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ceeding and eternal weight of glory. But this is not my case. My perplexity seems to increase in proportion as I advance, To me the other world seems darker than this-and it is a dark valley that leads to it. O! if I knew that all would end well! But this is that which adds a pressure to every burden, and imbitters all my comforts-I see not how it will go with me AT
My Christian friend: I designed not by what I have said, to intimate that such a persuasion is essential to your safety. But only that it is a desirable privilege; and in this we are agreed.But remember, it is attainable: you may have a good hope through grace, and the full assurance of hope: you are commanded to seek it. In the mean time I would observe-that the solicitude you feel, is no bad evidence in your favour. In proportion as the mind feels the importance of salvation, it longs for certainty, and fearful of deception, is not satisfied with slender evidence.
May the Lord, whom you are now following in sorrow and darkness, shine upon your path, andfill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost."
But if we cannot begin the new year with confidence and joy, let us do it with seriousness and prayer. Let us resolve to walk before him, in newness of life. Let us commit ourselves to the care of his providence, to the word of his grace, and to the agency of his Holy Spirit. And let us lift up our hearts with our voices, while we sing,
"And now, my soul, another year
And swift my passing moments run,
RELIGION MORE THAN FORMALITY.
Having a form of godliness, but denying the of.-2 Tim. iii. 5.
AND what is godliness?-It is the tendency of the mind towards God; and is exercised in believing in him; loving and fearing him; holding
communion with him; resembling his perfections; and employing ourselves in his service. the introduction of God into all our concerns; our acknowledging of him in all our ways; our doing all we do in his name, and with a reference to his authority and glory-through the mediation of the Saviour, and-by the influences of the Holy Ghost.
This is godliness; and nothing else deserves the name. This godliness, however, has its form, and its power; and this distinction enables us to arrange four classes and characters.
For first, there are some who have neither the power, nor the form of godliness; they are as destitute of the pretension, as they are of the reality: and often glory in this-for we read of some who glory in their shame.
Secondly. There are some who possess both the power and the form. And these are the most worthy of our esteem, and imitation. May their number daily increase!
Thirdly. there are some who have the power of godliness, but not the form. Their religion is a kind of disembodied spirit; and because some have laid too much stress upon outward things, they lay too little. They carry their notions of the spirituality of divine worship so far as to exclude social considerations; the influence of the body over the mind; and the use which the Supreme Being himself makes of our senses, to aid our graces and which is simply the principle upon which the ordinances of the Lord's supper and baptism are founded. They do not remember, that though the substance be confessedly the main thing, circumstances are often very beautiful, and impressive, and beneficial: that we are
not only to possess, but to profess religion: that we are not only to serve God individually, but to unite ourselves to a body of Christians, and walk in holy fellowship, "Striving together for the faith of the gospel;" and that we are bound, not only to "glorify God in our spirits, but in our bodies also, which are his." So that the form, when attached to the principle, is so far from being improper, that it is commendable, and important.
But here we have reached the fourth class to which we referred, viz. those who have the form but deny the power. These are awful characters. and therefore, says the apostle, to Timothy, from such withdraw thyself. We should do this as much as possible, with regard to their persons, but above all with regard to their state. In order to this-let us, I. Consider the power of godliness, and II. Inquire whence it is that so many who deny it, are still disposed to maintain the form.
I. The power of godliness is here distinguished from the mere form, and indeed it is easy to show the difference between them. The one is principally external, and deals in words-the other is internal, actuating our feelings, and governing our actions. The one is the name-the other is the thing; the one is the appearance-the other is the reality. The one is the body-the other is the soul, that inspires every member, and penetrates every particle of the frame. The one is the picture-the other is the original; the one shows us the Christian on canvass-the other presents him to us alive and in motion.
Now, what I wish to convince you of here, is this-that real godliness is more than a show, a
fancy, a form-it has an efficacy in it-there is a power attending it. For consider how it is produced and maintained. It is in its existence, as well as in its revelation, a divine principle.Hear how the apostle speaks of it in his epistle to the Ephesians. God is able, says he, "to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask, or think-according to the power that worketh in us." I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ-That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." And again, he prays for them, that they may know What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, in the heavenly places:" where we find that the same almighty energy which quickened into endless life, the entombed body of our Lord, is actually put forth in the renovation of the believer: "That like as Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Hence, it is called, "The life of God; and the participation of the divine nature." What is the water which the Saviour promises to give to those that ask him? Living water. And says he, "The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Here is nothing stagnant and dead: but every thing is expressive of influence and activity. Thus the apostle tells the Thessalonians, that their word came to them -not in word only, but in power: and that they received it, not as the word of men, but as it is