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MATTHEW XVI. 24.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.
WITH all the activity of men, in respect to earthly pursuits, yet it is quite evident that in religion, they feel a strong tendency to listlessness, indifference, and slumber. A man's worldly affairs give him anxiety. He cannot imagine that they can be going on well, without they are the subject of accurate and diligent inspection. Every step must be well weighed, every opportunity seized, every advantage taken. And all this for a corruptible crown! But the generality of men seem to suppose, or at least try to persuade themselves, that their eternal concerns go on best without attention and without effort; and that a man is perfectly safe, while he is utterly careless; or at all events, that the interests of eternity do not require that
earnest, watchful, jealous circumspection and regard, which are required by the temporal interests of this short and uncertain existence.
And yet look at the awful contingency before
"These shall go away into everlasting fire; but the righteous into life eternal." And look at the rule for judgment as it is laid down in Scripture,-"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God.” "They that do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God." "He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” "And he that hath this hope in Christ, purifieth himself, even as Christ is pure." And then look at the character given of man's heart. "It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it." It is "enmity with God;" and out of it proceeds confusion and every evil work. Is not this enough to make the way difficult, and the end doubtful? And if so, should not a man be fearful and vigilant, and always alert and on his guard? He may well be so; for whatever men in general may think or say, or whatever may be their habits, the Saviour says, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it:"" Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able."
The fact is, that the language of the text is the
language of true Christianity; and if we would be saved, we must enter into the spirit of it, and make it our own. Religion is self-denial." If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,for whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it." Let us consider this for a short time; and may the eternal Spirit be pleased to use his appointed means for our instruction. We will inquire,
I. What it is to come after Christ.
II. What is the self-denial necessary for this purpose; and
III. What are the motives which should dictate that self-denial.
I. First then, we will inquire what it is to come after Christ. When the Saviour uttered the words of the text, he was passing hastily through this world, looking to the joy that was set before him, and about to enter very shortly upon his rest in glory. He has finished the work which was given him to do. He has passed into the heavens; and he has now sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. In the midst of this career, he says, " If any man will come after me, let him deny himself."
First, It is evident then, in the first place, that this means to walk as he walked; to follow him in the narrow path of holy obedience. Jesus Christ
was a perfect example of conformity to the will of God, both in active devotion, in patient suffering, and in the secret thoughts of the heart. He "loved righteousness, and hated iniquity." His life was one continued train of moral excellencies. The angels in heaven were not so pure as he was in the likeness of sinful flesh, and in the midst of temptation. To come after Christ, is to follow in this holy path: it is to walk "blamelessly and harmlessly, and without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation:" it is to have the glories of an eternal heaven in view,-to live as seeking a better country,-a continuing city yet It is to find that happiness and joy in the imitation of his blessed example, which nothing else can give; and to be enabled to say, "I determine not to know any thing among you, but Jesus Christ and him crucified." "For me to live is
Christ, and to die is gain."
"Here we have no
continuing city, but we seek one to come." "Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness."
Secondly, But more especially
Christ, is to go where he is gone.
into heaven itself, to appear in the
to come after
Christ is Christ is gone presence of God
for us; as he said, "I ascend unto my father and your father, unto my God and your God." When the eternal Word became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, for the redemption of men, the perfect manhood which he had associated with
himself, was placed as it were in the same state of probation, in which man was originally under the The man Christ Jesus was a
covenant of works. candidate for the favour of God, and for the blessing of life as the reward of obedience. He was "made under the law," and engaged to "fulfil all righteousness." He was in fact a pilgrim to the heavenly world, upon the original terms of perfect obedience. The manhood of Christ had no existence previous to his birth of the virgin Mary; and therefore no actual experience of the heavenly world; but that glorious dwelling was placed before him, as one of the great objects of his joy. So that when Christ prayed, "Glorify me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," it was an application that the God-man Mediator, Jesus Christ, might in his glorified and sinless manhood, enjoy that glory which the Son of God had eternally enjoyed, previous to his incarnation; that the Son of man might "sit down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Now we know that the Saviour did, in virtue of the union of the divine with the human nature, pass through the world "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.' "He did no sin." With every point of his conduct, and every thought of his heart, the Father, the great eternal Judge, was well pleased. The terms of the covenant of obedience were completely fulfilled in him: so that as man, there was no claim on him to bring him un