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confidence, for inward purity, and for universal integrity. But the Jews had greatly degenerated. They were generally worldly, proud, vain, sensual, and thus alienated from the life of God in the same manner as the heathens. In what respect was a proud, covetous Jew better than a proud or covetous Heathen? Surely, he was in the sight of God the more abominable of the two.
I hope I shall not be understood to intimate, that the only ground of offence at Christ was the purity of his doctrine, or that the only object of his coming was our instruction in holiness. Offence was also given by his representations of his own dignity; and he came principally for the purpose of offering a sacrifice for sin, and sending forth his Spirit, to testify of his dignity and make known the value of his sufferings; I assert only, that one considerable cause of the opposition given to his doctrine was its contrariety to the natural worldliness and corruption of the human heart.
He might, however, have delivered the purest doctrines with little opposition, if he would have denounced no condemnation against those who refused to follow him; or if he would have represented the profession of his religion as sufficient, though unaccompanied by a renovation of the life. It was the change visible in his disciples which gave the offence. The world will tolerate doctrines, however pure, or however absurd, as long as they do not affect the practice. It is only when they are found leading to a conduct different from that of the world, that they become matter of jealousy or censure. The purity of the real disciples of Christ was a tacit, but severe, reproach to all who did not adopt it. One perhaps, of a family, became a disciple; immediately the change in his conduct was seen: he no longer yielded to customs in which he had before joined without scruple: he no longer shared in dissipated pleasures: he lost that unity of sentiment and pursuit which had associated him with many a former friend. He would become, in their judgment, unreasonable, over-exact, righteous overmuch: the gay would pronounce him to be dull; the worldly would regard him as extravagant; the wise and prudent as foolish and rash. His company would grow irksome to them, and theirs less pleasing to him. He would be studying to be more conformed to Jesus Christ; and they must see, that if he was right, they certainly were wrong: and, as the authority of Christ was not yet established, and as his religion contradicted the prejudices derived from their ancestors, they were not likely to be measured or temperate in their resistance to it. They saw its tendency to interrupt their peace; they knew enough of it to be apprized that it represented them as void of true piety, and exposed to the condemnation of God.
Let us now direct our contemplations more immediately to ourselves. Let us suppose Jesus Christ and his Apostles revisiting the world in the same character in which they were once seen in Judea. Let us imagine them among us. What would then be their manner of addressing us? Would they say; "Here we have found a true church, a body of Christians in whom there is little to reprove or amend. All here are real converts. The world does not reign in their hearts. They are all animated by a pure zeal for the Divine honour, and bring forth in abundance the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. We see not among these believers, as amongst the Jews, men who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. We find no thirst of filthy lucre, no desire of the honours and wealth of this world. All are humble; all are engaged in working out their salvation with fear and trembling. The law of God is in their hearts, and directs all their actions. They are seeking not to be like the great and mighty of the earth, but to resemble the meek and lowly Saviour, and to tread in his steps.”
Alas! my brethren, I fear no such honourable description would be given of our state. Rather might we not expect our Lord, in a tone of just severity, to say; “I know
thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest and art dead. Be watchfuland strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Thou sayest, Iam rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Remember how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names which have not defiled their garments: and they shall walk with me, for they are worthy."
Were our Lord thus to come, how few would he find unreprovable in his sight! To one he would say, “Thou art cumbered about many things, but one thing is needful.” To another who is immersed in dissipation, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” To the rich he would say “Trust not in uncertain riches:"—to the poor,
“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth to eternal life.” The formal worshipper he would require to worship in spirit and in truth: the lukewarm he would charge to be zealous and repent, lest he should be utterly rejected.
It is too evident that our blessed Lord would refuse to own many who now bear his name, and would say to them, “I never knew you.” He would point out the many vices which prevailed in the days of his flesh, as still demanding reformation. He would ask, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I have told you? Why are ye baptized into my name, and promise to renounce the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, while you suffer yourselves to be enslaved by them? Why are ye of the world, when I laid it down that the contrary spirit was the very mark of my true disciples?"
And the transformation of such persons into true disciples would be as striking now, as the change from Jews to Christians was in the primitive ages. Covetousness, dissipation, vanity, frivolity, the waste of precious time, would cease. No longer would men endeavour to serve two opposite masters. No longer would be found preposterously united a worshipper of God and of mammon. No longer would all the truths of religion be speculatively held, and yet practically denied; but a general conversion of char. acter and change of conduct would be every where visible.
But is the personal presence of Christ necessary to produce this spirit of boliness! If we wait for that, we shall wait in vain. No other light will be vouchsafed to us than that which already shines forth, with brightness, from the Word of God; no other help than that which proceeds from the ordinary influences of his Holy Spirit. Christ has, in some sense, withdrawn himself from the world: he has left us in a state of trial, by which our hearts may be made manifest. They are his servants who take up their cross and follow him. These he will acknowledge at the last day. The world will not always appear in its present colours: there is an enchantment in it which deceives our sight, but the illusion will be one day dispelled, and then the worth of the Divine favour will be made manifest.
My brethren, let us take heed to ourselves. In the name of God, let us trifle no longer: let us delude ourselves no more. The characteristic marks of the true disciples of Christ, given us in Scripture, are clear. Let us, then, search the Scriptures, that we may fully know what manner of persons Christ and his apostles were: for we must be like them. I conclude with repeating, once more, the words of my text: “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
HOW TO USE THE WORLD SO AS NOT TO
1. Cor. vii. 29–31.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth,
that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away. IN compliance with the will of a former inhabitant of this parish, who, having lost a wife he affectionately loved, requested that a sermon might be preached upon the Sunday following the anniversary of her deathwith the intention, probably, of giving the preacher an opportunity to moralize upon the loss of friends, and by Christian consolation, to moderate and sanctify the grief it produces—I have chosen the subject which my text presents. It teaches us at once how to enjoy our friends and domestic connexions, and how to bear