THE RULE OF CHRISTIANITY, IN REGARD TO CON-
FORMITY TO THE WORLD.
Rom. zii. 2. And be not conformed to this world.
I do not know a more difficult passage in the New Testament than this; and I enter upon the discussion of it with very little hope of being able to furnish a satisfactory solution of the many inquiries which may be made respecting its meaning, and its application. What is conformity to the world—is the question which immediately presents itself on reading the text. It is easy to see that a command so plain as this appears to be, may give occasion to a great variety of opinions. Every Christian may have an "interpretation," and '" a doctrine" of his own. Every Christian denomination may have its own rules. One will insist on confining it to the feelings and general spirit of the man; another will maintain that it refers only to the vices and crimes of the world; a third will extend it to its gaieties; a fourth will affirm that it extends to every article of apparel; and a fifth to the ordinary intercourse and courtesies of life. Many will demand that the rich shall abandon their houses, their furniture, and their equipage, and come down in all these things to the level of their neighbours; and many of the rich may deem their neighbours unduly self-indulgent in their manner of life. All of us can see some things in which we judge others to be too much conformed to the world; and most of us have many perplexing questions pertaining to our own duty as Christians, and to the demands of this and other similar texts of the Bible. Most of us probably are satisfied that there has been, and is, in the church, too much conformity to the world. Our fellow men who are not Christians, often reproach us on this subject, and demand that we should be less conformed to the follies and vanities in which they freely indulge. Poor compliment they pay to their own conduct and discretion; and a sad employment to blame others for that which they feel at liberty to practise.
Amidst these conflicting opinions, I have little hope of traversing a perplexed and difficult inquiry with entire clearness and satisfaction. If I can excite thought on the subject among conscientious men, one part of my object will be gained. If I can establish some principles by which we are to interpret the text, I shall do all that I hope to be able to effect. It would be easy to declaim on this subject; and it is always easy to utter unmeaning and loose denunciations against Christians for conformity to the world. There may be occasion for all the severity of reproof ever uttered; but after all, the inquiry arises, what is the duty of Christians, and by what principles shall they judge of the text?
The following inquiries I shall attempt to answer:
I. To what does the rule apply?
II. What in the text is it designed to reach and effect?
III. What are the proper principles of its application? 1. To what does the rule apply? Here, also, many
questions might be asked. Was it intended to be limited to the time of Paul, and to that peculiar age of the world? Christians, especially at Rome, were then placed amidst the luxuries and gaieties of a refined, a vicious, and an idolatrous age. To conform to that age, would be to coincide with the splendor, pride, ambition, fashion, and even corrupt principles of a generation peculiarly wicked and vain. Christians were expected to be separated, and to constitute a distinct community. The difference between them and others was to be marked, open, decided, and there could have been little difficulty in applying the rule. But the aspect of the world has, in some respects, changed. Idolatry is banished. Its altars are overthrown. Christianity has diffused intelligence, refinement, kindness, and "a thousand kindred virtues through the community. It has elevated society much nearer to its own standards; and it is asked whether the rule is still to be applicable? If so, in what respects, and to what extent? Yet on the question of the applicability, or jurisdiction of the rule, there can be no doubt. It is unrepealed. There
was no intimation that it was to be confined to that age, or to any peculiar age. Other directions respecting Christians have a similar meaning. "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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." I John ii. 15, 16. "No man can serve, two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." Matth. vi. 24. "For do I now persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Gal. i. 10. "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God." James iv. 4. The text is, therefore, manifestly a precept of the divine law that is to extend its jurisdiction over all the times, and places, and circumstances to which it may apply, until the peculiar community called the toorld, shall be extinct,
B ut if applicable to all times, to what class of actions does it apply? Is it to the dress, the mind, the heart, the demeanor, the conversation, or to all? Is it to be limited to one class of these objects, and then to cease in its influence, or is it to extend every where? I answer, it is like all other divine laws. They are given in a general manner, and are to be interpreted on the same principle. The general principle of the laws of God is, that they are first to be applied to the heart and conscience, and then to follow out all the conduct, and extend their jurisdiction over all. Human law is satisfied if it can control the external deportment, and preserve the peace and prosperity of the community. Divine law, extends its purpose of control to the heart. If a proper influence can be exerted over that, it supposes that all will be well; and the text is evidently one of the laws of Christian conduct, enacted on this principle. The terms of the law are applicable either to the mind, or to the external deportment; to the feelings, opinions, and principles of action, as well as to the dress, and conduct of life. Its direct aim therefore, is the heart; its indirect, and complete aim is reached only when it controls the entire deportment.
It is still asked what place in the code of Christian laws is this rule designed to occupy? Here I answer, 1. The design of this law is not to keep Christians from open vices and crimes. That is placed on better defined ground; and it is presumed that Christians cannot commit them. Those things which are absolutely and grossly evil, are made the subjects of express statute. Crime is specified, and absolutely forbidden. It is not left to a rule so easily perverted; so capable of abuse and variation, as the simple injunction, not to be conformed to the world. It is expressly declared that men shall not be idolaters, or profane, or Sabbath-breakers, or haters of their parents, or liars, or adulterers, or thieves, or drunkards, or revilers, or false witnesses, or covetous. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Gal. v. 19. 21. Eph. v. 4, 5. Heb. xii. 14 ;'xiii. 4. Rev. xxii. 15. Ex. xx. Whatever may be the conduct of the world on these subjects, the law of God is positive, and explicit. 2. The command in question is not designed to teach Christians that they should not coincide with the world in any respect, or on any subjects. It is not to be considered as enjoining singularity for the sake of singularity. Such a purpose would- be unworthy any legislator. Unless the thing forbidden was either wrong in itself, or was attended with bad consequences, it would be the evidence of tyranny or caprice, not of wisdom, to demand separation. The conformity then, is to be presumed to be in those things which would be injurious to the object which the lawgiver had in view. The matter of fact is, that there are many things in which Christians and others may, and must, externally at least, coincide; and in which to affect singularity, would be to countenance evil. When the apostle directs Christians to think of " whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report;" (Phil. iv. 8.) he evidently supposes that in these things Christians are to coincide with others. Thus also it is in respect to industry, charity, temperance, courtesy, meekness, order. 2 Thess. iii. 10. Rom. xii. 10, 11, &c. I Pet. ii. 17; hi. 8. Rom. xiii. 7, 8. Gal. v. 22. If the men of the world are industrious, Christians are not to be directed to be idle; if they are temperate, Christians are not to be intemperate; if they are courteous, Christians are not to affect rusticity, or to violate the proper rules of refined intercourse. On these, and a thousand kindred subjects, Christians and the world are to coincide; nor does religion, common sense, or good morals, demand or permit singularity. But 3. There is a large class of objects and actions which come under neither of these denominations, which are not fixed by absolute statute, and which it might yet be proper to prohibit, or in which there might be demanded a separation from the "world. To make laws on them all; would be endless. These actions and feelings, the principle of the text is designed to influence and control. The general principle is settled, and the application is to be made by the conscience of each Christian, on his own responsibility. These actions pertain to the greater part of our lives and intercourse. It is not often that a man will be called on to apply the statute respecting murder to himself, perhaps never; but the principles of religion pertaining to his daily conduct, need to be carefully applied to the, ever varying forms and allurements of the world. You may never have occasion to apply to yourself for example, the ninth commandment; but there is a large territory of acts—a vast field over which some law should be extended, which, cannot be reached by the decalogue, or by any direct statute. Such are all those acts and emotions pertaining to dress and style of life; to modes of intercourse; to gaiety and fashion and equipage; to the governing purposes of the heart in relation to our intercourse with men; to the rules of business; and to that endless variety of things m which the men of the world consider it no harm for them to indulge, and in which they indulge freely. Now over this broad territory—this vast and ever varying presentation of objects and things, God has left the simple direction, "be not conformed to this world." The principles of the life are not to be formed by the opinions of the world. The rule • is designed to occupy this vast region of thought and feeling, over which there could not be the formality of express statute for every thing. It is a kind of balance wheel to the whole, to preserve it in order; and a general direction, that in relation to all these things, the opinion and conduct should not be formed by the views of the men of the world, but by other principles. The law then, I suppose, is one not confined to the age of Paul; was not designed to control things in themselves absolutely criminal, and subject to express statute; not designed to promote singularity for the sake of singularity, and to separate Christians from the world in things which are proper; but was designed to reach and control the conduct, the feelings, and deportment in that vast variety of things which the world may present from age to age as objects of pleasure, gaiety, business, luxury, splendor, or ambition.
II. Our second enquiry.is, what the rule is? A few remarks may enable us to understand this.
1. There is a difference contemplated between Christians and other men—a difference pertaining to principles of action, to feelings, to laws, to destiny. 1 Cor. iv. 7. 2 Cor. vi. 14. 17. Isa. lii. 11. Rev. xviii. 4. The whole arrangement by which this difference is" produced and promoted, shows that it is not one of trifling magnitude or importance.' To produce it, cost the labors of the Son of God, "who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titusii. 14. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar "people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." 1 Pet. ii. 9. To advance this work calls into exercise all the means of grace, and all the direct operation of God on the human mind. While as men we have many things in common with other men, yet as Christians we are expected to possess something original and peculiar. There is no change in the human mind so great, thorough, and abiding as that of regeneration. John iii. 1. 7—compare Eph. ii. 10; iv. 24. There is no kingdom more different from all other kingdoms, than the empire of Christ over the soul is unlike all other empires. "My kingdom is not of this world," is his language, (John xviii. 36,) and while we may have many things in common with others, yet as Christians his empire over us is to be regarded as original and peculiar. His law is to form our opinions and practice, and his will to influence our conduct. 1 John ii. 3, 6. The world may be governed by its own laws. The laws of fashion may control one portion; the laws of honor another; the laws of ambition a third. One community may frame its conduct by a set of artificial statutes, meaning or unmeaning, which may have been agreed on respecting the intercourse of the theatre, the ball-room, or any other place of amusement or of business. Another community is under the influence of the laws of honor—so called— and those laws are understood, and capable of being written down. The Christian community rises in the midst of all others—subject to laws of its own voluntarily assumed, and claiming that their jurisdiction should be admitted to extend over all the thoughts and doings of the life. It claims that no other community should be allowed to originate statutes for the government of Christians, or modify their laws, or demand their submission to its mandates. It claims original jurisdiction over the whole soul and body, and sternly rebukes the interposition of the communities under the influence of the laws of honor, fashion, or vice, if they come in with a claim to modify or repeal the original and independent statutes of the Christian community. Christianity regards all such interference as aggression. If they coincide with. Christianity in any thing, or in every thing, it is well, and Christians are not to affect singularity. If they differ, the Christian community has another rule by which it is governed. Now the essential idea of the rule which I am wishing to explain, is, that Christianity has original jurisdiction in all these cases; that the laws of the New Testament are the last appeal; and that as far as this community is concerned, its statutes are to govern—nor are they to be modified by any intrusions of the laws of any other commonwealth.
I do not know that I present the idea clearly. Let me attempt further to illustrate it. I have a family in a gay, •wicked, thoughtless city. I am surrounded by families which have different views altogether from those which I have on the various subjects of employments and morals. As the head of that family, I give laws by which I expect it will be influenced. Around me may be one family governed by the laws of fashion; another by the laws of honor; a third, perhaps, by certain arbitrary rules which pick-pockets and highway-men have set up. I do not interfere with them; nor do I say that in no respects shall my family coincide with them. If they have any thing commendable, I shall not denounce it, nor demand that my children shall affect singularity. I shall not demand affected singularity in quaint and unusual modes of speech; in an inconvenient, or a ridiculous style of dress; or in an unnatural and forced gait or demeanor; or in a disgusting or an odious tone of utterance, for the 'mere sake of singularity. I expect my children will obey my original laws, and rememoer that /have the jurisdiction in the premises. If-my neighbor presumes to legislate in the case, and demands that my family shall forsake my laws; if he affirms that my statutes are stern and harsh, and should be modified—that is a question for me to consider, not for him to legislate on. Just so it is with Christianity. Christ has established a set of laws, and demanded a certain course of life. If the members of any other community, or of fifty others,-should in many things, or in all things,-coincide with what religion would produce, the Christian is not to affect singularity in the case. - The question is, whether I am adhering to the laws of the peculiar kingdom by which I am governed, and not whether others are falling in with those laws also. What effect would the Christian religion produce if obeyed by the entire community, and if its principles were suffered to be acted out every'where? That is the question; and not what compound and motley system of enactments can be formed into a code, by amalgamating Christianity with the artificial rules which regulate your communities of the gay and fashionable, of the proud and ambitious.
Let us take another illustration. Lycurgus framed a code of laws for Sparta. He had an object in bis eye in each one of his statutes, and he fesigned to rear a peculiar community. It was not the love of singularity; it was not a wish to differ from others for the mere sake of being different. It was with reference to his great object—to make the Spartans valiant, hardy, laborious, daring freemen. With this object in his eye, he framed his laws; and this design was understood by every Lacedemonian. Suppose, now, he had left some such direction as the text—' Be not conformed to surrounding nations, or even to the other republics of Greece.' The command would have been intelligible. It would not mean, 'do not in any thing coincide with others, for they may be temperate, and laborious, and valiant, as well as you, and in this do not affect singularity. Their conduct in this respect is just what is required of you. Do not pursue it because they do, but because it will contribute to the great designs of the republic.' The command would forbid conformity- tq other people, if that conformity should interfere with the purpose of the Spartan lawgiver. It might easily be seen that even the arts of Athens, the extensive attention to statuary and ornamental architecture, might not consist with the. main design of the Lacedemonian. Innocent as they .might be in themselves, or consistent as they might be in the members of the republic of Athens, yet should the Lacedemonians turn their attention to statuary or to the fine arts as a people, they would abandon the peculiar design of their lawgiver in making them a hardy and valorous race of freemen. - It would easily be seen that the delicacies and refinements of Corinth; its fashion and splendor, its luxuries and amusements, as well as its licentious habits, would be inconsistent with the design of the Spartan. Whether they were well for the Corinthian was another question; and a question which it did not pertain to the Spartan to settle. His inquiry was of a different kind. What was the will of the lawgiver? And are these things consistent with his plain and obvious directions? His design was to train up a peculiar community, and every member of that community was qualified to judge of that design. He contemplated that no other one—not even one of the confederated republics of Greece, shotild presume to come in and legislate for his people. If his peculiar design was consistent with their views and conduct, it was well. They would be conformed to, not because they were the views of Athens or Corinth, but because they contributed to the great purpose of the Lacedemonian lawgiver. In no case had they a right to
originate laws for his .people, or to demand that his laws should be conformed to their views.
Thus with the Christian. If the views and conduct of others coincide with his, it is well. If they do not, they are not at liberty to come in and demand that he shall be conformed to them. He has higher laws, and a higher object. He has .a purpose which strikes on to eternity. His aim is to prepare for heaven. Theirs, to live for time. Nor can they claim jurisdiction over conduct that has been directed by the Son of God, and that he. has judged best in ordering his peculiar community. The simple question is, whether a proposed course of conduct or opinion is consistent with the spirit and life demanded by the King of Zion.
The amount of the-rule, as I understand it, is, that no other society or authority is permitted to originate laws or opinions that shall control the Christian. The first act of his religion is to submit to the laws of Jesus Christ, and to forsake all others that are inconsistent with his. Acts ix. 6; xvi. 30. No matter from what community they have been derived, they are to be abandoned. Be it from the society of the vicious; the men of honor or of ambition; the pleasure-loving, the rich or the gay; or even from a beloved parent or friend, if inconsistent with the pure spirit of the gospel, they are to be abandoned. Acts iv. 19, 20; v. 29, and Luke xiv. 26. God is raising up a peculiar community—an empire, amidst many other empires; a kingdom in the midst of other kingdoms—a kingdom of seriousness, and prayer, and love, amidst the kingdom's of the gay, and dissipated, and the worldly. His kingdom, though surrounded by others, is designed to be peculiar—not for the love of singularity, but because all such designs involve" singularity. Thus the Athenian -was singular-, the Spartan was singular; the Corinthian was singular; the Roman was singular. Thus, too, the votary of pleasure is singular, and the follower of fashion is singular, and the man seeking wealth and honor has his own views about things, and is peculiar. Each society has its own laws; and the kingdom of God is not designed to take its complexion, camelion like, from surrounding objects, but to derive its peculiar features from the laws of the Son of God. If
the Christian community is singular, it is not because God loves singularity, but because the world has gone out of the way, and ks maxims are tin-improper guide for those who are seeking to save their souls. If this be the meaning, therefore, of the rule, we are prepared—
III. To enquire on what principles it may be applied?
I might be contented with observing here, that this is the appropriate business -of every Christian; and that God has made him responsible for the honest application of the rule to all his conduct. No small part of our probation consists in ascertaining whether we are disposed faithfully to apply the rule, or whether we are disposed to be governed by every change of fashion, by every scene of-amusement, by all the allurements of gaiety and of wealth. It would seem that the "rule was of easy application, and that the examination of ourselves on this head would be one. of the least difficult parts of the Christian enquiry. But I may be permitted here briefly to specify a few principles on which the rule is to be applied. Remember, here, that I speak to Christians— those who belong to that original and peculiar community which the Son of God came to establish. You will remember also that I claim no infallibility here, or certainty" that I am right. I suggest these principles as they seem to me to be demanded by the rule.
1. You are not to regulate your feelings and views, your apparel arid manner of living, your conversation and deportment, with a view of leading the world'in their own-ways of vanity, pleasure^ and ambition. You are not to seek to be distinguished in the.manner in which they seek to be distinguished, and for which alone they live. The people of the world are tending to a different destiny from the Christian. It matters little in what way they go —whether through the ball-room, the theatre, or any other scene of vice and sin—theyare going to their own home, and it is a sad procession, however gay or. gorgeous, where a Christian moves at the head of the thoughtless throng that is sporting down to hell.
2. You are not to regulate your opinions, and feelings, and conduct, by the people of the world. You are not to approve of a thing because they approve of it; to do a thing because they do it; to love a thing because they love it; or to hate a -thing because they hate it. They have their own views of these things, and you are to have yours—or rather you are to imbibe the views of the Son of God. With the feelings which the world has ahout the objects of life, a thousand things may be consistent which would be repugnant to the laws of. the kingdom of Christ While they think life is valuable only because it ministers to the appetites, or contributes to pleasure, numberless objects may accord with their notions, all which would interfere directly with the-design for which the Christian lives, and with the laws by which he is governed. - If they have- no other object in life but to be amused, or to be caressed or adored, it may be well to deck themselves, and sport over the grave. Their dance will soon be over. So have Iseen in the beams of the western sun, as he sank behind the hills, thousands of gay insects sporting in the departing rays—joyous in the mazy dance, and unconscious that they were in the last beams of the parting day—and perhaps in the last fleeting seconds of a very brief existence. Soon the sun withdrew his beams, and darkness came over the earth, and the dance was ended, and also their life. Another generation may play in those beams to-morrow. But this one is gone. So the gay and'thoughtless world moves on to darkness and to death. The scenes of their festivity are soon to end, arid darkness will cover them, and in the sunshine of gaiety and fashion theywill be seen no.more. All the joy they seek or desire is included in the brief summer sun .of their eaTthly being—the fast fleeting moments of fashion, pride, and folly here. To seek supremely for adorning and admiration, in the scenes of gaiety, and of sin, and of amusement, without prayer and without God, may have a most melancholy consistency with their views of human life. But for you who are living for eternity, and looking for an everlasting dwelling in that world which has no need of the moon, nor of the sun; amidst the splendors of that world where the.Lord God and the Lamb are the light thereof, such amusements and gaieties may be folly; may be worse—may be crime.
2. If in any of your views and deportment you coin cide with the world, it will not be because they do it, but because it will be best. I know that this principle may be difficult to be understood, and may be abused. Still it may be the correct principle in the case. Let me illustrate it. In many thiugSj as I have remarked, you may coincide with the world. You are industrious. So are they. But your industry is not because the world requires it, but because it is best. It is required by the law of your religion. You are temperate, so may they be. But you are temperate, not because this isthe fashion of the world, but because your religion demands it. You are courteous, polite, kind. So may be, externally at least, the people of the world. In this you may coincide. But you are not thus because they are. You dp not do it, because they have originated it, or because they have the right to. dictate its forms. You do it because it is the nature of your religion. It prompts to kindness, truth, courtesy, tenderness of feelings and character, mutual respect, civility. It enthrones on the heart of the Christian what may sit loose in form only, around other men. It gives vitality to what elsewhere may.be a mere shadow. And if the world changes its views on this subject, and adopts any system of intercourse that may consist well enough with its views of morals, you are not at liberty to follow it if it is a departure from the- spirit of Jesus Christ. A mere votary of the world, for example, who has no' idea of morals but a certain artificial and shapeless standard adopted for convenience, may incorporate a thousand falsehoods and evasions into his system, and make a show of deception a part of his well understood rules of intercourse. ' For his, or her purpose, arid in accordance with his or her views of truth, it may be consistent enough to say, or to instruct. a servant to say, that they are not at home, when they are at home; or to say that they are sick, when they not sick; or that they are engaged, when they are not engaged. For a man or a woman who is devoted to the service of the God of truth, it becomes a different matter. The question of conformity to the world in" this thing, comes up with reference to the inquiry how it will appear before Him who cannot /ie,.and where it will be too late to deceive. You are regular, decent, comely in your apparel, and your style of living. It is not because the world does it, but it is the nature of religion to produce this iu a community. It. elevates and refines; produces order, and personal neatness and propriety of living. It does, not require the man of wealth to seek the wigwam of the Indian, or the hut of the Laplander. It does not require him to become a hermit; nor would it change the Christian community into monasteries. It does not say that the Christian prince or man of wealth should clothe himself in rags, or deny himself the ordinary comforts connected with the rank of life where God has placed him. It demands that he should carry out the influence of religion on that rank of life—that he should live.and act in a certain manner, not because the -world does it, but because Christian propriety demands it—because if the Christian religion were extended to the entire community, there would be.men who had wealth, who would still be Christian.men; there would be men of professional skill and talent, who would be Christian men; and in that rank of life, it would be as easy to apply the principles of the gospel -to what "a man has, and does, as it would be in a far inferior station.' Christ never denounced differences of rank in life. He never engaged in the project of trie dissatisfied and disorganizing Roman people, in the demands for an Agrarian law, nor in the covetous schemes of modern infidelity to break up all ranks in society, to denounce the rich, or to demand that all property should be reduced to a mass to be subject to the arts of a cunning and unprincipled leader. He designed a scheme of religion adapted to the existence of various orders in the community. He demanded that the principles of the rich should no more be modeled after the. judgment of the world, than those of the poor. Live, and feel, and act in this situation ,of life, is the language of his gospel, so as in the best way to evince the influence of the gospel in the rank of life in which you are placed.
4. A fourth obvious principle in which Christians will apply the rule is, that their views and feelings will not be prompted by a desire to elicit the applause and approbation of the world. Your conduct will Be regulated by a higher law. It is not to produce admiration, envy, rivalship, flattery, competition, that you live; it is not to be the subject of conversation, commendation, or praise; it is To Please God. If the kingdom of which you are a member stood alone; if the empires of this world were wholly removed to other abodes, your conduct would theft be regulated by the Bible. So should it be now. This is one of the plainest applications of the rule. And yet if honestly applied, what a sad invasion would it make in the Christian church! Remove from the followers of Christ all that has been assumed for the purpose of being admired by one another and by the world; all that has been the result of envy? and rivalship; all that is adjusted to catch the passing gale of applause; all that comes under the denomination of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and a most fearful flight would be given to numberless ornaments, and a most sad invasion would be made on the style of living in every Christian community. Stripped of the meretricious decorations which the world has persuaded and enjoined the church to assume; dressed in the virgin purity Which the Son of God has prescribed for it, it would at once rise to elevated influence, and he clad 'in beauty and in honor. We are not to be guided by the world. But there is an old Roman maxim, that it is right to be taught by an enemy. And if in any thing it would be right to listen to the people of the world it would be in this; not what they wish us to be,butwhat they understand our religion to require. Glad would they be that every Christian should be like themselves. But well do they know that religion demands a difference, a great difference, an eternal difference, and 'well do they understand that this difference should be manifest in the life. And never do they utter sentiments more worthy of the attention of Christians than when they denounce us as fools or'hypocrites for conformity to their own senseless and vain opinions about the scenes of gaiety and ambition—about the theatre, and the ball-room, and the trifles by which they contrive to amuse themselves in the brief summer sun in which they are moving to a world of wo. Christians have a better inheritance; and much and well do the men of this world marvel that they find their pleasures in their scenes of gaiety and folly.
5. A fifth principle of the rule. It forbids all mingling with the world which is inconsistent with the great objects of the kingdom of Christ, or which will not on the whole tend to promote it. It is not needful to state what those objects are. They are known to all Christians. They may be summed up in a desire to become personally assimilated to Jesus Christ, and to bring our fellow-men to the hope of the sanie Heaven. They demand of course the- spirit of prayer, of seriousness, of self-denial; the faithful discharge of our duties in all the relations of life; a conscientious appropriation of our time, our influence, and our wealth; a faithful meeting of all the demands made on us as Christians-and as men. God has given-us enough to do; and if we follow his will we shall not be oppressed with useless time, or afflicted with ennui. Now with this desire to do preciseLy what will be approved by the mind of Christ, we may apply the rule before us. It will be a test of the propriety of a thousand things which might otherwise be the subject of much debate. It. will constitute a nice tact by which we may approach a great variety of objects without danger of error. A child can much more easily decide whether a thing will be acceptable to the mind of his father, than he could settle its propriety by argument. The inhabitant of Sparta could see at once that many things were inconsistent with the design of his republic, which he could by no means settle in an abstract manner. Whether the aim of the Athenian was proper, or the mild and soft pleasures of the Corinthian, he might not be able to settle by argument, but. this would not be the way in.which" to train up the Lacedemonian. So it might become a question of abstract casuistry about a thousand scenes of amusement. It would be easy to argue by the hour in favor of parties of pleasure, and theatres, and ball-rooms, and all the vanity of fashionable life, and the mind might " find no end in wandering mazes lost." But apply the rule before us, and all mist vanishes. Since the beginning of the world, no professing Christian ever dreamed that he was imitating the example of Jesus Christ, or honoring the Christian religion in a theatre, a ball room, or a splendid party of pleasure. And equally clear would be the decision in reference to multitudes of pleasures which it is needless to specify. If these things were favorable to the designs of the founder of Christianity, they might, and should have been enjoined. But how singular would have been such directions in the New Testament! How marvellous would appear such a command when placed beside those which enjoin prayer, and spirituality, and humility, and self-denial! If, by the patronage of such places, a man is promoting the Christian religion or the salvation of his soul, then they may be lawful. If they will not bear this test they cannot be right, and may be dangerous.
6. A sixth principle or application of the rule, A Christian should have a spirit and temper above the things that influence his fellow-men. Though in the midst of these scenes, yet he may not. be influenced by them. A man may have wealth, and it may be manifest that his affections are not supremely fixed on it. He may be surrounded by a thoughtless world, and yet be evidently living above it. Christianity produces a spirit that is elevated above these things; that draws its consolations and its principles of action from far different objects. A man on the throne may be a Christian as really as in a cottage, and he may become a nursing-father to the Church with all the splendor of the diadem on his brow, and the imperial purple flowing in his train. Thus it may be manifest that Christianity is uppermost; that the man of rank and wealth desires to imbibe its spirit, and to diffuse its blessings around the globe. Rules, you may not be able to give him, but to the man himself, and to all others, it may be clear that he is actuated by the love of God, and a desire to be useful to a dying world.
Again.' A man maybe placed in circumstances which require him to live in a mode which fo a poorer man might be deemed luxurious or extravagant. Of this no other man can be the judge. To his own master he stands or falls. But Christianity may be diffused over all his conduct. Let him be At Least as large and liberal in religion as in other things. Let him be the liberal patron according to his rank, and station, and wealth, of all that would promote the influence of religion, and the extension of the kingdom of the Son of God in all lands. Thus it is that the spirit of the gospel may as really take up its abode in the mansions of wealth, as in the cottages of poverty; nor is there any reason why it should not reign there, and interweave itself with all the incidents of life, as well as constitute the bright and lively details in the "short and simple annals of the poor." Conformity to the world may exist no more amidst those who are blessed with wealth, than with those in far obscurer life, and the man possessed of the riches of the Indies may as little think of it, or regard it, as those who live by toil from day to day. That religion has ever yet- produced its appropriate influence on all.those classes of men, I do not maintain. That the rule in our text may not be applied to all classes, none can affirm.
The conclusion, then, to which we have come is, that in this rule God has furnished a guide to numberless actions, and to the spirit of the life; a rule which no man should apply to his neighbour, but which every man should honestly and perpetually apply to himself; a rule which you can take to all employments, and amidst all the enjoyments of life; a rule which may show its influence in the palace and the cottage—on the throne, and in the obscurest dwelling where resides a ransomed child of God. . -: