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of his forgiveness, and enriched with the treasure of his heavenly grace, to love him more and to serve him better for the time to come.
It is a feast of love, my brethren. Let us, therefore, examine and prove our own selves, that love may abound towards God and towards each other, and blessing from on high be poured out upon us and upon all the Israel of God. Now, to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and for ever.
NON-CONFORMITY WITH THE WORLD.
Romans xii. 2, first clause.
" And be not conformed to this world."
It appears to have been St. Paul's method, in writing to the Churches, to lay down, in the first place, the doctrines of Christianity, and from them to draw those obligations to practical duty which all who profess to believe the gospel are bound to observe and to carry out into their daily conversation in the world. Upon this principle all his epistles—particularly that to the Roinans—are constructed. And hereby we are taught, my brethren, to consider carefully the close connexion between the doctrines and the duties of our religion—to perceive the reasonableness of that service which God requires at our hands, and to understand that the knowledge of divine things communicated to us and the divine grace conferred upon us by the gospel, are no otherwise profitable than as they are rightly applied and improved.
Though the command of God is abundantly sufficient to make every rational being feel the obligation and render the duty of obedience, yet it is not to authority alone that obedience is to be referred. In things moral and spiritual the connexion of the required duty with something previously done and communicated on the part of the Almighty God, and also with consequences subsequently to affect ourselves, enters very deeply into the grounds of Christian obligation, and enhances, even infinitely, the indispensable duty of Christian obedience. Hence, I think, may be shown the great error of referring the substance of religion either to the exuberance of internal feeling, or to the meagreness of external morality. Hence, also, Christians might be instructed how very important it is, that serious consideration of the doctrines of Christianity—of the intimate connexion of revealed religion with the actual condition of fallen creatures, should form the basis on which the gospel is embraced and followed, as the light of life—as the only ground of hope and exertion to sinners. By no other means now given us, it appears to me, can that union of the understanding and affections be produced which constitutes a reasonable service, worthy to be presented to the great Moral Governor of the universe.
Upon this principle, I think, it is evident that St. Paul constructed the epistle from which my text is taken. He laid before the church in Rome the grounds on which their duty as redeemed creatures rested; he then pointed out the obligations they had come under as professed believers. He informed their understandings before he appealed to their hearts. And it was not until he had showed them the breadth and the length, and the height and the depth, of God's rich redeeming love, that he besought them, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, and not to be conformed to this world, as the reasonable service as well as commanded duty of Christian believers.
On this ground, therefore, my brethren, do I wish you to meet the exhortation of my text, as that on which alone you can either realize its importance, feel its obligation, or fulfil its requirements. And it is a most affecting circumstance, and beyond all others touching to the feelings, that in the boundary of this world, the being is not found who can stand excused from the duty because he is not included in the consideration upon which it is required. All, without exception, are partakers of the mercies of God; and those mercies, would men but hear their voice, point them to God—to learn bis will, to give themselves without reserve to his holy service, and to hope for his everlasting favour. To Christians, in particular, the mercies of God speak a language addressed directly to the heart, in the gift of Jesus Christ, the source of all present and the pledge of all future blessings. To them, an appeal in the name of him who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, can surely never be in vain. To them an exhortation to promote bis honour and advance his kingdom in the world, grounded o the mighty benefits conferred on them by bini who hath reconciled
us to God by his death, must come with the most winning power. If the heart can feel, it must be touched—if the judginent can understand, it must approve ; and both uniting, must constrain every sincere believer, every true disciple of the Lord Jesus, to give himself without reserve to this primary duty of separation from the world, as the distinguishing mark of that peculiar people, whom his master came to purify unto himself, that he might present them without spot to God, as inheritors of eternal glory.
As partakers, then, of the manifold grace of God, I beseech you, my brethren, to take this distinctive and all-important religious duty to your most serious consideration ; and that you may be enabled to do so with advantage, I will now endeavour to explain to you,
First, what we are to understand by the words this world, made use of in the text.
SECONDLY, what constitutes conformity to, or with, this world; and, then,
Conclude with an enforcement of the duty, from the obligations we have come under as professing Christians.
And be not conformed to this world.
I. First, I am to explain what we are to understand by the words this world, made use of in the text.
In the language of Scripture, the phrase this world is used in two significations—the one denoting the material world, or frame of created things, the other denoting the moral world, or the condition of mankind as respects virtue or vice. In the present instance, therefore, the words this world will signify the corrupt principles, maxims, fashions, customs, and manners of the world. With these the Christian is exhorted to have no conformity, fellowship, or agreement.
Whatever of difficulty, then, attends this subject as a practical question, there can be none either as to the meaning of the phrase, or as to the obligation of the duty enforced. Yet both observation and experience teach us, my brethren, that there is great and, I fear, increasing difficulty in meeting the requirement of my text as it ought to be met by those who profess and call themselves Christians. But as mere difficulty forms no excuse to the Christian for the neglect of his duty, it behoves us all rather to consider with care wherein the difficulty really consists, that we may set ourselves to overcome it with the greater diligence.
Now this is found partly in ourselves, and partly in the existing state of the Christian. From the corruption of our nature we are continually disposed to lower the obligations of religion, and to become remiss in that watchfulness, self-denial, and faithfulness which alone can ensure success in working out our everlasting salvation. Hence, as we decline from commanded duty, we decline also from religious attainment, for it is to him that hath that more is given ; and thus Christians settle down into a lukewarm state of religion, and content themselves with the poor and low qualification that they are free from the outbreaking wickedness of the dissolute and the profligate. But as this is only the negative side of religion, as it is no more than what the morality of the world can compass—what unbelievers frequently manifest—its inevitable tendency is to assimilate Christians with the world, not to separate them from it; to obscure and eventually to obliterate that line of distinction which separates Christ from Belial, and to deaden exertion for the attainment of those heavenly tempers and holy dispositions which are indispensable to the enjoyment of God in glory.
In the existing state of the Christian world, also, is this difficulty not only found, but increased. Corrupt departure from the spirit of religion, in the neglect of primary and fundamental duties, never stops short of the entire destruction of the religious principle. From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have. And though the unclean spirit may have been cast out, yet, if at any time his former residence become empty_if the light of Christian profession be not kept burning with the oil of prayer and watchfulness, he returns with a reinforcement of other yet more wicked spirits, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
Non-conformity with the world requiring a line to be drawn, on one side of which the Christian is bound to keep, as the world assimilates to the gospel through the civilizing influence of Christian truth, or as the gospel is assimilated to the world