The World Conquered by Richard Alleine is a profound and deeply Biblical work that delves into the complex and often challenging concept of overcoming worldly temptations and desires. This book is not just a simple guide, but a comprehensive exploration of the human soul's journey towards fulfillment in Christ.
We have updated this timeless work into modern, updated English so you can understand exactly what Alleine wrote hundreds of years ago!
The central theme of the book revolves around the importance of faith in God and the necessity to resist the allure of worldly pleasures. Alleine argues that true happiness, peace, and fulfillment can only be found in a life dedicated to God, not in the ephemeral pleasures of the world. He posits that the world and its pleasures are transient and ultimately unsatisfying, leading only to a sense of emptiness and spiritual malnourishment.
Alleine presents a detailed and comprehensive guide on how to conquer worldly temptations and live a life of righteousness. He provides practical advice and strategies, backed by biblical teachings, on how to resist the temptations of the flesh, the allure of wealth and power, and the seduction of worldly success. He emphasizes the importance of prayer, meditation, and the study of the Scriptures as essential tools in the spiritual battle against worldly desires.
The book is filled with biblical references and teachings, offering readers a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and its teachings on salvation and spiritual growth. Alleine uses these biblical teachings to illuminate the path to spiritual enlightenment and to provide practical guidance on living a life of devotion and piety.
In The World Conquered, Alleine also explores the concept of spiritual warfare, the struggle between the forces of good and evil within the human soul. He offers insights into the nature of this spiritual battle and provides practical advice on how to fight and win this battle. He emphasizes the importance of faith, prayer, and the power of God's grace in overcoming the forces of evil.
The World Conquered
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Chapter 1: Introduction
This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith - 1 John 5:4
In the first part of this chapter, we get a two-part description of those who are born of God.
• A Priori: From the perspective of the heart of the new creature, which is faith. As verse 1 says, "Whoever believes is born of God."
• A Posteriori: From the result of the new birth, which is victory over the world, as stated in verse 3, "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world."
In this verse, we have:
• A statement.
• Its explanation.
1. The statement: "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world." A Christian is a conqueror, a great conqueror; greater than those who are named 'The Great' for their victories. He has conquered the entire world.
2. The explanation of this statement: But what does this Christian conquest mean and how is it achieved? It's a spiritual conquest, achieved by faith. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith."
To clarify the words:
By "the world", we mean anything in the world that hinders us in the race that Christ has set before us and keeps us from our crown. The Apostle tells us in 1 John 2:16 that the world contains the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And also the objects of these lusts, as they are such; the pleasures, the profits, and the pomp of the world; along with all worldly tribulations and afflictions.
By "faith", we mean a living, saving faith, which unites us to Christ, and thereby involves him in our battle with us.
"This is the victory, our faith." Faith is said to be our victory.
1. Formally. The world hinders and holds us back from Christ, faith is our coming to Christ; our coming to Christ, is our victory over all that which held us back.
2. Instrumentally. "This is the victory," that is, this is our arm, or our hand, this is the weapon of our warfare, that has won us the victory.
Several observations lie in the words:
Doctrine #1: The world is a Christian's enemy. A conquest implies a battle, and a battle implies an enemy.
Doctrine #2: A believer has his enemies under his feet, even while he is in the fight. He is a soldier as soon as he is a believer, and he is a conqueror as soon as he is a soldier. His very taking up arms is his victory.
Doctrine #3: A Christian overcomes the world by his faith. In the pursuit of this third doctrine, where I intend to base the following discussion, I will show:
1. Where the world's hostility against souls lies.
2. Where the world's strength lies, by which it prevails against our souls.
3. Where the strength of faith lies, by which it overcomes the world.
4. The conflict of faith with this warring world; or the various ways in which faith so maintains the fight, that it obtains the victory.
5. The conquest of faith over the conflicting world; or where this victory lies.
Chapter 2: Where the world's hostility against souls lies
The world is an enemy (as before). It pretends to be a friend, but its friendship is hostility; hostility against God, James 4:4, and therefore against souls; its kindnesses are darts, its kisses are swords and arrows, its very peace is war against the soul.
But what is this hostility, or where is it revealed?
For a better understanding of this, I will premise these four things:
1. Every creature of God is good. The whole creation, in their original, were man's friends or servants; there was nothing harmful that was made.
2. The hostility that is, came in by sin. Sin was the only cause of discord; between God and man, and between man and the rest of the creatures; all the enemies which man has, in heaven or earth, he can thank his sin for.
3. There is no malice in the creature properly, against man in his fallen state. They are yet all capable of being good and useful to him. 1 Tim. 4:4-5, "Every creature of God is good,—it is sanctified by the Word of God, and Prayer." Riches are good, yes, and honors and pleasures may be good and useful to man.
4. It is by accident, and not from the nature of the things, that the creatures have become enemies to us. Sinful man is a disordered, diseased creature, disordered in his mind; and hereupon he misunderstands and mistakes the world; and looking for that good that is not in it, he loses that which is; making it his happiness, it becomes his undoing. He is disordered and diseased in his heart, yes and his whole man; And hereupon, as in bodily diseases, the best of creatures, which would be nourishment to the healthy, are to the sick the nourishment of their diseases; and as such are apt to lust after those things which are most harmful, so it is with diseased souls; our appetites are corrupted, and while we lust after, either that which we should not, or more than we should have, those very things which are good in themselves, become harmful and hurtful to us, maintaining and increasing our disease.
These things premised, I will now show where the world's hostility against our souls lies; and that is in these two things especially:
1. In withdrawing our souls from God. Particularly:
• In withdrawing our affections from God as our portion.
• In withdrawing us from our allegiance to God as our sovereign.
1. In withdrawing our affections from God as our portion. The world, by the advantage of our disordered minds and appetites, sets up itself as our God; as our happiness or chiefest good; it proposes itself as a portion to us, and that both as a richer portion, and more suitable than God would be; it persuades us to take our portion in hand, and to be content with what's before us, as our happiness, and not to be so unwise as to gamble for an unknown happiness, with the risk of that present happiness and contentment, which we taste and see to be so good.
God calls, "Come unto me, and I will give thee rest, I will be thy portion and reward; come up to the other world, there's an inheritance for thee." "No, no," says the world, "stay with me, dwell here below; you see what your entertainment is here, there you don't know what you'll find; here you have substance, here you have sunshine, here you have heart's ease, here you are full and abound; you have your house full, and your hands full, and your belly full, and your heart full; you know what you have, you can taste, you can see how good this world is; the treasures of the other world, though they are called treasures of light, yet to you they are but treasures of darkness, you don't know what they are; be content, dwell here below, where you are well."
2. In withdrawing us from our allegiance to God as our sovereign. When it has once drawn away the heart, it will with ease pull away the shoulder; if God's crown is despised, his yoke will quickly be shaken off; we break our faith with God when once we have fallen in love with the world; if it becomes our treasure, we yield ourselves to it as servants; the strength of its temptations lies in the esteem we have of it, and the affection we bear it. What will the authority of the Lord do with us, when he has lost our hearts, and we have chosen us another God! What can't the world command us to, if we have once set it before us, as our goal and prize? If it's our end, it will appoint us our means and way; no unrighteousness but will be right in our eyes, that will serve our worldly designs; goodbye faith, truth, mercy, honesty, and all conscience of sin, further than we can make a gain of godliness: And by withdrawing us from our love and obedience to God, to this I might add thirdly, it exposes us to his wrath and displeasure; when we will none of him, he will none of us; when he is forsaken by us, he sets himself against us; by despising the riches of his goodness, we fall under his fury and fiery indignation. This is the state into which the world is leading us.
2. In withholding us from Christ. Christ comes to bring us back to the Father, 1 Peter 3:18, to bring us back to our duty, and restore us to our happiness: The world that withdraws us from God, withholds us from Christ. Particularly:
• It holds us back from coming to Christ.
• It holds us in from following Christ.
1. It holds us back from coming to Christ. And this it does by these four means, by:
• Darkening our sight.
• Deadening our sense.
• Hanging upon our hearts, and about our necks.
• Furnishing us with excuses.
1. By darkening the sight, that we cannot see, either the excellence, or the necessity of Christ; Christ draws on souls to him by love and fear. First, he frightens us in, by presenting the danger and misery that is falling upon us, and we cannot escape if we stand out.
Hey there, sinner, you need to watch out. This world is not your friend, it's actually setting you up for a fall. The things you enjoy, your worldly friends, even your wealth, they're all betraying you. They might seem to be treating you well now, but it's all just a setup for your downfall. The one who destroys souls is close by, and these things are handing you over to him. They're after your life, and you're already as good as dead. Death is already feasting on you, and God's curse is already clinging to you, ready to crush you with its full weight. You're going to be devoured, swallowed up before you even realize what's happening. But there's a way out. Come to me and you'll be safe. Your world is collapsing around you, so run for your life. The one who avenges blood is hot on your trail, so flee to the city of refuge. I am that city of refuge, so come to me. This is how he stirs up fear in us. And it's as effective at driving souls to Christ as a clap of thunder or a hailstorm is at making a traveler seek shelter.
Then Christ draws us in with love. He presents himself and his salvation to our souls, showing us all his beauty and excellence. He opens up the Gospel, where his grace and glory shine forth. The Gospel is full of Christ; it contains all the treasures and unsearchable riches of Christ, and they're all on display, inviting sinners to him.
But the world interferes with all this, preventing it from having any effect on our souls. It blinds us so that we can't see what Christ is offering us. What good is beauty or ugliness to a blind soul? As it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, "The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." We're naturally born blind, and if our eyes start to open a bit, the world throws dust in them so we can't see what's in front of us. The things of this world cause an eclipse in our souls, preventing us from seeing the sun. We can't discern light or darkness, the light of the glorious Gospel or the darkness of the pit, our hopes or our dangers. The world keeps both heaven and hell out of sight.
The things of the world should be a mirror in which we can see the glory of the Lord. We should be able to see God in every creature. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), and so does the earth and everything in it. But what God made as a mirror to reflect his glory, the devil turns into a cloud to hide God from sight. What God made as a window to let in light, the devil turns into a shutter to keep it out. People who are worldly fix their eyes on worldly things; they can't look beyond them or through them. It's not like in nature, where the sun dazzles our eyes so we can't see the earth. It's the opposite: the earth dazzles their eyes so they can't see the sun. People usually let their hearts guide their eyes; they won't look anywhere they don't love. And even if they were to look towards heaven, they wouldn't be able to see it because the earth has dazzled their eyes.
Sinners, be careful with these riches, be careful with these pleasures. These real and illusory things that your hearts are set on won't just weigh you down and prevent you from ascending to heaven, they'll also block your view of heaven. They might seem like bright clouds, but even a bright cloud can block out the sun just as well as a dark one.
2. The world also deadens our senses; we can't see or feel. Those who are drunk on worldly vanities can't see the excellence of Christ or feel their need for him. Those who live only by their senses are insensitive to anything but the present. They can manage to live without Christ; the less of Christ, the better for them. Christ and the things of Christ are the only things that get in their way; they lead to poverty, not wealth, to shame and disgrace, not honor. They can do without Christ while they live, but they don't consider what need they might have of him after this life. They're so busy with what they have here and now that they don't look as far as the grave, let alone beyond it.
It's hard to reach such hearts, especially when they're alone, away from the world. And how long might we have to wait for such a moment? We find them in a crowd, among their worldly friends and companions, among their sheep or oxen, or enjoying their pleasures, and the noise of all this drowns out anything we might say. It's as likely to make an impression as a rain shower on a stone. Shout "Fire, fire!" in their ears, throw death and hell in their faces, and it doesn't even move them enough to ask, "What can I do to escape?"
We'll never come to Christ until we see that we need him, and we'll never see our need for Christ until we have time away from the hustle and bustle of the world to sit down and think.
How rarely do worldly hearts ask, "What use is there for Christ? Why did he come? What would we lack if there were no Christ?" If God hadn't spared his Son but had given him as a ransom for the world, it would have made no difference to them. They could have lived just as happily and abundantly here anyway, and that's all they care about.
Or if they have any sense of their need for Christ at all, it's so small that it won't persuade them to seek him. The wound isn't deep enough; just the name of a Savior is enough to cover it over. It rarely rises to the level of prompting such a serious question as, "What can I do to make Christ mine?"
How many houses, markets, shops, and companies might we enter before we hear such a question?
Go into a field where people are busy plowing, sowing, or reaping, and you might hear them asking, "How can I keep the birds away? How can I keep the animals from damaging my field? When will it rain? When will the weather be fair?" Go into a market where people are buying, selling, and trading, and you might hear them asking, "What's the price of corn or cattle? Where are the best goods? Where's the best selection?" Go into houses where people are eating, drinking, or working, and you might hear them asking, "What will we have for the next meal? What about tomorrow?" But oh, how rarely do we hear among them all any questions like, "How is my soul provided for? How is my soul doing?" No, when the world has taken over the heart, there's no concern for the soul. When the world is in the heart, death and hell can be there too, and no one notices.
If we could make people deeply aware of how much they need Christ, of what they are without Christ, of the precarious position they're in, of the danger they face every day, of the dreadful abyss of woe and misery that their worldly prosperity is carrying them towards, and of how suddenly they could be swallowed up in destruction and perdition, and of how little comfort their past pleasures and abundance will be to them then; if they were aware that only Christ, and a share in him, could save them from that abyss; that only by anchoring themselves to that rock of ages could they avoid being smashed on those fatal rocks, avoid being swept away by those surging waves that are carrying them down to the lake below; if they were aware that only Christ can save them from these dangers, their need would be argument enough to drive them to him. But being drunk on the pleasures of sin, they won't consider, they don't perceive the danger they're in. When the prodigal son in Luke 15 had spent all he had on wild living, when he had wasted his entire fortune and didn't have a husk left, then he had time to think and realize what a situation he was in. The biting sense of his needy state, brought on by his foolishness, brings him to his senses; he comes to himself, and then he goes to his father. If you had met him a little earlier, when he was drunk and among prostitutes, if you had found him at his wild party, in the heat of his lust, and had preached to this prodigal, "Friend, this life won't last forever. It would be wise to think about what you're doing. Be sober, be temperate, run from these prostitutes, and return to your father," how he would have laughed and scoffed at such a sermon. At least the next drink would have washed it off his heart. But when his hunger and thirst preach to him, "Go home to your father," then off he goes.
3. The world has a hold on our hearts, and it hangs around our necks. It's got a grip on our hearts, and it'll keep that grip as long as it can.
It's become so ingrained in us, so intertwined with our emotions, that it's going to be tough to let it go. We can't fully embrace Christ without breaking away from the world; we must separate from this before we can commit to our new spiritual partner. People who are attached to worldly things, see the transformation Christ brings in the hearts where he takes residence. He drives out the buyers and sellers and their merchandise from his temple. He changes the habits, pleasures, and business of the heart. Its love and labor can no longer be spent on food, drink, money, and fun; he has other delights for it, and other work to keep it busy.
These things should be considered in their place and time, but they must know their place. Step back, farms and oxen, step back, lands and money, keep your distance, take a lower position, make way for this man who is more honorable than you all. Christ and the world compete for the top spot, for the primary position in the soul. Christ won't settle for being second best, he demands the main room, the highest respect and esteem; he wants control of everything in the house. This is what Christianity, or our conversion to Christ, is about, surrendering the throne to Christ. It's not about whether you can find a small place in your heart for Christ, but who sits on the throne, who governs your soul, who has the upper hand within you. Can you say to Jesus, "Sit at the right hand, let all your enemies be made your footstool"?
All sinful pleasures, all sinful gains, must leave and never return where Christ resides; and those which are lawful must submit to him; no more indulgence or worldly fun, no more greed or oppression, no more pride or self-promotion, get rid of these, cast them out, and never let them in again, if you want Christ to dwell in you. And no more zeal for the lawful concerns of this life; no more using business as an excuse against religion, no more prioritizing safety over duty, no more choosing reputation over conscience, no more choosing profit over godliness. You can and must maintain your estate, your reputation, provide for your safety, pursue your business, but make sure all these take a back seat to Christianity and conscience. Christ won't settle for being second best; he insists on the throne, wherever he resides.
And the world, which has already claimed the throne, is reluctant to become the footstool. The big contest is about who will be king, who will be God. The world, which has been ruling for so long, doesn't know how to be content being a subject. It knows it must step down if Christ steps in, there can't be two kings in one kingdom. It must step down, this pride must step down, this reputation, these pleasures, this worldly fun, this greed must be laid low if Christ is to set foot here. And so it does everything it can to resist Christ; it blocks the ears, blinds the eyes, turns the heart away from listening to him.
Christ stands at the door and knocks; Christ cries and calls, "Come to me, open to me." Christ promises and offers, "Come and I will receive you, open and I will come into you, and live with you." If the soul starts to listen to Christ's call, the world steps in and objects, "What are you doing, naive soul? Where are you going? Listen to Christ, listen to this Word, listen to this Conscience, and what will become of me? What will become of your wealth? What will become of your reputation? What will become of your freedom? What will become of all your love, friendship, and pleasure you have in the world? Are you willing to be poor? Are you willing to be in bondage? Are you willing to be in disgrace? Open that door once, let Christ in, have anything to do with Conscience, and you're finished; everything you have, everything you love in the world, must from then on become strangers to you. Haven't you given me your heart? Haven't I been in your bosom? Haven't you cherished me, and cared for me as your own soul? And haven't I deserved your care and respect? Haven't I been your food, your clothing, your joy, and all the comfort of your life? What will you be when I have left you, when your wealth has left you, your pleasures have left you, your friends have left you?
I know you love me; you love to be rich, to be great, to be at ease, and free, as you love your life. I know I have your heart, and you're reluctant to leave me. But consider this, be careful; if you listen to Christ once, if you get too involved with religion, and start preparing for another world, then say goodbye to this one.
But can you find it in your heart to leave me? Have I been a desert to you, or a land of darkness? Hasn't it been good with you? Haven't you lacked anything? Haven't you been full and overflowing? Haven't you thrived and prospered? Haven't you had your fill of food, and fun, and rest, and peace and contentment? What have you lacked while you embraced my love? And can you now find it in your heart to part? Be careful; the day you join hands with Christ, you must let go of the world. Don't expect any more favors from me; you don't know when you're well off, when you have enough; but from now on, if you take this path, you'll have little enough. If Christ takes you, he'll take you naked, you'll leave all your good things behind you; and expect this, I haven't been such a great friend, but now I'll be a great enemy; I'll persecute you, and plague you, and torment you; and if I can no longer sleep in your bosom, I'll stick in your sides; if I can no longer be the treasure of your heart, I'll be a thorn in your side.
But consider this, be wise, foolish soul, let's not part like this; stay, stay with me, don't go after you don't know what; don't abandon an old friend for a new one; believe me, the old is better; if you're wise, stay as you are, and focus on your current benefits; forget about the other world, let the future take care of itself, don't waste your time worrying about you don't know what, I haven't been so good to you, but I'll be better to you than ever; come let's enjoy our love, eat, drink, and be merry; gather, keep, save what's in front of you, and cast away worry. And so it woos, and flatters, and bewitches it into neglecting Christ so long, until it has struck the soul fatally, and killed it, and drowned it in ruin and destruction.
4. It will help people to make excuses for their neglect of Christ. People are ashamed to act foolishly, but they want something to justify it, to silence criticism; to silence their conscience, to silence people, to silence their judge, if possible, Luke 14:18. Those who were invited to come to Christ, it's said, they all began to make excuses; they were ashamed to say, they wouldn't come, that would have been too blatant; but they excuse themselves, we can't come, Ruth 4:6. The relative of Ruth, who had the chance to redeem the inheritance of his deceased relative, answered no, I can't redeem it, lest I ruin my own inheritance. He wouldn't say, I won't redeem it; no, an excuse must be found, I can't redeem it, I would ruin my own inheritance if I redeemed my brother's. So these here, they don't say I won't, but I can't come. Why, what's the problem you can't come to Christ? What excuse do you have? Where do you get your excuse? Oh, the world provides them with an excuse; I have a farm, says one, I have oxen to take care of, says another; I have a wife to look after, says a third, please excuse me, I can't come.
Christians, haven't your hearts ever used the world as an excuse for neglecting Christ and your souls? It has prevented you many times from coming to Christ, and then excused you for not coming. How many prayers has it cost you? How many Sabbaths has it cost you? The loss of these could be the loss of Christ, the loss of your souls. How much of these spiritual opportunities has the world cost you? And when they're lost, when you've lost a praying time, or hearing time, lost a Sabbath, or a sermon, or a sacrament, this must serve as an excuse, I was busy, and couldn't come.
An excuse is a way people try to avoid blame for neglecting Christ and their own souls. It's as if they're saying, "It's a shame to neglect Christ when there's nothing else to focus on. It's a shame to neglect my soul when there's nothing else to care for. I'm not interested in Christ, his ways, or the matters of the afterlife. But what can I say to justify my neglect? I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't care about Christ, my soul, heaven, or eternal glory. I don't care if I perish and die. I can't say this out loud, but the things Christ calls me to do are so contrary to my desires that I don't want to engage with them. But what can I say to justify my neglect? I need some kind of excuse."
What could be your excuse? Don't you have a farm to tend to, a wife or family to care for? Or perhaps a house, a horse, or a friend? Don't you have sports or pleasures, hawks or dogs to follow? Don't you have anything to do or say? Tell Christ, tell your conscience, you have other things to do; you have friends or pleasures that call you in a different direction. Any excuse will do, even a bad one is better than none.
An excuse is a way to justify our actions. No one can justify neglecting Christ or continuing in sin. Yet, people often claim to have reasons for their actions, especially those who are worldly. They always find reasons to justify their worldliness.
Even though a drunkard can't say, "I have a reason to be drunk," or an adulterer can't say, "I have a reason to chase after prostitutes," or a swearer can't say, "I have a reason to swear or blaspheme," or a prodigal can't say, "I have a reason to waste and spend my estate," the worldly person will easily say, "I have a reason to accumulate wealth, to keep what I have, to be a good provider. Who will take care of me when I'm old? Who will take care of my family? I have a reason to look after myself. Who will look after me if I don't?"
Even though this may seem like a poor excuse for neglecting Christ, "I'm following a prostitute, and I can't come; I must go to the pub or the tavern, and I can't come," it's considered a valid excuse, "I have a wife, or a family, or a farm, and I can't come."
"Please excuse me," you say. For what? For not coming to Christ, for not listening to and following him? That's like saying, "Excuse me for ruining myself, for stabbing, drowning, or hanging myself, for going to the devil and damning my soul. If I go to hell and perish forever, don't blame me. I have a reason for what I do. I must take care of this world, no matter what happens to me in the next. As for those who have nothing else to do but focus on Christ and salvation, if they neglect it, let them answer for themselves. For my part, I have enough reason to do as I do. Do you have a reason to go to hell? A reason to be damned? Then go and bear your burden forever, until your senses teach you better too late.
Oh, how wise are the people of this world! How foolish are the worldly wise! They destroy their souls to please and provide for their bodies. They consider the world their happiness, and this happiness will be their downfall. Some people's businesses will be their downfall, some people's money will do it, some people's pleasures will do it, some people's friends will be the downfall of their souls. Some are too rich, some are too busy, some are too happy, some are too high, some are too polite and courtly, to come to Christ and save their souls. Behold the wisdom of this world!
Consider this, my friends. How is it with your souls? What state are your souls in? Are you in Christ? Are you converted to God? Have you gained any saving knowledge, or any of God's grace in your hearts? Or are you still without Christ, without grace, without God in the world? What has hindered you but your fleshly and worldly hearts, which have kept you under the power of these fleshly and worldly things? Perhaps you might have had grace in your hearts if you hadn't had so much money in your purse. If you hadn't had so much to do in this world, you might have done more for the world to come. While you've been busy here and there, like the man in the Prophet's Parable (1 Kings 20:40), your souls are lost, the kingdom is lost. If you hadn't had so many sheep, oxen, and trades to look after, perhaps your souls would have been better cared for. If you hadn't had so many carnal friends around you, perhaps Christ would have been welcomed by you. These are the things you've chosen over Christ. These are the things for which you've sold the Gospel, for which you've sold your souls to the devil.
You're shocked by those poor, miserable creatures, the witches, who sell their souls to the devil for a little money or a few years of pleasure. Yet, you do the same things.
Where are your souls? Whose hands are they in? Who possesses them? Who rules them? Are they with Christ? Does he govern? Does he rule them? Has he taken possession of them? Do you think he has? Are the ignorant, the idle, the simple, the sensual, the earthly, the careless, the barren souls of the world, are these the possession of Christ? Would Christ have left you in such a carnal, senseless state if you had ever come into his hands? Do you think he would? Who are those without Christ, if you are in Christ? Who are the sinners, if you are the saints? Who are the children of this world, if you are the children of the kingdom? Are you those whom God has chosen out of this world, to be a peculiar people to himself? Are you those who have forsaken all for Christ, who have forsaken Christ for this world? Are you the Children of Light, Vessels of Honor, the Images of God, his mortified ones, his crucified ones, his sanctified ones? Will Christ leave his chosen vessels to be such wooden, iron, and earthen vessels, as your souls are today? What a poor, low, and miserable thing you make of Christianity if this is what you've attained. Look to it, if you have any such thought, you've deceived yourselves to this day.
Are you not in Christ? What has hindered you? Christ has invited you in. The Gospel of Christ has been preached to you, the everlasting door has been opened to you, the servants have been sent out among you, to call you and compel you to come in. But the world has held you back, your friends have clung to you, your business has weighed on you, your estates have called you in a different direction, and wouldn't let you enter.
And it's clear that these are the things that have done it, since these are the things that you use as an excuse. "I've had so many encumbrances, entanglements, and diversions every day, that I couldn't do for my soul as others may."
And oh, how often you've been glad to have an excuse! You've been happy to have something to say for yourself, to silence your conscience under the neglect of Christ. You've been more pleased with a hindrance than an opportunity. There's such a distaste and displeasure for Christ and his ways in carnal hearts, that when Christ has been dealing with them, persuading and awakening them to look after them, the world seems to do them a favor by stepping in, calling their hearts back, and making them forget everything.
When Christ calls you to a duty, to an ordinance, to bring you near to him, so that he can deal with you and discuss the matters of eternity, while some rejoice to come in, to appear in his presence, to hear his voice, to pour out their souls to him in prayer or fasting, etc., others are glad that they have something to say, that they couldn't be there. They're glad for a business or a friend that kept them away, glad for a temptation, that the devil put a stumbling block in their way, that the world called them in a different direction, not considering the eternal loss they may have suffered.
Behold now the friend of sinners, the idol, the god whom they serve, this present world. This is your beloved, this is your friend. But what kind of friendship does this world offer you? What kindness does this world have for you?
You love the world, you seek it, you serve it, and you work for it. It consumes your time, your strength, and your heart. You live for it, labor for it, sweat for it, and toil for it all your days. But when all is said and done, what kindness does it show you? What reward do you receive? Sure, it feeds you, clothes you, and pleases your flesh, but it kills your soul. It blinds you, hardens you, and keeps you in a state of senseless carnality. It keeps Christ and your heart apart, holds your soul in death, and shuts you out from the kingdom of God. This is the world you embrace, worship, and bless yourselves in. This is your beloved, the kindness of your friend. Isn't this friendship with the world actually enmity? What more can the Devil do than keep you from Christ, and what less does the world do? So far, it has kept you away, and if you listen to it, when will it let you go to Him? When will it say, "You've served me long enough; you've served your pleasures, your estate, and your friends long enough. Now go serve your God, now go to Christ and look after your soul." How long will it be before the world gives you this permission? Or if it doesn't, how long will it be before you take your leave?
Don't be fooled. The world has hindered you, is hindering you, and will continue to hinder you from ever truly connecting with Christ, until your soul and it part ways. Leave, leave, leave your worldly ways, your worldly pleasures, and let a worldly heart leave you. Then welcome Christ and His Gospel, then welcome grace and holiness, then welcome God and the everlasting kingdom.
2. The world's enmity shows itself by hindering your soul from following Christ. If it can't keep you completely away from Christ, it will hold you back so that Christ gets only a little service from you. Christ's servants are all soldiers, and the world is one special enemy we are to fight against. There's likely to be half-hearted fighting if we're in league with the enemy. While we should be charging at it, we're likely to be negotiating for peace, if not completely abandoning our colors and running over to the enemy's camp. Christ accepts only those who are free and unencumbered. The freer you are, the more fit you are for His service. You must shed your fetters if you want to put on your armor.
The work that Christ has for His servants lies in the affairs of the other life. If you're entangled in the affairs of this life, you'll do little about the affairs of the other life. You must serve your master in a way that pleases him. If you're Christ's servant, you must devote yourself to pleasing Him. You must not please men, you must not please yourself, your appetite, your pride, your greed. Is this your way of pleasing Christ, by serving His enemies? If you truly belong to Christ, you displease yourself by being self-pleasing. If you're not angry with yourself for pleasing your flesh, if you can humor, favor, and gratify your earthly and sensual heart, and be pleased with yourself, and be patient with yourself for doing so, Christ has little in you. If pleasing yourself can't stand with pleasing your soul, which has devoted itself to Christ, much less will it stand with pleasing your Lord, who has chosen you as His soldiers.
But more specifically, the world shows its enmity in two ways:
1. It cuts Christ short of the service and the fruits He should reap from us.
2. It cuts us short of the service and peace we might receive from Him.
1. The world cuts Christ short of the service and the fruits He should reap from us. Israel is an empty vine; it brings forth fruit for itself. Israel is an empty vine, that is, for its Lord. It's a poor vintage, with little or no fruit for God. He is its vine; He has planted, watered, and fenced it, and He looks for grapes, but finds none. Why? Because it has brought forth all its fruits for itself; it has plenty of fruit, but not the kind that God looks for. It has brought forth so much for its flesh that there's none for its God.
Everyone seeks their own, and not the things of Christ. There's little seeking of Christ among you, says the Apostle. The worship and service of Christ, the honor and interest of Christ are little regarded; there's a general neglect of Him. None, that is, there are hardly any among you, none in comparison, who mind the things of Christ. But why is Christ so neglected? Because everyone is for themselves; all seek their own, that is, their outward and earthly things.
Their own things? Aren't the things of Christ as much yours as the things of the world? Are your carnal friends more yours than Christ is yours? Are your earthly possessions, your earthly pleasures, your food, and your drink, and your money, the things of your body, more yours than your soul, and its concerns? You're a pitiful Christian if the things of Christ aren't more yours than the things of this world; if the things of Christ and your own things aren't the same. But yet, our fleshly hearts count our carnal things as our own things; and the more we seek our own, the less we seek the things of Christ. The most careful worldling is the most careless Christian.
Friends, how little is done for Christ? How little is Christ served or sought? Judge for yourselves: how little has been done for Christ, or is now being done! Look back, and sum up all that you have done, and gather together all, concerning which you can say, "This has been done for Christ: this day, or this hour was spent in seeking Christ." See how little it all amounts to. Look into your hearts, and see how many worldly concerns you find there compared to spiritual ones; how many worldly events have taken place there compared to spiritual ones; how many servants Christ has working for Him within you. All that is within you is supposed to serve Christ; every faculty is His servant; your thoughts, affections, understanding, conscience; every member; your hands, eyes, tongues, are all supposed to serve Christ. But are they working for Christ? Are your understanding viewing Christ? Are your thoughts searching for Christ? Are your affections working towards Christ? Are your consciences pleading for Christ? Are your tongues speaking for Christ? Are your hands working for Christ? The Devil has his servants busy working for him; our carnal thoughts, our fleshly lusts, our earthly affections, all our earthly members are hard at work for the Devil; to harden us against Christ, to entice us from Christ, to defile and destroy our souls. But how little is done for Christ! It would make our hearts tremble if we considered how little. Maybe there are many of our souls in which not a single thing has been done for Christ since they had a being, and in those in which something has been done, oh how little is it!
What place has Christ in your hearts? What faith, or love, or fear, or honor does He have in you? How is His sanctifying work, His mortifying work progressing in you? How are His enemies in you, your lusts, and passions, and carnal affections faring? Aren't they still ruling in His place? Oh how little has been done for Christ within us! How little power and authority does He have in us! How low are we both in terms of grace and peace? How little is He thought of, loved, or praised in us? How little pleasure or delight do we take in Him? How little care do we take for Him? Any little good thing that He has given us, how has it been cherished, nourished, and improved? Doesn't it languish and waste away? While our faces shine, our flesh flourishes, our outward man thrives, our inner man is in a withering, perishing state.
Think for yourselves, are things within you as you wish they were? Is it with your souls as Christ would have it? Do you think He will say to you, in the state you're in, "Well done, you have been a faithful servant, a good steward of my manifold graces?" How is it outside you? What are your duties? What are your ways? What about praying, or hearing, or walking? Oh what shuffling over duties, what halting in your goings! What do you do more than others? Aren't you as carnal and vain as others?Aren't you just as arrogant and stubborn as others? Aren't you just as distasteful and unproductive? What value do you bring to those around you? What kind of example are you setting for them? How are they benefiting from your presence? Is your light shining? Are you inspiring them to love and do good deeds? What are you doing for your family, friends, or any members of Christ?
Do you feel any sorrow for the dishonor of Christ? Do you feel the pain of Christ's suffering? Isn't Christ suffering greatly in the world, through his ministers, his members, his worship, his Sabbaths, and his ordinances? How is Christ faring in the world? How is his gospel, his saints? Is everything okay? Is there peace? Is the Church thriving? Is religion flourishing? Or is it suffering, mourning, bleeding, and on the verge of disappearing? Yet, who really cares about these things? How few people truly take them to heart? Where are the hearts that tremble for the Ark of God? That ask, how is the Israel of God faring?
Oh, my friends, it's heartbreaking to see how little attention is given to the things of Christ. But why is this? Look around the world, and you'll see the reason. What's happening everywhere? Go from one town to another, from one house to another, and what are people doing? We're so busy with buying, selling, building, planting, plowing, sowing, marrying, and giving in marriage. We're so preoccupied with this world that we barely regard Christ and his teachings.
This worldly focus prevents us from receiving the grace and true peace that we could receive from Christ. The worries of this world choke the Word, preventing it from thriving in our souls, from enlivening us, or comforting us. Grace flourishes best in those gardens where it has the least of earth. A worldly-minded Christian will never grow beyond being a spiritual dwarf, an infant in religion, even at forty years old. Many of us have lived for years under the profession of religion, with some hope towards God, and some confidence that Christ is truly within us. But if we were to take stock of ourselves, what progress have we made in God's grace all this while? What has been added to our faith, love, or zeal for God? To our knowledge of God, to our understanding of our own hearts? How much humility, spirituality, self-control have we gained? What power over our corruptions, our pride, our anger, our pettiness, our fleshliness have we obtained? What evidence have we gathered for heaven? How much clearer and grounded is our confidence and assurance now than it was seven, ten, or twenty years ago?
Oh, how sadly most of us might answer, "What have I gained? How have I grown? Oh, may the Lord be merciful to me, have I not lost? Have I not declined and decayed? Is it not worse with me now than many years ago; my faith, my love, my holiness, and my hope, my comfort, and my confidence? Rather, my fears, my doubts, my darkness, my deadness, and my sins have grown upon me. I have less life, love, joy, and peace than when I first sought Christ." Let worldly-minded Christians examine themselves closely. If this lean, starving, lifeless state of soul is all the kindness they owe to their worldliness. It has built you houses, bought you lands, filled your purses, fed your bodies, and provided for your families, but it has starved your souls. "Oh, my leanness, my dry and withered soul, my weak heart, my wasted conscience. How little truth or tenderness, love, or life, or warmth do I feel within me? How much pride and stubbornness? How much lust and liberty to sin have grown upon me? I can get angry, upset, and irritated; I can be dishonest, I can lie and deceive. All the religion I have gained in my soul, after such a long time of profession, is not enough to restrain these vile abominations. Oh, my soul, how sad is your state? How low have you fallen to this day? How did this happen? Well, this is the result of your worldliness; your laboring and hungering so much after perishable things, or your indulgence in pleasure, or your ease. This is what has kept you in such a poor, unfruitful, barren, dark, and uncomfortable state as you are in today. For all this unhappiness, you owe it to the world and your worldliness.
So, you've seen how the world can be hostile towards souls, right? It keeps us from Christ, clouds our vision so we can't see the greatness or the necessity of Christ. It numbs our senses and stops us from following Christ, it limits Christ, and so on.
Just a quick thought to consider - if you identify as a Christian, or if you're thinking about becoming one, do you want to truly grow in your faith? Do you want to thrive in holiness? Do you want to experience the comfort that Christianity can provide? If so, be careful and watch out for a heart that's too focused on worldly things. This kind of mindset can either prevent you from fully embracing Christ, or it can act like a canker or a moth, consuming and destroying all the Christian faith you've managed to build up.