Puritan Thomas Manton wrote a lamenting treatise called “England’s Spiritual Languishing; with the Causes and Cure“. The verse he starts with is the following:

Revelation 3:2 – “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

His title says it all. You can read the entire work here, but his first doctrinal point was the following:

That a special way to save a church and people from imminent and speedy ruin is the repairing of decayed godliness.

In a section, he starts by discussing how godliness is shown that it has decayed.

I wanted to note one section of that, which I believe is something we all should be very careful of.

From Mr. Manton:

2. By the insipid [lacking spirit, life or animation; flat, dull] formality and dead-heartedness that is found everywhere.

We are without life in the ways of God, little beauty of holiness, little circumspection and strictness in life and conversation [behavior]. Religion is like a river; it loses in strength what it gets in breadth.

Now many come in to profess, their walkings are not so awful and severe. When it is a shame not to have some form in religion, many have but a form, and so debase the holy profession by mingling it with their pride, lust [generally, any corrupt desires of the heart], and avarice [greediness or insatiable desire of gain], so that it is not so daunting, and has no such majesty with it as formerly it had.

A truly godly man is to be the world’s wonder, the world’s reproof, the world’s conviction.

The world’s wonder: 1 Peter iv. 4, ‘They think it strange,’ etc. You are to hold forth such mortification and self-denial that the world may wonder. You are to wean yourselves, and bind up your affections from such objects as do so pleasantly and powerfully insinuate with them, and ravish their affections.

He should be also the world’s reproof: Heb. xi. 7, by building an ark Noah condemned the world. You should be mirrors to kill basilisks [a fabled serpent called a cockatrice]; and in the innocency of your lives, show them their own filthiness; in short, your lives should be a real reproof and upbraiding to them.

And then the world’s conviction: 1 Cor. xiv. 25, you should walk so that they may see God in you of a truth. Your conversation [behavior] should be nothing else but a walking rule, and religion exemplified.

But, alas! how vain, carnal, sensual [simply, pleasing to the senses], are most men, discovering nothing of the power of grace, the beauty of holiness, and the efficacy of the new nature; we may see much of man, but nothing of God in them.

It is even our description: 2 Tim. iii. 5, ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’

Denying the power; that is, refusing and resisting that inward virtue and force of godliness, by which the heart should be renewed or the conversation [behavior] rectified.

Possibly there may be more light, but less heat. What Seneca observed of his times is true of ours, Boni esse desierunt, sicubi docti evaserintthey were less good when they were more learned; for now we rather dispute away duties than practice them.

Oh! it is sad this, when knowledge shall devour good life, and notion spoil knowledge. That of Hugo is but too just a character of us, Amant lectionem, non religionem, immo amore lectionis in odium incidunt religionis, multos video studiosos, paucos religiosos, etc. [They love reading, not religion; indeed, from the love of reading they fall into a hatred of religion, I see many studious, few religious.]

Many desire to know, few to live; yea, knowledge seems to make men less strict and holy, for they dispute away religion the more they understand of it.

May God grant us a desire for and praying toward being molded in Christ’s image, to grow in holiness and love of His law and statutes, and to not have the light of knowledge without the heat of His graces in our lives as evidenced by obedience and fruit.

— David