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2 Tim. iii. 5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Every thing connected with the judgment-day is calculated to excite solemnity and reverence. Who can meditate without emotion on that trump which shall awake the dead ; on the splendour in which the Judge shall appear; on the dissolution of worlds; on the vast assembly of intelligent spirits collected from heaven, earth, and hell ? But there is another circumstance connected with that day, which, though less striking to the senses, is as interesting to the soul. It is the day in which the true characters of all shall be unveiled ; in which the consciences of all shall vol. in. 28
218 SERMO Xt. be developed ; in which we shall be made perfectly acquainted with ourselves, and perfectly known to others. Then many, who once entertained no doubt of their salvation, will perceive with surprise and horror that they fatally deceived themselves, and will shudder while they acknowledge that, notwithstanding the false security in which they lived, and perhaps died, they were the enemies of God. Many, who deluded their fellow men, will then see that God could not be deceived, and will not be mocked. On many who were commended on earth, and on whose grave-stones was inscribed the eulogy of their piety, the Judge shall pronounce, " Ye are weighed in the balance, and are found wanting." Many who as-
sumed " the form of godliness," shall then appear to " have denied its power." This form is a profession of religion ; the outward appearance of piety ; the external performance of holy duties. Its power is the inward experience of its saving efficacy and grace ; that is attested by a holy, heavenly walk and conversation. This power is denied, not merely by the declarations of the lips, but by all those actions which are inconsistent with it, and which prove that we do not feel its influence. Brethren, " let us now judge ourselves, that we may not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. xi. 31, 32.) Let us see whether we have both the form and power of godliness. Let us not fear to look fixedly upon our consciences, our hearts, and our lives. Let us see whether the foundation of our hopes can sustain the trial of the storms of death and the fires of judgment. Let us not madly purchase a false peace upon earth, by everlasting agonies in the world to come.
MISCELLA EOUS. 219 To assist us in this self-examination, let us seriously attend to the illustration of these three important truths : I. A form of godliness is absolutely necessary, if we would be saved. II. But this form is insufficient, unless it be united with the power of godliness. III. Yet notwithstanding the clear evidence of this truth, there are many who satisfy themselves with the form, while they are destitute of the power.
I. A form of godliness 's absolutely necessary, if we would be saved. We cannot reasonably hope for future felicity unless we externally worship God in the way of his appointment. I commence with this proposition, that those who are utterly careless of their obligations to God and the Redeemer, may feel, that if the false professor must perish, they shall not escape. When the ministers of religion remonstrate with those " who have named the name of Christ," there are always some in our congregations who are inwardly congratulating themselves that none of these censures affect them. But are you therefore more secure? Because those, who insincerely profess themselves to be friends, shall be punished, does it follow that open enemies shall escape ? Because those will be undone who falsely pretend to have the seal of the Lord upon them, shall those be delivered who treat with contempt this seal, and bear the mark of the foe of God and holiness visibly impressed upon their foreheads ? We are plainly and unequivocally commanded to assume the form of godliness ; to testify by external acts our allegiance to the Lord ; and to attend on those ordinances and sacraments which he surely did
220 SERMO XC. not appoint that we might with impunity neglect and contemn them. On this subject God has spoken ; we must obey, or expect the recompense of our disobedience. Would we imitate the pious of all dispensations and of all countries ? We cannot walk in the steps
of patriarchs or prophets, of apostles or martyrs, except we have the form of godliness. If, like icodemus, we come only to the Saviour by night, and secretly, we are not esteemed his disciples. Would we resemble the inhabitants of heaven, redeemed sinners, and holy angels ? They do not merely worship God in their hearts, but aloud pour forth their praises and thanksgivings, and express their obedience and love. Would you imitate the blessed Redeemer? In Him there was the form of godliness ; at all times and in all possible modes he externally testified his affection, and his delight to do the will of his Father. Say not, that you secretly, and in your hearts, worship and love him. It is impossible that there should be internal piety without some outward manifestation of it. " From the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak." If " with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, with the lips confession will be made to salvation." Besides, what right have you to withhold the acts of external worship from Him who is " the God of all flesh," as well as the " Father of spirits ;" who made your body as well as your soul ; who confers upon it daily mercies ; who purchased it by the sufferings of his Son, who when he was offered a sacrifice, not only endured agonies of soul, but was also crucified in his body ; and who offers at the last great day to raise it up from the grave and crown it with immor-
MISCELLA EOUS. 221 tality and glory. " Glorify Him therefore in your body and your spirit, which are his."
Without the form of godliness, you will probably render yourselves guilty of the blood of souls ; be accessary to the eternal perdition of some who are dear to you. There is no one, whose example has not some influence on those with whom he associates. Think then, that by openly neglecting God, by refusing to profess his religion, by turning your back upon his ordinances, you are hardening in guilt that child, that relative, that friend, who, deriving confidence from your example, may live and die careless of the blessed Redeemer, and may spend an eternity in the world of despair ! But suppose not that I am urging you to a cold and insincere profession of religion, for we are taught by the text, II. That the form of godliness is utterly unavailing for our salvation without its power. Though your observance of all outward ceremonies be unintermitted ; though you often kneel before God; and diligently study the holy scriptures; and are constantly seen in the sanctuary ; and seize every opportunity of approaching the sacramental table ; yet if you rest in these external forms, if your soul be not engaged, if the vital power and transforming efficacy of religion be not felt in your heart, what doth it profit ? 1. This mere outward service is a worship not conformed to the nature of God. This is taught us by our Saviour, " God is a spirit; and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John iv. 24.) The service that is the act merely of the body, is no more suitable to his spiritual nature than
222 SERMO xc.
are the statues that are sometimes placed in kneeling postures and devotional attitudes upon tombs. 2. It is not conformed to the commands of God : " My son, give me thy heart," is his great injunction. (Prov. xxiii. 26.) That sacrifice in which the heart is wanting, though offered with pomp, with external reverence and devotion, never can rise acceptably before him. 3. It is not conformed to the design of the mission of the Saviour, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. If all that God requires is the form of godliness, it was not necessary that Jesus should become incarnate, and expire upon the cross : it was not necessary that the Holy Ghost, the promise of the Father, and the purchase of the Redeemer, should descend. Without the atonement, and without the influences of the Spirit, the form of godliness may be observed, and outward services paid. 4. It is not conformed to the nature of that covenant which is the foundation of our hopes. " This shall be the covenant that I will make, saith the Lord : I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts :" it is of such only that he declares, " I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jer. xxxi. 33.) 5. It is not conformed to the examples of the pious ; all of whom have used language the same in substance with that of Paul, " The God whom I serve in my spirit." (Rom. i. 9.) 6. It is not conformed to the example of the blessed Redeemer; concerning whom none can be so blasphemous, as to doubt whether his whole soul was engaged in doing and in suffering the will of God.
7. It is not conformed to the great ends of religion. These are to deliver the soul from guilt, to renew it,
MISCELLA EOUS. 223 to re-impress upon it the image of God, to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. And how certain is it, that for these great purposes " bodily exercise profiteth little ?" (1 Tim. iv. 8.) III. Yet notwithstanding the clear evidence of this truth, there are many who satisfy themselves with the form without the power of godliness. The testimony of scripture declares that it will be so ; for it is not concerning the period when he lived, so much as the latter days, that the apostle speaks when he assures us, that the characters mentioned in the text shall be found in the church. The examples of the scripture prove that it has been so : that in every age " there has been a generation that are pure in their own eyes, though they have not been washed from their filthiness." (Prov. xxx. 12.) Who can, without a holy jealousy over himself, without solemn " searchings of heart," remember the foolish virgins, (Matt, xxv.) or those confident professors, to whom our Saviour directs our attention, and who will be filled with astonishment, when he shall say unto them in the judgment-day, " I never knew you;" (Matt. vii. 23.) or Ananias and Sapphira, Hymeneus and Philetus, Alexander and Demas ? Who can remember the deceitfulness and treachery of the human heart, the awful power of selfdelusion, the subtlety and force of our spiritual foes, the ten thousand times ten thousand, who, after assuming the form of godliness, have " made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience," and not be convinced that an external profession is not necessa-
rily connected with the power of religion ? But who are the persons to whom the dark traits in the text may be applied ? I can only mention a few of the classes into which they may be divided.
221 SERMO XC. At their head must be placed the intentional hypocrite, who knows that he is utterly destitute of love to God and the Redeemer, who has no desire for holiness, but who assumes the mask of religion to cover his sinful purposes. Than this character, none is more hateful to God and to man ; none secures a deeper damnation. It would be trifling with your understandings formally to prove to you, that the greatest strictness and frequency of external performances will not recommend him to God. His hypocritical designs convert his prayers into blasphemy; his communions, into sacrilege. The cold formalist has the " form of godliness without the power." His intention is not to delude men ; he has felt, in some degree, the importance of securing future bliss. He is, therefore, strict in the performance of the external duties of religion; and to this he may add a blameless walk with men, and many moral virtues. But examine nearer, and you find that he has forgotten that Christianity is emphatically the religion of the heart. You find that, amidst this round of duties, he knows not what it is to enjoy communion with God and the Redeemer, through the Spirit; that he knows not what it is to be born of God, raised from the death of sin, quickened and led by the Spirit, created in Christ Jesus to good works. He attends the ordinances, not as a motive and assistant to vital piety, but as a substitute, which he hopes God will accept instead of the piety of the soul. He
attends them as awful duties, rather than as privileges and delights. With all his external strictness, he is only a beautiful corpse, without a vivifying principle ; and his religious performances and " moral virtues are only sweet flowers strewed over this
MISCELLA EOUS. 225 corpse, which hide the loathsomeness of it, but inspire not life into it."* The vain enthusiast has " the form of godliness without the power." You will not here misunderstand me ; you will not suppose that I am adopting the wicked and contemptible cant of those enemies of God and holiness, who stigmatize as enthusiasm all ardour in the cause of the Lord, all warmth for the blessed Redeemer. Only let your zeal be wellfounded, and it cannot be excessive. I am speaking of the stony-ground hearers, mentioned by our Lord, who received the word with joy ; whose passions were all on fire, though their souls were unrenewed ; who produced a beautiful but deceptive verdure, which withered when the sun arose, because they had no root in themselves. I am speaking of those mentioned by Paul in the sixth chapter to the Hebrews, who were strangers to regenerating grace, and who perished ; but who, nevertheless, " had tasted of the heavenly gift," had some relish of the excellence and preciousness of Christ, and " of the good word of God," in which they had found some sweetness ; and " of the powers of the world to come," having had some transports and ecstasies of soul in meditating on that future felicity which they supposed was their own. 1 am speaking of those who substitute ardours and glows of soul, which arise from natural causes, for supernatural grace ; who live, not by faith on Christ, but on their spiritual
frames; who invert the order of the gospel, and derive the only evidence of their peace with God from the joys they feel, instead of deriving their joy from the scriptural evidence applied by the Spirit, of their
* Flave! I. 351. vol. in. 29
226 SERMO X( . peace with God. Oh ! how many such have glittered for a time, as meteors, in the church, and then have set in darkness ! The ivorldly-minded professor has the form of godliness without the power. How many, who, while they observe the exteriors of devotion, yet show that the world, in some of its forms, has the first place in their hearts. Perhaps he is a covetous man; and then, though he may often deplore the corruption, the frivolity, and dissipation of the age, yet the love of wealth will engross his affections, produce an eagerness to acquire it, a proud trust and confidence in it, and a resolution to preserve and increase it by any means. Perhaps he is devoted to worldly pleasure; and, while he acknowledges the inconsistency of a covetous heart with the power of godliness, sees not how remote his own life is from that spirituality, that heavenly-mindedness,that superiority to earth, which mark the child of God. A circle of perpetual amusements, an immoderate pursuit of vain diversions, ba-
nish serious thoughts, render it unfit for communion with the Redeemer and the exercises of piety, lead to those vices and follies which mark the character of those who are " lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Perhaps he bows at the shrine of ambition, and intent only on earthly dignities, shows that he cannot be satisfied with that honour which cometh of God only. The bitter sectarian has the form of godliness without the power. He thinks his zeal for a party a zeal for God; denouncing all who differ from him, he would confine the interest of the Redeemer upon earth to his own little sect. He forgets that unhal-
MISCELLA EOUS. 22/ lowed passions may mingle with the defence of the most sacred truths ; that strange fire may be offered even on the true altar of God ; and that with the temper of hell we may combat for the doctrines of heaven. Such was Jehu ; zealous against idolatry, though destitute of piety. Such were the pharisees, who would compass sea and land to make one proselyte, though they were the children of Satan. Such were those, who thought they did God service by killing his children. The censorious professor has the form of godliness without the power. He thinks better of himself, in proportion as he speaks worse of others. He cries, with a proud elation of soul, " Stand by thyself; I am holier thou!" He has the temper of the pharisee, who exclaimed, " God, T thank thee, that I am not as other men!" Instead of being occupied with his own heart, and exercising upon it all his severity, he is watching every little irregularity of conduct or temper in others. Oh ! how much does he want the hu-
mility, the meekness, the candour of the gospel ! how little does he resemble that Redeemer, who has given us, as the test of our attachment to him, mutual love ! Alas ! the censorious professor acts as though Jesus had said, ' By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye hate and revile one another.' " If any man among you," saith the apostle. " seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." (James i. 26.) Finally, the unfruitful professor has the form of god liness without the power. He is the undutiful son in the parable, (Matt. xxi. 28.) who outwardly professes reverence for his father, but neglects his commantis. His whole character i* dehneBtrd bv de-
228 SERMO Xi . claring of what lie is not guilty ; but what does he for God, for his Redeemer, for the cause of religion, for the benefit of his fellow-men ? To these questions no answers can be given. He satisfies himself with crying, " Lord, Lord ;" but not doing the will of God, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And now, my dear brethren, let us, in the presence of that God who beholds us, examine ourselves ; let us apply to our own hearts the truths to which we have listened. Are there any of us who have hitherto lived destitute alike of the form and the power of godliness ? Let such blush and be confounded, that, though created, redeemed, supported by God, they have yet lived lives of practical atheism ; lived precisely as they would have done, had the Saviour never become incarnate, nor the blood of atonement been shed. Oh ! for such dis-
regard to their obligations to the greatest and best of Beings ; for such ingratitude to the blessed Jesus, let them be filled with penitential sorrow, and humbled in the dust ! And let those of us, who have the form, fear not to probe our own souls. If we are reluctant to examine, to search the sincerity of our profession, it is indeed an unfavourable symptom. Let us not dream away our lives in false security, and indulge a vain hope which will perish when God taketh away the soul. Let us see whether we have indeed understanding, and deliberately chosen God as our portion ; whether his will is our rule, and his glory our end ; whether Christ is " formed in us the hope of glory ;" whether we artrenewed by the Holy Spirit ; whether our conversation is in heaven ; whether we are rich in good works ; more careful of being holv than of seeming so ; lowH
MISCELLA EOUS. 229 and humble in our thoughts of ourselves ; gentle and meek in our intercourse with others ; faithful in the discharge of our relative duties ; as attentive to the secret services as to the public offices of religion; whether, in one word, we are " the living temples of the living God, in which the Deity is both residen; and worshipped." May the Lord assist us in this examination ; may he make us real Christians, whom he will openly acknowledge in the day of judgment, and on whom he will confer everlasting glory and felicity !
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