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1. The effect which the world often produces on the Christian by its evil example, is most lamentable.
Our manners and our habits are almost entirely formed by imitation; example always addresses us in a more forcible and persuasive manner than naked precept; when models are continually before our eyes we can scarcely avoid copying them. How difficult then, must it be for the believer to preserve in the midst of the world, the holiness and purity of the Christian character! He looks around him, he beholds the multitude uniting to give a fashionable air to vice and folly, and the few who have seriously awaked to a sense of the value of their souls, and who strive to conform their lives to the precepts of the gospel, and the example of their Saviour, sneered at for their preciseness and scrupulosity; is there not danger that he may insensibly be drawn in the current, and carried away by the stream? Is there not danger lest a dread of shame, a fear of singularity, a desire to please those with whom he associates, should induce him to allow many things in himself and others, inconsistent with the strict requirements of religion?
He still has in his heart passions ready to be inflamed; can he with safety be constantly conversant with those objects calculated to enkindle them? When he sees thousands walking in the path of sin and folly, and among them many who, though unregenerate, are possessed of the most brilliant and attractive qualities; many who, though they are destitute of true religion, have those amiable dispositions and moral virtues which secure his love; many to whom he is united by the sacred and powerful ties of nature, although they are strangers to piety; when
he sees this crowd preceding him, will not his apprehensions of treading in the path which they pursue be diminished ?
The history of millions, perhaps the history of our own lives, proves that such fatal effects may be produced by the example of the world. The sons of God saw the daughters of men, and were polluted; the people of Israel saw the Midianitish woman, and were ensnared. Oh! how many have I known who, when they first began to mingle with the world, trembled at a thousand excesses which they beheld, and who would have repulsed with indignation the suggestion that they could ever participate in them! But, after frequently hearing the sentiments, and becoming accustomed to the conduct of the wicked, the delicacy of their conscience was lost, the scruples which they first felt vanished; a deadness of spirit and a decay of grace was insensibly produced, and fearing lest they should be esteemed misanthropes and haters of joy, they have adopted those habits and practices of their seducers, from which they once revolted with holy indignation. If conscience sometimes woke from the lethargy in which they had cast it and uttered its reproaches, they looked around and silenced its voice by the consideration, that they acted as the world did, and conformed to the custom of the age. In vain did the word of God call to them not to be 6 conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds;" in vain did it tell them that “ the world lieth in wickedness;” and that the broad path of the multitude leads down to the chambers of eternal despair; unalarmed by these calls, they coolly prosecuted their course; the very circumstance which ought to have terrified them, I mean the countless numbers who lived as they did, calmed their apprehensions; they were surprised by death in the exercise of no Christian graces, and borne to that holy tribunal, where the world which they had idolized would avail them nothing.
So dangerous, so fatal, is the example of the world. Exercise a holy vigilance against it, and be assured that it requires no small degree of grace effectually to resist it. There are but few Noahs who can be entirely surrounded with sinners, without impairing the firmness and purity of their faith: there are but few Lots who can preserve the of their piety in a city deluged with iniquity: there are but few Daniels who, alone in a mighty empire, can be kept from the pollution of irreligion. Be therefore guarded, believers ; exercise a sacred jealousy over your hearts.
2. The world assails the Christian in another manner. By its false principles and loose maxims, it endeavours to shake his faith and corrupt his religion.
The men of the world are solicitous to justify the conduct they pursue, and to defend the cause they have espoused; and they therefore employ their arts and solicitations to weaken a regard to serious godliness. When the Christian studies his religion in the secret of his closet and the silence of the
passions, he perceives that the “ commandments of God are exceeding broad;" that in his life and conduct there are many things which need correction ; that it is necessary for him not merely faintly to wish, and coldly to desire, but to agonize, to enter into heaven. But when he mingles with the world, he hears sentiments more relaxed and favourable to corruption constantly advanced, and frequently maintained with all the arts of insinuation, and all the graces of manner.
He ears incessantly perversions of the scripture, and is warned in the tone of affection, but with a treacherous design, of the danger of being righteous over-much; he hears allowances made for human depravity which the holy volume does not authorize, and the qualifications for future glory reduced to a far lower standard than it sanctions; he hears honourable names given to sin, and finds piety confounded with superstition and enthusiasm. When he frequently listens to these and similar opinions that prevail in the world; when he beholds them adorned with all the colourings of seduction ; when those who have the art of making the worse appear the better reason,” continually attempt to lead him into error, to put ornaments upon vice and to varnish falsehood, is there not danger that he may lose the correctness of his principles and the warmth of his piety? How difficult for any one to return uninjured from such impure conversation! How dangerous is such intercourse to young and unwary minds, which are often deeply penetrated with the poison before they suspect the danger of its being administered! How much fortitude and resolution, how much spiritual wisdom and discernment does it require to resist the importunities and solicitations of the world, and to unravel the subtlety of those who “ lie in wait to deceive !"
Testify to the force of this assault, all those of you who were in some degree awakened to a sense of your misery, but who, returning into the world, were lured back into sin by the sophistry of the ungodly. Testify to its force, all those of you who once lived in close communion with God, but who have embraced sentiments that have chilled your
devotion and frozen your zeal. Testify to its force, ye countless thousands of miserable beings who were seduced to the adoption of fatal errors with regard to duty and conduct, and who have been led by them to the regions of despair.
3. The world proves an enemy to the believer, by its promises and caresses. It displays before us the forbidden fruit of its pleasures, its riches, its honours. It presents them to us by the hand of some Eve, flattering and agreeable to the senses; it says to us with the most ensnaring accents, “ All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” How hard is it, on such occasions, to keep our eyes steadily fixed on the glories of heaven, and to answer the seducing world in the indignant language of Peter, “ Thine enjoyments perish with thee!” Instead of resisting the weapons which are used, we are pleased to be wounded by them; we rush with a willing eagerness upon their point. Instead of dashing to the ground the cup of poisonous sweets which it offers, we greedily seize upon it, and drink our death! Oh! how many have the allurements of the world undone! How many, like Demas, captivated with its glittering charms, have forsaken their Saviour, and lost their heaven! How many Christians, between whose hearts and God it has interposed, eclipsing the light of his countenance, and the beamings of his grace!
There are many considerations which prove the tempting and pernicious influence of worldly enjoy. ments. They are suited to our natural appetites, which they first excite and gratify, and then inflame and render inordinate and excessive. A certain measure of them is lawful; but how difficult is it to mark the boundary line distinctly, and keep them in