Master Sermon List
by J. C. Ryle
"Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." II Corinthians 6:17
The text which heads this page touches a subject of vast importance in
Christianity. That subject is the great duty of separation from the world.
This is the point which Paul had in view when he wrote to the Corinthians,
"Come out from them and be separate."
The subject is one which demands the absolute attention of all who
profess and call themselves Christians. In every age of the Church,
separation from the world has always been one of the grand evidences of a
work of grace in the heart. He that has been really born of the Spirit,
and made a new creature in Christ Jesus, has always endeavored to "come out
from the world," and live a separate life. Those who only wore the name
"Christian," without the reality, have always refused to "come out and be
separate" from the world.
The subject perhaps was never more important than it is today. There is a
widespread desire to make things pleasant in Christianity, to saw off the
corners and edges of the cross, and to avoid, as far as possible, self-
denial. Everywhere we hear professing Christians declaring loudly that we
must not be "too narrow and exclusive," and that there is no harm in many
things which the holiest saints of old thought would be bad for their
souls. That we may go anywhere, and do anything, and spend our time in
anything, and read anything, and keep any company, and plunge into
anything, and all the while still be good Christians, this is the saying of
thousands. In a day like this I think it is good to raise a warning voice
and bring attention to the teaching of God's Word. It is written in that
Word, "Come out from them and be separate."
There are four points which I will try to show my readers, in examining
this great subject.
I. First, "That the world is a source of great danger to the soul."
II. Secondly, "What is not meant by separation from the world."
III. Thirdly, "What real separation from the world consists."
IV. Fourthly, "The secret of victory over the world."
And now, before I go a single step further, let me warn every reader of
this paper that he will never understand this subject unless he first
understands what a true Christian is. If you are one of those unhappy
people who think everybody is a Christian who goes to a place of worship,
no matter how he lives, or what he believes, I fear you will care little
about separation from the world. But if you read your Bible, and are
serious about your soul, you will know that there are two classes of (those
who call themselves) "Christians", converted and unconverted. You will
know that what the Jews were among the nations of the Old Testament,
this the true Christian is meant to be under the New. You will understand
what I mean when I say that true Christians are meant, in like manner, to
be a "peculiar people" under the Gospel, and that there must be a
difference between believers and unbelievers. To you, therefore, I make a
special appeal this day. While many avoid the subject of separation from
the world, and many absolutely hate it, and many are puzzled by it, give
me your attention while I try to show you "the thing as it is."
I. First of all, let me show that "the world is a source of great danger
to the soul."
Remember, that by "the world," I do not mean the material world on the
face of which we are living and moving. He that pretends to say that
anything which God has created in the heavens above, or the earth
beneath, is in itself harmful to man's soul, says that which is
unreasonable and absurd. On the contrary, the sun, moon, and stars, the
mountains, the valleys, and the plains, the seas, the lakes, and
rivers, the animal and vegetable creation, all are in themselves "very
good" (Genesis 1:31). All are full of lessons of God's wisdom and power,
and all proclaim daily, "The hand that made us is Divine." The idea that
"matter" is in itself sinful and corrupt is a foolish heresy.
When I speak of "the world" in this paper, I mean those people who think
only, or chiefly, of this world's things, and neglect the world to
come, the people who are always thinking more of earth than of heaven, more
of time than of eternity, more of body than the soul, more of pleasing man
than of pleasing God. It is of them and their ways, habits, customs,
opinions, practices, tastes, aims, spirit, and tone, that I am speaking
when I speak of "the world." This is the world from which Paul tells us to
"Come out and be separate."
Now "the world," in this sense, is an enemy to the soul. There are three
things which a baptized Christian must renounce and give up, and three
enemies which he must fight with and resist. These three are the flesh,
the devil, and "the world." All three are terrible foes, and all three
must be overcome if we would be saved.
Let us turn to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. If the texts I am
about to quote do not prove that the world is a source of danger to the
soul, then there is no meaning in words.
(a) Let us hear what the Apostle Paul says:
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).
"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from
God" (1 Corinthians 2:12).
"Christ gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age
[world]" (Galatians 1:4).
"You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live
when you followed the ways of this world" (Ephesians 2:1-2).
"Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me" (2 Timothy 4:10)
(b) Let us hear what James says:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to
look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from
being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).
"Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?
Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of
God" (James 4:4).
(c) Let us hear what John says:
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the
world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world,
the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what
he has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world
and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives
forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
"The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him" (1
"They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the
world, and the world listens to them" (1 John 4:5).
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4).
"We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under
the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).
(d) Let us hear, lastly, what the Lord Jesus Christ says:
"The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who
hears the word, but the worries of this life [this world] and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).
"You are of this world; I am not of this world" (John 8:23).
"The world cannot accept Him [Holy Spirit], because it neither sees Him
nor knows Him" (John 14:17).
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first" (John 15:18).
"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you
do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That
is why the world hates you" (John 15:19).
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the
world" (John 16:33).
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (John 17:16).
I make no comment on those texts. They speak for themselves. If any
one can read them carefully, and fail to see that "the world" is an enemy
to the Christian's soul, and that there is an utter opposition between the
friendship of the world and the friendship of Christ, he is past the reach
of argument, and it is a waste of time to reason with him. To my eyes they
contain a lesson as clear as the sun at noon day.
I turn from Scriptures to matters of fact and experience. I appeal to any
old Christian who keeps his eyes open, and knows what is going on in the
Churches. I ask him whether it is not true that nothing damages the cause
of Christianity so much as "the world"? It is not open sin, or open
unbelief, which robs Christ of His professing servants, so much as the love
of the world, the fear of the world, the cares of the world, the business
of the world, the money of the world, the pleasures of the world, and the
desire to keep in with the world. This is the great rock on which
thousands of young people are continually being crushed against and
destroyed. They don't object to any of the truths of the Christian faith.
They do not deliberately choose evil, and openly rebel against God. They
hope somehow to get to heaven in the end; and they think it is proper to
have some religion. But they cannot give up their idol: they must have the
world. And so after running well and longing for heaven while boys and
girls, they turn aside when they become men and women, and go down the
broad way which leads to destruction. They begin with Abraham and
Moses, and end with Demas and Lot's wife.
The last day alone will prove how many souls "the world" has slain.
Hundreds will be found to have been trained in Christian homes, and to
have known the Gospel from their very childhood, and yet missed heaven.
They left the harbor of home with bright prospects, and launched forth on
the ocean of life with a father's blessing and a mother's prayers, and then
turned from the right course through the seductions of the world, and
ended their voyage on the reef and in misery. It is a sorrowful story to
tell; but it is all too common! I can clearly see why Paul says, "Come out
from them and be separate."
II. Let me now try to show "what does not constitute separation from the
The point is one which requires clearing up. There are many mistakes
made about it. You will sometimes see sincere and well-meaning
Christians doing things which God never intended them to do, in the
matter of separation from the world, and honestly believing that they are
in the very will of God. Their mistakes often do them great harm. They
give opportunity to the wicked to ridicule all Christianity, and supply
them with an excuse for having none. They cause the way of truth to be
evil spoken of, and add to the offense of the cross. I think it a plain
duty to make a few remarks on the subject. We must never forget that it is
possible to be very dedicated, and to think we are "doing God service,"
when in reality we are making some great mistakes. There is such a thing
as having a "zeal that is not based on knowledge" (Romans 10:2), for
example, "A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is
offering a service to God" (John 16:2). There are few things about which
it is so important to pray for a right judgment and sanctified common
sense, as about separation from the world.
(a) When Paul said, "Come out from them and be separate," he did not
mean that Christians ought to give up all worldly callings, trades,
professions, and business. He did not forbid men to be soldiers, sailors,
lawyers, doctors, merchants, bankers, shopkeepers, or tradesmen. There
is not a word in the New Testament to justify such a line of conduct.
Cornelius the centurion [soldier], Luke the physician, Zenas the lawyer,
are examples to the contrary. Idleness is in itself a sin. A lawful
calling is a remedy against temptation. "If a man will not work, he shall
not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). To give up any business of life which is
not necessarily sinful to the wicked and the devil, from fear of getting
harm from it, is lazy, cowardly conduct. The right plan is to carry our
Christianity into our business, and not to give up business under the false
pretense that it interferes with our Christianity.
(b) When Paul said, "Come out from them and be separate," he did not
mean that Christians ought to decline all association with unconverted
people, and refuse to go into their society. There is no warrant for such
conduct in the New Testament. Our Lord and His disciples did not refuse
to go to a marriage feast, or to sit at dinner in the home of a Pharisee.
Paul does not say, "If some unbeliever invites you to a meal," you must
not go, but only tells us how to behave if we do go (1 Corinthians 10:27).
Moreover, it is a dangerous thing to begin judging people too closely, and
settling who are converted and who are not, and what society is godly and
what ungodly. We are sure to make mistakes. Above all, such a course
of life would cut us off from many opportunities of doing good. If we
carry our Master with us wherever we go, who can tell but we may "save
some," and not be harmed? "To the weak I became weak, to win the
weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I
might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).
(c) When Paul says, "Come out from them and be separate," he did not
mean that Christians ought to take no interest in anything on earth except
religion. To neglect science, art, literature, and politics, to read
nothing which is not directly spiritual, to know nothing about what is
going on among mankind, and never to look at a newspaper, to care nothing
about the government of one's country, and to be utterly indifferent as to
the persons who guides it, counsels and make its laws, all this may seem
very right and proper in the eyes of some people. But I think that it is
an idle, selfish neglect of duty. Paul knew the value of good government
as one of the main helps to our "living peaceful and quiet lives in all
godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:2). Paul was not ashamed to read
heathen writers, and to quote their words in his speeches and writings.
Paul did not think it beneath him to show an acquaintance with the laws and
customs and callings of the world, in the illustrations he gave from them.
Christians who pride themselves on their ignorance of secular things are
precisely the Christians who bring Christianity into contempt. I knew the
case of a blacksmith who would not come to hear his clergyman preach the
Gospel, until he found out that he knew the properties of iron. Then he
(d) When Paul said, "Come out from them and be separate," he did not
mean that Christians should be strange and odd in their dress, manners,
demeanor, and voice. Anything which attracts notice in these matters is
most objectionable, and ought to be carefully avoided. To wear clothes of
such a color, or made in such a fashion, that when you go into company
every eye is fixed on you, and you are the object of general observation,
is an enormous mistake. It gives occasion to the wicked to ridicule
Christianity, and looks self-righteous and unnatural. There is not the
slightest proof that our Lord and His apostles, and Priscilla, and Persis,
and their companions, did not dress and behave just like others in their
own ranks of life. On the other hand, one of the many charges our Lord
brings against the Pharisees was that of "making their phylacteries wide
and the tassels on their garments long," so as to be "seen by men"
(Matthew 23:5). True sanctity and sanctimoniousness are entirely
different things. Those who try to show their unworldliness by wearing
conspicuously ugly clothes, or by speaking in a whining, snuffling voice,
or by affecting an unnatural slavishness, humility, and gravity of manner,
miss their mark altogether, and only give occasion to the enemies of the
Lord to blaspheme.
(e) When Paul said, "Come out from them and be separate," he did not
mean that Christians ought to retire from the company of mankind, and
shut themselves up in solitude. It is one of the crying errors of the
Roman Catholic Church to suppose that eminent holiness is to be attained by
such practices. It is the unhappy delusion of the whole army of monks,
nuns, hermits. Separation of this kind is not according to the mind of
Christ. He say distinctly in His last prayer, "My prayer is not that you
take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one"
(John 17:15). There is not a word in Acts or the Epistles to recommend
such a separation. True believers are always represented as mixing in the
world, doing their duty in it, and glorifying God by patience, meekness,
purity, and courage in their several positions, and not by cowardly
desertion of them.
Moreover, it is foolish to suppose that we can keep the world and the
devil out of our hearts by going into holes and corners. True Christianity
and unworldliness are best seen, not in timidly forsaking the post which
God has allotted to us, but in boldly standing our ground, and showing the
power of grace to overcome evil.
(f) Last, but not least, when Paul said, "Come out from them and be
separate," he did not mean that Christians ought to withdraw from every
Church in which there are unconverted members, or to refuse to worship
in company with any who are not believers, or to keep away from the
Lord's table if any ungodly people go up to it. This is a very common but
a grievous mistake. There is not a text in the New Testament to justify
it, and it ought to be condemned as a pure invention of man. Our Lord
Jesus Christ deliberately allowed Judas Iscariot to be an apostle for three
years, and gave him the Lord's Supper. He has taught us, in the parable of
the wheat and tares, that converted and unconverted will be together till
the harvest, and cannot be divided (Matthew 13:30). In His Epistles to
the Seven Churches, and in all Paul's Epistles, we often see faults and
corruptions mentioned and reproved; but we are never told that they justify
desertion of the assembly, or the neglect of the Lord's table. In short,
we must not look for a perfect Church, a perfect congregation, and a
perfect company of communicants until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. If
others are unworthy Churchgoers or unworthy partakers of the Lord's Supper,
the sin is theirs and not ours: we are not their judges. But to separate
ourselves from Church assemblies, and deprive ourselves of the Lord's
Supper because others use them unworthily, is to take up a foolish,
unreasonable, and unscriptural position. It is not the mind of Christ, and
it certainly is not Paul's idea of separation from the world.
I commend these six points to the calm consideration of all who wish to
understand the subject of separation from the world. Far more might be
said about each and every one of them than I have space to say in this
paper. I have seen so many mistakes made about each one of them, and
so much misery and unhappiness caused by those mistakes, that I want to
put Christians on their guard. I want them not to take up positions
carelessly, in the zeal of their first love, which they will afterwards be
obliged to give up.
I leave this part of my subject with two pieces of advice, which I offer
especially to young Christians.
I advise them, for one thing, if they really desire to come out from the
world, to remember that the shortest path is not always the path of duty.
To argue with our unconverted relatives, to "avoid" all our old friends, to
withdraw entirely from mixed society, to live an exclusive life, to give up
every act of courtesy and civility in order that we may devote ourselves to
the direct work of Christ, all this may seem very right, and may satisfy
our consciences and save us trouble. But I venture a doubt whether it is
not often a selfish, lazy, self-pleasing line of conduct, and whether the
true cross and true line of duty may not be to deny ourselves, and adopt a
very different course of action.
I advise them, for another thing, if they want to come out from the world,
to watch against a sour, morose, ungenial, gloomy, unpleasant, bearish
demeanor, and never to forget that there is such a thing as "winning
without the Word." (1 Peter 3:1 - "Wives, in the same way be submissive
to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may
be won over without words by the behavior of their wives"). Let them
strive to show unconverted people that their principles, whatever may be
thought of them, make them cheerful, amiable, good-tempered, unselfish,
considerate for others, and ready to take an interest in everything that is
innocent and of good report. In short, let there be no needless separation
between us and the world. In many things, as I will soon show, we must
be separate; but let us take care that it is separation of the right sort.
If the world is offended by such separation we cannot help it. But let us
never give the world occasion to say that our separation is foolish,
senseless, ridiculous, unreasonable, uncharitable, and unscriptural.
III. In the third place, I will try to show "what true separation from the
world really is."
I take up this branch of my subject with a very deep sense of its
difficulty. That there is a certain line of conduct which all true
Christians ought to pursue with respect to "the world, and the things of
the world," is very evident. The texts already quoted make that plain. The
key to the solution of that question lies in the word "separation." But in
what separation consists it is not easy to show. On some points it is not
hard to lay down particular rules, on others it is impossible to do more
than state general principles, and leave every one to apply them according
to his position in life. This is what I will attempt to do.
(a) First and foremost, he that desires to "come out from the world, and
be separate," "must steadily and habitually refuse to be guided by the
world's standard of right and wrong."
The rule of the mass of mankind is to go with the stream, to do as others,
to follow the fashion, to keep in with the common opinion, and to set your
watch by the town clock. The true Christian will never be content with
such a rule as that. He will simply ask, "What does the Scripture say?
What is written in the Word of God?" He will maintain firmly that
nothing can be right which God says is wrong, and that the customs and
opinions of his neighbors can never make that to be an unimportant matter
which God calls serious, or that to be no sin which God calls sin. He will
never think lightly of such sins as drinking, swearing, gambling, lying,
cheating, swindling, or dishonoring of the Lord's Day, because they are
common, and many say, "Where is the harm?" That miserable argument,
"Everybody thinks this way, everybody says so, everybody does it,
everybody will be there," means nothing to him. Is it condemned or
approved by the Bible? That is his only question. If he stands alone in
the town, or congregation, he will not go against the Bible. If he has to
come out from the crowd, and take a position by himself, he will not flinch
from it rather than disobey the Bible. This is genuine Scriptural
(b) He that desires to "come out from the world and be separate," "must
be very careful how he spends his leisure time."
This is a point which at first sight appears of little importance. But the
longer I live, the more I am persuaded that it deserves most serious
attention. Honorable occupation and lawful business are a great safeguard
to the soul and the time that is spent upon them is comparatively the time
of our least danger. The devil finds it hard to get a hearing from a busy
man. But when the days work is over and the time of leisure arrives, then
comes the hour of temptation.
I do not hesitate to warn every man who wants to live a Christian life to
be very careful how he spends his evenings. Evening is the time when we
are naturally disposed to relax after the labors of the day; and evening is
the time when the Christian is too often tempted to lay aside his armor,
and consequently brings trouble on his soul. "Then comes the devil," and
with the devil the world. Evening is the time when the poor man is
tempted to go to the bar and fall into sin. Evening is the time when the
workman too often sits for hours hearing and seeing things which do him
no good. Evening is the time which the higher classes choose for dancing,
gambling, and the like; and consequently never get to bed till late at
night. If we love our souls, and would not become worldly, let us be
careful how we spend our evenings. Tell me how a man spends his evenings,
and I can generally tell what his character is.
The true Christian will do well to make it a settled rule never to "waste"
his evenings. Whatever others may do, let him resolve always to make
time for quiet, calm thought-for Bible-reading and prayer. The rule will
prove a hard one to keep. It may bring on him the charge of being
unsociable and overly strict. Let him not mind this. Anything of this
kind is better than habitual late hours in company, hurried prayers,
slovenly Bible reading, and a bad conscience. Even if he stands alone in
his church or town let him not depart from his rule. He will find himself
in a minority, and be thought an eccentric man. But this is genuine
(c) He that desires to "come out from the world and be separate," "must
steadily and habitually determine not to be swallowed up and absorbed in
the business of the world."
A true Christian will strive to do his duty in whatever station or position
he finds himself, and to do it well. Whether statesman, or merchant, or
banker, or lawyer, or doctor, or tradesman, or farmer, he will try to do
his work so that no one can find occasion for fault in him. But he will
not allow it to get between him and Christ. If he finds his business
beginning to eat up his Sundays, his Bible-reading, his private prayer
time, and to bring clouds between him and heaven, he will say, "Stand back!
There is a limit. This is as far as you can go, and no further. I cannot
sell my soul for position, fame, or gold." Like Daniel, he will make time
for communion with God, whatever the cost may be. He will deny himself
anything rather than lose his Bible-reading and his prayers. In all this
he will find he stands almost alone. Many will laugh at him, and tell him
they get along just fine without being so strict and particular. He will
not listen. He will resolutely hold the world at arms length, whatever
present loss or sacrifice it may seem to entail. He will choose rather to
be less rich and prosperous in this world, than not to prosper about his
soul. To stand alone in this way, to run counter to the ways of others,
requires immense self-denial. But this is genuine Scriptural separation.
(d) He that desires to "come out from the world and be separate" must
steadily "abstain from all amusements and recreations which are
inseparably connected with sin."
This is a hard subject to handle, and I approach it with pain. But I do
not think I would be faithful to Christ, and faithful to my office as a
minister, if I did not speak very plainly about it, in considering such a
matter as separation from the world.
Let me, then, say honestly, that I cannot understand how any one who
makes any pretense to real vital Christianity can allow himself to attend
horse races and theaters. Conscience no doubt is a strange thing, and
every man must judge for himself and use his liberty. One man sees no
harm in things which another regards with abhorrence as evil. I can only
give my own opinion for what it is worth, and entreat my readers to
consider seriously what I say.
That to look at horses running at full speed is in itself perfectly
harmless, no sensible man will pretend to deny. That many plays, such as
Shakespeare's, are among the finest productions of the human intellect, is
equally undeniable. But all this is beside the question. The question is
whether horse racing and theaters, as they are conducted, are downright
wicked. I assert without hesitation that they are. I assert that the
breach of God's commandments so invariably accompanies the race and the
play, that you cannot go to the amusement without helping sin.
I entreat all professing Christians to remember this, and to take heed what
they do. I warn them plainly that they have no right to shut their eyes to
facts which every intelligent person knows, for the mere pleasure of seeing
a horse-race, or listening to good actors or actresses. I warn them that
they must not talk of separation from the world, if they can lend their
sanction to amusements which are invariably connected with gambling,
betting, drunkenness, and fornication. These are the things "God will
judge," and which "result in death!" (Hebrews 13:4; Romans 6:21).
These are hard words! But are they not true? It may seem to your
relatives and friends very strait-laced, strict, and narrow, if you tell
them you cannot go to the races or the theater [movies] with them. But we
must fall back on first principles. Is the world a danger to the soul, or
is it not? Are we to come out from the world, or are we not? These are
questions which can only be answered in one way.
If we love our souls we must have nothing to do with amusements which are
bound up with sin. Nothing short of this can be called genuine Scriptural
separation from the world.
I would like to note here that thoughtful and intelligent readers will
probably observe that, under the head of worldly amusements, I have said
nothing about dancing and card-playing. They are delicate and difficult
subjects, but I am quite willing to give my opinion, and the more so
because I do not speak of them without experience in the days of my youth.
1. Concerning "dancing" (or going to Balls), I only ask Christians to
judge the amusement by its tendencies and accomplishments. To say there
is anything morally wrong in the mere bodily act of dancing would be
absurd. David danced before the ark. Solomon said, "There is a time to
dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Just as it is natural to lambs and kittens to
frisk about, so it seems natural to young people, all over the world, to
jump about to a lively tune of music. If dancing were taken up for mere
exercise, if dancing took place at early hours, and men only danced with
men, and women with women, it would be needless and absurd to object
to it. But everybody knows that this is not what is meant by modern
dancing (going to Balls and dances). This is an amusement which
involves very late hours, extravagant dressing, and an immense amount of
frivolity, vanity, jealousy, unhealthy excitement, and vain conversation.
Who would like to be found in a modern dance-hall when the Lord Jesus
Christ comes the second time? Who that has taken much part in balls and
dancing, as I myself once did before I knew better, can deny that they
have a most dissipating effect on the mind, like using drugs and the
drinking of alcoholic beverages does on the body? I cannot withhold my
opinion that dancing and the going to balls is one of those worldly
amusements which "war against the soul," and which it is wisest and best to
give up. And as for those parents who urge their sons and daughters,
against their wills and inclinations, to go to balls and dances, I can only
say that they are taking on themselves a most dangerous responsibility, and
risking great injury to their children's souls.
2. Concerning card-playing and gambling, my judgment is much the
same. I ask Christian people to judge it by its tendencies and
consequences. Of course it would be nonsense to say there is positive
wickedness in an innocent game of cards, for diversion, and not for
money. I have known instances of old people of lethargic and infirm habit
of body, unable to work or read, to whom cards in an evening were really
useful, to keep them from drowsiness, and preserve their health. But it is
vain to shut our eyes from facts. If parents once begin to play cards in
the living room, children are likely to play cards in their rooms; and then
comes in a whole train of evils. Moreover, from simple card-playing to
desperate gambling there is but a chain of steps. If parents teach young
people that there is no harm in the first step, they must never be
surprised if they go on to the last.
I give this opinion with much diffidence. I lay no claim to infallibility.
Let every one be persuaded in his own mind. But, considering all things,
it is my deliberate judgment that the Christian who wishes to keep his soul
right, and to "come out from the world," will do wisely to have nothing to
do with card-playing. It is a habit which seems to grow on some people
so much that it becomes at last a necessity, and they cannot live without
it. "Madam," said Romaine to an old lady, who declared she could not make
it without her cards, "Madam, if this is the case, cards are your god, and
your god is a very poor one." Surely in doubtful matters like these it is
well to give our souls the benefit of the doubt, and to refrain.
3. Concerning "Sports," I admit that it is not easy to lay down a strict
rule. I cannot go the length of some, and say that galloping across the
country, or shooting grouse, partridges, or pheasants, or catching salmon
or trout, are in themselves positively sinful occupations and distinct
marks of an unconverted heart. There are many persons, I know, to whom
violent outdoor exercise and complete diversion of mind are absolute
necessities, for the preservation of their bodily and mental health. But
in all these matters the chief question is one of degree. Much depends on
the company men are thrown into, and the extent to which the thing is
carried. The great danger lies in excess. It is possible to be
"excessive" about hunting and as well as about drinking. We are commanded
in Scripture to be "moderate in all things," if we would be successful in
the Christian life; and those who are addicted to sports should not forget
The question, however, is one about which Christians must be careful in
expressing an opinion, and moderate in their judgments. The man who
can neither ride, nor shoot, nor throw a fly, is hardly qualified to speak
dispassionately about such matters. It is cheap and easy work to condemn
others for doing things which you cannot do your self, and are utterly
unable to enjoy! One thing only is perfectly certain-all overindulgence
or excess is sin. The man who is wholly absorbed in sports, and spends all
his years in such a manner that he seems to think God only created him to
be a "hunting, shooting, and fishing animal," is a man who at present
knows very little of Scriptural Christianity. It is written, "Where your
treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).
(e) He that desires to "come out from them and be separate," must be
"moderate in the use of lawful and innocent recreations."
No sensible Christian will ever think of condemning all recreations. In a
world of work and stress like the one that we live in, occasional
relaxation is good for everyone. Body and mind alike require seasons
of lighter occupation, and opportunities of letting off high spirits, and
especially when they are young. Exercise itself is a positive necessity
for the preservation of mental and bodily health. I see no harm in field
sports, rowing, running, and other athletic recreations. I find no fault
with those who play chess and other such games of skill. We are all
fearfully and wonderfully made. No wonder the poet says,
"Strange that a harp of thousand strings
Should keep in tune so long!"
Anything which strengthens nerves, and brain, and digestion, and lungs,
and muscles, and makes us more fit for Christ's work, so long as it is
not in itself sinful, is a blessing, and ought to be thankfully used.
Anything which will occasionally divert our thoughts from their usual
grinding path, in a healthy manner, is a good and not an evil.
But it is the excess of these innocent things which a true Christian must
watch against, if he wants to be separate from the world. He must not
devote his whole heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and time to
them, as many do, if he wishes to serve Christ. There are hundreds of
lawful things which are good in moderation, but bad when taken in
excess. Healthful medicine taken in small quantities is good, but
downright poison when swallowed down in huge doses. In nothing is
this so true as it is in the matter of recreations. The use of them is one
thing, and the abuse of them is another. The Christian who uses them
must know when to stop, and how to say "Enough!" Do they interfere
with his private religion? Do they take up too much of his thoughts and
attention? Have they a secularizing effect on his soul? Have they a
tendency to pull him down to earth? Then let him be very careful. All
this will require courage, self-denial, and firmness. It is a line of
conduct which will often bring on us the ridicule and contempt of those who
know not what moderation is, and who spend their lives in making
trifles serious things and serious things trifles. But if we mean to come
out from the world we must not mind this. We must be "temperate"
even in lawful things, whatever others may think of us. This is genuine
(f) Last, but not least, he that desires to "come out from them and be
separate" must be "careful in friendships, intimacies, and close
relationships with worldly people." We cannot help meeting many
unconverted people as long as we live. We cannot avoid having
association with them, and doing business with them, unless we "leave
this world" (1 Corinthians 5:10). To treat them with the utmost
courtesy, kindness, and charity, whenever we do meet them, is a
positive duty. But acquaintance is one thing, and intimate friendship is
quite another. To seek their society without cause, to choose their
company, to cultivate intimacy with them, is very dangerous to the soul.
Human nature is so constituted that we cannot associate with other
people without it having an effect on our own character. The old
proverb will never fail to prove true: "Tell me with whom a man
chooses to live, and I will tell you what he is." The Scripture says
expressly, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion
of fools suffers harm" (Proverbs 13:20). If then a Christian who desires
to live consistently, chooses for his friends those who either do not care
for their souls, or the Bible, or God, or Christ, or holiness, or regard
them as of secondary importance, it seems to me impossible for him to
prosper in his Christianity. He will soon find that their ways are not his
ways, nor their thoughts his thoughts, nor their tastes his tastes; and
that, unless they change, he must give up intimacy with them. In short,
there must be separation. Of course such separation will be painful.
But if we have to choose between the loss of a friend and the injury of
our souls, there ought to be no doubt in our minds. If friends will not
walk in the narrow way with us, we must not walk in the broad way to
please them. But let us distinctly understand that to attempt to keep up
close intimacy between a converted and an unconverted person, if both
are consistent with their natures, is to attempt an impossibility.
The principle here laid down ought to be carefully remembered by all
unmarried Christians in the choice of a husband or wife. I fear it is too
often entirely forgotten. Too many seem to think of everything except
religion in choosing a partner for life, or to suppose that it will come
somehow as a matter of course. Yet when a praying, Bible-reading,
God-fearing, Christ-loving, Church-honoring Christian marries a person
who takes no interest whatever in serious Christianity, what can the result
be but injury to the Christian, or immense unhappiness? Health is not
infectious, but disease is! As a general rule, in such cases, the good go
down to the level of the bad, and the bad do not come up to the level of
the good. The subject is a delicate one, and I do not care to dwell upon
But this I say confidently to every unmarried Christian man or woman-if
you love your soul, if you do not want to fall away and backslide, if you
do not want to destroy your own peace and comfort for life, resolve never
to marry any person who is not a true and devoted Christian, whatever the
resolution may cost you. It would be better for you to die than to marry
an unbeliever. Hold on to this resolution, and let no one ever persuade
you out of it. Depart from this resolution, and you will find it almost
impossible to "come out and be separate." You will find you have tied a
mill-stone around your own neck in running the race towards heaven; and,
if saved at last, it will be "as one escaping through the flames" (1
I offer these six general hints to all who wish to follow Paul's advice,
and to come out from the world and be separate. In giving them, I lay no
claim to infallibility; but I believe they deserve consideration and
attention. I do not forget that the subject is full of difficulties, and
that scores of doubtful cases are continually arising in a Christian's
course, in which it is very hard to say what is the path of duty, and how
to behave. Perhaps the following bits of advice may be found useful.
1. In all doubtful cases we should first pray for wisdom and sound
judgment. If prayer is worth anything, it must be especially valuable when
we desire to do right, but do not see our way.
2. In all doubtful cases let us often judge ourselves by remembering that
God has His eye on us. Should I go to such and such a place, or do such
and such a thing, if I really believed God was looking at me?
3. In all doubtful cases let us never forget the Second Coming of Christ
and the day of judgment. Should I like to be found in such and such
company, or employed in such and such ways?
4. Finally, in all doubtful cases let us find out what the conduct of the
holiest and best Christians has been under similar circumstances. If we do
not clearly see our own way, we need not be ashamed to follow good
I throw out these suggestions for the use of all who are in difficulties
about disputable points in the matter of separation from the world. I
cannot help thinking that they may help to untie many knots, and solve
IV. I shall now conclude the whole subject by trying to "show the secrets
of real victory over the world."
To come out from the world of course is not an easy thing. It cannot be
easy so long as human nature is what it is, and a busy devil is always near
us. It requires a constant struggle and exertion; it entails incessant
conflict and self-denial. It often places us in exact opposition to
members of our own families, to relatives and neighbors, it sometimes
obliges us to do things which give great offense, and bring on us ridicule
and petty persecution. It is precisely this which makes many hang back and
shrink from resolute Christianity. They know they are not right; they know
that they are not so "thorough" in Christ's service as they ought to be,
and they feel uncomfortable and ill at ease. But the fear of man keeps
them back. And so they linger on through life with aching, dissatisfied
hearts-with too much religion to be happy in the world, and too much of the
world to be happy in their religion. I fear this is a very common case, if
the truth were known.
Yet there are some in every age who seem to get the victory over the
world. They come out decidedly from its ways, and are unmistakably
separate. They are independent of its opinions, and unshaken by its
opposition. They move on like planets in an orbit of their own, and seem
to rise equally above the world's smiles and frowns. And what are the
secrets of their victory? I will set them down.
(a) The first secret of victory over the world is a right heart.
By that I mean a heart renewed, changed and sanctified by the Holy
Spirit, a heart in which Christ dwells, a heart in which old things have
passed away, and all things become new. The grand mark of such a heart
is the bias of its tastes and affections. The owner of such a heart no
longer likes the world and the things of the world, and therefore finds it
no trial or sacrifice to give them up. He no longer has any appetite for
the company, the conversation, the amusements, the occupations, the books
which he once loved, and to "come out" from them seems natural to him.
Great indeed is the explosive power of a new principle! Just as the new
spring-buds in a hedge push off the old leaves and make them quietly fall
to the ground, so does the new heart of a believer invariably affect his
tastes and likes, and make him drop many things which he once loved and
lived in because he now likes them no more. Let him that wants to "come
out from the world and be separate," make sure first and foremost that he
has got a new heart. If the heart is really right, everything else will be
right in time. "If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of
light" (Matthew 6:22). If the affections are not right there never will be
(b) The second secret of victory over the world is a "lively practical
faith" in unseen things.
What does the Scripture say? "This is the victory that has overcome the
world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). To attain and keep up the habit of
looking steadily at invisible things, as if they were visible-to set before
our minds every day, as grand realities, our souls, God, Christ, heaven,
hell, judgment, eternity, to cherish an abiding conviction that what we do
not see is just as real as what we do see, and ten thousand times more
important, this, this is one way to be conquerors over the world. This
was the faith which made the noble army of saints, described in the
eleventh chapter of Hebrews, obtain such a glorious testimony from the
Holy Spirit. They all acted under a firm persuasion that they had a real
God, a real Savior, and a real home in heaven, though unseen by mortal
eyes. Armed with this faith, a man regards this world as a shadow compared
to the world to come, and cares little for its praise or blame, its hatred
or its rewards. Let him that wants to come out from the world and be
separate, but shrinks and hangs back for fear of the things seen, pray and
strive to have this faith. "Everything is possible for him who believes"
(Mark 9:23). Like Moses, he will find it possible to forsake Egypt, seeing
Him that is invisible. Like Moses, he will not care what he loses and who
is displeased, because he sees afar off, like one looking through a
telescope, a substantial recompense of reward. (Hebrews 11:26)
(c) The third and last secret of victory over the world is to attain and
cultivate the "habit of boldly confessing Christ" on all proper occasions.
In saying this I don't want to be misunderstood. I want no one to blow a
trumpet before him, and thrust his Christianity on others all the time.
But I do wish to encourage all who strive to come out from the world to
show their colors, and to act and speak out like men who are not ashamed to
serve Christ. A steady, quiet assertion of our own principles, as
Christians, an habitual readiness to let the children of the world see
that we are guided by other rules than they are, and do not mean to swerve
from them, a calm, firm, courteous maintenance of our own standard of
things in every company-all this will insensibly form a habit within us,
and make it comparatively easy to be a separate man. It will be hard at
first, no doubt, and cost us many a struggle; but the longer we go on, the
easier will it be. Repeated acts of confessing Christ will produce habits.
Habits once formed will produce a settled character. Once our characters
are known, we shall be saved a lot of trouble. Men will know what to
expect from us, and will count it no strange thing if they see us living
the lives of separate peculiar people. It is a great thing to be able to
say "No" decidedly, but courteously, when asked to do anything which
conscience says is wrong. He that shows his colors boldly from the first,
and is never ashamed to let men see "whose he is and whom he serves," will
soon find that he has overcome the world and will be let alone. Bold
confession is a long step towards victory,
It only remains for me now to conclude the whole subject with a few short
words of application. The danger of the world ruining the soul, the nature
of true separation from the world, the secrets of victory over the world,
are all before the reader of this paper. I now ask him to give me his
attention for the last time, while I try to say something directly for his
(1) My first word shall be "a question."
Are you overcoming the world, or are you overcome by it? Do you know
what it is to come out from the world and be separate or are you still
entangled by it, and conformed to it? If you have any desire to be saved,
I entreat you to answer this question.
If you know nothing of "separation" I warn you affectionately that your
soul is in great danger. The world passes away; and they who cling to the
world, and think only of the world, will pass away with it to everlasting
ruin. Wake up and see your peril before it is too late. Awake and flee
from the wrath to come. The time is short. The end of all things is at
hand. The shadows are lengthening. The sun is going down. The night
comes when no man can work. The great white throne will soon be set.
The judgment will begin. The books will be opened. Awake, and come
out from the world while it is called today.
Yet a little while, and there will be no more worldly occupations and
worldly amusements-no more getting money and spending money-no
more eating, and drinking, and feasting, and dressing, and dancing, and
theaters, and races, and cards, and gambling. What will you do when all
these things have passed away forever? How can you possibly be happy
in an eternal heaven, where holiness is all in all, and worldliness has no
place? Oh consider these things, and be wise! Awake, and break the
chains which the world has thrown around you. Awake, and flee from the
wrath to come.
(2) My second word shall be a "counsel."
If you want to come out from the world, but don't know what to do, take
the advice which I give you this day. Begin by applying direct, as a
penitent sinner, to our Lord Jesus Christ, and put your case in His hands.
Pour out your heart before Him. Tell Him your whole story, and keep
nothing back. Tell Him that you are a sinner wanting to be saved from the
world, the flesh, and the devil, and beg Him to save you.
That blessed Savior "who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the
present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). He knows what the world is, for He
lived in it thirty-three years. He knows what the difficulties of a man
are, for He was made man for our sakes, and dwelt among men. High in
heaven, at the right hand of God, He is able to save to the uttermost all
who come to God by Him-able to keep us from the evil of the world
while we are still living in it-able to give us power to become the sons of
God-able to keep us from falling-able to make us more than
conquerors. Once more I say, "Go direct to Christ with the prayer of
faith, and put yourself wholly and unreservedly in His hands." Hard as it
may seem to you now to come out from the world and be separate, you
shall find that with Jesus nothing is impossible. You, even you, shall
overcome the world.
(3) My third and last word shall be "encouragement."
If you have learned by experience what it is to come out from the world, I
can only say to you, take comfort, and persevere. You are in the right
road; you have no cause to be afraid. The everlasting hills are in sight.
Your salvation is nearer than when you believed. Take comfort and press
No doubt you have had many a battle, and made many a false step. You
have sometimes felt ready to faint, and been half disposed to go back to
Egypt. But your Master has never entirely left you, and He will never
suffer you to be tempted above that you are able to bear. Then persevere
steadily in your separation from the world, and never be ashamed of
standing alone. Settle it firmly in your mind that the most dedicated
Christians are always the happiest, and remember that no one ever said at
the end of his course that he had been too holy, and lived too near to God.
Hear, last of all, what is written in the Scriptures of truth:
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also
acknowledge him before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8).
"No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or
children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred
times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers,
children and fields, and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come,
eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).
"Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You
need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will
receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, 'He who is
coming will come and will not delay'" (Hebrews 10:35-37).
Those words were written and spoken for our sakes. Let us lay hold of
them, and never forget them. Let us persevere to the end, and never be
ashamed of coming out from the world, and being separate. We may be
sure it brings its own reward.