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[For the first Sunday after Easter.]
1 JOHN V.
Whosoever is born of God, overcometh the
world; and this is the victory which over, cometh the world, even our faith.
"HE holy scriptures, represent human
life, my brethren, as a state of constant warfare; in which the good soldier of Jesus Christ, or he who would conscientiously fulfil the duties of his religion, must be evermore struggling against those enemies which stand in the way of his everlasting salvation. The same scriptures tell us, that among these enemies, the world is one of the chief, most dangerous, and most likely to seduce us from our
from our duty . The world itself, indeed, is a beautiful and an useful world; pronounced by the ALMIGHTY, at its creation, to be good; and still bearing every mark of that goodness in its appearance, and in the benefits which it confers on man. “The earth,” saith the Psalmist, is “ full of the goodness of the LORD; it bring“ erh forth food, and wine that maketh glad " the heart of man; and oil to make him “a cheerful countenance; and bread to “ strengthen man's heart !” It is not, therefore, the world itself which the apostle represents the good christian ås overcoming, since both it and its productions, if they be properly used, and not abused, are every way serviceable to mankind; but it is the fallen and sinful race that inhabit it, against which he is to be upon his guard; it is the wicked examples and false principles, the ridicule and derision, of many of his fellow men, against which he is to raise the shield of faith, as
a protection and defence. 6. Whosoever is born of God, overcometh " the world, and this is the victory which " overcometh the world, even our faith." I propose, in the following discourse, to consider these words, which are taken from the epistle of the day, in two lights : to point out to you, first, what are the chief dangers to which the world exposes us; and, secondly, to shew you how. our christian faith enables us to obtain a victory over them.
The principal dangers with which the world besets us, are, its bad examples and wicked principles, by which it seduces men into sin; and its derision and mockery, by which it frightens them into it. It is an old observation, that “example is better " than precept;" the meaning of which is, that we are more led by. what a man does, that by what he says. This arises from our being very much given to imitation ; to do ourselves what we see others do. This is remarkably the case, you know, with little children, who are constantly imitating the actions of those about them. Now, my friends, “ men are but children of a larger growth ;” and are just as much given
to follow example, as those of a very early age. There is, however, this difference between the two; that grown-up, people are much more inclined to follow bad examples than good ones; whereas little children imitate all alike. This arises from the passions being much stronger in men than in infants; and from those passions being, always, on the side of what is either vicious or foolish. The cause of this, you know, is to be found in the fail of man. When Adam disobeyed God's command, our nature became corrupt; that is, it became more inclined to evil than to good : for, as before the fall, God and his law were the chief delight of man; so, after the fall, the Devil got a footing in the world ; obtained a great 'influence over the heart of man, (which is the seat of his passions,) and taught it to love his ways better than God's commandments. Still, however, man's mind, conscience, or “inner “man,” knows what is right, and what will please God, and would fain follow his holy will; but our great spiritual foe, having obtained such a dominion over our passions, or, as scripture calls them, “ the law in our " members,” we feel ourselves much more given to follow them, and to do that which is wrong, ihan to follow the “ law of our
mind," and act as God and the scriptures tell us to behave. What I have now said will, I think, fully explain to you a passage in St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, which, without such an interpretation, is somewhat difficult to understand. “ I know that in
me," says the apostle, (that is, in “ my “ flesh” or passions,) “dwelleth no good
thing ; for to will is present with me, but “ how to perform that which is good, I find
For the good that I would, I do not; “ but the evil which I would not, that I do. “ Now if I do that I would not, it is no 6 more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth
I find then a law, that, when I
66 in me.
" would do good, evil is present with me. " For I delight in the law of God after the « inner man ; but I see another law in my “ members, warring against the law of my “ mind, and bringing me into captivity to " the law of sin, which is in my members."
Being thus under the subjection of violent and wicked passions, and so much given to imitation, you will readily see, my friends, how great our danger is from that enemy, which the world so largely furnishes us with, bad examples. They are so numerous, indeed, that no condition of life is free from being tempted and tried by them. Among the rich, we every day see those who are following their lusts and passions to the destruction of body and soul ; living wastefully and extravagantly ; neither fearing God, nor regarding man; and going on to perdition with their eyes open, in defiance of all the checks of reason, conscience, and scripture. Nor are there fewer bad examples among the lower classes of society. How many do we behold of this description passing a life of sin and debauchery ; spending their time in following strong drink, instead of honest labour ; ill-treating, or neglecting their wives and families ; flying from the church, as they would from a pesthouse; indulging in all uncleanness ; cursing,