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enemy to Christians. Its objects, its spirit, its necessary concerns, all unite their influence to obstruct their progress in the way to heaven.
This enemy they have to meet, resist, and overcome every day, as long as they abide in the flesh. I now proceed to show,
II. That it is by faith, that they overcome the world. “ This is the victory,” says the apostle, “ that overcometh the world; even our faith.” He supposes that all Christians in a measure overcome the world. And this is the general representation of scripture. They are said to have their conversation in heaven; to live in the spirit; to be risen with Christ; to seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; to set their affections on things above, and not on things on the earth; to be dead to sin; and crucified to the world and the world to them." All Christians have the same spirit, and gain the same kind of victory over the world, and by the same means. It is by faith. Faith in invisible and eternal realities has a direct and powerful tendency to overcome the corrupting influence of worldly objects. For in the eyes of faith they appear in their true light, as empty, and vain, and unworthy to be compared with the great and glorious objects of eternity. Here then it may be observed,
1. That it is by faith in God, that Christians overcome the world. A realizing sense of the being, the perfections, and presence of God, makes the world appear as nothing, and less than nothing, and vanity. When the attention and hearts of Christians are fixed upon God, and they feel themselves surrounded by his presence as well as supported by his hand, the glory of the world vanishes, and God appears to be all in all. And while their supreme attention and affections are immediately placed upon God, neither the world, nor the things of the world, can move them from the path of duty, or the source of happiness. They feel as David did when he said, “Whom
. have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." All the terrors of the world vanish in the view of the divine favor and presence. Hence we read, that Moses “endured as seeing him who is invisible.” While Christians, in the exercise of faith, view God as on their side, they feel that there is more for them, than against them. So David said he felt. “ The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear ? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid ?" By faith in God, Christians take hold of his strength, and become strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. They feel all the security that almighty power, infinite wisdom, perfect goodness, and unfailing faithfulness
can afford. And this faith makes them stronger than the whole world, and able to overcome it.
2. Faith in Christ enables Christians to overcome the world. Much of their weakness arises from a sense of guilt and illdesert. They feel that they might justly be left to themselves, and denied the favor, the presence, and protection of God. But when they exercise a lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has atoned for all their sins, they see a just ground of unshaken confidence in the pardoning mercy of God. And while they renounce all dependence upon their own goodness, they can confide in the atoning blood of Christ, to recommend them to the divine favor, and entitle them to everlasting life. Every Christian can adopt the language of Paul. “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am cruci. fied with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
While Christians view by an eye of faith the divine Redeemer, who died to atone for their sins, who lives to intercede for their perseverance, and who reigns for their final salvation, they feel a courage and confidence, which bears them above all the scenes and objects, and all the storms and tempests of the present life, that have a tendency to obstruct them in the duties and enjoyments of religion. Because Christ lives they shall live, and because Christ reigns they shall conquer and overcome the world, which he is able to put under his own feet, and the feet of all his friends.
3. Faith in the divine promises, serves to give Christians the victory over the world. God has made great and precious promises to all who embrace the gospel and believe in Christ. He has promised to afford them his presence, the gracious influences of his Spirit, to guard them against the dangers to which they are exposed, to give them peace and consolation, and finally to conduct them to his heavenly kingdom. He has promised to hear and answer their prayers, and in a word, to make all things work together for their good. While Christians by faith in the divine promises, rely upon the faithfulness of God, they have courage and resolution to resist and overcome the world. It was by faith in the divine promises, that Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and all the ancient patriarchs overcame the world, and conquered all their spiritual enemies. They beheld the promises afar off, and embraced them, and while they embraced them, they were superior to all the opposition they met with from the world. And faith in the divine promises still inspires Christians with courage, forti
tude, and zeal to fight the good fight of faith, and to overcome all the obstacles that lie in their way to eternal life. I may add,
4. Nothing has a greater tendency to give Christians the victory over the world, than a strong and lively faith in the holiness and happiness of a future and eternal state. Time always vanishes in the view of eternity, and this world in the view of the next. The primitive Christians lived under a habitual and realizing sense of the invisible and eternal world. They had a strong and lively faith in the glory and blessedness of heaven, which carried them above all the evils and calamities of this present life. They reckoned the sufferings of this present time were not worthy to be compared with the glory which was to be revealed in them in heaven. They consoled themselves with the thought, that though their outward man perished, yet their inward man was renewed day by day. They could say with the apostle, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” David said unto God long before he died, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness." And his last words corresponded with his previous faith and hope. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation and all my desire.” Whenever Christians have a clear and impressive sense of a glorious and blessed eternity, whether in health or sickness, whether in earlier or later life, they feel an ascendency over the world, which affords them peculiar satisfaction and enjoyment. The more Christians live in the faith, in the light, in the hope, and in the prospect of a blessed immortality, the more completely they gain the victory over the world.
1. If it be by faith that Christians overcome the world, then faith will turn the world into a friend to them. It is naturally their enemy; but when they conquer it by faith, it becomes their friend. This is a glorious world when viewed and conquered by faith. It appears to be full of the goodness of the Lord. It tends to lead the minds of Christians to God, and to give them a delightful view of all his glorious perfections, and of all his wise, and holy, and gracious designs. The works of
God in this world, more clearly display the perfections of his nature, than any other of his works of creation. There is a far greater variety in his works on earth, than in any other of his works in any other part of the universe, that we are acquainted with. And this vast variety eminently displays his manifold wisdom, and manifold goodness, and manifold sovereignty. Here are more than ten thousand different species of living creatures, which display the wisdom of God in their formation, and in the vast variety of purposes which they are designed to answer, and do answer; and which display the extensive and diffusive goodness of God in supplying their innumerable wants. Among the noblest works of God in this lower world are the immense multitudes of mankind, who are rational and immortal beings, and who exhibit an astonishing uniformity and variety in their features, talents, dispositions, and pursuits. These are all wonderfully and fearfully made, and display the power, the wisdom, the goodness, and the sovereignty of their great and glorious Creator. Not only the works of creation, but the works of providence in this world, more clearly and strikingly display the divine perfections, than they are displayed in any other part of the universe. It is here, that God is employing angels and men in carrying on his greatest, wisest, and best designs, and preparing things for the final, fullest, and brightest display of all his glory. Such is this world, when viewed by the eye of faith in the scriptures of truth. And this great and good world was made, and is governed, for the benefit of true believers, who are the heirs of salvation. And when they view the world in this light, it appears to be their friend, and not their enemy; for all the great things, good things, evil things, and mean things in it, are mutually conspiring to promote their holiness and happiness both in time and eternity. With an eye of faith Eliphaz viewed this world in this light, and he presented his conceptions of it to Job as a consolation to him in the midst of his afflictions. He says, “Behold, happy is the man whom God cor... recteth; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty ; for he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue : neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh. At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field : and the
beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and not sin. Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it and know thou it for thy good.” The apostle speaks the same consoling language to Christians, who overcome the world. “All things are yours: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." By overcoming the world, Christians may make everything in it friendly to their present, future, and everlasting good.
2. If it is by faith that Christians overcome the world, then they ought to live in the constant and lively exercise of faith. The world in which they live is full of enemies, which they are obliged to meet, resist, and overcome every day, and everywhere, and which they cannot overcome, without the constant exercise of that faith which makes future things present, and invisible things visible. All true believers who have heretofore overcome the world have lived by faith. They not only embraced the gospel at first by faith, but they lived a life of faith, in God, in his promises, and in the invisible realities of the invisible world. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” By this faith, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and his spiritual seed overcome the world. For we are told, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers, and pilgrims, on the earth.” “They desired a better country; that is, an heavenly. Wherefore God was not ashamed to be called their God : for he had prepared for them a city.” The primitive Christians lived habitually in the same faith, in which the ancient patriarchs lived. Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight. For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Again he says to the Colossians, “ Though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught." The first faith of Christians often inspired them with a fortitude, courage, and resolution, to fight the good fight of faith, and to overcome the world in all its seducing forms. But very soon their faith begins to lan