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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 4 - Verse 8

Verse 8. For bodily exercise profiteth little. Marg., for a little time. The Greek will admit of either interpretation, and what is here affirmed is true in either sense. The bodily exercise to which the apostle refers is of little advantage, compared with that piety which he recommended Timothy to cultivate, and whatever advantage could be derived from it, would be but of short duration. "Bodily exercise" here refers, doubtless, to the mortifications of the body by abstinence and penance, which the ancient devotees, and particularly the Essenes, made so important as a part of their religion. The apostle does not mean to say that bodily exercise is in itself unproper, or that no advantage can be derived from it in the preservation of health; but he refers to it solely as a means of religion; as supposed to promote holiness of heart and of life. By these bodily austerities it was supposed that the corrupt passions would be subdued, the wanderings of an unholy fancy fettered down, and the soul brought into conformity to God. In opposition to this supposition, the apostle has here stated a great principle which experience has shown to be universally correct, that such austerities do little to promote holiness, but much to promote superstition. There must be a deeper work on the soul than any which can be accomplished by the mere mortification of the body. See Barnes "Col 2:23"; and comp. 1 Co 9:25-27.

But godliness. Piety or religion.

Is profitable unto all things. In every respect. There is not an interest of man, in reference to this life, or to the life to come, which it would not promote. It is favourable to health of body, by promoting temperance, industry, and frugality; to clearness and rigour of intellect, by giving just views of truth, and of the relative value of objects; to peace of conscience, by leading to the faithful performance of duty; to prosperity in business, by making a man sober, honest, prudent, and industrious; to a good name, by leading a man to pursue such a course of life as shall deserve it; and to comfort in trial, calmness in death, and immortal peace beyond the grave. Religion injures no one. It does not destroy health; it does not enfeeble the intellect; it does not disturb the conscience; it does not pander to raging and consuming passions; it does not diminish the honour of a good name; it furnishes no subject of bitter reflection on a bed of death. It makes no one the poorer; it prompts to no crime; it engenders no disease. If a man should do that which would most certainly make him happy, he would be decidedly and conscientiously religious; and though piety promises no earthly possessions directly as its reward, and secures no immunity from sickness, bereavement, and death, yet there is nothing which so certainly secures a steady growth of prosperity in a community as the virtues which it engenders and sustains; and there is nothing else that will certainly meet the ills to which man is subject. I have no doubt that it is the real conviction of every man, that if he ever becomes certainly happy, he will be a Christian; and I presume that it is the honest belief of every one that the true and consistent Christian is the most happy of men. And yet, with this conviction, men seek everything else rather than religion; and in the pursuit of baubles, which they know cannot confer happiness, they defer religion —the only certain source of happiness at any time—to the last period of life, or reject it altogether.

Having promise of the life that now is. That is, it furnishes the promise of whatever is really necessary for us in this life. The promises of the Scriptures on this subject are abundant; and there is probably not a want of our nature for which there might not be found a specific promise in the Bible. Comp. Ps 23:1; 84:11; Php 4:19.

Religion promises us needful food and raiment, Mt 6:25-33; Isa 33:16; comfort in affliction, De 33:27; Job 5:19; Ps 46; Heb 13:5

support in old age and death, Isa 46:4; Ps 23:4; comp. Isa 43:2; and a good reputation, an honoured name when we are dead, Ps 37:1-6. There is nothing which man really needs in this life, which is not promised by religion; and if the inquiry were made, it would be surprising to many, even with our imperfect religion, how literal these promises are fulfilled. David, near the close of a long life, was able to bear this remarkable testimony on this subject: "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread," Ps 37:25. And now, of the beggars that come to our doors, to how few of them can we give a cup of cold water, feeling that we are giving it to a disciple! How rare is it that a true Christian becomes a beggar! Of the inmates of our alms-houses, how very few give any evidence that they have religion! They have been brought there by vice, not by religion. True piety sends none to the alms-house; it would have saved the great mass of those who are there from ever needing the charity of their fellow-men.

And of that which is to come. Eternal life. And it is the only thing that promises such a life. Infidelity makes no promise of future happiness. Its business is to take away all the comforts which religion gives, and to leave men to go to a dark eternity with no promise or hope of eternal joy. Vice promises pleasures in the present life, but only to disappoint its votaries here; it makes no promise of happiness in the future world. There is nothing that furnishes any certain promise of happiness hereafter, in this world or the next, but religion. God makes no promise of such happiness to beauty, birth, or blood; to the possession of honours or wealth; to great attainments in science and learning; or to the graces of external accomplishment. All these, whatever flattering hopes of happiness they may hold out here, have no assurance of future eternal bliss. It is not by such things that God graduates the rewards of heaven, and it is only piety or true religion that furnishes any assurance of happiness in the world to come.

{1} "little" "for a little time" {c} "godliness" 1 Ti 6:6 {d} "promise of the life" Ps 84:11

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