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This may be considered as the lowest sense indeed, in which the taking up the cross is to be understood. Yet it is certainly a part of the duty, and one which I heartily wish was more considered and acted upon than it is; for it is essential to any benefit by and through the LORD JESUS CHRIST. He that is not for me is against me, says our LORD, and he threatens to deny all such in the last day, as shall be either afraid or ashamed to confess him before men.
The words of my text also point to this meaning of the command to take up our cross. Many went after Christ to hear his doctrine, and see the miracles he wrought to confirm it as divine, who yet from various causes did not openly become his disciples; and we may reasonably suppose, that it was by way of rebuke and warning to such persons, that he expressed himself as in the words of my text. In like manner, in the present day, multitudes come after Christ, in so far as attendance upon the public ordinances of religion may be thus called, who yet go no farther; who take not up the cross in this sense of the words; who from some cause, alien to a just sense either of the benefits to be derived from Christ, or of the loss and danger incurred by thus tampering and trifling with this indispensable duty, hang upon the skirts of religion, as it were, without once realizing that awful day, when Christ shall justly say to them, I never knew you—ye were ashamed of me before men—I cannot confess you before my Father and the holy angels.
Secondly, to take up our cross daily, includes a ready and willing submission to those particular trials wherewith the providence of Almighty God sees fit to exercise our faith and prove our obedience. As self-denial consists chiefly in foregoing some present gratification, because inconsistent with the care of our souls, and contrary to the honour of God, the taking up the cross in this sense of the words, will consist in suffering patiently whatever of privation or of direct infliction the divine wisdom sees necessary to purify and perfect our fallen nature, to wean us from the world and prepare us for glory. This is the method by which the dross of earthly desires can best be purged off, and therefore are they sent. Our Saviour himself, as man, was made perfect through sufferings, and we must be made like unto him
in this as in all other respects, if we would be partakers with him in that glory to which his obedience hath exalted him.
Thirdly, to take up our cross includes in the highest sense of the words, the being ready to encounter all worldly loss, to endure all worldly suffering, to submit to persecution, and even to the loss of life itself, rather than deny Christ or surrender our religion. Of this triumph of faith, of this fixed and unshaken trust in God our Saviour, thousands have set the example, not counting their lives dear unto themselves, so they might win Christ and be found in him. And though we are not called, my brethren, to such trials, yet are we called to possess the same believing, confiding spirit, the mind that was in Christ and in these his faithful disciples. The same grace, also, through which they were borne onward to the prize of their high calling, is yet in operation, and sufficient for every duty required at our hands; and sure we may be, that if our trials are lighter our obligations are higher, if less is required at our hands, the more thankful, the more faithful, and the more earnest we should be in what is enjoined us; and that if we take not up the cross appointed for our day, Christ's light and and easy yoke, we must bear for ever the bitter cross of the curse of God, the insupportable load of everlasting torment.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
To follow CHRIST means, in this connexion, to continue steadfast in the profession and practice of his religion, neither terrified by persecution nor seduced by temptation.
Perseverance in holiness is the condition of salvation, my brethren. He that endureth to the end the same shall be saved, says our LORD, but if he draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him, says God. The reward of eternal life, as it exceeds all computation, as it is a free gift to undeserving creatures through the merits of Christ, is not to be lightly esteemed or trifled with, nor are the means of attaining it, set forth in the word of God, to be taken up or put down upon any calculations of present interest or convenience. No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. If the business or the pleasures of the world, or the indolence or inadvertence of our corrupt hearts, are permitted to withstand or to neutralize the solemn assurances of death, judgment, and eternity, awaiting accountable beings, favoured with the glad tidings of the gospel and furnished with the means of grace, it were better for us, my hearers, never to have known the way of righteousness than to depart froin the holy commandment delivered to us; it were good for us that we had never been born, if we fall away from the offered mercy of God, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and break the solemn obligations undertaken at our baptism. Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life, says the faithful and true witness. He that overcometh shall inherit all things. But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
What then is our part, my dear friends, under the undeniable responsibilities of our condition? Where is room even for hesitation under the vast alternative of life or death eternal ? Let truth then prevail; let the reasonableness of our duty recommend it to our most serious attention; let the awful uncertainty of the present life throw its weight into the scale of our salvation, and bring us forthwith to Christ, prepared to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Jesus in the way which he hath trodden before us, through all the changes and chances of this mortal life. Let us do this, my brethren and hearers, under the happy assurance that he, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness, will be with us in all our trials, and make good his encouraging declaration, that his yoke is easy and his burden light. Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Learn of me—and ye shall find rest unto your souls. O that the answer may be from all ;-LORD to whom else shall we go, for thou hast the words of eternal life..
THE CAUSÉ OF NOT COMING TO CHRIST.
John v. 40.
"And ye will not come to me that ye might have life.”
Nothing is so fatal to our souls, my brethren and hearers, as indifference and carelessness on the subject of religion. Nothing forms so complete a bar to the grace of the gospel as that obstinate unwillingness to be saved which is evidenced by those who resist the warning and instruction of God's word, the reason of their own minds, and the verdict of their own consciences, to say nothing of those strivings of the Holy Spirit which ever and anon apply the truth to their hearts with such power as almost to persuade them to yield. But they will not come to Christ that they might have life. Some deceit of sin—some flattering bait of the God of this world—some engagement with the things of time and sense on which they are more bent than on the care of their immortal souls, stifles the conviction of guilt and danger, and delivers them over once more to the strong delusion which ends in their being hardened in sin. Í speak not now of those bold contenders against God and the word of his grace who make a mock at sin, scoff at revelation, and sufficient for their own expectations here and hereafter, deny the Lord that bought them, and trample on his blood—such cannot be expected to come to him for life—but of that greater number on whom the word of life is bestowed in vain, for they search not the Scriptures-on whom warning is thrown away, for they heed it not--in whose hearts conviction is deadened by the care of other things, and by whom time is not measured by its advancement towards eternity, but as it promotes or retards the gains, the enjoyments, the disappointments or the sufferings of the life that now is. Oh! what multitudes are in this dangerous condition in this Christian land, and who are thus, partly from mistaken views of the doctrines of the gospel, but chiefly from thoughtlessness and carelessness on the subject of religion, adding force to the natural enmity of the carnal mind and increasing the power of those temptations which lead them farther and farther from God. And shall no effort be made to show them their danger, and point them to a better course ? Yes, by God's good blessing, this day shall be a witness for me in this behalf, and, I trust, for some of them, by showing them,
First, what are the chief bindrances which prevent people from coming to Christ that they might have life.
SECONDLY, in what manner they must come to obtain this blessing.
And then by making in conclusion a short application of the subject.
And ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.
I. First, I am to point out the chief hindrances which prevent people from coming to Christ that they might have life.
The first and main obstacle is want of serious consideration. Few or none can plead ignorance of the great outlines of Christianity. But in religion, as in all other sciences, knowledge, when unapplied, differs in nothing from ignorance. Now to consider and apply knowledge is a habit or qualification of mind to be acquired by practice and discipline, and it is the great art which makes education of every kind useful and profitable.
In religion especially, which to fallen creatures is in every sense a forced state, this habit of considering and applying the truths revealed to us lies at the very entrance of any advancement or progress whatever. Without this, whatever knowledge we attain to of God and ourselves, of the means provided for our benefit and the use we are required to make of them, is nothing but a mere speculation of the understanding, as destitute of any moral power over the will and affections as the reinembrance of any abstruse mathematical demonstration. And yet we might well imagine that was there any one thing the intrinsic importance of which would bear down all opposition and engage exclusively the attention and endeavours of intelligent and accountable beings, it must be religion ; for what is religion but the science of being happy here and happy