the knowledge of it has been brought to us, and that the evidences of the divine original of this religion are still so clear and satisfactory.
And as we in these late ages of the world have the blessing of Abraham, which was so carly designed, free from the incumbrances afterwards introduced, and imposed even upon his own posterity by nature; let us prize it, and steadily adhere to the essential articles, and indispensable Jaws of it, cheerfully " serving God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life,” Luke i. 74, 75.
THE PROMISE ANNEXED TO GODLINESS.
For bodily exercise profiteth little : but godliness is profit
able unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
1 lim. iv, 8. THESE words comprise in them three propositions,
I. Bodily exercise profiteth little.
II. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having, particularly, promise of the life that is to come.
III. Godliness has also promise of the life that now is.
I intend to consider each proposition, in the order just mentioned.
1. “ Bodily exercise profiteth little.” Which words are differently explained by expositors.
1. Some interpret these words in this manner: all that men do outwardlyin religion, though commanded by God, if it be separated from the devotion of the heart, profiteth little. This cannot procure acceptance with God, nor make amends for defects and miscarriages, in point of true holi
But there seems to be little ground for this interpretation. It is not favoured by any part of the connection, except that godliness, which is opposed to bodily exercise, does indeed undoubtedly include in it the devotion of the heart, as well as outward acts and performances of religion.
2. Some suppose the apostle herein to refer to the exer
cises of the Greeks, in their olympic and other games, and any exercises of the body preparatory to those public contentions.
This interpretation has an appearance of probability: St. Paul had just before exhorted Timothy to exercise himself unto godliness. And the original word for exercise is a technical word, often used concerning the preparatory, exercises of the Grecian racers and combatants, and the vigour and activity which they exerted in the public contention.
The apostle then adds: for bodily exercise, such as that of those who contend for victory in the celebrated games of Greece, or polite parts of the world as they are esteemed, though it be very difficult, painful, and laborious, profiteth little. It may conduce to the increase of bodily strength and vigour, and secure the victory in those combats, and the crown, and other honours, and temporal advantages annexed to it in this world. But all this is a trifling matter in comparison of the advantages of godliness.. And after this manner St. Paul writes to the Corinthians.
3. Hereby some understand a severe and excessive discipline, practised by some persons, which is mere will-worship, consisting of long and painful fastings, and abstinence from things in themselves lawful and innocent.
Bodily exercise, says a learned expositor, is here bodily discipline, lying in abstaining from certain meats, keeping set fasts, watchings, lying upon the ground, going barefoot, wearing sack-cloth, or hair-cloth, abstaining from wine, or marriage; all this is of little advantage; the mind of man is not bettered hereby.
This interpretation seems to be not a little favoured and supported by the coherence. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, says the apostle at the beginning of the chapter, & that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,speaking lies in hypocrisy,—forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good ininister of Jesus Christ. But refuse profane and idle fables; and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little; whereas godliness is profitable unto all things.”
This sense is received by many expositors of good note; bodily exercise, says one, intends useless mortifications and macerations of the body, and other superstitious practices then in use among the Jews and some other people, And, says another, by bodily exercise St. Paul means abstinences
and austerities, which simple or hypocritical men had introduced. And he makes use of an expression, which properly signifies the combats or exercises of those who contended in the Grecian games; because those persons observed a certain diet, or regimen, to render themselves more fit for the combats. The apostle's observation in this place may be illustrated by what he says to the Colossians, ch. i. 2023, Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world : why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances ? touch not, taste not, handle not, (which are all to perish with the using,) after the commandments and doctrines of men :-which things have indeed a show of will-worship and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. A passage likewise of a polite Jewish writer, contemporary with our Saviour and his apostles, though no christian, may cast some light upon this interpretation. If, says he, you see a man designedly mortifying himself with hunger and thirst when the circumstances of things lay him not under any such necessity, omitting the usual refreshments of bathing and anointing, greatly negligent, or even sordid in his dress, often lying upon the bare ground instead of a bed, and pleasing himself with such sort of temperance; have pity upon him, and show him wherein that virtue (of temperance) consists; for all those exercises are useless tornients of body and mind.
The apostle's design then is this; hodily exercise, such as is practised in the public games of Greece, or in the preparatory exercises; and that which some others observe according to rules and institutions of human invention, is of little advantage.
That is the first proposition.
II. The second proposition contained in the text is, that godliness is profitable for all things, having, in particular, promise of the life that is to come.
This indeed stands last. But I bave chosen to invert the order, and speak of this first, because the promise, or happiness of the life that now is, as to godliness, or godly persons, very much depends upon the promise of the life that is to come; for which reason I hope this method will not be disapproved.
By godliness I think we are here to understand every branch of religion and virtue, which is reasonable in itself, or expressly required and commanded of God. Indeed the word is sometimes used in a more restrained sense, for that part of our duty which more immediately respects God: as