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Faith overcomes the World.
1 JOHN, CHAP. V. VERSE 4.
This is the Victory that overcometh the World, even
OBJECTIONS have been raised against the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, from a supposition that it encourages inattention to the duties of morality and holiness. Ignorance however respecting the real nature of faith, is evidently the source from whence these objections arise. When it is asserted that salvation is by faith only, no other faith is intended than that which works by love to God and man; which purifies the heart; renders the Saviour precious to the soul ; and consequently leads to a strict observance of all his commandments. Our preceding discourses, it is presumed, have satisfactorily proved that such is the nature of that faith, through which alone we are made partakers of salvation. To exhibit a further evidence of the holy tendency of this principle, as well as to produce an irrresistible conviction, that holiness of heart and conduct is the effect rather than the cause of being interested in redemption, is the design of the present discourse. Our former discussions may be appropriately followed by a few remarks on the influence of faith, with reference to a world that lieth in wickedness. The text authorises us to enlarge on this subject, and will lead us to consider,
I. What it is to overcome the world;
II. By what principle it is overcome.
Let us consider, first, what is meant by overcoming the world.
The expressions “ victory and overcome” in the text, evidently imply a former opposition. There can be no victory without a previous resistance and contest. Hence, before the world is overcome there is a striving against it: and the struggle often proves exceedinglysevere. . The want of faith renders the result unsuccessful. They who seemed to escape the pollution of the world are, in that case, entangled again therein, and overcome by it; and alas! their latter end is worse than the beginning. * But not so, when a Divine faith is seated in the heart. Then the world is necessarily vanquished, sin is not permitted to get the dominion, and grace reigns.
* 2 Peter, chap. ii. verse 20.
The Love of the world—the FEAR of it and the TEMPTATIONS of it, are overcome by the believer. An illustration of these particulars will give us, it is hoped, a tolerably correct idea of what it is to overcome the world.
I begin with observing that to overcome it, is to subdue the love of it in the heart. The world considered in itself, as displaying the works of God; abounding with the blessings of providence; and affording us numberless comforts and conveniences, is doubtless an object which it becomes us to value; and an insensibility to it, would argue great weakness and ingratitude. We are however considerably more in danger of loving it too much, than too little. Through the depravity of our hearts, the good things of this life have a powerful tendency in giving a wrong bias to the affections. Earthly blessings attract the heart, and are more highly esteemed, than that gracious Being to whom we are indebted for them; and our chief anxiety is engaged about this life, instead of that infinitely more important life which is to come.
Judge my brethren, if this is not the case with several of you.
Do you not love this world more than you love God? Do you not place a greater value on present things, than on the things which are above? I ask not whether you are outwardly more engaged about the concerns of this life than the next: this must of necessity be the case, so long as you have yourselves, and your families to support. My enquiries are these-Are you not inwardly more engaged ?-Is not your mind more anxiously exercised, about living here, than about providing for a life hereafter? Are not the blessings of this mortal state more highly prized by you, than the favour of God; his spiritual worship; his sacred sabbaths; his holy word ; and intercourse with his people ? My heart is pained, from the apprehension that the consciences of many will testify against them, on attempting to answer these important questions. Such persons, of course, have not overcome the world. The love of it is evidently the predominant principle in the heart.
Adored, however, be the riches of divine grace, I trust some of my hearers, through the operation of a living faith, have obtained a victory over this love of the world.
You, my brethren, can value the blessings of this life, as the bountiful gifts of a gracious God; and you are diligent in business, with a view to obtain a comfortable subsistence in all godliness and honesty. The world, however, has not the supreme place in your hearts. Its blessings are rather valued for the sake of the giver, than for any intrinsic worth in themselves. Compared with the
enjoyment of God, and the possession of spiritual and eternal favours, they sink into insignificance in your esteem, and are used in subserviency to the divine glory. Thus it is manifest, that the predominant attachment to the world, by which you were once influenced, is suppressed; and consequently that you have one evidence of its being overcome by you.
To overcome the world is, further, to subdue the fear of it. The human mind is naturally under the influence of a strong aversion to real spiritual religion. This aversion frequently is the cause of a considerable prejudice being indulged against real godly characters. It is true that hearing the gospel for a long time, a candid investigation of religion, and a conviction that real piety renders its possessors better than they formerly were, remove the prejudices of many, and excite in them a secret wish to become religious themselves. Still there are great numbers, whose hearts are totally averse to all serious and heartfelt godliness. Of course to become zealously devoted to the service of God, is at once to incur their displeasure. This displeasure, in many instances, proves a great trial to God's people. Frequently they are in considerable danger of suffering in their domestic comforts, and worldly interests, in consequence of it.They must either renounce their religion,