A FORM OF GODLINESS

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“A man may preach like an apostle, pray like an angel—and yet may have the heart of a devil!

Many have gone to hell, laden with spiritual gifts. No doubt Judas had great gifts, for he was a preacher of the gospel. What a grand profession Judas had! He followed Christ, left all for Christ, he preached the gospel of Christ, he cast out devils in the name of Christ, he ate and drank at the table of Christ—and yet Judas was but a hypocrite!

The Scriptures speak of some who have “a form of godliness, yet deny the power thereof.” That is, they do not live in the practice of those graces, which they pretend to profess. He who pretends to godliness by a specious profession—and yet does not practice
godliness by a holy life, he has a mere form of godliness—but denies the power.

Grotius compares such to the ostrich, which has great wings—but yet does not fly. Just so—many have the wings of a fair profession—but yet do not use them to mount upward in spiritual affections,and a heavenly life.

As many go to heaven with the fear of hell in their hearts—
so many go to hell with the name of Christ in their mouths!”

— Matthew Mead

2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

 

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SPIRITUAL CONVICTION

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“When He comes, He will convict the world of sin.” John 16:8

Spiritual conviction reaches to all sins; to sins of heart—as well as sins of life; to the sin of our nature—as well as the sins of practice; to the sin which is born in us—as well as the sin which is done by us. Where the Spirit of the Lord comes to work effectually in any soul—He holds the looking-glass of the Word before the sinner’s eyes, and then opens his eyes to look into the looking-glass, to see all that deformity and filthiness which is in his heart and nature!

How blind was Paul to his sinfulness—until the Spirit of the Lord revealed it to him by the Word! The Spirit alone, can make the sinner see all the deformity and filthiness which is within! It is He alone, who pulls off all the sinner’s rags, and makes him see his naked and wretched condition! It is He alone, who shows us:
the blindness of the mind,
the stubbornness of the will,
the disorderedness of the affections,
the searedness of the conscience,
the plague of our hearts,
the sin of our natures,
the desperateness of our state!

Natural conviction carries the soul out to look more on the evil which comes as a result of sin—than on the evil which is in sin. The soul which is under natural conviction, is more troubled at the dread of hell, and wrath, and damnation—than at the vileness and heinous nature of sin!

But spiritual convictions work the soul into a greater sensibleness of the evil which is in sin—than of the evil which comes as a result of sin. The dishonor done to God by walking contrary to His will; the wounds which are made in the heart of Christ; the grief which the Holy Spirit is put to—this wounds the soul more than a thousand hells!

Natural convictions are not durable, they quickly die out. They are like a slight cut in the skin, which bleeds a little, and is sore for the moment—but is soon healed again, and in a few days not so much as a scar is seen.

But spiritual convictions are durable, they cannot be worn out, they abide in the soul until they have reached their end—which is the change of the sinner.

The convictions of the Spirit are like a deep wound which goes to the vital organs, and seems to endanger the life of the patient, and is only healed by the great skill of the heavenly Physician. And when it is healed, there are the tokens of it remaining in the soul, which can never be worn out!

Spiritual conviction is an essential part of sound conversion. True conversion begins in convictions—and true convictions end in conversion. Until the sinner is convinced of sin—he can never be converted from sin. Christ’s coming was as a Savior to die for sinners. The Spirit’s coming is to convince us of sin—that we may close with Christ as our Savior. So long as sin is unseen—Christ will be unsought. “Those who are whole need not the physician—but those who are sick.”

Slight convictions, when they are but skin-deep, are the cause of much hypocrisy. Slight convictions have filled the church with hypocrites! Nay, this is not only the spring of hypocrisy—but it is also the spring of apostasy! What was the cause that the seed was said to wither away? It was because it had no depth of soil. Just so, where convictions of sin are slight—there the seed of the Word withers for lack of depth! But where there is thorough conviction, there is a depth of soil in the heart—and there the seed of the Word grows!

— Matthew Mead, “The Almost Christian” 1661

GOD HAS TWO HEDGES

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“God is never better to us—than when the creature is most bitter to us!

Thus God dealt with Israel, “She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her path with thorns; I will wall her in—so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'” Hosea 2:6-8.

God has two hedges which the Scripture takes notice of:

1. The hedge of his protection, which you read of Job 1:10, “Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns?”

2. The hedge of affliction, which you read of here: “I will hedge up her path with thorns.”

Now the Lord make use of both these hedges:

The hedge of protection—is to keep His people from danger.
The hedge of affliction—is to stop His people from wandering.

The hedge of protection—is to keep them in God’s way.
The hedge of affliction—is to keep them out of sin’s way.

The hedge of protection—is to keep them from suffering.
The hedge of affliction—is to keep them from sinning,
and to put them upon returning to God.

So it was with Israel here—when God had hedged up her way, that she could not find her paths, nor overtake her lovers—then she cries out, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now!”

It is a great mercy for God to wean a soul from the world; for it never suffers greater—than when it forsakes God to live upon the creature! “Those who cling to lying vanities—turn their backs on all God’s mercies!” Jonah 2:8. It is forsaking the living fountain—to quench our thirst from a broken cistern! Jeremiah 2:13.

When the Lord weans a soul from the world—He embitters the world to the soul; either by some affliction, or by some disappointment in the creature—which makes the soul look out for the more pure and lasting satisfactions, which are in Christ.”

— Matthew Mead, The Power of Grace in Weaning the Heart from the World

THE COMFORTS OF GRACE AND GODLINESS

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“The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3

There are no comforts which can compare to the comforts of grace and godliness.

1. Worldly comfort is only external. It is but skin-deep, “In the midst of laughter, the heart is sorrowful.” But the comfort which flows from godliness is an inward comfort, a spiritual joy; therefore it is called gladness of heart. “You have put gladness in my heart.” Other joy smoothes the brow—but this fills the heart.

2. Worldly comfort is always mixed. The spring of worldly comfort is in the creature, in some earthly enjoyment; and, therefore, the comfort of worldly men must needs be mixed and muddy. “An unclean fountain cannot send forth pure water.” But spiritual comfort has an upper spring. The comfort which accompanies godliness, flows from the manifestations of the love of God in Christ, from the workings of the blessed Spirit in the heart—who is first a Counselor, and then a Comforter. Therefore the comforts of the saints must needs be pure and unmixed comforts—for they flow from a pure spring.

3. Worldly comfort is very fading and transitory. “The triumphing of the wicked is but short, and the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment.” Solomon compares it to the “crackling of thorns under a pot,” which is but a blaze—and soon out. So is the comfort of carnal hearts. But the comfort of godliness is a durable and abiding comfort, “your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.” The comfort of godliness is lasting—yes everlasting; it abides by us in life, in death, and after death!

— Matthew Mead, The Almost Christian

KNOWLEDGE AND ZEAL

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“To make a man altogether a Christian, there must be light in the head and heat in the heart, knowledge in the understanding and zeal in the affections. Some have zeal and no knowledge – that is blind devotion. Some have knowledge and no zeal- that is fruitless speculation. But where knowledge is joined with zeal, that makes a true Christian.”

— Matthew Mead

“Zeal is a good thing, but like the horse without a bit, it becomes useless and even dangerous. Knowledge is the bridle in the mouth of zeal. Zeal is like fire which may burn the house which it was intended to warm unless it is carefully governed. There must be knowledge in zeal.”

— C. H. Spurgeon

Romans 10:2-3 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

A CHRISTIAN IS A DISCIPLE

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” I hope I need not tell you what a Christian is, though I am persuaded many that are called Christians, do not know what a Christian is, or if they do, yet they do not know what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ, one that believes in, and follows Christ.”

— Matthew Mead

Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Luke 14:26-27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: