VICTORY OVER THE WORLD
J. C. Ryle*
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 relations and neighbours; it sometimes obliges us to do things which give great offence, and bring on us ridicule and petty persecution. It is
precisely this which makes many hang back and shrink from decided religion. 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 ghost, – a heart in which Christ dwells, a heart in which old things have passed way, 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 has no longer 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 expulsive power of a new principle! Just as the new spring-buds in a beech 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 likings, 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 thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matt. 6.22). If the affections are
not right, there never will be right action.
(b) The second secret of victory over the world is a lively practical faith in unseen things. What saith the Scripture? “This is the victory that overcometh 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 ghost. They all acted under a firm persuasion that they had a real God, a real Saviour, 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 enmity 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. “All things are possible to him that 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 (Heb. 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 iocasions. In saying this I would not be mistaken. I want no one to blow a trumpet before him, and thrust his religion on others at all seasons. But I do wish to encourage all who strive to come out from he world to show their colours, 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 his 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. Our characters once known, we shall be saved much 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. He that grasps the nettle most firmly will always be less hurt than the man who touches it with a trembling hand. 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 colours 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.
*Extracted from Practical Religion