Letters on Worldliness.

(From the Italian.)

E. L. Bevir.

Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 230.


Dear brother in the Lord, It has been on my heart for some time to add to my first letter on worldliness, and more especially because several brethren have communicated with me on the subject.

To some of these I appear hard and narrow-minded. Others, on the contrary, believe that such exhortations in these days are both useful and necessary, and have pointed out certain things which, with the Lord's help, I hope to notice. With the first class I have little to do, for if my first letter was stigmatized by them as severe and narrow, they will have occasion to do so still more with the second, since the greater our knowledge of the world, the less possible shall we find it to make a truce with it.

Two points in particular have been put before me - the politics of this world, and the way in which the families of believers are so often a means of opening the door to the world.

On the first subject - i.e., the world's politics - I think two observations will not be out of place. Many Christians, whose conversion no one doubts, have hitherto failed to comprehend that the calling of the church is purely heavenly; that is to say, they have not grasped this sufficiently clearly to deliver them from an interest in politics. It is not theory that is lacking. What we want is to put in practice the marvellous truth that we are fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God, and are consequently entirely strangers to the ways of the inhabiters of the earth.

But some will object: "Ought we then to take no interest in events which warn us that the end of all things is at hand? We admit that the world is to be judged, and we approve in no wise its principles; but we have always felt free to follow the course of politics in order to see what things have come to." To such I would say, "If you must study politics, study Daniel and Revelation for a few days, and you will learn God's thoughts thereon." I think this is the only satisfactory way of quenching the thirst for tracing the progress of events; and I have often said that the most simple Christian is better acquainted with this world's fate - with the Eastern question, and with the last phase which the European Powers will assume - than the cleverest politician of this world. "Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book," says the Revelation. (Rev. 22:10.) That is to say, that the Church can always know the thoughts of God on such questions, without the need of consulting newspapers to see if God has told us the truth. After all, this shows a want of faith in the Creator of all things, and a lack of reverence for the authority of His eternal Word. Newspapers only confuse the mind of the reader, because they alter their standpoint with every new aspect of the political world, and know no other basis than the vacillating ideas of men. It has been rightly said, that from a mountain-top the course of a river is better seen than in the plain, where the river-fogs impede the view. In like manner we Christians, who by grace occupy a higher place than the world, can peacefully speak with God, as did Abraham on the mountain-top, and study His thoughts on prophecy without consulting the mists of the valley. Had there been newspapers in Abraham's time, I do not think he would have read them. Lot perhaps might have been betrayed into so doing, because he had accustomed himself to living in the atmosphere of Sodom. But it is evident that he had not a very clear insight into true politics, or he would not have lost all his goods by staying in a town about to be destroyed. How indeed could he see clearly in Sodom?

Here then is my answer to those who, under pretext of seeing how far things have gone, interest themselves in the world. Although prophecy ought not to be our chief study, it would nevertheless be well that all the saints should understand the books of Daniel and Revelation, wherein is presented the judgment of all human power; and Christ, in His great majesty, is seen taking possession of the whole world, to the praise and glory of God. This would, it seems to me, be the best preservative against the tendency which there is amongst Christians to the study of this world's politics.

And now, dear brother, I want to touch on the second subject which I mentioned at the beginning of my letter; viz., worldliness in the children of believers. And I hope, at the same time, you will understand that I do not allude exclusively to "they of Italy," but also to those who live where Christianity is supposed to be carried out better.

Alas! how many sincere Christians allow in their children that which they themselves have given up for ever! I do not say this in a critical spirit, but simply by way of drawing attention to several called-for remarks which have been made to me of late. The subject is a delicate one, because we know what difficulties there are in bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but we ought to be acquainted with the means which Satan has at his disposal for alluring the saints of God into the world. Godly fathers of families are to be found, who are weak enough to permit their children to be dressed in a manner not in keeping with their godliness. It may seem a very small thing that the children of Christians should be dressed like those of the world; but the fact is forgotten perhaps, that as they grow older something more must be allowed, and something more again - things, it may be, innocent in themselves, but which insensibly bring the world into the house; and once within, it is not easy to turn it out. I would not have it thought that I mean in anywise to make hard-and-fast rules for Christian fathers; but I desire to press the fact, that the houses of such ought to be wholly for the Lord, and that if they have His glory at heart, they must not allow for their children what they do not allow for themselves.

The history of the sons of Eli ought to be a salutary warning to every Christian father. (1 Sam. 2) I do not think that they became so wicked all at once - probably the starting-point was the over-indulgent heart of their father; then they went further and further into the world, until the whole house was swamped by it. How much grief would have been spared to poor Eli, had he known how to bring up his children in the fear of the Lord! And are not Elis to be found in our day? May God grant grace to His saints, to keep their families set apart for Him, and free from the spirit of this world. The days are evil; false principles easily take possession of youthful minds, and if fathers are not watchful, they will have, later on, to mourn over the infidelity of their children.

Before closing my letter, I must reply to one more observation which has been made to me. It is said that circumstances vary with different countries, and that in my first letter I referred only to music, novels, etc., while I ought also to have specified the worldly attractions peculiar to countries differently placed. I am sure it is useless to do so, because one would never have done signalizing the examples and the dangers. Every true Christian will easily discern the spirit at work in the world, and will avoid whatever seeks to come between him and the Father.

An old servant of the Lord being asked one day by a banker's clerk if shovelling gold all day was likely to make him worldly, replied, "I don't see any more harm in a shovelful of sovereigns than in one full of sand, provided my heart be not in it." This example might serve, I think, for all the circumstances in which the saints of God may find themselves. So long as our hearts are not engrossed with our employments, our workshops, our fields, or any other means of subsistence, each one of us may use what God has put before him, and administer it with the knowledge that all belongs to our God and Father.

My desire is, that each may search his own heart, to find out the worldly element which has a hiding-place there, and, when discovered, that he may judge it, and dethrone the idol that contaminates him.

Your affectionate companion in service, E. L. B.