A GODLY MAN IS GOOD IN HIS RELATIONSHIPS
To be good in general is not enough—but we must show piety in our relationships.
He who is good as a MAGISTRATE is godly. The magistrate is God’s representative. A godly magistrate holds the balance of justice, and gives everyone his right: “You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly” (Deut. 16:19). A magistrate must judge the cause, not the person. He who allows himself to be corrupted by bribes, is not a judge but a party. A magistrate must do that which is “according to law” (Acts 23:3). And in order that he may do justice, he must examine the cause. The archer who wishes to shoot right, must first see the target.
He who is good as a MINISTER is godly. Ministers must be:
(1) Painstaking. “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). The minister must not be idle. Sloth is as inexcusable in a minister, as sleeping in a sentry. John the Baptist was a “voice crying” (Matt. 3:3). A dumb minister is of no more use, than a dead physician. A man of God must work in the Lord’s vineyard. It was Augustine’s wish that Christ might find him at his coming either praying or preaching.
(2) Knowledgeable. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 2:7). It was said in honor of Gregory Nazianzene that he was an ocean of divinity. The prophets of old were called “seers” (1 Sam. 9:9). It is absurd to have blind seers. Christ said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16). But how sad it is when the shepherd needs to be fed! Ignorance in a minister is like blindness in an optometrist. Under the law, he who had the plague in his head, was unclean (Lev. 13:44).
(3) A plain preacher, suiting his matter and style to the capacity of his audience (1 Cor. 14:19). Some ministers, like eagles, love to soar aloft in abstruse metaphysical notions, thinking they are most admired when they are least understood. They who preach in the clouds, instead of hitting their people’s conscience, shoot over their heads.
(4) Zealous in reproving sin. “Rebuke them sharply” (Titus 1:13). Epiphanius said of Elijah, that he sucked fire out of his mother’s breasts. A man of God must suck the fire of zeal out of the breasts of Scripture! Zeal in a minister is as proper as fire on the altar. Some are afraid to reprove, like the swordfish which has a sword in his head, but is without a heart. So they carry the sword of the Spirit with them—but have no heart to draw it out in reproof against sin. How many have sown pillows under their people (Ezek. 13:18), making them sleep so securely, that they never awoke until they were in hell!
(5) Holy in heart and life:
(a) In heart. How sad it is for a minister to preach that to others, which he never felt in his own soul; to exhort others to holiness and himself be a stranger to it. Oh, that this were not too often so! How many blow the Lord’s trumpet with foul breath!
(b) In life. Under the law, before the priests served at the altar, they washed in the laver. Such as serve in the Lord’s house must first be washed from gross sin in the laver of repentance. The life of a minister should be a walking Bible. Basil said of Gregory Nazianzene that he thundered in his doctrine, and lightened in his conduct. A minister must imitate John the Baptist, who was not only “a voice crying”—but “a light shining” (John 5:35). Those who live in contradiction to what they preach, disgrace this excellent calling. And though they are angels by office—yet they are devils in their lives (Jer. 23:15).
He who is good as a HUSBAND is godly. He fills up that relationship with love: “Husbands, love your wives” (Eph. 5:25). The vine twisting its branches about the elm and embracing it may be an emblem of that entire love which should be in the marital relationship. A married condition would be sad–if it had cares to embitter it and not love to sweeten it. Love is the best diamond in the marriage ring! “Isaac loved Rebekah” (Gen. 24:67). Unkindnesses in this close relationship are very unhappy. We read in heathen authors that Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, in order to revenge an injury received from her husband, first rent the veil of her chastity and afterwards consented to his death. The husband should show his love to his wife by covering infirmities; by avoiding occasions of strife; by sweet, endearing expressions; by pious counsel; by love tokens; by encouraging what he sees amiable and virtuous in her; by mutual prayer; by being with her, unless detained by urgency of business. The pilot who leaves his ship and abandons it entirely to the merciless waves, declares that he does not value it or reckon there is any treasure in it.
The apostle gives a good reason why there should be mutual love between husband and wife: “that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Where anger and bitterness prevail, there prayer is either intermitted or interrupted.
He who is good as a FATHER is godly
(1) A father must drop holy instructions into his children: “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This is what Abraham did: “I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household, and they shall keep the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19). Children are young plants which must be watered with good education, so that they may, with Obadiah, fear the Lord “from their youth up” (1 Kings 18:12). Plato said, “In vain does he expect a harvest, who has been negligent in sowing.” Nor can a parent expect to reap any good from a child, where he has not sown the seed of wholesome instruction. And though, notwithstanding all counsel and admonition, the child should die in sin—yet it is a comfort to a godly parent to think that before his child died, he gave it spiritual medicine.
(2) A parent must pray for his children. Monica, the mother of Augustine, prayed for his conversion, and someone said “it was impossible that a son of so many prayers and tears should perish.” The soul of your child is in a trap–and will you not pray that it may “escape from the Devil’s trap?” (2 Tim. 2:26) Many parents are careful to lay up portions for their children—but they do not lay up prayers for them.
(3) A parent must give his children discipline: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14). The rod beats out the dust and moth of sin. A child indulged and humored in wickedness, will prove a burden instead of a blessing. David pampered Adonijah: “his father had never disciplined him at any time” (1 Kings 1:6). And afterwards he was a grief of heart to his father, and wanted to put him off his throne. Discipline is a hedge of thorns–to stop children in their mad race to hell.
He who is good as a MASTER is godly
A godly man promotes true religion in his family; he sets up piety in his house, as well as in his heart: “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2). “I and my household will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). I find it written in honor of Cramer, that his family was a nursery of piety. A godly man’s house is a little church: “the church which is in his house” (Col. 4:15).
(1) A good man makes known the oracles of God to those who are under his roof. He reads the Word and perfumes his house with prayer. It is recorded of the Jews, that they had sacrifices in their family as well as in the tabernacle (Exod. 12:3).
(2) A godly man provides necessities. He relieves his servants in health and sickness. He is not like that Amalekite who shook off his servant when he was sick, (1 Sam. 30:13)—but rather like the good centurion, who sought Christ for the healing of his sick servant (Matt. 8:5).
(3) A godly man sets his servants a good example. He is sober and heavenly in his deportment; his virtuous life is a good mirror for the servants in the family to dress themselves by.
He who is good in the relationship of a CHILD is godly
He honors his parents. Philo the Jew, placed the fifth commandment in the first table—as if children had not performed their whole devotion to God until they had given honor to their parents. This honoring of parents consists in two things:
(1) In respecting them–which respect is shown both by humility of speech and by attitude. The opposite of this is when a child behaves himself in an unseemly and proud manner. Among the Lacedemonians, if a child had behaved rebelliously towards his parent, it was lawful for the father to appoint someone else to be his heir, and to disinherit that child.
(2) Obeying their commands: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). Duty is the interest which children pay their parents, on the capital they have had from them. Christ has set all children a pattern of obedience to their parents: “He was subject unto them” (Luke 2:51). The Rechabites were eminent for this: “I set cups and jugs of wine before them and invited them to have a drink, but they refused. “No,” they said. “We don’t drink wine, because Jehonadab our ancestor, gave us this command: You and your descendants must never drink wine” (Jer. 35:5,6). Solon was asked why, among the many laws he made, none was against disobedient children. He answered that it was because he thought none would be so wicked.
God has punished children who have refused to pay the tribute of obedience. Absalom, a disobedient son, was hanged in an oak between heaven and earth, as being worthy of neither. Manlius, an old man, being reduced to much poverty, and having a rich son, entreated him only for charity—but could not obtain it. The son disowned him as his father, using reproachful language. The poor old man let tears fall (as witnesses of his grief) and went away. God, to revenge this disobedience of his son, soon afterwards struck him with madness. He in whose heart godliness lives, makes as much conscience of the fifth commandment as of the first.
He who is good as a SERVANT is godly
“Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5). The goodness of servants lies in:
(1) Diligence. Abraham’s servant quickly dispatched the business his master entrusted him with (Gen. 24:33).
(2) Cheerfulness. Servants must be cheerful workers, like the centurion’s servants: “If I say to one, ‘Go,’ he goes” (Luke 7:8).
(3) Faithfulness, which consists in two things:
(a) In not defrauding. “Not stealing” (Titus 2:10).
(b) In keeping counsel. It proves the badness of a stomach, when it cannot retain what is put into it, and the badness of a servant when he cannot retain those secrets which his master has committed to him.
(4) Submissiveness. “Be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back” (Titus 2:9). It is better to correct a fault than to minimize it. And what may stimulate a servant in his work is that encouraging scripture, “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Col. 3:24). If Christ should bid you do a piece of work for him, would you not do it? While you serve your master, you serve the Lord Christ. If you ask what salary you shall have, “the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward.”
Use 1: Is it the grand sign of a godly man to be holy in his relationships? Then the Lord be merciful to us. How few godly ones are to be found! Many put on the coat of profession. They will pray and discourse on points of religion—but “What means this bleating of the sheep?” (1 Sam. 15:14). They are not good in their relationships. How bad it is when Christians are defective in family piety!
Can we call a bad magistrate, godly? He perverts equity: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word? Do you judge the people fairly? No, all your dealings are crooked; you hand out violence instead of justice” (Psalm 58:1,2). Can we call a bad parent, godly? He never teaches his child the way to heaven. He is like the ostrich which is cruel to her young (Job 39:16). Can we call a bad employer, godly? Many employers leave their religion at church (as the clerk does his book). They have nothing of God at home; their houses are not Bethels—but Bethavens—not little temples but little hells. How many employers at the last day must plead guilty at the bar. Though they have fed their servants’ bellies, they have starved their souls. Can we call a bad child, godly? He stops his ear to his parents’ counsel. You may as well call him who is disloyal–a good subject. Can we call a bad servant, godly? He is slothful and wilful; he is more ready to spy a fault in another than to correct it in himself. To call one who is bad in his relationships godly, is a contradiction; it is to call evil good (Isaiah 5:20).
Use 2: As we desire to have God approve of us, let us show godliness in our relationships. Not to be good in our relationships spoils all our other good things. Naaman was an honorable man—but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1). That “but” spoiled everything. So such a person is a great hearer—but he neglects relative duties. This stains the beauty of all his other actions. As in printing, though the letter is ever so well shaped—yet if it is not set in the right place, it spoils the sense. So let a man have many things commendable in him—yet if he is not good in his right place, making conscience of how he walks in his relationships, he does harm to religion. There are many to whom Christ will say at last, as to the young man, “There is still one thing you lack” (Luke 18:22). You have misbehaved in your relative capacity. As therefore we cherish our salvation and the honor of true religion, let us shine in that orb of relationships where God has placed us.