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not desire, he does not use the least endeavour, to communicate his distemper to you. Yet have a care! touch him not ! nay, go not near him, or you know not how soon you may be in the same condition. To draw the parallel : though we should suppose a man of the world does not desire, design, or endeavour to communicate his distemper to you, yet touch him not. Come not too near him. For it is not only his reasonings or persuasions, that may infect your soul, but his very breath is infectious; particularly to those who are apprehensive of no danger.
16. If conversing freely with worldly minded men has no other ill effect upon you, it will surely, by imperceptible degrees, make you less heavenly minded. It will give a bias to your mind, which will continually draw your soul to earth. It will incline you, without your being conscious of it, instead of being wholly transformed in the renewing of your mind, to be again conformed to this world, in its spirit, in its maxims, and in its vain conversation. You will fall again into that levity and dissipation of spirit, from which you had before clean escaped; 'into that superfluity of apparel, and into that foolish, frothy, unprofitable conversation, which was an abomination to you, when your soul was alive to God. And you will daily decline from that simplicity both of speech and behaviour, whereby you once adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour.
17. And if you go thus far in conformity to the world, it is hardly to be expected you will stop here. You will go farther in a short time: having once lost your footing and begun to slide down, it is a thousanu to one, you will not stop till you come to the bottom of the hill : till you fall yourself into some of those outward sins, which your companions commit before your eyes, or in your hearing. Hereby the dread and horror which struck you at first, will gradually abate, till at length you are prevailed upon to follow their example. But suppose they do not lead you into outward sin, if they infect your spirit with pride, anger, or love of the world, it is enough: it is sufficient, without deep repentance, to drown your soul in everlasting perdition; seeing (abstracted from all outward sin,)“ to be carnally minded is death."
18. But as dangerous as it is to converse familiarly with men that know not God, it is more dangerous still for men to converse with women of that character; as they are generally more insinuating than men, and have far greater power of persuasion; particularly if they are agreeable in their persons, or pleasing in their conversation. You must be more than man, if you can converse with such and not suffer any loss. If you do not feel any foolish or unholy desire ; (and who can promise that you shall not ?) yet it is scarce possible, that you should not feel more or less of an improper softness, which will make you less willing and less able, to persist in that habit of denying yourself, and taking up your cross daily, which constitute the character of a good soldier of Jesus Christ. And we know that not only fornicators and adulterers, but even" the soft and effeminate,” the delicate followers of a self deny ing Master, "shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
19. Such are the consequences which must surely, though perhaps slowly, follow the mixing of the children of God with the men of the world. And by this means, more than by any other, yea, than by all others put together, are the people called Methodists likely to lose their strength, and become like other men. It is indeed with a good Vol. II.
design, and from a real desire of promoting the glory of God, that many of them admit of a familiar conversation with men that know not God. You have a hope of awakening them out of sleep, and persuading them to seek the things that make for their peace. But if, after a competent time of trial, you can make no impression upon them, it will be your wisdom to give them up to liod; otherwise you are more likely to receive hurt from them, than to do them any good. For if you do not raise their hearts up to heaven, they will draw yours down to earth. Therefore retreat in time," and come out from among them, and be ye separate.”
20. But how may this be done? What is the most easy and effectual method of separating ourselves from unholy men? Perhaps a few advices will make this plain to those that desire to know and do the will of God.
First: Invite no unholy person to your house, unless on some very particular occasion. You may say, “but civility requires this; and sure, religion is no enemy to civility. Nay, the apostle himself directs us to be courteous, as well as to be pitiful.” I answer, you may be civil, sufficiently civil, and yet keep them at a proper distance. You may be courteous in a thousand instances, and yet stand aloof from them. And it was never the design of the apostle to recommend any such courtesy as must necessarily prove a snare to the soul.
21. Secondly: On no account accept any invitation from an unholy person: never be prevailed upon to pay a visit unless you wish it to be repaid. It may be, a person, desirous of your acquaintance, will repeat the visit twice or thrice. But if you steadily refrain from returning it, the visitant will soon be tired. It is not improbable, he will be disobliged; and perhaps he will show some marks of resentment. Lay your account with this, that when any thing of the kind occurs, you may neither be surprised nor discouraged. It is better to please God and displease man, than to please man and displease God.
22. Thirdly : It is probable, you were acquainted with men of the world, before you yourself knew God. What is best to be done with regard to these? How may you most easily drop their acquaintance ! First, allow a sufficient time to try, whether you cannot, by argument and persuasion, applied at the soft times of address, induce them to choose the better part. Spare no pains! Exert all your faith and love, and wrestle with God in their behalf. If, after all, you cannot perceive that any impression is made upon them, it is your duty gently to withdraw from them, that you be not entangled with them. This may
be done in a short time, easily and quietly, by not returning their visits. But you must expect they will upbraid you with haughtiness and unkindness, if not to your face, yet behind your back. And this you can suffer for a good conscience. It is, properly, the reproach of Christ.
23. When it pleased God to give me a settled resolution, to be not a nominal, but a real Christian, (being then about twenty-two years of age,) my acquaintance were as ignorant of God as myself. But there was this difference: I knew my own ignorance; they did not know theirs. I faintly endeavoured to help them, but in vain. Meantime I found, by sad experience, that even their harmless conversation, so called, damped all my good resolutions. But how to get rid of them was the question which I resolved in my mind again and again. I saw no possible way, unless it should please God to remove me to another college. He did so, in a manner utterly contrary to all human probability. I was elected fellow of a college, where I knew not one person. I foresaw, abundance of people would come to see me, either out of friendship, civility, or curiosity; and that I should have offers of acquaintance, new and old: but I had now fixed my plan. Entering now, 'as it were, into a new world, I resolved to have no acquaintance by chance, but by choice; and to choose such only, as I had reason to believe would help me on my way to heaven. In consequence of this, I narrowly observed the temper and behaviour of all that visited me I saw no reason to think that the greater part of these truly loved or feared God. Such acquaintance, therefore, I did not choose: I could not expect they would do me any good. Therefore, when any of these came to see me, I behaved as courteously as I could. But to the question, “When will you come to see me?" I returned no answer. When they had come a few times, and found I still declined returning the visit, I saw them no more. And I bless God, this has been my invariable rule for about threescore years. I knew many reflections would follow: but that did not move me; as I knew full well, it was my calling to go “ through evil report and good report.” 24. I earnestly advise all of you who resolve to be, not al:nost,
but altogether Christians, to adopt the same plan; however contrary it
may be to flesh and blood. Narrowly observe, which of those that fall in your way, are like minded with yourself: who among them have you reason to believe fears God and works righteousness ? Set them down as worthy of your acquaintance: gladly and freely converse with them at all opportunities. As to all who do not answer that character, gently and quietly let them drop. However good natured and sensible they may be, they will do you no real service. Nay, if they did not lead you into outward sin, yet they would be a continual clog to your soul, and would binder your running with vigour and cheerfulness the race that is set before you. And if any of your friends, that did once run well, “turn back from the holy commandment once delivered to them;" first use every method that prudence can suggest, to bring them again into the good way. But if you cannot prevail, let them go; only still commending them unto God in prayer. Drop all familiar intercourse with them, and save your own soul.
25. I advise you, fourthly, walk circumspectly with regard to your relations. With your parents, whether religious or not, you must certainly converse, if they desire it; and with your brothers and sisters; more especially, if they want your service. I do not know that you are under any such obligation, with respect to your more distant relations. Courtesy, indeed, and natural affection may require that you should visit them sometimes. But if they neither know nor seek God, it should certainly be as seldom as possible. And when you are with them, you should not stay a day longer than decency requires. Again : Whichsoever of them you are with at any time, remember that solemn caution of the apostle, “ Let no corrupt communication (conversation) come out of your mouth: but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers." You have no authority to vary from this rule; otherwise, you " grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” And if you keep closely to it, those who have no religion will soon dispense with your company
26. Thus it is that those who fear or love God should “come out from among all” that do not fear him. Thus in a plain scriptural sense, you should“ be separate” from them; from all unnecessary intercourse with them. Yea, “ Touch not,” saith the Lord, “the unclean thing," or person, any farther than necessity requires; "and I will receive you" into the household of God. “And I will be unto you a Father;" will embrace you with paternal affection;, “and ye shall be unto me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 'The promise is express to all that renounce the company of ungodly men; provided their spirit and conversation are, in other respects, also suitable to their duty. God does here absolutely engage to give them all the blessings he has prepared for his beloved children, both in time and eternity. Let all those, therefore, who have any regard for the favour and the blessings of God, first, beware, how they contract any acquaintance, or form any connection with ungodly men; any farther than necessary business, or some other providential call requires : and, secondly, with all possible speed, all that the nature of the thing will admit, break off all such acquaintance already contracted, and all such connections already formed. Let no pleasure resulting from such acquaintance, no gair. found o: expected from such connections, be of any consideration, when laid in the balance against a clear, positive command of God. In such a case,“ pluck out the right eye;" tear away the most pleasing acquaintance; " and cast it from thee :" give up all thought, all design of seeking it again. “ Cut off the right hand;" absolutely renounce the most profitable connection; " and cast it from thee.” “It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye,” or one hand,“ than having two, to be cast into hell fire."
SERMON LXXXVII.-On Temptation. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able ; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it," 1 Cor. x, 13.
1. In the foregoing part of the chapter, the apostle has been reciting, on the one hand, the unparalleled mercies of God to the Israelites; and, on the other, the unparalleled ingratitude of that disobedient and gainsaying people. And all these things, as the apostle observes, “ were written for our ensample;” that we might take warning from them, so as to avoid their grievous sins, and escape that terrible punishment He then adds that solemn and important cantion: “Let him that thirk eth he standeth, take heed lest he fall."
2. But if we observe these words attentively, will there not appear 3 considerable difficulty in them? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” If a man only thinks he stands, he is in no danger of falling
It is not possible that any one should fall, if he only thinks he stands. The same difficulty occurs, according to our translation, in those well known words of our Lord ; (the importance of which we may easily learn from their being repeated in the gospel no less than eight times ;) “ To him that hath shall be given; but from
him that hath not, shall be taken away even what he seemeth to have.” “That which he seemeth to have !" Nay, if he only seems to have it, it is impossible it should be taken away. None can take away from another what he only seems to have. What a man only seems to have, he cannot possibly lose. This difficulty, may, at first, appear impossible to be surmounted. It is really so: it cannot be surmounted, if the common translation be allowed. But if we observe the proper meaning of the original word, the difficulty vanishes away. It may be allowed that the word doxsı does (sometimes at least, in some authors) inean no more than to seem. But I much doubt whether it ever bears that meaning, in any part of the inspired writings. By a careful consideration of every text in the New Testament, wherein this word occurs, I am fully convinced, that it no where lessens, but every where strengthens the sense of the word to which it is annexed. Accordingly odoxel Exsiv, does not mcan, what he seems to have ; but on the contrary, what he assureilly hath. And so o doxww ssavai, not he that seemeth to stand, or he that thinketh he standeth, but he that assuredly standeth : he who standeth so fast, that he does not appear to be in any danger of falling: he that saith, like David, “ I shall never be moved : thcu, Lord, hast made my hill so strong." Yet at that very time thus saith the Lord, “Be not high minded, but fear. Else shalt thou be cut off :" else shalt thou also be moved from thy steadfastness. The strength which thou assuredly hast shall be taken away. As firmly as thou didst really stand, thou wilt fall into sin, if not into hell.
3. But lest any should be discouraged by the consideration of those who once ran well, and were afterwards overcome by temptation ; lest the fearful of heart should be utterly cast down, supposing it impossible for them to stand; the apostle subjoins to that serious exhortation, these comfortable words: “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
I. 1. Let us begin with the observation which ushers in this comfortable promise : “ There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man.” Our translators seem to have been sensible that this expression, common to man, does by no means reach the force of the original word. Hence they substitute another in the margin, moderate. But this seems to be less significant than the other, and farther from the meaning of it. Indeed it is not easy to find any word in the English tongue, which answers the word avas gativos. I believe the sense of it can only be expressed by some such circumlocution as this: “ Such as is suited to the nature and circumstances of man; such as every man may reasonably expect, if he considers the nature of his body and his soul, and his situation in the present world.” If we duly consider these, we shall not be surprised at any temptation that hath befallen us: seeing it is no other than such a creature, in such a situation, has all reason to expect.
2. Consider, first, the nature of that body with which your soul is connected. How many are the evils which it is every day, every hour, liable to! Weakness, sickness, and disorders of a thousand kinds, are its natural attendants. Consider the inconceivably minute fibres, threads, abundantly finer than hair, (called from thence capillary