I ask then, how are we the better for being Christ’s disciples? what reason have we for thinking that our lives are very different from what they would have been if we had been heathens? Have we, in the words of the text, received the kingdom of God in word or in power? I will make some remarks in explanation of this question, which may (through God’s grace) assist you, my Brethren, in answering it.
Now first, if we would form a just notion how far we are influenced by the power of the Gospel, we must evidently put aside every thing which we do merely in imitation of others, and not from religious principle. Not that we can actually separate our good words and works into two classes, and say, what is done from faith, and what is done only by accident, and in a random way; but without being able to draw the line, it is quite evident that so very much of our apparent obedience to God arises from mere obedience to the world and its fashions; or rather, that it is so difficult to say what is done in the spirit of faith, as to lead us, on reflection, to be very much dissatisfied with ourselves, and quite out of conceit with our past lives.
Let a person merely reflect on the number and variety of bad or foolish thoughts which he suffers, and dwells on in private, which he would be ashamed to put into words, and he will at once see, how very poor a test his outward demeanour in life is of his real holiness in the sight of God. Or again, let him consider the number of times he has attended public worship as a matter of course because others do, and without seriousness of mind; or the number of times he has found himself unequal to temptations when they came, which beforehand he and others made light of in conversation, blaming those perhaps who had been overcome by them, and he must own that his outward conduct shapes itself unconsciously by the manners of those with whom he lives, being acted upon by external impulses, apart from any right influence proceeding from the heart.