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What godliness is

To begin his discussion of godliness, Swinnock looks to the word “religion”. He considers three possibilities, but it is the third of these which draws his attention, so we will begin here: Religion means to bind or knit two things together: 

Austin and Lactantius (to whom I rather incline) derive it à religando, from binding or knitting, because it is the great bond to join and tie God and man together. As the parts of the body are knit to the head by the nerves and sinews, so man is knit to God by religion. 

From this word he draws out the concept:

Sin and irreligion separate God and man asunder; ‘Your iniquities have separated between you and your God’ Isa. 59:2.

This then leads us to godliness:

Godliness and religion unite God and man together; ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,’ 2 Cor. 6:16

He then brings the thoughts together

Atheism is a departing or going away from God, Eph. 4:18Heb. 3:12. Religion is a coming or returning unto God, Heb. 10:22Jer. 3:1

He then repeats the concept, but this time by bringing an application:

The great misery of man by his fall is this, he is far from God; and the great felicity of man by favour is this, he draweth nigh to God, Ps. 73:2 ult.; James 4:8. Irreligion is a turning the back upon God, but religion is a seeking the face of God, and a following hard after him, Ps. 2:327:8, and 63:8. By ungodliness, men wander and deviate from God; by godliness, men worship, and are devoted to God, Ps. 119:150.

Swinnock turns from the Latin source for the English “religion” to the Greek equivalents (which are used in the New Testament):

The Grecians call it θρησκέια [thrêskiéa], Beza thinks, from Orpheus, a Thracian, who first taught the mysteries of religion among his countrymen. The word in the text is ἐυσέβεια [eusebeia], which in a word signifieth right or straight worship, according to which I shall describe it thus:

Godliness is a worshipping the true God in heart and life, according to his revealed will.

At this point, Swinnock breaks the topic down into its logical aspects which here essentially tracks the linguistic structure:

In this description of godliness, I shall observe four parts. First, The act, it is a worship. Secondly, The object of this act, the true God. Thirdly, The extent of this worship, in heart and life. Fourthly, The rule, according to his revealed will.

He here develops the elements: A Definition of “Worship”:

First, For the act, godliness is a worship. Worship comprehends all that respect which man oweth and giveth to his Maker.

He then describes this honor in terms of the relationship of subject and sovereign. As one who lived his life solely in a republic, this sort of language has not intuitive effect. I understand the words, but I do not have a experienced analog:

 It is that service and honour, that fealty and homage, which the creature oweth and tendereth to the fountain of his being and happiness.3 It is the tribute which we pay to the King of kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him. ‘Give unto the Lord the honour due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,’ Ps. 29:2.

To worship God is to give him the glory which is due to him. It is a setting the crown of glory on God’s head. To render him due honour is true holiness; to deny this, is atheism and irreligion. 

The language of “atheism” follows in the line of Charnock’s “practical atheism”: not an intellectual rejection but a practice of living life as if there were no God.

All that inward reverence and respect, and all that outward obedience and service to God, which the word enjoineth, is included in this one word worship.

External Worship:

This worshipping God is either external or internal. God is to be worshipped with the body. Joshua fell on his face and worshipped, Josh. 5:14. Moses bowed his head and worshipped, Exod. 4:31. Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed, John 17:1. David lifted up his hands to God, Ps. 63:4. The bodies of saints shall be glorified with God hereafter, and the bodies of saints must glorify God here, Phil. 3:21Rom. 12:1.

Inward worship:

Inward worship is sometimes set forth by loving God, James 2:5; sometimes by trusting him, Ps. 16:1; sometimes by delighting in him, Ps. 37:3; sometimes by sorrow for offending him, Ps. 51:3, because this worship of God (as one piece of gold containeth many pieces of silver) comprehendeth all of them. 

At this point, Swinnock turns aside to press home exhortation. We cannot worship by halves:

All the graces are but so many links of this golden chain. As all the members of the natural body are knit together, and walk always in company, so all the parts of the new man are joined together, and never go but as the Israelites out of Egypt, with their whole train. If there be one wheel missing in a watch, the end of the whole is spoiled. If once grace should be wanting in a saint, he would be unsainted. There is a concatenation of graces, as well as of moral virtues. Those that worship God give him their hottest love, their highest joy, their deepest sorrow, their strongest faith, and their greatest fear; as Abraham gave Isaac, he gives God all.

A synecdoche is a part standing for a whole:

What Moses calls fearing God, Deut. 6:13, our Saviour quoting, calls worshipping God, (Mat. 4:910,) by a synecdoche, because the former is both a part and a sign of the latter. 

Here is an outstanding word picture which turns his doctrine into an image which can then be understood affectively:

As when the guard are watching at the court-gate, or on the stairs, and examining those that go in, it is a sign the king is within; so when the fear of God stands at the door of the heart, to examine all that go in, lest the traitor sin should steal in slily, it is a sign that God is within, that he sits upon the throne of the soul, and is worshipped there.

Second point: To whom is the worship directed:

Secondly, The object, the true God. All religion without the knowledge of the true God is a mere notion, an airy, empty nothing.

Here provides argumentative support for his proposition:

Divine worship is one of the chiefest jewels of God’s crown, which he will by no means part with. God alone is the object of the godly man’s worship, Exod. 20:2. His hope is in God, Ps. 39:7; his dependence is on God, Ps. 62:8; his dread is of God, Ps. 119:122; his love is to God, Ps. 10:1; God is the only object of his prayers, Ps. 5:3, and 44:20; and of God alone are all his praises, Ps. 103:1; God alone is to be worshipped, because he alone is worthy of worship, ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power: for thou hast created all things,’ Rev. 4:11.

Having made the affirmative point, he defines is position further by contrasting the true and proper object of worship with the false:

To hold anything in opinion, or to have anything in affection for God, which is not God, is idolatry. To worship either men, as the Samaritans did Antiochus Epiphanes, (styling him the mighty god;) or the host of heaven, as the Ammonites; or the devil, as the Indians; or the belly, as the glutton; or riches, as the covetous; or the cross, as the papist; is unholiness.

A final contrast. The use of “worship” at the time of Swinnock would have covered the giving of civil honor, which addresses:

There is a civil worship due to men, Gen. 48:11, but sacred worship is due only to God; and he is a jealous God, who will not give his glory to strangers, nor his praise to images.

After a short digression (omitted) on heathen idols, we comes to the comprehensive nature of worship:

Thirdly, The extent, in heart and life. Godliness is the worshipping God in the inward motions of the heart, and the outward actions of the life; where the spring of the affections is clear, and the stream of the conversation runs clear, there is true godliness. ….His heart is suitable to God’s nature, and his life is answerable to God’s law, and thence he is fitly denominated a godly man.

Here, Swinnock makes an exhortation by means of a rebuke. He calls hypocrisy blasphemy in practice:

In heart, hypocrisy is a practical blasphemy; ‘I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews and are not.’ God’s eye taketh most notice of the jewel of spiritual devotion; the eyes of men, of the cabinet of outward adoration. 

Here a development on the nature of the heart:

‘My son, give me thy heart,’ saith God, Prov. 23:26. The heart is the king in the little world, man; which giveth laws both to the inward powers and outward parts, and reigneth and ruleth over them at pleasure.

And there in the heart must lie our worship:

The life of godliness lieth much more in the heart than in the life; and the saints’ character is from their inward carriage towards God; ‘They worship God in the spirit,’ Phil. 3:3. … The deeper the belly of the lute is, the pleasanter the sound; the deeper our worship comes from the heart, the more delightful it is in God’s ears.

The life of the heart is the life of the entire man:

And life-godliness, as it sets God on the throne of the conscience, so it walks with God in the conversation [conduct]. Though the spiritual (as the natural) life begins at the heart, yet it doth not end there, but proceeds to the hands; the same water appeareth in the bucket which is in the well. 

As when the heart is like a dunghill, full of filth, it sends forth a noisome and unsavoury stench in the life; so when the heart is like a box of musk, it perfumes and scents the tongue, and eyes, and ears, and hands, and whatsoever is near it, with holiness. 

This is not directly in the stream of Swinnock’s argument. But he does make an exhortation which flows from the elements of his preceding argument: (1) fear of God demonstrates the presence of God in the heart; (2) what is in the heart flows out to the life: Therefore, the godly life of a Christ gives evidence of God.

Worship is called the name of God, Ps. 29, and worshipping, a praising him, 2 Chron. 7:3. Because as a man by his name, so God by his worship is known in the world; and those that worship him in their practices, do before the eyes of the world give him praise.

This was an element which was particularly a matter of contention in 16th and 17th Century. The Puritan position was that worship may consist only in what is prescribed in Scripture. There were others who held that which is consistent with Scripture and is not forbidden is permitted:

Fourthly, The rule, according to his revealed will. Every part of divine worship must have a divine precept. As the first command teacheth us what God is to be worshipped, so the second command teacheth in what way he will be worshipped. … 

Our work is not to make laws for ourselves or others, but to keep the laws which the great prophet of his church hath taught us; that coin of worship which is current amongst us must be stamped by God himself. We are to be governed as the point in the compass, not by the various winds, (the practices of former ages, or the fashions of the present generation, which are mutable and uncertain,1) but by the constant heavens. Our devotion must be regulated exactly according to the standard of the word. 

Here is the point of his argument:

It is idolatry to worship a false god, or the true God in a false manner….

He ends with various instances of the contrary.

3 Cultus religiosus est obsequium supremum illi soli debitum qui est principium et autor tam creationis quam beatificationis nostræ.—Daven. Determ.

1 Traditioni humanæ nomen religionis applicant, ut religio appellatur, cum sit sacrilegium; quia quod contra authorem est sacrilega mente inventum est.—Amb. in Col. 2.