True Godliness 
From the writings of Gerhard Tersteegen - (1697-1769)



It is a very lamentable thing, that in these our last, dark, and corrupted times, godliness, piety, or the true service of God...is become so rare and so little known upon earth. Even amongst Christians...true piety or godliness is so little known... If they talk of godliness, they do not even now of what they are speaking. Where others form an idea of it, it is soon perceived, on close examination in the light of God, that their conceptions of it are far from being in accordance with the nature of the thing itself.

Notwithstanding all the external appearance and form of godliness, its power is universally unknown, and is even rejected as mere imagination and error...

In order to form to ourselves an idea of the nature, quality, and essence of true godliness, or describe a really godly man, it is only reasonable that we do not direct our thoughts, first, to such things which the hypocrite and the ungodly can have in common with those that are really godly... Hence, when we refrain from gross vices, when we do not curse, nor are drunken, nor steal, nor quarrel, etc., but lead an externally sober, just decorous, quiet, and social life, it is not sufficient proof that we are godly...

We may diligently attend to outward ceremonies and to pious duties, which are good in themselves. We may be baptized, and go to church... We may read, learn, and meditate upon that which is good, make external prayers, fast and give alms. We may commend and in some measure love piety, and the godly. We may associate with them, possess much literal knowledge of the truth, know how to converse in a pious strain, and with all this, be in reality not yet godly...

Secondly, I say, that true godliness cannot consist in anything which some godly men may possess, or have possessed, but which all have not. Under this head may be included ecstasies, revelations, the gifts of prophecy, a wonder-working faith, extraordinary light in divine mysteries, brilliant gifts, and outwardly manifested zeal, and every other extraordinary gift of God’s grace. Godliness does not consist in any of these.

Hence we must not particularly desire any such like high things, and by no means be envious, when we see or hear of them in others. Self-love often thinks, "Ah, if thou hadst such gifts, such light and zeal, as this or that individual, thou wouldst then be truly godly and able to edify others." Self-love may induce us to imitate something or other, to which we are not called, and without the grace of God. All this arises from a principle of self-conceit and self-love, and is a very dangerous temptation of Satan, against which we must arm ourselves by prayer and humility, and only labor to attain the substance of godliness, rejoicing meanwhile in the gifts which God has bestowed upon others.

He that possesses such things, has no cause to presume upon them, or to exalt himself above others. He must take heed that he does not cleave to them, and rest in them, or take a selfish pleasure in them...since they are only gifts...in possessing which, the individual stands in greater danger than others who do not possess them...

The godly...often experience spiritual and divine consolations, peace, sensible delights, sweetness, occasional assurances, and various other divine communications and gifts of grace. I say they experience such things frequently, but not at all times or without variation, from whence follows, that the substance of true godliness cannot consist in these things...

Hence it is, that many a well meaning person, who reads or hears such sentiments advanced, and has not yet enjoyed the like sensible gifts of grace, may fall into...doubt about his state. He may be hindered in the path of self-denial and the cross, by frequently striving from selfish motives after joy and consolation, and seeking on all sides for signs and assurances of his [full] salvation more than for the marks and properties of true godliness...

True godliness (eusebeia) is that inward state or disposition, which is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and the occupation of the soul, which springs from it, by which she again renders that homage and worship to the triune God which is due to Him... For since He is a Spirit, it necessarily follows, that He must be worshipped not in a mere external, ceremonial, and hypocritical manner, but inwardly, heartily, in spirit and in truth, if it is to be done in a manner worthy of Him, as our divine Teacher Himself demonstrates. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)

This immediately produces in the soul an unspeakably profound veneration... This glorious Being appears to her to be alone great and good... God is exalted and magnified by her, whilst she herself is abased in the deepest humility... She cannot bear to see herself honored or esteemed by others...

It appears horrible and inhuman wickedness to her to offend such a God. This veneration of God...also produces a real faith and confidence towards God in Christ Jesus, to Whom she yields, resigns, and commits herself wholly...that He may do with Her, and in her, and make of her, whatever He pleases in time and in eternity. She hopes and trusts that He...overrule everything for her good and His glory.

It produces in the soul, a departure from herself, and from all that is not God, and an ardent hunger...nay, a real entering and transition into Christ with Whom she inwardly unites herself. By a continual and believing attachment, retiring into, and abiding in Him, she receives grace for grace, essential, spiritual, vital power and strength, by which she is wholly penetrated and animated. By degrees, all inward and outward acts, words, thoughts, and inclinations are produced and inspired by this new principle of life. On which account, she most willingly ascribes all the good that is found in her, or may proceed from her...to this divine source - the vivifying Spirit of the Lord Jesus in her.

The soul can then say with truth in the words of St. Paul, "...I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God..." (Gal. 2:20) She also learns the true import of those words of Christ, "...He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit; for without me, ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) In truth, this essential union of faith in Christ Jesus is the sole basis of all true godliness. The new life which springs from it, is true godliness itself, which is therefore emphatically called in Scripture, "godly in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:12) in order to distinguish it as something vital, powerful, and essential from all self-made, specious, and shadowy religion. A simultaneous consequence of the...inward knowledge God is to cleave to Him...and to love nothing out of Him, which cannot be truly loved in Him.

An ungodly (asebes) person is one who is detached from God, and cleaves to himself and the creature. A godly (euseges) man is one who is detached from himself and the creature, and adheres to God with all affection... He embraces this lovely Being with all the powers of his love, and seeks pleasure, joy, consolation, and delight in Him alone... He immerses himself in Him, until at length, after every intervention and partition of sin and self-love is cleared away, by the exercise of great fidelity and patient endurance, and through the powerful operation of the grace of God, he becomes entirely one with God, or one spirit with Him. (1 Cor. 6:17)

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one {in life and nature}: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one...that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:22-23, 26)
 
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17) 

This, taken together, is otherwise called in Scripture, "Walk before God" or "in His presence." It is in reality nothing else than true godliness, the true service of God, or real religion...

 



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