2 Timothy 3:5
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
I. BY THE FORM OF GODLINESS MAY BE PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD, NOT ONLY A SPECIOUS PRACTICE OF RELIGIOUS DUTIES, EXHIBITED TO PUBLIC NOTICE, BUT ALL EXTERNAL ACTS OF WORSHIP, ALL RITES AND CEREMONIES, all stated observances, and all compliance with temporary and local injunctions and regularities. In ages and countries in which ignorance has produced, and nourished, superstition, many artifices have been invented of practising piety without virtue, and repentance without amendment. As almost every man is, by nature or by accident, exposed to danger from particular temptations, and disposed to some vices more than to others; so all are, either by disposition of mind, or the circumstances of life, inclined or compelled to some laudable practices. Of this happy tendency it is common to take advantage, by pushing the favourite, or the convenient, virtue to its utmost extent, and to lose all sense of deficiency in the perpetual contemplation of some single excellence.
II. THE POWER OF GODLINESS IS CONTAINED IN THE LOVE OF GOD AND OF OUR NEIGHBOUR; in that sum of religion in which, as we are told by the Saviour of the world, the law and the prophets are comprised.
1. The love of God will engage us to trust in His protection, to acquiesce in His dispensations, to keep His laws, to meditate on His perfection, and to declare our confidence and submission, by profound and frequent adoration, to impress His glory on our minds by songs of praise, to inflame our gratitude by acts of thanks giving, to strengthen our faith, and exalt our hope, by pious meditations, and to implore His protection of our imbecility, and His assistance of our frailty by humble supplication; and when we love God with the whole heart, the power of godliness will be shown by steadiness in temptation, by patience in affliction, by faith in the Divine promises, by perpetual dread of sin, by continual aspirations after higher degrees of holiness, and contempt of the pains and pleasures of the world, when they obstruct the progress of religious excellence.
2. The power of godliness, as it is exerted in the love of our neighbour, appears in the exact and punctual discharge of all the relative and social duties. He whom this power actuates and directs, will regulate his conduct, so as neither to do injury, nor willingly to give offence.
III. HOW FAR IT IS NECESSARY TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, THAT THE FORM AND POWER OF GODLINESS SHOULD SUBSIST TOGETHER. It may be with great reason affirmed that, though there may be the appearance of godliness without the reality, there can hardly be the reality without the appearance. The form of godliness, as it consists in the rites of religion, is the instrument given us by God for the acquisition of the power; the means as well as the end are prescribed; nor can he expect the help of grace, or the Divine approbation, who seeks them by any other method than that which infinite wisdom has condescended to appoint.
(John Taylor, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.