George Everard, 1884
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
"Come out from them and be separate" is a Christian duty, but we must not regard it as something painful, forced, and unnatural. Rather is it to be regarded as a joyful, gladsome privilege. We must not look at it is a hard command, but as necessarily linked with the exceeding height of favor and honor to which we are raised.
An illustration which I have heard, applied in somewhat a different way, may make my meaning clear.
A young lady, remarkable for her beauty and accomplishments, is the life of the fashionable circle in which she moves. With all her heart she throws herself into the usual amusements of such society. She loves the world — and the world loves her. But a new affection springs up. She gives her heart to one who in many respects is worthy of it, and now, with the object of her choice, she is willing to go anywhere. With scarcely a pang of regret she leaves behind her scenes and pleasures which once were her all, and with the one she now loves dearest in the world, in some distant land, perhaps in some lonely out-station in India, she is far happier than ever she was before. She has "come out," but does she regret it? She is separate from all the pursuits of days past, but is she a loser? Nay, she is more than content with the one as exchange for the many she has left behind.
And is it not so with the Christian? If only Christ is realized as the Bridegroom of the soul — is it not a joy to forsake all for His sake? If the King is willing to take you for His own — will not the loyal heart desire to renounce all else that may come between? "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father's house; so shall the King greatly desire your beauty; for He is your Lord God, and worship you Him" (Psalm 45:10, 11).
There must be separation between the Church and the world. There must be a line drawn between those who are the true body of Christ, the blessed company of all faithful people, and those that are content to be outside His fold, and are yet living without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.
Very startling is the thrice-repeated description of believers given by Christ shortly before His death. It ought to be carefully pondered. It ought to be deeply engraved on the hearts of Christ's true disciples: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19).
We have the same thought twice brought out in the great prayer of intercession, given us in John 17:14-16, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Thus do we find our Lord three times, in the most emphatic language, at the most solemn crisis of His sojourn below, declare plainly the separation between His own people and the world that lies in the Wicked One.
But let us inquire, What are the grounds of this separation? Why is there such a distinction in the sight of God — and why ought it to be manifested in the daily life of the Christian?
For one thing, it should be remembered that all true believers are given by the Father to the Son, as the fruit of His merit and sufferings. You have this frequently brought out in John's Gospel. "All whom the Father gives Me, shall come to Me" (John 6:37). "That He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him." "I have manifested Your Name to those whom You gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to me" (John 17:2, 6. See also verse 9, 11, 12, 24).
Here, it seems to me, is one firm basis of separation. In a very special way, believers are given to Christ by the Father. If you had in your home various precious articles of gold, silver, and jewelry, but one case of rare and precious jewels, bequeathed to you by a parent whose memory you revered more than that of anyone you had ever known — would not that case of jewels have a very peculiar value in your sight? Would you not guard it with special care, and esteem it as worth more than all beside?
Is it not so with Christ and His Church? When He looks down from Heaven upon a congregation, we may fully believe that every one of them is the object of His tender compassion. He who wept over Jerusalem still has pity for sinners who have no pity on themselves. But does not His heart rest in His own redeemed people? Are they not His inheritance, His special treasure, His jewels? Does He not see in them, the tokens of a Father's love? Are they not the purchase of His blood and the fruits of His bitter suffering and death? Thus they stand in His sight on a different footing from the children of the world. They are now His chosen portion, for whom He died, and for whom He ever pleads with the Father.
But take another ground of separation. Believers are united to Christ in a firm, abiding, real, though mysterious union. "That the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them." "Abide in Me and I in you." "He who abides in Me and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit." It is thus the Savior speaks of His people.
A mighty though invisible link knits together the Redeemer and the redeemed. They are living stones resting on the chief Corner-stone, living branches in the living Vine-stem, the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot, in His mystical body, the bride, the spouse, united to the Heavenly Bridegroom.
It does not ensure salvation to you or me, that, far above the stars, exalted to the right hand of the Father, is a great glorious Savior reigning evermore, until He has put all enemies under His feet. But the question is, Am I His? Am I one with Him? Am I so joined to Him that one spirit, one life, is in me as in Himself? Do I share all that is in Him, because I am one with Him in an everlasting union by faith in His Name? Is not here, in this most wonderful but most blessed union — the secret of our joy, our hope, our strength? In myself I am guilty and condemned for manifold breaches of God's law — but in Him I stand clear of all condemnation; I have a righteousness without a flaw, for He Himself is my righteousness, and in Him I have paid to the last farthing the penalty of all my guilt.
In myself I am altogether powerless for good — but in Him I have invincible strength to overcome all sin, and strength to perform all God's holy will.
In myself I am poor, and blind, and miserable — but in Him I am rich and blessed for evermore. In Him I have wisdom, and joy, and victory, and life eternal; for all are His, and in Him all are mine.
And do we not see here the separation between those who belong to Christ and others?
If I have but a natural, common life, like that of others — then shall I be of the world, and in the world, and like the world. But if Christ is my life, if there is in me an unseen but most true union with Him — then must I be like Him. The branch must be as the stem; the member must be as the Head; the bride as the Bridegroom. Therefore, as Christ was ever "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," ever mingling with them, to teach and to save them, and yet ever in spirit and in life, far, far above them — so in a measure must it be with me.
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." One with Christ, they rise above the world around, even as He.
But I may add a third ground of separation. Christians are partakers of a new and heavenly birth. They have been born again, through the incorruptible seed of the word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus there is a great change. They have a new and spiritual nature; they become new creatures in Christ; old things pass away — and all things become new.
Not only so, but those who are thus renewed become temples of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit first regenerates the soul, and then makes it His abode. "Don't you know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have of God; and you are not your own?"
Here again, we find very clearly the principle of separation. There must be a separation between those who are "born of the Spirit," and those "born after the flesh." The latter are of earth, and mind earthly things; the former are citizens of the new Jerusalem, and where their treasure is, there will their hearts be also.
Take, moreover, the idea of a temple. At once there arises in the mind the thought of a building separated from all common uses, from the traffic and business of the world — and set apart for the worship of the Most High. It is regarded as the dwelling place of the King of kings. As it seems to me, herein lies the deepest root of this separation.
The soul of the believer is God's special dwelling-place. He dwells and abides there, as in a sacred shrine, by His own blessed Spirit.
A remarkable saying of Moses bears upon it. He was pleading for God to abide with Israel. "Then Moses said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people, unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" Exodus 33:15-16
Hence there must be separation. God is for His people, their Protector, their Guardian, their Keeper, their King. God is with His people, overshadowing them with His presence, as the fiery pillar over Israel in the wilderness. Still more — God is in them, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make their abode in all who are in Christ. And, on the other hand, still is it true that the world is at enmity with God, men for the most part forgetting Him, despising His law, rejecting His Son, vexing and quenching His Spirit, living after the flesh and swayed by the Prince of Evil. "What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness?"
It is here that some would join issue with us — another and an opposite view of the matter has been put forth with considerable power and eloquence, and one which has a great attraction for many minds. Such people as I refer to would speak somewhat in this way: "Be wide and broad in your sympathies. In this Christian land, you may almost reckon the Church as synonymous with the world. Since a large proportion of people are baptized and bear the Name of Christ — accept them as such. If they are yet very low in their spiritual condition, go forth and mingle with them and endeavor to raise them to a higher level. Instead of standing aloof, go from time to time to the theater. By your presence and influence, try to reform it, and bring in a better element. In the same spirit, do not shrink from other similar amusements. Go to a ball whenever you feel disposed, and you will be doing good by so acting. The little leaven will leaven the whole lump. Let a spirit like this guide your conduct, and beware of everything that seems narrow and exclusive."
Views of this kind are very widely spread. They are upheld by very clever arguments, and much philanthropy, benevolence, and charity is claimed by their advocates. But are they correct? Will they bear investigation? I think not.
It is a fatal mistake to confound those who profess Christ's Name — with those who truly love Him. There are still tares and wheat, good fish and bad, in the Church of Christ. The true flock of Christ is still a little flock. The narrow way has but comparatively few walking in it — while the broad road is thronged with travelers. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven!" Matthew 7:21
Where is the congregation where the larger proportion are communicants? And, even among communicants, are there not many lacking in genuine faith, love, and zeal?
But I would add to this: Is not the effect of all such conformity on the wrong side? Is this the way to leaven the whole lump? Is it not rather to put a hindrance in the way of the Gospel?
If gold and lead are put into the same pocket, the gold will not brighten the lead — but the lead will dull the gold. The lead will still be lead, but the gold will lose its brightness. Is it not thus with the Christian and the world?
You will not improve the world by going down to its level — but the world will injure you. You will lose your power for usefulness. Samson will be shorn of his locks. The salt will lose its savor. The light will grow dim in the foul atmosphere around.
It is no uncommon thing for a young lady to taste something of a Savior's love, and to see the value of a good hope. But then comes the trial. She has a warm, kindly heart. She has a large circle of acquaintances, and perhaps Christmas is coming on. What is to be done? How can she refuse the many invitations to the dance, and the like, which she receives? Can she stay at home while others go to the pantomime or to the evening gaiety, which will last far into the morning? Perhaps she yields. Then follows a sad story of a troubled conscience, and a sense of decline in higher things; and, perhaps, at last all Christian hope and peace is gone, and she goes back to the world and tries to satisfy herself with the wretched husks that it has to give. So that, instead of her becoming a blessing to the world — the world gets the upper hand, and robs her of the blessed hope she might otherwise enjoy.
That something of this kind is the practical result in very many cases I have no doubt whatever. Therefore, for the very purpose of doing good to those who stand on a lower level, I would say: Maintain your separation. Go down to the world's level — and you lose your power to benefit it. Catch the world's spirit — and you cannot possibly raise others to the true standard of a Christian life.
For the world's sake, Christian, come out plainly on the Lord's side. Stand fast and firm on the platform of true discipleship, and you will be able to stretch out a helping hand, and raise up those who have not yet reached it. For the world's sake. be very circumspect. Go to no doubtful amusements, but keep close to your Master's side; and then, in fellowship with Him, and in His strength, go forth and bear a bold and faithful witness for His Name.
One of the greatest evils that can possibly befall the Church is for Christians to lose their distinctiveness, to become half and half — lukewarm, to let a spirit of compromise in matters of vital importance mar the reality and value of their profession.
In the days of Queen Mary and preceding sovereigns, a vast quantity of coin had been forced into circulation in which there was far more alloy than pure silver. Though it answered a purpose for a time — yet in the end it disturbed the commerce of the whole country, and threatened to bring about the ruin of all trade and business. Until it was withdrawn in the days of Elizabeth, there was increasing evil, and it was one of the wisest acts of her reign to restore the currency to its former value.
Ah, what vast quantities of alloy are found in Christ's Church! There are men of double mind — half for the world, and half for God. There are families which keep up the forms of religion — and yet the world's standard and the world's principles and motives weigh far more with them than those of Christ. Even those who are called to be standard-bearers often allow so much in themselves or in their homes that deteriorates their character and lessens their influence for good, that it is not easy to say whether indeed they are of Christ, or the world.
Oh, that the Spirit of Christ would descend among us, and cleanse and purify the Church, working mightily in the midst of us, casting out the alloy, making His servants unreservedly His, "out and out for Jesus" at all times, in all companies, under all circumstances — so that the world may know that "they have been with Jesus!"
In carrying out the principle of separation from the world, there is great need of wisdom. We need wisdom from above, lest avoiding one evil, we fall into another. It would be comparatively easy to cut the knot of every difficult question as to our conduct, by taking an extreme course either way, without regard to conflicting duties.
But under many circumstances, where no positive line is laid down in Holy Scripture, it is not easy to know what we ought to do. When a parent claims obedience, and yet the path marked out seems injurious to the soul; when certain dealings in business have an appearance, at least, of lack of straightforwardness, and yet any other course seems utterly ruinous; when it would seem needful to go where a plain witness for truth is demanded, as to a Church Congress, and yet you are compelled to hear much that pains and distresses you — under these and similar circumstances there needs courage to keep a good conscience, a single eye, and, at the same time, there needs wisdom sought in earnest prayer that you may ascertain the will of God, and then resolutely follow it.
"Grant unto Your people that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do — and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same."
It is only thus, I believe, putting every difficult matter into God's hands, and asking Him plainly to order and direct it, that we can possibly avoid the mistakes which we should otherwise commit.
I remember hearing of a young lady who had received a ticket for the ball from a favorite brother. Before it took place her heart had been drawn to the Savior through Mission services which she had attended, and she felt altogether indisposed to go to scenes of gaiety and dissipation. But there was the ticket, and what could she do? She could not bear the thought of wounding her brother's feelings — and yet she felt she could not go to the ball. So she earnestly prayed that God would show her the way to act. After some days of anxiety her brother saw she was in trouble. Discovering the cause, he removed all discomfort by saying a kind word to her, and giving the ticket to a cousin, who was quite willing to go.
In the same way you may be sure a door of escape will be found. Only pray in faith; only watch the guiding hand of God; only be willing to give up your own will and your own way, ever looking at duty on its various sides — regarding a parent's positive command, for example, as paramount, except when in direct opposition to the word of God — and then you may rest satisfied that you will not be left in the dark, but clearly directed in the path you ought to take. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your steps" (Psalm 37; Proverbs 3.)
One point, I have often felt, is of immense importance to be remembered by those who wish to carry out aright, the duty of separation from the world.
Be very careful to avoid everything that savors of hardship and austerity toward those who do not exactly see with you. Take the course which Scripture and conscience indicate — but be most considerate for the feelings of others. Be congenial, be kindly, be courteous. Ever hope the best of those around you. Think of the temptations of young people, and do not repel them by hasty judgments, and bitter words about amusements in which they do not see the harm that you do. Lovingly draw them away from such things if you can, but remember, it has been said, "A drop of honey will catch more flies than a quart of vinegar."
In dealing with them, cultivate a spirit and demeanor that seems to say, "I am far happier in the service of Christ. than you can ever be in the service of the world. I have a joy and a peace in Him. that I would not exchange for anything this life has to offer me. I cannot come down to your level, but won't you come up to mine? Shall we not share together the good things which God has provided to them that love Him?" "Come with us, and we will do you good."
Another point I would suggest is, that separation from the world should be seen very especially in the common duties and transactions of everyday life.
If you are a Christian indeed, you the Spirit of Christ in you must overcome the spirit of the world. In matters that concern your pocket, your pleasure, your business, your profession, your house, and your family — you must follow the mind and spirit of Christ Himself. Here is the pattern He has left us to follow: "You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." All separation is to be upon this principle. I must endeavor to act as Christ Himself would act.
This will affect a thousand matters of the greatest importance, as to our influence and power for good. If you make up your mind that you must not copy the world, but Christ, in everything — it will have an effect on the whole tenor of your life. In many matters you will not act so as only to keep within the strict letter of the law, but as in the sight of God.
Consider the way in which large sums of money are spent in luxury, in expensive dress, in adorning the house, in large and magnificent entertainments — and yet a few pence finds its way into the Lord's treasury — where fifty pounds would scarcely be felt. To ask such people for a donation is one of the most painful duties, and very often unsuccessful — and yet, in the house there is a profession of religion, and family prayer is regularly engaged in. What is all this but the spirit of the world eating out the very heart and life of true godliness?
I would add that in the matter of friendships, of recreations, of converse in social life, the Christian needs to be very watchful, if he would follow the Savior.
When the Marquis of Wellesley went as Viceroy to India, we are told in the pages of Alison that he was so set upon advancing and consolidating the English dominion in the country, that he would not choose as an intimate friend anyone who was not heart and soul with him in this object.
Should not the Christian exhibit the same spirit with reference to the Kingdom of our Lord? Ought not every one of Christ's true followers to endeavor most earnestly to advance His Kingdom in the world? And in the most intimate friendships of life, especially in that tie which is the closest of all, ought there not always to be that hearty oneness of disposition in this respect, that will unite both in striving together to promote the glory of their common 'Savior?
Nor should Christians be less careful as to the scenes of recreation which they frequent. As we find them at the present day, the Theater, the Ball-room, and the Race-course — are hot-beds of evil and ungodliness. They are most injurious to the cultivation of pure and undefiled religion. I will not judge of those who frequent such scenes, but to my mind they are perilous in the extreme, and are calculated to quench in the soul every good and holy purpose and desire.
Another practical point as to separation from the world, is the exceeding care that a Christian should exercise, so as not to catch the prevailing tone with respect to religious truth. A great deal that is taught just now, and favored in high quarters, is neither according to the mind of Christ, nor the teaching of His word.
It is essentially of the world, and is so eagerly received, because it pleases the world, and suits the taste of the natural heart.
The low estimate of sin's malignity, the laxity of view with respect to future judgment, and the eternal condemnation of those who reject Christ's salvation — all this is of the world, and is contrary to every page of Holy Writ. The servant of Christ must not yield to it. It may bring reproach; you may be called narrow-minded, and the like — but hold fast the faithful Word, and whatever is found therein. Never be ashamed to own your belief that God is wiser than man, and that every threatening, as well as every promise that He has given, will be fulfilled in its season.
I will leave this subject with three guiding thoughts. They may assist you in coming out boldly on the Lord's side, and bearing a faithful witness for Him.
1. Let the love of Christ be supreme. Let no lower motive satisfy you. Be not content with a mere negative religion. "I see no harm in this or that," say many. But can you do it in the love of Christ? Are you living for self — or for Him? Are you pleasing the world — or pleasing the Master? Are you so acting that with a good conscience you can ask Him to go with you and bless and prosper you in all you do?
Do not I love You, O my Lord?
Behold my heart and see;
And cast each hated idol down
That dares to rival Thee!
2. Make it your one aim to rise higher and higher. Rest not where you are, but press forward. Walk more closely with God day by day. Seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. Strive to be more like your Savior in your whole spirit and conduct. Then consider what will hinder you and what will help you in this course, and avoid every stumbling-block, and avail yourself of every aid to progress.
The word of the Apostle Paul gives great guidance here: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and proper and acceptable will of God," Romans 12:2.
"Do not be conformed to this world."
Do not follow its evil customs.
Do not receive its unscriptural teachings.
Do not court its favor, love its praise, or dread its frown.
"Don't you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?"
"But be transformed by the renewing of your mind." "Transformed" is the same word translated "transfigured," when we read of Christ on the Mount. As the whole body, countenance, clothing of Christ was transfigured, changed by a light from above, by a heavenly radiance reflected from the better world — so let it be with the Christian in the inner man! By the daily renewing of the Holy Spirit, sought in prayer and cherished by holy watchfulness, catch more and more the light of Heaven, to reveal to you more of the Savior's glory, that His glorious beauty and likeness may be manifested in you. "We beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transfigured unto the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Cherish this thought. Whatever hinders this renewing, this transformation unto the image of Christ — whatever chains you down to earth, and keeps you on the same level with the children of this world — this, whatever it may be, is most assuredly your deadliest enemy.
3. Remember that all you are and all you have, every talent, every gift, every power, must be joyfully consecrated to the Lord's service, and laid out to the very best advantage.
"Occupy until I come" is one of the leading precepts of the Gospel. For what are you to live? For self-advancement? For your own ease and comfort? For laying up a store of wealth for your children when you have passed away? Or is it to spend every day of your life, and to order your affairs so as to glorify Christ, and lay out all that He has given you as He would have you? Decide this plainly, and it will settle many a doubtful question. Living for Him, He will never fail you, and will at last give you the glad welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant — enter into the joy of your Lord!"
Ah! my eyes can see new beauty,
As the Savior stands revealed,
And His heart that once was riven,
Melts my heart that once was sealed;
And my wounds of sin and sorrow,
By His wounded side are healed.
He is chief among ten thousand,
None His Kingship dare contend;
He is peerless, He is matchless,
His perfections have no end;
He is altogether lovely,
My Beloved and my Friend!
Yet the world refused to own Him,
Nothing of His beauty guessed;
Heeded not His tender pity,
Spurned Him when He would have blessed;
Crucified the Lord of Glory,
When He came to bring it rest.
So the world no longer charms me
With its baubles and its toys;
I can leave them all forgotten,
As I drink of deeper joys;
Jesus crucified and risen
All their witching spells destroys.
I have found a new ambition,
One to live for, One to please,
Motive-power all toil ennobling,
Love that from self-seeking frees;
Service that is never irksome,
Labor which is truest ease.
So I walk a pilgrim-stranger
Through the world that loved Him not;
If it hates me like my Master,
Need I murmur at my lot,
While I know my humblest service
Never will be by Him forgot.
And He loves me, this sweet Savior,
With a changeless love and true;
Saves me, keeps me, guards me, guides me,
All the desert journey through;
And the fellowship of Heaven
Gilds my way with beauty new!
G. M. Taylor