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they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage ; but in so far as they neglected for these things the calls of religion, they ruined their souls, and provoked the just anger of Almighty God. The degree was unlawful; the affections absorbed in them were unlawful ; the con. tempt of God and eternity was unlawful.
2. The next sort of perils is, when things really criminal are colored over with false appearances. 'Let us cast off,” saith the apostle, "the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light; let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.”
" The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these ; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like." Now these positively sinful things are by the seductions of the world presented under other names, such as good fellowship, custom, the aberrations of youth, innocent amusement, free living, the way of the age, the knowledge of mankind, &c. ; and by these deceits the conscience is bribed, the unbending law of God forgotten, and the natural tendency to sensible things acce. lerated. What loss of time, fortune, temper, and influence thus accrues, I need not say. How many of the books, pictures, companies, spectacles, amusements of the world are thus detected to be full of im. mediate incentives to what is sinful, I need not say.
3. A further danger arises from the prevailing spirit and fashion of the age in which we live, or the country where our duties plant us, or the circle by which we are surrounded. Our social character and feelings are ever strongly inclined to seek the good opinion of others; to be like the rest of the world around us; to follow the stream; to shun singularity and scorn ; especially as respects religion. In such a country as India, the peril of our souls is in this view extreme. The manners of the Heathen and Mohammedans around us; their low standard of moral sentiment; the effeminate_tendency of the climate; the habits of too many Europeans, senior to ourselves, seduce multitudes of young persons to comply with unlawful solicitations. They do not like to stand alone. They do not like contempt. They comply for company's sake, for fashion sake, for their friend's sake.
4. Family ties, again, are often a wide inlet to temptation. Sin entered the world through the affections of the first man. Adam listened to the suggestions of his wife. The inter-marriages of the
sons of God with the daughters of men” let in that corruption and violence into the age of Noah, which provoked God to send a deluge upon the earth. One of the guests in the parable, having married a wife, prayed to be excused. It is thus, that in every age, through the medium of family connections, the world rushes in like a tide. Our native converts have especially need to be tenderly watched over by their ministers in this respect.
5. The terror of open opposition, also, in one form or another, is an instrument which the world con. stantly employs for endangering our souls. Those who are covetous and ambitious, like the Pharisees, will not only deride, like them, the doctrine of Christ; but employ reproach, calumny, charges of over-strictness, of enthusiasm, of weakness of under: standing. These are ready weapons, which are wielded to terrify us from what is good, and force us into evil. The loss of reputation, the loss of worldly interest, impediments to fair advancement in our profession, are a branch of this persecution.
And in the case of converts from Mohammedanism or Idolatry, it is only the protection of Christian governments that in defend from open violence and injury
6. Insensible declines in Christian doctrine and practice are a further plan which the world sedulously acts upon to draw us from God and spiritual things. “Worldliness," says one, “is the standing heresy of the Church ;" especially in periods of outward peace. When the temper of the age has so far diffused itself into the minds of men, as to weaken their estimate of the spirituallife, to alter their judgment, and lead them to represent compliances with the corruptions around them, as expedient or excusable, declines from God soon creep in. The standard of doctrine is lowered. The pulpit is infected. The forms of religion are magnified unduly. Spirituality is lost sight of, perhaps despised. A worldly life is rendered not wholly incompatible with the profession of Christianity, and the peril to the souls of men is extreme.
7. In the midst of all these and other dangers, that which constitutes the main peril, is the spirit of the world ; just as in the interior life of God, it is the spirit of Christ which is the characteristic of a right state of heart. A thousand statutes, a thousand rules, a thousand suggestions are nothing, if we allow the spirit of the world to supersede the spirit of true Christianity. Whatever becomes the occasion of infusing a worldly temper, is proportionately perilous. There is no end of enumerating particulars in such a case. Some things are lawful to one man, and unlawful to another. Some are safe at one period of life, and unsafe at another. Some may be a duty to one man, and a sin to another. It is not sufficient to say that all practices, maxims, habits which are in themselves, or in their necessary consequences, contrary to the gospel of Christ, are unlawful. It is not sufficient to say that whatever is to us an occasion of imbibing the spirit of the world is dangerous. We must go further, and still watch against this spirit of the world in our most lawful and indispensable employments. And, even in
our religious duties, who is “able to say,” says Bossuet, “in sincerity, with Jesus Christ, I am not of the world? We retire into our closet, the world follows us. We fly into the wilderness, the world follows us. We shut an hundred doors upon us, we fasten an hundred locks, an hundred grates, if you please, an hundred strong walls--the enclosure is impenetrable—the world follows us. We retire into ourselves, we meditate; the world follows us. What shall I do then to escape from the world which follows me, which lives within me, and which has hold of my very entrails ? And yet I must be able to say with Jesus Christ, 'I am not of the world.' O Jesus, I shall be able to say it, when thou shalt have said for me, 'I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil ;' that is, shouldest take, from them the spirit of the world.”
II. And this leads us to consider the second divi. sion of our subject, The best means of preservation from the dangers of the world. “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world; but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”
An apparent, but false source of safety is here inti. mated. For it might appear, and does often appear to the Christian, when struggling against the flood and tide of worldly things, that the best relief would be a speedy transition to a state of glory and eternal peace. But no. "I pray not,” saith the gracious and all-wise Savior, “ that thou shouldest take them out of the world.” This is a most affecting expression. It recognizes the natural dictate of our hearts, and condemns it. It meets the objection which our timid minds frame. No; we are not to be transplanted from this scene of trial, immediately on our being best qualified to serve God in it. We are to
| Bossuet, Vol. X.
remain in our stations of duty, to glorify our Savior, and to be the “salt of the earth” and the “ light of the world.” We have a great work to do, and a great trial to endure. We have to benefit our neighbor; to manifest the force of Christian principles ; to show the sincerity of our faith ; to be conformed to the example of a suffering Savior; to ripen for the employments of heaven; to struggle through the combat to the crown. We are thus to know practically what is in our own hearts, and what obligations we owe to divine grace.
This intimation may serve to caution us against all those plausible expedients of escaping the contagion of the world which are inconsistent with our discharge of our several lawful duties in life. To fly at once human society, to desert our posts, to become recluses, monks, hermits; to be misanthropes, severe, sour, gloomy—all this is cowardice, not victory ; ill-temper, not spirituality ; dejection and flight, not boldness for Christ ; selfishness, not love to our neighbor. To remain in our spheres and overcome the evil of the world connected with them is one thing; to fly from those spheres of social and domestic duty is another. Such a principle would have taken away Moses from his post as legislator ; Joshua from the headship of the people ; Ezra, and Nehemiah, and Daniel from the courts of the heathen princes, where they were most eminently serving God. It would have banished Joseph from the office of saving Egypt; and David, and Josiah, and Hezekiah, and Asa from filling the throne of Judah. This would have even driven St. Paul from many of the labors of his apostleship.
The question then is, What are the best means of preservation from the evil, whilst we continue to discharge our duties in the world ? How may we best guard against excess in lawful things, the false names put on vices, the prevailing fashion of the age, family