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out discussing the subject, I break it at once into practical remarks.
1. It is possible to stand high in the estimation of others, and yet be hateful in the sight of God.
Unfortunately, brethren, it is no difficult matter to have a name to live, and formality in religion has its gradations from the very lowest particulars of the Christian profession to the most high-sounding and lofty pretensions. All who are not real Christians by a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and with a changed and sanctified heart, stand upon the same level, so far as that it can be said of all, that they have but a name to live: but even the pretensions to the form of godliness are different in different individuals, though all of the class are alike destitute of its vital power. Some there are who are satisfied with the most meagre and heartless endeavours. Mere attendance on religious ordinances, and a punctual appearance in the Church, is enough for them. They enter upon no serious inquiries how the feelings of their hearts have agreed with the solemnities in which their bodies have been engaged. This is the lowest grade of formality. Another class ascend somewhat higher in the scale, and try to excite pious feelings in their hearts during the time of actual devotion. They are satisfied with the trial, and if they have not succeeded in bringing their minds to the elevation, they content themselves with the endeavour, and are thus far pleased with their feeble services, and think themselves Christians. In this class are those who actually do sometimes have their minds excited during the hours of worship, or under some extraordinary providential dispensation, but who yet cherish none
of these feelings when the occasion or the dispensation has passed by. These feelings are but transient emotions; not religion, but the morning cloud, and the early dew which passeth away. They may constitute a name to live, but spiritual deadness is within. There is a still higher class of those who merely have a name to live. They are those who, in the outward and visible marks of religion, have appeared to abandon all gross and out-breaking vices; who attend with regularity on the public exercises of worship, and even are found in the more limited circle of devotion. They appear to take delight in those opportunities of worship which pass under the name of lectures, social meetings, and all the round of societies of a religious character. They appear to embrace the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, and relish the preaching which is most close and evangelical; they love to associate with the decided followers of Jesus, and on these accounts gain a name and a reputation for piety and godliness. ,
Hence it is, that many persons either never truly converted unto God, or if converted, in a low and languishing condition, yet have a name to live, and nothing but a name; for, my friends, no matter what the grade of the formality is it is, in its real nature, intrinsically the same. It is no matter on what step of the ladder, higher or lower, we may stand, if every step is formality. Oh what multitudes of those called Christians are there, who, as to real religion, would stand out utterly naked before the world, if they were stript of that which is nothing but the form of godliness. Brethren and friends, let your examination be deep and searching; for where there is spiritual life in contradistinction to a mere name to live, there is a real and effectual conversion of the whole heart to God. There is a cordial reception of the Lord Jesus Christ in his whole salvation, as wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; there is a simple, unaffected and continued dependance on the mighty operations of the Holy Ghost, for every good thought, desire, and action; there is a spiritual and heavenly state of heart and affections, which delights in communion with God and the contemplation of the future state of glory. Where there is nothing but a name to live, there may be an external reformation, and there may be a nominal faith, and there may be an union with the visible Church, and there may be a general and unmeaning reference to the aid of the Holy Spirit, and there may be a cold performance of the outward duties of religion, and all this while the individual is hateful in the sight of God. When, on the contrary to this, there is a real principle of spiritual life, it will manifest itself in a fervent love to Christ, which constrains the whole soul and wins it to speak of his name and glory in his cross. It will appear in a circumspect walk and a separation from the world; it will be seen in a zeal for the glory of God, and an activity and enterprise in promoting the salvation of others; it will appear in the meek and humble and forgiving spirit of the Lord Jesus. In fine, when there is not only a name to live, but where there is real spiritual life, it will emphatically be religion in action, religion governing the understanding, the affection, and the will. It is the real deliverance of the captive; it is the actual erection of the spiritual edifice; it is the positive recovery of the patient; it is the perceptible warmth of life; it
is the holy birth and growth of the soul in piety; it
ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
2. Another practical remark arising from this subject is, that there is in the heart a natural tendency to make an undue estimate of the mere outward forms of religion, and that this hardens the heart and conscience against the life and vitality of religion
Form, my friends, ever has been and ever will be the easiest part of religion ; it costs comparatively
little trouble, and requires comparatively little exertion to be a Christian, so far as external observances are concerned. A name to live is very cheaply purchased, when all that is paid for it is a zealous discharge of external duties. Formality suits the pride and the self-righteousness of our fallen and corrupted nature. It is its natural tendency to soothe into a most dangerous and deceitful calm the uneasiness of a guilty mind. Formality is apt to commend us to the good opinion of our fellow-men, who are not able to make the distinction between what is real, and what is merely nominal; as the form of religion is its easiest part to accomplish, so it is all of which the unawakened mind feels the want; it puts us on the apparent level with the pious and devout; it strikes the senses and it silences the clamours of conscience. The individual who over estimates the externals of religion, becomes in the use of those means easily satisfied; while the great preparation of the heart is neglected, and the name of piety is thus put for the thing, and religion is so sunk in its various appendages, that though having but a name to live, he yet thinks himself religious. It is a state of uncommon spiritual danger, and I cannot but most sadly fear that in our own evangelical and apostolical Church, our simple and sublime and solemn and edifying services are, in ten thousand individual instances, nothing more than formality and sin. What multitudes are there, brethren, who forget that bodily exercise profiteth nothing in the sight of God, without the heart? As the eye of close application looks over the number of those who have a name to live, how many are there who proceed in the most persevering course of decent ob