because everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.
I. IN ITS ORIGIN. "Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world." The true Christian is "born anew;" he is "born of the Spirit;" he "is begotten of God." This relationship involves:
1. Participation in the life of God, especially the life of love (cf. 1 John 4:7).
2. Resemblance to the character of God.
3. Possession of the filial spirit in relation to God.
4. The title to a glorious inheritance from God. "We are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16, 17); God "hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible," etc. (1 Peter 1:3-5).
II. IN ITS CONFLICT. Our text speaks of overcoming, and overcoming is suggestive of struggle. "Victory" implies combat. The Divine life in man and the life of the ungodly world are essentially antagonistic. Satan is "the prince of this world" - "the god of this world." "St. John constantly teaches," says Canon Liddon, "that the Christian's work in this state of probation is to conquer 'the world.' It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view of life which ignores God, against that complex system of attractive moral and specious intellectual falsehood which is marshaled and organized by the great enemy of God, and which permeates and inspires non-Christianized society. The world's force is seen especially in ' the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eyes, and in the pride of life.' These three forms of concupiscence manifest the inner life of the world," and against them the Christian has to contend. It is the battle of truth against error, of light against darkness, and of love against hatred.
III. IN ITS CONQUEST. "Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." The Divine life in the children of God is by its nature mightier than the life and spirit of the unchristian world. There is conflict, but the conflict issues in the victory of the child of God. He is not overcome of evil, but overcomes evil with good. He is not led astray by "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the vain-glory of life," but rises superior to them. In proportion as he who "is begotten of God" participates in the life of God, he vanquishes the world and its temptations, both its seductions and its tribulations. And all the evil world, of which the apostle wrote, is destined to be completely conquered by the life of God working in and through men.
IV. IN THE SECRET OF ITS POWER. "This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Notice:
1. The nature of this faith. It is not the mere intellectual acceptation of a theological proposition or propositions; "not that heartless assent which never touches the practice nor moulds the affections." This faith is quite as much a moral as an intellectual act; it is of the heart as well as of the head; and it infuses courage, moulds character, and directs conduct.
2. The Object of this faith. "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"
(1) Faith in Jesus as truly human. St. John, in thus mentioning Jesus, evidently took for granted that his readers believed in the reality of his human life. We must believe in him as toiling and tired, tempted and tried, suffering and sorrowful, persecuted and crucified, risen and ascended. Yet he was never the vanquished, but always the Victor. Even on the cross he conquered.
(2) Faith in Jesus as essentially Divine. Not that he is a son of God, but "that Jesus is the Son of God" - "His only begotten Son" (1 John 4:9). If the Christian would overcome the world, "he must have a strong faith," as Canon Liddon says - "a faith in a Divine Saviour. This faith, which introduces the soul to communion with God in light, attained through communion with his blessed Son, exhibits the world in its true colours. The soul spurns the world as she clings believingly to the Divine Son." We have said that Jesus was always victorious. As we truly believe in him, we are partakers of his life and sharers in his victory. This is in accordance with his own word to his disciples: "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Says Dr. Stier, "Our faith in him is the victory which has already overcome the world. 'The conflict and suffering which we now have is not the real war, but only the celebration, a part of the glory, of this victory (Luther)." So St. Paul, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me."
3. The exclusiveness of this faith as the means of victory over the world. "Who is he that overcometh the world, See this and the following points more fully stated in our homily on 1 John 3:1. On the meaning of" the world" in this Epistle, see our homily on 1 John 2:15-17. but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" The complete victory over the world can be attained only by genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. - W.J.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world
Homilist.I. THE GREATEST CHARACTER. "Born of God." This means a moral generation in men of a Divine character. It implies three things.
1. Filial devotion.
2. Moral resemblance. Like begets like, children are like their parents. He who is morally born of God resembles God in spirit and in character.
3. Glorious heirship. "If a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
II. THE GREATEST CONQUEST. "Overcometh the world." The world is here used to represent the mighty aggregation of evil. The conquest of the world includes the subordination —
1. Of matter to mind. The rendering of all material elements, circumstances, and influences, subservient to the elevating of the reason and the ennobling of the soul. It includes the subordination —
2. Of the mind to God. The devotion of the intellect to the study of God; of the heart to the love of God; of the conscience to the will of God. Sublime conquest this! The grand difference between a man Divinely born and others is this, that he conquers the world whilst others are conquered by it.
(Homilist.)I. THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE IS A LENGTHENED CONTEST WITH THE THREE ENEMIES — "sin, the world, the devil." What is the "world," and what is "worldliness"? Can we find in the Scriptures any full lists of acts which are worldly? No. It is the genius of Christianity to give us principles, and not precise rules.
II. Is THIS WRY LIBERTY CONSISTS THE STRICTNESS OF THE LAW. And owing to this, too, there is a difficulty in obeying it, far beyond that of obeying a law, To escape this difficulty various attempts have been made to lay down precise rules, and to define exactly what is and what is not "the world" and "worldly." The most common of these tests is, as is well known, that of presence at social reunions and amusements of a particular class. It seems uncharitable to pronounce as necessarily irreligious those who, with every other token of sincere piety, are found nevertheless sometimes in places where others of us are never to be seen. If a person whose whole life and walk is that of a Christian says that he really before God has come to the conclusion that his spiritual growth is in no wise retarded by the enjoyment of some pleasure — not in itself sinful — and that his example is not likely to be injurious to others, it does seem monstrous to say to him, "That is one of the things I have set down as belonging to the world; and as you see no harm in it, you are outside the covenant." To our own Master we each of us stand or fall. Moreover, the test is insufficient, and therefore deceptive. It is quite possible to bear it without a particle of religion, or without even any profession of religion. Another evil arising from this arbitrary and most inadequate test of worldliness is, that the persons who apply it are very liable to be deceived by it themselves. From habitually speaking of one kind of worldliness they lapse into the practical belief that there is none other; and, having clearly overcome that — sometimes after a long trial of physical rather than spiritual strength — they imagine that they have given up the world, and that their contest with that enemy, at all events, is at an end. If we do strip off our ornaments of gold and cast them into the fire, we must take heed lest we worship the calf into which they are molten. Another, and not a trifling danger of these false tests arises from the fact that very many of those who use them are among the best, the most pious, and the most truly unworldly persons on earth. Now, when such persons use as tests of victory over the world the forsaking of those two or three courses or habits, the impression conveyed to the thoughtless votary of dissipation is this — "These amusements, then, are what I have to give up; on the subject of these is the main difference, between myself and those about whose piety there can be no doubt. Well, I shall give them up assuredly at some time, as many have done before me, and then I shall stand in their position." And, as time and change of circumstances will in many cases bring about this resemblance, they leave it to time to bring about, and make no effort to overcome a "world" which, as they have been accustomed to hear it described, will in all probability one day fly away of its own accord.
III. PRECISE RULES UPON MATTERS INTRINSICALLY INDIFFERENT, BUT CAPABLE OF BEING MADE OCCASIONS OF FOSTERING A WORLDLY SPIRIT, ARE TO BE AVOIDED, BECAUSE THEY GIVE TO THOSE WHO AT PRESENT WANT TO BE GUIDED NEITHER BY THE LETTER NOR THE SPIRIT A FALSE IMPRESSION AS TO WHAT THAT WORLD IS BY THE SUBJUGATION OF WHICH WE ARE TOLD THE CHILD OF GOD IS CHARACTERISED. Before you come to be Christians you must bear far stricter tests than these. Especially in these cravings for excitement and gaiety, which are by your own admissions the forms in which the world is most alluring, and because they are so, you must be completely changed. But the contest does not end there or then. To you and all of us it ends on earth, and while we live, nowhere and never, For "the world" is not a time, or a place, or a class of persons, or a definable course of acts, or a definite set of amusements; it is a system pervading every, place, extending from age to age, tempting us in all our occupations, mixing itself with all our thoughts, insinuating itself under forms the most unsuspected, lurking in pursuits the most harmless — yea, in pursuits, without it, the most holy — checking aspirations the most noble, sullying affections the most pure.
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
Homilist.I. HE HAS THE HIGHEST MORAL PEDIGREE. In conventional society there are fools who pride themselves in their ancestry.
1. In him there is a moral resemblance to the greatest Being. As the human offspring partakes of the nature of his parent, so the good man partakes of the moral character of God, a character loving, pure, just.
2. Over him there is the tenderest care of the greatest Being. "As a father pitieth his children," etc.
3. In him there is the most loyal devotion to the greatest Being. He loves the "Most High" supremely, constantly, practically.
II. HE ACHIEVES THE HIGHEST MORAL CONQUEST. He overcomes the world. He conquers errors, lusts; he overcomes bad habits and reforms corrupt institutions.
(Homilist.)I. THE CONTEST WITH THE WORLD. It is assumed to be universal. None can avoid it. If we follow Christ we must resist the world. The forms in which this warfare must be maintained are many and dangerous. The apostle had in his view the persecutions which believers were required to encounter in his day from the world. We have cause to be thankful that we are not exposed to the trials of those times. Even supposing, however, that our danger does not lie in this direction, it may still be great in another. The love of money may eat as a canker into the soul. It may tempt to practices of very doubtful propriety. It may harden the heart against the claims of others. Even the enlightened and Godly man finds the extreme danger of this subtle enemy. It is a principal hindrance to his growth in grace. It can be withstood only by a most determined resistance.
II. HOW THIS VICTORY MAY BE GAINED.
1. Regeneration. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." There is great force in the term "whatsoever." It refers to the work of the Spirit in the soul. So far as that prevails there is a power and principle in direct antagonism to the world. And so far as the new man prevails, it overcometh the world. Paul reiterates the same sentiment (Romans 12:2). He takes for granted that unless there be this transformation of mind, there will be conformity to the world, but that such transformation will overcome it. How it does so may easily be shown.(1) The mind is then enlightened. It sees the world in its true character.(2) The conscience is quickened. There is the utmost jealousy lest the world should obtain the place of God.(3) The heart is purified. Thus the taste is rendered pure and heavenly. The world, therefore, cannot please nor satisfy.
2. Faith. "This is the victory," etc. Show how faith secures such a blessed issue.(1) It does so by engaging the attention with Jesus Christ. This is prominent in the verse before us. "He believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." His mind becomes thus occupied with the high themes of the person and work of Christ. In comparison with them, all other things fall into insignificance in his esteem.(2) Again, the believer is much strengthened in these elevated views by observing that one design of Christ's salvation is to secure a victory over the present world.(3) Further, he is encouraged while he is warned by considering the example of Christ and of those who have been conformed to Him. They conquered, and so may he.(4) Finally, his faith carries him into close and constant intercourse with eternity, and thus a mighty influence is brought to bear upon him, and deaden his attachments to the present world. It is of the very nature of faith to unveil the eternal world.
(J. Morgan, D. D.)I. THE SUBJECT PRINCIPALLY SPOKEN OF, the born of God. This doctrine, however ridiculed by some, our Saviour preached with great plainness, as absolutely necessary. To be born of God is to have a supernatural principle of spiritual life implanted by God in the soul. Concerning this principle of grace, whereby a dead sinner is made alive, let it be observed that it is infused and not acquired. The first principle or spring of good actions may, with equal reason, be supposed to be infused into us as Christians, as it is undoubtedly true that the principle of reasoning is infused into us as men: none ever supposed that the natural power of reasoning may be acquired, though a greater facility or degree thereof is gradually attained. Again, as in nature the seed produces fruit, and in things moral the principle of action produces action, as the principle of reason produces acts of reason, so in things spiritual the principle of grace produces acts of grace. And this principle of grace, which is at least in the order of nature antecedent to any act of grace, is the immediate effect of the power of God. But the words here are not whosoever, in the masculine gender, but whatsoever, in the neuter; and so may with as much, or more propriety, be applied to things than persons. They seem to refer to the inward or spiritual embellishments peculiar to the man of God as a soldier of Christ. As the Christian is one born of God, all his graces are born so too. To instance in faith, hope, and love, the cardinal or principle and most leading of them. How little a matter soever some persons make of believing, as if they had faith at their command, or could believe at pleasure, the Apostle Paul says expressly that "Faith is a fruit of the Spirit," so not the work of man. True Christian hope is also of Divine original. "It is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, who giveth us a good hope, through grace" (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17). And that love is a heaven-born grace nothing can be more clear than what this loving apostle says, "Love is of God, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:7, 16). So that He and His Spirit may properly be called the God, or Spirit of faith, hope, and love. These are a specimen of the rest; for as these, so in like manner the spiritual peace, joy, and consolation of saints, and all their other graces, are born of God; i.e., they receive their birth, rise, and first beginning from Him; and as their first life and all their motion is from Him, He only can put them into motion. Thus the soldier of Christ is girded of God Himself, and furnished by the Holy Spirit with every grace that is needful for his office and exercise.
II. To what is said or predicated of the subject of the words — the born of God. IT REFERS TO HIS HONOUR, TO OVERCOME THE WORLD. Neither the gospel of grace nor the graces of the gospel are given in vain to any person or people. The world is the theatre of action, or field of battle.
1. No man, as a descendant of the first Adam, is born a Christian or a saint, but a sinner.
2. Christians are soldiers by their calling, and their life is a continued warfare.
3. It may animate Christians as soldiers of Christ, insomuch as all their armour and artillery is proved, and born of God. His Spirit has formed and fitted it for them.
4. We see here the excellency of spiritual grace.
5. To preserve their humility and heighten their thankfulness to God the Spirit, Christians should always remember that whatever advantages or conquests they gain over their spiritual enemies are not owing to their wisdom, power, and fortitude of mind, as men, but to the instrumentality of their graces.
III. HOW OR WHEREBY THE CHRISTIAN'S HONOUR OF VICTORY IS ATTAINED; and it is by his faith — "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The gaieties, pleasures, and advantages of the present life are the arms with which the world has slain its thousands, and with which it still endeavours to delude and destroy mankind; but faith in Jesus Christ detects its fallacy and defeats its purpose on believers. If hope wavers, love chills and loses its wonted fervour, or patience; faith brings in new succours when it tells them, "Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Hebrews 10:37). In a word, faith is the enemy's killing and the Christian's conquering grace.
(G. Braithwaite, M. A.)1. THE REAL CHRISTIAN, IN HIS WAY TO HEAVEN, HAS A CONQUEST TO MAKE, A VICTORY TO WIN — he must overcome the world. Why is this? Because the world is fallen from God. Satan is its prince and ruler; and, therefore, at our very baptism we have vowed to renounce it. The devil finds in the world temptations suited to each one of us. One is tempted by riches to deny his God. The smile of the world and hope of its favour make many traitors to God; the fear of its frown, and still more of its sneers, keeps many from confessing Christ before men.
II. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN DOTH GAIN THE VICTORY OVER ALL: for "whosoever is born of God overcometh the world." Such a one hath that within him which is greater than the world, even the Spirit of God. The grace of God enables him to persevere; to get the better from day to day of his own evil desires; to resist the world's temptations.
III. AND BY WHAT MEANS DOES THE CHRISTIAN GAIN THE VICTORY? "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Not as though there were any strength in ourselves; not as though there were any merit in our faith; but by crediting His testimony, and by daring to act upon it, we obtain knowledge, and strength, and motives which make us conquerors. Let me show this by a comparison. A report is brought that in a distant country labour is wanted and high wages may be gained; that all things are abundant and flourishing. One man who hears the report, though he is able to go, continues where he is, to struggle with poverty. Another, when he hears it, forthwith sells all he has, removes his family, crosses the deep, encounters trials, and at length reaches the promised land of plenty. Why did he go? Because he believed; he had faith in the report; and his strong belief made him overcome all obstacles. So it is with that far higher faith, that gospel faith which is the gift of God, which He works in the heart, and which receives His testimony as true. Let us see how it is that everyone who has a true faith in Christ will overcome the world.
1. It is because the believer is fully convinced that the world is evil, that therefore the Son of God came to redeem him from its power, and to bring him to heaven and to God.
2. Again, the believer knows that the Lord Jesus conquered the world, not for Himself but for His followers, and that they must study and strive to be sharers in His victory.
3. The Christian sees by the example of Jesus Christ, by His life of humiliation and self-denial, and yet more by His bitter sufferings and death, that the world is to be renounced. This is the lesson of His Cross.
4. Faith teaches the Christian that the Saviour is able to make all grace abound towards him.
5. And once more, it is by faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, in His exaltation to Heaven, and His constant intercession for us there, that we are begotten again unto a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
(E. Blencowe, M. A.)
This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faithI. WHAT DID ST. JOHN MEAN BY THE "WORLD"? The old Greeks had employed the very word which St. John here uses, to describe the created universe, or this earth, in all its ordered beauty; and the word often occurs in this sense in Scripture (Romans 1:20; Acts 17:24; 2 Peter 3:6). But neither of these senses can belong to the word in the passage before us. This material world is not an enemy to be conquered; it is a friend to be reverently consulted, that we may know something of the Eternal Mind that framed it (Psalm 19:1; Psalm 24:1). Does St. John then mean by the world the entire human family — the whole world of men? We find the word, undoubtedly, used in this sense, also in the Bible (Matthew 5:14; Matthew 13:38; Matthew 18:7; John 8:12, 26; John 12:19; 1 Corinthians 4:13). This use of the word is popular as well as classical: it is found in Shakespeare and Milton; but it is not St. John's meaning in the present passage. For this world, which thus comprises all human beings, included the Christian Church and St. John himself. Whereas the world of which St. John is speaking is plainly a world with which St. John has nothing to do; a world which is hostile to all that he has at heart; a world to be overcome by everyone that is born of God. In this passage, then, the world means human life and society, so far as it is alienated from God, through being centred on material objects and aims, and thus opposed to God's Spirit and His kingdom. And this is the sense of the word in the majority of cases where it occurs in the writings of St. John (John 7:7; John 14:17, 27, 30; John 15:18, 19; John 17:9, 14; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 John 5:4, 19). This world, according to St. Paul, has a spirit of its own, opposed to the Spirit of God; and there are "things of the world" opposed to "the things of God"; and rudiments and elements of the world which are not after Christ; and there is a "sorrow of the world that worketh death," as contrasted with a "godly sorrow unto repentance, not to be repented of"; so that, gazing on the Cross of Christ, St. Paul says "that by it the world is crucified to him, and he to the world" — so utter is the moral separation between them. To the same purpose is St. James's definition of true religion and undefiled, before God and the Father; it consists not only in active philanthropy, but in a man's keeping himself unspotted from the world. And there is the even more solemn warning of the same apostle, "that the friendship of the world is enmity with God."
II. This body of language shows that THE CONCEPTION OF THE WORLD AS HUMAN LIFE, SO FAR AS IT IS ALIENATED FROM GOD, IS ONE OF THE MOST PROMINENT AND DISTINCT TRUTHS BROUGHT BEFORE US IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. The world is a living tradition of disloyalty and dislike to God and His kingdom, just as the Church is or was meant to be a living tradition of faith, hope, and charity; a mass of loyal, affectionate, energetic devotion to the cause of God. Of the millions and millions of human beings who have lived, nearly everyone probably has contributed something, his own little addition, to the great tradition of materialised life which St. John calls the world. The world of the apostolic age was the Roman society and empire, with the exception of the small Christian Church. When a Christian of that day named the world, his thoughts first rested on the vast array of wealth, prestige, and power, whose centre was at Rome. Both St. Peter in his first Epistle (1 Peter 5:13), and St. John in the Revelation (Revelation 18:2), salute pagan Rome as Babylon; as the typical centre of organised worldly power among the sons of men, at the very height of its alienation from Almighty God. The world, then, of the apostolic age was primarily a vast organisation. But it was not a world that could last (Revelation 18:1, 2, 4, 5). Alaric the Goth appeared before Rome; and the city of the Caesars became the prey of the barbarians. The event produced a sensation much more profound than would now be occasioned by the sack of London. The work of a thousand years, the greatest effort to organise human life permanently under a single system of government, the greatest civilisation that the world had known, at once so vicious and so magnificent, had perished from sight. It seemed to those who witnessed it as though life would be no longer endurable, and that the end had come. But before the occurrence of this catastrophe, another and a more remarkable change had been silently taking place. For nearly three hundred years the Church had been leavening the empire. And the empire, feeling and dreading the ever-advancing, ever-widening influence, had again and again endeavoured to extinguish it in a sea of blood. From the year of the crucifixion, A.D. 29, to the Edict of Toleration, A.D. 313, there were 284 years of almost uninterrupted growth, promoted by almost perpetual suffering; until at last, in St. 's language, the Cross passed from the scenes of public executions to the diadem of the Caesars. The world now to a great extent used Christian language, it accepted outwardly Christian rules. And in order to keep this world at bay, some Christians fled from the great highways and centres of life to lead the life of solitaires in the Egyptian deserts; while others even organised schisms, like that of the Donatists, which, if small and select, relatively to the great Catholic Church, should at least be unworldly. They forgot that our Lord had anticipated the new state of things by His parables of the net and of the tares; they forgot that whether the world presents itself as an organisation or as a temper, a Christian's business is to encounter and to overcome it. The great question was and is, how to achieve this; and St. John gives us explicit instructions. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
III. This is, I say, THE QUESTION FOR US OF TODAY, no less than for our predecessors in the faith of Christ. For the world is not a piece of the furniture of bygone centuries, which had long since perished, except in the pages of our ancient and sacred books. It is here, around and among us; living and energetic, and true to the character which our Lord and His apostles gave it. It is here, in our business, in our homes, in our conversations, in our literature; it is here, awakening echoes loud and shrill within our hearts, if, indeed, it be not throned in them. Is the world temper to be overcome by mental cultivation? We live in days when language is used about education and literature, as if of themselves they had an elevating and transforming power in human life. In combination with other and higher influences mental cultivation does much for man. It softens his manners; it tames his natural ferocity. It refines and stimulates his understanding, his taste, his imagination. But it has no necessary power of purifying his affections, or of guiding or invigorating his will. In these respects it leaves him as it finds him. And, if he is bound heart and soul to the material aspects of this present life, it will not help him to break his bonds. Is the world, then, to be overcome by sorrow, by failure, by disappointment; in a word, by the rude teaching of experience? Sorrow and failure are no doubt to many men a revelation. They show that the material scene in which we pass our days is itself passing. They rouse into activity from the depths of our souls deep currents of feeling; and we may easily mistake feeling for something which it is not. Feeling is not faith; it sees nothing beyond the veil. Feeling is not practice; it may sweep the soul in gusts before it, yet commit us to nothing. Feeling deplores when it does not resist; it admires and approves of enterprises which it never attempts. Consequently, self-exhausted, in time it dies back; leaving the soul worse off than it. would be, if it had never felt so strongly; worse off, because at once weaker and less sensitive than before. Certainly, if the world is to be overcome, it must be, as St. John tells us, by a power which lifts us above it, and such a power is faith. Faith does two things which are essential to success in this matter. It enables us to measure the world; to appraise it, not at its own, but at its real value. It does this by opening to our view that other and higher world of which Christ our Lord is King, and in which His saints and servants are at home; that world which, unlike this, will last forever. When "the eyes of a man's understanding are thus enlightened that he may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints," faith enables him to take a second step. Faith is a hand whereby the soul lays actual hold on the unseen realities; and so learns to sit loosely to and detach itself from that which only belongs to time.
(Canon Liddon.)I. THE CHRISTIAN'S ENEMY, THE WORLD.
1. The tyranny of the present. Worldliness is the attractive power of something present, in opposition to something to come. In this respect, worldliness is the spirit of childhood carried on into manhood. The child lives in the present hour — today to him is everything. Natural in the child, and therefore pardonable, this spirit, when carried on into manhood, is coarse — is worldliness. The most distinct illustration given us of this, is the case of Esau. In this worldliness, moreover, is to be remarked the gamester's desperate play. There is a gambling spirit in human nature. Esau distinctly expresses this: "Behold I am at the point to die, and what shall my birthright profit me?" He might never live to enjoy his birthright; but the pottage was before him, present, certain, there. Now, observe the utter powerlessness of mere preaching to cope with this tyrannical power of the present.
2. The tyranny of the sensual. I call it tyranny, because the evidences of the senses are all powerful, in spite of the protestations of the reason. The man who died yesterday, and whom the world called a successful man — for what did he live? He lived for this world — he gained this world. Houses, lands, name, position in society — all that earth could give of enjoyments — he had. We hear men complain of the sordid love of gold, but gold is merely a medium of exchange for other things: gold is land, titles, name, comfort — all that the world can give.
3. The spirit of society. The spirit of the world is forever altering — impalpable; forever eluding, in fresh forms, your attempts to seize it. In the days of Noah the spirit of the world was violence. In Elijah's day it was idolatry. In the day of Christ it was power concentrated and condensed in the government of Rome. In ours, perhaps, it is the love of money. It enters in different proportions into different bosoms; it is found in a different form in contiguous towns; in the fashionable watering place, and in the commercial city: it is this thing at Athens, and another in Corinth. This is the spirit of the world — a thing in my heart and sours; to be struggled against not so much in the case of others, as in the silent battle to be done within our own souls.
II. THE VICTORY OF FAITH. Faith is a theological expression; yet it is the commonest principle of man's daily life, called in that region prudence, enterprise, or some such name. It is in effect the principle on which alone any human superiority can be gained. Faith, in religion, is the same principle as faith in worldly matters, differing only in its object. The difference between the faith of the Christian and that of the man of the world, or the mere ordinary religionist, is not a difference in mental operation, but in the object of the faith — to believe that Jesus is the Christ is the peculiarity of Christian faith. Do you think that the temperate man has overcome the world, who, instead of the short-lived rapture of intoxication, chooses regular employment, health, and prosperity? Is it not the world in another form, which has his homage? Or do you suppose that the so called religious man is really the world's conqueror by being content to give up seventy years of enjoyment in order to win innumerable ages of the very same species of enjoyment? Has he not only made earth a hell, in order that earthly things may be his heaven forever? Thus the victory of faith proceeds from stage to stage; the first victory is, when the present is conquered by the future; the last, when the visible and eternal is despised in comparison of the invisible and eternal.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)I. First, the text speaks of a GREAT VICTORY — the victory of victories the greatest of all. A tough battle, I warrant you; not one which carpet knights might win; no easy skirmish; not one he shall gain, who, but a raw recruit today, put on his regimentals, and foolishly imagines that one week of service will ensure a crown of glory. Nay, it is a life long war — a fight needing the power of a strong heart.
1. He overcomes the world when it sets up itself as a legislator, wishing to teach him customs. Men usually swim with the stream like a dead fish; it is only the living fish that goes against it. It is only the Christian who despises customs, who does not care for conventionalisms, who only asks himself the question, "Is it right or is it wrong? If it is right, I will be singular. If there is not another man in this world who will do it, I will do it. I care not what others do; I shall not be weighed by other men; to my own Master I stand or fall. Thus I conquer and overcome the customs of the world."
2. The rebel against the world's customs. And if we do so, what is the conduct of our enemy? She changes her aspect. "That man is a heretic; that man is a fanatic; he is a cant, he is a hypocrite," says the world directly. She lets no stone be unturned whereby she may injure him.
3. "Well," saith the world, "I will try another style," and this, believe me, is the most dangerous of all. A smiling world is worse than a frowning one. It is not in the cold wintry wind that I take off my coat of righteousness and throw it away; it is when the sun comes, when the weather is warm and the air balmy, that I unguardedly strip off my robes and become naked. Some men cannot live without a large amount of praise; and if they have no more than they deserve, let them have it.
4. Sometimes, again, the world turns jailer to a Christian. Many a man has had the chance of being rich in an hour, affluent in a moment, if he would but clutch something which he dare not look at, because God within him said, "No." The world said, "Be rich, be rich"; but the Holy Spirit said, "No! be honest; serve thy God." Oh, the stern contest and the manly combat carried on within the heart!
II. But my text speaks of a GREAT BIRTH. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." This new birth is the mysterious point in all religion. To be born again is to undergo a change so mysterious that human words cannot speak of it. As we cannot describe our first birth, so it is impossible for us to describe the second. At the time of the new birth the soul is in great agony — often drowned in seas of tears. It is "a new heart and a right spirit"; a mysterious but yet an actual and real change! Let me tell you, moreover, that this change is a supernatural one. It is not one that a man performs upon himself. It is a new principle infused which works in the heart, enters the very soul and moves the entire man.
III. There is A GREAT GRACE. Persons who are born again really do overcome the world. Who are the men that do anything in the world? Are they not always men of faith? Take it even as natural faith. Who wins the battle? Why, the man who knows he will win it, and vows that he will be victor. "Never was a marvel done upon the earth, but it had sprung of faith; nothing noble, generous, or great, but faith was the root of the achievement; nothing comely, nothing famous, but its praise is faith. Leonidas fought in human faith as Joshua in Divine. Xenophon trusted to his skill, and the sons of Matthias to their cause." Faith is mightiest of the mighty. Faith makes you almost as omnipotent as God by the borrowed might of its divinity. Give us faith and we can do all things. I want to tell you how it is that faith helps Christians to overcome the world. It always does it homeopathically. You say, "That is a singular idea." So it may be. The principle is that "like cures like." So does faith overcome the world by curing like with like. How does faith trample upon the fear of the world? By the fear of God. How does faith overthrow the world's hopes? "There," says the world, "I will give thee this, I will give thee that, if thou wilt be my disciple. There is a hope for you; you shall be rich, you shall be great." But faith says, "I have a hope laid up in heaven; a hope which fadeth not away," and the hope of glory overcomes all the hopes of the world. "Ah! "says the world, "why not follow the example of your fellows?" "Because," says faith, "I will follow the example of Christ." "Well," says the world, "since thou wilt not be conquered by all this, come, I will love thee; thou shalt be my friend." Faith says, "He that is the friend of this world cannot be the friend of God. God loves me." So he puts love against love, fear against fear, hope against hope, dread against dread, and so faith overcomes the world by like curing like.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE CHRISTIAN'S POWERFUL FOE. The "god of this world" seeks to "blind men's eyes," and He does this with the "man born of God," chiefly by presenting to him the world's purest good, and tempting him to centre his affections upon that. The constant and bitter struggle is with that which is lawful and right, in its attempts to assume an unlawful and a wrong position; the most arduous contest is with earthly good in its attempts to win back his warmest affections.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S POWERFUL WEAPON. The faith spoken of in the text has its foundation in the belief of the Divine testimony respecting the Son of God. It is the being habitually influenced by that which is spiritual. It is the Cross ever present and trusted in; heaven ever visible and longed for. The world points below, faith above. The world influences us to live to ourselves; faith, to live to Christ. The world would confine our thoughts to time'; faith would fix them on eternity.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S PECULIAR TRIUMPH. That faith which is the gift of God, in its feeblest influence, will impart to the soul higher hopes, nobler pursuits, and warmer affections than can belong to this world. But whilst the Christian thus triumphs over the world, his triumph is peculiar. "Who is he that over cometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" None but the Christian places himself in opposition to the world. The battle of life indeed rages everywhere around. Interest clashes with interest, and passion strives with passion; but it is not against the world, but for it. And not only is the Christian the only man who is contending against the influence of the world, but he alone possesses the means for such a contest.
(J. C. Rook.)I. It is a matter of some consequence for a soldier to be aware of THE ENEMY WITH WHOM HE IS CALLED UPON TO CONTEND, his resources, and the plans which he is likely to resort to in order to overcome him. There is less danger in fighting with an enemy who can be seen, however powerful and determined he may be, than with one who hides himself in a forest and lurks in inaccessible regions. This is a harassing kind of warfare, which is always intended to weary out and exhaust those against whom it is employed. The soldiers of the Cross have little ground of complaint on this head, because they have been told of the enemy who is before and around them, of his character, and of the artifices to which he is certain to resort.
II. THE VICTORY WHICH IS PROMISED TO THOSE WHO FIGHT SO AS TO OVERCOME. The victory of faith over the world differs from all other conquests, which individuals or armies of men obtain over each other. When men quarrel, and resort to the tribunals of the country to have their differences settled, the litigant who gains the cause triumphs over his opponent and inflicts upon him serious loss either in his character or in his means, or both. When nations have recourse to war to settle their disputes, disasters, losses, physical suffering, and many evils always follow in the train even of victory. Such are the victories of armies over each other, but such is not the character of the victory of faith which the children of God achieve over the world. No treasure is wasted, no lives are lost, and no suffering is inflicted upon the vanquished enemy. The world is external to the Christian combatant, so that the warfare in its main features is essentially defensive, the valour of faith being employed to repel attacks and to defeat spiritual aggression. Temptation must be met and overcome by peculiar tactics, so that every successful act of resistance is so much gained toward the final victory, with no loss to the vanquished and with every gain to the victor. Victories over enemies are always followed by great rejoicings, which drown the cry of suffering and cause the people to forget their previous distresses in the exultation of the moment. The high song of eternity can only be chanted by the saints who have overcome the world, proved their valour on the battlefield of spiritual conflict, and received the guerdon of victory from the hands of the Arbiter of the destinies of the living and the dead.
III. THE INSTRUMENT BY WHICH THIS GREAT VICTORY IS TO BE OBTAINED. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Faith is one of the simplest of principles, because it is nothing more than a confidence in another, which never wavers or hesitates, but it is at the same time one of the mightiest which can enter into the soul. The power which is ascribed to it in Scripture is almost surpassing belief. Faith never stops to estimate the nature of a difficulty, but goes straight forward to its object without turning aside to the right hand or to the left. Faith laughs to scorn the power of the world.
(J. B. Courtenay, M. A.)
Essex Remembrancer.I. THE CHRISTIAN, BY FAITH, OVERCOMES THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE WORLD.
II. THE UNKINDNESS OF THE WORLD A CHRISTIAN OVERCOMES BY FAITH. Under this head I include persecution, reproach, calumny, treachery, and misrepresentation. All men are exposed to these more or less — Christians not excepted. Nothing so sours the temper and breaks the spirit, throws men off their guard, so provokes them to revenge, as unkind, unjust, and cruel treatment. Men of the world are overcome by it. They cannot brook an insult — their honour is touched, their pride wounded. Faith makes a Christian conquer here — faith in such exhortations as these (Romans 12:14, 17-21; 1 Peter 2:20-23).
III. THE CALAMITIES OF THE WORLD A CHRISTIAN OVERCOMES BY FAITH. Adversity and misfortune, as it is called, will overtake us in some shape or other. Men destitute of religion, who have no faith, sink beneath the weight of the burden, are driven to despair, break forth into loud complaints of Providence.
1. Let those persons who are the friends of the world remember they are the enemies of God, .and dying so, will be condemned with it at last.
2. Let the Christian "be of good cheer." Christ has overcome the world for him, and through faith in Him he shall overcome it too.
(Essex Remembrancer.)I. THE PERSONS to whom this victory belongs. He assigns it to those who are "born of God," and are "believers in Jesus Christ." Both descriptions apply to the same individuals.
1. Regeneration introduces us into the new world of grace — the Christian state. While such is the Christian's state, his distinguishing character is that of a believer in Jesus Christ.
2. Regeneration allies us more especially to the Father; faith to the Saviour.
3. Regeneration is the pledge of our victory over the world, and faith is the instrument of ejecting that victory.
II. CONSIDER THE VICTORY ITSELF.
1. Christians overcome the influence of the world as an example. The same passion which impels us to seek the society of others, impels us to adopt their habits and pursuits. And the same depravity which leads one class of men to set an evil example, leads another to copy and follow it. God, however, requires our imitation of others to cease whenever, by advancing, it would resist His will.
2. Christians overcome the spirit of the world as a guide. "Now," they say, "we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, by which we may know the things which are freely given to us of God."
3. Christians overcome the love of the world as a portion. Both their judgment and their taste respecting it are completely changed by regeneration and faith.
4. Christians overcome the fear of the world as an adversary. Born of God, they are under His special paternal protection; believing in Christ, they are strong in Him, and in the power of His might; hence the world has no more terrors than it has claims in their view.
5. Christians overcome the hope of the world as a recompense and a rest. Reducing to holy and habitual practice their belief of the shortness and uncertainty of life, and "knowing that they have in heaven a better and more enduring substance," they preserve a constant anticipation of death and eternity, and say, "I am ready to be offered, when the time of my departure is come."
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS SPIRITUAL WARFARE vary exceedingly with the condition of the world and of each individual. Sometimes the battle is fierce and dreadful; while, at other times, there is the appearance of a truce. This, however, is always a deceitful appearance. On the part of the enemy there never is any real cessation of hostility; and on the part of the Christian there should be none. The opposition of the world is of two kinds; or it assumes two aspects, of a very opposite nature. The first is an aspect of terror. It endeavours to alarm him, by holding out the prospect of losses to be sustained of things naturally desirable, of pains to be endured which are abhorrent to our nature, and does not merely threaten these evils, but actually inflicts them, in a very terrific form. There is another aspect which the world assumes in regard to religion. It does not always frown, but sometimes insidiously smiles. These are the temptations which are more dangerous than fires and gibbets. And the danger is greater because it does not appear to be danger. No apprehensions are awakened. Prosperity and indulgence are naturally agreeable to everyone. At this point, the world is powerful, and the best of men, left to themselves, are weak. Indeed, few who have set their faces Zionward, have escaped unhurt in passing over this enchanted ground.
II. Having shown how the world opposes the Christian, we come next to explain HOW THE CHRISTIAN GAINS THE VICTORY. "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." None achieve this great victory but souls "born of God"; for none beside possess a true faith. Genuine faith is a conviction, or full persuasion of the truth, produced by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The evidence on which this faith is founded, being the beauty and excellence of the truth perceived, cannot but be operative; for it is impossible that the rational mind should see an object to be lovely, and not love it. Such a faith must, therefore, "work by love and purify the heart," and be fruitful of good works. It will only be necessary to bring to view two principles, to account for the power of faith, by which it achieves this great victory. The first is, that our estimation of the value of objects is always comparative. The child knows nothing which it esteems more valuable than its toys; but when this child rises to maturity, and the interesting objects of real life are presented to it, the trifling baubles which engaged the affections in childhood are now utterly disregarded, and considered unworthy of a moment's thought. The other principle to which I alluded is this. The true method of expelling from the soul one set of affections is to introduce others of a different nature and of greater strength. When faith comes into operation, and love to God becomes the predominant affection, there is not only a great change, but a moral transformation of the soul, from the sinful love of the creature, to the holy love of the Creator. Now the world is conquered. Faith working by love has achieved the victory.
(A. Alexander, D. D.)I. WHO IS THE GREAT CONQUEROR OF THE WORLD? It is not he who out of a restless ambition and insatiable thirst for glory and empire carries his victorious arms to the remotest parts of the earth, but the man under this two-fold character:
1. Who hath subdued his inclinations and appetites to all things here below, and moderated his affections and passions about them.
2. Who, as a consequence of this, will not, either to gain the world or to keep it, do a base and unworthy action; whom all the glories of the world cannot tempt into a wicked enterprise, nor all its oppositions hinder from pursuing virtuous ones.
II. WHAT THAT FAITH IS THAT OVERCOMES THE WORLD. Now of faith there are several kinds: there is a faith grounded on probable reason, upon likely and promising arguments, which yet are not evident nor certain, but may possibly prove false, though they seem to be true; and this is rather opinion than faith. Again, there is a faith grounded on evident and certain reason, wherein if a man's faculties themselves are to be trusted, he cannot be mistaken; and this is rather knowledge than faith. But then there is a faith grounded on Divine revelation, the Word of God; and this is properly called faith, and that faith that overcomes the world: to wit, an hearty belief of all those things that God heretofore by His prophets, and in this last age by his Son, hath made known to the world.
III. WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS AND FORCES OF FAITH BY WHICH IT OBTAINS THIS VICTORY?
1. The Christian faith affords many excellent precepts to this purpose (1 John 2:15; Matthew 6:19; Colossians 3:2; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 7:31; James 1:27). Precepts of that direct use and tendency to the ease and tranquillity, to the honour and perfection of human nature, that, were they not enforced by Divine authority, would yet be sufficiently recommended by their own intrinsic worth and excellency.
2. The Christian faith sets before us a most powerful example, that of our blessed Saviour, who voluntarily deprived Himself of the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world.
3. The Christian faith assures us of supernatural assistances, those of the Holy Spirit.
4. The Christian faith assures us of most glorious rewards after the conquest — rewards so far surmounting all that this world can pretend to, that they exceed them a whole infinity, and will outlive them an eternity.
5. The Christian faith represents to us the dismal effects and consequences of being overcome by the world; no less than the loss of the soul, and all that is glorious and happy, together with an endless state of insupportable torments.
IV. IF THE FORCES OF FAITH ARE SO STRONG AND NUMEROUS, HOW COMES IT TO PASS, THAT NOTWITHSTANDING THEM, FAITH IS SO OFTEN OVERCOME BY THE WORLD?
1. Because our faith is many times weak, either through the shallowness of the root it has taken, or for want of being excited by due consideration.
2. Because it is many times corrupted; and at this door also are we to lay in a great measure the many shameful overthrows the Christian receives from the world, his corrupt opinions and doctrines; the false glosses and expositions, the forgeries and inventions of men have usually the same fatal influence on faith, as sickness and diseases have on the body; they soon enfeeble and dispirit it, by degrees taint the whole mass, and so alter its very constitution, that it becomes another faith, and administers to other purposes. The conclusion of all is this: that since it is faith that overcomes the world, and it is, through the weakness and corruption of it, that it so often miscarries, that we should use our utmost diligence to keep our faith strong and vigorous, pure and undefiled.
(S. A. Freeman, D. D.)1. In the world all seems full of chance and change. One man rises, and another falls, one hardly knows why: they hardly know themselves. A very slight accident may turn the future of a man's whole life, perhaps of a whole nation. What, then, will help us to overcome the fear of chances and accidents? Where shall we find something abiding and eternal, a refuge sure and steadfast, in which we may trust, amid all the chances and changes of this mortal life? In that within you which is born of God.
2. In the world so much seems to go by fixed law and rule. Then comes the awful question, Are we at the mercy of these laws? Is the world a great machine, which goes grinding on its own way without any mercy to us or to anything; and are we each of us parts of the machine, and forced of necessity to do all we do? Where shall we find something to trust in, something to give us confidence and hope that we can mend ourselves, that self-improvement is of use, that working is of use, that prudence is of use, for God will reward every man according to his work? In that within you which is born of God.
3. In the world how much seems to go by selfishness! But is it really to be so? Are we to thrive only by thinking of ourselves? No. Something in our hearts tells us that this would be a very miserable world if every man shifted for himself; and that even if we got this world's good things by selfishness, they would not be worth having after all, if we had no one but ourselves to enjoy them with. What is that? St. John answers, That in you which is born of God.
4. In the world how much seems to go by mere custom and fashion! But there is something in each of us which tells us that that is not right; that each man should act according to his own conscience, and not blindly follow his neighbour, not knowing whither, like sheep over a hedge; that a man is directly responsible at first for his own conduct to God, and that "my neighbours did so" will be no excuse in God's sight. What is it which tells us this? That in you which is born of God; and it, if you will listen to it, will enable you to overcome the world's deceit, and its vain fashions, and foolish hearsays, and blind party cries; and not to follow after a multitude to do evil. What, then, is this thing? St. John tells us that it is born of God; and that it is our faith. We shall overcome by believing. Have you ever thought of all that those great words mean, "Jesus is the Son of God"? — That He who died on the cross, and rose again for us, now sits at God's right hand, having all power given to Him in heaven and earth? For, think, if we really believed that, what power it would give us to overcome the world.
1. Those chances and changes of mortal life of which I spoke first. We should not be afraid of them, then, if they came. For we should believe that they were not chances and changes at all, but the loving providence of our Lord and Saviour.
2. Those stern laws and tales by which the world moves, and will move as long as it lasts — we should not be afraid of them either, as if we were mere parts of a machine forced by fate to do this thing and that, without a will of our own. For we should believe that these laws were the laws of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. If we believed really that Jesus was the Son of God, we should never believe that selfishness was to be the rule of our lives. One sight of Christ upon His cross would tell us that not selfishness, but love, was the likeness of God, the path to honour and glory, happiness and peace.
4. If we really believed this, we should never believe that custom and fashion ought to rule us. For we should live by the example of some one else: but by the example of only one — of Jesus Himself.
(C. Kingsley, M. A.)I. THE WORLD, in Holy Scripture, is the creature as opposed to the Creator; what is fleeting, as opposed to Him who alone is abiding; what is weak, as opposed to Him who alone hath might; what is dead, as opposed to Him who alone hath life; what is sinful, as separate from Him who alone is holy. The "world" is everything short of God, when made a rival to God. Since, then, God is the life of everything which liveth, in whatever degree anything be without God, separate from God, it is without life; it is death and not life. The world, then, is everything regarded as distinct from God, beside God; it matters not whether they be the things of the sense or the things of the mind.
II. WHAT IS VICTORY OVER THE WORLD? Plainly, not victory over the one or other thing, while in others people are led captive; not soundness in one part, while another is diseased; not to cultivate one or other grace which may be easier to us, leaving undone or imperfect what to us may be more difficult. It is to cut off, as far as we may, every hold which everything out of God has over us. And this struggle must be not for a time only, but perseveringly; not in one way, but in all ways; not in one sort of trials, but in all: whatever temptations God permits Satan to prepare for us, whatever trials He Himself bring upon us. It avails not to be patient in sorrow or sickness, if we become careless when it is withdrawn; to be humble to men, if we become self-satisfied with our humility; to overcome indolence, if we forget God in our activity. God be thanked, we are not left to ourselves, to perish. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world; we are not only the frail creatures which we seem, flesh and blood, but we are spirit, through the indwelling Spirit; we have been born, not only of the earth, but "from above," by a heavenly birth, of God; and so, since born of God, we are stronger than the world.
III. THIS IS "THE VICTORY WHICH OVERCOMETH THE WORLD, OUR FAITH," which realiseth things invisible, looks beyond the world. So that we must beware not only that we are in earnest striving, but striving with the right faith, that is, with the faith in which we were baptized, the faith in the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)I. WHAT IS THE TRUE NOTION OF CONQUERING THE WORLD? Where did John learn the expression? It comes from that never-to-be-forgotten night in that upper room, where, with His life's purpose apparently crushed into nothing, and the world just ready to exercise its last power over Him by killing Him, Jesus Christ breaks out into such a strange strain of triumph, and in the midst of apparent defeat lifts up that clarion note of victory: — "I have overcome the world!" He had not made much of it according to usual standards, had He? His life had been the life of a poor man. Neither fame nor influence, nor what people call success had He won, judged from the ordinary points of view, and at three-and-thirty is about to be murdered; and yet He says, "I have beaten it all, and here I stand a conqueror!" That threw a flood of light for John, and for all that had listened to Christ, on the whole conditions of human life, and on what victory and defeat, success and failure in this world mean. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ Himself, the poor man, the beaten man, the unsuccessful man may yet say, "I have overcome the world." What does that mean? Well, it is built upon this, — the world, meaning thereby the sum total of outward things, considered as apart from God — the world and God we take to be antagonists to one another. And the world woos me to trust to it, to love it; crowds in upon nay eye and shuts out the greater things beyond; absorbs my attention, so that if I let it have its own way I have no leisure to think about anything but itself. And the world conquers me when it succeeds in hindering me from seeing, loving, holding communion with and serving my Father, God. On the other hand, I conquer it when I lay my hand upon it and force it to help me to get nearer Him, to get like Him, to think more often of Him, to do His will more gladly and more constantly. The one victory over the world is to bend it to serve me in the highest things — the attainment of a clearer vision of the Divine nature, the attainment of a deeper love to God Himself, and of a more glad consecration and service to Him. That is the victory — when you can make the world a ladder to lift you to God.
II. THE METHOD BY WHICH THIS VICTORY OVER THE WORLD IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. We find, according to John's fashion, a three-fold statement in this context upon this matter, each member of which corresponds to and heightens the preceding. There are, speaking roughly, these three statements, that the true victory over the world is won by a new life, born of and kindred with God; that that life is kindled in men's souls through their faith; that the faith which kindles that supernatural life, the victorious antagonist of the world, is the definite, specific faith in Jesus as the Son of God. The first consideration suggested by these statements is that the one victorious antagonist of all the powers of the world which seek to draw us away from God, is a life in our hearts kindred with God, and derived from God. God's nature is breathed into the spirits of men that will trust Him; and if you will put your confidence in that dear Lord, and live near Him, into your weakness will come an energy born of the Divine, and you will be able to do all things in the might of the Christ that strengthens you from within, and is the life of your life, and the soul of your soul. And then there is the other way of looking at this same thing, viz., you can conquer the world if you will trust in Jesus Christ, because such trust will bring you into constant, living, loving contact with the Great Conqueror. He conquered once for all, and the very remembrance of His conquest by faith will make me strong — will "teach my hands to war and my fingers to fight." He conquered once for all, and His victory will pass with electric power into my life if I trust Him. And then there is the last thought which, though it be not directly expressed in the words before us, is yet closely connected with them. You can conquer the world if you will trust Jesus Christ, because your faith will bring into the midst of your lives the grandest and most solemn and blessed realities. If a man goes to Italy, and lives in the presence of the pictures there, it is marvellous what daubs the works of art, that he used to admire, look when he comes back to England again. And if he has been in communion with Jesus Christ, and has found out what real sweetness is, he will not be over tempted by the coarse dainties that people eat here. Children spoil their appetites for wholesome food by sweetmeats; we very often do the same in regard to the bread of God, but if we have once really tasted it, we shall not care very much for the vulgar dainties on the world's stall. So, two questions: — Does your faith do anything like that for you? If it does not, what do you think is the worth of it? Does it deaden the world's delights? Does it lift you above them? Does it make you conqueror? If it does not, do you think it is worth calling faith? And the other question is: Do you want to beat, or to be beaten? When you consult your true self, does your conscience not tell you that it were better for you to keep God's commandments than to obey the world?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(C. L. Thompson, D. D.)
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)I. HOW THE VICTORY IS GAINED. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." Beware of mere outside enlargement. Accretion is not increase. But where there is true life, you have growth and increase. The victory of vitality is onward, upward, skyward, heavenward. Look at this tree — a poor puny twig, you put it in the ground. Yet it is a victor, a conqueror proud and unbending; the very earth that keeps it up is thrust below it in triumph. One of the mighty forces of the universe next comes meddling with it, to coerce it downward, to overthrow it. Gravitation, from its march among the mazes of stellar light, from the holding up in its great hand of the swinging suns in yon far off abyss, now attacks this little newcomer. But there's life in the attacked, and the merest cell of protoplasm is greater than a whole universe of Jupiters and Saturns and stars and suns. The treeling conquers. Watch it rearing its tufted little head, upward stretching, upward reaching, upward growing, upward in spite of the steady downward pull of that blind nigh infinite force, upward. It's a marvel, a conquest, a triumph, an overcoming indeed. This shrublet lives, and because of life "born of God" it conquers and overcomes. Take another view point, for I wish to lead you up to all that is implied in the phrase "born of God." The "born" of man: what is that? Intellect, idea, mind, soul, thought. Is there not the march of a conqueror here? "No!" says the opposing Firth of Forth to the beseeching request of man for permission to cross, and it stretches out the broad arm of waves and waters to prevent and protest. No? but the "born" of man says Yes, and Inchgarvie bares its rocky back for the giant piles, and the great Bridge in levers and cantilevers springs in mocking triumph from shore to shore, and the roll of ordinary traffic now heralds the conquest in a daily song. Ay, wherever you look, whatsoever is "born" of man overcometh, rocks rend, valleys rise, and the great sea's bosom is beaten by revolving paddles and screws into the very king's highway. This is the victory, born of man, "born of God, LIFE!" At conversion the spiritual principle of the new creation starts its onward programme of evolution to the full stature of the perfect man in a glorified Christ. The new man lives, the old man dies and disappears. What is involved must be evolved, and the Creator has pledged Himself to it. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." The world is no friend to grace. It threatens and frightens, annoys, vexes, and checks. It may deform and deface, but kill? Never. The Mugho pine tree shaken by the headlong winds, just thrusts its roots more deeply into the crevices of the rock; the threatening vibrations but make it embrace the cliff and imbed itself in the strong Alpine heart all the more firmly; it's the better for all the blaud and bluster of the storm. So if your soul has got life, the merest atom, the minutest cell, the feeblest flicker, the faintest breath, it will grow the higher and higher for these assaults of Satan, for all the downward pulling of the gravitation of the pit.
II. THE CERTAINTY OF THE VICTORY. The Calvary is over, the great battle in the darkness is by, the devil is defeated, but it is yours now to pursue and to keep him in the "glorious confusion" of flight. It is yours, Christians, to be after the fleeing foe. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The faith here referred to by the apostle is not so much an attribute of our poor tired bankrupt hearts, but it is an objective outside thing, in fact, just an outward Creed or Confession. It is the fides quae and not the fides qua, the faith believed and not the faith believing. In the present ebb and flow of religious opinion or non-opinion, a creed is as necessary to the Church as the vertebral column to the human body. In the storm everything else may go by the board; the whole cargo may be jettisoned on the surf, but one thing is never flung over the gunwale to lighten the ship, and that is the compass. The binnacle sticks to the deck, and the faithful needle points on through the dash of the storm to the haven of safety and rest.
(John Robertson.)I. VICTORY or overcoming is a subjugation or bringing under an opposing party to the power and will of another. And this victory is of two kinds, complete and perfect, or incomplete or imperfect.
1. The notion of a complete victory is when either the opposing party is totally destroyed, or at least when despoiled of any possibility of future resistance. Thus the Son of God, the captain of our salvation, overcame the world (John 16:33),
2. There is a victory, but incomplete, such as the victory of the Children of Israel over the Canaanites. And this is the condition of the Christian militant in this world.
II. THE PERSON exercising this act of victory and conquest, he that is born of God.
III. THE THING upon which this victory is obtained and conquest made is the world, which comprehends in its latitude a double world; the world within us and the world without us.
1. The world that is within us taketh in the two great faculties or powers, viz.,(1) The passions of the soul; and(2) the sensual appetite; both these are in their own nature good, placed in us by the wise God of Nature, for most excellent ends and uses. Our business therefore is to keep them in subjection.
2. The world without us is of three kinds.(1) The natural world, which is the work of Almighty God, is most certainly in itself good; and only evil accidentally by man's abuse of himself or it.(2) The malignant and evil world, the world of evil angels, and of evil men.(3) The accidental, or more truly, the providential world in relation to man and his condition in this world, and is commonly of two kinds, viz., prosperous or adverse.
IV. THE FAITH WHICH THUS OVERCOMETH THE WORLD is nothing else but a deep, real, full persuasion of and assent unto those great truths revealed in the Scriptures of God.
1. What are those Divine truths which being really and soundly believed, doth enable the victory over the world?(1) There is one most powerful, wise, gracious, bountiful, just, and all-seeing God, the author of all being, that is present in all places, knows our thoughts, our wants, our sins, our desires, and is ready to supply us with all things that are good and fit for us beyond all we can ask or think.(2) This most wise and just and powerful God hath appointed a law or rule according to which the children of men should conform themselves.(3) This law and will of His He hath communicated and revealed to men in His holy Word, especially by the mission of His Son.(4) He hath given unto mankind, in and through Christ, a full manifestation of a future life after this of rewards and punishments, and according to that law of His thus manifested by His Son He will, by the same Jesus Christ, judge every man according to his works.(5) The reward of faith and obedience, in that other life to come, shall be an eternal, blessed, happy estate of soul and body in the glorious heavens, and in the presence and fruition of the ever glorious and eternal God.(6) The punishment of the rebellious and disobedient unto His will and law of God thus manifested by His Son shall be separation from the presence of God.(7) The Son of God hath given us the greatest assurance imaginable of the truth of this will of God by taking upon Him our nature, by His miracles, by His death and resurrection and ascension into glory, and by His mission of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation into His apostles and disciples.(8) God, though full of justice and severity against the obstinate and rebellious, yet is full of tenderness, love, and compassion towards all those that sincerely desire to obey His will, and to accept of terms of peace and reconciliation with Him, and is ready upon repentance and amendment to pardon whatsoever is amiss.
2. As touching the act itself, it is no other than a sound, real, and firm belief of those sacred truths. He that hath this firm persuasion will most certainly repent of his sins past, will most certainly endeavour obedience to the will of God, which is thus believed by him to be holy, just, and good.
V. HOW FAITH OVERCOMETH THE WORLD, WHICH TAKES IN THESE TWO CONSIDERATIONS.
1. Touching the degree of the victory that faith gives, it is a victory, but not without a continued warfare.
2. Touching the method whereby our faith overcometh the world.(1) In general the great method whereby faith overcometh the world is by rectifying our judgments and those mistakes that are in us concerning the world and our own condition.(2) But I shall come to particulars, and follow that track that is before given, in the distribution of the world, as well within as without us, and consider the particular method of faith in subduing them.
1. As for our passions.(1) Faith directs their due placing upon their objects by discovering what are the true and proper objects of them out of that large and comprehensive law of God which present them as such to the soul, and to be observed under the pain of the displeasure of the glorious and Almighty God.(2) Upon the same account it teacheth our passions and affections moderation in their exercise, even about their proper objects, and due subordination to the supreme love a man owes to the supreme good, God Almighty.(3) Upon the same account it teacheth us, under our obligation of duty to God, to cut off and mortify the diseases and corruptions of passion, as malice, envy, revenge, pride, vain glory, ostentation.
2. In reference to our desires.(1) Natural; it teacheth us great moderation, temperance, sobriety. As touching those degenerate and corrupt lusts, as covetousness, malice, envy; faith doth first of all in general show us that they are prohibited by the great Lord and Lawgiver of heaven and earth, and that under severe penalties; again, secondly, it shows us that they are the great depravers of our nature, the disturbers of the peace, security, and tranquillity of our minds; again, thirdly, it shows us that they are vain, impertinent, and unnecessary perturbations, such as can never do us any real good, but feed our vain imaginations with deceits instead of realities.
3. I come to the consideration of the world without us, as that which possibly is here principally intended, and the victory of the Christian by his faith over it, and first in relation to the natural world. This world is a goodly palace fitted with all grateful objects to our senses, full of variety and pleasantness, and the soul fastening upon them grows careless of the thoughts of another state after death, or to think of the passage to it, or making provision for it; but to set up its hope and happiness, and rest in it, and in these delights and accommodations that it yields our senses. Faith overcometh this part of the world —(1) By giving us a true estimate of it, to prevent us from overvaluing it.(2) By frequent reminding of us that it is fitted only to the meridian of life, which is short and transitory, and passeth away.(3) By presenting unto us a state of future happiness that infinitely surpasseth it.(4) By discovering our duty in our walk through it, namely, of great moderation and vigilancy.(5) By presenting unto us the example of the Captain of our salvation, His deportment in it and towards it.(6) By assuring us that we are but stewards unto the great Lord of the family of heaven and earth for so much as we have of it, and that to Him we must give an account of our stewardship.(7) By assuring us that our great Lord and Master is a constant observer of all our deportment in it.(8) And that He will most certainly give a reward proportionable to the management of our trust and stewardship.
4. As to the malignant world of evil men and evil angels; and therein first in relation to the evil counsels and evil examples, that solicit or tempt us to the breach of our duty to God. The methods whereby faith overcometh this part of the malignant world are these.(1) It presents unto us our duty that we owe to God and which we are bound indispensably to observe under the great penalty of loss of our happiness.(2) It presents us with the great advantage that we have in obeying God, above whatsoever advantage we can have in obeying or following the sinful examples, counsels, or commands of this world, and the great excess of our disadvantage in obeying or following the evil examples, or counsels of the world.(3) It presents Almighty God strictly observing our carriage in relation to these temptations.(4) It presents us with the displeasure and indignation of the same God in case we desert Him, and follow the sinful examples or counsels of men, and with the great favour, love, approbation, and reward of Almighty God if we keep our fidelity and duty to Him.(5) It presents us with the noble example of our blessed Saviour.(6) It presents us with the transcendent love of God in Christ Jesus, who, to redeem us from the misery of our natural condition, and from the dominion of sin, and to make us a peculiar people zealous of good works, chose to become a curse and die for us, the greatest obligation of love and gratitude and duty imaginable.And secondly, as to the other part or scene of this malignant world persecutions, reproaches, scorns, yea death itself, faith presents the soul not only with the foregoing considerations, and that glorious promise, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life," but some other considerations peculiarly proper to this condition.(1) That it is this state that our blessed Saviour hath not only foretold, but hath annexed a special promise of blessedness unto.(2) That there have gone before us a noble cloud of examples in all ages, yea, the Captain of our salvation was thus made perfect by suffering.(3) That though it is troublesome, it is but short, and ends with death, which will be the passage into a state of incorruptible happiness.
3. Concerning the third kind of world, namely, the providential world, consisting in external dispensations of adversity or prosperity.
1. And first concerning the dark part of the world, namely, adversity, as casualties, issues of wealth, or friends, sicknesses, the common effects whereof are impatience, distrust, murmuring, and unquietness.(1) Faith presents the soul with this assurance, that all external occurrences come from the wise dispensation or permission of the most glorious God; they come not by chance.(2) That the glorious God may, even upon the account of His own sovereignty, inflict what He pleaseth upon any of His creatures in this life.(3) That yet whatsoever he doth in this kind, is not only an effect of his power and sovereignty, but of His wisdom, yea, and of His goodness and bounty.(4) That the best of men deserve far worse at the hands of God than the worst afflictions that ever did or ever can befall any man in this life.(5) That there have been examples of greater affliction that have befallen better men in this life: witness Job.(6) That these afflictions are sent for the good even of good men, and it is their fault and weakness if they have not that effect.(7) That in the midst of the severest afflictions, the favour of God to the soul, discovering itself like the sun shining through a cloud, gives light and comfort to the soul.(8) That Almighty God is ready to support them that believe in Him, and to bear them up under all their afflictions that they shall not sink under them.(9) That whatsoever or how great soever the afflictions of this life are, yet faith presents to the believer something that can bear up the soul under these pressures, namely, that after a few years or days are spent, an eternal state of unchangeable and perfect happiness shall succeed.
2. As to the second part of this providential world, namely, prosperity, which in truth is the more dangerous condition of the two without the intervention of the Divine grace.(1) Faith gives a man a true and equal estimate of this condition, and keeps a man from over valuing it, or himself for it; lets him know it is very uncertain, very casual, very dangerous, and cannot outlast this life.(2) Faith assures him that Almighty God observes his whole deportment in it, that He hath given him a law of humility, sobriety, temperance, fidelity, and a caution not to trust in uncertain riches, that he must give an account of his stewardship also.(3) Faith lets him know that the abundance of wealth, honour, friends, applause, success, as they last no longer than this short transitory life, and therefore cannot make up his happiness, no nor give a man any ease or rescue from a fit of the stone or colic; so there is an everlasting state of happiness or misery that must attend every man after death.
(Sir M. Hale.)I. THE MERE LIGHT AND STRENGTH OF NATURE IS NOT ABLE TO SUBDUE THE WORLD.
1. Before we can readily give up all that is dear to us in this world, we must be very sure of something better in the next, and of this we cannot be sufficiently assured by unassisted reason.
2. An authoritative rule of life was wanting to the Gentile world.
3. A sinner by the light of nature cannot tell what will satisfy for sin.
4. To this want of knowledge we add want of strength in the natural man to perform his duty when known. 'Tis not enough that we have eyes, but we must have strength also to walk in the way that is set before us.
II. THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS PERFECTLY QUALIFIED FOR THIS END; for raising a true believer above all the temptations here on earth.
1. The evidence given for the truth of the Christian faith.
2. The helps and encouragements proposed in the gospel for overcoming the world.
(W. Reeves, M. A.)I. THE CONQUEST ITSELF "overcometh the world." We mingle among men of the world, but it must be as warriors who are ever on the watch, and are aiming at victory. Therefore —
1. We break loose from the world's customs.
2. We maintain our freedom to obey a higher Master in all things. We are not enslaved by dread of poverty, greed of riches, official command, personal ambition, love of honour, fear of shame, or force of numbers.
3. We are raised above circumstances, and find our happiness in invisible things: thus we overcome the world.
4. We are above the world's authority. Its ancient customs or novel edicts are for its own children: we do not own it as a ruler or as a judge.
5. We are above its example, influence, and spirit. We are crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to us.
6. We are above its religion. We gather our religion from God and His Word, not from human sources.
II. THE CONQUERING FUTURE. "Whatsoever is born of God."
1. This nature alone will undertake the contest with the world.
2. This nature alone can continue it. All else wearies in the fray.
3. This nature is born to conquer. God is the Lord, and that which is born of Him is royal and ruling.
III. THE CONQUERING WEAPON "EVEN OUR FAITH." We are enabled to be conquerors through regarding —
1. The unseen reward which awaits us.
2. The unseen presence which surrounds us.
3. The mystic union to Christ which grace has wrought in us.
4. The sanctifying communion which we enjoy with the unseen God.
IV. THE SPECIALITY OF IT. "This is the victory."
1. For salvation, finding the rest of faith.
2. For imitation, finding the wisdom of Jesus, the Son of God.
3. For consolation, seeing victory secured to us in Jesus.Lessons:
1. Behold your conflict — born to battle.
2. Behold your triumph — bound to conquer.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)A survey of history discovers to us the presence of a constant law, which may be thus described, progress through conflict. The conflict is of two kinds — physical, as where one nation hurls itself against another in war, or one party seeks to overcome another by sheer force of numbers; and moral, where the battle is one of truth against error, of righteousness against injustice, of religion against the forces of ungodliness. Corresponding to these two kinds of conflict are two kinds of victories — the one material, where present success is often on the side of the strongest battalions; and the other moral, where more permanent results are achieved by gradually transforming men's ideas, by substituting better institutions for corrupt and defective ones, and above all, by making men themselves better. Now Christianity, if it is anything, aims at being a world-conquering principle. This is its ultimate aim, but it has a nearer aim, which is really the guarantee for its accomplishing the wider result. Its nearer aim is to give the individual in his own spirit the victory over the world, to implant there the Divine principle of victory, to make the individual himself a type of that fuller victory which is yet to be realised in society as a whole.
I. There is a power we are to overcome — THE WORLD. By the world, in John's sense, we are to understand a set of principles, the principles that rule and operate in godless society, and stamp their character on its thought, habits, and life; or rather, it is society itself, viewed as ruled and pervaded by these principles, and for that reason hostile to godliness. But if this is what is meant by the world, it might seem as if the task of overcoming it, or at least of preventing ourselves from being overcome by it, were one of no great difficulty. We might be tempted to despise our foe. It might seem as if all we had to do was to withdraw from the world — not to mix with worldly people, not to mind their opinion, not to follow their example. But in the first place even this is not so easy a thing to do. The slave of the world may think himself bound to it by only silken ties; it is when he tries to emancipate himself from its bondage that he finds how really they are iron fetters. There is, for example, the tyranny of public opinion. How few have the courage to go against that? There is the tyranny of fashion. Is it so easy, in circles where fashion is regarded, to emancipate oneself from its imperious mandates, and to take the brave Christian stand which duty may require; There is the power of old-established custom. What a hold there is in that! Most difficult of all to escape from is the spirit of the world. You think to escape from the world, but go where you will its dark, hostile form still confronts you. Thus far I have spoken only of taking up a defensive attitude to the world — keeping the world at arm's length — preventing ourselves from being overcome by it. We must feel, however, that the ringing note of victory in our text must mean far more than this. To overcome the world is not only to conquer evil, but to establish good. And though the effort to do this, as regards the world outside, may sometimes fail — though the world, as has often happened, may rise up against the man who seeks to make it better, and may crush him; still is he the real victor who has refused to bow his knee to the Baals that are round about him, for in his own spirit he has the consciousness of having been able to stand by the good, and withstand the bad, and whatever may be the immediate result of his witness, he knows it is that which he has contended for which shall in the end prevail.
II. WHAT IS THE POWER BY WHICH WE ARE TO OVERCOME IT? It is, the apostle says, "our faith." The words in the original are even more emphatic. The passage reads, "this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." In the power of Christian faith the victory is already won. Not that long conflict has not still to be carried on, but in principle, in spirit, in the certainty of the issue, the battle is already decided. Beliefs — I speak here, of course, of real, not merely nominal beliefs — are the most potent factor in human life, the real power that make and shape the course of history. The first apostles were men with beliefs, and as they went forth speaking out the beliefs that were in them, it soon began to be said of them, "Lo, these men that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." Columbus was a man with a belief, and this belief of his gave the world a new continent. Lord Bacon was a man with a belief — belief in a new method of science — and his belief inaugurated the new era of scientific invention and discovery. The early political reformers were men with beliefs, and some of the wildest of their beliefs have already become accomplished realities of legislation. To have in you a belief which is fitted to benefit and bless your fellow men is to be not only in your own small way a social power; it is to be in the truest sense a benefactor of mankind. But what is this belief which Christianity implants in our hearts which has these wondrous effects? The answer is given in the next verse, "who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Now, of course, if belief in Jesus as the Son of God were only belief in a theological proposition, it neither would, nor could, have any effect of the kind alleged. But this is not its real nature. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, in him who truly entertains it, is not belief in a theological proposition, but belief in a great Divine reality, and if we look at the nature of that reality we have no difficulty in seeing that it not only will have, but must have, the particular virtue here ascribed to it. To overcome the world, or in plain modern words, to fight successfully the battle of good against evil, there are at least necessary these conditions: First of all we must have firm faith in the reality of goodness — of that we are contending for. In the next place we must have the firm conviction that the powers working on the side of goodness in the world are stronger than the powers that can be arrayed against them. In the third place, we must know ourselves to be in our own inmost life linked with these victorious powers. And lastly, as the outcome of all this, we must have undoubting confidence in the ultimate triumph of our cause. These conditions are fulfilled in the man who believes from the heart that Jesus is the Son of God.
(James Orr, D. D.)I. WHAT IT IS IN THE WORLD THAT THE CHRISTIAN HAS TO OVERCOME.
1. Its allurements. The world holds out many fair, enticing charms. It addresses the senses and imagination. Its temptations, are artfully varied.
2. Its terrors.
II. HOW THE CHRISTIAN'S FAITH ENABLES HIM TO OBTAIN THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD.
1. Faith enables the Christian to overcome the allurements of the world —(1) By showing him the vanity and unsatisfying nature of all earthly enjoyments.(2) By pointing out to him the dangerous consequences of the unlawful pursuits of worldly men.(3) By filling his soul with those pure and spiritual delights which produce a disrelish for the perishing pleasures of sin.
2. Faith enables the Christian to overcome the terrors of the world —(1) By the gracious supports which it yields under every trial.(2) By setting before him the example of the great Author and Finisher of our faith.(3) By the glorious hopes with which it inspires him.Conclusion:
1. This subject furnishes us with a rule by which to judge whether our faith be genuine.
2. The danger of worldly prosperity. Apt to produce pride, self-sufficiency, forgetfulness of God, insensibility to spiritual objects.
3. The benefit of sanctified affections. They aid us in the exercise of faith.
(D. Black.)I. We notice FAITH AS THE POWER FOR OVERCOMING THE WORLD.
II. FAITH IS ITSELF A VICTORY. Simple as it seems, all will bear witness it is not easy to possess this faith, and so says the direction here given. It is a victory. Our position stands like this. You have hitherto been seeking the conquest of the world directly. You have subdued your lusts by turning away from temptation, and they have smouldered in your hearts. You have kept from sin by shunning the acquaintance and occasion of open violation. Now, says Christ, instead of doing this, you must bring your heart into subjection to Me. You must overcome every feeling and thought which leads you to look away from Me, and you must believe in Me. Again, your course is not to come to open contest with the world. You are not to go into danger so that you may prove your strength. But you are to wage war on a smaller ground. You are to contend with your own hearts, as they would lead you not to trust on that which you cannot see, or on that which you cannot perfectly understand, until you have that childlike confidence, that trust on Christ which shall enable you to make your cause the cause of Jesus. This is the victory of faith. That the possession of this faith is a victory I purpose now to show. It is a victory over self-assertion. Self is to us naturally the wisest, the most important of all beings. Our own opinions are always the best, our own interests always those which we most keenly look after. Hence, on the one hand, we oppose the entrance of Christ into our hearts, because we love self, We form our own opinions and we act upon them; but when Christ takes possession we are no longer self-assertive on this matter. Thus the belief that saves is a victory over what I have called our self-assertion. Another form in which self appears is self-interest. We refuse to hear and to receive because it is against our supposed interests to do so. We shall suffer some trouble, or lose some preferment. Full of self; how, then, can Christ find admittance? Dagon must fall before the ark of God: how much more must self before the Son of God! It is not only so, but self will fight for sole possession. Shall I mortify myself, inflict injury on myself? So we reason, and so we oftentimes drive Christ away. This must all be subdued before faith comes. To obtain an entrance into so well-protected a city, demanding forces of such power and nature may well be called a victory. But it is also a victory over the natural unbelief of the heart. There is a difficulty in receiving spiritual things. The natural man is of the earth, earthy. It is as though the choicest music were played to charm the deaf, or the utmost skill exerted to please the blind by the combination of colour. Thus it is that men oppose reason and faith, as though the man who had reason could not have faith. This unbelief must go before a man can receive Christ. All this pride of intellect, all this self-conceit of wisdom, must give place to the higher and nobler attribute of faith. But you must see that it is a victory not won by man alone. Yes, men may believe; but it is when evidence convinces. The Spirit of God must arouse the dormant soul.
III. THE WORLD IS SUBJECTED, OR OVERCOME, BY THIS VICTORY. It is overcome to us each as we have this faith in our Lord.
1. The strength of the world over us lies in the undue value which we set on sensuous things. Faith overcomes the world by opening up issues and pressing claims which men do not feel without it.
2. This world has power over us because we feel so dependent on it. When a man is called on to leave father and mother, all the attractions, the joys, and the comforts of home are a constraining influence to keep him from the sacrifice. Ah! but faith gives the man something higher to possess. He is provided for. This is the support of faith, and the world is overcome.
3. Other similar reasons could be given for the victory over the world, all of them fixed, centred in the person of Jesus Christ. Take Christ away, and there is no ground for faith; but while Christ lives and is set forth before men, so long faith can keep her hold, and overcome the world. The soul makes Christ's work its own; and as He overcame, so also shall all the faithful.
(H. W. Butcher.)
I. THE WORLD, WHAT IS IT? And here a dozen voices are ready with a definition, which commonly is an abstract of personal experience or opinion. The most opposite things have been described as worldly; curiously, men have agreed to condemn worldliness, but they have not agreed what the thing condemned really is. One man, having no sacred reserves, gives himself wholly to the pursuits of this life; by diligence and energy he succeeds, and he has his reward. Another mingles his daily work with some other pursuit; he is fond of pictures, of music, of science, or what not; and yet a third, as he thinks favoured by his circumstances, gives himself largely to the enjoyments of life: work is but the fringe, the web of existence is made up of pleasure. After the lapse of years let these men compare notes; ask each his opinion of the others, and what do you find? You find probably that they have a sort of good natured contempt for one another as having lived in a vain and worldly way. Yes, and you may find a fourth man, who has lived a more austere and closely ordered life than any of the rest, equally ready to condemn them all for their worldly spirit. Of these several men each had some thing of truth in his opinion, but not the whole truth, nor that which goes to the root of the matter. Worldliness is a principle, a spirit, which can take this shape or that: it can be found in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day, or in the rags and self-denials of the anchorite. The world, then, may lie in the predominance of things seen and temporal. The Bible is full of examples of this, set out for our learning by a Divine hand. There was the sunny haired Samson, with a high commission and a noble energy, forgetting the great work he had to do in the indulgence of the passion of the moment; there was Esau, who, to satisfy the hunger of the hour, flung away his birthright for a mess of pottage. When Satan said to our blessed Lord, "All these things will I give Thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me," he pitched the temptation upon the same principle; its force lay in the power of the seen and temporal to obscure the unseen and eternal. Worldliness lies in the predominance of self, that inseparable foe, that idol of the heart which men carry with them wherever they go. The world, too, is found in the predominance of the world of men, that care for human opinion, for the judgment of our fellows which brings with it unreality, eye service, and a disregard to the supreme will of God. This spirit makes men at once cowardly and audacious, filling them with the fear of man and yet making them regardless of the fear of God. We have it exemplified in Saul, king of Israel, that strange sad union of strength and weakness, magnanimity and folly, he had sinned by directly disobeying the Divine command; but when he hears his sentence from the lips of Samuel he grieves over the dishonour which might accrue to himself far more than over his sin against the Most High: "I have sinned, yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of Israel." "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?" that is, "has Christ become respectable? have the fashionable party — the men in power — accepted Him? If they have, then will we, but not otherwise." This drew from our Lord the strong exclamation, "How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh from God only?" This form of worldliness is one of the deadliest enemies of the truth. Everywhere it is potent to keep men from Christ.
II. HOW IS IT TO BE OVERCOME? This is a pressing question for everyone who thinks seriously. How is it to be kept out of my heart, how shall I be kept in the world and yet not of it? "This is the victory, even our faith." This meets the world, not in any particular form of it, but in the heart where its real root is. Take this principle, faith the world's victor, in the lower sphere, and it is true. Faith, a strong over-mastering conviction, even though a poor one, has a wonderful power to lift men above the world, above themselves. But it is not of faith in a general way that John speaks. It is of "our faith," a faith born of God, a faith that lays hold of Jesus Christ, a faith that works by love; it is faith in a person, that is, trust in Jesus Christ. This is the Divine remedy for the power of worldliness. It meets the love of the world with another love, a mightier, higher, nobler love — the love of Jesus Christ. How wonderfully this great principle of faith, fixed on the Saviour, can meet each of the three great forms of worldliness which have been delineated! We are in danger of being absorbed in the present, in the things which we taste and touch and handle; but if we receive Christ into our hearts what do we get with Him? Eternal life, the opening prospect of glory, honour, immortality. He enables us to "die daily," because of the eternity with Christ beyond the veil. See, too, how faith in Christ helps a man to conquer himself as nothing else can. The ascetic, who proclaims upon the housetops his self-abnegation, yet worships himself; but when a man can say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," then Christ has become the inmate of that heart and the centre of that life. Again, that sensitiveness to human opinion, that love of praise, can be put under by faith in Jesus Christ, because in Him we have brought close to us the pure atmosphere of heaven, where the one aim and desire is to obtain the approval of God. Thus everything is moved up into a higher sphere, and the objects of life are seen in a true perspective. But this is not all, for us in our weakness and guilt and cowardice, there is another side to this truth, a side higher than that which lies in the natural action of faith. For the poorest, weakest, darkest souls that with much trembling lay hold of Jesus Christ, His strength is pledged. His might becomes their might. A man who soberly measures the forces of the world about him, who has any experience of the fickle shifting nature of his own heart, may well feel how helpless he is to overcome the world. Yes, but you are not alone. The great Captain of Salvation will fight for you, with you, in you. Finally, it is only those who overcome the world by faith who know rightly how to use it. Look at the Lord Himself. "I," said He, "have overcome the world." He gives the pattern of an absolutely unworldly life, and what sort of life was His? The lilies pleased Him, the birds sang sweetly to Him, the social gathering welcomed Him, the children climbed fearlessly upon His knee, sorrowful faces broke into sunshine when He came. He used the world as not abusing it. Depend upon it we must either conquer or be conquered — we must be the slaves of the world or its masters. Which shall it be?
(E. Medley.)I. FAITH IS THE DIVINELY APPOINTED MEDIUM FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF GOD'S POWER TO US. We are joined to Christ by faith and love both; but let, us now distinguish their respective functions. The first breath of the Christian life is faith; love is subsequent. The unalterable condition of salvation is faith, not love. The condition required for Pentecostal power was faith. So all the gifts of God are according to our faith. But here is the distinction: faith is the receptive attitude, love the distributive. Love sacrifices, faith appropriates. Faith is before, love after a great blessing. They form really the same wire in complete circuit, but faith is the current our way, love the return to God. We can easily penetrate to the philosophy which makes faith the medium of receiving. It is such a medium between man and man of that which belongs to spirit and character. The man in whom I believe influences me most and makes my character. I may love another far more, but unless I also give my confidence to him or have faith in him he does not mould me. Faith in this marvellous way takes the being it clings to into our innermost nature and gladly surrenders to him. It alone truly expels haughtiness and pride, which, while they exist, make it impossible to save. With no more faith in Him than in or Seneca, they are never saved nor even sensibly influenced by the Spirit of Jesus. Faith alone, and there is no substitute whatever, completes the preparation of the heart for Christ. At the same time it gives Him most agreeable and wondrous honour. Faith is the coronation of Jesus in the heart. Faith is the only basis for coworking with God. Man selects a business partner whom he can trust, not because he is his bosom friend nor because he passionately loves him. He must believe In him. So will man Call upon God to be his partner in all the affairs of life only when he has faith. And all our qualifications for cooperating with God come by faith. God's great workers were all men of mighty faith.
II. TO HAVE AND TO HOLD SUCH FAITH IS ITSELF AN INSPIRING VICTORY. It is called "victory," faith, and its abiding in the soul denotes a complete rout of self-sufficiency, that conceit of little souls and that real delusion of great ones; it proclaims that the reign of the senses and of sense-fettered reason is over! The man of faith has already overcome a vast world within himself, which the sinful world outside had made by hardening and blinding. What declarations there are concerning this faith! There is a characteristic of that faith which best pleased Jesus not to be overlooked. It goes beyond express promises to the love and the power of God. The promises are in human language painfully inadequate. From them bold faith gathers its original conceptions of Jesus, and here the Centurion and the Syrophenician woman distanced all the Jews and saw, the one the possibilities of Omnipotence, the other the fulness of love.
(F. C. Spurr.)
(J. H. Evans.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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