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The fountain from which they spring is plainly enough described in the text; this adulterous and sinful generation. And we know that there is not a fear, a passion, a weakness, or a vanity in the heart of man, but the world knows how to reach it. One distinction however must be made with respect to these temptations, that there are some which pursue us, and others which we pursue: to the one sort we unwillingly resign our faith, driven thereunto by fears and terrors, pains and torments, which we are not able to endure : but the other kind of temptations come on our invitation; and we make our faith a sacrifice to the world, when we part with it or disown it for honor, wealth, or pleasure: these are they, who, properly speaking, love the world more than God and his Christ; but they will find it a dear purchase at the last.
But whenever infidelity grows into credit and repute, and irreligion is considered as a mark of good understanding, then there arises another temptation to make men ashamed of Christ and of his word. No man likes to be despised by those around him; and he who perhaps wants neither riches nor honors, wants however to live in credit and good esteem with his acquaintance. How far this inclination must work, from motives of vanity, want of courage, and the contagion of example, may be easily conceived. But let us compare our pretended difficulties and hardships, in this respect, with those real ones which Christians of the early ages endured. If they were called to brave the sword, and look every image of death boldly in the face, shall we find pity, who are afraid only of being laughed at by those who are void of understanding ?
But to come still lower: if we care not to be reprovers or rebukers of this iniquity, surely there is no necessity for us to be admirers or encouragers of it: it is no great sacrifice we make to Christ, when we resign our share of the applause which belongs to those who persecute and blaspheme him. Religion is after all our most serious concern. If its pretensions be
founded in truth, it is life to embrace them, it is death to despise them. We cannot in this case stand neuter, we cannot serve two masters. If we confess Christ before men, he will also confess us before God; and if we deny him, he will deny us at the last day.
Had our Lord been merely a teacher of good things, without any special commission from the great Creator, it would have been absurd and presumptuous in him to have arrogated to himself the high prerogative of being owned and acknowleged before men. Several have from the light of reason taught the world ; but none have assumed that prerogative. The case is otherwise with our Redeemer ; we must own his authority and confess him, be the danger of doing so ever so great. Whence arises this obligation ? It cannot rest on his being merely a teacher of reason and good morality. We must consider then what manner of person this is who requires so much at our hands. If he be indeed the Son of God; if all power in heaven and earth be given him by the Father; if he be appointed to be the judge of all men; there is a clear reason to justify his demand and our obedience: but if he were only a teacher of morality and religion, how is he justified in pretending to be the only Son of God ? &c. We must either own him under this character, or condemn him as an impostor for claiming it.
When therefore we read that our Lord requires of us to confess him before men, the true way to know what we are to confess, is to reflect on what he confessed himself; for it cannot be supposed that he would make one confession himself, and demand of his disciples and servants to make another. Let us then look into the gospel, and having read his words, weigh well these things, and judge what our duty is.
DISCOURSE XLVIII. .
MARK, CHAP. VIII._VERSE 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.
At the thirty-fourth verse of this chapter our Lord, having called the people and his disciples to him, declares openly to them on what terms the profession of the gospel was to be undertaken. He allures them not by the hopes of temporal prosperity, nor promises any countenance or assistance from the great and powerful ; but foretels them of the evils and calamities that should attend his followers, and of the sufferings prepared for them in this life : against which the providence of God stands not engaged for their protection; since his will is, that all the faithful should, after the example of the Author and Captain of their salvation, be made perfect through suffering. · Whosoever,' says our Lord, ' will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.'
How strong the expression of denying himself' is, and how much it includes, we learn from the next verse, where our Saviour himself extends it even to the parting with our lives for his and the gospel's sake :
Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospels, the same shall save it.'
You see, by comparing these passages together, that the text immediately relates to the times of persecution, and expresses the duty of a Christian to resist even unto blood in maintenance of his holy religion, whenever the providence of God calls him to such trial. This indeed is not our case at present, and there
fore I shall not spend the time in fortifying your minds against terrors, removed, I hope, at a great distance from us: but it must be owned, that an adulterous and sinful generation has more ways than one of making men ashamed of Christ and of his words. Though our eyes have not beheld any frightful scenes of persecution, yet we have seen, and daily see, many who are ashamed of Christ. If the temptation to this crime be now less than in times of distress, the guilt is certainly greater, and in equity the punishment must be so too. Which reason will bring the threatening of the text home to every man, who, in compliance with a corrupt age, does either wickedly reject, or basely dissemble, the faith of the gospel.
But that we may not rashly accuse either the age in general, or any men in particular, of this great crime, but rather open a way by which men may easily examine their own consciences on this head, and avoid the like evil for the future; let us,
First, inquire into the nature of the crime of being ashamed of Christ and of his words :' and,
Secondly, into the several temptations that lead to it.
The duty opposed to this crime is expressed in the language of Scripture by 'confessing Christ before men;' and therefore to be ashamed of Christ and of his words’ is to deny or disown Christ and his doctrine before men. In this language both parts are expressed in the tenth of St. Matthew : 'whosoever,' says our Lord, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.'
If we were under no obligation to confess Christ before the world, there would be no iniquity in dissembling our knowlege of him; we might keep our faith and our religion to ourselves, and by so doing avoid many inconveniences to which the open and sincere professors of the gospel are oftentimes exposed. There have not wanted some in all times, to justify the prudence of concealing our religious sentiments, and to encourage men to live well with the world, in an outward compliance with the customs and opinions of those about them, provided their hearts be right with God, and sincere in the inward belief of his truth. To support this doctrine, we are
called on to remember that religion is, in the nature of the thing, internal, and has its seat and residence in the heart, and not in the lips or tongues of men : that our virtue and obedience will be estimated by our integrity, and not by the outward shows and professions which we make: that God, who knows the heart, will judge us by it at the last : that, con-, sequently, the only concern of religion is to purify the heart ; and since the world has nothing to do with our hearts, we owe it no account of our religion; and may lawfully keep from them all knowlege in a matter where they have, where they can have, no cognisance.
To this plea another is likewise' added, that to suppose it necessary for men to own the religious sentiments of their hearts at the peril of their lives, is making God a very hard master, requiring of us a service of no value, at the
of all that is dear and valuable to us in this world. What does our confession avail him, who has a surer way of judging us than by the words of our mouth : or what does it avail the world, those especially to whom it is to be made, who are hardened and past conviction, and stand with the sword uplifted to destroy us the moment we confess the truth?
It is no wonder that flesh and blood should furnish some plausible excuses for declining a duty so very hard to practise, when it comes to the cases of the last extremity: but yet these are but excuses, and founded in ignorance of the nature of religion, and of the great ends to be served by it.
Were we to estimate our religion by the service or benefit done to God, we might part with it all at once : he gets no more by the sincerity of our hearts, than by our outward professions : and therefore on this view we may bid adieu to both. If you think, however, that there is something in inward sincerity that is agreeable in his sight, that renders men acceptable to him, I wonder, at the same time, you should not think hypocrisy and dissimulation with the world odious in his sight, and such vices as will render us detestable to him. To suppose inward sincerity consistent with an external hypocrisy toward the world, is itself a very great absurdity. For what is hypocrisy? Is it not professing one thing, and meaning another? And is not this the very case, when a man, supposed