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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; 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." "Mar
6. Equally express are the words of the beloved disciple: vel 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, (seeing 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
ing the bounds of truth. We are to behave to them, when present, with all courtesy, showing them all the regard we can, without coun tenancing them in sin. We ought to do them all the good that is in our power; all they are willing to receive from us; following herein the example of the universal friend, our Father which is in heaven; who, till they will condescend to receive greater blessings, gives them such as they are willing to accept: "causing his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sending [his] rain on the just and on the unjust.”
10. But what kind of friendship is it which we may not have with the world? May we not converse with ungodly men at all? Ought we wholly to avoid their company? By no means: the contrary of this has been allowed already. If we were not to converse with them at all, we must needs go out of the world." Then we could not show them those offices of kindness, which have been aiready mentioned. We may, doubtless, converse with them, first, on business; in the various purposes of this life, according to that station therein, wherein the providence of God has placed us: secondly, when courtesy requires it; only we must take great care not to carry it too far: thirdly, when we have a reasonable hope of doing them good. But here too we have an especial need of caution, and of much prayer; otherwise, we may easily burn ourselves, in striving to pluck other brands out of the burning.
11. We may easily hurt our own souls, by sliding into a close attachment to any of them that know not God. This is the friendship which is "enmity with God:" we cannot be too jealous over ourselves, lest we fall into this deadly snare; lest we contract, or ever we are aware, a love of complacence or delight in them. Then only do we tread upon sure ground, when we can say with the Psalmist, "All my delight is in the saints that are upon earth, and in such as excel in virtue." We should have no needless conversation with them. It is our duty and our wisdom, to be no oftener, and no longer with them, than is strictly necessary. And during the whole time, we have need to remember and follow the example of him that said, "I kept my mouth as it were with a bridle, while the ungodly was in my sight." We should enter into no sort of connection with them, farther than is absolutely necessary. When Jehoshaphat forgot this, and formed a connection with Ahab, what was the consequence? He first lost his substance: "The ships" they sent out were broken at Ezion-geber." And when he was not content with this warning, as well as that of the prophet Micaiah, but would go up with him to Ramoth-gilead, he was on the point of losing his life.
12. Above all, we should tremble at the very thought of entering into a marriage covenant, the closest of all others, with any person who does not love, or at least fear God. This is the most horrid folly, the most deplorable madness, that a child of God could possibly plunge into; as it implies every sort of connection with the ungodly, which a Christian is bound in conscience to avoid. No wonder, then, it is so flatly forbidden of God; that the prohibition is so absolute and peremptory: Be not unequally yoked with an unbeliever." Nothing can be more express. Especially, if we understand by the word unbeliever, one that is so far from being a believer in the gospel sense; from being able to say, “The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me;" that he has not even the faith of a servant: be does not "fear God and work righteousness."
13. But for what reason is the friendship of the world so absolutely prohibited? Why are we so strictly required to abstain from it? For two general reasons: first, because it is sin in itself: secondly, because it is attended with most dreadful consequences.
First, It is a sin in itself: and, indeed, a sin of no common dye. According to the oracles of God, friendship with the world is no less than spiritual adultery. All who are guilty of it, are addressed by the Holy Ghost in those terms; "Ye adulterers and adulteresses." It is plainly violating of our marriage contract with God; by loving the creature more than the Creator; in flat contradiction to that kind command, "My son, give me thine heart."
14. It is a sin of the most heinous nature, as not only implying ignorance of God, and forgetfulness of him, or inattention to him, but positive" enmity against God." It is openly, palpably such. "Know ye not," says the apostle, can ye possibly be ignorant of this, so plain, so undeniable a truth, "that the friendship of the world is enmity against God?” Nay, and how terrible is the inference which he draws from hence! 66 Therefore, whosoever will be a friend of the world;" (the words properly rendered are, whosoever desireth to be a friend of the world;) of the men who know not God, whether he attain it or not; is, ipso facto, constituted an enemy of God. This very desire, whether successful or not, gives him a right to that appellation.
15. And as it is a sin, a very heinous sin in itself, so it is attended with the most dreadful consequences. It frequently entangles men again in the commission of those sins, from which "they were clean escaped." It generally makes them "partakers of other men's sins," even those which they do not commit themselves. It gradually abates their abhorrence and dread of sin in general, and thereby prepares them for falling an easy prey to any strong temptation. It lays them open to all those sins of omission, whereof their worldly acquaintance are guilty. It insensibly lessens their exactness in private prayer, in family duty, in fasting, in attending public service, and partaking of the Lord's supper. The indifference of those that are near them, with respect to all these, will gradually influence them: even if they say not one word, (which is hardly to be supposed) to recommend their own practice, yet their example speaks, and is many times of more force than any other language. By this example, they are unavoidably betrayed, and almost continually, into unprofitable, yea, and into uncharitable conversation; till they no longer "set a watch before their mouth, and keep the door of their lips;" till they can join in backbiting, tale bearing, and evil speaking, without any check of conscience; having so frequently grieved the Holy Spirit of God, that he no longer reproves them for it: insomuch that their discourse is not now, as formerly, "seasoned with salt, and meet to minister grace to the
16. But these are not all the deadly consequences that result from familiar intercourse with unholy men. It not only hinders them from ordering their conversation aright, but directly tends to corrupt the heart. It tends to create or increase in us, all that pride and self sufficiency, all that fretfulness to resent; yea, every irregular passion and wrong disposition which are indulged by their companions. It gently leads them into habitual self indulgence, and unwillingness to
deny themselves; into unreadiness to bear or take up any cross; into a softness and delicacy; into evil shame, and the fear of man, that brings numberless snares. It draws them back into the love of the word; into foolish and hurtful desires; into the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, till they are swallowed up in them. So that in the end, the last state of these men is far worse than the first.
17. If the children of God will connect themselves with the men of the world, though the latter should not endeavour to make them like themselves, (which is a supposition by no means to be made,) yea, though they should neither design nor desire it; yet they will actually do it, whether they design it, and whether they endeavor it, or no. I know not how to account for it, but it is a real fact, that their very spirit is infectious. While you are near them, you are apt to catch their spirit, whether they will or no. Many physicians have observed, that not only the plague, and putrid or malignant fevers, but almost every disease men are liable to, are more or less infectious. And undoubtedly so are all spiritual diseases: only with great variety. The infection is not so swiftly communicated by some, as it is by others. In either case, the person already diseased, does not desire or design to infect another. The man who has the plague, does not desire or intend to communicate his distemper to you. But you are not therefore safe so keep at a distance, or you will surely be infected. Does not experience show, that the case is the same with the diseases of the mind? Suppose the proud, the vain, the passionate, the wanton, do not desire or design to infect you with their own distempers; yet it is best to keep at a distance from them. You are not safe if you come too near them. You will perceive, (it is well if it be not too late,) that their very breath is infectious. It has been lately discovered, that there is an atmosphere surrounding every human body, which naturally affects every one that comes within the limits of it. Is there not something analagous to this, with regard to a human spirit? If you continue long within their atmosphere, so to speak, you can hardly escape the being infected. The contagion spreads from soul to soul, as well as from body to body, even though the persons diseased do not intend or desire it. But can this reasonably be supposed? Is it not a notorious truth, that men of the world, (exceeding few excepted) eagerly desire to make their companions like themselves? Yea, and use every means, with their utmost skill and industry, to accomplish their desire. Therefore, fly for your life! Do not play with the fire, but escape before the flames kindle upon you.
18. But how many are the pleas for friendship with the world! And how strong are the temptations to it! Such of these as are the most dangerous, and, at the same time, most common, we will consider. To begin with one that is the most dangerous of all others, and, at the same time, by no means uncommon. "I grant," says one, person I am about to marry, is not a religious person. She does not make any pretensions to it. She has little thought about it. But she is a beautiful creature. She is extremely agreeable, and I think will make me a lovely companion."
This is a snare indeed! Perhaps one of the greatest that human na ture is liable to. This is such a temptation as no power of man is able