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THE GODLY MAN.
THE psalms of David have been styled, a manual of prophetical devotion, exemplified by the Lord Jesus and his faithful followers through all ages. Bishop Horne beautifully remarks, that "like the Paradise of Eden, they afford us in perfection, though in miniature, every thing that groweth elsewhere, every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and, above all, what was there lost, but is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. He who has once tasted their excellencies, will desire to taste them yet again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best." Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who flourished in the fourth century, in a preface to a metrical version of this book, has the following observations. "All Holy Scripture is certainly the teacher of all virtue and of true faith; but the book of Psalms doth express, after a certain manner, the very state and condition of the soul; for as he which intendeth to present himself to a king, first will compound with himself to set in good order, both his gesture and his speech, lest else he might be reputed rude and ignorant; even so doth this godly book inform all such as be desirous to lead their life in virtue, and to know the life of our Saviour which he led in his conversation; putting them in mind in the reading thereof, of all their affections and passions whereto their soul is inclined. Moreover, the Psalms inform and teach every man with divers instructions, whereby he may not only espy the affections and state of his soul, and to win a good name and walk so as to please God; but also with what form of words he may amend himself and how to give God due thanks, lest if he should speak otherwise than were convenient, he should fall into impiety by his irreverent estimation of God; for we must all make account to our Judge, as well of our evil deeds, as of our idle words."
The church of God in all ages, has derived comfort and direction from this sacred book, and it has been successfully and profitably employed in animating the services of the sanctuary. The afflicted and the dying have dwelt with transport on its pious aspirations, and the happy Christian in his devout breathings after God, has found words expressive of the desires of his soul.
At the very commencement of the book of Psalms, we are
presented with an accurate and striking picture of a godly man, contrasted with that of the ungodly. It would seem as if David had been contemplating the characters, their conduct, and their end, till, at length, under a deep impression of the excellency of the one and the misery of the other, he exclaims, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
The character he exhibits is that of a godly man in opposition to that of the ungodly. The Hebrew word is rendered by the terms "merciful, pious, holy," and is properly represented by the word, "saint." (Ps. cxlix. 5.) "Let the saints be joyful in glory." And (verse 9,) "This honour have all his saints."
1. A godly man is one who is instructed by the Holy Spirit; as one of the children of Zion, he is taught of the Lord. (Isa. liv. 13.) This teaching embraces a knowledge of God in his nature and glorious perfections, as well as a knowledge of his own heart, as sinful, polluted, and desperately wicked; for every one shall know the plague of his heart, and be convicted of guilt, and his consequent exposure to the anger of God and eternal condemnation; for, when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He shall convince, or convict, the world of sin. (John xvi. 8.)
My dear reader, let us stop here, for a moment, and ask the question, Has the blessed Spirit convicted you of sin? Have you felt the evil of your own heart? Have you mourned before God on account of your sinfulness? Do you acknowledge and bewail your manifold sins and wickedness, by thought, word, and deed, committed against his Divine Majesty? Is the remembrance of them grievous, and the burden of them intolerable? Such are the feelings and the language of the truly penitent sinner. Are these your feelings? Is this your language? Do you feel your utter helplessness to do any thing by which you may make atonement for sin, or perform any righteous actions to gain eternal life? Consider these questions, and thus communicate with your own heart. 2. A godly man is one who cordially believes in the Son of God. The patriarchs looked to him for salvation. Abraham rejoiced to see his day. Jacob wrestled with him until the breaking of the day, and on his dying bed trusted in him as the Shiloh to whom the gathering of the people should be. Moses rejoiced in him as the prophet. Job exulted in him as his Redeemer.
David sang of him as his Lord, and trusted in him as his strong tower and place of refuge. The prophets proclaimed his coming, and apostles bore witness to the fact, that in Him there was full salvation, pardon, peace, and eternal glory. Christ is the object whom all the godly regard, as the ground of their hope, and the subject of their praise. They look to him and are lightened, and their faces are not ashamed. Faith in Jesus is the distinguishing feature of a godly man. Martyrs at the stake looked to him alone, and terminated their course of suffering by the triumphant exclamation, "None but Christ!"
Dear reader, is Jesus your only hope? Do you see a fulness of redemption in his blood, for the remission of all your sins? Have you renounced all dependance upon yourself, your duties, your attainments; and are you cleaving to him only, for wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption? Faith is the eye that looks at Christ, the ear that hears Christ, the voice that confesses Christ, the heart that loves him, the feet that tread in his footsteps. The language of the godly is, “Lord, I have nothing to bring thee, but myself; I come to thee, sinful, to be pardoned,-wretched, to be comforted,-ignorant, to be instructed, weak, to be strengthened,-expecting to receive all from thee, and to find all in thee." If you, my young reader, have heard and learned of the Father, you have thus come to Jesus, saying as you come
Jesus, thy righteousness divine,
Is all my glory, all my trust,
Nor will I fear if that be mine,
While Jesus lives, and God is just.
3. A godly man is a holy man; his "delight is in the law of the Lord." The vibration of this sentiment struck the ear of the apostle Paul, who returned the echo, "I delight in the law of God, after the inward man." They who are taught by the same Spirit love the same things; the house of God is their constant place of resort, for there they are at home. Faith works by love, and purifies the heart; love to God is a marked feature in a godly man. "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. (Ps. lxiii. 25.) The apostle Peter echoes back the same sentiment, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye
rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Pet. i. 8.) In similar language speaks the pious Mrs. Rowe, "If I love thee not, I know not what I love."
Reader! can you say that you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Can you appeal to him, as Peter did, for the sincerity of your love? “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee?” If you love him, you will think of him, talk of him, be thankful to him, and speak good of his name.
4. A godly man renounces sin and sinners. He has no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. "He walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." The grace of God, which bringeth salvation, teaches, that denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. The ways of the world are not trodden by the Christian; the company of the world is not appreciated by him; the maxims of the world are not adopted by him; the amusements of the world are not coveted by him; he pursues a path wherein abound pleasantness and peace; his company are the saints, the excellent of the earth; his maxims are in unison with the law and the testimony of God; his pleasures arise from things unseen and eternal; sin is the burden of his soul; holiness, the desire of his heart. "A true Christian," it has been remarked, "desires three things; justification, that sin may not condemn him; sanctification, that sin may not reign over him; and glorification, that sin may no longer exist. To avoid sin, we must avoid sinners. "If sinners entice thee, consent thou not ;" "come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing." Walking in the counsel of the ungodly, is generally followed by standing in the way of sinners, and terminated by sitting down in the scorner's chair.
Dear young reader, these are golden precepts! How many thousands have been lost by indifference to the advice they offer. Do not want to be told again and again that sin is progressive. Listening to bad advice will be soon followed by adopting it: the "counsel of the ungodly" will not lie dormant; it will urge you on to such a walk and conversation as are unbecoming the Christian profession, and will soon leave you standing in the very way of sinners-waiting, as it were, for hire by the great destroyer of
souls. It is dangerous to be unemployed at all; it is worse to be unemployed and hungry; ready for employ at all hazards, and regardless of consequences: "Stand not in the way of sinners!" You may appear passive, but they are ever on the alert, and will hurry you away with them to your disgrace and ruin, till you can sit down unresisting and at ease in the "scorner's chair." The scorner's chair! How exactly does this character become the large and still increasing number who have drunk of no other knowledge than that which "puffeth up." Beware of a contemptuous and supercilious spirit. You came into this world to learn, not to dictate; and God, compassionating your ignorance, has presented you with true wisdom in the Bible. Make that the basis, and not the mere garnish of your acquirements, whatever they may be, and you will have something better than "scorn" and contumely wherewith to carry on the war of argument and controversy to which you may be called. Prove all things; and hold fast that, and that only, which is good.
5. A godly man is a prosperous man. It is said of Joseph, that the Lord was with him, and he was a prosperous man. prosperity is a necessary appendage to the blessing of the Lord. The figure of a prosperous believer, is a tree planted by the rivers of water, never wanting nourishment, always richly supplied; a tree bringing forth fruit in season; a tree rich in ever-verdant foliage, whose spreading branches afford shelter and shade. Such are the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, watered by the life-giving streams of his word and ordinances, bearing the fruits of love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, and meekness, which are styled, expressively, the fruits of the Spirit; affording relief to the needy in his distress, to the afflicted in his trouble, to the inexperienced youth, to the bereft, the fatherless, the widow, and the aged. It is expected from those who enjoy the mercies of grace, that both in the temper of their minds, and in the tenor of their lives, they comply with the intentions of that grace, and then they bring forth fruit.
Again, dear young reader, are you looking to God for prosperity? He alone can bless and render your efforts successful. Look to him in all things, and at all times. He giveth power to the weak, and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. It is his blessing that maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow. By him kings