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XLI. ON SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD. How little is the genuine nature of Christianity considered by the generality of professing Christians.
The declaration of our Saviour, “My kingdom is not of this world;" and the character of his followers, " ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world," seem to be words of no import with thousands who call themselves Christians. Immersed in all the businesses and pleasures of life, they act as though no such declaration had been made, or any such character been drawn by the Saviour of mankind.
The commands of Scripture are most striking and clear on the duty of separation from the world. “ Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest, because it is polluted; it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.” « Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." - Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
“ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever.” “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, he is the enemy of God.”
To a soul happily delivered from this present evil world, through faith in Jesus, the exhortations of Scripture are most encouraging. They breathe that holy resignation to the divine will; and that cheerful contentment with the divine disposals, which, when obeyed, must cause the believer to rejoice at all times, and in every thing to give thanks. He is assured by the voice of infallible wisdom, that “ A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Hence he is warned, to “ take heed and beware of covetousness."
Whilst carnal minds are panting after worldly riches, he is thus admonished by the lowly Saviour: " Take no thought for your life what ye shall eat; neither for the body what ye shall put on.” “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them: how much are ye better than the fowls !” “ Consider the lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not, and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
« If then God so clothe the grass which is to day in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O! ye of little faith.” 46. Take therefore no thought for the morrow ; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
St. Paul, who once possessed what the world admires, knowledge and influence, counted them but loss for Christ. His knowledge, imbibed at the feet of Gamaliel ; and his influence, derived from the authority of the Holy Priest, were renounced without reserve when Jesus revealed himself to his soul. Separated from a world which lieth in wickedness, he could say, “ I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where
and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry ; both to abound and to suffer need: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
From this sweet experience of true religion, and this knowledge of the emptiness of all earthly things, he declared to Timothy; • Godliness with contentment is great gain ; for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which, whilst some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O! man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness ; fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life.”
The Hebrew converts he exhorted to the duty of divine contentment: “ Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have ; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee: so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
These interesting portions from the word of God, shew what is the character and spirit of true believers. They are a peculiar people, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Their conversation is in heaven. They are pilgrims and strangers upon earth; the temples of the Holy Ghost; the lights of the world; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. On earth they bear the holy image of their Saviour ; and in heaven they shall shine as the sun, with everlasting glory.
The world is crucified unto them, and they unto the world. Its fascinating charms have passed away; and they themselves are no longer the delight of carnal company.
Their holy walk and conversation is now the subject of derision. The holy image of Jesus is beheld with aversion. They have become to their once admiring associates as a crucified body, loathsome and disgusting.
All this discordancy springs from that unalterable distinction which must ever exist between the people of God and the people of the world. This distinction is so plain, that he who runs may read the living characters.
The one are born from above; the other from beneath. The one are quickened by grace; the other are dead in trespasses and sins. The one are governed by the Spirit of God; the other are under the dominion of Satan. The one consult the glory of God and cheerfully forsake all for Christ; the other make self the centre round which they move. The one, in seasons of general defection, can say with Nehemiah; “ So did not I, because of the fear of God;" the other, like Pharoah, when called to bow to the sceptre of Jehovah, exclaim: “Who is the Lord that I should obey him ?”
No wonder then if such a disagreement render a separation necessary : for what concord hath light with darkness; what agreement hath Christ with Belial ?
If Christians would be safe, they must separate from the world. To enforce this truth, the Bible is full of cautions, both historical and preceptive :
Before the flood we behold the dreadful consequences which ensued from the sons of God, being captivated by the daughters of men, (how strikingly the distinction is here preserved,) and taking unto
themselves wives of all whom they chose, without any regard either to principle or practice.
From these unnatural alliances sprang giants in wickedness, as well as in stature, till the food came and swept them all away.
The history of the Israelites teaches us, by examples the most awful, the danger of sinful connections. The following may serve as a specimen of the whole. “And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their Gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel.” (Judg. iii. 5.-8.) · Let us then beware of compromising our principles. Let us beware of conceding to the practices of the world, from a mistaken notion of conciliating the prejudices, or winning over the ungodly to religion.
Such conduct will only excite the contempt of the world; and provoke the Almighty to hide his face from us.
No-we must be singular, if we would be holy; we must be consistent, if we would be useful. If we are faithful, we must indeed expect reproach; if we boldly confess Christ before men, and steadily maintain that marked distinction which forms the line of separation between the church and the world; we must submit to have our names cast out as evil.
But true Christians ought never to shrink from the cross. Like Caleb they should follow the Lord fully, when all else forsake him; and like Joshua they should declare, with humility and integrity of heart, in the face of a sneering world : “ As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”