« AnteriorContinuar »
without the soul, a lifeless picture or image of godliness: they assume the garb and air of sanctity, but are strangers, nay enemies, to the thing itself. That the following discourse may be “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," I shall, in the
First place, Endeavour to open the nature of true godliness, and to show wherein the life and power of it consist.
Secondly, I shall inquire, whence it is, that any who deny the power of godliness should submit to the drudgery of practising the forms of it? and then point out the improvement which both saints and sinners ought to make of this subject.
Godliness, in general, is the subjection or devotedness of the soul to God himself. It is the practical acknowledgment of his unlimited sovereignty, and the unreserved dedication of the whole man to his service ; or, to speak in the emphatical language of this Apostle, it is “ Christ formed” in the heart by the powerful energy of the Holy Spirit: in consequence whereof, the person becomes “ a new creature,” both with regard to his temper and practice; “ be partakes of the divine nature; and “ those members” which were formerly the " servants of sin,” are now employed as " instruments of righteousness unto God.”
It is not a cold assent to the truths of religion ; it is not a natural softness and benevolence of temper; it is not the abstaining from gross sins, or the giving to God a corner of our hearts, and some vacant portions of our time, while the bulk of both is alienated from him, that will intitle us to the character of godly men. As he only is God, who is universal Lord, supreme in wisdom, in power, and in goodness; so that only is godliness which
reveres and honoars God, in a way suited to that high and incommunicable character. Genuine piety expresseth itself thus; “ Whom bave I in heaven but thee, O Lord ? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." We are not godly, whatever we profess or seem, if in our most deliberate and affectionate choice, we do not prefer the one true God, and the enjoyment of his favour, to all that can be found throughout the wide extent of his works; if we make not his will the measure of ours, his law the sovereign guide of our conduct, and his glory the ultimate end of our obedience. But more particularly, in the
First place, Godliness includes a supreme love to God himself, and a constant prevailing desire to please him, mixed with a holy reverential awe, or fear of of. fending him. I have joined these together, because they appear to be of equal necessity and use, to constitute that frame and temper of mind wherein the essence of piety or true godliness doth consist. Fear is necessary to keep God in our eye: it is the office of love to enthrone him in our heart. Fear cautiously avoids whatever may offend : love yields a prompt and liberal serrice. Fcar regards God as a witness and judge; love cleaves to him as a friend, nay a father. Fear maketh us watchful and circumspect: love renders us active and resolute. In short, they go hand in hand, and mutually assist each other: Love keeps fear from being servile and distrustful; and fear keeps love from being forward and secure: and both spring from one root, namely, Faith in God, as a being possessed of infinite perfection, and related to us as our Creator and Governor, our Redeemer and our Judge.
This distinguisheth true godliness from every counterfeit, or false appearance of it. The seeming righte
ousness of the formalist, is either assumed to impose upon the world, without any regard to God at all, or else it flows entirely from a tormenting fear of future wrath : in his heart there is an aversion from God and his service, at the very time he is professing to honour him with his body; reluctant and hesitating at every step, he proceeds no farther in the road of duty than he thinks may suffice to escape damnation : he doth more than he would do, were he not forced by necessity; and if left to his own choice, he would rather live at large like the beasts that perish, and render no homage to God at all.
Secondly. The power of godliness consists in the conquest of our corrupt and rebellious passions. These in. deed still live and fight within us, and will continue to do so in one degree or other, till death pull down these earthly tabernacles: but if we are truly sanctified, their strength shall gradually languish and decay: victory is sown in that new nature we have got; for " whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world :” Jesus our Lord shall ere “ long deliver us from the body of this death, and the God of peace shall in due time bruise Satan underneath our feet.”—Whereas the formalist is altogether carnal; corruption prevails against reason and conscience; the flesh gives law; and every faculty of the mind, every member of the body, is a willing slave to its usurped authority. Perhaps he has cunning enough 6 to wash the outside;" to refrain from those sins which would stain his reputation, and render him contempti. ble in the opinion of the world: But all the while he feels no hatred of sin in his heart; his conformity to the law doth not flow from an inward principle of holiness, but is purely an artificial thing, calculated to please
old of Poured
others; and he cares for no more of it than is absolutely necessary for attaining that end.
Thirdly. The power of godliness ennobles the soul with a boly indifference to all earthly things. The godly man is one whose treasure is in heaven. He hath seen through the deceit and vanity of this world, and therefore esteems it but dross and dung in comparison of God and things eternal: he is hastening to the promised land of rest, and will not eagerly contend for an inheritance in this wilderness, nor be greatly dejected when it is either withheld or taken from him. Faith hath so far an. nihilated this world, that it is become as nothing in his eye, and hath no bribe to offer that is sufficient to seduce him from the service of his God, or the care of his pre. cious and immortal soul. This holy indifference to earthly things, this divine elevation of sentiment and affection, is an eminent part of the godly man's character, and one of the most striking effects of the power of religion in his heart. The formalist may, no doubt, put upon on the appearance of this; he, too, may talk of his contempt of the world; but when a trying time comes, his broo hypocrisy and earthly-mindedness will soon discover God. themselves: "Demas bath forsaken me (said Paul) hav. ing loved this present world.” Afliction, and especially persecution for the sake of Christ, makes a wide and visible distinction betwixt the truth of grace and all the counterfeits of it. This is a test wbich the formalist cannot stand : the predominant interest must then appear, jog? and can no longer be concealed. In that day, all mere speculations about religion vanish ; nor can any thing support the sufferer but what he firmly believes and feels in his heart. The unsound professor may look big for awhile, and part with many lesser things, but when matters are brought to this crisis, “ Sell all that thou
hast, and take up the cross ;" renounce every present sensible enjoyment for the sake of distant invisible bles, sings ; then he must throw aside the mask, and confess that the world is supreme in his heart, and that heaven was never valued by him but as a secondary good, which he wished to have in reversion, when he could keep his hold of this earth no longer.
Fourthly. The soul that is under the power of godliness hath a vehement thirst after the enjoyment of God himself. It is God in Christ whom the godly man seeketh in the ordinances of religion ; either to know more of his will, or to have bearer communion with him, or to receive from him fresh supplies of grace, for cleansing and quickening, and comforting his soul. These are to him like the tree unto which Zaccheus climbed
that he might see Jesus: and he useth them only for that end. Doth he go to the sanctuary? it is, “ that he may behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple.” Doth he approach the altar? it is, that he may meet with “God his exceeding joy." As the “ hart panteth for the brooks of water, so pants his thirsty, longing soul for God, even the living God;" and he always prefers “ the light of his countenance" to the greatest increase 6 of corn and of wine," or whatever else this earth can afford. Now the formalist is an utter stranger to these exercises of the heart : he feels no anxiety after communion with God: he prays, but never troubles himself with inquiring if his prayer is accepted : he goes to church, not that he may wait upon God, or receive spiritual pourishment from the word preached; but merely to gratify his curiosity, and to get some addition to his stock of notional religion ; he grows weary of the necessary bread of life: he loathes that dry manna, and reckons every Sabbath and sermon lost in wbich he is not