Page images

all his sufferings-this power, many, alas! are ignorant of, and in works, if not in words, really deny. And yet they assume and maintain the form-and some of the reasons which induce them to do this are the following:

First. Because the form is comparatively easy -the difficulty lies in the power. It is an easy thing to pretend to be rich; to purchase splendid apparel, and furniture; and live in style upon the property of others-which is the fashion of the day. This differs exceedingly from the economy and industry, and labour of the man, who in his calling, gains a competency lawfully. It is an easy thing to profess to be wise, but to acquire knowledge by the weariness of study; by rising early and sitting up late; by keeping the mind always alive, and attentive to perceive, appropriate and classify fresh intellectual stores-here is the difficulty. And thus it is in the case before us. The form of godliness requires no strenuous exertions; demands no costly sacrifices. It is the power of it that renders the Christian life a striving to enter in at the strait gate; a pressing into the kingdom of God; a wrestling with principalities and powers; a running the race that is set before us; a fighting the good fight of faith

And it is this too that incurs opposition from the world. It will indeed be acknowledged that sometimes the very form draws forth the rancour of others--and of all people, those are most to be pitied, who are persecuted for what they have not; who are reproached as Christians, without deserving the honour. But upon a nearer inspection of these mere formalists, the world is generally made quite easy. They see that they were mistaken in the characters-they find that

they are of their own, though wearing a religious uniform. And discovering in them their own spirit, disposing them to plead for their vanities and leading them to indulge in the very same practices, as far as they can safely do it-they will readily allow them their odd way of thinking, or their peculiar observances; yea, they may even consent to go with them to hear their favourite preacher, if these formalists will go with them in return to see their favourite actor-nor will they have any objection to see the bible lying upon the table, if in moving it the cards are shaken out from between the hallowed leaves. The real Christian may say to these nominal ones, as his Lord and Saviour did to the Jews, "The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the deeds thereof are evil.”

Secondly. Persons are sometimes induced to take up the form of godliness, through the influence of their connexions. From some of them, they feel the influence of authority. From some, the influence of friendship. From some, the influence of business. For with many, gain is godliness: and they assume religion, because they imagine they can succeed better in the church than in the world. This often decides the place of their hearing. Some of them also pay for seats in several places of worship-it makes them known-and is likely to increase customers.

Though religion, particularly and practically considered, be hateful to mankind, yet, viewed superficially, and in the gross, it commonly obtains something like applause, and few would choose to have any thing to do with a person who avowed himself to be irreligious in principle and practice. Many, therefore, nicely determine the

boundary of safety; and without going so far as to give offence, they will go far enough to procure respect. "Hence," says Henry, "they assume a form of godliness, to take away their reproach, but not the power of it to take away their sin."

Thirdly. They avail themselves of the form of godliness to preserve peace within. For without something of religion, conscience would rage and clamour, but by means of this, it is amused and quieted; and this renders it so extremely dangerous. For, engaged in a number of duties, the formalist presumes on the goodness of his state: and feeling no fear, he makes no inquiry. He is secure, without being safe: and while poor towards God, supposes himself to be rich, and increased with goods, and to have need of nothing.

But what is the hope of the formalist, though he has gained?-and what does he gain? He may pass for religious in the opinion of his fellowcreatures, and lull conscience to sleep-But does he obtain the approbation of God? Can he possibly elude his discernment? His eyes are as a flame of fire, which will pierce through every pretension, and consume every disguise. No: 66 He is not a Jew who is one outwardly: neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter: whose praise is not of men, but of God. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."

And, to draw towards a close-If such a sub


ject as this were ever necessary, it is peculiarly so in the present day, when hearing the gospel entails so little reproach, and the profession of religion being so cheap, is become so common. Let me, therefore, beseech you to examine yourselves by this solemn test: and to inquire, whether you have the power, as well as the form of godliness. It is a good evidence in your favour, if you are willing to come to the light: and can even address yourselves to God in the language of David: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." And be it remembered, that in a case of such vast importance, and where the consequences of deception are not to be repaired, we cannot be too anxious to be right. It is better to have a timorous conscience, than a presumptuous one: and to be unnecessarily distressed for a while, and be safe, than to enjoy a carnal confidence, and to perish for ever.


To induce to seek after real godliness, you would do well to reflect on the exceeding great and precious promises, which are attached to it in the scriptures of truth. If you have the life and power of religion, you will indeed be engaged in exercises and trials which the mere formalist escapes-but then you will have privileges and hopes, of which he can never partake. He does not go far enough to relish its enjoyments, or amass its riches. But "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself. Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is


profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. For eternity-here is the assurance of deliverance from every evil, the possession of all good, the vision and the presence of their Lord and Saviour for ever. And for time-here is the certainty-not of health, of property, of ease, and friendship-but what is far better-the persuasion that "All things shall work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are the called,

according to his purpose. Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.'


And, finally, let none henceforth complain of weakness-"O! but what can flesh and blood do -especially in such a world as this!"-For you have resources above nature; and these have effectually carried through all their work and danger, thousands and millions encompassed with the same infirmities. What is commanded, is also promised; and the means which the gospel furnishes, are adequate to the end which it proposes. The duty enjoined us, demands more than an angel's strength and we have more—" Our sufficiency is of God. My grace," says he, "is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Be strong, therefore, in the Lord, and in the power of his might." Despair of nothing, but say with the apostle, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me."

"Go on, thou mighty man of valour, for the Lord is with thee.-The people that do know their God, shall be strong, and do exploits.". Amen..

« PreviousContinue »