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These days, when we hear the word “religion,” we either think in broad terms that include all the religions of the world, or we think of outward forms connected to—or even disconnected from—the Christian faith. In past centuries, however, Christian theologians used it as shorthand for genuine spiritual life. Whitefield explains:


But to proceed more clearly in this argument it may not be improper first to explain what I mean by the word religion. By this term I would not be understood to mean a bare outward profession or naming the name of Christ. For we are told, that many who have even prophesied in his name and in his name cast out devils, shall notwithstanding be rejected by him at the last day. Nor would I understand by it barely being admitted into Christ’s church by baptism. For then Simon Magus, Arius and the heresiarchs [Arch-heretics] of old might pass for religious persons for these were baptized. Nor yet is it the receiving of the other seal of the covenant, for then Judas himself might be canonized for a saint. Nor indeed do I mean any or all of these together, considered by themselves but a thorough, real, inward change of nature, wrought in us by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, conveyed to and nourished in our hearts by a constant use of all the means of grace, evidenced by a good life and bringing forth the fruits of the spirit.

—George Whitefield, “The Benefits of an Early Piety” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:205–206.

Posted 2018·11·28 by David Kjos
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Posted in: George Whitefield · The Sermons of George Whitefield

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