James Smith, 1865
Some people pretend to real religion — who know that they have none at all.
Others imagine that they have real religion — but they are fatally deceived.
The great mass of the people do not know what real
religion is! Ask the first person you meet, "What is real religion?" Ten to
one — that he cannot tell you! Some imagine that it is . . .
going to a place of worship,
believing certain doctrines,
going through a round of church forms, and
performing a number of religious duties.
But there may be all this — and yet no real religion.
Others think if there are certain impressions made on the mind, and a reformation takes place in the life — that there is religion. But there may be this — and no true godliness.
WHAT, then, is real religion? In what does it consist?
First, there must be right views of GOD.We must take into our minds the representation which he has given of himself in his word. God is a spirit. God is love. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. God is an infinite being, and he is infinitely holy, just, true, faithful, good, and merciful.
He has clothed himself with our nature, acted in our world, and spoken in our language — to make himself known to our fallen race. We must, therefore, look at the Lord Jesus — as God manifested in the flesh. As giving us an exact, perfect, and complete representation of God. God was in Christ. Christ was God over all, and blessed for evermore.
Men in general have partial, imperfect, and unscriptural
views of God; and while this is the case — they cannot be really religious:
for "this is life eternal — to know you, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom you have sent."
Secondly, the HEART must be in a right state toward God.By nature, we are alienated from God. We are at enmity against God. We reject the word and government of God. While this is the case, there can be no real religion. There is no confidence in God — no love to God — no zeal for God — no desire to please God — no fear of offending God. Real religion embraces reconciliation to God. Sorrow that we have offended God. Peace with God. Consecration to the service and honor of God. Walking in holy fellowship and communion with God. We love to think of God. We love to hear of God. We love to speak with God. We love to praise God. He is the object of our faith, hope, desire, and affection. We cannot endure the thought of separation from him, or being banished from his presence. The sense and enjoyment of his presence would constitute a Heaven anywhere. This is real religion.
Thirdly, it includes OBEDIENCE to God.The obedience of the heart — and the obedience of the life. Obedience that flows from love — and is performed willingly and cheerfully. He who does not practically conform to God's will — makes it manifest that his heart is not in a right state toward God. We cannot know God as revealed in Jesus — and not love him; we cannot love him — and not yield hearty obedience to him. When obedience flows from love — it is pleasant, it is hearty, it is thorough, it is constant. It is conformity to the whole revealed will of God, both in reference to moral precepts, and positive institutions. Such obedience is practical holiness, and proves that the sanctification of the Holy Spirit is realized and enjoyed in the soul.
Such is real religion. It is not Scripture light
without feeling, or feeling without obedience. But it is
light, love, and holiness. It is . . .
right views of God,
a right state of heart towards God, and
the practical conformity of the life to the will of God.
Reader, are you really religious? Knowledge without power will not do. Impressions without dedication to God are not enough. There must be the knowledge of God, love to God, and likeness to the moral image of God. We must know his name, love his perfections, and do his will — or we are not really religious.
God must be seen in Christ, the enmity of the heart must be slain, thorough reconciliation to God must be effected, and the whole person be devoted unreservedly to his praise and glory.
If this is the true state of the case (and what careful reader of the bible can doubt it?), then how very few, comparatively, are really religious. My reader, are you? How long have you been so? Of every mere talker, of every unholy walker — however orthodox his creed, or profound his knowledge of doctrine may be — it will be said at the day of judgment: "That man's religion is vain!" It does not please God. It does not bring peace of conscience. It does not reflect God's image. It does not save its possessor from Hell. God rejects it. Satan encourages it. Man is not benefitted by it. It is vain and worthless. May the Lord preserve us from such a religion, and put us in possession of that which is divine, powerful, pure, and practical.