Page images
PDF
EPUB

VARIOUS

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 command. 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. Da. niel 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,

.

waxed 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 Zaca cheus, 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 Testament, to display to us the nature 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 thoùght, 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 GODLINESS
Having 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

[ocr errors]

order. Man is too weak to stand alone; and it is the mark of true humility to employ those means in which it pleases God ordinarily to convey

his grace. One of the first operations, indeed, of the power of devotion will be to create a reverence for its forms. The Apostles instruct us to do all things decently and in order, and to consider the custom of the churches of Christ as a sufficient, and even an authoritative, guide to us in indifferent points. He that troubleth their peace or union, will bear his judgment, whosoever he be. We are to hold fast the form of sound words; and to obey them that have the rule over us, esteeming them very highly in love for their work's sake.

The state of heart, then, which the Apostle condemns is the so overvaluing the external services of religion as to neglect or despise that power of it, for the promotion of which those services were instituted. The offence condemned is the putting the name of piety for the thing. It is the sinking of religion in its mere appendages. It is the stopping in our course exactly where we should begin; the resting in a form, instead of employing it to conduct us to a higher end. Where this fatal mistake is made, the progress from bad to worse is commonly rapid; and men quickly learn to deny practically, if not avowedly, the power of inward and spiritual religion.

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »