Importance of Exemplary Piety
William Nicholson, 1862
"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside." Colossians 4:5
The holy tendency of the Gospel is one of the principal evidences of its Divine origin. It not only brings salvation, but teaches and expects us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to be separate from the world.
Christians, by reason of the circumstances in which they are placed, and the numerous discouragements and temptations surrounding them — are liable to decline in spirituality, and sometimes to relapse into sin. Such declensions are damaging to the advancement of religion — while nothing so effectually promotes it as vigorous and exemplary piety. "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside."
The words evidently imply:
1. The peculiar nature of Christ's Church. Those who belong to it are distinguished from the world. "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside." That is, act wisely and prudently before those who are outside, who yet continue unbelieving Gentiles, or persecuting Jews.
The members of Christ's Church have been separated from the world, by the call of the Gospel and the influence of the Spirit.
They have believed in Christ to the saving of the soul. Acts 16:30, 31.
They have consecrated themselves to the service of Christ, and given themselves to the Church to enjoy the fellowship of the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:5.
They are not "outside" the Church, but within the sacred inclosure, of which Jehovah has said, "I will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst." Zechariah 2:5.
The Church is a vineyard — a garden — a house — an ark, etc. All believers are in it — all the wicked are outside, walking in darkness, led captives by Satan to do his will.
2. The unregenerate, or those who are outside — are close inspectors of the conduct of professors.
Men are not so ignorant as not to know what a Christian should be. They are accurate observers — they expect the portrait of Christianity to be fully delineated. They care little about our sentiments and experience — but their eye is fixed upon our conduct. We may hope that we are pardoned and justified — but they will judge whether we are sanctified or not.
A child knows when its parent is kind and tender, and a servant when his master is what he ought to be. Men in general know when a person's dealings are open and honorable — and when not.
3. When men of the world observe the defections of professors, they are sure to employ it as a weapon against the Gospel, to which they have a great aversion. The misconduct of one, is an injury to the whole Church.
Such conduct brings reproach upon religion. Christ's name is blasphemed through them! Romans 2:24. The carnal professors at Philippi were a great grief to Paul, Philippians 3:18. The Church of God is injured and defiled by the defalcations of professors, Hebrews 12:15. Evil professors are like poisonous plants that spread their baleful influence around them, and whole communities have by their means, been brought to desolation. Hosea 5:3. A little leaven will go on to leaven the whole lump. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9, 10.
4. It is the duty of Christians, by their holy and prudential lives, to commend the religion of Christ to the admiration and homage of mankind.
Exemplary piety has often produced a beneficial conviction, when other means have failed. It has often proved more effectual than preaching. It must produce some good effect, 1 Peter 3:1
In order to walk in wisdom, etc., attend to the following directives:
(1.) Let your conduct be distinct from, and elevated above that of worldly men.
In some cases, no line of distinction is visible. A professor appears no different from a carnal worldling. "What do you do more than others?"
While others are ignorant, show that you are wise — that you have been enlightened from above — that you are made wise unto salvation. While others are foolish, empty, and delighting in vanity — show that you are wise, and in pursuit of a more enduring substance. Despise the trifles of the world.
(2.) Avoid worldly conformity. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:1-2
Beware of the spirit of the world:
its vain philosophies,
its worldly customs,
its amusements and pleasures.
Many have been ruined by these things. "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs!" 1 Timothy 6:9-10
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4
(3.) Be honest and upright in all your secular transactions, 1 Samuel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 1:12.
When a carnal man suffers by the injustice of a professor of religion — the effect is disastrous. Imitate the conduct of the Apostles, 1 Thessalonians 2:10.
(4.) Let your speech be chaste and serious. Talk not like the wicked. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29. "
Nature has suspended the power of speech in infants until reason begins to act, in order to teach us to think before we speak. But how often do we speak without thinking, and speak what we should not dare to utter, did we think at all. "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving!" Ephesians 5:4
"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by Hell!" James 3:6. "The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom." Psalm 37:30, 31.
(5.) Avoid evil association, and places of carnal mirth. "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm!" Proverbs 13:20. Say, "I am a companion of all those who fear you."
It is an awful sign when a professor of religion feels no hesitancy in associating with carnal men, and visiting taverns, theaters, etc. Christ says to all his true disciples, "You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." 2 Corinthians 6:17.
(6.) In the Church of Christ be harmonious and peaceable. This commends religion. Strifes and jars impede its progress.
(7.) Pay especial regard to domestic duties. A man is best known at home, and there his light must shine. If his domestic character will not bear examination, and there be no savor of godliness about it — no one will be the better for his religion. Hear the resolve of David, "I will be careful to lead a blameless life. I will walk in my house with blameless heart." Psalm 101:2; "As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!" Joshua 24:15; Genesis 18:19.
(8.) Lastly, pray to God for help. He can make you wise and prudent. He can elevate your mind above the vanities of earth. Pray to him. Trust in him.