The Love of the World and the Love of God (Part 2)
i. First, it would shew you, by the contrast, what a wretched, ungodly, miserable world this is, and how different the love of God is from the love of the world. It would teach you that we cannot love God and mammon; and that either the love of the world must prevail and shut out the love of God; or the love of God prevail and keep out the love of the world.
ii. Secondly, you would find very gracious fruits and effects springing from it. If the love of God were in your heart, it would spiritualize your mind; it would draw forth every tender affection of your soul; it would make you seek and love communion with God and His dear Son; it would make you love the word of God, and be, from time to time, searching the Scriptures to know the mind and will of God, that you might walk before Him in the light of His countenance. You would also find, that all this would have a very separating effect upon your spirit, and would throw a great light upon what the world and the spirit of it really are; so that when you were forced unwillingly into it, you would continually sigh and say, "O, what a miserable world this is! I see nothing in it but sin and death, misery and bondage; and if I get entangled with the spirit of it, how it deadens my soul, carnalises my mind, robs me of every tender, gracious feeling, fills me with lightness and frivolity, and stamps inward death, darkness, and bondage upon my soul."
Now try this test by your own experience. You come from your chamber sometimes in the morning, with your mind in some measure fixed upon divine things. You have been favoured during the night, or in getting up, or on your knees, or in reading a portion of the word, with some nearness to the Lord; and have felt a sweetness and blessedness in waiting upon Him. But you leave your peaceful home to follow the pursuits of your temporal calling; you go into the world, not willingly but of necessity, and mix with your fellow men. O what a change from your feelings in your bedroom, and the savour of which still abides upon your spirit. It is like going from day to night, or rather, from heaven to hell. What levity, what carnality, what worldly-mindedness, often what filthy and disgusting language, what a contempt of God s will and word, what dislike of His people and ways, and what a thorough determination to enjoy sin, cost what it will and may. What a poor, miserable creature do you feel yourself to be in such a scene and such society; and yet you cannot help saying to yourself, "O what a contrast! Am I, can I be happy here? Do I feel at home with these wretched men and women? Is there any comfort to my soul in their society? Do I feel I can join with them in their light, vain, and trifling conversation, and unite in spirit with their worldliness? O no, I feel I cannot do so; for what they hate I love, and what I love they hate." Thus you may judge, from your own experience, if you have any of the right sort, what the effect is of a little drop of the love of God shed abroad in the heart; what is the fruit of a gentle gale from the everlasting hills, a little of John s holiness and happiness breathed into the soul. Does it not clearly shew you what the world is, and does it not produce in your spirit such a separation from it, that you cannot but wonder at and adore the grace of God which has made such a difference between you and them?
John goes on to unfold more fully and clearly what is in the world, that he may give us another reason why we should not love it, summing up the things of the world under these three pregnant and pointed heads: "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."
i. The first is "the lust of the flesh." By this we may, in the first place, understand those base sensual lusts which I shall not enlarge upon in a mixed congregation, as it would not be prudent, or scarcely consistent with modesty and propriety, to do so; and yet it is a feature in our fallen nature with which most of God s children are acquainted, and some by very painful experience.
The expression, lust of the flesh, embraces a very wide scope: and yet every part and portion which it reaches and denounces is opposed to God and godliness; for not only are there those baser lusts and more sensual propensities, at which I may hint and no more, intended by the expression, but it includes also gluttony in all its various branches. This is one of the commonest sins in the rich and prosperous, but is shared also with them by every rank and class, from the alderman to the mechanic, and indeed all who find a pleasure in stuffing and gorging themselves with acceptable food, or even take a delight in eating for eating sake.
"The lust of the flesh" embraces also the love of strong drink in all its various degrees and ramifications, from a propensity to, and an indulgence in moderate sips and drams and stimulating liquors, to positive drunkenness. There are many secret, greedy, and gluttonous professors whose god is their belly, and many hidden sippers of strong drink who carry a good face in the visible church of God; and who, as being undetected and unsuspected, feel no condemnation for their gluttonous appetite, or their secret indulgence in strong drink, excusing themselves with a plausible pretext that their health requires it, or they only take just so much as does them good, when all the while they are under the dominion of the love of food or the love of drink. A tender conscience will feel the least excess in either. Solomon says, "Put a knife to thy throat if thou be a man given to appetite," Pr 23:2; as though he would say, "Stick a knife into thy gluttony; let out its life-blood, if such be thy besetment; hold thy hand when thou art tempted to take too much food and to eat it too greedily and pleasurably." What secret glutton, what sly lover of strong drink ever manifested spirituality of mind in lip or life, or ever was a pattern and an example to the church of God?
Every fleshly lust, whether they be the base and sensual lusts of our vile nature, or gluttony and love of drink, are all under the same marked disapprobation of God. They all come under the same unqualified sentence, that they are things in the world and of the world, and that God is not in them, but opposed to them. It matters not, therefore, what lust of the flesh it be, whether open or secret, whether strong or weak, whether countenanced by the example of others or generally disapproved of. If a man be under the influence and power of any lust of the flesh, so far he is not under the influence and power of the love of God.
You will observe, also, that it is not the actings of the flesh only, but the lust of the flesh which John condemns. Thus it is not only gross acts of criminal sin, indulged gluttony, or habits of secret drink, which John condemns, but the very desire after them. The Apostle declares that "they who are Christ s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts," and that we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh; "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." Ro 8:13 Now, nothing short of the love of God shed abroad in his heart will cleanse and purge a man from the lusts of the flesh, by operating upon his mind in the way I have described. As so taught and blest, he will see such evil in sin, and especially in the lust of the flesh, that he will learn to hate it and himself for it; and as the Holy Spirit draws and guides his affections into a purer channel, and by the fear of God, in living exercise, subdues and mortifies the lusts of the flesh which he may painfully feel, he will not suffer them to have dominion over him.
ii. The next thing, which John denounces is "the lust of the eyes." This seems to include everything that gratifies the natural eyesight. What an avenue is the eye to sin, and how quickly, how instantaneously sin can pass in the way of lust through the eye into the inner chambers of the mind. Job made a covenant with his eyes, that he would not look upon a maid. And our Lord tells us, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." No one scarcely ever fell under the power of this special temptation but it first entered into his heart through his eye. It was so with David; it was so with Solomon; it was so with Samson. The man after God s own heart, the wisest and the strongest of the children of men, alike fell, and foully fell, through the lust of the eye.
Look also at the love of dress and display, and see the influence it exercises upon the weaker, or to speak more politely, the fairer sex. I believe that I shall not go very far wrong when I say that there is scarcely a woman of any age, except the very old, or of any rank or station, high or low, who is not, more or less, under the influence of this lust of the eye -who does not seek to adorn her person with dress to the utmost of her power, that she may raise envy in the eyes of her own sex, or please the eye of the opposite one. It is so deeply engrained in the female bosom, that it is continually manifesting itself, and even under the most unlooked for and extraordinary circumstances. I remember reading some time ago an account given by a matron of some jail where female prisoners were confined, and where of course all wore the prison dress; but O the glee if one of these poor prisoners could get hold of a piece of ribbon and stick it in her dress. Thus even when shut up in a prison where they could see nobody but a gaoler and their imprisoned companions, the love of dress, so innate in the female heart, displayed itself in putting on the prison dress the ornament of a paltry piece of ribbon.
Are not all of us, whether men or women, guilty of the lust of the eye besides in the mere love of dress? How attractive to the eye of man is beauty and grace in woman, and I suppose I may add, how attractive to the eye of woman is manly vigour, with comely features set off by the bloom of health and youth on the cheek of man. And yet all this is but the lust of the eye; it only feeds the carnal mind; it only gratifies our natural senses, and if this lust be indulged in and carried out, none know into what paths of sin it may not lead. Many a woman has been seduced into sin by the love of dress and admiration; and many a man, attracted by the charm of female beauty, has made concerning faith awful shipwreck. We need well guard our eye -you, the female sex, lest you spend your time and thoughts upon making yourselves attractive to men; and you men, beware of being seduced by the charms and beauty of women. The lust of the eye has made even many a poor child grieve and groan during life, and perhaps made many a restless, if not dark and mournful death-bed. Therefore, God keep us from gratifying the lust of the eye, as well as the lust of the flesh. We can only do it at the expense of conscience; we can only do it to the robbery of our soul.
iii. John lifts up his voice a third time, and denounces "the pride of life." O how this reigns in this great metropolis! What an aspiring after living above their station in life seems to animate both high and low. What a spirit there is abroad to set men and women grasping after something to feed their pride and swell themselves into some kind of imaginary importance. How many seem willing almost to starve themselves and their families, and wear rags at home to make a display abroad, and are making every exertion to feed the pride of life, not only in dress, but in furniture; in living beyond their means; contracting debts which they will never be able to pay, and outrunning their annual income by extravagant expenditure. How many are drawn aside by this pride of life out of their right sphere; and sad to say, there are too many instances in which even the children of God have been so influenced by it as to wander sadly from the strait and narrow path.
2. Now all this lust of the flesh, and of the eye, as well as pride, that river in which the world swims, and in which too many, even of those who fear God, are tempted to dabble, is ipso facto condemned as not of the Father, but of the world. God is not here; His word is not here; His will is not here; His wisdom is not here; His love, goodness, presence, power, are none of them here. It is all man, false, fallen, deceived and deceiving man; it is all the spawn of maxims, pursuits, delight, and approbation of a world lying in the wicked one; of a world under the awful curse and denunciation of the Almighty. On which side, then, will you rank yourself? A lover of the world, or a lover of God? Which are you? "Well," some of you perhaps may say, "I scarcely know." You scarcely will know as long as you are halting between two opinions; as long as by your life and conduct you are walking hand in hand with the world. But if there be the life and fear of God in your breast, you must be a very miserable being in this state of doubt and uncertainty. You must have many cutting reflections upon your bed; must often hang your head before God, and before His people too, and gloom must spread itself over your face, when silence and solitude leave you time to think and feel.
If the fear and life of God be in your soul, you cannot go out in affection after the world and God take no notice of it in your conscience, and never bring down His frown upon it sensibly in your heart. But you may say, "I would be more free from this wretched love of the world, but I cannot deliver myself." No, nor will you ever be freed until you fall down flat before God, crying to Him to deliver you from it. But should He answer your prayer, and bless you with a sense of His love, you would find when it came into your soul in divine power, it would in a moment effect what you could not do for yourself in a century. It would cleanse and purify you from that wretched love of the world which is now both your temptation and your burden, by giving you a better object of love; for it would take your affections and fix them upon things above, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God.
3. Observe what is to be the end of all these things, which is another reason why we should not love the world: "The world passeth away and the lust thereof."
The world and all that is in it comes to an end. Where are the great bulk of the men and women who fifty, sixty, or seventy years ago trod London streets? Where are they who rode about in their gay carriages, gave their splendid entertainments, decked themselves with feathers and jewels, and enjoyed all the pleasures of life? Where are they? The grave holds their bodies, and hell holds their souls. "The world passeth away." It is like a pageant, or a gay and splendid procession, which passes before the eye for a few minutes, then turns the corner of the street, and is lost to view. It is now to you who had looked upon it just as if it were not, and is gone to amuse other eyes. So, could you go on for years enjoying all your natural heart could wish; lay up money by thousands; ride in your carriage; deck your person with jewellery; fill your house with splendid furniture; enjoy everything that earth can give; then there would come, some day or other, sickness to lay you upon a dying bed. To you the world has now passed away with all its lusts; with you all is now come to an end; and now you have, with a guilty soul, to face a holy God. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof."
All these lusts for which men have sold body and soul, half ruined their families, and stained their own name; all these lusts for which they were so mad that they would have them at any price, snatch them even from hell s mouth; all these lusts are passed away, and what have they left? A gnawing worm -a worm that can never die, and the wrath of God as an unquenchable fire. That is all which the love of the world, and all that is in it, can do for you, with all your toil and anxiety, or all your amusement and pleasure. You have not gained much perhaps of this world s goods, with all your striving after them; but could the world fill your heart with enjoyment, and your money bags with gold, as the dust of the grave will one day fill your mouth, it would be much to the same purpose. If you had got all the world, you would have got nothing after your coffin was screwed down but gravedust in your mouth. Such is the end of the world. "It passeth away and the lust thereof." This rings the knell of all that is in the world, the passing-bell which announces the coming of the great extinguisher of all human hopes and pleasures -the great and final extinguisher, death. Just as you put an extinguisher upon your candle before you step into bed, and all is dark, so the great extinguisher death extinguishes all the light of man. Only look and see how he sickens and dies, and is tumbled into the cemetery, where his body is left to the worms, and his soul to face an angry God, on the great judgment day.
III. -Now look at the blessing which rests upon him "that doeth the will of God." He abideth for ever.
Compare the two characters. Take first, a man of the world, who says in his heart, "I will have as much of the world as ever I can get; I will spend my time, thoughts, money, all that I have to gain what my heart loves, to enjoy myself if I possibly can. I will not keep my heart back from any lust -whether lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, or the pride of life. I will have them all."
Now, contrast with this wretched worldling, the believing, obedient child
of grace, who does the will of God in coming out of the world, in being
separated from it, in abstaining from its society, in leaving it, as far
as he can, consistently with his calling in life; and above all things,
by having the love of God shed abroad in his heart. Mark how he seeks and
endeavours not to love the world, nor the things that are in the world,
but by the power of God s grace, to be separated from it in body, soul,
and spirit. This man does the will of God, for God s command is, "Come
out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing."
He does the will of God in coming out and being separate; he does also the
will of God in believing in His dear Son; he does the will of God by repenting
of his sins with godly sorrow, which needs not to be repented of; he does
the will of God by keeping close to His word, ever desirous to know His
will and do it; he does the will of God by seeking to have testimonies,
tokens, manifestations of the pardoning mercy and love of God to his soul,
prizing the application of atoning blood and love more than thousands of
gold and silver; he does the will of God when he chooses to suffer afflictions
with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
He does the will of God when he chooses to suffer persecution rather than
deny his Master; when he would bear any amount of shame and scorn sooner
than comply with the maxims and invitations of an ungodly world; and when
he would sooner live alone with the Bible in his hand, and God
Now such a man does the will of God, and God declares of him that "he abideth for ever." The work of God is in that man s heart, and that work abides for ever. When all empty profession comes to nought; when all boasting ceases; when loud talkers are silent in darkness, then the quiet, secret, and sacred work of God upon that man s soul will shine forth more and more. It abides, and therefore he abides. It is God s work in his heart and is not to be put out by the great extinguisher, nor blown out by the gusts of temptation, like a candle in a gale of wind. The love and goodness of God are with him in all his troubles, attend a dying bed, and go with him into eternity; when the work of God s grace upon his soul will be crowned with everlasting glory. Then he will stand for ever as a pillar in the temple of God and go no more out.
Now contrast the two. Here are two people now before me, sitting in the same pew, both professors of religion, but one, a secret lover of the world, and the other, a secret lover of God. They both can talk pretty much the same language, read the same Bible, sing the same hymns, and hear the same preaching; but one s heart goes out after his covetousness, after his lusts; and the other s heart goes out after his God. Now what will be the end of these two men? The one, when death, the great extinguisher comes, will be silent in darkness; and the other will shine like the stars for ever and ever. He lives well, will die well, and will rise well; for he will rise to immortal glory, when the Lord comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.