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man a liar;” let us believe Him, though the whole world rose up and with one voice denied His words. Let us accept the truth, as an act of faith towards God, and as a most solemn warning to ourselves, that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God;" that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of His power, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, in that day!!!
To conclude. Let us pray God to teach us: we need His teaching ; we are very blind. The Apostles on one occasion said to Christ, when His words tried them, "Increase our faith.” Let us come to Him honestly : we cannot help ourselves; we do not know ourselves; we need His grace. Whatever perplexity the world gives us, whether about the doctrine of regenerating Baptism, or about the Church Apostolic, or about the necessity of maintaining the Gospel faith, or about the doctrine of everlasting punishment, (blessed are they who have no such trials, but some have !) let us come to Him with pure and sincere minds; imploring Him to reveal to us what we know not, to incline our hearts when they are stubborn, and to make us love and obey Him honestly while we seek, and not to seek mere barren knowledge, “which perisheth with the using.
i Pa. ix. 17. 2 Thess. i. 9, 10.
Faith and the World.
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but
the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”--PROV. xi. 21.
WHEN we hear speak of the wicked, we are apt to
think that men of abandoned lives and unprincipled conduct, cruel, crafty, or profligate men, can alone be meant. This obtains almost universally; we think that evil, in any sufficient sense of the word, is something external to us, and at a distance. Thus in the case of children, when they hear of bad men and wicked men, they have no conception that evil can really be near them. They fancy, with a fearful curiosity, something which they have not seen, something foreign and monstrous, as if brought over the seas, or the production of another sphere; though, in truth, evil, and in its worst and most concentrated shape, is born with them, lives within them, is not subdued except by a supernatural gift from God, and is still in them, even when God's grace has brought it under. And so, when we grow up, whether we are thrown upon the world or not, we commonly do not understand that what Scripture says of sin, of its odiousness
and its peril, applies to us. The world itself, even though we see it, appears not to be the world ; that is, not the world which Scripture speaks of. We do not discern, we do not detect, the savour of its sinfulness; its ways are pleasant to us; and what Scripture says of wickedness, and of misery as attending on it, does not, as we think, apply to the world we see.
And hence it is, that when we read, as in the text, of the short triumph and the overthrow of wickedness, when we read that “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished,” we have a picture brought before us of some overbearing tyranny, or some perfidious conspiracy, or some bold and avowed banding against religion, some event of a generation or a century, and nothing short of it. And such specimens of evil doubtless are especially intended by the sacred writer; still, after all, much more is included in his meaning, much which is ordinary, much which we see before our eyes.
Can it indeed be otherwise ? Is not the world in itself evil? Is it an accident, is it an occasion, is it but an excess, or a crisis, or a complication of circumstances, which constitutes its sinfulness? or, rather, is it not one of our three great spiritual enemies, at all times, and under all circumstances and all changes, ungodly, unbelieving, seducing, and anti-christian? Surely we must grant it to be so. Why else in Baptism do we vow to wage war against it? Why else does Scripture speak of it in the terms which we know so well, if we will but attend to them? St. James says, that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God'," so that “whosoever
1 James iv. 4
will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” And St. Paul speaks of “walking 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';" and exhorts us not to be “conformed to this world," but to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind ' ;” and he says that Christ" gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world." In like manner St. John says, “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
Let us be quite sure, then, that that confederacy of evil which Scripture calls the world, that conspiracy against Almighty God of which Satan is the secret instigator, is something wider, and more subtle, and more ordinary, than mere cruelty, or craft, or profligacy; it is that very world in which we are; it is not a certain body or party of men, but it is human society itself. This it is which is our greatest enemy; and this it is of which the text in its fulness speaks, when it says that “ though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” It is powerful at present, but in the end it shall be overthrown; and then these its separate members “shall not be unpunished,” but “the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”
Now I shall attempt an explanation of what may be supposed to be meant in the text by “hand joining in hand," and of the sense in which it is fulfilled in the course of human affairs in every age. The one peculiar and characteristic sin of the world is this, that whereas
1 Eph. ii. 2. ? Rom. xii. 2. 3 Gal. i. 4. 41 John ii. 15.
God would have us live for the life to come, the world would make us live for this life. This, I say, is the world's sin; it lives for this life, not for the next. It takes, as the main scope of human exertion, an end which God forbids; and consequently all that it does becomes evil, because directed to a wrong end.
This is a thing which seems easy to say, but which should be steadily considered. In this respect the temptations of the world differ from temptations of the flesh. The flesh is not rational, nor appeals to reason; but the world reasons.
The works of the flesh are such as St. Paul describes them,-variance, hatred, murders, adulteries, uncleanness, and drunkenness. Pride, cruelty, wrath, revenge, obstinacy, sensuality, are works of the flesh. They are the spontaneous fruit of the unrenewed mind, as thorns and thistles are the natural growth of the earth. But the case is different as regards the world. The world has many sins, but its peculiar offence is that of daring to reason contrary to God's Word and will. It puts wrong aims before itself, and acts towards them. It goes wrong as if on principle, and prefers its own way of viewing things to God's way. When Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was good for food, she was tempted through the flesh; and when the serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die,” he used the temptation proper to the world-false reason.
Now you will see this by taking a survey of the world, and seeing how and why it disobeys God. God, in Scripture, says one thing; the world says another. God says that we should live for the life to come; the world
that we should live for this life. How is it [s. D.]