1 John 5:19
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
That world is (as it were two hemispheres) two-fold.
1. The lower world lying in wickedness. That is the region of eternal death; the lake of fire.
2. The upper world lying in wickedness. That is the land of the living, this present evil world.
(1) The lower and upper unregenerate world are indeed one world, one kingdom of Satan, one family of his.
(2) But they are in different circumstances.
(a) The state of the one is alterable, as of those who are upon a trial; of the other unalterable, as those on whom a definite sentence is passed.
(b) So the case of the one is not without hope, but that of the other absolutely hopeless.
(c) Here they lie in wickedness with some ease and pleasure; there they lie in it with none at all. Their pleasurable sins are there at an end (Revelation 18:14).
I. THE PARTS OF THE UNREGENERATE WORLD.
1. The religious part of it. Wonder not that we speak of the religious part of the world lying in wickedness; for there is some religion, but of the wrong stamp.
(1) A natural conscience, which dictates that there is a God, a difference betwixt good and evil, rewards and punishments after this life (Romans 2:15).
(2) Interest, which sways the men of the world to it several ways. In some times and places religion is fashionable, gains men credit.
2. The moral part of it. Some such there have been among heathens, and some among Christians. Two things, besides natural conscience and interest, bring in morality into the world lying in wickedness.
(1) Civil society, by which means men may live at peace in the world, and be protected from injuries.
(2) Natural modesty and temper, in respect of which there is a great difference among even worldly men.
3. The immoral part of it. This is the far greatest part of that world (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19-21; Titus 3:3).
(1) The corruption of human nature, the natural bent of which lies to all enormities. This was the spring of the flood of wickedness, and of water, that overflowed the old world (Genesis 6:5).
(2) Occasions of sin and temptations thereto, which offer themselves thick in this evil world; because the multitude is of that sort (Matthew 18:7).
(a) The wealth of the rich makes immorality abound among them. It swells the heart in pride, and fills them with admiration of themselves; it ministers much fuel to their lusts, and affords them occasions of fulfilling them.
(b) The poor, those who are in extreme poverty. Their condition deprives them of many advantages others have.
4. If we compare the immoral part of the world lying in wickedness with the other two, though it is true they are all of the same world, and will perish if they be not separated from it; yet the religious and moral have the advantage of the immoral.
(1) In this life, in many respects. They walk more agreeable to the dignity of human nature than the immoral. They are more useful and beneficial to mankind. They have more inward quiet, and are not put on the rack that immorality brings on men. And so they have more outward safety, their regular lives being a fence to them, both from danger without and within.
2. In the life to come. Though the world, the unregenerate world's religion and morality will not bring them to heaven, yet it will make them a softer hell than the immoral shall have (Revelation 20:12, 13).
II. THE STATE OF THE UNREGENERATE WORLD.
1. I am to confirm and evince the truth of the doctrine in the general.
(1) Satan is the god of the whole unregenerate world; how can it miss then to be wholly lying in wickedness? (2 Corinthians 4:4).
(2) Spiritual darkness, thick darkness, is over the whole of that world (Ephesians 5:8), how can anything but works of darkness be found in it? The sun went down on all mankind in Adam's transgressing the covenant; the light of God's countenance was then withdrawn.
(3) They are all lying under the curse (Galatians 3:10). For not being in Christ, they are under the law as a covenant of works (Romans 3:19). The curse always implies wickedness.
(4) They are all destitute of every principle of holiness, and there cannot be an effect without a cause of it; there can be no acts of holiness without a principle to proceed from. They are destitute of the Spirit of God; He dwells not in them (Jude 1:19; comp. 1 Corinthians 2:14).
II. EXPLAIN THIS STATE OF THE UNREGENERATE WORLD, THERE LYING IN WICKEDNESS.
1. What of wickedness they lie in.
(1) In a state of sin and wickedness (Acts 8:23). They are all over sinful and wicked, as over head and ears in the mire (Revelation 3:17).
(a) Their nature is wholly corrupted with sin and wickedness (Matthew 7:18).
(b) Their lives and conversations are wholly corrupted (Psalm 14:3). For the fountain being poisoned, no pure streams can come forth from thence (Matthew 12:34).
(2) The whole unregenerate world lies under the dominion and reigning power of sin and wickedness (Romans 6:17)(a) Sin is in them in its full strength and vigour, and therefore rules and commands all.
(b) It possesses them alone without an opposite principle.
(3) They lie in the habitual practice of sin and wickedness (Psalm 14:1). The best things they do are sin, unapproved, unaccepted of God (Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 66:3).
2. How the unregenerate world lies in wickedness. They lie in it in the most hopeless case; which we may take up in three things.
(1) Bound in it (Acts 8), bound in it like prisoners (Isaiah 61:1). They are in chains of guilt, which they cannot break off; there are fetters of strong lusts upon them, which hold them fast.
(2) Asleep in it (Ephesians 5:14). They have drunk of the intoxicating cup, and are fast asleep, though within the sea mark of vengeance.
(3) Dead in it (Ephesians 2:1). A natural life, through the union of a soul with their body, they have; but their spiritual life is gone, the union of their souls with God being quite broken (Ephesians 4:18).
Use 1. Of information. See here —
1. The spring and fountain of the abounding sin in our day. The whole world lies in wickedness; and wickedness proceedeth from the wicked (1 Samuel 24:13). Hence —
(1) The apostacy in principles, men departing from the faith.
(2) Apostacy in practice. There is a deluge of profanity gone over the land.
2. The spring of all the miseries that are lying on us, and we are threatened with. The world is lying in wickedness, and therefore lies in misery;" for God is a sin hating and sin revenging God. Men will carry themselves agreeable to their state of regeneracy or irregeneracy; and to find unregenerate men lying in this and the other wickedness, is no more strange than to find fish swimming in the water, and birds flying in the air; it is their element.
4. The world must be an infectious society; it must be a pestilential air that is breathed in it, and wickedness in it must be of a growing and spreading nature.
5. This accounts for the uneasy life that the serious godly have in the world. For unto them —
(1) It is a loathsome world, where their eyes must behold abominations that they cannot help (Habakkuk 1:3).
(2) It is a vexatious world; the temper of the parties is so different, so opposite, that they can never hit it, but must needs be heavy one to another.
(3) It is an ensnaring world, wherein snares of all sorts are going, and they are many times caught in the trap ere they are aware (2 Timothy 3:1, 2).
(4) It is a world wherein wickedness thrives apace as in its native soil, but any good has much ado to get up its head (Jeremiah 4:22).
6. This accounts for the frightful end this visible world will make, by the general conflagration (2 Peter 3:10).
7. This shows the dangerous state of the unregenerate world; they lie in wickedness.
(1) They now lie under wrath, hanging in the threatening and curse which is over their heads (Ephesians 2:8).
(2) They will perish under that wrath, whoever continue and come not out from among them (Matthew 25; Revelation 20:14, 15).
Use 2. Of exhortation.
1. To all I would say, Search and try what society ye belong to, whether ye are still of, or separated from, the world lying in wickedness.
2. To saints separated from the world, I would say —
(1) Do not much wonder at the harsh entertainment ye meet with in it.
(2) Watch against it while ye are in it, as being in hazard of sins and snares in a world lying in wickedness.
(3) Look homeward, and long to be with Christ, where you shall be forever out of the reach of all evil, and enjoy such peace and freedom as your enemies can disturb no more.
3. To sinners of the world lying in wickedness, I would say, Come out from among them, and be separated, as ye would not be ruined with them, and perish eternally in their destruction.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.