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Jesus, and lives a sober, righteous, and godly life.
If this be the nature of godliness, THE POWER OF it must be that sacred influence, by which the genuine spirit of it is communicated, and the holy effects of it are produced ; that energy by which it transforms, converts, and sanctifies the whole man. If the doctrine of godliness is lowered and explained away, its power will disappear. But when the true grace of Christ Jesus, the real and effectual work of the blessed Spirit, the inward life of God in the heart, and the pure and devoted obedience of a Christian conduct, are duly insisted upon in the language and manner of the Holy Scriptures, then the virtue and loveliness of religion will be preserved, the efficacy of it, as well as the name. Thus the Apostle speaks of the Gospel of Christ, as being the power of God unto salvation.
Thus the Thessalonians received it, not as the word of men, but, as it was in truth, the word of God, which EFFECTUALLY WORKED in them that believed. The Gospel is also said to have come to the same Thessalonians, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and they became followers of the apostles and of the Lord; so that they were ensamples to all the believers, having turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God. And thus the truth of the Gospel came to the Co
lossians, and brought forth fruit, since the day they heard it and knew the grace of God in truth.
This power of godliness is MANIFEST IN THE
HISTORIES OF THE TRUE SERVANTS OF
GOD, which are found in the Holy Scriptures. Abraham, by this efficacy of religion, came out from his country and his kindred at the call of God, and afterwards offered up his only son Isaac at his com inand. Jacob waited for God's salvation. Joseph resisted the temptation to which he was exposed, and said, How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ? Moses also refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Ruth resolved to cleave to Naomi and the worship of the one Jehovah. Joshua followed the Lord fully. Hezekiah was a holy example to his generation. Manasseh humbled himself greatly before the Lord. Josiah sought the Lord with his whole heart. Daniel braved the den of lions, and the three children the fiery furnace, for conscience sake. And what shall I say more ? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Sampson, and of Jephthae, of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong,
wared valiant in the fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens.
I need not do more than allude to the cases in the New Testament of Matthew and Zaccheus, and Paul, and Lydia, and the Philippian jailor, and Onesimus, and others, which are familiar to every student of Scripture, and which concur with the histories in the Old Tes. tament, to display to us the nåture of this important topic, the transforming efficacy of real religion.
It is impossible, I think, not to see from this enumeration, what is meant by the power of godliness. Because, separating in the cases of these persons every thing properly supernatural or peculiar, it is yet evident that there was a force and reality in their religion, a life and vigour, a spirituality and devotedness, a sacrifice of their own will and a resignation to that of God, a separation from the world, and a zeal for the divine glory, which distinguished their whole character from that of cold, timid, doubleminded and insincere persons.
THE POWER, THEN, OF GODLINESS, IN THE ORDINANY TIMES OF THE CHURCH, will consist in a real and effectual conversion of the whole heart to God, in opposition to a merely external reformation. It will appear in a cordial reception of Christ Jesus in his whole salvation as the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and
redemption of sinners, in opposition to a nominal faith in him. It will produce a simple, unaffected, and continual dependence on the mighty operation of the Holy Ghost for every good thought, desire, and action, in opposition to a merely general reference to his aid. It will be seen in a spiritual and heavenly state of the heart and affections, which delights in prayer and communion with God, and honours the holy sabbath, in opposition to a cold performance of some of the outward duties of religion. It will manifest itself in a fervent love to Christ, which constrains the whole soul, and wins it to speak of his name, and glory in his cross, in opposition to indifference and neglect. It will appear in a circumspect walk, an abstraction from the world, and a dread of temptation, in opposition to a conformity to the manners of the age. It will be seen in a zeal for the glory of God, and an activity and enterprise in promoting the salvation of others, in opposition to a selfish indolence. It will appear in the humble, meek, and forgiving temper of Christ Jesus, in opposition to pride and revenge and the spirit of party. In a word, the power of godliness is religion in action religion governing the understanding, the will, the affections, and the life. It is the real deliverance of the captive; it is the actual erection of the spiritual edifice; it is the positive recovery of
the patient; it is the perceptible warmth of life ; it is the holy birth and growth of the soul in piety; it is Christ dwelling in the heart by faith ; it is the translation from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. These effects, indeed, are not produced in an equal degree in all sincere Christians; but this is the test, this the criterion, by which the real power of religion may be ascertained; and to attain to this, and more than this, is the supreme object and aim of all true servants of God.
But we come now to consider what is meant,
II. BY THE MERE FORM OF GODLINESSHaving the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
Here it is to be observed, in the very first instance, that the dangerous state of mind described in these words does not consist in having the form of religion, but in so adhering to the form as to deny, either directly or virtually, its power.
THE OUTWARD FORMS OF RELIGION ARE PRESCRIBED BY GOD HIMSELF, AND ARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FOR MAN. As we have bodies as well as souls, external institutions are indispensable to us. Secret and family devotions must have decent forms, or they will soon decline. The public worship of Almighty God must be preserved and regulated by appointed services. No wise person ever undervalues