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SERMON IX

THE TERMS OF DISCIPLESHIP.

MATTHEW XVI. 24. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, follow me.

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MANY a man thinks he is a Christian, who is not so; it is, therefore, important to understand what it is to be a Christian. Many a man persuades himself that he is willing to become a Christian, and would at once become one if he only knew how. Now the declaration of Christ in the text exactly meets this state of mind. It is a most beautiful passage, and so full of instruction, that if, by God's favor, I can only spread it out before you, and rightly explain it, it can hardly fail to be profitable to you. If any man wishes to become a disciple of Christ, it teaches him what he must do. He must deny himself-take up his cross-and follow him. These three things he must do, or he can never become a Christian.

It is not every man who wishes to be a Christian. The great mass of men do not desire any such thing. Many do not think enough about it, to desire it; while very many who have thought, and do think a great deal about it, had rather not be Christians. They do not want the trouble, and anxiety, and responsibility; but greatly prefer to live on as they are. They do not

wish to be singular; but choose rather the broad way with the multitude, than the straight and narrow way with the few.

But there are those who are so convinced of the truth and importance of religion, that they desire to possess it. They have lost the interest in the things of this world which they once felt. They have no relish for its pleasures, and scarcely any heart left for its ordinary occupations. They are unhappy, and feel that they need something which this world cannot give them. Little as they once thought of Christ and religion, they have different views now, and wish to be Christians, and desire to become the true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Nor is this a vain and unmeaning desire. They wish to be instructed in the school of Christ, and to belong to his family. They wish to enlist under him as their Leader, in the conflict they are entering upon with sin and the world; to sign the articles of the engagement by which they bind themselves to him as their great Captain and Commander over the perilous voyage of human life. They do not wish to be Christians in name only, but in reality. They sincerely desire to consecrate themselves to Christ, and to be devoted to him in body, soul, and spirit. Just as some men desire to be learned, and others to be rich; just as one desires to be a merchant, another a mechanic, another a seaman; so those of whom we are speaking desire to be Christians. They desire above all things to be Christians; they never expect to be happy until they become Christians; they do not look in any way to better their condition, until they become Christians.

Are any of you, my friends, sensible of having such

a desire? If it be so, give God the praise. A desire like this does not belong to low, earth-born desires. It does not originate in our corrupt nature; it does not take its rise in any worldly considerations. Fashion does not originate it; convenience does not originate it; no considerations of worldly interest, honors, or fame, give rise to it. When men desire to become Christians from such considerations as these, their desire is short-lived, feeble, spurious, and fails of its object. No, it is from no such sources as these. "It is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The desire to be a Christian is a very deep and strong desire, where it is found in the soul at all. It is above every other desire, and is not slow to show itself in ways that prove its true and deep sincerity.

It has been already observed, that, if a man truly wishes to be a Christian, there are three things which he must do: he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ.

I. In the first place, he must deny himself. It is one of the mournful consequences of the apostasy of our race from God, that by it man became a supremely selfish being. Nor is there any one trait of human wickedness, all the world over, so strong as this. Men think of themselves, love themselves, live for themselves. They usurp the rights of the Godhead, substitute self in the place of God, and make themselves their Deity.

But if a man would become a Christian, this selfish spirit must be denied. God must no longer be dethroned from his heart, and the idol self set up in his place; self must be dethroned-self-righteousness, selfreliance, self-advancement, self in all its forms, and in

every form where it comes in collision with God's claims, and the first and best affections must be given to God, and he alone must have the throne within the heart. Those rights of God, of which he has been so sacrilegiously despoiled, must be restored. The strong and long-continued selfish habits of the soul must be subdued. They must be subdued in principle, and brought to that self-abasement and that disclaimer of personal claims and personal righteousness which magnifies the grace of God, and the righteousness of his Son. And they must be subdued in practice, and the self-denial which the Gospel enjoins, carried along in the actings of an every-day Christianity, and giving evidence that it belongs to the religion of the Bible to "put off the old man with his lusts, and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." That man's religion who is not thus clad in humble robes, and whose distinctive livery is not a self-denying heart and life is vain. The first thing which he must do, if he would be a Christian indeed, is to deny himself.

II. The second is, to take up his cross. If he would think, and feel, and speak, and act like a Christian, he will have enemies to encounter, obstacles to surmount, and trials to endure, that are neither few nor small. He must come out from a world that lieth in wickedness; make the people of God his chosen companions, enter upon the path that is trodden by the few, and bear shame and reproach for the sake of Christ. The church of God is not yet a triumphant, but a militant community, opposed and opposing till its contests become victories.

The cross is the emblem of hope-sweet emblem; it is glad tidings of great joy to all people. But it is also

the emblem of ignominy and suffering. It was so to the Saviour, it is so to his disciples. To a greater or less degree, they endure reproach and suffering, for being Christians. And in whatever form these come upon them on this account, this is their cross. This is the true idea of the cross as it is borne by Christians. It is a cross to stand almost alone as the friends of Christ and his Gospel in this fault-finding world. It is a cross to bear testimony against evil men and evil times, and faithfully to oppose the swollen current of evil example and influences. It is a cross to withstand vain and fashionable customs and usages, to contend with error and false religion, and stiff and bigoted formalism. It is a cross to be censured because we are singular, and to feel constrained to impose restraints upon an intercourse with those we love, because they endanger our piety. It is a cross, not only to contend with our spiritual enemies, but to turn our back upon them, to run away like cowards, because we are more afraid of ourselves than of them.

Nor is this all. The Christian may often be called to suffer in other ways, and for his faith and a good conscience. He may not have access to offices of emolument, honor and trust, merely because he is a Christian. Like Christians of other times, he may suffer the "spoiling of his goods" for his religion, and be treated as the offscouring of the earth for the sake of Christ. He may be dragged before human tribunals, cast into prisons, be exposed to the fury of wicked men, and called to die for the faith and name he will in no wise renounce. In enduring these, or any of these, for Christ's sake, the Christian takes up the cross. There is a cross for him to take up; he must suffer be

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