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there is yet one other practical question to be decided, peculiarly important in the present instance, relating to the exercise of this nonconformity to the world in individual cases.
III. Though we do not live in a state in which we can point to one part of the community, and say, those are heathens, to them I am not to be conformed; yet in endeavouring to avoid the contamination of the evil which is in the world, the question must often arise, Is not such or such a person one whose company will do me harm, whose opinions are unchristian, whose conversation is unedifying, whose conduct is worldly, one in short to whom I am not to be conformed? To this question it is difficult to give an answer, without being acquainted with each individual case. But it is not difficult to point out the principle, which may enable every one to decide in such questions for himself. For this principle may be found in the text, and in the words immediately following. "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye trans
formed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Note VI.)
This whole passage may be thus applied: You, who are the disciple of Jesus Christ, are required to prove in your intercourse with the world what is his good and perfect will; and to hold fast, after due enquiry and experience, the course of conduct which He commands. You will meet with persons of various characters, according to age, outward circumstances, and inward distinctions. You are placed in a society, wherein all those you meet with profess to glory in the name of Christ, and all have been baptized in his name, dedicated to his service, and put within reach of knowing and doing their duty. You are required to the utmost of your power to forward that
knowledge, and improve that practice in yourself, and to promote them likewise amongst others. You will find the young often thoughtless; beware yourself of the temptations of youth; study to be serious in heart, and to attain unto that tempered cheerfulness, which will be the best evidence of the happiness you derive from religion, and the strongest recommendation of its power to others. You will find the middle aged often deeply intent on plans of worldly aggrandizement; endeavour, as you hasten on to their time of life, to fence your heart against the cares which will tempt you as they have tempted others, and against which you have no other security than the grace of God through Jesus Christ. You will perceive the old often little occupied with the thought of that world to which they are fast approaching; pray God then that He may impress upon your heart ever more and more deeply the uncertainty of this life, and the supreme importance of eternity.
IV. Our attention is thus to be di
rected to principles rather than to persons. It is to false opinions and corrupt practices that we are to beware of being conformed. And this object we may securely attain without feeling or indicating any aversion to the persons, without declining those duties to society in general which we are bound to perform with cheerfulness and enjoyment. This view of the first part of the text is well illustrated by the remainder of it: "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds." The change is to be internal, affecting indeed the outward deportment, but so affecting it, as to render it more generally kind and courteous, at the same time that it is rendered more pure and correct. Be you transformed then in the spirit of your mind. If you were heretofore wavering in faith, weak in hope, and deficient in charity, be no longer selfish, no longer fainthearted, no longer doubtful. Trust in the mercy of God, not only for yourself but for others; and be persuaded that his tender care is exerted with continual providence towards all the children
of mankind. Be it your earnest desire to imitate, as far as in you lies, his gracious dealings, to adopt the spirit of his dispensations in the tenour of your social conduct, to shed the light of good example alike on the evil and on the good; without presuming to distinguish always the one from the other, and with no further desire of their seeing your good works, than that they may learn to glorify your Father which is in heaven.
These rules you may apply to your intercourse with all whether young or old. And to those especially who are not older than yourself, you must add according to your ability, earnest exhortation, that they will renounce the vanities of the world, and set their affection on things above. But I say nothing about the more direct methods, by which you might in any measure influence those, whose years are advanced beyond your own; because it ill becomes the young, unless especially appointed, to set up for being teachers of the old, (see 1 Tim. 5. 1,) and because no influence will work more