Practical Godliness

We gather from correspondence with friends in various parts that there is an awakening as to the great need of more practical godliness in the lives of Christians, and much exercise that so little of it is seen as a result of all the truth that is held theoretically. If this exercise deepens and spreads it will be a cause for thanksgiving, and it is what we should expect in a day when evil in a most diabolical fashion is filling the earth with desolation. If the children of the devil are manifesting themselves by hatred and murder, the children of God should make manifest that they are His children by works of righteousness and love (1 John 3).

It is not what is held in the head but what comes out in the life, not what we hear only but what we do that tells. We cannot do the works of God unless we hear the words of God, it is of the utmost importance that that should be seen, then we shall value our Bibles more. But we may hear the words and not do the works. The one who hears the Word and does not do it deceives his own self (Jas. 1:22); but he deceives no one else, neither God, nor his brethren, nor the world.

What has the truth that we know done for us? Does it enable us to bridle our tongues when we are provoked? Does it move us to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and keep ourselves unspotted from the world? (Jas. 1:26-27). If not, what we know is worse than useless, and our religion is vain.

We are not talking about preaching, for a man may be a preacher and yet a castaway. We do not belittle preaching. In those bright early days all were preachers, and everywhere (Acts 11), and we often find ourselves wishing the wish of Moses, "Would to God that [in these days] all the Lord's people were prophets," but what is not less enduring, or less productive of results, or less acceptable to the Lord, is the keeping of His commandments, for by this we know that we know Him; and this lies within the reach of all.

The misery of a life of selfishness, and the joy of a life yielded to God, the darkness of this world and the brightness of that to which we are going, ought alike to lead us to a fuller and more practical sanctification of ourselves to God and His service; and the love of Christ of which we sing so much will if truly known constrain us in the same direction. And in this each may be a help to all, and none may shirk his responsibility; but more particularly is it necessary that those who minister the word, and so are more prominent than others, should lead in these things. Paul's manner of life did not belie his doctrine. Young Timothy was exhorted to be "an example of believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12). Titus had to show in himself "a pattern of good works" (Titus 2:7). But the servants, slaves in that day, also, had to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:10). And all are exhorted — "Consider one another to provoke to love and good works" (Heb. 10:24).

Let us read more; keep the Word more constantly before each other; pray more with and for each other, and stir up ourselves to do the sayings of the Lord. Thus shall we adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, and, living the Gospel, we shall have more power in preaching it, and so shall all our ways be established, and our works shall abide because founded on a rock (Luke 6:47-48).