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securing worldly good, and has not learned to receive all good from the hand of a great Father and trust him to give or withhold with his own unerring wisdom. But he who loves the world is the enemy of God and hence can never have this filial trust in a parental Benefactor, nor the peace of soul which it imparts. Hence worldly men are almost incessantly in a fever of anxiety lest their worldly schemes should fail. They sometimes get a momentary relief when all things seem to go well: but some mishap is sure to befall them at some point soon, so that scarce a day passes that brings not with it some corroding anxiety. Their bosoms are like the troubled sea which can not rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
But the man who gets above the world gets above this state of ceaseless and corroding anxiety.
5. The victory under consideration implies that we cease to be enslaved and in bondage by the world in any of its forms.
There is a worldly spirit, and there is also a heavenly spirit; and one or the other exists in the heart of every man and controls his whole being. Those who are under the control of the world, of course have not overcome the world. No man overcomes the world till his heart is imbued with the spirit of heaven.
One form which the spirit of the world assumes is, being enslaved to the customs and fashions of the day.
It is marvelous to see what a goddess Fashion becomes. No heathen goddess was ever worshipped with costlier offerings, or more devout homage, or more implicit subjection. And surely no heathen deity since the world began has ever had more universal patronage. Where will you go to find the man of the world or the woman of the world who does not hasten to worship at her shrine?
But overcoming the world implies that the spirit of this goddess-worship is broken.
They who have overcome the world are no longer careful either to secure its favor or avert its frown, and the good or the ill opinion of the world is to them a small matter. "To me," said Paul, "it is a small thing to be judged of man's judgment." So of every real Christian; his care is to secure the approbation of God; this is his chief concern, to commend himself to God and to his own conscience. No man has overcome the world unless he has attained this state of mind.
Almost no feature of Christian character is more striking or more decisive than this,-indifference to the opinions of the world.
Since I have been in the ministry I have been blessed with the acquaintance of some men who were peculiarly distinguished by this quality of character. Some of you may have known Rev. James Patterson, late of Philadelphia. If so, you know him to have been eminently distinguished in this respect. He seemed to have the least possible disposition to secure the applause of men or to avoid their censure. It seemed to be of no consequence to him to commend himself to men. For him it was enough if he might please God.
Hence you were sure to find him in everlasting war against sin, all sin, however popular, however entrenched by custom or sustained by wealth, or public opinion. Yet he always opposed sin with a most remarkable spirit-a spirit of inflexible decision and yet of great mellowness and tenderness. While he was saying the most severe things in the most severe language you might see the big tears rolling down his cheeks.
It is wonderful that most men never complained of his having a bad spirit. Much as they dreaded his rebuke and writhed under his strong and daring exposures of wickedness, they could never say that Father Patterson had any other than a good spirit. This was a most beautiful and striking exemplification of having overcome the world.
Men who are not thus dead to the world have not escaped its bondage. The victorious Christian is in a state where he is no longer in bondage to man. He is bound only to serve God.
II. We must enquire Who are those that overcome the world? Our text gives the ready answer. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." You cannot fail to observe that this is a universal proposition, all who are born of God overcome the world-all these, and it is obviously implied-none others. You may know who are born of God by this characteristic they overcome the world. Of course the second question is answered.
III. Our next question is, Why do believers overcome the world? On what principle is this result effected?
I answer, this victory over the world results as naturally from the spiritual or heavenly birth as coming into bondage to the world results from the natural birth.
It may be well to revert a moment to the law of connection in the latter case, namely: between coming into the world by natural birth and bondage to the world. This law obviously admits of a philosophical explanation, at once simple and pal
pable to every one's observation. Natural birth reveals to the mind objects of sense and these only. It brings the mind into contact with worldly things. Of course it is natural that the mind should become deeply interested in these objects thus presented through its external senses, especially as most of them sustain so intimate a relation to our sentient nature and become the first and chief sources of our happiness.
Hence our affections are gradually entwined around these objects and we become thoroughly lovers of this world ere our eyes have been opened upon it many months.
Now alongside of this universal fact let another be placed of equal importance and not less universal, namely, that those intuitive powers of the mind which were created to take cognizance of our moral relations, and hence to counteract the too great influence of worldly objects, come into action very slowly, and are not developed so as to act vigorously until years are numbered as months are in the case of the external organs of sense. The very early and vigorous development of the latter brings the soul so entirely under the control of worldly objects that when the reason and the conscience come to speak, their voice is little heeded. As a matter of fact we find it universally true that unless divine power interpose, the bondage to the world thus induced upon the soul is never broken.
But the point which I particularly desired to elucidate was simply this, that natural birth with its attendant laws of physical and mental development becomes the occasion of bondage to this world.
Right over against this, lies the birth into the kingdom of God by the Spirit. By this the soul is brought into new relations, we might rather say, into intimate contact with spiritual things. The Spirit of God seems to usher the soul into the spiritual world, in a manner strictly analogous to the result of the natural birth upon our physical being. The great truths of the spiritual world are opened to our view through the illumination of the Spirit of God; we seem to see with new eyes, and to have a new world of spiritual objects around
As in regard to natural objects, men not only speculate about them, but realize them; so in the case of spiritual children do spiritual things become not merely matters of speculation, but of full and practical realization also. When God reveals himself to the mind, spiritual things are seen in their real light, and make the impression of realities.
Consequently, when spiritual objects are thus revealed to the mind, and thus apprehended, they will supremely interest that mind. Such is our mental constitution that the truth of God when thoroughly apprehended cannot fail to interest us. If these truths were clearly revealed to the wickedest man on earth, so that he should apprehend them as realities, it could not fail to rouse up his soul to most intense action. He might hate the light, and might stubbornly resist the claims of God upon his heart, but he could not fail to feel a thrilling interest in truths that so take hold of the great and vital things of human well being.
Let me ask, Is there a sinner in this house, or can there be a sinner on this wide earth, who does not see that if God's presence were made as manifest and as real to his mind as the presence of his fellow men, it would supremely engross his soul even though it might not subdue his heart?
This revelation of God's presence and character might not convert him, but it would, at least for the time being, kill his attention to the world.
You often see this in the case of persons deeply convicted; you have doubtless seen persons so fearfully convicted of sin, that they cared nothing at all for their food nor their dress. O, they cried out in the agony of their souls, what matter all these things to us, if we even get them all, and then must lie down in hell!
But these thrilling and all-absorbing convictions do not necessarily convert the soul, and I have alluded to them here only to show the controlling power of realizing views of divine truth.
When regeneration has taken place, and the soul is born of God, then realizing views of truth not only awaken interest, as they might do in an unrenewed mind, but they also tend to excite a deep and ardent love for these truths. They draw out the heart. Spiritual truth now takes possession of his mind, and draws him into its warm and life-giving embrace. Before, error, falsehood, death, had drawn him under their power; now the Spirit of God draws him into the very embrace of God. Now he is begotten of God, and breathes the spirit of sonship. Now, according to the Bible, "the seed of God remaineth in him," that very truth, and those movings of the spirit which gave him birth into the kingdom of God, continue still in power upon his mind, and hence he continues a Christian, and as the Bible states it, "he cannot sin, because he is born of God." The seed of God is in him, and the fruit
of it brings his soul deeply into sympathy with his own Father in heaven.
Again, the first birth makes us acquainted with earthly things, the second with God; the first with the finite, and the second with the infinite; the first with things correlated with our animal nature, the second with those great things which stand connected with our spiritual nature, things so lovely, and so glorious as to overcome all the ensnarements of the world.
Again, the first begets a worldly, and the second a heavenly temper; under the first, the mind is brought into a snare -under the second, it is delivered from that snare. Under the first, the conversation is earthly-under the second "our conversation is in heaven." ****
He who does not habitually overcome the world, is not born of God. In saying this I do not intend to affirm that a true Christian may not sometimes be overcome by sin; but I do affirm that overcoming the world is the general rule, and falling into sin is only the exception. This is the least that can be meant by the language of our text, and by similar declarations which often occur in the bible. Just as in the passage -"He that is born of God doth not commit sin, and he can not sin because he is born of God;"-nothing less can be meant than this, that he can not sin uniformly-can not make sinning his business, and can sin, if at all, only occasionally and aside from the general current of his life. In the same manner we should say of a man who is in general truthful that he is not a liar.
I will not contend for more than this respecting either of these passages; but for so much as this I must contend, that the new-born souls here spoken of do in general overcome the world. The general fact respecting them is that they do not sin and are not in bondage to Satan. The affirmations of Scripture respecting them, must at least embrace their general
What is a religion good for that does not overcome the world? What is the benefit of being born into such a religion, if it leave the world still swaying its dominion over our hearts? What avails a new birth which after all fails to bring us into a likeness to God, into the sympathics of his family and of his kingdom, which leaves us still in bondage to the world and to Satan? What can there be of such a religion more than the name? With what reason can any man suppose that such a religion fits his soul for heaven, supposing it leaves him earthly-minded, sensual and selfish?