Page images
PDF
EPUB

the law of God written on it by his Holy Spirit, I will pledge myself that you will find obedience to be as food to the hungry, health to the sick, and life to the dead. Nor was there ever a human being turned effectually from sin to holiness, but he found religion's “ ways to be ways of pleasantness and peace."]

2. Those who profess to serve God according to his Gospel —

[Men will judge of religion, in a great measure, by what they see in you. If they behold you rendering service to God on as contracted a scale as you think will consist with your ultimate safety, they will be confirmed in their notions of religion as a painful yoke, to which no one submits but from necessity. And if they behold you going to the world for happiness, they will feel assured, that, whatever you may affirm to the contrary, religion of itself is not sufficient to make you happy. On the other hand, if they behold you devoting yourselves wholly and unreservedly to the Lord, and walking cheerfully in his holy ways, they will be constrained to acknowledge, that there is something in religion which they have never tasted, and of which they at present can form no just conception. Remember then, I pray you, how many eyes are upon you, and how great may be the influence of your conduct in the world. You may unhappily cast a stumblingblock before men, and involve them in ruin ; or you may recommend the ways of God, and be the means of saving many souls alive. Get the love of God in your hearts, and then all will be comparatively easy. You will still, indeed, “find a law in your members warring against the law in your minds:” but, on the whole, you will “ delight in the law of God after your inward man;" and be able so to walk, that all who shall behold your light shall be constrained to “ acknowledge, that God is with you of a truth.”]

MMCCCCLXIII. .

OVERCOMING THE WORLD.

1 John v. 4, 5. Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the

world : and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God ?

CHRISTIANITY is a warfare : every follower of Christ is by profession a soldier. The enemies whom he is engaged to combat are, the world, the flesh, and . [2463, the devil. It is of one of these more especially that my text speaks ; and that is, the world. Mankind at large are led captive by it. The Christian combats and overcomes it. In this respect he differs from, and surpasses, all the human race.

These things are plainly affirmed in the passage before us : which will lead me to shew, I. The victory which every true Christian gains

The Christian is here described as “ born of God"

[He is not only born of the flesh, like other men, but has a new nature imparted to him from above, and which he alone possesses. The Spirit of the living God, who moved upon the face of the waters, and reduced the whole chaotic mass of this world to order and beauty, has moved upon his soul, to restore it to the image of his Creator, in which it was originally formed, in righteousness and true holiness. The person here spoken of as born of God, is also characterized as believing that Jesus is the Son of God. This shews what the process of the Holy Spirit is, in transforming the soul. He makes us to feel our guilt before God: he reveals the Lord Jesus Christ to us, as the appointed Saviour of the world: he enables us to believe in him, and to confess him openly before men, as all our salvation and all our desire. Thus the regenerate person shews himself to be a believer in Christ; and the believer in Christ approves himself to be regenerate. And hence the terms, as characterizing the child of God, are convertible, and of the same import.] He overcomes the world

[From the moment that he experiences the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, he enters into conflict with the world, and overcomes it. He overcomes both its allurements and its terrors. Every thing in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is fascinating to the corrupt heart of man, and gains an ascendant over all, whilst in their natural and carnal state. But the regenerate person has higher gratifications, which he affects as his supreme good, and for which he sacrifices all that this world can give him. He feels that earthly vanities debase the soul : and he will no longer be led captive by them. He

Depart from me, I will keep the commandments of my God"

In like manner, he triumphis over its terrors also. The world will take up arms against those who dare to oppose its maxims and its habits. Sometimes, by contempt and ridicule

says to them

all, o

it will endeavour to check the Christian's progress; and sometimes by the most envenomed hostility and bitter persecution. But the regenerate person braves all the world's hostility, and will be deterred by nothing from following the path of duty. If the whole creation were to rise up against him, he would say, Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye: for I cannot but do what my God has enjoined.

There are those who will have regeneration to consist in baptism. But I would ask, Can it be said of every baptized person, that he overcomes the world? Does not the whole state of the Christian world contradict this?

Are there any, amongst heathens themselves, more captivated by its allurements or enslaved by its terrors, than millions of baptized persons are? This shews, incontrovertibly, that, whatever blessing God may see fit to confer on any particular persons in baptism, baptism itself is not, and cannot be, regeneration : for, if it were, every baptized person must, of necessity, overcome the world; which we see and know is far from being true in fact.

There is a peculiarity in the expression in my text, which will serve to throw considerable light on this subject. It is said, Whatsoever is born of Goda” overcometh the world. In conversion a new nature is formed within usb: a new principle, new judgment, new taste, is imparted to us : and the whole of that is, in its very nature, opposed to the world, even as light is to darkness: and, as light struggles with darkness till it has overcome it, so does that new and heaven-born principle, which is imparted to us in conversion, conflict with, and overcome, the world; so that the bonds in which, during our unregenerate state, we were held, are broken, and we are enabled to walk at liberty, in the way of God's commandments. This may be well explained by an expression of our blessed Lord, who “ Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." The meaning of which passage is, not that the Holy Spirit which he imparts shall infallibly bring us to everlasting life, but that that will be its constant tendency and operation. A fountain is always sending forth its waters upwards: and so shall the Holy Spirit within us always operate to raise the soul from earth to heaven. Let the two passages be compared ; and they will shew, not what baptisn does, but what the new nature, which the Spirit of God imparts in conversion, will effect, in all that are truly regenerate.)

Let us now point out,
II, The means by which he achieves it-

και πάν το γεγεννημένον. 2 Pet. i. 4. • John iv. 14.

says,

b

The Christian, to his latest hour, is no stronger in himself than others. He is, from first to last, like a new-born infant in its mother's arms. But, as we have already seen, he believes in Christ; and, through the faith which is thus formed in his soul, he is enabled to maintain his conflicts even to the end : “ This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1. From faith he derives his motives

[He believes all that the Scriptures bave spoken respecting the world, and all who belong to it: " It lieth in wickedness," and will finally “be condemned." He believes, too, that a very principal end for which our blessed Saviour gave himself for us was,

“ that he might deliver us from this present evil world!." Under this conviction, he engages on the side of his Lord and Saviour; and determines, through grace, that what he so desired, shall surely be effected. Hence he draws the sword, and throws away the scabbard. He will “ not be conformed to this world: but will seek to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, that he may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." If at any time he be tempted to taste of its cup, he puts it from his lips, as David did the waters from the well of Bethlehem ; saying, 'Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: Is not this the blood of my Lord and Saviour, who not only jeoparded his life, but laid it down for me? I will not drink itt: In like manner, if bonds and imprisonments await him for his fidelity, he will say, "I am ready, not only to be bound, but also to die, at any time, and in any manner, for my Lord's sake.” “ Constrained by the love of Christ,” he“ wars a good warfare," and thus - endures unto the endk."] 2. From faith he receives his strength

[By faith he is united to the Lord Jesus Christ, as a branch to the vine; and by faith also he receives, out of his fulness, grace, according to his necessities! “In Christ he is strong" and invinciblem: and “ through Christ he can do all things n." To the natural man the Christian's conduct is perfectly inexplicable. He cannot conceive how a poor weak creature like himself should be able so to overcome all the allurements of sense, and all the terrors of an infuriated world.

[blocks in formation]

f Gal. i. 4. i Acts xxi. 13. m 2 Tim. ii. 1.

But the Christian soldier has armour provided for him, even armour of an heavenly temper; and through that he is enabled to sustain the unequal combat', and to triumph over all his enemies P. Thus does he “fight the good fight of faith%;" and thus is he made “more than conqueror, through Him that loved him"."]

But in this victory he stands alone ; as you will see, whilst I shew, III. His exclusive claim to this prowess

God himself appeals to us : “ Who but the regenerate ever effects this ?"

[Look through the world, and see, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” It must be remembered, that a mere speculative faith in Christ is not that which is here spoken of, but such a faith as leads us altogether to rely on Christ for every thing, and to devote ourselves entirely to his service. And now, I ask, where will you find one single person, except the regenerate believer, who so overcomes the world? find some who seclude themselves from it: but they flee from the combat altogether. You may find some who retire from it in disgust: but they are overcome by it. The person for whom I inquire is, a man who lives in the world, and fulfils all his civil, social, and personal duties in it; and yet is enabled to discard all its maxims, to set at nought all its customs, to despise all its vanities, to mortify all its corruptions, and, whilst in it, not to be of it, any more than the Saviour himself wass? Where will you find one who makes the word of God his sole directory; and determines to adhere to that, in opposition to all the contempt that can be poured upon him, or the persecution which he may be called to endure ? Search amongst the despisers of spiritual regeneration, and see if you can find one of this character: search amongst the despisers of a life of faith, and see if you can find one. You may search all the records of the world, and I will defy you to find one. God himself sets you at defiance. Go, search him out: “Who is he that thus overcomes the world ?" I tell you there is not one on earth, except “ he who is born of God,” and “ he who believes in Jesus” as his only hope. There may be found persons who fly from the world: but they do not act " as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” The people who fight and overcome, are those only who have been before described : and it is through faith in Christ alone that they maintain the conflict;

You may

4 1 Tim. vi. 12.

• Eph. vi. 11.
r Rom. viii. 37.

p 2 Cor. ii. 14.
: John xvii. 14, 16.

« PreviousContinue »