« PreviousContinue »
MARK VIII. 38.
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of
my words in this adulterous and sinful generation ; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his
Father, with the holy angels. That any should be ashamed of Him whom all angels worship, and who came into a world of misery to give himself by an infinite act of love to die for sinners, would be wholly incredible, if we did not know the depravity and deceitfulness of the human heart. There is, however, no sin to which the new convert to Christianity is more powerfully tempted, and none which leads larger numbers of professed Christians to act habitually in too many respects against the light and conviction of their consciences. As Christ himself had, so has his cause, a state of humiliation here, before its state of exalta. tion and glory hereafter. As Christ was “ despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid, as it were, our faces from him, and he was despised, and we esteemed him not ;" so his cause also in this world is contemned and misrepresented and scorned.
The solemn warning, therefore, of our Lord in the text, comes properly to be considered after the great topic of the propagation of Christianity, which has occupied us in the last three discourses. In reviewing which, we shall call your attention to the Danger; the Guilt; and the fearful Consequences of being ashamed of Christ.
I. The danger arises from the general propensity of the fallen heart of man to shrink from what is accounted weak, dishonorable, ignominious in the eyes of others. He wishes to stand well with his fellows; he avoids, if he can, what incurs disgrace, what is decried as mean and unreasonable, what injures his reputation for sagacity and talent, or may expose him to scorn and calumny. And especially does he do this with respect to religion, where his own resolutions are apt to be weak and treacher. ous, the demands of Christianity at times to appear strong, and where he is aware of the peculiar dislike and apprehensions of mankind.
False shame therefore is a temptation of extra. ordinary force as respects the gospel, particularly with the young, the susceptible, and persons of learning, taste, and station in Society.
Shame, in its due place, is a passion capable of subserving the highest and best purposes. It is a guardian of virtue in our present fallen state. It gives an instinctive warning of what is wrong. It is the sentinel placed before the conscience. " What fruit had ye then," saith the apostle, “in those things whereof ye are now ashamed ?” I was ashamed, yea even confounded," saith the penitent Ephraim, « because I did bear the reproach of my youth." “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination ? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush, therefore they shall fall among them that fall.” From such passages we learn, that shame is the first mark of penitence, when duly exercised, and the last proof of desperate wickedness where wholly lost.
The occasion of our Lord's uttering the warning of the text, was his unfolding to his disciples the approaching ignominy of the cross.
Peter, upon this, ignorant of the mystery of redemption and the true genius of his Master's kingdom, ventured to chide him. Upon which Jesus “ turned about, and looking upon his disciples rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me, for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. And when he had called the people unto him, with his disciples, he said unto them, whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul ; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" And then in the text, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
The danger, then, of being ashamed of Christ, arises from the opposition of the human heart to contempt and reproach, from its dislike to the doctrine of our Lord's sufferings, to the self-denial this doctrine imposes, the daily cross it calls on us to take up, and the calumnies and temporal losses, including that of life itself, to which it may subject us.
The circumstances of different ages and different classes of persons vary ; but the principle, like all other great principles of our fallen nature, remains.
As long as man inclines to external and sensible things, shrinks from ridicule and contempt, and is fond of the praise of his fellow-creatures, so long will he be in danger of evading whatever in Christianity calls for self-denial, and reproach, and temporal inconveniences and sufferings.
In the case of the Jews, this is clear. They had such notions of a temporal Messiah, a temporal kingdom, a temporal glory, that the humble and despised Jesus, especially in his agony and death, was a stumbling-block to them. Their pride of descent from Abraham, their contempt for the Gentiles, their enthusiasm for Moses and the law, their reliance on circumcision, their “ ignorance of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own,” rendered the doctrine of our Lord's cross an object of such scorn and reproach, that they had agreed early that " if any one acknowledged that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” In addition to all this, they were in our Savior's time so degenerate, worldly, and addicted to the traditions of men, and every species of vice, that they were emphatically “a wicked and adulterous generation,” sunk in iniquity ; and adulterous and unfaithful to the covenant of their God.
The disciples also partook so far of some of those opinions, from the early habits of their minds, that, much as they loved their Master, and firmly as they confessed his Messiahship, they were little aware of the mysteries of his religion, the nature of his sacrifice, and the amount of self-denial which would be required in order not to be ashamed of his cause.
The case is substantially the same in every age. Professed Christians are perpetually in danger of being ashamed of Christ. Not of the name of Christ; not of the creed which they pronounce in the Church every Sunday; not of the general mystery of his person and sacrifice; not of the chief articles of ordinary morals; not of the duties of the public worship of his name, and the celebration of holy sacraments, nor of the necessity of shunning profaneness and the grosser vices of the world; but of those particular branches of faith and a holy life, which involve the cross, self-denial, and the loss of reputation, of character, of influence, of their interests in life, the affections of those whom they love, and their general standing amongst men.
There is a certain boundary of moral and religious propriety in every subdivision of professed Chris. tians, resulting from the standard of Christian truth and Christian example, which generally obtainsa kind of neutral ground between the world and the spiritual Church.
This boundary is never commensurate with the real Scriptural rules of duty and feeling; but proceeds on a sort of compromise-ever changeable, now more relaxed, and now somewhat more closely drawn in, according to the fluctuating opinions of
Within this boundary, religion, and Christ, and truth, are not indeed fully acted upon and honored, which they cannot be; but are tolerated, and perhaps generally commended. But beyond it all is run down as weak, as extravagant, as enthusi. astic, and symptomatic of a want of sense and knowledge of the world, and of a disregard to our position in Society.
The danger, then, of being ashamed of Christ and his cross just springs from this source.-Men do not like to go beyond the line of reputable religion, however low it may have sunk. They strive hard to shun what the world accounts so foolish, and decries with so much satire. They ask the world around them how far they will allow them to proceed with, out condemning them as excessive.
In ages therefore of great decay of spiritual religion, as at the time of our Lord, at the period of the Re.