1836 – Circular Warwick Association

The Warwick Baptist Association, To the Churches of the same: Grace mercy and peace be multiplied unto you, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Permit us, dear brethren, on this occasion to address you upon the subject of what is usually termed Practical Godliness. From various considerations we deem an investigation of this subject important: 1st, Because Godliness is vitally essential to the visibility and Gospel order of the Church of God, the peace of the saints and declarative glory of God. 2nd, Because this, with all other parts of the Gospel of Christ is at this day most wickedly perverted by ignorant and designing men, by whom also the saints are at times imposed upon with a kind of enthusiastic zeal, or religious phrenzy which they falsely denominate practical godliness. 3d, Because that it has been slanderously reported of us, (by those whose damnation the Apostle assures us is just) that we, the Old School Baptist, pay no attention to a life of practical godliness. 4th, Because we think it expedient, so long as we continue in the flesh, to stir up one another’s pure mind by way of remembrance.

In pursuing our investigation we will first call your attention to the Nature of Godliness.

Godliness we conceive to be something radically different from that ostentatious display of works which characterized the ancient, and is indelibly written upon the frontlet of modern Pharisees, however ardently pious the former may have been in the tithing of “rue and cumin,” or loudly they sounded their trumpet in announcing the intention of giving alms, the performance of some great work for God, or conformity to the external requisitions of the Law – for their course was evidently repudiated by our Lord Jesus Christ,as ungodly; or however inventive and industrious the latter may seem in the development of worldly wisdom, literature, prudence or wit in the production of all the schemes and plans in which they so harmoniously wedded to the world; their works are as so many streams all flowing from a corrupted fountain, and the Prophet of the Lord declares “Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hand.” – Isaiah lix. 6.

The apostle to the Gentiles informs us that “godliness is a great mystery,” – See 1 Timothy iii. 16; not to be solved by philosophers, or the Literati of this world. Flesh and blood cannot reveal it; none can understand its true nature but such as have heard and learned of the Father, and are come to Christ, – John vi. 45; see also Matthew xvi. 17. It is exemplified by an exhibition of divinity to humanity: “God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen (gaped upon) of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory.” Here we have the whole mystery of godliness, – and it is truly sublime and unsearchable. In it Deity and humanity are linked together; eternity and time are joined; heaven and earth are connected, and in it too Christ and His people are identified together.

Gospel justification also is recognized in this divine mystery of godliness – not justification by the deeds of the Law, but by the righteousness of faith. This is in the spirit and not in the letter; its praise, therefore, is not of men but of God. As exhibited in the person of our adorable Head and Representative, so shall this mystery of godliness be demonstrated in His mystical Body, and in each of His members in particular; for they are made partakers of the divine nature, – 2d Peter 1:4. The power of godliness is an essential property or attribute of its nature. It has power, in Christ, to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given Him, John xv11:2, and bids defiance to the gates of hell, Matthew xvi. 18; and in His members has power to assimilate them to the image of the heavenly; and all forms of godliness where this doctrine is denied, are altogether vain and useless, – 2 Timothy iii. 5. We need not in this place add that godliness is purely spiritual in its nature, for the Scriptures cited above have abundantly demonstrated it to be so, insomuch that no carnal or unregenerate person, whatever his works may be, or however learned or rude, can possibly participate in its enjoyment, or become acquainted with its nature or power, while in that state.

2nd. The Source of Godliness. The very term implies that it is of God; yet as at this day of darkness and delusion, men and devils are industriously engaged to make it appear that godliness is but another name for self-righteousness, personal holiness or mere human virtues; it is necessary that we in this place insist upon the Truth – that the saints’ righteousness is of the Lord. It is a good and perfect gift, and consequently must come down from the Father of light, with whom there is neither variableness or shadow of turning; – James 1:17. It can, therefore, no more be obtained from pious parentage –religious tracts – schools – rounds of works, or from any source short of God Himself, than we can find the living among the dead. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels; and though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains; and though I bestow my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity; it profiteth me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians xiii. 1-3. The grace of godliness is purely a gift of God, bestowed upon the heirs of salvation, by virtue of the relation which it has pleased the eternal Father should eternally subsist between Christ and His people. It is experimentally and practically taught by “the Grace of God, that bringeth salvation;” hence none participate in the divine teaching but gracious persons, such as have an evidence that they are saved of the Lord with an everlasting and finished salvation. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us (to whom of course salvation is actually brought) that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in the present world.” – Titus ii. 11,12.

3rd. The possession of Godliness. As godliness is a vital, heavenly and spiritual gift, they who are brought into the possession of it are quickened from the dead by the Holy Ghost. – Ephesians ii, 1, and were quickened with Christ, verse 5th; are made partakers of the heavenly gifts, Hebrews vi. 4; and are born of the Spirit, John iii, 6. Such, and such to the exclusion of all others are “Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ according as He (God) hath chosen us (the saints to be redeemed) in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, (godly) and without blame before Him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will; to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” – Ephesians i, 3-6. Thus the possession of godliness is by the Scriptures proven to belong exclusively to the heirs of salvation; and this possession is a part of their inheritance in Christ, and is incorruptible and undefiled and cannot pass away. – 1 Peter i: 4.

4th. The evidence of our Interest in this Grace. If we are the subjects of the grace of God, and consequently are made Godly in Christ Jesus; we shall have a variety of evidences that such is our happy lot. And 1st: We shall love the brethren; “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren,” – 1 John iii, 14. The love of God being shed abroad in our hearts we shall love God supremely; and if we love Him that begat, we also shall love those who are begotten of Him. His love, in us, will center in all that is lovely and approved of God; we shall love His doctrine, His ordinances, His precepts, and our delight will be in His law all the day. Godliness has a form; that is, as it respects the life and conversation of those who possess it at heart; yet we read of those who have the form but deny the power of godliness, and of some who think gain is godliness. Of this sort there is no lack in the present day: we hear them boasting of the converts, wealth, learning and respectability which they have gained and are gaining; and like the famous Andrew Fuller who exulted in the idea that his new fangled doctrine of gospel damnation, had raised the Baptists in point of respectability, from being “a perfect dung hill in society,” to a large and efficient denomination. But, brethren, although gain is only esteemed as godliness by men of corrupt minds, who are destitute of the Truth; yet we have the assurance that godliness with contentment is great gain. – I Timothy vi. 5,6. In short, If we find our desires flowing out to God for the prosperity of Zion – the peace of Jerusalem, and the glory of God; our feet, and heart, and hands moving in swift, cheerful and sweet obedience to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ; if we have become like weaned children – weaned from the beggarly elements of this world, ready to give up its pomp and vanities – and willing to have our names cast out as evil; to bear all the reproach that the world can heap upon us as the disciples of the meek and lowly Son of God; if we are willing to lay aside all conflicting considerations, and go unto our beloved Lord without the camp, and bear His reproach; if we had rather suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; if we esteem it a privilege to deny ourselves of ungodliness in all its various forms, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, notwithstanding we may feel our own leanness and barrenness – our emptiness and nothingness, and feel and mourn our want of conformity to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ; and although we may sometimes groan within ourselves, being burdened with the corruptions of our carnal, depraved and wicked natures; yet we have an unquestioned evidence that we are the partakers of the divine nature, and that we are the characters denominated in the Scriptures, godly.

But there is one infallible criterion given in the word of God by which we may judge of a life of godliness; it is recorded ion 2 Timothy iii, 12: “Yea, all that will live godly in Christ, shall suffer persecution;” while we are equally assured that that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the divine estimation. We who at this day, on account of our refusing to view as religious obligations, the numerous popular inventions of men, are denominated Old School Baptists – although we have nothing to boast of except Christ and Him crucified, and have to acknowledge how infinitely short we come of attaining to that every day practice of godliness which in a practical point of view is enjoined by our Lord and Master on all His followers; yet we poor, despised, and unlearned in the wisdom and sciences of this world – set at naught by the popular religionists of our age – branded with many bitter epithets, and pronounced a perfect dunghill in society; we are not a little comforted by the divine assurance that all who live godly in Christ Jesus, meets the same fate. And indeed our Lord has charged us in this to rejoice and be exceeding glad. Nor do we envy those whose eyes stand out with fatness – who have risen to a state of respectability in the estimation of the world; we are willing to bear their reproach, meet their cruel mockings, and if we, like our pilgrim fathers, are finally brought to the stocks, whipping posts, prison and gallows, still trust that God will give us grace equal to our day; that we, like them, may continue steadfast in the faith, and in nothing daunted by our adversaries; but amidst tortures, rack, flames and faggots – even while our mortal bodies are evaporating in the devouring element, with our latest breath be enabled by grace to testify and acknowledge “no King but Jesus” – no religion, but that of which He is Alpha and Omega – no faith, but that of which He is the Author, substance and Finisher.

And in the mean time, while we await the sovereign pleasure of our exalted Prince and Savior, in regard to the sufferings which yet remain for us, oh! May it be our happy privilege to live near to His cross, contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and in our lives, and in our walk, and conversation, refute their slanderous assertions in regard to the tendency of our faith, as they claim, to produce licentiousness of conduct. May it be ours to fight the good fight, finish our course, and keep the faith; and when the voice of the Arch-Angel shall rend the vaulted sky – the trump of God awake the slumbering nations of the dead, and our God appear in flaming fire to take vengeance on them who hate, persecute, ridicule and revile His saints; may we be found of God in Christ – not having on a righteousness of human works, but clothed with heaven’s best robe, and at His command surmount the skies, meet Him in the air, and be like Him; join in full chorus with all for whom He died, and swell the immortal anthem, “Not unto us, O God, not unto us, but to Thy name give all the glory. Amen.”

1836.