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Here, all habits of sensuality, all inordinate gratifications, and all voluptuous indulgences, are declared to be inconsistent with our duties as reasonable and religious beings. They cannot, by any possibility, serve the purposes for which we were created ; they cannot promote our true and substantial welfare, They are base and ruinous in themselves ;—they are transient, though destructive :—for the world passeth away, and all its momentary enjoyments are at an end; but “ he that hath the will of God, abideth for ever.” The good man goes on in progressive improvement; and through all the scenes of his life, he is gradually advancing towards perfection.
In St. John's Gospel, our blessed Saviour includes under the comprehensive title of “the world,” all persons who are persecutors, and of a cruel disposition, or otherwise bent upon wickedness. He assures his disciples, that they, on account of their opposite character, will be objects of odium and of rancorous hostility. “Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world,” on account of the simplicity of your manners and the integrity of your hearts, “therefore the world hateth you." These same worldlings are afterwards described as
hating the Father also,” and, consequently, as having no regard for truth and righteousness, no proper esteem for order and virtue. The love and practice of every thing tending to purify the heart, soften the affections and elevate the characters of mankind, were always the subjects of his teaching :-and they who kept his commandments were to be considered not only as his friends, but also the friends of his hea. venly Father. This was a friendship to be honoured and cultivated, to be acquired and preserved, beyond -incomparably beyond every thing that earth or heaven could give ;-beneficial, in the highest degree, to all good men ;-and raising human nature to the greatest possible perfection. “ The friendship of the world,” in the Scriptural sense of the expression, must, of course, be of an opposite nature, and devoid of all those recommendations.
St. James, in the context, describes the good qualities of a man who, in strictness and propriety, ought to be regarded and valued as a friend. He speaks of him as one who can prove himself such by “a good conversation,” that is, by virtuous behaviour,by irreproachable manners,—and can show that his actions are regulated by the “ meekness of wisdom," —not that meekness which is merely a soft and constitutional effusion of the heart, but that which proceeds from thought and intelligence,—from a willing and discerning mind, and a tender disposition, all acting together. Such wisdom shews itself to be of that kind which the all-wise Creator has bestowed out of his own treasures. It is “wisdom from above,” and so the Apostle himself styles it. Its effects, indeed, shew that it is of divine and not of earthly origin. It is “first, pure; then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated :" it is “ without partiality, and without hypocrisy." But if, on the other hand, we view the “ friendships of the world” in their actual operations, we shall find that they are of a very different nature. They produce "envyings and strife,” accompanied with “confusion and every evil work.” The “ wisdom” from which they proceed, is a dexterity and a cunning, quite incompatible with the purity and singleness of heart that religion requires. It has no reference to heaven ; but is, as the Apostle himself describes it, “earthly, sensual, devilish.” He further tells us, that from this sinister wisdom, and from such friendships, “come wars and fightings,” inasmuch as they are employed in the service of sensuality and vice. Friendships, indeed, they ought not to be called, in the strict and determinate sense of the word. They are associations or confederacies to gratify irregular passions and evil desires. They are combinations of bad men, to carry unjustifiable points, to circumvent the honest and undesigning, and to promote the purposes of vice and iniquity. And can any one who is endued with reason and common sense-much less can any Christian-be ignorant that such friendship “is enmity with God?”—and that whoever will be a friend of the world in this sense, is the enemy of God, in a manner not to be dissembled or concealed ?
The true nature and the moral qualities of all the associations into which men form themselves, are to be determined by the purpose or final intention of them. If that be laudable and worthy, the connexion and intercourse of the parties may justly assume the
name of friendship-a name that excites, on the very first hearing, notions of true honour and of creditable acts. But if the union be made, and the efforts of steady service and accumulated diligence be exerted, to promote a bad man in preference to a good one,to serve a private interest in opposition to the welfare of a whole community,--to facilitate the schemes of any irregular though pleasurable enjoyment, of corrupt ambition, or of all-grasping avarice ;-even the men of mere morality, who never study the sacred writings, and who do not profess to make them their rule of life, will refuse to give to such connections the title of friendship :-they will style them vicious attachments, compacts against the public good, and dishonest combinations.
“ Whatsoever thou takest in hand,” says the wise Son of Sirach, in his book of Ecclesiasticus, “remember the end ; and thou shalt never do amiss.” It is from rashness, or from want of thought, or from confiding too soon and too implicitly in the good intentions of men with whose real characters we are not sufficiently acquainted, that most of the evils in social life arise. The purest morals have thus been frequently undermined and corrupted by the insinuating though unperceived power of vicious communications: and men have found themselves entrapped into “the counsel of the ungodly” and “the way of sinners,” when a little precaution would have kept them at a distance from both. It has happened in numberless instances, that one false step has led to utter and irretrievable ruin ; and that the danger itself has not been perceived, till it actually arrived, and when there were no means of escaping. If, therefore, those who are not yet contaminated with the world's evil ways, would seriously consider the consequences that are likely to arise from their actions ; -if, before they run headlong into sin, or carelessly “ follow a multitude to do evil,” they would “sit down and count the cost” to their own souls of such hazardous rashness, they would escape many of the troubles which others have fallen into, and which they have bitterly deplored when it has been too late.
The Christian religion is so far from discouraging or discountenancing friendships in the worthy and laudable sense of the word, that it regulates their purposes and their activity, gives strength to their virtuous operation, and heightens their glory and merit. It teaches us to join in affections with persons who are amiable in themselves, and worthy of a pure and disinterested regard ;-to unite in heart and soul with men who are actuated by honest principles and generous sentiments, and who are intent upon no pursuits but such as are justifiable and praiseworthy. To be a friend to good men, is to be a friend to those to whom our blessed Lord declares himself a friend. To be a friend to such on earth, is to engage in a friendship that will be approved by the Author of all goodness, and rewarded hereafter in heaven :-for, as it coincides with