Sermon 2088. The Form of Godliness Without the Power
DELIVERED ON LORD'S DAY MORNING, JUNE 2, 1889,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." 2 Timothy 3:5.
PAUL warns us of certain characters which will appear in the last times. It is a very terrible list. The like have appearedin other days but we are led by his warning to apprehend that they will appear in greater numbers in the last days than inany previous age. "Lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful,unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors,heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God."
These will swarm like flies in the decay of the year and will make the times exceeding perilous. We are nearing that periodat this very time. That these people would, some of them, be within the Church is the most painful part of it. But they willbe so, for they are comprehended in this last clause of the black catalog, which we have taken for our text- "Having a formof godliness but denying the power thereof."
Paul does not paint the future with rose-colored glasses-he is no smooth-tongued Prophet of a golden age into which this dullearth may be imagined to be glowing. There are sanguine Brothers and Sisters who are looking forward to everything growingbetter and better and better, until, at last, this present age ripens into a millennium. They will not be able to sustaintheir hopes, for Scripture gives them no solid basis to rest upon. We who believe that there will be no millennial reign withoutthe King and who expect no rule of righteousness except from the appearing of the righteous Lord, are nearer the mark.
Apart from the second Advent of our Lord, the world is more likely to sink into a pandemonium than to rise into a millennium.A Divine interposition seems to me the hope set before us in Scripture and, indeed, to be the only hope adequate to the occasion.We look to the darkening down of things. The state of mankind, however improved politically, may yet grow worse and worsespiritually. Certainly, we are assured in verse 13 that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and beingdeceived." There will spring up in the Christian Church and round about it, a body of faithless men who profess to have faith-ungodlymen who will unite with the saints-men having the form of godliness but denying the power.
We may call these hard times, if we will, but we have hardly yet come to the border of those truly harder times when it willgo hard with the Church and she shall need, even more than today, to cry mightily unto the Lord to keep her alive. With thiscloud upon our spirit, we come to the text itself. Let us consider it carefully and may the Holy Spirit help us!
True religion is a spiritual thing but it necessarily embodies itself in a form. Man is a spiritual creature but the humanspirit needs a body in which to enshrine itself. And thus, by this need, we become allied to materialism. And if not "halfdust, half Deity," as one has said, we are certainly both matter and soul. In each of us there is the form or body and thesoul or power. It is so with religion-it is essentially a spiritual thing but it requires a form in which to embody and manifestitself.
Christian people fall into a certain outward method of procedure, a peculiar outward mode of uttering their faith, which becomesto true godliness what the body is to the soul. The form is useful, the form is necessary, the form ought to be vitalized-justas the body is useful and is necessary and is vitalized by the soul. If you get both the form, as modeled in the Word of Godand the power, as bestowed by the Spirit of God, you do well and are living Christians. If you get the power alone, withoutthe ordained form, you somewhat maim yourself. But if you get the form without the power, then, you dwell in spiritual death.
The body without the spirit is dead. And what follows upon death with flesh? Why, corruption-corruption so horrible that evenlove itself has to cry, "Bury my dead out of my sight." So that if there is in any the body of religion with-
out the life of religion, it leads to decay and thus to corruption-and that has a tendency to decompose the character. Theraw material of a devil is an angel bereft of holiness. You cannot make a Judas except out of an Apostle. The eminently goodin outward form, when without inward life, decays into the foulest thing under Heaven. You cannot wonder that these are called"perilous times," in which such characters abound.
One Judas is an awful weight for this poor globe to bear but a tribe of them must be a peril, indeed. Yet, if not of the veryworst order, those are enough to be dreaded who have the shadow of religion without its substance. Of such I have to speakat this time-from such may God give you Divine Grace to turn away! May none of us ever be spots in our feasts of love, orclouds without water carried about of winds. But this we shall be if we have the form of godliness without the power thereof.
With great solemnity of soul I approach this subject, seeking from the Lord the aid of His Spirit, who makes the Word to bea discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. First, I shall speak of the men, and secondly, of their folly. And whenI am done with that, I shall have some words of instruction to give by way of conclusion.
I. First, let us talk awhile of THE MEN. They had the form of godliness but denied the power thereof. Note what they had andthen observe what they had not. They had a form of godliness. What is a form of godliness? It is, first of all, attentionto the ordinances of religion. These, so far as they are Scriptural, are few and simple. There is Baptism, wherein, in figure,the Believer is buried with Christ, that he may rise into newness of life. And there is the Lord's Supper, wherein, in typeand emblem, he feeds upon Christ and sustains the life which came to him by fellowship with Christ's death. Those who haveobeyed the Lord in these two ordinances have exhibited in their own persons the form of godliness. That form is every wayinstructive to others and impressive to the man himself.
Every baptized person and every communicant at the Lord's Table, should be godly and gracious. But neither Baptism nor theLord's Supper will secure this. Where there is not the life of God in the soul, neither holiness or godliness follow uponthe ordinances. And thus we may have around us baptized worldlings and men who go from the table of the Lord to drink thecup of devils. It is sad that it should be so. Such persons are guilty of presumption, falsehood, sacrilege and blasphemy.Ah me, we sit beside such every Sabbath!
The form of godliness involves attendance with the assemblies of God's people. Those who have professed Christ are accustomedto come together at certain times for worship and, in their assemblies, they join in common prayer and common praise. Theylisten to the testimony of God by His servants whom He calls to preach His Word with power. They also associate together inChurch fellowship for purposes of mutual help and discipline. This is a very proper form-full of blessing both to the Churchand to the world-when it does not die down into mere form. A man may go to Heaven alone but he will do better if he travelsthere with Mr. Great-Heart and Father Honest and Christiana and the children.
Christ's people are called sheep for one reason-they love to go in flocks. Dogs do very well separately but sheep do bestin company. The sheep of Christ love to be together in the same pasture and to follow in a flock the footsteps of the GoodShepherd. Those who constantly associate in worship, unite in Church fellowship and work together for sacred purposes havethe form of godliness and a very useful and proper form it is. Alas, it is of no value without the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some go further than public worship. They use a great deal of religious talk. They freely speak of the things of God in Christiancompany. They can defend the doctrines of Scripture, they can plead for its precepts and they can narrate the experience ofa Believer. They are fondest of talking of what is doing in the Church-the tattle of the streets of Jerusalem is very pleasantto them. They flavor their speech with godly phrases when they are in company that will relish it. I do not censure them-onthe contrary, I wish there were more of holy talk among professors. I wish we could revive the old habit, "They that fearedthe Lord spoke often one to another."
Holy conversation causes the heart to glow and gives to us a foretaste of the fellowship of the glorified. But there may bea savor of religion about a man's conversation and yet it may be a borrowed flavor-like hot sauces used to disguise the stalenessof ancient meat. That religion which comes from the lips outward but does not well up from the deep fountains of the heartis not that living water which will spring up unto eternal life. Tongue godliness is an abomination if the heart is destituteof Divine Grace.
More than this-some have a form of godliness upheld and published by religious activity. It is possible to be intensely activein the outside work of the Church and yet to know nothing of spiritual power. One may be an excellent
Sunday school teacher after a fashion and yet have need to be taught what it is to be born again. One may be an eloquent preacher,or a diligent officer in the Church of God and yet know nothing of the mysterious power of the Spirit of Truth upon the heart.It is well to be like Martha in service. But one thing is needful-to sit at the Master's feet and learn as Mary did.
When we have done all the work our position requires of us, we may only have displayed the form of godliness. Unless we hearkento our Lord and from His Presence derive power, we shall be as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Brethren, I speak tomyself and to each one of you in solemn earnestness. If much speaking, generous giving and constant occupation could win Heaven,we might easily make sure of it. But more than these are needed. I speak to each one of you. And if I singled out anyone morethan another to be the pointed object of my address, it would be the best among us-the one who is doing most for his Masterand who, in his inmost soul, is thinking, "That warning does not apply to
my active and energetic Brother, remember the word, "Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." If any of youdislike this searching sermon, your dislike proves how much you need it. He that is not willing to search himself should standself-incriminated by that unwillingness to look at his affairs. If you are right, you will not object to be weighed in thebalances. If you are, indeed, pure gold, you may still feel anxiety at the sight of the furnace but you will not be drivento anger at the prospect of the fire. Your prayer will always be, "Search me, O God and know my heart: try me and know mythoughts: and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."
1 need not enlarge further. You all know what a form of godliness is and most of us who are here present hold fast that form-maywe never dishonor it! I trust we are anxious to make that form accurate according to Scripture so that our form of godlinessmay be that into which the earliest saints were delivered. Let us be Christians of a high type, cast in our Lord's own mold.But do not become sticklers for the form and neglect the inner life-that will never do. Shall we fight about a man's clothesand allow the man, himself, to die?
But now, as these people had not the power of godliness, how did they come to hold the form of it? This needs several answers.Some come by the form of godliness in an hereditary way. Their ancestors were always godly people and they almost naturallytake up with the profession of their fathers. This is common and where it is honest, it is most commendable. It is a greatmercy when, instead of the fathers, shall be the children. And we may hopefully anticipate that our children will follow usin the things of God, if by example, instruction and prayer, we have sought it before the Lord.
We are unhappy if we do not see our children walking in the God's Truth. Yet the idea of birthright membership is an evilone and is as perilous as it is unscriptural. If children are taken into the Church simply because of their earthly parentage,surely this is not consistent with that description of the sons of God which is found in the inspired Scrip-ture-"Which wereborn, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God. " Not generation but REGENERATION, makesthe Christian. You are not Christians because you can trace a line of fleshly descent throughout twenty generations of childrenof God.
You must, yourselves, be born again. For except a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Many, no doubt,lay hold naturally on the form of godliness because of family ties-this is poor work. Ishmael is a sorry son of Abraham andEsau of Isaac and Absalom of David. Grace does not run in the blood. If you have no better foundation for your religion thanyour earthly parentage, you are in a wretched case.
Others have accepted the form of godliness by the force of authority and influence. They were, as lads, put apprentice togodly men. As girls, they were under the guidance of pious teachers. And as they grew up, they came under the influence ofpersons of superior intelligence and character who were on the Lord's side. This accounts for their form of godliness. Manypersons are the creatures of their surroundings-religion or irreligion is with them the result of circumstances. Such personswere led to make a profession of faith in Christ because others did so and friends encouraged them to do the same.
The deep searching of heart, which they ought to have exhibited, was slurred over and they were found among the people ofGod without having to knock for entrance at the wicket gate. I do not wish anyone to condemn himself because he was guidedto the Savior by godly friends-far from it. But, nevertheless, there is danger lest we fail to have personal repentance andpersonal faith and are content to lean upon the opinions of others.
I have seen the form of godliness taken up on account of friendships. Many a time courtship and marriage have led to a formalreligiousness, but a lacking heart. The future husband is induced to make a profession of religion for the sake of gainingone who was a sincere Christian and would not have broken her Lord's command to be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever.Godliness should never be put on in order that we may put a wedding ring upon the finger-this is a sad abuse of religiousprofession.
Other kinds of friendship, also, have led men and women to profess a faith they never had and to unite themselves visiblywith the Church, while in spirit and in truth they were never truly a part of it. I put these things to you that there maybe a great searching of heart among us all and that we may candidly consider how we have come by our form of godliness. Certainpersons assume the form of godliness from a natural religious disposition. Do not suppose that all unconverted people arewithout religion. Much religiousness is found in the heathen and there are races which have naturally more of reverence thanothers.
The German, with his profound philosophy, is often free, not only from superstition but from reverence. The Russian is byrace naturally religious, not to say superstitious. I am speaking after the manner of men-the usual Russian takes off hishat to Holy Places, pictures and persons-and he is little inclined to disbelieve or scoff. We perceive like differences amongour own acquaintances-one man is readily fooled by skeptics, while another is ready, with open mouth, to believe every word.One is naturally an infidel, another is as naturally credulous.
I mean, then, that to some the form of godliness commends itself because they have a natural leaning that way. They couldnot be happy unless they were attending where God is worshipped, or unless they were reckoned among the Believers in Christ.They must play at religion even if they do not make it their life business. Let me remind you of the questionable value ofthat which springs out of fallen human nature. Assuredly it brings no one into the spiritual kingdom, for "that which is bornof the flesh is flesh." Only "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." "You must be born again." Beware of everythingwhich springs up in the field without the sowing of the husbandman, for it will turn out to be a weed. O Sirs, the day willcome when God will try us as with fire and that which comes of unregenerate nature will not stand the test but will be utterlyconsumed!
I do not doubt that, in these silken days, many have a form of godliness because of the respect it brings them. Time was whento be a Christian was to be reviled, if not to be imprisoned and, perhaps, burned at the stake. Hypocrites were fewer in thosedays for a profession cost too much. Yet, strange to say, there were some who played the Judas even in those times. Todayreligion walks forth in her velvet slippers. And in certain classes and ranks, if men did not make some profession of religion,they would be looked upon with suspicion and therefore men will take the name of Christian upon them and wear religion asa part of full dress.
The cross is at this day worn as a necklace. The cross as the instrument of our Savior's shame and death is forgotten, andinstead thereof, it is made the badge of honor, a jewel wherewith ungodly men may adorn themselves. Is this indicative ofthe deceitfulness of the age? Beware of seeking respect by a hypocritical godliness. Honor gained by a heartless professionis, in God's sight, the greatest disgrace. The actor may strut in his mimic royalty, but he must take off his crown and robeswhen the play is over. And what will he then be?
From the days of Iscariot until now, some have taken up the form of godliness to gain thereby. To make gain of godliness isto imitate the son of perdition. This is a perilous road and yet many risk their souls for the lucre which they find therein.Apparent zeal for God may really be zeal for gold. The Emperor Maximilian showed great zeal against idolatry and publisheda decree that images of gold and silver should be melted down. He was extremely zealous about this. The images were all tobe melted down and the metal forfeited to the emperor.
It was shrewdly suspected that this great iconoclast was not altogether swayed by unselfish motives. When a business bringsgrist to the mill, it is not hard to keep to it. Some love Christ because they carry His money bag for Him. Beware of thatkind of godliness which makes a man hesitate until he sees whether a duty will pay or not and then makes him eager becausehe sees it will answer his purpose.
Once more-I do not doubt that a form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience and they areable, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are. Have they not been to Church? Have they not paidfor their pew? They can now go about their daily business without those stings of conscience which would
come of neglecting the requirements of religion. These people profess to have been converted and they are numbered with Believers.But, alas, they are not of them.
Of all people these are the hardest to reach and the least likely to be saved. They hide behind the earthworks of a nominalreligion. They are out of reach of the shot and shell of Gospel rebukes. They fly among the sinners and they have taken uptheir quarters among the saints. Sad is that man's plight who wears the name of life but has never been quickened by the HolySpirit. Thus, I have very feebly tried to show what these men had and why they had it.
Let us now remember what they did not have. They had "the form" of godliness. But they were denied "the power." What is thatpower? God Himself is the power of godliness, The Holy Spirit is the life and force of it. Godliness is the power which bringsa man to God and binds him to Him. Godliness is that which creates repentance towards God and faith in Him. Godliness is theresult of a great change of heart in reference to God and His Character. Godliness looks towards God and mourns its distancefrom Him. godliness hastens to draw near and rests not till it is at home with God.
Godliness makes a man like God. Godliness leads a man to love God and to serve God. It brings the fear of God before his eyesand the love of God into his heart. Godliness leads to consecration, to sanctification, to concentration. The godly man seeksfirst the kingdom of God and His righteousness and expects other things to be added to him. Godliness makes a man communewith God and gives him a partnership with God in His glorious designs. And so it prepares him to dwell with God forever.
Many who have the form of godliness are strangers to this power and so are in religion worldly, in prayer mechanical, in publicone thing and in private another. True godliness lies in spiritual power and they who are without this are dead while theylive.
What is the general history of those who have not this power? Well, dear Friends, their course usually runs thus- they donot begin with denying the power but they begin by trying to do without it. They would like to become members of the Churchand as they fear that they are not fit for it, they look about for something which looks like conversion and the new birth.They try to persuade themselves that they have been changed-they accept emotion as regeneration and a belief of doctrine forbelief in Christ.
It is rather hard at first to reckon brass as gold but it grows easier as it is persisted in. Patching up a conversion andmanufacturing a regeneration, they venture forward. At the first they are a good deal suspicious of themselves but they industriouslykill every question by treating it as a needless doubt. Thus, by degrees, they believe a lie.
The next step is easy-they deceive themselves and come to believe that they are surely saved. All is now right for eternity,so they fancy. And they fold their arms in calm security. Meeting with godly people, they put on a bold front and speak upas bravely as if they were the true soldiers of King Jesus. Good people are charmed to meet with fresh Brethren and at oncetake them into their confidence. Thus they deceive others and help to strengthen themselves in their false hope.
They use the choice phrases of earnest Christians. Mixing with them, they pick up their particular expressions and pronounceShibboleth in the most approved fashion. At last they take the daring step of denying the power. Being without it themselves,they conceive that others are without it, also. Judging from their own case, they conclude that it is all an affair of words.They get on very well without any supernatural power and others, no doubt, do the same-only they add a little cant to it toplease the very godly folk.
They practically deny the power in their lives, so that those who see them and take them for Christians say, "There reallyis nothing in it. For these people are as we are. They have a touch of paint here and a little varnish there but it is allthe same wood." Practically, their actions assure the world that there is no power in Christianity. It is only a name. Verysoon, privately, in their hearts they think it is so and they invent doctrines to match. Looking about them they see inconsistentChristians and faulty Believers and they say to themselves, "There is not much in faith, after all. I am as good as any ofthese Believers and perhaps better, though I am sure there is no work of the Spirit in me."
Thus, within their own hearts they believe, what, at first, they dare not speak-they count godliness an empty thing. By-and-by,in some cases, these people profanely deny the Divine power of our holy faith and then they become the greatest enemies ofthe Cross of Christ. These traitors, nourished in the very House of God, are the worst foes of the Truth of God and righteousness.They ridicule that which once they professed to reverence. They have measured Christ's corn with
their own bushel. And because they never felt the powers of the world to come, they imagine that no one else has done so either.
Look at the Church of the present day. The advanced school, I mean. In its midst we see preachers who have a form of godlinessbut deny the power thereof. They talk of the Lord Jesus but they deny His Godhead, which is His power. They speak of the HolySpirit but deny His personality, wherein lies His very existence. They take away the substance and power from all the doctrinesof Revelation, though they pretend still to believe them. They talk of redemption but they deny substitution, which is theessence of it.
They extol the Scriptures but deny their infallibility, wherein lies their value. They use the phrases of orthodoxy and believenothing in common with the orthodox. I know not which to loathe the more-their teachings or their spirit- surely they areworthy of each other. They burn the kernel and preserve the husk. They kill the truth and then pretend to reverence its sepulcher-"theysay they are Jews and are not but do lie."
This is horrible, but the evil is widely spread and in the presence of it the children of God are framing compromises, sellingtheir Lord and becoming partakers with the despisers of His Truth. "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof."It is the sin of the age-the sin which is ruining the Churches of our land.
II. In the second place, we are to observe THE WICKED FOLLY of this hypocritical conduct. Those who rest in the mere showof godliness are acting in a shameless manner and I will try to expose it.
First, they degrade the very name of Christ. Brethren, if there is no spiritual power in godliness, it is worth nothing. Wewant no clouds without rain. Of shams and mere pretences we have more than enough. Those who have not the power of godlinessshow us a very damaging picture of religion. They make out our Lord's religion to be comparable to a show at a country fair,with fine pictures and loud drumming on the outside and nothing within worth a moment's consideration. The best of the showis on the outside.
Or if there is anything within, it is a masquerade where all act borrowed parts but no one is what he seems to be. GraciousLord, never suffer us so to act as to make the world think that our Redeemer is nothing more than the clever manager of atheater, where nothing is real but all is pantomime. Brothers and Sisters, if you pray at all, pray God to make you real throughand through. May you be made of true metal! It were better for you that you had never been born than that you should makeChrist dishonorable among the sons of men by leading them to conclude that religion is all a piece of acting.
The folly of this is illustrated by the fact that there is no value in such a dead form. The form of godliness without thepower is not worth the trouble it takes to put it together and keep it together. Imitation jewels are pretty and brilliant.But if you take them to the jeweler he will give you nothing for them. There is a religion which is all paste gems-a godlinesswhich glitters but is not gold. And in that day when you will want to realize something from it, you will be wretchedly disappointed.
A form of godliness joined to an unholy heart is of no value to God. I have read that the swan was not allowed to be offeredupon the altar of God because, although its feathers are as white as snow, yet its skin is black. God will not accept thatexternal morality which conceals internal impurity. There must be a pure heart as well as a clean life. The power of godlinessmust work within, or else God will not accept our offering. There is no value to man or to God in a religion which is a deadform.
Next, there is no use in mere formality. If your religion is without spiritual life, what is the use of it? Could you ridehome on a dead horse? Would you hunt with dead dogs? Would anyone like to go into battle with a pasteboard helmet? When thesword fell on it, what use would such a helmet be? What an outcry has been raised about bad swords! Is false religion anybetter? In the depth of winter can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast whenyou are hungry?
There must be vitality and substantiality-or else the form is utterly worthless. And worse than worthless, for it may flatteryou into deadly self-conceit. Moreover, there is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm theheart, to raise the spirits, or to strengthen the mind against the day of sickness, or in the hour of death. O God, if myreligion has been a mere form, what shall I do in the swelling of Jordan? My fine profession will all disappear and nothingwill come of it wherewith I may face the last enemy.
Peter called hypocrites "wells without water." You are thirsty and you gladly spy a well. It is well surrounded with a curband provided with a windlass and bucket. You hasten to draw water. What? Does the bucket come up empty? You try again. Howbitter is your disappointment! A well without water is a mockery. It is a mere pit of destruction-a deadly delusion. Are someof you possessors of a religion which never yields you a drop of comfort? Is it a bondage to you? Do you follow Christ asa slave follows his master? Away with such a religion!
The godliness which is worth having is a joy to a man-it is his choice, his treasure, his all. When it does not yield himconscious joy, yet he prizes it as the only source from which joy is expected of him. He follows after Christ with love, outof his heart's desire after Him and not from the force of fashion, or the power of fear.
To have the form of godliness without the power of it is to lack constancy in your religion. You never saw a mirage, perhaps.But those who have travel in the East, when they come home, are sure to tell you about them. It is a very hot and thirstyday and you are riding on a camel. Suddenly there rises before you a beautiful scene. Just a little from you are brooks ofwater, flowing between beds of osiers and banks of reeds and rushes. Yonder are palm trees and orange groves. Yes, and a cityrises on a hill, crowned with minarets and towers.
You are rejoiced and ask your guide to lead you nearer to the water which glistens in the sun. He grimly answers, "Take nonotice, it is a mirage. There is nothing yonder but the burning sand." You can scarce believe him. It seems so real! But lo,it is all gone, like a dream of night. And so is the hope which is built upon the form of godliness without the power. Thewhite ants will eat up all the substance of a box and yet leave it standing till a touch causes the whole fabric to fall indust-beware of a profession of which the substance has been eaten away. Believe in nothing which has not the stamp of eternityupon it.
Be careful, poor Child-you may blow your bubble and the sunlight may paint it with rainbows. But in an instant it is goneand not a trace of it remains. Your transient globe of beauty is for you and your fellow children and not for men.
In reality, this kind of religion is in opposition to Christ. It is Jannes and Jambres over again-the magician of hypocrisyis trying to work miracles which belong to God only. In appearance he would produce the same marvels as the finger of God.But he fails. God grant we may never be guilty of resisting the Truth of God by a lying profession. False men do serious injuryto true godliness. For, like Ehud, they come with a pretended message from God and with their dagger sharpened at both edges,they strike vital godliness in its very heart. Nobody can do so much damage to the Church of God as the man who is withinits walls but not within its life.
This nominal godliness, which is devoid of power, is a shameful thing. I close with that. It is a shameful thing for thislife, for the Lord Jesus loathes it. When He passed by the fig tree, which was so early with its leaves but so empty of fruit,He saw therein the likeness of the vainglorious professor who has no real holiness and He said, "Henceforth let no fruit growon you forever." His Word withered it at once-it stood a terrible emblem of the end of a false profession.
How shameful will such a fruitless, lifeless professor be in eternity, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed! Whatshame and everlasting contempt will await him when his falsehood shall be detected and his baseness shall fill all holy mindswith horror! O, beware of the Hell of the false professor!
I have done when I have added a few words of instruction. The form of godliness is most precious. Let those who feel the powerof godliness honor it and use it. Do not despise it because others have damaged it. Come forth and make an open professionof religion. But see that you have the power of it. Cry to God that you may never wear a sleeve which is longer than yourarm-I mean may never go beyond what is really and truly your own. It will be better for you to go to God as a lost soul andcry for mercy, than to profess yourself saved when you are not.
Yet confess Christ without fail or fear. Do not be ashamed of Jesus because of the ill manners of His disciples. Regard theill savor of false professors as a part of the cross which you will have to bear for your Lord. To be associated with somewho are not true seems inevitable in this life-however carefully we choose our company.
My next is a word of discrimination. Those to whom my text has nothing to say will be the first to take it home to themselves.When I discharge my heart with a faithful sermon, certain trembling souls whom I would gladly comfort are sure to think thatI mean them. A poor woman, in deep distress, comes to me, crying, "Sir, I have no feeling." Dear heart, she has ten timestoo much feeling. Another moans out, "I am sure I am a hypocrite." I never met with a hypocrite who thought himself one. AndI never shall.
"Oh," said another, "I feel condemned." He that feels himself condemned may hope for pardon. If you are afraid of yourselvesI am not afraid of you. If you tremble at God's Word, you have one of the surest marks of God's elect. Those who fear thatthey are mistaken are seldom mistaken. If you search yourselves and allow the Word of God to search you, it is well with you.The bankrupt trader fears to have his books examined. The sound man even pays an accountant to overhaul his affairs. Use discriminationand neither acquit nor condemn yourself without reason.
If the Spirit of God leads you to weep in secret for sin and to pray in secret for Divine Grace. If He leads you to seek afterholiness. If He leads you to trust alone in Jesus, then you know the power of godliness and you have never denied it. Youwho cry, "Oh, that I felt more of the power of the Holy Spirit, for I know that He could comfort and sanctify me and makeme live the life of Heaven on earth!" You are not aimed at either by the text or the sermon. For you have not denied the power.No, no, this text does not belong to you but to quite another class of people.
Let me give you a word of admonition. Learn from the text that there is something in godliness worth having. The "form" ofgodliness is not all-there is a blessed "power." The Holy Spirit is that power and He can work in you to will and to do ofGod's good pleasure. Come to Jesus Christ, dear Souls. Do not come to the minister, nor to the Church, in the first place.But come to Jesus. Come and lay yourselves at His feet and say, "Lord, I will not be comforted unless You comfort me." Comeand take everything at first hand from your crucified Lord. Then shall you know the power of godliness.
Beware of second-hand religion, it is never worth the carrying home. Get your godliness direct from Heaven by the personaldealing of your own soul with your Savior. Profess only what you possess and rest only in that which has been given you fromabove. Your heavenly life, as yet, may be very feeble but the grain of mustard seed will grow. You may be the least in Israelbut that is better than being the greatest in Babylon.
The Lord bless these words and apply them to each one in his own way by His Holy Spirit. You can make either a blister ofthem or a plaster of them, as conscience shall direct. God guide you, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.