1. A godly man is a man of KNOWLEDGE.
"The prudent are crowned with knowledge" (Proverbs 14:18). The saints are called "wise virgins" (Matt. 25:4). A natural man may have some head knowledge of God—but he "knows nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). He does not know God savingly. He may have the eye of natural reason open—but he does not discern the things of God in a spiritual manner. Waters cannot go beyond their spring-head. Vapors cannot rise higher than the sun draws them. A natural man cannot act above his sphere; he is no more able to judge sacred things aright than a blind man is to judge colors.
(i) He does not see the evil of his heart. If a face is ever so black and deformed—yet it is not seen under a veil; the heart of a sinner is so black that nothing but hell can pattern it—yet the veil of ignorance hides it.
(ii) He does not see the beauties of a Savior. Christ is a pearl of great price—but a hidden pearl.
But a godly man is taught by God: "this anointing teaches you of all things" (1 John 2:27), that is, all things essential to salvation. A godly man has "the good knowledge of the Lord" (2 Chron. 30:22). He has "Sound wisdom" (Proverbs 3:21). He knows God in Christ. To know God out of Christ is to know him as an enemy—but to know him in Christ is sweet and delicious. A gracious soul has "the savor of his knowledge" (2 Cor. 2:14). There is a great difference between one who has read of a country, or viewed it on the map—and another who has lived in the country, and tasted its fruits and spices. The knowledge with which a godly man is adorned has these eight rare ingredients in it:
1. It is a GROUNDED knowledge
"If you continue in the faith grounded" (Col. 1:23). It is not simply believing "as my church believes." Saving knowledge rests upon a double basis: the Word and Spirit. The one is a guide, the other a witness. Saving knowledge is not changeable or doubtful—but has a certainty in it. "We believe and are sure that you are that Christ" (John 6:69); "being always confident" (2 Cor. 5:6). A godly man holds no more than he will die for. The martyrs were so confirmed in the knowledge of the truth, that they would seal it with their blood.
2. It is an APPRECIATIVE knowledge
The jeweler who has the skill to value a jewel is said to know it. He who esteems God above the comforts of the earth knows him (Psalm 73:25). To compare other things with God is to debase deity; as if you should compare a glow-worm with the sun.
3. It is an ENLIVENING knowledge
"I will never forget your precepts, for with them you have quickened me" (Psalm 119:93). Bible knowledge in a natural man's head is like a torch in a dead man's hand. True knowledge animates. A godly man is like John the Baptist, "a burning and a shining lamp". He not only shines by illumination—but he burns by affection. The spouse's knowledge made her "love-sick" (Song 2:5). "I am wounded with love." I am like a deer that is struck with an arrow; my soul lies bleeding, and nothing can cure me—but a sight of him whom my soul loves!
4. It is an APPLIED knowledge
"I know that my redeemer lives" (Job 19:25). A medicine is best when it is applied. This applicative knowledge is joyful. Christ is called a "surety" (Heb. 7:22). Oh what joy, when I am drowned in debt, to know that Christ is my surety! Christ is called an "advocate" (1 John 2:1). The Greek word for advocate, parakletos, signifies a comforter. Oh, what comfort it is when I have a bad cause, to know Christ is my advocate, who never lost any cause he pleaded!
Question: But how shall I know that I am making a right application of Christ? A hypocrite may think he applies when he does not. Balaam, though a sorcerer, still said, "my God" (Numb. 22:18).
(i) He who rightly applies Christ puts these two together, Jesus and Lord. "Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8). Many take Christ as Jesus—to save them; but refuse him as Lord—to rule them. Do you join "Prince and Savior" (Acts 5:31)? Would you as well be ruled by Christ's laws as saved by his blood? Christ is "a priest upon his throne" (Zech. 6:13). He will never be a priest to intercede—unless your heart is the throne where he sways his scepter. A true applying of Christ is when we so take him as a husband, that we give up ourselves to him as Lord.
(ii) He who rightly applies Christ derives virtue from him. The woman in the Gospel, having touched Christ, felt virtue coming from him and her fountain of blood was dried up (Mark 5:29). This is to apply Christ—when we feel a sin-mortifying virtue flow from him. That knowledge which is applicatory, has an antipathy against sin, and will not allow the heart to be dominated by sin.
5. It is a TRANSFORMING knowledge
"We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image" (2 Cor. 3:18). As a painter looking at a face draws a face like it in the picture; so looking at Christ in the mirror of the gospel, we are changed into his likeness. We may look at other objects that are beautiful—yet not be made beautiful by them. A deformed face may look at beauty, and yet not be made beautiful. A wounded man may look at a surgeon, and yet not be healed. But this is the excellence of divine knowledge, that it gives us such a sight of Christ as makes us partake of his nature! Like Moses when he had seen God's back parts, his face shone; some of the rays and beams of God's glory fell on him.
6. It is a SELF-EMPTYING knowledge
Carnal knowledge makes the head giddy with pride (1 Cor. 8:1,2). True knowledge brings a man out of love with himself. The more he knows—the more he blushes at his own ignorance. David, a bright star in God's church, still thought himself rather a cloud than a star (Psalm 73:22).
7. It is a GROWING knowledge
"Increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10). True knowledge is like the light of the morning, which increases on the horizon until it comes to the full meridian. So sweet is spiritual knowledge that the more a saint knows—the more thirsty he is for knowledge. It is called "the riches of knowledge" (1 Cor. 1:5). The more riches a man has, the more still he desires. Though Paul knew Christ—yet he wanted to know him more: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection" (Phil. 3:10).
8. It is a PRACTICAL knowledge
"His sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:4). God requires a knowledge accompanied by obedience. True knowledge not only improves a Christian's sight—but improves his pace. It is a reproach to a Christian to live in a contradiction to his knowledge, to know he should be strict and holy—yet to live loosely. Not to obey—is the same as not to know: "the sons of Eli knew not the Lord" (1 Sam. 2:12). They could not but know, for they taught others the knowledge of the Lord; yet they are said not to know—because they did not obey. When knowledge and practice appear together, then they herald much happiness.
Use 1: Let us test ourselves by this characteristic:
1. Are they godly, who are still in the region of darkness? "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." (Proverbs 19:2). Ignorant people cannot give God "a reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). It is sad that after the Sun of righteousness has shone so long in our hemisphere, people should still be under the power of ignorance. Perhaps in the things of the world they know enough, none shall outreach them—but in the things of God—they have no knowledge. Nahash wanted to make a covenant with Israel, that he might "put out their right eyes" (1 Sam. 11:2). Though men have knowledge in secular matters; the devil has put out their right eye—they do not understand the mystery of godliness. It may be said of them as of the Jews, "to this day the veil is upon their heart" (2 Cor. 3:15). Many Christians are no better than baptized heathen! What a shame it is to be without knowledge! "Some have not the knowledge of God; I speak this to your shame" (1 Cor. 15:34). Men think it a shame to be ignorant of their trade—but no shame to be ignorant of God. There is no going to heaven blindfold. "For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor." (Isaiah 27:11).
Surely ignorance in these days is great. It is one thing not to know, another thing not to be willing to know: "men loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:19). It is the owl which loves the dark. Sinners are like the Athlantes, a people in Ethiopia, who curse the sun. Wicked men shut their eyeswillfully (Matt. 13:15), and God shuts them judicially (Isaiah 6:10).
2. Are they godly, who, though they have knowledge—yet do not know "as they ought to know"? They do not know God experimentally. How many knowledgeable people are ignorant? They have illumination—but not sanctification. Their knowledge has no powerful influence upon them to make them better. If you set up a hundred torches in a garden they will not make the flowers grow—but the sun is influential. Many are so far from being better for their knowledge, that they are worse: "your knowledge has perverted you" (Isaiah 47:10). The knowledge of most people makes them more cunning in sin; these have little cause to glory in their knowledge. Absalom might boast of the hair of his head—but that hanged him; so these may boast of the knowledge of their head—but it will destroy them!
3. Are they godly, who, though they have some glimmering of knowledge—yet have no trustful application of Christ? Many in the old world knew there was an ark—but were drowned, because they did not get into it! Knowledge which is not personally applied, will only light a man to hell! It would be better to live a savage—than to die an infidel under the gospel. Christ not believed in is dreadful. Moses' rod, when it was in his hand, did a great deal of good. It wrought miracles; but when it was out of his hand, it became a serpent. So Christ, when laid hold on by the hand of faith, is full of comfort—but not laid hold on, will prove a serpent to bite!
Use 2: As we would prove ourselves to be godly, let us labor for this good knowledge of the Lord. What pains men will take for the achievement of natural knowledge! Many spend years, searching out the knowledge of an earthly trifle. What pains, then, should we take in finding out the knowledge of God in Christ! There must be digging and searching for it, as one would search for a vein of silver: "If you look for it as for silver andsearch for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:4-5).
This is the best knowledge. It as far surpasses all other knowledge, as the diamond surpasses a stone. No jewel we wear so adorns us as this: "she is more precious than rubies" (Proverbs 3:15). "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth. It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver. It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or sapphires. Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. The price of wisdom is beyond rubies." (Job 28:12-18). The dark chaos was a fit emblem of an ignorant soul (Gen. 1:2)—but when God lights up the lamp of knowledge in the mind, what a new creation is there! Here the soul sparkles like the sun in its glory.
This knowledge is encouraging. We may say of worldly knowledge, as did Solomon, "He who increases knowledge increases sorrow" (Eccles. 1:18). To know arts and science is to gather straw—but to know God in Christ is to gather pearl. This knowledge ushers in salvation (1 Tim. 2:4).
Question: But how shall we get this saving knowledge?
Answer: Not by the power of nature. Some speak of how far reason will go if put to good use; but, alas! the plumb line of reason is too short to fathom the deep things of God! A man can no more reach the saving knowledge of God by the power of reason, than a pigmy can reach the top of the pyramids. The light of nature will no more help us to see Christ, than the light of a candle will help us to understand. "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: neither can he know them" (1 Cor. 2:14).
What shall we do, then, to know God in a soul-saving manner? I answer, let us implore the help of God's Spirit. Paul never saw himself blind—until a light shone from heaven (Acts 9:3). God must anoint our eyes before we can see! What need did Christ have to bid Laodicea to come to him for eye salve, if she could see before (Rev. 3:18)? Oh, let us beg the Spirit, who is "the Spirit of revelation" (Eph. 1:17). Saving knowledge is not byspeculation—but by inspiration, "the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding" (Job 32:8).
We may have excellent notions in divinity—but the Holy Spirit must enable us to know them in a spiritual manner. A man may see the figures on a sun-dial—but he cannot tell how the time, unless the sun shines. We may read many truths in the Bible—but we cannot know them savingly until God's Spirit shines upon us: "the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:10). The Scripture reveals Christ to us—but the Spirit reveals Christ in us (Gal. 1:16). The Spirit makes known that which all the world cannot do, namely, the sense of God's love.
Use 3: You who have this saving, sanctifying knowledge flourishing in you, bless God for it! This is the heavenly anointing. The most excellent objects cannot be seen in the dark—but when the light appears, then every flower shines in its native beauty. So while men are in the midnight of a natural state, the beauty of holiness is hidden from them; but when the light of the Spirit comes in a saving manner, then those truths which they slighted before, appear in that glorious luster, and transport them with wonder and love.
Bless God, you saints, that he has removed your spiritual cataract, and has enabled you to discern those things which by nature's spectacles you could never see. How thankful Christ was to his Father for this! "I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25). How you should admire free grace, that God has not only brought the light to you—but given you eyes to see it; that he has enabled you to know the truth "as it is in Jesus" (Eph. 4:21); that he has opened, not only the eye of your understanding—but the eye of your conscience! It is a mercy you can never be thankful enough for—that God has so enlightened you that you should not "Sleep the sleep of death".
2. A godly man is a man moved by FAITH.
As gold is the most precious among the metals, so is faith among the graces. Faith cuts us off from the wild olive tree of nature, and grafts us into Christ. Faith is the vital artery of the soul: "The just shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4). Such as are destitute of faith may breathe—but they lack spiritual life.
Faith enlivens all the graces; not a grace stirs until faith sets it working. Faith is to the soul what the animal spirits are to the body, exciting lively activity in it. Faith excites repentance. When I believe God's love to me, this makes me weep that I should sin against so good a God. Faith is the mother of hope; first we believe the promise, then we hope for it. Faith is the oil which feeds the lamp of hope. Faith and hope are two turtledove graces; take away one, and the other languishes. If the sinews are cut, the body is lame; if this sinew of faith is cut, hope is lame. Faith is the ground ofpatience; he who believes that God is his God, and that all providences work for his good, patiently yields himself to the will of God. Thus faith is a living principle.
The life of a saint is nothing but a life of faith. His prayer is the breathing of faith (Jas. 5:15). His obedience is the result of faith (Romans 16:26). A godly man lives by faith in Christ, as the beam lives in the sun: "I live; yet not I—but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). A Christian, by the power of faith, sees above human reason, trades above the moon (2 Cor. 4:18). By faith his heart is calmed and quieted; he trusts himself and all his affairs to God (Psalm 112:7). As in a time of war, men get into a garrison and trust themselves and their treasures there, so "the name of the Lord is a strong tower" (Proverbs 18:10), and a believer trusts all that he is worth in this garrison. "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). God trusted Paul with his gospel, and Paul trusted God with his soul.
Faith is a panacea—a remedy against all troubles. It is a godly man's anchor which he casts out into the sea of God's mercy, and is kept from sinking in despair. "If only faith is firm, no ruin harms."
Use: Let us test ourselves by this characteristic. Alas, how far from being godly are those who are destitute of faith! Such are altogether drowned in sense. Most men are spiritually blind; they can only see just before them (2 Pet. 1:9). I have read of a people in India who are born with one eye. Such are they who are born with the eye of reason—but lack the eye of faith, who because they do not see God with bodily eyes, do not believe in a God. They may as well not believe they have souls, because they cannot be seen.
Oh, where is he who lives in the heights, who has gone into the upper region and sees "things not seen" (Heb. 11:27)? "If men lived by faith, would they use sinful means for a livelihood?" (Chrysostom). If there were faith, would there be so much fraud? If theirs were living faith, would men, like dead fish, swim downstream? In this age there is scarcely so much faith to be found among men, as there is among the devils, "for they believe and tremble" (Jas. 2:19).
3. A godly man is fired with LOVE to God.
"I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy." Psalm 116:1
Faith and love are the two hinges on which all religion turns. A true saint is carried in that chariot, "the midst whereof is paved with love" (Song 3:10). As faith enlivens, so love sweetens every duty. The sun mellows the fruit, so love mellows the services of religion, and gives them a better relish. A godly man is sick with love: "Lord, you know that I love you" (John 21:16). "Though, dear Savior, I denied you—yet it was for lack of strength, not for lack of love." God is the fountain and quintessence of goodness. His beauty and sweetness lay constraints of love upon a gracious heart. God is the saint's portion (Psalm 119:57). And what more loved than a portion? "I would hate my own soul," says Augustine, "if I found it not loving God." A godly man loves God and therefore delights to be in his presence; he loves God and therefore takes comfort in nothing without him. 'Have you seen him whom my soul loves?" (Song 3:3).
The pious soul loves God and therefore thirsts for him. The more he has of God, the more still he desires. A sip of the wine of the Spirit whets the appetite for more. The soul loves God and therefore rejoices to think "of his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8). He loves him and therefore longs to be with him. Christ was in Paul's heart, and Paul would be in Christ's bosom (Phil. 1:23). When the soul is once like God, it would gladly be with God. A gracious heart cries out, "O that I had wings, that I might fly away, and be with my love, Christ!" The bird desires to be out of the cage, though it is hung with pearl.
Such is the love a gracious soul has to God, that many waters cannot quench it. He loves a frowning God.
A godly man loves God, though he is reduced to straits. A mother and her nine-year-old child were about to die of hunger. The child looked at its mother and said, "Mother, do you think God will starve us?" "No, child," said the mother, "he will not." The child replied, "But if he does, we must love him, and serve him."
Use: Let us test our godliness by this touchstone: Do we love God? Is he our treasure and center? Can we, with David, call God our "joy", yes, our "exceeding joy" (Psalm 43:4)? Do we delight in drawing near to him, and "come before his presence with singing"? (Psalm 100:2) Do we love him for his beauty more than his jewels? Do we love him, when he seems not to love us?
If this be the sign of a godly man, how few will be found in the number! Where is the man whose heart is dilated in love to God? Many court him—but few love him. People are for the most part eaten up with self-love; they love their ease, their worldly profit, their lusts—but they do not have a drop of love to God. If they loved God, would they be so willing to be rid of him? "They say unto God, Depart from us" (Job 21:14). If they loved God, would they tear his name by their oaths? Does he who shoots his father in the heart, love him? Though they worship God, they do not love him; they are like the soldiers who bowed the knee to Christ, and mocked him (Matt. 27:29). He whose heart is a grave in which the love of God is buried, deserves to have that curse written upon his tombstone, "Let him be Anathema Maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22). A soul devoid of divine love is a temper which best suits damned spirits. But I shall waive this, and pass to the next.
4. A godly man is LIKE God.
He has the same judgment as God; he thinks of things as God does; he has a Godlike disposition; he "partakes of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). A godly man bears both God's name and image; godliness is Godlikeness. It is one thing to profess God, another thing to resemble him.
A godly man is like God in holiness. Holiness is the most brilliant pearl in the King of Heaven's crown: "glorious in holiness" (Exod. 15:11). God's power makes him mighty; his mercy makes him lovely; but his holiness makes him glorious. The holiness of God is the intrinsic purity of his nature and his abhorrence of sin. A godly man bears some kind of analogy with God in this. He has the holy oil of consecration upon him: "Aaron the saint of the Lord" (Psalm 106:16). Holiness is the badge and mark of Christ's people: "The people of your holiness" (Isaiah 63:18). The godly are a holy as well as a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). Nor have they only a frontispiece of holiness, like the Egyptian temples which were fair outside—but they are like Solomon's temple, which had gold inside. They have written upon their heart, "Holiness to the Lord". The holiness of the saints consists in their conformity to God's will, which is the rule and pattern of all holiness.
Holiness is a man's glory. Aaron put on garments "for glory and for beauty" (Exod. 28:2). So when a person is invested with the embroidered garment of holiness, it is for glory and beauty.
The goodness of a Christian lies in his holiness, as the goodness of the air lies in its clarity, the worth of gold in its purity.
Question: In what do the godly reveal their holiness?
1. In hating "the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 23). The godly set themselves against evil, both in purpose and in practice. They are fearful of that which looks like sin (1 Thess. 5:22). The appearance of evil may harm a weak Christian. If it does not defile a man's own conscience, it may offend his brother's conscience; and to sin against him is to sin against Christ (1 Cor. 8:12). A godly man will not go as far as he may, lest he go further than he should; he will not swallow all that others may plead for. It is easy to put a golden color on rotten material.
2. In being advocates for holiness. "I will speak of your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed" (Psalm 119:46). When piety is calumniated in the world, the saints will stand up in its defense; they will wipe off the dust of a reproach, from the face of religion. Holiness defends the godly, and they will defend holiness; it defends them from danger, and they will defend it from disgrace.
Use 1: How can those who are unlike God be reputed to be godly? They have nothing of God in them, not one shred of holiness. They call themselves Christians—but blot out the word holiness; you may as well call it day at midnight.
So impudent are some, that they boast they are none of the holy ones. Is it not the Spirit of holiness which marks off the sheep of Christ, from the goats? "You were sealed (or marked) with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13). And is it a matter for men to boast of, that they have none of the Spirit's earmark upon them? Does not the apostle say that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14)? Such as bless themselves in theirunholiness had best go and ring the bells for joy, that they shall never see God.
There are others who hate holiness. Sin and holiness never meet but they fight. Holiness discharges its fire of zeal against sin, and sin spits its venom of malice at holiness. Many pretend to love Christ as a Savior—but hate him as he is the Holy One (Acts 3:14).
Use 2: Let us strive to be like God in holiness.
1. This is God's great design which he drives on in the world. It is the object of the Word preached. The silver drops of the sanctuary are to water the seed of grace, and make a crop of holiness spring up. What use is there in the promises, if not to bribe us to holiness? What are all God's providential dispensations for—but to promote holiness? As the Lord makes use of all the seasons of the year, frost and heat, to produce the harvest, so all prosperous and adverse providences are for the promoting of the work of holiness in the soul. What is the object of the mission of the Spirit—but to make the heart holy? When the air is unwholesome by reason of fog and mist, the wind is a fan to winnow and purify the air. So the blowing of God's Spirit upon the heart is to purify it, and make it holy.
2. Holiness is that alone, which God is delighted with. When Tamerlane was presented with a pot of gold, he asked whether the gold had his father's stamp upon it. But when he saw it had the Roman stamp, he rejected it. Holiness is God's stamp and impress; if he does not see this stamp upon us, he will not own us.
3. Holiness fits us for communion with God. Communion with God is a paradox to the men of the world. Not everyone who hangs about the court speaks with the king. We may approach God in duties, and as it were hang about the court of heaven—yet not have communion with God. That which keeps up fellowship with God, is holiness. The holy heart enjoys much of God's presence; he feels heartwarming and heart-comforting virtue in an ordinance. Where God sees his likeness, there he gives his love.
5. A godly man is very exact and careful about the WORSHIP of God.
The Greek word for "godly" signifies a true worshiper of God. A godly man reverences divine institutions—and is more for the purity of worship than the pomp. Mixture in sacred things is like a dash in the wine, which though it gives it a color—yet only adulterates it. The Lord wanted Moses to make the tabernacle "according to the pattern showed to you in the mount" (Exod. 25:40). If Moses had left out anything in the pattern, or added anything to it, it would have been very offensive to God. The Lord has always given testimonies of his displeasure against such as have corrupted his worship. Nadab and Abihu offered "Strange fire" (different than what God had sanctified on the altar), "and fire went out from the Lord, and devoured them" (Lev. 10:1,2). Whatever is not of God's own appointment in his worship, he looks upon as "Strange fire". And no wonder he is so highly incensed at it, for it is as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner in which he will be served. Men will try to direct him, and as if the rules for his worship were defective, they will attempt to correct the copy, and superadd their inventions.
A godly man dare not vary from the pattern which God has shown him in the Scripture. This is probably not the least reason why David was called "a man after God's own heart", because he kept the springs of God's worship pure, and in matters sacred did not add anything of his own devising.
Use: By this characteristic we may test ourselves, whether we are godly. Are we careful about the things of God? Do we observe that mode of worship which has the stamp of divine authority upon it? It has dangerous consequences to make a medley in religion.
1. Those who will add to one part of God's worship will be as ready to take away from another. "Laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8). They who will bring in a tradition, will in time lay aside a command. This the Papists are very guilty of; they bring in altars and crucifixes, and lay aside the second commandment. They bring in oil in baptism, and leave out the cup in the Lord's Supper. They bring in praying for the dead, and lay aside reading the Scriptures intelligibly to the living. Those who will introduce into God's worship that which he has not commanded, will be as ready to blot out that which he has commanded.
2. Those who are for outward mixtures in God's worship usually disregard of the vitals of religion—such as living by faith, leading a strict mortified life; these things are of less concern to them. Wasps have their combs—but no honey in them.
3. Superstition and profanity kiss each other. Has it not been known that those who have kneeled at a pillar, have reeled in drunkenness against a post?
4. Such as are devoted to superstition are seldom or never converted: "publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you" (Matt. 21:31). This was spoken to the chief priests, who were great formalists, and the reason why such people are seldom wrought upon savingly is because they have a secret antipathy to the power of godliness. The serpent has a fine color—but it has a sting. So outwardly men may look zealous and devout—but retain a sting of hatred in their hearts against holiness. Hence it is that they who have been most hot on superstition have been most hot on persecution. The Church of Rome wears white linen (an emblem of innocence)—but the Spirit of God paints her out in scarlet (Rev. 17:4). Why is this? Not only because she puts on a scarlet robe—but because she is of a scarlet dye, having imbrued her hands in the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6).
Let us, then, as we would show ourselves to be godly, keep close to the rule of worship, and in the things of Jehovah go no further than we can say, "It is written".
6. A godly man is a servant of God, not a servant of men.
This characteristic has two distinct branches. I shall speak of both in order.
1. A godly man is a servant of God
"We are the servants of the God of heaven" (Ezra 5:11); "Epaphras, a servant of Christ" (Col. 4:12).
Question: In what sense is a godly man a servant of God?
Answer: In seven respects:
1. A servant leaves all others, and confines himself to one master. So a godly man leaves the service of sin, and betakes himself to the service of God (Romans 6:22). Sin is a tyrannizing thing; a sinner is a slave when he sins with most freedom. The wages which sin gives, may deter us from its service: "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Here is damnable pay! A godly man enlists himself in God's family, and is one of his menial servants: "O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant" (Psalm 116:16). David repeats himself, as if he had said, "Lord, I have given my pledge; no one else can lay claim to me; my ear is bored to your service".
2. A servant is not independent, at his own disposal—but at the disposal of his master. A servant must not do what he pleases—but be at the will of his master. Thus a godly man is God's servant. He is wholly at God's disposal. He has no will of his own. "May your will be done on earth". Some will say to the godly, "Why cannot you behave like others? Why will you not drink and swear as others do?" The godly are God's servants; they must not do what they want—but be under the rules of the family; they must do nothing but what they can show their master's authority for.
3. A servant is bound. There are agreements and indentures sealed between him and his master. Thus there are indentures drawn in baptism, and in conversion the indentures are renewed and sealed. There we bind ourselves to God to be his sworn servants: "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep your righteous judgments" (Psalm 119:106). A godly man has tied himself to the Lord by vow, and he makes conscience of his vow. He would rather die by persecution than live by perjury (Psalm 56:12).
4. A servant not only wears his master's uniform—but does his work. Thus a godly man works for God. Paul "spent and was spent for Christ" (2 Cor. 12:15). He worked harder than all the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:10). A godly man is active for God to his last breath, "even unto the end" (Psalm 119:112). Only "the dead rest from their labors" (Rev. 14:13).
5. A servant follows his master; thus a godly man is a servant of God. While others follow after the beast, he follows after the Lamb (Rev. 13:3; 14:4). He wants to tread in the steps of Christ. If a master leaps over hedge and ditch, the servant will follow him. A godly man will follow Christ through afflictions: "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Peter wanted to follow Christ on the water. A godly man will follow Christ though it is death at every step. He will keep his goodness when others are bad. As all the water in the salt sea cannot make the fish salty—but they still retain their freshness; so all the wickedness in the world cannot make a godly man wicked—but he still retains his piety. He will follow Christ in the worst times.
6. A servant is satisfied with his master's allowance. He does not say, "I will have such provisions made ready". If he has meager fare, he does not find fault. He knows he is a servant, and accepts his master's carving. In this sense, a godly man is God's servant; he is willing to live on God's allowance; if he has only some leftovers, he does not grumble. Paul knew he was a servant, therefore whether more or less fell to his share, he was indifferent (Phil. 4:11). When Christians complain at their condition, they forget that they are servants, and must live on the allowance of their heavenly Master. You who have the least grace from God, are debtors to his mercy.
7. A servant will stand up for the honor of his master. He cannot hear his master reproached—but will vindicate his credit. Thus, every godly man will stand up for the honor of his Master, Christ. "My zeal has consumed me" (Psalm 119:139). A servant of God stands up for his truths. Some can hear God's name reproached, and his ways spoken against—yet remain silent. God will be ashamed of such servants, and reject them before men and angels.
Use: Let us declare ourselves godly by being servants of the most high God. Consider:
1. God is the best Master. He is punctilious in all his promises: "There is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keeps covenant and mercy with your servants . . . not one word of all his good promise has failed" (1 Kings 8:23,56). God is of a most sweet, gracious disposition. He has this quality that he is "Slow to anger" and "ready to forgive" (Psalm 103:8; 86:5). In our needs, he relieves us; in our weakness, he pities us. He reveals his secrets to his servants (Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 3:32). He waits on his servants. Was there ever such a Master? "It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them" (Luke 12:37). When we are sick, he makes our bed: "you will make all his bed in his sickness" (Psalm 41:3). He holds our head when we are fainting. Other masters may forget their servants, and cast them off when they are old—but God will not: "you are my servant: O Israel, you shall not be forgotten of me" (Isaiah 44:21). It is a slander to say that God is a hard Master.
2. God's service is the best service. There are six privileges in God's service:
(i) FREEDOM. Though the saints are bound to God's service—yet they serve him freely. God's Spirit, who is called a "free Spirit" (Psalm 51:12), makes them free and cheerful in obedience. The Spirit carries them on the wings of delight; he makes duty a privilege; he does not force—but draw. He enlarges the heart in love and fills it with joy. God's service is perfect freedom.
(ii) HONOR. David the king professed himself one of God's pensioners: "I am your servant" (Psalm 143:12). Paul, when he wants to blaze his coat of arms, and set forth his best heraldry, does not call himself "Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews", or "Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin"—but "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1). Theodosius thought it a greater dignity to be God's servant, than to be an emperor. Christ himself, who is equal with his Father, is nevertheless not ashamed of the title "servant" (Isaiah 53:11). Every servant of God is a son; every subject is a prince! It is more honor to serve God than to have kings serve us. The angels in heaven are servants of the saints on earth.
(iii) SAFETY. God takes care of his servants. He gives them protection: "You are my servant; fear not; for I am with you" (Isaiah 41:9,10). God hides his servants: "in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me" (Psalm 27:5). That is, he shall keep me safe, as in the most holy place of the sanctuary, where none but the priests might enter. Christ's wings are both for healing and for hiding, for curing and securing us (Mal. 4:2). The devil and his instruments would soon devour the servants of God, if he did not set an invisible guard about them, and cover them with the golden feathers of his protection (Psalm 91:4). "I am with you, and no man shall set on you to hurt you" (Acts 18:10). God's watchful eye is always on his people, and the enemies shall not do the mischief they intend to do; they shall not be destroyers—but physicians.
(iv) GAIN. Atheists say, "It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances?" (Mal. 3:14). Besides the advantages which God gives in this life (sweet peace of conscience), he reserves his best wine until last; he gives a glorious kingdom to his servants (Heb. 12:28). The servants of God may for a while be enslaved and abused—but they shall have promotion at last: "where I am, there shall also my servant be" (John 12:26).
(v) ASSISTANCE. Other masters cut out work for their servants—but do not help them in their work. But our Master in heaven gives us not only work—but strength: "you strengthened me with strength in my soul" (Psalm 138:3). God bids us serve him, and he will enable us to serve him: "I will cause you to walk in my statutes" (Ezek. 36:27). The Lord not only fits work for us—but fits us for our work; with his command he gives enablement.
(vi) SUPPLIES. A master will not let his servants be in need. God's servants shall be provided for: "truly you shall be fed" (Psalm 37:3). Does God give us a Christ, and will he deny us a crust? "The God who fed me all my life long" (Gen. 48:15). If God does not give us what we crave, he will give us what we need. The wicked, who are dogs, are fed (Phil. 3:2). If a man feeds his dog, surely he will feed his child! Oh, then, who would not be in love with God's service?
3. We are engaged to serve God. We are "bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20). This is a metaphor taken from such as ransom captives from prison by paying a sum of money for them. They are to be at the service of those who ransomed them. So when the devil had taken us prisoners, Christ ransomed us with a price, not of money—but of blood. Therefore we are to be only at his service. If any can lay a better claim to us than Christ, we may serve them; but Christ having the best right to us, we are to cleave to him and enroll ourselves forever in his service.
2. A godly man is not the servant of men
"Be not you the servants of men" (1 Cor. 7:23).
Question: But is there no service we owe to men?
Answer: There is a threefold serving of men:
1. There is a civil service we owe to men, as the inferior to the superior. The servant is a living tool, as Aristotle says. "servants, obey your masters" (Eph. 6:5).
2. There is a religious service we owe to men, when we are serviceable to their souls: "your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5).
3. There is a sinful serving of men. This consists of three things:
(i) When we prefer men's injunctions before God's institutions. God commands one thing; man commands another. God says, "Sanctify the Sabbath"; man says, "Profane it." When men's edicts have more force with us than God's precepts, this is to be the servants of men.
(ii) When we voluntarily prostitute ourselves to the impure lusts of men, we let them lord it over our consciences. When we are pliable and conformable to any beliefs, either Arminian or atheist, for either the gospel or the Koran. When we will be what others will have us be, then we are just like Issachar, who is "a strong donkey crouching down between two burdens" (Gen. 49:14). This is not humility—but sordidness, and it is men-serving.
(iii) When we are advocates in a bad cause, pleading for any impious, unjustifiable act; when we baptize sin with the name of religion, and with our oratory wash the devil's face—this is to be the servants of men. In these cases, a godly person will not so unman himself, as to serve men. He says, like Paul, "If I yet pleased men, I would not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10); and like Peter, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
Use: How many leagues distant from godliness, are those who serve men, who either for fear of punishment, or from hope of promotion, comply with the sinful commands of men, who will put their conscience under any yoke, and sail with any wind which blows profit. These are the "Servants of men"; they have abjured their baptismal vow, and renounced the Lord who bought them.
To the one who is so bendable as to change into any form, and bow as low as hell to please men, I would say two things:
1. You who have learned all your postures, who can cringe and tack about—how will you look Christ in the face another day? When you say on your death bed, "Lord, look on your servant", Christ shall disclaim you, and say, "My servant? No! you renounced my service, you were "a servant of men"; depart from me; I do not know you." What a cold shoulder this will be at that day!
2. What does a man get, by sinfully enslaving himself? He gets a blot on his name, a curse on his estate, a hell in his conscience; no, even those who he basely stoops to, will scorn and despise him. How the high priests kicked off Judas! "What do we care? That's your problem" (Matt. 27:4).
That we may not be the servants of men, let us abandon fear and advance faith (Esther 8:17). Faith is a world-conquering grace (1 John 5:4). It overcomes the world's music and threats; it steels a Christian with divine courage, and makes him stand immovable, like a rock in the midst of the sea.
7. A godly man PRIZES CHRIST.
To illustrate this, I shall show:
A. That Jesus Christ is in himself precious.
B. That a godly man esteems him precious.
A. Jesus Christ is precious in himself.
"Behold, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone" (1 Pet. 2:6).
1. Christ is compared to "a bundle of myrrh" (Song 1:13). Myrrh is very precious; it was one of the chief spices of which the holy anointing oil was made (Exod. 30:25).
(i) Myrrh is of a perfuming nature. So Christ perfumes our persons and services, so that they are a sweet odor to God. Why is the church, that heavenly bride, so perfumed with grace? Because Christ, that myrrh tree, has dropped his perfume upon her (Song 3:6).
(ii) Myrrh is of an exhilarating nature. Its fragrance comforts and refreshes the spirits. So Christ comforts the souls of his people, when they are fainting under their sins and suffering.
2. Christ is compared to a pearl: "when he had found one pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:46). Christ, this pearl, was little with regard to his humility—but of infinite value. Jesus Christ is a pearl that God wears in his bosom (John 1:18); a pearl whose luster drowns the world's glory (Gal. 6:14); a pearl that enriches the soul, the angelic part of man (1 Cor. 1:5); a pearl that enlightens heaven (Rev. 21:23); a pearl so precious that it makes us precious to God (Eph. 1:6); a pearl that is consoling and restorative (Luke 2:25). This pearl of more value than heaven (Col. 1:16,17).
3. The preciousness of Christ is seen in three ways:
(i) He is precious in his PERSON; he is the picture of his Father's glory (Heb. 1:3).
(ii) Christ is precious in his OFFICES, which are several rays of the Sun of righteousness:
(a) Christ's PROPHETIC office is precious (Deut. 18:15). He is the great oracle of heaven; he has a preciousness above all the prophets who went before him; he teaches not only the ear—but the heart! He who has "the key of David" in his hand opened the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14).
(b) Christ's PRIESTLY office is precious. This is the solid basis of our comfort. "Now once has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26). By virtue of this sacrifice, the soul may go to God with boldness: "Lord, give me heaven; Christ has purchased it for me; he hung upon thecross—that I might sit upon the throne!" Christ's blood (death) and incense (intercession), are the two hinges on which our salvation turns.
(c) Christ's REGAL office is precious: "On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!" (Rev. 19:16). Christ has a pre-eminence above all other kings for majesty; he has the highest throne, the richest crown, the largest dominions, and the longest possession: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8). Though Christ has many assessors—those who sit with him (Eph. 2:6)—he has no successors. Christ sets up his scepter where no other king does; he rules the will and affections; his power binds the conscience. The angels take the oath of allegiance to him (Heb. 1:6). Christ's kingship is seen in two royal acts:
(1) In ruling his people. He rules with mercy and mildness; his regal rod has honey at the end of it. Christ displays the ensign of mercy, which makes so many volunteers run to his rule (Psalm 110:3). Holiness without mercy, and justice without mercy, would be dreadful—but mercy encourages poor sinners to trust in him.
(2) In overruling his enemies. He pulls down their pride, befools their policy, restrains their malice. That stone "cut out of the mountain without hands, which smote the image" (Dan. 2:34) was an emblem, says Augustine, of Christ's monarchical power, conquering and triumphing over his enemies.
(iii) Christ is precious in his BENEFITS. By Christ all dangers are removed; through Christ all mercies are conveyed. In his blood flows justification (Acts 13:39); sanctification (Heb. 9:14); fructification (John 1:16); pacification (Romans 5:1); adoption (Gal. 4:5); perseverance (Heb.12:2); glorification (Heb. 9:12). This will be a matter of sublimest joy to eternity. We read that those who had passed over the sea of glass stood with their harps and sang the song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 15:2,3). So when the saints of God have passed over the glassy sea of this world, they shall sing hallelujahs to the Lamb who has redeemed them from sin and hell, and has translated them into that glorious paradise, where they shall see God forever and ever.
B. A godly man esteems Christ as precious
"Yes, he is very precious to you who believe!" (1 Pet. 2:7). In the Greek it is "an honor". Believers have an honorable esteem of Christ. The psalmist speaks like one captivated with Christ's amazing beauty: "there is none upon earth that I desire beside you" (Psalm 73:25). He did not say he hadnothing; he had many comforts on earth—but he desired none but God; as if a wife should say that there is no one's company she prizes like her husband's. How did David prize Christ? "You are fairer than the children of men" (Psalm 45:2). The spouse in the Song of Solomon looked upon Christ as the the most incomparable one, "the chief among ten thousand" (Song 5:10). Christ outvies all others: "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste." (Song 2:3). Christ infinitely more excels all the beauties and glories of this visible world than the apple tree surpasses the trees of the wild forest.
Paul so prized Christ that he made him his chief study: "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 2:2). He judged nothing else of value. He knew Christ best: "have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1). He saw him with his bodily eyes in a vision, when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2), and he saw him with the eye of his faith in the blessed supper. Therefore he knew him best. Consider how he slighted and despised other things in comparison with Christ: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8). Gain he esteemed loss, and gold he esteemed dung, in comparison with Christ. Indeed, a godly person cannot choose but set a high valuation upon Christ; he sees a fullness of value in him:
1. A fullness in regard to variety. "In whom are hidden all the treasures" (Col. 2:3). No country has all commodities of its own growth—but Christ has all kinds of fulness—fullness of merit, of spirit, of love. He has a treasury adequate for all our needs.
2. A fullness in regard to degree. Christ has not only a few drops, or rays—but is more full of goodness than the sun is of light; he has the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9).
3. A fullness in regard to duration. The fullness in the creature, like the brooks of Arabia, is soon dried up—but Christ's fullness is inexhaustible; it is a fullness overflowing and ever-flowing.
And this fullness is for believers: Christ is a common treasury or storehouse for the saints: "of his fullness have all we received" (John 1:16). Put a glass under a still and it receives water out of the still, drop by drop. So those who are united to Christ have the dews and drops of his grace distilling on them. Well, then, may Christ be admired by all those who believe.
Use 1: Is a godly man a high prizer of Christ? Then what is to be thought of those who do not put a value upon Christ? Are they godly or not? There are four kinds of people who do not prize Christ:
1. The Jews. They do not believe in Christ: "unto this day, the veil is upon their heart" (2 Cor. 3:15). They expect their future age and a Messiah still to come, as their own Talmud reports. They blaspheme Christ; they slight imputed righteousness; they despise the virgin Mary, calling her in derisionMarah, which signifies bitterness; they vilify the gospel; they hold Christians in abomination; they regard it as not lawful for a Jew to take medicine from a Christian. Schecardus relates the story of one, Bendema, a Jew who was bitten by a snake. A Christian came to heal him—but he refused his help and chose rather to die than to be healed by a Christian. So do the Jews hate Christ and all that wear his uniform.
2. The Socinians, who acknowledge deny Christ's divinity. This is to set him below the angels, for human nature, simply considered, is inferior to the angelic (Psalm 8:5).
3. Proud nominal Christians, who do not lay the whole stress of their salvation upon Christ—but would mingle their dross with his gold, their dutieswith his merits. This is to steal a jewel from Christ's crown and implicitly to deny him to be a perfect Savior.
4. Airy theorists, who prefer the study of the arts and sciences before Christ. Not that the knowledge of these is not commendable: "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). Human learning is of good use to prepare for the study of better things, as a coarser dye prepares the cloth for a richer and a deeper dye. But the fault is when the study of Christ is neglected. The knowledge of Christ ought to have the preeminence. It was surely not without a mystery, that God allowed all Solomon's writings about birds and plants to be lost—but what he wrote about spiritual wisdom to be miraculously preserved, as if God would teach us that to know Christ (the true Wisdom) is the crowning knowledge (Proverbs 8:12). One leaf of this tree of life will give us more comfort on a deathbed than the whole realm of human science. What is it to know all the motions of the orbs and influences of the stars, and in the meantime to be ignorant of Christ, the bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16)? What is it to understand the nature of minerals or precious stones, and not to know Christ the true Cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16)? It is undervaluing, yes, despising Christ, when with the loadstone we draw iron and straw to us—but neglect him who has tried gold to bestow on us (Rev. 3:18).
Use 2: Is it the sign of a godly person to be a Christ prizer? Then let us test our godliness by this: Do we set a high estimation on Christ?
Question: How shall we know if we truly prize Christ?
Answer 1: If we are prizers of Christ, then we prefer him in our judgments before other things. We value Christ above honor and riches; the Pearl of Great Price lies nearest our heart. He who prizes Christ esteems the gleanings of Christ, better than the world's vintage. He counts the worst things of Christ, better than the best things of the world. Moses "regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt" (Heb. 11:26). And is it thus with us? Has the price of worldly things fallen? Gregory Nazianzen solemnly blessed God that he had something to lose for Christ's sake. But alas, how few Nazianzens are to be found! You will hear some say they have honorable thoughts of Christ—but they prize their land and estate above him. The young man in the Gospel preferred his bags of gold before Christ. Judas valued thirty pieces of silver above him. May it not be feared, if an hour of trial comes, that there are many who would rather renounce their baptism, and throw off Christ's uniform—than hazard the loss of their earthly possessions for him?
Answer 2: If we are the prizers of Christ, we cannot live without him; things which we value, we know not how to be without. A man may live without music—but not without food. A child of God can lack health and friends—but he cannot lack Christ. In the absence of Christ, he says, like Job, "I went mourning without the sun" (Job 30:28). I have the starlight of creature comforts—but I need the Sun of righteousness. "Give me children," said Rachel, "or else I die" (Gen. 30:1). So the soul says, "Lord, give me Christ, or I die. Give me one drop of the water of life to quench my thirst." Let us test by this—do they prize Christ—who can manage well enough to be without him? Give a child a rattle--and it will not want gold. Give a worldling his lusts--and he will be content enough without Christ. Christ is a spiritual Rock (1 Cor. 10:4). Just let men have "oil in the cruse" and they do not care about honey from this rock. If their trade has gone, they complain—but if God takes away the gospel, which is the ark wherein Christ the manna is hidden, they are quiet and tame enough. Do those prize Christ who can sit down content without him?
Answer 3: If we are prizers of Christ, then we shall not complain at any pains to get him. He who prizes gold, will dig for it in the mine. "My soul follows hard after God" (Psalm 63:8). Plutarch reports of the Gauls, an ancient people in France, that after they had tasted the sweet wine of the Italian grape, they enquired after the country, and never rested until they had arrived at it. He in whose eye Christ is precious, never rests until he has gained him: "I sought him whom my soul loves; I held him, and would not let him go" (Song 3:1,4).
Test by this! Many say they have Christ in high veneration—but they are not industrious in the use of means to obtain him. If Christ would drop as a ripe fig into their mouth, they could be content to have him—but they will not put themselves to too much trouble to get him. Does he who will not exercise, or take the healing medicine, prize his health?
Answer 4: If we are prizers of Christ, then we take great pleasure in Christ. What joy a man takes in, that which he counts his treasure! He who prizes Christ makes him his greatest joy. He can delight in Christ when other delights have gone: "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Though a flower in a man's garden dies, he can still delight in his money and jewels. He who esteems Christ can solace himself in Christ, when there is a dearth of all other comforts..
Answer 5: If we are prizers of Christ, then we will part with our dearest pleasures for him. Paul said of the Galatians that they so esteemed him that they were ready to pull out their own eyes and give them to him (Gal. 4:15). He who esteems Christ, will pull out that lust which is as precious as his right eye! A wise man will throw away a poison for a medicine. He who sets a high value on Christ will part with his pride, unjust gain and sinful ways (Isaiah 30:32). He will set his feet on the neck of his sins.
Test by this! How can they be said to prize Christ--who will not leave a vanity for Him; or who prefer a damning pleasure before a saving Christ!
Answer 6: If we are prizers of Christ, we shall think we cannot have him at too dear a rate. We may buy gold too dearly but we cannot purchase Christ too dearly. Though we part with our blood for him, it is no lost bargain. The apostles rejoiced that they were graced so much as to be disgraced for Christ (Acts 5:41). They esteemed their fetters more precious than bracelets of gold. Do not let him who refuses to bear his cross, say that he prizes Christ. "But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." (Matt. 13:21).
Answer 7: If we are prizers of Christ, we will be willing to help others to get a part in him. That which we esteem excellent, we are desirous our friend should have a share in it. If a man has found a spring of water, he will call others that they may drink and satisfy their thirst. Do we commend Christ to others? Do we take them by the hand and lead them to Christ? This shows how few prize Christ, because they do not make more effort that their relations should have a part in him. They get land and riches for their posterity—but have no care to leave them the Pearl of Great Price as their portion.
Answer 8: If we are prizers of Christ, then we prize him in health as well as in sickness; when we are in wealth, as well as when we are in poverty. A friend is prized at all times; the Rose of Sharon is always sweet. He who values his Savior aright has as precious thoughts of him in a day of prosperity—as in a day of adversity. The wicked make use of Christ only when they are in straits—as the elders of Gilead went to Jephthah, when they were in distress (Judges 11:7). Themistocles complained of the Athenians, that they only ran to him as they did to a tree, to shelter them in a storm. The wicked desire Christ only for shelter. The Hebrews never chose their judges except when they were in some imminent danger. Godless people never look for Christ except at death, when they are in danger of hell.
Use 3: As we would prove to the world that we have the impress of godliness on us, let us be prizers of Jesus Christ; he is elect, precious. Christ is the wonder of beauty. Pliny said of the mulberry tree that there is nothing in it but what is therapeutic and useful: the fruit, leaves and bark. So there is nothing in Christ but what is precious. His name is precious, his virtues precious, his blood precious—more precious than the world.
Oh, then, let us have endearing thoughts of Christ, let him be accounted our chief treasure and delight. This is the reason why millions perish—because they do not prize Christ. Christ is the door by which men are to enter heaven (John 10:9). If they do not know this door, or are so proud that they will not stoop to go in at it, how can they be saved? That we may have Christ-admiring thoughts, let us consider:
1. We cannot prize Christ at too high a rate. We may prize other things above their value. That is our sin. We commonly overrate the creature; we think there is more in it than there is; therefore God withers our gourd, because we over-prize it. But we cannot raise our esteem of Christ high enough. He is beyond all value! There is no ruby or diamond but the jeweler can set a fair price on it. He can say it is worth so much and no more. But Christ's worth can never be fully known. No seraphim can set a due value on him. His are unsearchable riches (Eph. 3:8). Christ is more precious than the soul, than the angels, than heaven.
2. Jesus Christ has highly prized us. He took our flesh upon him (Heb. 2:16). He made his soul an offering for us (Isaiah 53:10). How precious our salvation was to Christ! Shall not we prize and adore him who has put such a value upon us?
3. Not to prize Christ is great imprudence. Christ is our guide to glory. It is folly for a man to slight his guide. He is our physician (Mal. 4:2). It is folly to despise our physician.
The ungodly choose things of no value, before Christ! "You blind fools!" (Matthew 23:17). If a person chooses an apple before a priceless diamond, he is judged to be a fool. How many such idiots are there, who choose the gaudy, empty things of this life--before the Prince of Glory! Will not Satan beggar them at last for fools?
4. Some slight Christ now and say, "There is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2). There is a day coming shortly when Christ will as much slight them. He will set as light by them as they do by him. He will say, "I know you not" (Luke 13:27). What a slighting word that will be, when men cry, "Lord Jesus, save us!" and he says, "I was offered to you but you would would not have me; you scorned me, and now I will scorn you. Depart from me, I do not know you!" This is all that sinners get by rejecting the Lord of life. At the day of judgment, Christ will slight those who have slighted him in the day of grace.
8. A godly man WEEPS.
David sometimes sang with his harp; and sometimes the organ of his eye wept: "I water my couch with my tears" (Psalm 6:6). Christ calls his spouse his "dove" (Song 2:14). The dove is a weeping creature. Grace dissolves and liquefies the soul, causing a spiritual thaw. The sorrow of the heart runs out at the eye (Psalm 31:9).
The Rabbis report that the same night on which Israel departed from Egypt towards Canaan, all the idols of Egypt were broken down by lightning and earthquake. So at that very time at which men go forth from their natural condition towards heaven, all the idols of sin in the heart must be broken down by repentance! A melting heart is the chief branch of the covenant of grace (Ezek. 36:26), and the product of the Spirit: "I will pour upon the house of David the spirit of grace, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him" (Zech. 12:10).
Question: But why is a godly man a weeper? Is not sin pardoned, which is the ground of joy? Has he not had a transforming work upon his heart? Why, then, does he weep?
Answer: A godly man finds enough reasons for weeping:
1. He weeps for indwelling sin, the law in his members (Romans 7:23), the outbursts and first risings of sin. His nature is a poisoned fountain. A regenerate person grieves that he carries with him, that which is enmity to God! His heart is like a wide sea in which there are innumerable creeping things (Psalm 104:25)—vain, sinful thoughts. A child of God laments hidden wickedness; he has more evil in him than he knows of. There are thosewindings in his heart which he cannot trace—an unknown world of sin. "Who can understand his errors?" (Psalm 19:12).
2. A godly man weeps for clinging corruption. If he could get rid of sin, there would be some comfort—but he cannot shake off this viper! Sin cleaves to him like leprosy! Though a child of God forsakes his sin—yet sin will not forsake him. "Concerning the rest of the beasts, they had theirdominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season" (Dan. 7:12). So though the dominion of sin is taken away—yet its life is prolonged for a season; and while sin lives, it molests! The Persians were daily enemies to the Romans and would always be invading their frontiers. So sin "wars against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). And there is no cessation of war—until death. Will not this cause tears?
3. A child of God weeps that he is sometimes overcome by the prevalence of corruption. "For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do." (Romans 7:19). Paul was like a man carried downstream. How often a saint is overpowered by pride and passion! When David had sinned, he steeped his soul in the brinish tears of repentance. It cannot but grieve a regenerate person to think he should be so foolish as, after he has felt the smart of sin—still to put this fire in his bosom again!
4. A godly heart grieves that he can be no more holy. It troubles him that he shoots so short of the rule and standard which God has set. "I would", says he, "love the Lord with all my heart. But how defective my love is! How far short I come of what I should be; no, of what I might have been! What can I see in my life—but either blanks or blots?"
5. A godly man sometimes weeps out of the sense of God's love. Gold is the finest and most solid of all the metals—yet it is soonest melted in the fire. Gracious hearts, which are golden hearts, are the soonest melted into tears by the fire of God's love. I once knew a holy man, who was walking in his garden and shedding plenty of tears, when a friend came on him accidentally and asked him why he wept. He broke forth into this pathetic expression: "Oh, the love of Christ! Oh, the love of Christ!" Thus have we seen the cloud melted into water, by the sunbeams.
6. A godly person weeps because the sins he commits are in some sense worse than the sins of other men. The sin of a justified person is very odious:
(i) The sin of a justified person is odious—because he acts contrary to his own principles. He sins not only against the rule—but against his principles, against his knowledge, vows, prayers, hopes, experiences. He knows how dearly sin will cost him—yet he adventures upon the forbidden fruit!
(ii) The sin of a justified person is odious, because it is a sin of unkindness (1 Kings 11:9). Peter's denying of Christ was a sin against love. Christ had enrolled him among the apostles. He had taken him up into the Mount of Transfiguration and shown him the glory of heaven in a vision. Yet after all this dazzling mercy—it was base ingratitude, that he should deny Christ! This made him go out and "weep bitterly" (Matt. 26:75). He baptized himself, as it were, in his own tears! The sins of the godly go nearest to God's heart. The sins of others anger God; the sins of the godly grieve him! The sins of the wicked pierce Christ's side! The sins of the godly wound his heart! The unkindness of a spouse, goes nearest to the heart of her husband.
(iii) The sin of a justified person is odious, because it reflects more dishonor upon God. "By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme" (2 Sam. 12:14). The sins of God's people put black spots on the face of piety. Thus we see what cause there is why a child of God should weep even after conversion. "Can whoever sows such things refrain from tears?"
Now this sorrow of a godly man for sin, is not a despairing sorrow. He does not mourn without hope. "Iniquities prevail against me" (Psalm 65:3)—there is the holy soul weeping. "As for our transgressions, you shall purge them away"—there is faith triumphing.
Godly sorrow is excellent. There is as much difference between the sorrow of a godly man, and the sorrow of a wicked man—as between the water of a spring which is clear and sweet, and the water of the sea which is salt and brackish. A godly man's sorrow has these three qualifications:
(a) Godly sorrow is INWARD. It is a sorrow of soul. Hypocrites "disfigure their faces" (Matt. 6:16). Godly sorrow goes deep. It is a "pricking at the heart" (Acts 2:37). True sorrow is a spiritual martyrdom, therefore called "soul affliction" (Lev. 23:29).
(b) Godly sorrow is SINCERE. It is more for the evil that is in sin—than the evil which follows after sin. It is more for the spot—than the sting. Hypocrites weep for sin only as it brings affliction. Hypocrites never send forth the streams of their tears, except when God's judgments are approaching.
(c) Godly sorrow is INFLUENTIAL. It makes the heart better: "by the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better" (Eccles. 7:3). Divine tears not only wet—but wash; they purge out the love of sin!
Use 1. How far from being godly are those who scarcely ever shed a tear for sin! If they lose a near relation—they weep. But though they are in danger of losing God and their souls—they do not weep. How few know what it is to be in an agony for sin, or what a broken heart means! Their eyes are not like the "fishpools in Heshbon", full of water (Song 7:4)—but rather like the mountains of Gilboa, which had "no dew" upon them (2 Sam. 1:21). It was a greater plague for Pharaoh to have his heart turned into stone—than to have his rivers turned into blood.
The wicked, if they sometimes shed a tear—are never the better. They go on in wickedness, and do not drown their sins in their tears!
Use 2: Let us strive for this divine characteristic. Be weepers! This is "a repentance not to be repented of" (2 Cor. 7:10). It is reported of Bradford, the martyr, that he was of a melting spirit; he seldom sat down to his meal but some tears trickled down his cheeks. There are two lavers to wash away sin:blood and tears. The blood of Christ washes away the guilt of sin; our tears wash away the filth of sin.
Repenting tears are precious. God puts them in his bottle (Psalm 56:8). Repenting tears are beautifying. To God—a tear in the eye, adorns more than a ring on the finger. Oil makes the face shine (Psalm 104:15). Tears make the heart shine. Repenting tears are comforting. A sinner's mirth turns to melancholy. A saint's mourning turns to music! Repentance may be compared to myrrh, which though it is bitter to the taste—is comforting to the spirits. Repentance may be bitter to the flesh, but it is most refreshing to the soul. Wax which melts is fit for the seal. A melting soul is fit to take the stamp of all heavenly blessing. Let us give Christ the water of our tears—and he will give us the wine of his blood!