Now it is plain how little the mass of men aim at taking their standard of things, or seeking a blessing on what they do, from religion. Instead of raising the world by faith to the level of a regenerate son of God, they debase themselves to the world and its ordinances. It is plain, as any one will find who gives himself the trouble to attend to it, that men in general do not give, or feel, or seek for religious reasons for what they do. So little is religion even the profession of the world at present, that men, who do feel its claims, dare not avow their feelings,—they dare not recommend measures of whatever sort on religious grounds. If they defend a measure publicly, or use persuasion in private, they are obliged to conceal or put aside the motives which one should hope do govern them, and they allege others inferior,—nay, worldly reasons,—reasons drawn from policy, or expedience, or common-sense (as it is called), or prudence. If they neglect to do this, they are despised as ill-judging and unreasonable. Nay, they are obliged thus to act, else they will not succeed in good objects, and (what is more to the purpose) else they will be casting pearls before swine. Can we have a clearer proof than this, that the current of things at present, in spite of the boasts of men, is essentially and radically evil,—more evil indeed, because of their boasts?

Or, again, take any of the plans and systems now in fashion,—plans for the well-being of the poor, or of the young, or of the community at large; you will find, so far from their being built on religion, religion is actually in the way, it is an encumbrance. The advocates and promoters of these plans confess that they do not know what to do with religion; their plans work very well but for religion; religion suggests difficulties which cannot be got over. On a subject of this kind one cannot go into detail; but those who look about them will recognise what I mean, and, I think, will acknowledge its truth.

And so again in those efforts which are laudably made for the sake of preserving things as they are, and hindering ruin and destruction coming on the country, men are afraid to take their stand on "the old commandment which ye have heard from the beginning." [1 John ii. 7.] They are afraid to kindle their fire from the altar of God; they are afraid to acknowledge her through whom only they gain light and strength and salvation, the Mother of Saints.

When we go into the details of life, the same truth, as in every age, comes upon us forcibly and convincingly. I am not going to the question whether this age is better or worse than former ages; this is not to the present purpose. The world always "lieth in wickedness;" but we are accustomed sufficiently to confess the faults of former times, which do not concern us; we do not see what is evil in our own. Therefore, we need to be reminded of it. We need to be reminded that all our daily pursuits and doings need not be proved evil, but are certainly evil without proof, unless they can be proved to be good. Unless that holy and superhuman influence which came forth from Christ when He breathed on the Apostles, which they handed onwards, which has ever since gone through the world like a leaven, renewing it in righteousness,—which came on us first in Baptism, and reclaimed us from the service of Satan,—unless this Divine Gift has been cherished and improved within us, and is spread round about and from us, upon the objects of our aims and exertions, upon our plans and pursuits, our words and our works, surely all these are evil, without being formally proved to be so. If we engage in a trade or profession, if we make money, if we form connexions in life, if we marry and settle, if we educate our children, whatever we do, we have no right to take it for granted that this is not earthly, sensual, and of this world; it will be so without our trouble, unless we take trouble the other way, unless we aim and pray that it may not be so. Left to itself, human nature tends to death, and utter apostasy from God, however plausible it may look externally. What was it men were doing before the flood came? things very different from what men do now? No; they did the same things as we. "They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded." [Luke xvii. 27, 28.] Are these things evil? Yes; they are evil unless they are good; they are evil unless they have become good; they are evil until Christ sanctifies them; and then, and not till then, are they good. They are evil in the case of every one of us, except Christ has sanctified them in us, unless they have been touched with the finger of God, and illuminated by the doctrine and the power of His Son.

In all things, then, we must spiritualise this world; and if you ask for instances how to do this, I give you the following. When a nation enters Christ's Church, and takes her yoke upon its shoulder, then it formally joins itself to the cause of God, and separates itself from the evil world. When the civil magistrate defends the Christian faith, and sets it up in all honour in high places, as a beacon to the world, so far he gives himself to God, and sanctifies and spiritualises that portion of it over which he has power. When men put aside a portion of their gains for God's service,then they sanctify those gains. When the head of a household observes family prayer and other religious offices, and shows that, like Abraham, he is determined with God's help to honour Him, then he joins himself to the kingdom of God, and rescues his household from its natural relationship with this unprofitable world. When a man hallows in his private conduct holy seasons, this is offering up of God's gifts to God, and sanctifying all seasons by the sacrifice of some. When a man who is rich, and whose duty calls on him to be hospitable, is {110} careful also to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, thus he sanctifies his riches. When he is in the midst of plenty, and observes self-denial; when he builds his house, but builds Churches too; when he plants and sows, but pays tithes; when he buys and sells, but withal gives largely to religion; when he does nothing in the world without being suspicious of the world, being jealous of himself, trying himself, lest he be seduced by the world, making sacrifices to prove his earnestness;—in all these ways he circumcises himself from the world by the circumcision of Christ. This is the circumcision of the heart from the world. This is deliverance from dead ordinances; and though, even if this were done perfectly, it would not be enough, for we have to separate ourselves from the flesh also, yet, at least, it is the victory over a chief and formidable enemy.

My brethren, this is no matter of words: a thing to be listened to carelessly, because we have heard it often before. The death and resurrection of Christ is ever a call upon you to die to time, and to live to eternity. Do not be satisfied with the state in which you find yourselves; do not be satisfied with nature; be satisfied only with grace. Beware of taking up with a low standard of duty, and aiming at nothing but what you can easily fulfil. Pray God to enlighten you with a knowledge of the extent of your duty, to enlighten you with a true view of this world. Beware lest the world seduce you. It will aim at persuading you that itself is rational and sensible, that religion is very well in its way, but that we are born for the world. And you will be seduced most certainly, unless you watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. You must either conquer the world, or the world will conquer you. You must be either master or slave. Take your part then, and "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." [Gal. v. 1.]

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