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This wicked world.-The world in itself is not wicked, being God's creature, and therefore is, as every creature of God is, declared to be good, 1 Tim. iv. 14. But when the world is considered as it is abused in the use of it through the corruption and degeneracy of our hearts, and as being full of those who give up their hearts to it instead of God, it may well be called a wicked world. There are two reasons, therefore, why you are taught to call the world wicked ; one, because our perverted hearts are set thereupon in a wicked abuse and forgetfulness of God, to seek our happiness therein, and to place our trust upon it: the other, because the number of those who follow this perverted propensity of their hearts, and in divers ways seek their all in the world, is so great, that they in a manner overspread the whole face of the earth; in reference to which St. John saith, “ We know that the whole world lieth in wickedness." By this wicked world, then, is to be understood the world when it is made the supreme ruling object of our desires, in a conformity with the maxims, customs, and authority of the generality of mankind, who live upon the same worldly plan. By pomps
and vanities of this wicked world” we are to apprehend in general those various things that are in the world, which draw and engage unto a worldly course the most of mankind, indeed all but those few who are taken out of the world by the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ. · And, therefore, more particularly those things by which the world captivates and enslaves all men by nature, and the most of men continuedly in fact; such as honour, riches, pleasure, and the like, that is (to say all in two words), the indulgence and the pride of life.
To renounce “ the pomps and vanities of this wicked world” must therefore accordingly mean these three things. First, In a steady, constant, and resolute opposition to the desires of our corrupted nature, to withdraw the affections from this present state of things, so as no longer either to seek happiness or to place confidence therein, but to be determined to seek our all in God. And how reasonable is it that it should be thus ! how dishonourable to God that we should ascribe all-sufficiency to the creature, and deny it to the Creator, by seeking our all in it and not in him! Secondly, To give up in desire and pursuit every particular thing that is in the world, when considered as
standing in competition with God for the love and trust of our hearts, or the direction of our conduct; whether it be worldly ease or pleasure on the one side, or worldly esteem or interest on the other. And, consequently, Thirdly, To be disposed, and to live and act in a direct contrariety to the children of this world who make up the bulk of mankind, departing absolutely from their aims and pursuits, totally disavowing the authority of worldly custom, resolutely foregoing worldly example as any rule of conduct, disclaiming all those maxims which the world has given its countenance and sanction to, as being vile and abominable ; and, finally, at no rate either loving inordinately, or seeking eagerly, or using selfishly, ostentatiously, and indulgently, the world and the things of it as they do.
The whole of the matter put together amounts to this. The true believer in Jesus Christ makes his profession in regard to the world, and says, “I have chosen God to be my portion, to whom I desire and am determined to give up all the affections of my heart, making him my only hope and all my happiness. It is not without shame and sorrow that I reflect how, in conformity with the inclination of my corrupt nature, I have sadly and sinfully suffered myself to be carried out in the desires of my soul after this present evil world, seeking my happiness in it, and fixing my trust upon it, saying thereunto, in the disposition of my heart, Thou art my God. But I have purposed, and by the grace of God am determined, that henceforward the Lord, the invisible and eternal God, shall be my God. I disclaim and disavow the world to be any more the object of my love and desire, my hope and delight, my trust and confidence : I cannot serve these two masters ; I renounce the world, I regard it with hatred and detestation as standing in competition for my heart with God; now I have said unto the Lord, and now I publicly declare it, Thou art my God. And further, as I do thus in general renounce the world, so do I also more particularly everything that is in it, the indulgence, the interest, the reputation it offers me, in such sort, that neither of them shall be near my heart as God is, and all of them shall be cheerfully yielded up when God's honour or any claim of duty to him calls for them. And, finally, since through the corruption of our nature I see the world and the things of it universally abused, that the children
of men everywhere have their affections set upon it, and that they are eagerly bent upon the pursuit of these present things alone, therefore I think myself bound not to enter into any of their ways, not in the least measure to be biassed by the mere influence of custom and example in matters of religion, nor to subscribe to the authority of the world in anything relative to my conduct ; but to be always on my guard against the example and maxims of it, strenuously to oppose them in all my behaviour, and by no means to use the world as they do who are of the world, whether by priding myself upon whatever distinguishes me in it, or by enjoying the things of it with sinful gratification and indulgence.”
From the explanation I pass on to the improvement.
And here it is very reasonable that we inquire, whether we have renounced the pomps and vanities of this wicked world. Concerning which, the leading question is this, Have we renounced the world itself? But before this is resolved, observe, if to renounce be to reject, forego, and forsake, and we are all bound to renounce, then naturally we are all of the world, for we cannot forsake that we were never related to and connected with. And, in truth, the state of man by nature is practical atheism. Reflect a moment on the earliest period of your memory and son, and you will observe, that your whole heart, in the desires, hopes, and fears of it, was fixed on the things you found about you. Whether your desires and pursuits at that time were of importance or not in themselves is not material to the present question ; but, whatever they were, you found them fixed on the world, and not on God. Him you delighted not in. God was out of sight. As to any love of him, or trust upon him, he was to you as if there were no such Being. The world was your all. And thus it continued to be, if it be not so to this hour ; you lived without God in the world, till by the light of the Gospel the misery of your natural state was laid open to you, and you were brought to God in love through faith in Jesus Christ. The point then to be decided is, whether you have been to this day set at liberty, and in the sincerity of your heart do acknowledge God for your all instead of the world ? Now therefore, my brethren, deal fairly and plainly with yourselves, and resolve the important question. To which of the
Has God your
two do you give your hearts ? Is it to the world, or is it to God ? To both at once they cannot be given, because they are direct opposites ; and yet both put in claim for your hearts ; the world by natural usurped possession, God by right. Is then the world cast out?
at a loss how to determine this? I will tell you : you may determine it this way. If you find the desires, the hopes, the fears, the love, the delight of your heart to be habitually on God, you may answer in the affirmative. But if, although you have some thought of God on occasions, some uneasy fears of him, some wishes and hasty purposes of serving him, and although you have never so clear a knowledge in your head that God is better for you and has a better title to your heart than the world, nevertheless you find for one seeming or real desire after God within you there are a thousand after the world, and that your fears, cares, hopes, and prospects, do habitually run out on that side, then it is a plain case that you have not the love of God in you, and that you have not as yet renounced the world. This is the leading question. But
But it is rather general. Let us come to particulars, which may better show whether we have renounced the world or not: for it is evident we cannot have renounced the world if we be under the power of any of the things of it. Wherefore how does the point stand in respect of your interest in the world ? Is not this nearer your heart than God ? Certainly it must, if while you are very earnest about promoting it, very fearful of whatever would seem to threaten you with disappointment in it, very active to improve every opportunity of advancing it, you experience no such earnestness, fear, and activity in seeking God, lying on that side in cold indifference, and either not considering what the will of God is when your advantage is in question, or making a sacrifice of that will by going unwarrantable lengths to please those by whom you are profited in your worldly interest. Sirs, it is a common saying with many of you, “ We must do such things. If we do not do them we cannot get our bread." But this is a worldly maxim ; whoever follows of the world. He carries his own condemnation in his mouth: “ We must do such things." What is this but as much as saying you allow them to be sinful; and yet you do them, because otherwise you cannot live? But
this is not true. You may always live without thus sinning, but not perhaps always in that way, or by those means, which you have set your hearts upon; and which while you will not forego, what are you but professing thereby in plain terms your renunciation of God, and determination to cleave unto the world? And what may you reasonably think God will say at last ? In truth, what less than this, “ Thou hast rejected me, thou hast had thy portion ; go, therefore, since thou wouldst have it so, inherit the fruit of thy choice in an eternal separation from my favour and presence ?" Again, how doth the matter stand with you upon the article of pleasures ? Are you not a lover of pleasures more than a lover of God? What ! not when your mind is perpetually running upon these, and while you hardly think of God once in a month? when you are as one bereaved, if no pleasure be in prospect ; and even at such a season, when time lies heavy on your hands, you cannot be comforted in the thought of God ? when every moment is too long in prayer or the church, and whole hours, and every day, too short when you are in your amusements ? Surely in such case you cannot persuade yourself to believe you have renounced the pleasures of the world. Once more, How can you answer respecting the esteem of men ? Can you say you love the praise of God rather ? What! when
dare not do what your conscience bids you, lest you should be laughed at, lest you should forfeit the favour of your friends, lest you should be reckoned stiff and particular ? If you will only go so far in religion as is consistent with your worldly reputation, and will not, dare not, move one step further, taking all the pains you can to satisfy yourself that all beyond is too much, and to make the word of God speak a language which will suit this desire you have of keeping the praise of men, you may as soon prevail upon us to think it is dark night at mid-day as that you have renounced the world and the things of it. If at any rate the desire of man's esteem be your idol ; if you value your knowledge, learning, wealth, or other accomplishments, because of the income of worldly esteem they bring you in, not because of the glory you may bring to God, or the good you may do to men by them ; if you sacrifice to the pride of life, and some way or other determine to be of importance as well as you can, it is a manifest