THE IMPORTANCE AND NATURE OF REFORMATION FROM SIN.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.—2 Tim. 3: 1–5.
The Savior once began his instructions with these words, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled." They seem to be an appropriate introduction to our lesson upon this occasion. What is the religion of thousands? They were made the special objects of God's favor in their infancy (?), were christened in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (?), were dedicated to God and his service by their parents (?), who, for them, took a solemn vow to forsake the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires, to forsake, also, all the carnal desires of the flesh, and not to follow or be led by them. It is said that the christened took this vow when they were children, and understood it not; when they became men they understood it about as well as when they were children. But in all candor, I confess that I never could believe they took this vow; their sponsors took it upon themselves to make it for them, and usually pledged themselves to see it fulfilled. What fearful responsibilities are assumed just here. It is too frequently the case that those very sponsors serve more devoutly, love more affectionately, and confide more heartily in the profits, honors and pleasures of the world than in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Survey the lives of many of these men, of all conditions, and then deny, if you can, that the profits, honors and pleasures of the world are the gods they worship. Their daily and constant employment is either a violent pursuit of the vain pomp and glory of the world, or of its power, riches and profits; or it may be that they are led on by pride, malice or revenge. Such persons live, not knowing or regarding the fact that the baptism which now saves us is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." There are many such who live but little in advance of pagans in a commonwealth of Christians, and know but little more of God or of Christ than if they had been brought up in India. A great many are taught to act over this play in the name of religion, and learned to say, "Our Father who art in heaven," and "I believe in God the Father Almighty;" but do they live as though they did believe in earnest that God is their Almighty Father? Do they fear him and trust in him? Do they love and obey him? Mere pretense, or, as Paul termed it, a guise of godliness, for such is the meaning of the original term, is so common that we meet with it almost daily. Men have learned to tamper with the word of God until the world is full of theorists. How many talk about religion who set aside a great portion of the word of God as worse than useless? And that which they profess to believe they do not believe with half the simplicity which they manifest in believing the words of their earthly parents. It has been said, "He who is not industrious to obtain what he professes to desire does not desire it, and he who is not industrious to bring about that for which he prays, prays with his tongue only, and not with his heart." All such have simply a "guise" of godliness, while they deny its power.
A great many people profess to believe the Scriptures are true, and that they present the plain and only way to infinite and eternal blessedness, and yet they neglect the study of the Scriptures. How is this? If there was a book revealing a plain and easy way for all men to become rich and enjoy health and pleasure and this world's happiness, would it not be studied by all men? And why is it that the Bible is not studied by the masses and regarded more? Why are so many professors of religion negligent in this matter? May it not be because they prefer all other business and pleasures before this? If professors of religion throughout christendom heartily believed the Scriptures even as they profess, they would be more diligently studied, and in many instances treated with greater respect....