« PreviousContinue »
THE COURSE OF THE WORLD.
EPHESIANS, 11. 2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the
course of this world.
A Disposition to sin against God can convert the most innocent things into an occasion of evil. The social principle in man, which is the fruitful source of so many blessings, is, through our depravity, the cause of various dangers. Few subjects, therefore, are more important than the one proposed to us in the text. It is observable that the Apostle, when he had declared that the Ephesians, previously to their conversion, had been dead in trespasses and sins, states, as the proof of this, that they had walked according to the custom and mode of the world around them ; most obviously implying that, since corruption had spread over the whole nature of man, it was sufficient to say that the Ephesians followed the general usages of the great body of mankind, in order
COURSE OF THE
to prove that they were dead as to God and spi. ritual religion.
Our subject then is, THE WORLD ; which may be considered, as to its general nature, and as to its particular modifications. We shall consider,
I. THE SPIRIT OF THIS WORLD, AS TO ITS
By the expression, The spirit or course of this world, is meant the collected force of that habitual neglect of God and supreme love of things present, in which the great mass of mankind live. Men being fallen from God and ignorant of spiritual religion, are, when united in society, like a vast current made up of a thousand streams, and flowing with a proportionately augmented violence. As each separately loves sin and pleasure, and delights in the honours and riches and enjoyments of sense, their combined movements are like the action of some great and complicated machine of an endless variety of parts, each contributing te the momentum of the whole. As every indi- , vidual is inflamed by the pursuit of appetite and pleasure, the general effect is like the progress of a vast conflagration raised to tenfold extent and fury by the prodigious accumu: lation of materials. By the spirit of the world, then, is meant the aggregate force of the general notions, customs, and practices of the great bulk of mankind, so far as their habits and opinions are contrary to the will of God.
of this the SCRIPTURES frequently speak. From the passage connected with, my text, we learn that worldly persons are in a state of spiritual death, are subject to Satan, are under the rule of ungoverned passions, and exposed to divine wrath; And you—were dead in tres passes and sins, wherein in time past 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; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. From other passages we learn that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world; that the friendship of the world is enmity against God; that tide is the gate and broad is the way that leadėth to destruction, and many there be that go
in thereat; that the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, choke the seed of truth, and make it unfruitful; and that we must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed in the renewing of our mind.
Examples of this worldly spirit in a greater or less degree, abound both in the cases of persons wholly sensual and ungodly, and in those of more religious and hopeful characters. The young ruler who went away from our Lord sorrowful because he had great possessions, is an example of amiable and decent persons who are yet too much attached to the possessions of this world. Martha cumbered with much serving, though on the whole a faithful disciple of our Lord, yet exhibits a specimen of persons too anxious about its subordinate duties. The rich fool who pulled down his barns and built greater, is an example of those who yield to ease and sensuality: Dives, clothed with purple and fine linen and faring sumptuously every day, of the luxurious and splendid; the guests who made light of the marriage supper, and pleaded their different excuses, are a specimen of the indifferent and careless; Saul the Pharisee, of the proud and self-righteous; Judas, of the covetous and base; Nabal, of the gross and churlish; Solomon, of the learned and voluptuous; Lot's wife, of those who are lovers of pleasure; Eli, of the easy and unfaithful ; Jehoshaphat, of the feeble and irresolute; the Laodiceans, of declining professors of religion ; and Demas, of apostates, who appear utterly to forsake the ways of Christ.
From these various instances, compared
with the passages of Holy Writ which preceded them, we may collect that the GOVERNING PRINCIPLE of the world, when it wholly prevails, is the labouring only for the meat that perisheth, the neglecting of salvation, the forsaking of God the fountain of living waters; in one word, the minding earthly things, THE CARNAL MIND, the ¢góra po this paprós; or, as it is in the words following my text, the fulfilling of the desires of the flesh and of the mind. From this main principle, as from a secret but exuberant spring, the mighty current of ungodliness flows.
The SYSTEM of conduct to which this governing principle leads, is that of practical irreligion in the heart and life. Under this general description, almost every kind of irreligious persons may be included. It is not necessary to pursue a course of gross and flagrant. immoralities in order to be of the world ; though even these are but too much countenanced. Men may be decent, benevolent, , honest, reputable, punctual, and even virtuous in the ordinary sense of the expression, and yet give their society and apparent sanction to persons of the most opposite habits, and thus be on the best terms with the general body of men around them. Nor is it necessary that the pursuits which men are engaged in, should be in theinselves unlawful. The most innocent avocations or employments, if immoderately