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power, according to the circumstances he is in, to know and understand the chief things of religion, and the grounds and evidences of them. He should be disposed to profess the truth so far as he is acquainted with it, and to appear among those, who make a public acknowledgment of the great Creator and Sovereign of the world, and of that revelation which he has made of his will to mankind. He should be concerned for the rights of conscience in general, and be heartily desirous that all men may enjoy the privilege of worshipping God according to their light and knowledge. He should never join in oppressing others for conscience sake: but according to his station and circumstances should oppose such measures, and vindicate those who are any way injuriously treated on account of their religious
10. And lastly, We are not to be conformed to the world, or the men of it, in an excessive and inordinate affection for earthly and temporal things. We are not to act as if this world were our home, and the things of it our portion and our all. We should be more moderate in our desires of temporal good things, and less afraid of the evils and sufferings of this life, than many are. If some seek the things of this world, more than those of another; and if disappointments in such pursuits plunge them into incurable grief and distress; we should be cautious of such intemperate affection for earthly things. If some are unreasonably transported with successes in their worldly designs, and are elated thereby beyond measure, so as to treat others with scorn and disdain; we should be ashamed of such misbehaviour. If we are blessed in like manner, let us thankfully own the goodness of God; but "rejoice as though we rejoiced not, because the fashion of this world passeth away," 1 Cor. vii. 30, 31.
Do many repine and murmur against God, because they are not prospered, as some others are? and is there among men a general uneasiness with their own circumstances? We should be contented and resigned; that it may appear, we acknowledge the overruling providence of God, and that there are other sources of joy and satisfaction, beside increase and abundance of worldly goods. Whatever condition we are in, especially if we are in any higher station, let us not" seek our own "interest only, as too many do, "but every one" of us also "another's wealth," 1 Cor. x. 24.
In these things we are not to follow or imitate other men ; nor in any thing else that is dishonourable to the majesty
of God, or that debaseth, and is unworthy of our rational and immortal nature, or that is injurious to our fellow-creatures. In other things, which are not contrary to reason, or express revelation, we may do as others do: we may enjoy the same comforts, follow the same employments, take the same diversions, that others do; and may use the language of the place and country and time, wherein we live. For I do not intend to cast a snare before you, or raise groundless and needless scruples in any man's mind. It is not my design absolutely to condemn music, or dancing, or those diversions, in which chance, or hazard, has a part, as well as skill; or those entertainments, in which are represented the humours and manners of men, and the revolutions of states and empires, or the vicissitudes of particular persons. These things I do not look upon, as in themselves, and always, evil. They then only become evil, when they are perverted, or abused (as I fear they often are) or when they are accidentally evil, or hurtful to us, for want of prudent circumspection; which is necessary every where, and at all times, and more especially upon some occasions.
But then the restrictions and cautions before mentioned ought to be here remembered. Men are not to waste their time, or their substance, in diversions and amusements. They ought not to hazard any large part of their substance, the loss of which might be any considerable inconvenience to them. They should decline such games as greatly engage them, and too much raise their passions. Men may do well to take heed, that no amusements rob them of their wisdom, or their seriousness, or their importance in life. If any indecency appear in the entertainments set before them, they ought to detest and resent it, to show their dislike and abhorrence of it, and to discountenance it in the way best suited to their station and character. We ought ever to be careful to avoid familiarity with the wicked: and it should be esteemed a point of prudence rarely to be neglected, especially by young persons, not to venture alone where there is any danger, but to secure to themselves the company of some sober and religious associates; whose presence may keep off some temptations, or give a check to them.
It is almost needless for me to add, that I do not understand, or explain this text, as regulating men's outward garb. A good man may without scruple follow the fashion of his country, and the habit of others about him, of the like rank and station in the world. St. Peter indeed gives such directions as these to women, especially the married:
"Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning, of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, and putting on of apparel: but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price," 1 Pet. iii. 3. But it is easy to perceive that what this apostle intends hereby is, that such should esteem the ornaments of the mind above those of the body, and be more concerned about that which is inward, than that which is outward. God declares to the Jews by the prophet Hosea : "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice," Hos. vi. 6. But no one understands thereby, that God had not desired sacrifice at all, but that he preferred mercy above sacrifice, or desired the one more than the other: as appears also from what immediately follows: " and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." So likewise our Lord says: Lay not up to yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt: but lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break' through and steal," Matt. vi. 19, 20. He does not absolutely forbid to seek, or lay up earthly treasures; but he teaches men to prefer heavenly and incorruptible above earthly and corruptible treasures, and to be more concerned for the one than the other. observations are to be applied to the like excellent advices of the apostle Paul upon the same subject: " In like manner also, (I will) that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works," 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10.
This text then is not a caution against complying with others in things in which there is no harm, but against following men in that which is really evil and sinful.
I should now proceed to show the importance of observing this cautionary direction, according to the explication that has been given, in its several branches and articles. But that, with a reflection or two by way of conclusion, must be deferred to another opportunity.
And be not conformed to this world.-Rom. xii. 2.
IN discoursing on these words, I have proposed, in the first place, to show the design and meaning of this direction, "Be not conformed to this world:" secondly, to show the importance of observing it; and then to add a reflection or two by way of conclusion.
II. Having formerly explained this cautionary direction, I now proceed to the second head of discourse; to show the importance of observing it, and to offer some reasons and arguments against conformity to this world.
1. It is plain that the wise and holy apostle esteemed this a thing of no small moment. This caution is placed almost at the head of the practical directions, with which he concludes this large and copious epistle to the Romans: and I suppose, that the earnestness with which this address begins, ought to be understood to be continued and carried on in the words of the text. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service," ver. 1. It follows: "And be not conformed to this world." As if he had said: and by the consideration of the same mercies of God, in which you, as Christians, have partaken abundantly, be persuaded not to be conformed to this world, and to be upon your guard against complying with the men of it in any thing that is evil.
2. By no means, upon no account, be ye like the men of this world in any of their evil and corrupt practices. Though you live where sin abounds, and where some sins are even fashionable, you are to keep yourselves free from them. Though such things should be practised and indulged, not only by many, but by the most, and those who by means of their wit and fine parts, or by their high quality and station in the world, can give reputation to whatever they do, and make almost any thing appear graceful; you are not to be moved from your steadfastness in virtue, or from those purposes you have formed upon a serious and deliberate view and consideration of things.
Though our lot should be cast in times and places, in which there are few who love true religion, and walk in the path of virtue; and though these few should be mean in their outward appearance; let us be contented to have
our portion with them: and though in the way of irreligion and vice should be found the learned, the rich, the great and honourable of this world; let us not be drawn aside by their example. We ought not to be induced to any compliances that are sinful. This is a forbidden and dangerous complaisance. We may part with what else we will for peace sake, and for the good of others: but we can do no man any good upon the whole by parting with our integrity. I say upon the whole: for possibly by some acts of wickedness the present temporal interest of some párticular persons may be advanced: but it is a most unreasonable thing, that one man should hazard his eternal salvation for the sake of the temporal grandeur of another: and besides, he who upon any considerations whatever violates the laws of God and reason, sets his neighbour a pernicious example, that may harden him in sin to his final and utter ruin.
Let us not then go over to those who are involved in the practice of vice: but let us do all that lies in our power to bring them over to the love and practice of true holiness: and for this end let us endeavour to set religion in a good light. Let our conversation be an example of strict virtue without austerity. If our mirth be without levity, let us also be serious without moroseness or peevishness. Above all, let our religion be sincere and undissembled; not an empty, though solemn profession, but a real principle, producing the good fruits of righteousness, gentleness, and mercy.
3. Herein, it must be owned, there is no small difficulty; but there is a necessity of it, unless the world were so reformed that all in general were wise and good. Our blessed Lord therefore says: "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," Matt. vii. 13, 14. And says St. John: "We know, that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness," 1 John v. 18.
4. It is an ancient precept in the law of Moses: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil," Ex. xxiii. 2. And Solomon says: "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not my son, walk thou not in the way with them, refrain thy foot from their path," Prov. i. 10, 15. It has