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superlative degree,) is a nation, a vast majority of which have not God "in all their thoughts."
14. A plain consequence of these observations is, (what some may esteem a paradox,) that dissipation, in the full, general meaning of the word, is the very same thing with ungodliness. The name is new; but the thing is, undoubtedly, almost as old as the creation. And this is, at present, the peculiar glory of England, wherein it is not equalled by any nation under heaven. We therefore speak an unquestionable truth when we say, there is not on the face of the earth, another nation, (at least that we ever heard of,) so perfectly dissipated and ungodly; not only so totally "without God in the world," but so openly setting him at defiance. There never was an age that we read of in history, since Julius Cesar, since Noah, since Adam, wherein dissipation or ungodliness did so generally prevail, both among high and low, rich and poor.
15. But still, blessed be God!
"All are not lost: there be who faith
There are some, I trust more than seven thousand, yea, or ten times that number, in England, who have not yet bowed either their knee or their heart, to the god of this world; who, cleaving close to the God of heaven, are not borne away by the flood, by the general, the almost universal torrent of dissipation or ungodliness. They are not of the mind of gentie Crispus,
Qui nunquam direxit brachia contra torrentem:
"Who never attempted to swim against the stream." They dare swim against the stream. Each of them can truly say,
Nec me, qui cætera vincit
If they cannot turn the tide back, they can at least bear an open testimony against it. They are therefore free from the blood of their ungodly countrymen: it must be upon their own head.
16. But by what means may we avoid the being carried away by the overflowing stream of dissipation? It is not difficult for those who be lieve the Scripture, to give an answer to this question. Now I really believe the Bible to be the word of God, and on that supposition I answer; `the radical cure of all dissipation, is the "faith that worketh by love." If, therefore, you would be free from this evil disease, first, "continue steadfast in the faith;" in that faith which brings "the Spirit of adoption, crying in your heart, Abba, Father;" whereby you are enabled to testify," The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." By this faith you "see him that is invisible, and set the Lord always before you." Next, "building yourselves up in your most holy faith, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto everlasting life." And as long as you walk by this rule, you will be superior to all dissipation.
17. How exactly does this agree (though there is a difference in the expression) with that observation of pious Kempis: "Simplicity and purity are the two wings which lift the soul up to heaven. Simplicity is in the intention, purity in the affection." For what is this but (in
the apostle's language) simple "faith working by love?" By that simplicity you always see God, and by purity you love him. What is it, but having (as one of the ancients speaks)" the loving eye of the soul fixed upon God?" And as long as your soul is in this posture, dissipation can have no place.
18. It is with great judgment, therefore, that great and good Bishop Taylor, in his "Rules of Holy Living and Dying," (of whom Bishop Warburton, a person not very prone to commend, used to say, "I have no conception of a greater genius on earth, than Dr. Jeremy Taylor,") premises to all his other rules, those concerning purity of intention. And has he not the authority of our Lord himself so to do? who lays it down as a universal maxim; "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Singly aim at God in every step thou takest, eye him alone. Pursue one thing: happiness in knowing, in loving, in serving God. Then shall thy soul be full of light full of the light of the glory of God; of his glorious love, shining upon thee from the face of Jesus Christ.
19. Can any thing be a greater help to universal holiness, than the continually seeing the light of his glory? It is no wonder, then, that so many wise and good men have recommended, to all who desire to be truly religious, the exercise of the presence of God. But in doing this, some of those holy men seem to have fallen into one mistake (particularly an excellent writer of our own country, in his letters concerning "The Spirit of Prayer:" they put men wholly unawakened, unconvinced of sin, upon this exercise, at their very entrance into religion: whereas this certainly should not be the first, but rather one of the last things. They should begin with repentance; the knowledge of themselves; of their sinfulness, guilt, and helplessness. They should be instructed next, to seek peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Then let them be taught to retain what they have received; to "walk in the light of his countenance:" yea, to "walk in the light as he is in the light," without any darkness at all; till "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth them from all sin."
20. It was from a full conviction of the absolute necessity there is, of a Christian's setting the Lord always before him, that a set of young gentlemen in Oxford, who many years ago, used to spend most of their evenings together, in order to assist each other in working out their salvation, placed that question first, in their scheme of daily self examination; Have I been simple and recollected in all I said or did ?" Have I been simple? That is, setting the Lord always before me, and doing every thing with a single view of pleasing him? Recollected, that is, quickly gathering in my scattered thoughts; recovering my simplicity, if I had been in any wise drawn from it, by men or devils, or my own evil heart! By this means they were preserved from dissipation, and were enabled, each of them, to say, "By the grace of God, this one thing I do; (at least it is my constant aim,) I see God; I love God; I serve God; I glorify him with my body and with my spirit."
21. The same thing seems to be intended by two uncommon words, which are frequently found in the writings of those pious men, who are usually styled Mystics. I mean, introversion, and extroversion. "Examine yourselves," says St. Paul to the Corinthians, and in them to the Christians of all ages; "know ye not that Christ is in you
except ye be reprobates ?" that is, unbelievers: unable to bear the touchstone of God's word. Now the attending to the voice of Christ within you, is what they term introversion. The turning the eye of the mind from him to outward things, they call extroversion. By this your thoughts wander from God, and you are properly dissipated: whereas by introversion, you may be always sensible of his loving presence; you continually hearken to whatever it pleases your Lord to say to your heart and if you continually listen to his inward voice, you will be kept from all dissipation.
22. We may, lastly, learn hence, what judgment to form of what is frequently urged in favour of the English nation, and of the present age; namely, that in other respects, England stands on a level with other nations; and the present age stands upon a level with any of the preceding: only it is allowed we are more dissipated than our neighbours; and this age is more dissipated than the preceding ages. Nay, if this is allowed, all is allowed. It is allowed that this nation is worse than any of the neighbouring nations; and that this age is worse, essentially worse, than any of the preceding ages. For as dissipation or ungodliness is the parent of all sin; of all unrighteousness; of unmercifulness, injustice, fraud, perfidy; of every possible evil temper, evil word, or evil action; so it, in effect, comprises them all. Whatsoever things are impure, whatsoever things are of evil report, whatsoever things are unholy; if there be any vice; all these are included in ungodliness, usually termed dissipation. Let not, therefore, any lover of virtue and truth say one word in favour of this monster: let no lover of mankind once open his mouth to extenuate the guilt of it. Abhor it as you would abhor the devil, whose offspring and likeness it is! Abhor it, as you would abhor the extinction of all virtue, and the universal prevalence of an earthly, sensual, devilish spirit; and flee from it as you would flee (if you saw it open before you) from the lake of fire burning with brimstone !
SERMON LXXXV.-On Friendship with the World.
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, desireth to be a friend of the world, is an enemy of God," James iv, 4.
1. THERE is a passage in St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, which has been often supposed to be of the same import with this: "Be not conformed to this world," ch. xii, 2: but it has little or no relation to it; it speaks of quite another thing. Indeed the supposed resemblance arises merely from the use of the word world, in both places. This naturally leads us to think, that St. Paul means by conformity to the world, the same which St. James means by friendship with the world: whereas they are entirely different things, as the words are quite different in the original: (for St. Paul's word is, awv: St. James's is xoσμos.) However, the words of St. Paul contain an important direction to the children of God. As if he had said, be not conformed to either the wisdom, or the spirit, or the fashions of the age of either the unconverted Jews, or heathens, among whom ye live. You are called to show,
by the whole tenor of your life and conversation, that you are "renewed in the spirit of your mind, after the image of him that created you;" and that your rule is not the example or will of man, but "the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
2. But it is not strange, that St. James's caution against friendship with the world should be so little understood, even among Christians. For I have not been able to learn that any author, ancient or modern, has wrote upon the subject: no, not (so far as I have observed) for sixteen or seventeen hundred years. Even that excellent writer, Mr. Law, who has treated so well many other subjects, has not, in all his practical treatises, wrote one chapter upon it. No, nor said one word, that I remember, or given one caution against it. I never heard one sermon preached upon it, either before the university or elsewhere. I never was in any company where the conversation turned explicitly. upon it, even for one hour.
3. Yet are there very few subjects of so deep importance: few that so nearly concern the very essence of religion, the life of God in the soul; the continuance and increase, or the decay, yea, extinction of it. From the want of instruction in this respect, the most melancholy consequences have followed. These, indeed, have not affected those who were still dead in trespasses and sins; but they have fallen heavy upon many of those who were truly alive to God. They have affected many of those called Methodists in particular; perhaps more than any other people. For want of understanding this advice of the apostle, (I hope rather than from any contempt of it,) many among them are sick; spiritually sick; and many sleep, who were once thoroughly awakened. And it is well if they awake any more till their souls are required of them. It has appeared difficult to me, to account for what I have frequently observed: many who were once greatly alive to God, whose conversation was in heaven, who had their affections on things above, not on things of the earth; though they walked in all the ordinances of God, though they still abounded in good works, and abstained from all known sin, yea, and from the appearance of evil; yet they gradually and insensibly decayed; (like Jonah's gourd, when the worm ate the root of it;) insomuch that they are less alive to God now, than they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. But it is easily accounted for, if we observe, that as they increased in goods, they increased in friendship with the world: which, indeed, must always be the case, unless the mighty power of God interpose. But in the same proportion as they increased in this, the life of God in their soul decreased.
4. Is it strange that it should decrease, if those words are really found in the oracles of God: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" What is the meaning of these words? Let us seriously consider. And may God open the eyes of our understanding; that, in spite of all the mist wherewith the wisdom of the world would cover us, we may discern what is the good and acceptable will of God!
5. Let us first consider, what it is which the apostle here means by the world. He does not here refer to this outward frame of things termed in Scripture, heaven and earth; but to the inhabitants of the earth; the children of men; or, at least, the greater part of them. But what part? This is fully determined both by our Lord himself, and by
his beloved disciple. First, by our Lord himself. His words are; “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own:. but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And all these things will they do unto you, because they know not him that sent me," John xv, 18, &c. You see here "the world” is placed on one side, and those who "are not of the world," on the other. They whom God has "chosen out of the world;" namely, by "sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth;" are set in direct opposition to those whom he hath not so chosen. Yet again: those "who know not him that sent me," saith our Lord; who know not God; they are "the world."
6. Equally express are the words of the beloved disciple: "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you: we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren," 1 John iii, 13. As if he had said, you must not expect any should love you, but those that have "passed from death unto life." It follows, those that are not passed from death unto life, that are not alive to God, are the world." The same we may learn from those words in the fifth chapter; verse 19, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one." Here "the world" plainly means, those that are not of God; and who, consequently, "lie in the wicked one."
7. Those, on the contrary, are of God, who love God, or at least "fear him, and keep his commandments." This is the lowest character of those that "are of God;" who are not properly sons, but servants; who depart from evil, and study to do good, and walk in all his ordinances, because they have the fear of God in their heart, and a sincere desire to please him. Fix in your heart, this plain meaning of the terms, "the world;" those who do not thus fear God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: it means neither more nor less than this.
8. But, understanding the term in this sense, what kind of friendship may we have with the world? We may, we ought to love them as ourselves; (for they also are included in the word neighbour;) to bear them real good will; to desire their happiness, as sincerely as we desire the happiness of our own souls; yea, we are in a sense to honour them, (secing we are directed by the apostle to "honour all men,") as the creatures of God; nay, as immortal spirits, who are capable of knowing, of loving, and of enjoying him to all eternity. We are to honour them as redeemed by his blood, who " tasted death for every man." We are to bear them tender compassion, when we see them forsaking their own mercies, wandering from the path of life, and hastening to everlasting destruction. We are never willingly to grieve their spirits, or give them any pain; but, on the contrary, to give them all the pleasure we innocently can; seeing we are to "please all men for their good.” We are never to aggravate their faults; but willingly to allow all the good that is in them.
9. We may and ought to speak to them on all occasions, in the most kind and obliging manner we can. We ought to speak no evil of them when they are absent; unless it be absolutely necessary; unless it be the only means we know of preventing their doing hurt: otherwise, we are to speak of them with all the respect we can, without transgress