The Relative Value of Temporal Things (Wilberforce)

Wilberforce compared and contrasted true Christianity and nominal Christianity

“This disposition alone must constitute a vast difference between the habitual temper of the real Christian and that of the mass of nominal Christians. The concerns of the present world dominate them almost entirely. They know indeed that they are mortal, but they do not feel it. For the truth finds its way only into their minds but cannot gain admission to their hearts. This understanding of the mind is altogether different from that strong practical impression of the infinite importance of eternal things.”

 

In 1797 William Wilberforce published a book called “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.”  In this book Wilberforce compared and contrasted true Christianity and nominal Christianity.  The section below is where Wilberforce shows a major contrast between a real Christian and one in name only:

“The true Christian knows from experience that the eternal will probably fade from sight and the temporal will exaggerate itself.  Therefore he carefully preserves those just and enlightened views of the future given to him by divine mercy.  This does not mean he retires as a recluse, for he is active in the business of life and enjoys its comforts with moderation and thankfulness.”

“But the Christian will not be wholly in the world or give up his soul to worldly things.  For the truth sinks into his mind that ‘the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal’ (2 Cor. 4.18).  In the tumult and bustle of life, the still small voice sobers him with the whispered statement, ‘The present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31).”

“This disposition alone must constitute a vast difference between the habitual temper of the real Christian and that of the mass of nominal Christians.  The concerns of the present world dominate them almost entirely.  They know indeed that they are mortal, but they do not feel it.  For the truth finds its way only into their minds but cannot gain admission to their hearts.  This understanding of the mind is altogether different from that strong practical impression of the infinite importance of eternal things.”

“This attitude of knowing that ‘the night comes, when no man can work’ (John 9.4) produces a firmness of character that hardens us (true Christians) against the buffetings of life.  It prevents the cares and interests, the good or evil of this transitory state from deeply penetrating us.  This proper impression of the relative value of temporal things and infinite importance of eternal things maintains in the soul a dignified composure throughout all of the difficulties of life.  It quickens our diligence yet moderates our zeal.  It urges us to just pursuits, yet it checks any undue care about their success.  It enables us in the words of Scripture, ‘to use this world, not as abusing it’ (1 Cor. 7:31).”

The above slightly edited quotes come from William Wilberforce, Real Christianity,p. 102-3.

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.