The Power of Godliness
James Smith, 1859
has been represented as devotion. But devotion is but a part of godliness — and a very small part of it too. Godliness embraces God's work in the man, and the man's work for God. It is God-likeness. The godly man has the image of God impressed on his heart. He is new-created, that he may bear the likeness of Jesus. He is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him. The moral perfections of God are stamped on his. Justice, truth, holiness, mercy, and love, are his characteristics: and in proportion to the depth and power of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart — do these things appear in his life. To be perfectly like God, in his moral excellencies, is the abiding desire of his soul. For this he labors. For this he prays. At this he aims. And looking forward to his future destination, he says, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake with your likeness." He loves holiness above all things else, and so far as he is godly — he has no sympathy with sin.
In Godliness there is power. Viewed as the work of the Holy Spirit in a man, it is a powerful work. For that which gives life to the dead, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and turns the whole current of the soul into a new, and upward direction — must be powerful. Viewed as man striving, struggling, and laboring to be like God, it must be powerful. For to crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts — to put off the old man, and put on the new — to overcome the world — to conquer Satan — to live and walk, as Jesus lived and walked — requires power.
Just so, if we view godliness, as making an impression on others, it must be powerful. True godliness has silenced many a gainsayer, convinced many a skeptic, and called forth the admiration of many an opponent of gospel doctrines. Nothing is so powerful, as the testimony of the daily life. When therefore, a man lives righteously, soberly, and godly — when a man fairly represents God's moral attributes — when a man brings forth anew the life of the Lord Jesus — a powerful impression is made.
And what is godliness — but this, having the work of the Spirit of God in the heart, the example of the Son of God before the eye, and the exhibition of God's moral excellencies in the life? Or, the being godlike in our nature, in our spirit, and in our conduct? And wherever this is the case, a power is exerted. It may he silent — but it is beneficial. It may be unperceived at first — but it is certain in its results. It is winning, convincing, and converts ultimately to itself. It always gains a verdict from conscience, if it does not produce a radical change in the life. It sometimes excites enmity, and calls forth opposition; but it more generally wins approbation, even where it does not produce imitation. A power it does exert, will exert, must exert; and this is just the power we wish to see exerted by every member of Christ's church, in the present day.
A godly man is always an honest, upright man.
A godly man is always a merciful and benevolent man.
A godly man is always a kind-hearted and loving man.
A godly man is always a just and holy man.
And everywhere, and always honesty and uprightness, mercy and benevolence, kindness and love, justice and holiness — will exercise a power and produce an impression.
The root of godliness, is grace.
The pattern of godliness, is the Lord Jesus.
The author of godliness, is the Holy Spirit.
The design of godliness, is the Divine glory.
The effect of godliness, is to convince and silence others.
But there is always a power in it, which will produce an effect.
Now comes the question: are we godly? Has the Holy Spirit regenerated, renewed, or new created us? Is sin the object of our detestation and abhorrence? Is holiness, in our estimation, the beauty of the Divine nature, and the ruling desire of our souls? Do we desire, pray, and daily strive, to be as like God as possible, as a God of truth, justice, mercy, holiness, and love? Do we produce an impression upon all with whom we have any dealings, that we are God's people? That is to say, that God has our hearts, our talents, our all, to use for his glory and praise. O for more godliness! Lord help us as your apostle exhorts, to "follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness." Amen.