William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity is a fascinating and helpful book first published in England in 1797 (with this title: “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity”). In this book Wilberforce criticizes the notion of being a Christian in name only, but not in faith and practice. I’m not yet finished with the book, so I can’t give a full review, but I did want to point out a helpful section where Wilberforce talks about vigor, exertion, and diligence in the Christian faith. Basically, he rebukes those who say they are Christians but don’t put any effort into growing in knowledge, faith, and obedience.
“How criminal, then, must this voluntary ignorance of Christianity and the Word of God appear in the sight of God. When God of His goodness has granted us such abundant means of instruction, how great must be the guilt, and how awful must be the punishment of voluntary ignorance.”
“And why are we to expect knowledge without inquiry and success without endeavor? Bountiful as is the hand of Providence, it does not bestow its gifts to seduce us into laziness. It bestows gifts to arouse us to exertion. No one expects to attain to the heights of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or militant glory without vigorous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance.”
“Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry! This is the more preposterous because Christianity, a revelation from God and not an invention of man, shows us new relations with their correspondent duties. It contains also doctrines, motives, and precepts peculiar to itself. We cannot reasonably expect to become proficient accidentally, as one might learn insensibly the maxims of worldly policy or a scheme of mere morals.
“…Scripture everywhere represents the Gospel by figures strongly calculated to impress on our minds a sense of its value. It speaks of the Gospel as light from darkness, as release from prison, as deliverance from captivity, as life from death. The early converts universally received it with thankfulness and joy. At one time, the communication of it is promised as a reward. At another, the loss of it is threatened as a punishment. And the more general extension of the kingdom of Christ constitutes one of the leading petitions of the short prayer taught by our blessed Savior. What exalted conceptions of the importance of Christianity ought to fill us when we read these descriptions(!).”
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)