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light in the law of God after the inner man. You have a form, and little more than a form, of godliness. Your are in fact dead as to spiritual life and feeling. You are, after all, establishing your own righteousness on the ruins of the Cross. You pursue, without pleasure or meaning, a weary and accustomed round of mere external duties and forms.
Awake then from your fatal security. Learn what true and spiritual religion is, and what it must effect in you, if ever you go to heaven. Behold, the penetrating eye of an all-seeing God is fixed upon you! Harken to those awful words, as to a voice of thunder, addressed to the Jews of old, but in their main intention applicable with double force to professed Christians: To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even your solemn meeting. All mere forms, then, are abominable in the sight of God, if the heart be wanting. What can the mask and shadow of religion avail with Him? The semblance of justice and benevolence may, indeed, impose on men like yourselves; but it can never
for one instant deceive the Most High. in this world, what benefit would the notion of life, or healing, or wealth, or deliverance produce? What good would arise from the mere machinery or implements of skill or benevolence? Would they raise the dead, restore the sick, enrich the perishing, or release the prisoner? And much less will the mere form of pardon and grace and purity, change or sanctify the heart. Beseech, then, of God the gift of his Holy Spirit. Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. Surrender your hearts to God. Never rest contented till the whole power of religion, like a gentle and steady and copious stream, refresh and renew your soul. Renounce your reliance on a heartless semblance of piety which only impedes and postpones your conversion; and embrace, as penitent sinners, the offers of grace made you in the Gospel. Thus shall you be, not only almost, but altogether Christians. You shall no longer halt between two opinions, but boldly and fully follow the Lord. And you shall feel all the grace and blessedness of the converted and devoted servants of Christ.
But I address, in the next place,
II. THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER THE FORM
NOR THE POWER OF GODLINESS.
If persons who wear the external semblance
of piety, and yet want its vital efficacy, are in the state which I have described, what must be your danger, who are utterly careless and indifferent, and do not preserve even the decencies of an external religion? If those who have only one part of godliness be in this awful condition, what must be yours, who have no part of it at all? He who has only a form of devotion, says Bishop Hall, is a hypocrite: he who has not even that is an atheist. And yet in this Christian country how how many thousand persons have no pretence to piety, and are not concerned to have any! They live almost as heathens. They have some regard to the laws of the land, the law of honour, the rules of a profession, the orders of trade, and the prescriptions of usage; but as to spiritual religion, the faith of Christ, the public worship of God, family piety, the observance of the Sabbath, purity of conversation, regard for conscience, the moral and religious education of children, selfgovernment, and a preparation for death and eternity these things never occupy a serious thought. They have not even the form of them: they have nothing to represent them; they are things which lie quite beyond their view. And yet they call themselves Christians. Let them learn then to be alarmed at such an irrational course of conduct. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
Know ye not that the swearer, the Sabbathbreaker, the unclean person, the proud, the covetous, shall not see the happiness of heaven? Know ye not that godliness is the highest duty of man? Know ye not that you are sinners; that you must repent or perish; that you must believe in the Son of God for everlasting life, or be condemned? Know ye not that you have the power, as well as the form, of godliness to acquire, and only a moment, perhaps, for this difficult acquisition? Know ye not that God will have all the heart, or none; and that the mere general acknowledgment of his being, and a loose adherence to a national church, whilst you have not so much as a decent semblance of piety, will only aggravate your condemnation? In forming our estimate of those who have the form of godliness, and, as we fear, only the form, we may sometimes err; but in our judgment of you who carry on your very forehead your determined negligence, and, perhaps, scorn of all serious religion, we cannot be mistaken. If there be any truth in the Bible, you are in imminent danger of perdition. Consider then your ways; turn to God; resolve earnestly to serve Christ, as you have been earnestly serving the world. Do not satisfy yourselves with assuming only the name of piety; but begin with the life of it, and this will bring along with it the name. Decide now for
heaven; renounce you sins; yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead. How shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation?
Allow me, before I conclude, to address,
III. THOSE WHO HAVE BOTH THE FORM AND THE POWER OF GODLINESS. I say those who have both the form and the power, because it ought to be our concern to unite the two. When in a pure Protestant church, we rise from the mere external to the vital and internal part of religion, we are not to neglect the first, but to take care that it be animated and invigorated by the second. In domestic life, principles of obedience without order, will soon lead to inextricable confusion. In the state, patriotism without subordination and subjection to law, will soon become wild and selfish. And thus even in the church of Christ, godliness itself, without proper attention to external form, may quickly be accompanied by irregularity and innovation. Perhaps the temper of the present day inclines us, in some cases, too much to neglect ecclesiastical discipline. Schisms and divisions are less carefully avoided than the Scripture directs them to be. Let us then, whilst we leave to our brethren of every confession the most entire liberty of conscience, honour and value our own sacred services and our own wise and