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thence the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. - The hour of his appearance knoweth no man.-When he does come, may he find us all diligent and active in the works of our calling—may he find us with our loins girded up, and our lamps burning, like faithful servants, who watch, that when their Lord knocketh they may open unto him.
THE FORM AND POWER OF GODLINESS.
2 TIMOTHY iii. 5.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power
There are few subjects more frequently pressed upon the attention of Christian congregations, than that which is suggested by the words I have now read to you. In the writings of the Apostles it holds a prominent place,--and down to the present moment, the cry of God's ministers has ever been, hearts, and not your garments;"—“Turn unto the Lord your God,”—not by any specious assumption of outward decency,
- Rend your
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but by an inward purification of the mind.-Not by formal rites and ceremonial observances,—but by serving him in the beauty of holiness, with that pure spiritual worship, which becomes those who have been blessed with the glorious light of the Gospel dispensation.
From the extreme frequency of these appeals on the same subject, we may infer, not only the vast importance of the doctrines they would inculcate, but also the fact, that at no time has it met with the full attention it deserves. Would we might hope that in these our times mankind had at last given themselves up to the service of their Maker, in sincerity and truth-that the great progress which has been made in every branch of worldly knowledge, were fully equalled by the growth of genuine piety and pure religion; and that as there are now comparatively few who are altogether ignorant and unlearned, so also the number of those were small, who failed to dedicate their improved faculties to the praise and glory of their God.-But how lamentably should we impose on ourselves, did we believe that this was really the case.—How woefully should we be contradicted by the experience of every moment !-Look round about you with an attentive eye.—Consider the characters and pursuits of the generality of men.Is it not clear, that though by the original constitution of their nature, they alone of all the creatures that dwell upon the face of the earth, are made capable of religion, too many of them treat it with most shameful neglect ?- Not that there is altogether so great a want of external decency. The“ form of godliness” is preserved with considerable precision.—But does religion consist in mere form ?
Religion,” says Doddridge, “ in its most general view, is such a sense of God on the soul, and such a conviction of our obligations to him, and our dependence on him, as shall engage us to make it our great care to conduct ourselves in a manner which we have reason to believe will be pleasing to him.”—And will any one be bold enough to say that religion
has this universal reign among us ?-Will any one suppose that it rules in every heart, and regulates every life ?—Where is the neighbourhood—where is the society,-nay-where is the family of which we shall be able to affirm, “Here, at least, religion rules unchecked ?"
Would impiety be so common-would licentiousness so abound,would sins of all kinds, and vices of every denomination be so prevalent, were not the
power” of godliness denied by the majority of mankind ?
That there are many who are Israelites indeed, it would be vain to deny and disheartening to believe.-But let every one of us, my brethren, pause before we conclude that we are of that number. The extreme readiness which we all feel to do so, is perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the growth of vital Christianity. The review we take of our condition is too indulgent. We are too easily satisfied.-We set the standard too low.–And as we know that perfection is not attainable ; we readily sup