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NON-CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD,
ROMANS XII. 2.
Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
Many of my hearers will take instant alarm from the uncourtly and unfashionable language of the text. They will assume, as granted, that they are to be lectured away from society, shut out from all the innocent and joyous freedoms of life, and persuaded to spend their days in the recesses of a nunnery, or the cells of a cloister. But softly: there are no nunneries nor cloisters in the Bible :
there are scarcely any in our country, and if there were ever so many, it would be rather hopeless to try the experiment of making converts of either
this audience. Take heed, however, that your prejudices do not assail the word of your God; that you stop not your ears, and steel not your hearts against his counsels. You are here in his presence, and it may cost you your souls if you turn away from his admonition. It cannot indeed be denied, that his commandment and the principles of his children are infinitely at variance with a multitude of things which the world calls harmless; nor that it may appear to be your duty, your bounden, your imperative duty, to make a secession, even from the innocencies of the world, to take a firm stand, and to make a full stop, in a career plausible, popular, reputable, for which many ingenious things may be pleaded, but which are not fit for a Christian who is not of the world, but whom Christ hath called out of the world; let it be sulky, or cold, or abusive, as it pleases, and that without infringing at all upon your active duties, or upon your allowed, which are your greatest social comforts. Your souls are too precious to compliment away to your giddy neighbors, and eternal life too infinitely valuable to be put in jeopardy by your desire to please them. Then let us see what the apostle means by being not conformed to this world—what is that transformation by the
renewing of our mind, so zealously pressed upon us; and what is the connection under which he has placed it--that ye may know what is that good, and acceptible, and perfect will of God.
I. Let us look at the nature of that non-conformity to this world, which the text enjoins.
This world emits a bad savor in the records of God. Wherein, in trespasses and sins, says the apostle, ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. The course of this world, then, is directed by the prince of darkness; and in directing it, he employs all the faculties of their souls, and all the members of their bodies, as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. The world is at this moment full of demoniacs: the evil one takes as complete possession of their persons, and abuses them to as ignoble purposes, as ever he did their bodies in the days of our Lord's humiliation-Oh that men who are estranged from God, would believe the terrifying truth! Yes, in that fair, and gentle, and courteous, and polished form, dwells the spirit that organizes all the rebellion against God, all the misery of man; all that he fears, and has reason to fear; and causes that lake of fire and brimstone, into which his intention is to plunge his votaries. Do you wonder, then, that the scripture has said, whoever will be the friend of the world is
the enemy of God. Under his evil control, the world, like a rebellious province, has set up for itself; and acts as if it were perfectly independent of the divine government. It has its own institutions, statutes, and customs—its own pursuits—its own ethics—its own penal code, and its own recompenses. It covers the very same ground which is covered by the law of God; but is, of course, perfectly hostile and contradictory both to the law and the Lawgiver. Here, then, is the cause and origin of all those injunctions of the scriptures, concerning our non-conformity to the world. It is in necessary and perpetual collision with the authority of our rightful Sovereign. Obedience to the one infallibly excludes obedience to the other. And it is most idle and ridiculous to attempt their conciliation; the very attempt proves its author to be an enemy to God, and a slave to the usurper.
The case, my friends, admits of but one alternative: you must either take your part with the world, and share in its guilt and condemnation, or you must come out from the world, and be separate, i. e. you must be Christians wholly or not at all. No middle character can be allowed. If you are not for the Savior, you must be against him. If you do not gather with him you must be numbered among those who scatter abroad. Neither the kingdom of heaven nor the kingdom of hell toler, ates a neutral character. If Jehovah be God, follow him; and if Baal be God, follow him. But to halt between two opinions marks the feebleness of present indecision, and will only conduct to future ruin.
Yet it is not from all intercourse with the world that lieth in wickedness that the authority of Jesus Christ prohibits you. For then, as saith the
apostle, ye must needs go out of the world. But in your separation from it you must show a character which the world never forms, and cannot understand; must show that while you are in it you are not of it—that you do not love it—that your commerce with it is of pure necessity, and that you are going rapidly as time can carry you to that glorious home, where it shall never more show its face. You must be separated from and have no communion with those things which distinguish the world from the redeemed of the Lord, and which qualify you for the career of that graceless society whose steps take hold on hell, leading down to the chambers of death.
1. There must be a renunciation of the maxims of the world.
These maxims, without exception, centre in the creatựre, and are bounded by time. There is not one of them which regards an immortal destiny. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die, is the sum of its philosophy. And were it true—did the spirit of man, like that of a beast, go down