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Good Words 1860
Christian Counsel and Teaching for Young Men


In my last paper upon "saints," I described saintship as consisting mainly in right-being, right-doing, and right-enjoying. I explained that by "right-being" I meant being right in our spirits towards God, or, in other words, knowing and loving Him as our Father; and I also briefly noticed, what I need not further prove, how right-doing must necessarily result from right-being.

But allow me to ask your attentive consideration to what constitutes the third element of saintship —that of ''right-enjoying."

As I write these words, I fancy I hear some young man whispering to himself, as he reads them—"Now for it! I would like to know what kind of enjoyment ' a saint' can have with which a 'young fellow' like myself can by any possibility sympathise! Long, dreary sermons, I suppose, with dry, religious books on Sundays; and during the week to be obliged to hate the world, while compelled to live in it, and to hate the things of the world, while compelled to mingle with them every hour. Such a religion as this may do very well for monks or old ladies, but for a young man!—and enjoyment, too!"

Or I can conceive a reader expressing himself somewhat in this form—"I believe a religious man, or, if you choose to call him, a saint, is the happiest man, because he thinks—on good grounds, let me admit—that he has gained the next world; but my difficulty is with this world, and to discover how, by any possibility, I can make the claims of Bible Christianity harmonise with the imperative claims of the world in which God has put me, and in which I must live. I am told to be 'dead to the world,' to be 'crucified to the world,' to 'hate the world,' and that unless I am all this I am no Christian ! yet you tell me in the same breath that I am not to be a monk, but must live in the world—that religion is not being sad and gloomy, but that it is the true enjoyment of life, and so on. Well, I cannot reconcile these things, nor understand them. I cannot, in one word, reconcile what we must be in order to live in heaven, and what we cannot help being if we are to live on earth." I think I quite understand, your meaning. What young man has not paused at the same point, wondered, and hesitated, and did nothing except what he had been doing all his life? Religion seemed so unreasonable, so exacting, so unnatural and contradictory to man's whole being!

Let me help to answer those questions, or rather to suggest how the true answers may be found, by dwelling a little upon the meaning of this term world, at which so many stagger, and on what is implied in being crucified to the world, hating the world, &c.

The world is by some recognised as a term descriptive of matter as opposed to spirit, or of the body as distinct from the mind. Hence, to separate one's self as much as possible from the outward world palpable to the senses—to be veiled from its light, and jealous of its manifold glories, or to give pain to the material body, and subject it to mortification and every species of self-inflicted torture,— is considered to be "hating the world" and "crucifying the flesh," according to the revealed will of God.

Others, again, class under the term world whatever persons, things, or occupations do not belong to "the Church"—meaning by the Church its office-bearers, public services, sacraments, councils, missions, &c, or whatever seems to pertain to the clergy. Thus the magistrate on the bench is assumed as belonging to "the world," but not the minister in the pulpit, or the bishop on his throne. On this principle, we presume, the good Samaritan also belonged to the world, but not the priest who passed by on the other side ! And, not to dwell longer upon false views of the term world, I may add that many good but very narrow people, though calling themselves Protestants, have ideas of the world essentially the same as those which they condemn when expressed in a Popish form; for they speak as if they believed that to reject whatever is agreeable, just because it is agreeable, and to refuse pleasure through the senses or from the beautiful, whether seen in the face of nature or of woman, is necessarily being crucified to the world; thus giving the very impression which I wish to remove, that self-denial is making one's self miserable in this world, in order to make sure of happiness in the next.

Now, I have no wish to make unhallowed compromises with sin—to call darkness light, or to seek to reconcile God to the evil world, instead of seeking to reconcile the evil world to God; but I must protest against all such views as being contrary to God's will, whether revealed in nature or in the Bible.

What, then, is meant by "the world," which God tells us we are not to love, but to be dead to? We have a sufficiently clear and explicit definition of it in the first epistle of John, chap ii.—"Love not the world, neither the things in the world; for 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he who doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

You will perceive, from these words, that whatever is not of the Father—whatever is not according to His will is of the world. Now, if you apply this simple test to any object, act, or enjoyment, and ask such questions as these—"Is this of the Father? Has He supplied it? Does He permit us to use it in this form?"—and if you know assuredly that in so acting or so enjoying you are in harmony with the will of the Father, then you are not ''loving the world, nor the things of the world," but those things only which are freely given us of God. Let me illustrate what I mean.

The world of nature, for example, with all its glory and beauty—with all that intense and, to many, passionate enjoyment which it affords, does not belong to that world which we are to hate. This is God's own world! His hand has piled its mighty mountains on each other, scooped out its green valleys, poured forth its musical streams, hung aloft its drapery of fleecy clouds, clothed it with grass, coloured it with flowers, filled its air with perfume, filled its forests with song, flooded its unseen depths with the mysterious sea, spread the awful canopy and sky overhead, with its lustrous sun by day, its golden moon and jewelled stars by night—preserving all in order and beauty as at creation's dawn! To be dead or crucified to this world is to be dead to the God who made it, and blind to His glory revealed in it!

Nor by "the world" are we to understand the world of art created by the magic power of genius, which ravishes the ear with sweet melodies and grand harmonies, or entrances the eyes with the beauty of form or colour; for as nature has been well defined to be "the art of God," so He who is Himself the great artist, has filled every corner of His vast palace with innumerable works of art unapproachable in their perfection—has given us who are created after His own image the power of imitating Him, and of being in this ''fellow-labourers" with Himself. True art is holy, and is not of the world, but of the Father!

Nor by "the world" is meant the world of social life, made up of those delightful links which unite man with man—that world of tender sympathies, holy brotherhoods, sweet friendships, hearty loves—the world which is at our firesides and in our genial meetings, which shines around us in kind looks, kind words, and tender greetings, and, from the centre of our deepest affections, sweeps out in a vast circumference, including within it all to whom we can be united by the ties of affection: this world is the grandest which is "of the Father." It was in this social world our brother Jesus Christ lived and moved, opening His heart, with all its human sensibilities, to its influences, Himself its very light and life, blessing it with His presence and sympathy, whether He lived in His own home at Nazareth, journeyed with His kinsfolk to Jerusalem, or was a guest at the marriage-supper at Cana, or with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus at Bethany. This world, too, is surely "of the Father." And, not to multiply my illustrations, let me say as briefly as possible, that the world which we must hate contains within it no arrangement, no work, no enjoyment, appointed or ordained by God: for whatever is of God may be received from Him, enjoyed in Him, and returned to Him; but all that is of the world to which we are to die, and which we are to hate, embraces whatever is opposed to the will of God. It is not, therefore, the beauty of the eye, but its lusts or evil desires; it is not the enjoyment of life, but its pride and folly; it is not even pleasure by the senses, but unlawful pleasure; it is not eating and drinking, for these are of the Father, but gluttony and drunkenness; it is not marrying or giving in marriage, but sensuality and unclcanness; it is not amusement, but amusement that fills the heart to the exclusion of supreme love to God, or the neglect of the duties of life; it is not buying and selling, planting or building, the world of polities or business, the labour of the artisan in his peaceful workshop, or of the soldier on the bloody field—for all these are of the Father, conditions imposed by Himself on our present existence; it is not these, nor any passion, power, or faculty, or anything else which God has created or ordained; but it is, as I have said, the abuse or perversion of these, or the using them in a way or for a purpose inconsistent with the purpose of God in giving them. And thus a man seeking to avail himself of any of God's gifts may, instead of doing so according to the mind of the Giver, turn them to the mere service of self without God, and to minister to his vanity, idleness, greed, ambition, or animal passions, in a lawless, godless manner. The sin that dwelleth in us, like poison, may mingle with and saturate every drop of pure water given by our Father, making that deadly which was intended to refresh. And so we see how "the world" which we are to hate is chiefly in ourselves: at all events, our own hearts, until they love God, will turn all things, by some devil's alchemy, into evil, and convert the world which is of the Father into the world which passeth away, with the lust thereof.

Now, God tells us that this kind of world—this system of evil—this way of acting or of enjoying contrary to His own wise and loving arrangements —we must hate, and have nothing to do with it. We must be "dead," "crucified," to it. But short of doing what God thus forbids, you may do everything. Short of enjoying what God condemns, you may enjoy everything. Only maintain the right-being and the right-doing, and the universe is full of enjoyment. Is this unreasonable, think you? Does not your conscience approve of it? Must it not be so unless the world is utter confusion, without a law or a lawgiver? Or do you for one moment imagine that God is a hard master—that He grudges to make you happy—that His is an iron sceptre, and severe bondage—that enjoyment in His kingdom is the rare exception, not the rule—and that by demanding from Him the portion of your goods, and leaving Him for a far country, where you can cast off every sense of responsibility, and do whatever you please, you thereby become a free man, and shall find in yourself a wiser and better master, and enter upon a world of richer and more varied pleasure? Can imagination picture more wicked thoughts of God! Oh, what a ruin is here of all confidence in His love and wisdom, and what faith in the devil's lie of unbelief! I entreat of you, for your soul's sake, for God's sake, believe it not, young men, for it is essential Atheism, or devil-worship! As sure as there is a God, He loves us, and has made us for joy! Believe it that "He opens His hand liberally" to supply all our wants, and "gives us all things richly to enjoy." Believe it that there is nothing in the wide universe which He denies you but what He would deny the highest angel or His own Son, if in your place, because it is wrong, and only what you would deny yourself if you had towards yourself the love which He has, and could guide yourself with the wisdom by which He guides you. No other limit does He prescribe to your enjoyment but what is essential to your true and permanent happiness. Resolve only to be subject to His authority—to sympathise with His revealed purposes—to accede to His plans—to acquiesce in His orderly and beautiful arrangements—to enjoy in His way, and according to His laws—in one word, be "a saint," and "all things are yours, whether things present or things to come." But lose your faith in Him—let the insane cry be heard, "Everyman for himself"—go through the world, robbing it of all that is fair and beautiful, to appropriate all to your own self, as your passions and appetites may prompt you, and be assured such a moral bandit must in the end be put down! You will also, in the meantime, lose the joy which you vainly seek, and suffer the pain you would fain avoid; and this, too, by no arbitrary arrangement, but by the eternal law, that he who sows to the flesh must reap corruption: "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he who does the will of God abides for ever!"

It is surely unnecessary to apply these principles more particularly to the question of amusements, so as to determine what are lawful or unlawful, "innocent" or dangerous. Any honest man can do this for himself; but neither principles nor rules can help the man who is dishonest.

It is clear that amusements can never be the chief end and aim of a wise man's life; they are but re-creations—means of restoring or creating anew our energies, when wearied and relaxed by our every-day work. They are the flowers which adorn our path—the green spots where we repose —the songs that greet our ear as we journey onwards.

All amusements must, therefore, be such as, in kind and degree, shall never hinder, but always help us to be right, and to do right—in other words, they must be in harmony with our duties which we owe as Christians to God and man, otherwise they are certainly not "of the Father," but "of the world," and belong to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." If, accordingly, they foster vanity, pride, selfishness, or sloth; deepen our forgetfulness of God; and, instead of making our daily burdens and duties more tolerable, make them only more irksome and distasteful, then assuredly, however "fashionable" mere excitements may be, however common, however much indulged in "by every one," they are wrong. To how many, alas! who thus defend every species of folly and selfish dissipation of mind and body, may the solemn words of Christ be applied-—"Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Let every man, then, be guided by what is right. Let him be fully persuaded in his own mind: "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth."

But within these limits, which no man who has any faith in God would wish to transgress, what a wide and rich field of varied enjoyment has that Father spread before His children! He who loves a cheerful giver is verily one Himself, and "withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly." What ignorance to distrust Him, as if He grudged His bounties! What ingratitude to Him in whom we live and move, and who gives us all things richly to enjoy! What impiety to suppose that He could bless anything as a source of true happiness which was inconsistent with obedience to His own will, and to our true good as immortal beings ! What a base prodigal spirit, to demand the portion of our goods, in order to leave our Father's house, and to waste our substance in a far country in riotous living!

Young men! whom God has endowed with so many rare gifts of body and mind, prove your loyalty, your gratitude, and your love, by receiving every enjoyment from Him, and returning all to Him who is your Maker, Preserver, Benefactor, and Father in Christ Jesus! Then, indeed, shall "your joy be full;" and "all things are ours" when "we are Christ's."

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