True Religion Or False

2Timothy 3:5 'Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof'
The way of formality, whereby men rest in the performance of most or of all external duties without inward life. Every man must have some religion, some fig leaves to hide their nakedness. Now, this religion must be either true religion or the false one; if the true, he must either take up the power of it, – but that he will not, because it is burdensome, – or the form of it; and this being easy men embrace it as their God, and will rather lose their lives than their religion thus taken up. This form of religion is the easiest religion in the world; partly because it easeth of trouble of conscience, quieting that: Thou hast sinned, saith conscience, and God is offended; take a book, and pray, keep thy conscience better, charmed down with the form of religion, as the devil is driven away (as they say) with holy water; partly, also, because the form of religion credits a man, partly because it is easy in itself; it is a light carriage, being but the shadow and picture of the substance of religion; as now, what an easy matter it is to come to church! They hear (at least outwardly) very attentively an hour and more, and then to turn a proof, and to turn down a leaf: here is the form.

But now to spend Saturday night, and all the whole Sabbath day morning, in trimming the lamp, and in getting the oil in the heart to meet the bridegroom the next day, and so meet him in the word, and there to tremble at the voice of God, and suck the breast while it is open; and when the word is done, to go aside privately, and there to chew upon the word, there to lament with tears all the vain thoughts in duties, deadness in hearing, this is hard, because this is the power of godliness, and this men will not take up: so for private prayer; what an easy matter is it for a man to say over a few prayers out of some devout book, or to repeat some old prayer, got by heart since a child, or to have two or three short-winded wishes for God’s mercy in the morning and at night! this form is easy. But now to prepare the heart by serious meditation of God and man’s self, before he prays, then to come to God with a bleeding, hunger-starved heart, not only with a desire, but with a warrant, I must have such or such a mercy, and there to wrestle with God, although it be an hour to two together for a blessing, this is too hard; men think none do thus, and therefore they will not.
Thomas Shepard [1605-1649]
The form...or the power - which will it be?

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