The Fear of “Being Righteous Overmuch”

George Whitefield in a sermon from Matthew 25:13 which has to do with Christ’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins,

They that were foolish took their lamps of an outward profession.  They would go to church, say over several manuals of prayers, come perhaps into a field to hear a sermon, give at a collection, and receive the Sacrament constantly, no, oftener than once a month.  But then here lay the mistake; they had no oil in their lamps, no principle of grace, no living faith in their hearts, without which, though we should give all our goods to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burned, it would profit us nothing.  In short, they were exact, even superstitious bigots as to the form, but all the while they were strangers to, and, in effect, denied the power of godliness in their hearts.  They would go to church, but at the same time think it no harm to go to a ball or an assembly, notwithstanding they promised at their baptism, to renounce the pomps and vanities of this wicked world.  They were so exceedingly fearful of being righteous overmuch, that they would even persecute those that were truly devout, if they attempted to go a step farther than themselves.  In one word, they never effectually felt the power of the world to come.  They thought they might be Christians without so much inward feeling, and therefore, notwithstanding their high pretensions, had only a name of live (George Whitefield, Sermons of George Whitefield [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009], 101). 

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