Abstain from all appearance of evil. — 1 Thess. v. 22. The word here translated appearance is in other places sliapCy Luke iii. 22 ; John v. 37 ; also fashion, Luke ix. 29 ; and siffJit, 2 Cor. v. 7. The meaning of the text is, that we should abstain from sin whenever it appears, in whatever shape it presents itself, whatever is the form or fashion it assumes. The bare sight of it should make us stand aloof. To abstain from evil is to keep from it, to avoid it, and of course to hate it. We cannot sin safely, even ever so little. A man may and must eat, and

216 AVOID EVERY SI , drink, and sleep. He should do these things in moderation. But there is no such thing as sinning in moderation. All wilful sin is lawlessness and intemperance. Why should we abstain from all appearance OF EVIL? This is a grave question. It can be answered. There are good reasons for keeping far from evil. 1. Sin in every shape, form, and fashion is evil. It may be secret. It may be pleasant. It may be popular. It may be gainful. But none of these things change its nature. Sin is evil, only evil, and that continually. It is of the nature of fire to burn, and of poison to kill. So it is of the nature of sin to

bring wrath and ruin. Left to work out its own fair and proper results, sin never did any good, but only evil. 2. Sin comes before us in so many ways, and tempts us by means so unexpected, that we must be constantly on the watch, lest we be led astray. Some .form of sin is pleasing to every carnal heart. At times it comes before us in ways we never looked for. It was Job's wife that called on him to " curse God and die." It was Peter who said, " That be far from thee. Lord," and received the rebuke, " Get thee behind me, Satan : for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men," Matt. xvi. 23.

AVOID EVERY SI . 217 3. Sometimes one might innocently do a thing if he alone were concerned ; but because others who have weak consciences are present, or will know his practice, he cannot go on without sin. Even a good man may abuse his liberty, and walk uncharitably. In all this he may break no law but the law of love and pity to a weak brother, who is wrong in his views, but who is yet honest in his conscience. Paul was right when he said, " If eating meat cause my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world stands." 4. " Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned ? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? " Prov. vi. 27, 28. So neither can a man in any way meddle with sin and not be hurt thereby. Men have gone into a burning fiery furnace, and have come out without having their hair singed, or the smell of fire to pass upon them. But no man ever lay down with a sin in his bosom, and arose without a stain on his soul. One cannot touch pitch without some defilement.

5. We should abstain from all appearance of evil, because sin is in its nature and in its effects so dreadful. It wrings from the soul every sigh sent up from earth or hell. It has dug every grave and built every prison and every tomb. It has filled earth and hell with woes and wailings. It makes war on God. If

218 AVOID EVERY SI5. it could, it would dethrone him. It casts oflP his bonds and cuts his cords asunder. It is the real cause of all disorder, violence, and confusion in the rational creation. It is easy for men to think too much of the evil of poverty or sickness ; but no man thinks sin worse than it is. 6. If a man does not abstain from all appearance of evil, it clearly proves that he is in league with sin, and that his heart goes out after it. The sow proves her swinish nature by loving to waUow in the mire. There never was a wolf that did not love blood. It is the wicked that will do wickedly. 7. He who parleys with sin must have an unhappy life. There are some men who seem to be alwavs sinning and repenting. Of course their repentance is not genuine, or they would cease to commit such folly. It is sad to see husband and wife pouting and quarrelling one hour, however loving they may be the next. It is just so with some men. Their conscience and their life are constantly at war. They have no settled peace. Their prospects are dark and gloomy. 8. Only they who abstain from all appearance of evil prove themselves to be real Christians. Joseph could have kept out of Pharaoh's dungeon, but he had a conscience. Jeremiah might have been a favour-

AVOID EVERY SI . 219 ite with the people, but his conscience forced him to tell the truth. Jesus Christ might have been a temporal prince. Indeed, the people wished to make him a king. But when he said his kingdom was not of this world, they put him to death. Religious principle is worth nothing except when it is unbending. Then it is worth more than all gems and all riches. When a man fairly proves himself to be a Christian, he has established his title to the kingdom of God. 9. By abstaining from all appearance of evil one promotes his own sanctification, proves himself blameless, and secures the help of God in every trial. The verses next after the text say this. " Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly ; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." These are great things. To be made pure, upright, and blameless, and have the aid of God in all our spiritual warfare, is a great matter indeed. These views are sound. It is a matter of history that when miracles ceased, nothing had such power over the world as the holy lives of Christians. Men asked what is this new doctrine that makes good men out of bad men ? How comes it that the peasant,

220 AVOID EVERY SI . the female, and even the child do and suflfer even beyond famous heroes ? This is a prodigious power.

or could anything better prove the Bible to be from God, than the fact that it leads the soul to God. Andrew Fuller tells us of two great infidels, who were scholars and had fine minds. They used to talk much against the Christian religion in the presence of a plain, pious man. After a while one of the infidels was converted. He was then concerned lest he should have shaken the faith ot his unlearned countryman. He said, "Did not our conversation make you doubt the truth of religion ? " " By no means," said the plain man ; " it never made the least impression upon me." " How is that?" said the other. ^ The answer was, " I knew your manner of living. I knew that to maintain such a course of conduct, you found it necessary to renounce Christianity." A wicked life often makes a man a heretic or an infidel. It is not strange that these things are so. Pride and humility cannot live and reign in the same bosom. Selfishness and benevolence are never striking features of the same character. Ambition is utterly opposed to contentment ; and contentment is no less opposed to ambition. If passion reigns, meekness must be shut out. If meekness prevails, passion must be subdued. God has made a great variety of creatures i

AVOID EVERY SI . 221 but he has never made one that had the nature both of the lion and the lamb. Saints and sinners are different. The less the righteous are like the wicked, and the more they are like Christ, the more do they glorify God. Holiness is as excellent as it is necessary. Unspotted holiness is the law of heaven, and the secret of the bliss of paradise. It is not necessary that men should be outrageously wicked in order to bring ruin on themselves.

There is a smooth as well as a rough way to hell. Men often perish amidst the decencies of life. I have just read of one who began life very poor. He had neither friends, nor influence, nor money. But he resolved to make his mark. He worked hard. He saved all he could. He owed no man anything. He was strictly upright. He stood high in public esteem. He freely gave to the poor and to good institutions. At fifty years of age he was the richest man in his State. Men thought him happy. Fools thought him safe. Sickness came. He was ill. Physicians could do nothing. Their medicines were powerless. A friend candidly told him that he could not live a day. Filled with dismay, he said, " It cannot be •; I shall be up to-morrow." But he grew weaker. Seconds, minutes, and hours flew rapidly. Before the sun set his hour came. Turning to the wall in agony, he

222 AVOID EVERY SI . cried, " My life has been a failure'' And then his spirit returned to God who gave it. Yet he was decent, moral, honoured, and trusted. But he thought the rule of the text too strict. He hated not all sin. One who lived not far from him took Christ for her Saviour, and his life for her pattern. She abhorred that which is evil. She loved holiness. The sorrows of widowhood came down upon her. She looked to God and taught her fatherless children to do so too. Earthly treasm'es she had few or none. Her hope was on high. Tried as she was, nothing seemed to afflict her so much as sin. Her faith failed not. She considered it much worse to do wrong than to suflFer wrong. At length her hour came. She was calm. She spoke sweetly of Jesus and the resurrection, and breathed out her soul into the hands of God. Then no one thought that she had loved God too much, or served him too ardently, or

walked too strictly. All felt that she had made sure of the one thing needful.

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