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Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.

THERE are two parts of religion, the internal and the external. Each of these is important; but in very different degrees. The inward grace of religion is the life of the whole, and gives all the value to its outward appearances. The ordinances of it are excellent, if they are regarded as a means, rather than an end; but if they are substituted for inward piety, they become injurious and dangerous. Thus the Apostle instructs us, that in the perilous times of the last dispensation of the church, men shall learn to unite every possible vice, with an outward adherence to the rituals of Christianity; shall retain the form whilst they deny the power of godliness. And though the ordinary cases which occur in the present day are far from being so aggravated as those de

scribed by the Apostle, yet the tendency of human nature is ever the same.

A large class of mankind are always prone to neglect the real spirit and influence of religion, and to overvalue its outward observances. Let us, then, consider,

I. The power of godliness.
II. The mere form of it.

We are to notice,


The term GODLINESS is, strictly considered, a due love and obedience to the blessed God; but it is ordinarily employed in the Scriptures, in a larger sense, for the whole of true religion. This begins in the conversion of the heart by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It leads to sincere repentance. It brings a man to believe cordially in the name of Jesus Christ for pardon and justification through his vicarious sacrifice and atonement. It produces a love to God and holiness, a delight in prayer, a value for the Bible, a mortification of remaining sinful passions, charity to our neighbour, separation from the sins and corruptions of the world, meekness, humility, circumspection, tenderness of conscience, and a desire to discharge every personal and relative duty. Thus the sinner, who was formerly ungodly and careless about his salvation, becomes a new creature in Christ

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


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. 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 Samson, and of Jephthae, of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong,

waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight 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 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, double-minded and insincere persons.

THE POWER, THEN, OF GODLINESS, IN THE ORDINARY 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,

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