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are cautioned against the world; in our baptism we have promised to renounce it : the Church teaches us to pray to be delivered from its influence. And yet it is to be feared that there are but few of us who have ever set ourselves seriously to inquire what that dangerous object is, of which the Apostle speaks when he says, “ 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.” It can never be unreasonable to make it the subject of serious inquiry. May the Holy Spirit be with us to bless us, in the examination of the subject this morning!
To illustrate the words of the text, it will be necessary,
First, to show what is meant by the world.
Secondly, to explain the inspired injunction not to love the world; and,
Thirdly, to notice the truth by which the duty is enforced; viz. that we cannot at the same time love the world and God.
1. Though there may be some difficulty in ascertaining what is meant by the term the world in some other passages of Scripture, it is not difficult to discover its meaning here. The word is elsewhere used to denote a certain portion of mankindthose who were not included in the commonwealth of Israel, nor in the Christian Church; and who, living without a knowledge of any direct revelation, were given up to the practice of vice and sensuality. It has here a wider meaning. It is applied to the whole visible creation.
It is extended to everything which is not God himself—for it is put in opposition to God. The Christian is not only required to abstain from whatever is contrary to the Divine law; but he is even forbidden to “ love the world.” He may not attempt to divide his affections between the Creator and the creature. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
If the word is thus comprehensive, it might be thought superfluous to pursue an inquiry into the details of its meaning. Yet such an inquiry is more calculated to be profitable than any general assertion. And we shall derive little benefit from the subject before us, unless we ascertain some particular objects, which we are warned against making the objects of our affections, when we are commanded thus emphatically not to love the world, nor the things that are in the world.
In the verse which follows the text, the Apostle says, that “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” This furnishes the key to what he meant, in forbidding love of the world. It explains that he intended to condemn all love of the pleasures, the possessions, and the honours of the present life, as a feeling which withdraws the heart from the proper object of its affections, to the service of an unworthy rival.
It appears, I say, from the text, as explained by this following verse, that we may not love the pleasures of the world. By “the lust of the flesh,” it does not appear that the Apostle means such a gratification of the appetites as is universally acknowledged to be sinful.
It is so
plain that such pleasures are unlawful for Christians, that he would scarcely have named them, in any enumeration of particulars about which, previous to the command, it would be uncertain whether or not they were forbidden by the Gospel. It would seem, therefore, that he here rather means such a gratification of the appetites as is not expressly denounced by the moral law, but as is generally regarded as a mere compliance with the natural instincts of our nature. Considered in itself, we can conceive this to be perfectly indifferent and void of offence. Our remaining in the present life, implies our supplying our bodily necessities; and it is quite certain, from the express testimony of God's word, that in gratifying our natural instincts, we may not only be acting without sin, but may be even setting forth his glory. Yet we may not deceive ourselves. The most innocent gratifications or employments may come within the scope of the text. We may easily feel towards them, what may make them sinful. It is easy to exceed, even in the most harmless
pleasures; and even when we are avoiding excess, we are not safe from the danger of transgression, for whatever they may be in themselves, they may be the subjects of sin, as forming part of the world.
2. “ The lust of the eyes” forms the second article in the Apostle's enumeration. The present life is but “a vain show.” It has really nothing substantial. All it has to afford, is so uncertain and transitory, that it can scarcely be regarded as a reality. What we possess in it, can scarcely be called our own ; it only pleases the sight and the fancy. What it has of the fairest and most beautiful, may indeed be lawfully admired and looked upon, if our admiration leads us to the Creator. The comforts and delicacies of life may be so enjoyed, as to further the work of holiness in our souls. But all outward things are dangerous; and when they become the objects of sinful feeling, they only tend to lead us into ruin.
3. “The pride of life" completes the catalogue. Man in his present state cannot live in society, without being exposed