Wednesday, September 15, 2010
soberly, righteously, and godly...
2. "For what excellent purpose this grace was given. "
There are many, who are much inclined to put a period at the end of the first verse of the text, where the apostle intended only a comma.(see yesterday's post) They would consider the sense complete in that verse; but the apostle considers what follows as necessary to complete the meaning. They conclude, that, because the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath shined forth unto all men, all men must be saved. This is pleasing doctrine to men., determined to continue in sin. But it is doctrine, supported only by fragments of scripture wrested from their connexion. We learn, by the following words of the apostle, that the excellent design of the grace of God is to form the sinner into a holy character, as previously necessary to his enjoyment of salvation. " For the grace of God teacheth us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."— What God hath joined together, never let man put asunder.—It is the grace of God, which bringeth salvation to men, yet it is by means of subduing their corruptions, and making them holy; it is by rescuing them from their sins, not saving them in them. And the apostle does not speak in general terms; he mentions particularly that ungodliness must be denied or renounced. By " ungodliness," we may understand the denial of the existence of God, or of his perfections, or of his government of the world, or of his righteous retribution in the world to come. This degree of ungodliness savours of atheism, and is impiety of the highest order. But there is ungodliness also in neglecting to worship God; in disregarding the manifestation of his will in divine revelation ; in profaning his name, and in speaking irreverently of his providence. These all are sins peculiarly against God, having direct respect to his person. They must be wholly renounced, before there can be the least hope of the salvation, which the grace of God bringeth.
Worldly lusts, also, must be denied. Under these terms are comprehended intemperance, anger, malice, revenge, which are so shockingly common in the world. They imply, also, the immoderate love of those three great idols of the world, riches, power, and fame, to which such multitudes are daily bowing down, in a manner, which makes it very manifest, that there is nothing which they regard in an equal degree. These, too, must be renounced, as productive of misery, and tending to ruin, and as inconsistent with the enjoyment of that salvation, which the grace of God bringeth.
The apostle proceeds to mention, more particularly, that this grace of God teaches us to live soberly. By sobriety, we understand the habit of self-government; the uniform restraint of the appetites, within such limits as reason and the Gospel prescribe ; as also the passions and affections, carefully avoiding all sinful irregularities and excess. The grace of God also teaches —to live righteously. By righteousness, we understand the habit of conducting equitably in all our relations to men ; that we abstain from injuries to them, in their persons, reputation, and fortunes ; that we fulfil the various duties we owe to them, in all our relations and stations in society ; sacredly performing our covenants and promises, in secular and spiritual concerns, and doing, in one word, unto all men, whatsoever we could reasonably desire, in exchange of circumstances, that they should do unto us. The Hebrews considered charity a branch of righteousness;—for saith the psalmist, " He hath dispersed; he hath given to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever."
There is a third branch of christian duty, which the apostle proceeds to mention, as taught by the grace of God, which bringeth salvation.—We must live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world. Godliness, or piety, is the duty, which we owe to God; and " consists in that high veneration, and those just conceptions, which we should entertain of the Supreme Being, and these expressed by prayer and thanksgiving ; by loving and fearing him ; by putting our trust in him, and submitting ourselves to his blessed will, in all events." Now when we seriously consider the doctrine which the grace of God teaches; the excellency of that character, which it is intended to form, subduing the corruptions of the human heart, reforming the vices and errors of human conduct, and teaching to fulfil the duties of those three grand relations, in which we stand, to ourselves, to our fellow men, and to God ; how precious, and worthy of all gratitude and praise, is that grace in this single point of view ! It tends to render us healthful in body, and at ease in mind, a blessing to our fellow-men, at peace with God, and exalted into a holy communion and friendship with him. If there be a happy man on earth, it is he who is the subject of that grace; who submits himself to this divine teaching; who renounces ungodliness and worldly lusts, and lives soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. " Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." But the comforts, which immediately flow from sobriety, righteousness, and godliness, are but the beginning of the salvation, mentioned in the text; comforts often interrupted by the afflictions of life, often by a bad frame, and the great imperfection of the graces even of the best."