Separation From the World
November 14, 1882
Separation From the World
John the Baptist was a man filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth. If any one could remain unaffected by the corrupting influences of the age in which he lived, it was surely he. Yet he did not venture to trust his own strength; he separated himself from his friends and relatives, that his natural affections might not prove a snare to him. He would not place himself unnecessarily in the way of temptation, nor where the luxuries, or even the conveniences of life would lead him to indulge in ease or gratify his appetite, and thus lessen his physical and mental strength. By such a course the important mission which he came to fill would have failed of its accomplishment.
He subjected himself to a life of privation and solitude in the wilds, where he could preserve a sacred sense of the majesty of God by studying his great book of nature, and thus become acquainted with his character as manifested in his wonderful works. It was an atmosphere calculated to perfect moral culture, and keep the fear of the Lord continually before him. John, the forerunner of Christ, did not expose himself to evil conversation and the corrupting influences of the world. He feared its effects upon his conscience, that sin might not appear to him so exceedingly sinful. He chose rather to have his home in the wilderness, where his senses would not be perverted by his surroundings. We should learn a lesson from this example of one whom Christ honored, and of whom he said, Among those born of women there are none greater than John the Baptist.
The first thirty years of our Saviour’s life was passed in retirement. Ministering angels waited upon the Lord of life, as he walked side by side with the peasants and laborers among the hills of Nazareth, unrecognized and unhonored. These high examples should teach us to avoid evil influences, and shun the society of those who do not live aright. We should not flatter ourselves that we are too strong for such influences to affect us, but we should, in humility, guard ourselves from danger.
Lot chose Sodom for his home because he saw advantages to be gained there from a worldly point of view. But after he had established himself, and grown rich in earthly treasure, he was convinced that he had made a mistake in not taking into consideration the moral standing of the community in which he was to make his home.
The dwellers in Sodom were corrupt; vile conversation greeted his ears daily, and his righteous soul was vexed by the violence and crime which he was powerless to prevent. His children were becoming like these wicked people; for association with them had perverted their morals. Taking all these things into consideration, the worldly riches he had gained seemed small, not worth the price he had paid for them. His family connections were extensive, his children having married among the Sodomites.
The Lord’s anger was finally kindled against the wicked inhabitants of the city. The angels of God visited Sodom to bring forth Lot, that he should not perish in the overthrow of the city. They bade him bring his family, his wife, and the sons and daughters who had married in wicked Sodom, and they told him to flee from the place; “for,” said the angels, “we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.”
And Lot went out and warned his children. He repeated the words of the angel, “Up, get thee out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city!” But he seemed to his sons-in-law as one who mocked. And the daughters were influenced by their husbands. They were well enough off where they were. They had great possessions, and could not believe it possible that beautiful Sodom, in a rich and fertile country, would be destroyed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God.
Lot returned sorrowfully to the angels, and repeated the story of his failure. Then the angels commanded him to arise, and take his wife, and the two daughters who were yet in his house and leave the city. But Lot was sad; the thought of leaving his children and his wife, for she refused to go without them, almost broke his heart. They would all have perished in the terrible ruin of Sodom, had not the Lord, in his great mercy, sent his angels to the rescue.
Lot was paralyzed by the great calamity about to occur; he was stupefied with grief at the thought of leaving all that he held dear on earth. But as he lingered, the angels of God laid hold upon his hand, and the hands of his wife and two daughters, and brought them out of the city, and charged them to flee for their lives, neither to look behind them, nor to stay upon all the plain, but to escape to the mountains. How reluctant was Lot to obey the angel, and go as far as possible from corrupt Sodom, appointed to utter destruction.
Lot pleaded to remain; he distrusted God. Living in the wicked city had weakened his faith and confidence in the justice of the Lord. He pleaded that he could not do as he was required, lest some evil should overtake him, and he should die. Angels were sent on a special mission to save the lives of Lot and his family, but he had so long been surrounded by corrupting influences that his sensibilities were blunted, and he could not discern the works of God and his purposes; he could not trust himself in his hands to do his bidding. He was continually pleading for himself, and this unbelief caused the destruction of his wife.
She looked back to Sodom, murmuring against the dealings of God, and was changed to a pillar of salt, that she might stand as a warning to all those who disregard the special mercies and providences of Heaven. After this terrible retribution, Lot no longer dared to linger by the way, but fled into the mountains, according to the directions of the angels. The sinful conduct of his daughters after leaving Sodom was the result of wicked associations while there. The sense of right and wrong was confused in their minds, and sin did not appear as sin to them.
The case of Lot should be a warning to all those who wish to live a godly life, to separate themselves from all influences calculated to lead them away from God.
Ancient Israel was especially directed by God to be and remain a people separate from all other nations. They were not to witness the idolatry of those about them, lest their own hearts should be corrupted, lest familiarity with ungodly practices should make them appear less wicked in their eyes. Few realize their own weakness, and that the natural sinfulness of the human heart often paralyzes our noblest endeavors.
The baleful influence of sin poisons the life of the soul. Our only safety is in separation from those who live in its darkness. The Lord has enjoined upon us to come out from among them and be separate, and to touch not the unclean thing, and he will receive us and will be a Father unto us, and we shall be his sons and daughters. If we wish to be adopted into the family of God, children of the Heavenly King, we must comply with his conditions; we must come out from the world, and stand as a peculiar people before the Lord, obeying his precepts and serving him.
It is no small matter for a family in an unbelieving community to stand as representatives for Jesus, keeping God’s law. We are required to be living epistles, known and read of all men. This position involves fearful responsibilities. In order to live in the light, we must come where the light shines. It is not well for the people of God to lose the privilege of associating with those of like faith with themselves; for the truth loses its importance in their minds, their hearts cease to be enlightened and vivified by its sanctifying influence, and they lose spirituality. They are not strengthened by the words of the living preacher. Worldly thoughts and worldly enterprises are continually exercising their minds to the exclusion of spiritual subjects.
The faith of most Christians will waver if they constantly neglect to meet together for conference and prayer. If it were impossible for them to enjoy such religious privileges, then God would send light direct from Heaven by his angels, to animate, to cheer, and to bless his scattered people. But he does not propose to work a miracle to sustain the faith of his children. They are required to love the truth enough to make some effort to secure the privileges and blessings vouchsafed them of God.
Many devote nearly all their time to their own temporal interests and pleasures, and grudge the time spent and expense involved in going a distance from their homes to meet with a company gathered together in the name of the Lord. The word of God defines covetousness as idolatry; then how many idolaters are there, even among those who profess to be the followers of Christ.
It is required that we meet together and bear testimony to the truth. The angel of God said:
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”
It will pay, then, to improve the privileges within our reach, and, even at some sacrifice, to assemble with those who fear God and speak for him. For he is represented as hearkening to those testimonies, while angels write them in a book. God will remember those who have met together and thought upon his name, and he will spare them from the great conflagration. They will be as precious jewels in his sight, when his wrath shall fall on the shelterless head of the sinner.
Said our Saviour, in his last prayer for his disciples, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” And, looking forward to the future life, he prays for these chosen and faithful ones, “that they may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” It is not a vain thing to serve God. There is a priceless reward for those who, keeping themselves “unspotted from the world,” devote their life to the service of their Creator.