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"Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" Why did God warn the Jews of old not to mingle with the surrounding nations?-But because he foresaw that such intercourse would seduce them; and so it fell out: "They were mingled among the heathens, and learned their works; and they served their idols, which were a snare unto them." And it is owing to such intimacies with the people of the world, in our day, that the love of many waxes cold; that they are drawn off by degrees from the house of God; and yield up one thing after another, to avoid giving offence, till their profession becomes not only their disgrace, but their burden, and they completely throw off the restraint.
And here, my young friends, I would particularly address you. Beware of wicked company; beware of infidels; beware of sceptics; beware of those who deride the leading doctrines of the pel, or even the infirmities of the people of God. Your seducers generally begin very remote from the place where they mean to leave off-While they are endeavouring to obtain your regards, they often conceal what, if divulged at once, would shock your feelings: but when they have engaged your affection and confidence, they will draw you on till you look back with horror upon the distance you have passed: or, what is worse, be given up to a reprobate mind. Break off, therefore, such connexions-your safety requires it. If the associate be as a right hand-cut it off, or, as a right eye, pluck it out. Love nothing to the prejudice of your souls. Cultivate no friendships that will end in everlasting
ruin. Join those that have abandoned the city of destruction, and are pressing into the kingdom of God. Take David for your example, and be able to say as he did-"I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts."
Indeed, if you are partakers of the grace of God, your disposition will forbid all unnecessary alliance with the world. You will feel new wants and desires, and these will impel you to new associations: you will readily drop the vile and the vain, in search of those who are travelling your road, and can be helpers of your joy: you will "take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
And this reminds us of a second particular. They are not of the world, because they are not actuated by the spirit of the world. And this is the grand thing; to have a temper of mind, a moral taste, different from the world. Indeed, every thing else is vain, without this. Your forsaking the world in profession; your leaving it in appearance, by your apparel, your discourse, your manner of life, is nothing, unless it be animated by internal principle. It is in the heart that the separation must take place. And when the heart is detached from the world, these two advantages flow from it. First, even in the midst of all your secular concerns, whether in the field, or in the shop, you will maintain your distinction: though in the world, you will not be of it, because the heart is elsewhere; and "God looketh to the
heart." And, secondly, when the heart is withdrawn from the world, every thing else will follow, of course.
Then you will not be of the maxims and opinions of the world. You will not ask, what are the sentiments of the multitude? but, what says the scripture? I do not wish to be "conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, that I may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."You will not be of its amusements and dissipations. The sun arising, conceals the stars-not by spreading gloom, but diffusing lustre. The child, becoming a man, resigns, without reluctance, or regret, the toys and trifles of infancy. It is a poor thing to be dragged out of the dissipations of the world against inclination, while we still look back, with Lot's wife, and inwardly sigh, O! that I had been permitted to enjoy them still! But, it is a glorious thing to leave these diversions, from the discovery and possession of superior entertainments, and sublimer joys.You will not be of the conversation of the world. For speech is governed by affection; and, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh." in a word, you will not "walk according to the course of this world:" the tide of your actions and pursuits will flow in a direction the reverse of theirs.
Thirdly. They are not of the world, because they are not born in their country. Hear what our Lord said to the Jews: "Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world." The expressions are explanatory of each other: because they were from beneath, therefore, they were of the world: and
because he was from above, therefore, he was not of the world. Their respective extractions determined the country to which they belonged. Now, the believer may adopt the same language. He is here only as a stranger and foreigner, not a native: he derives his being from heaven-if not as a man-yet as a Christian; and, as a Christian, we are speaking of him. And, as he is born from above, no wonder that he "seeks those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God."
And, therefore, in the fourth place, they are not of the world, because they do not choose their portion." We read of some, "who have their portion in this life;" and they are called, as well they may, men of the world. But, in distinction from them, says David, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."-"They lay up treasure here-but my treasure is in heaven. They make earth their home-but I regard it only as my passage. They confine all their hopes and fears within the narrow compass of mortality-I seek a country beyond the swellings of Jordan. Death ends their happiness, as well as their lives but mine it secures and completes."
Hence it is, that the Christian feels an indiffe rence to present things, and learns in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content. This never can be the case with the man who makes the world his portion: if present things constitute his all, he cannot be moderate in his joys or sorrows. a Christian can be moderate in both, because they are not his all. His inheritance is reserved in heaven for him. He therefore weeps as those that weep not, and rejoices as those that rejoice not;
and buys, as those that possess not. He feels worldly trials, but he is not miserable. He is thankful for temporal indulgences, but he is not exalted above measure. He does not want much;
he does not expect much while here. All he requires of the world, like the Israelites of the king of Edom, is, a permission to pursue his peaceful course towards the land flowing with milk and honey. "Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards; neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's highway, we will not turn to the right hand, nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. We will go by the high-way; and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it; I will only (without doing any thing else) go through on my feet."
Thus Christians are not of this world; for they are not attached to their party-they are not actuated by their spirit-they are not born in their country-they do not choose their portion.
And, II., what does this truth teach us? Why, First, it enables us easily to account for the world's persecution of real Christians. "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 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." They are not willing, indeed, to acknowledge that this is the cause of their hatred. No; they resemble their old predecessors, who, when our Saviour said, "Many good works have I showed you; for which of these works do ye stone me? The Jews