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S E R M O N
Of the form, and the
2 TIM. iij. '5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
The first sermon on this texte
power of it.
THE Apostle in these words distinguishes
two things in religion, which do not, but ought always to go together, viz. the thew and pretence of religion, and the life and
He condemns neither, but blames the separating of them. The latter indeed cannot be with out the first; for where-ever religion really is, there will be some appearance of it: but the former may be, and often is, without the latter. Men may make a great few of religion, and yet be very destitute of the power of it. And such were those persons the Apostle describes here in the text; they were guilty of the greatest faults and vices in their lives, but thought to čloke all these by an outward lhew and appearance of godliness. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
The word wóp pasis, which is here translated form, fignifies the shew or image of a thing, which is dead and ineffectual, in opposition to the reality and life, which is quick and powerful. And, I think, this word is but once more used in the New Testament, and much in the same sense, viz. for an empty and ineffectual knowledge of religion, without the practice of it. Rom. ii. 17. 20. 21. The Apostle there speaks of some Pharifaical Jews, who gloried in their knowledge of the law, but violated it in their practice. Behold, thou art called a few, and resiest in the law, and hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thon that preachest, a man should not fieal, dost thou steal? VOL. IX.
So that a form of godliness signifies an empty shew and profession of religion, without the real effects of it.
And they who are destitúte of these, are said to deny the power of religion. . It is usual in several languages to draw metaphors from words to actions; and men are faid to contradict or deny any thing, when they do contrary to what they pretend; and to this phrase is elsewhere used, Tit. i. io. They profess to know God, but in their works they deny him. i Tim. v. 8. If any man provide not for his own, especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith. The Apostle does not mean that such an one denies the faith by an express declaration in words, but by actions so contradictory to the Christian faith, as an infidel would hardly do. He hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
In the handling of these words, I shall do these four things.
First, Shew wherein a form of godliness consists.
Thirdly, Give fome marks and characters whereby we may know when these are separated, when the form. of godliness is destitute of the power.
Fourthly, Shew that a mere form of godliness, without the power of it, is insignificant to all the great ends and purposes of religion.
First, To Thew wherein a form of godliness doth confift. In general it consists in an external thew and profession of religion, or of any eminent part of it, or of that which is reputed to be lo; and a form of religion is more or less complete, according to the extent of it. Some pitch upon one part of religion, and set themselves chiefly to make a shew of that ; others take in more parts of it, and endeavour to express and counterfeit them; fo that the forms of religion are various and different, and not to be reduced to any fixed and constant standard; but they commonly appear in some one or more of these shapes :
I. An external devotion.
V. An imperfect repentance, and partial reformation.
VI. The appearance, and oftentation, of some particular grace and virtue.
VII. A great zeal for some party, or opinions, or circumstances of religion.
VIII. Silliness and 'freakishness, and either a pretended or real ignorance in the common affairs, and concernments of human life.
IX. Much noise and talk about religion.
These are the several forms of religion which men are wont to assume. Not that these do always go singly; but sometimes men put on one, sometimes more of them, as may best serve their several turns and interests. Nor would I be understood to condemn all these ; for several of these particulars which I have mentioned are good in themselves, and necessary parts of religion ; but being destitute of other things, wherein the life of religion doth consist, they are but a form of godliness.
1. External devotion. This is the most common form of religion, and easiest to be assumed, and therefore it is that so many take it up. And this is good in itself, and a necessary part of religion : but if there be no more than this, it is a mere image and picture of religion, abominable to God, and fullom and odious to discerning men.
Now, this external devotion shews itself more especially these two ways :
1. In a frequent and diligent use of the means and instruments of religion.
2. In a curious and nice regard to the modes and cir. cumstances of performing these.
1. In a frequent and diligent use of the means and instruments of religion, such as prayer, reading, and hearing the word of God, and receiving of the blessed facrament. These are not the life of religion, the great end and design of it, but the means and instruments which God hath appointed for the begetting and increasing of holiness and virtue in us. Many exercise themselves in these with great constancy and devotion, pray to God, anil read the Bible frequently, go to church duly, and hear God's word attentively, and receive the A 2
facrament reverently, and behave themselves devoutly in all parts of publick worship, and yet all this may be but a mere form, and certainly is no more, where the great end of all this is neglected, and men do not sincere ly endeavour to do what God's word directs them to, and what they daily pray to God to enable them to do.
For all these means are in order to some farther effect and design. We read and hear the word of God, that we may know his will, and that we may do it ; that by the precepts and counsels of the holy scriptures, we may learn and understand our duty; and by the motives and arguments which are there offered to us, we may effe tually be persuaded to the practice of it. We pray to God, not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but for his grace and aslistance, to enable us to mortify and subdue them, and to proceed in all virtue and godliness of living. We receive the sacrament, to inflame our love to God and our blessed Saviour, to excite in us a greater hatred of sin, and to confirm us in the purpose and resolution of well-doing. These are the great ends for which God hath appointed all these helps and means ; and if these ends be not obtained, in vain do we wor: fhip God, all our religion is but mere shew and
pagean. try. We are but like the people God himself describes, Isa. xxix. 13. This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do they honour me, but have removed their heart far from me. And like those, Ezek. xxxiii. 30. 31. 32. who spake one to another, every one 10 his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they fit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them : for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetoufness. And lo thou art unto them as a very lovely song, of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument : for they hear thy words, but they do them not. This is not to worship God, but impudently to affront him ; and if we take this for religion, we put the groffcft cheat ima. ginable upon ourselves. Hear how God challenges the people of Israel upon this account, Jer. vii. 2. 3. 4. &c. Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judalı
, that enter
in at thefe gates to worship the Lord. Thus faith the Lord of hofts, the God of Israel; amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. This is the great end of all religious worship and devotion, the reformation of our lives and antions; and if it have not this effect, it is a cheat. Truff ye not in lying words, saying, The tomple of the Lord, i he temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these. For if ye thon roughly amend your ways, and
your doings; if se thoroughly exécuté judgment between a man and his neighbour ; if je opprefs not the stranger, the fatherless, and the wi. dow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt, then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gove your fathers for ever and ever. Behold, se fruft in lying words that cannot profit. Will ye feal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falfly, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods, wbom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is oalled by my name, and say, we are delivered to do all thejè abomi. nations ? What greater impudence can there be, than to worship God devoutly, and to live wickedly? This is to declare that we mock God under a pretence of ferving him; or else that we believe that God, whom we worship, allows thefe abominations, and is pleafed with them.
2. Others make this form of external devotion yet more complete, by a curious and nice regard to the modes and circumstances of performing the duties of religion. They are very punctual and exact in all their carriage and gestures, as if they minded nothing elfe but the outward part of religion.
Not but that great humility, and reverence, does very well become men in their addresses to God'; but then we must be fürë, that this external reverence be a signification of the inward and real devotion of our minds. For if it be separated from this, it is not devotion, but fuperftition; it is not to worship God in fpi. rit and in truth, but in bodily shew and appearance only; not to honour the divine majesty, but to fawn upon him, and flatter him. And where men are very intent upon these things and endeavour to out-stripo.