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ance, strengthen your faith, increase your hope, and brighten your charity. Use seasons of retirement to enter deeper into your own hearts, to mortify and cast out the remains of the old Adam, that the whole body of sin may be destroyed, and the life of faith perfected in you. Keep yourselves in the love of God; looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God, where he ever liveth, to make intercession for us.
HOW TO COME TO CHRIST.
LUKE ix. 23.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and
take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
It is worthy of particular notice, my brethren, and deserves to be carefully considered by every Christian, that the religion of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ made its way in the world and prevailed over the various forms of Heathen superstition, and the corrupt prejudices of human nature, not only without any politic accommodation of its holy principles to the established notions, habits of thinking, customs and manners of the times, but with the most uncompromising rejection and condemnation as sinful of all that is most dear and pleasant to the natural man, most cherished and followed by the spirit of the world. That under such circumstances it should have succeeded, forms a very conclusive argument in favour of the divine original of Christianity and of its author. But when to this circumstance we add the confirmation derived from the unparalelled fact, that this religion made its way to the hearts of men, and accomplished its triumphs over the darkness and lewdness of the times, under the clear and explicit disclosure, that poverty, reproach, and contempt, that suffering in all its shapes, even to bonds, imprisonment, and death, was the portion which those who first embraced it were to expect in the present life, the conviction is irresistable, that divine power alone could have brought this to pass.
As from these facts we derive an unanswerable argument for the divine origin and obligation of the religion we profess, so may we also derive from it, my brethren, a sure and impartial standard whereby to determine our personal religion. For it is the same world, out of which the first Christians were called, that
the gospel invites us to come out from. The same corrupt nature, the same vicious propensities, the same preference of sensual delights, and the same determination of the affections towards earthly things, so visible in them, is equally present in us. The gross darkness of Heathen ignorance, and the disgusting impurity of Heathen manners, differ only in degree from the instruct. ed and practical infidelity, and the more refined dissoluteness of modern vice in Christian lands. In kind they are the same, and in the sight of God, perhaps, more hateful in us than in them; the same means, also, provided for their instruction, renewal, and sanctification, are afforded to us, and the same fruit unto holiness is unalterably required. As we are conformed to or separated from the vicious customs of the world in our day, as our affections are set upon things above, or tied down to the farms and the merchandise, the professions and the pleasures of the world, as we make open acknowledgment of the Christian faith, and live answerable to the requirements of the gospel, so is our spiritual condition, my hearers. The command, love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, is still in force to us as to the first Christians; and it is equally important to all present that the inquiry should be made, whether they are in such wise friends of the world, as to be the enemies of GoD; or have so learnt to use it as those who know that this world passeth away, and that in heaven only they have a better country—a more enduring substance.
The inquiry, whether we are truly religious or not, is only another form of speech for the inquiry whether we are in the favour of God or exposed to his wrath. An inquiry, my dear friends, which never can be indifferent to an immortal being, under the uncertainties of the present life, an inquiry to which it is my duty to call your attention, and for the determination of which, satisfactorily, you are furnished in the meditations suggested by my text. Have you come to Christ? Have you denied yourself and taken up the cross? Are you followers of Jesus, or followers of the world? These are questions which naturally grow out of this very solemn declaration of our LORD; and that you may be enabled to answer them understandingly and profitably, I will endeavour to explain and enforce the par. ticular points of Christian duty contained in the text, in the order in which they there stand.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and folloro me.
I. First what are we to understand by the words, if any man will come after me.
That these words refer to the obligation all are under to embrace the gospel to whom it is proposed, is too evident to require any proof. As the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, to instruct them in the will of God, and show them the way of life and happiness eternal, those who believed his divine authority and received his doctrine, were denominated his disciples or followers: to these he imparted his instructions in a more clear and familiar manner than to the multitudes who flocked to hear his preaching and see the miracles which he wrought, and to these he addressed those precious promises which are in a peculiar sense the property of those who are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but unto them that are without all these things are done in parables. Whoso heareth my words and believeth on him that sent me, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven. If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him. Now, while it is undeniable that these are inducements sufficient to engage the attention of every rational being, it is no less clear that, to obtain these advantages, we must comply with the conditions on which they are offered, we must become the disciples or followers of Christ, we must learn of him, we must study his doctrine, obey his precepts, and follow his example.
The immediate reflection, therefore, presented to all present by this clause of my text, is this; Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ ? am I a professor of his name and religion before the world ? am I in communion with his Church upon earth ? am I striving to attain his promises ? and according as this can honestly be answered is there ground of comfort or alarm to
every one of you. Now, as you can all make answer with certainty upon this point, so can you understand, even by human analogies, that where a previous condition is required it must be performed in order to reap the benefit. The invitation of the gospel, therefore, must be complied with on your part before there can be any hope of the blessings of the gospel. Come unto me, says Christ to every weary, heavy laden sinner, and I will give you rest. But if they never come, how shall they obtain rest to their souls? And how can any now come to Christ but through the ordinances of his Church? You may say, indeed, that you have already come to Christ by baptism, and so far your advantage is great; but do you not know that therein you incurred obligations which, if not fulfilled, will more deeply condemn you ? Have you, then, fulfilled your baptismal engagements ? If not, where is the profit of it unless you repent and do your first works, and by a true and lively faith in the LORD Jesus Christ obtain the pardon of your sins, and be reinstated in that from which you are fallen away. Surely no reasonable person can suppose that the ordinances of religion operate after the manner of charms; and yet the great majority in Christian lands act as if this was the case, and never seem to apprehend that to be entitled to the hope of the gospel we must fulfil the conditions of the gospel--must first come to Christ by an open profession of his name and religion before the world, and thenceforward continue in his word, that is, in obedience to his commandments—as the sole ground on which spiritual attainment and eternal life is promised. Nothing is more clearly declared in the gospel than this, that until we are in Christ by some personal act which the gospel prescribes and recognizes, we have neither part nor lot in the promises of the gospel. Our entrance into the covenant of mercy and grace by baptism in our infancy is valid and effectual until forfeited by personal sin, and when thus forfeited-as, alas! it most commonly is by those who arrive at years of discretion, or rather, as they should be called, of indiscretion—there is no other resource, no other refuge than open repentance and acknowledgment of sin, declared reliance on the blood of Christ as the only atonement, renewed obedience to the law of life in the gospel,