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Jesus Christ that great and lovely Being—the brightness of the Father's glory-and the express image of his Person, who came down from heaven upon the kind errand of man's salvation. He is the great Teacher sent from God, and the only Saviour of a ruined world. Vast indeed the love he manifested, in giving himself “even to the death of the cross, that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.” He is described as “having all power both in heaven and upon earth”; Heis the supreme Head of the Church ; and will be the final Judge of all mankind. If such be the Master, what is required of us, that we may, with scriptural propriety, be ranked among his disciples ? Reflect on the simple meaning of the familiar term here employed. A disciple is a scholar-a learner. See a little child receiving instruction from an affectionate parent; conscious of his ignorance, and impressed with a conviction that his father knows almost everything-how attentively the boy listens-how implicitly he believes--and how prompt to act upon the information given him. Go into the Sabbath-school, observe an interesting group of little children ; here is a kind teacher explaining to them in familiar language, some beautiful por tions of the Bible ; the children are ignorant, but they are inquisitive, they begin to exercise their minds, and having entire confidence in their teacher they cordially believe the truth as he explains it to them. Thus it is with the disciples of Christ. Deeply humbled on account of their own ignorance, and perfectly assured that Jesus Christ, and he alone, can teach them the good and the right way, they feel it a sacred duty, and a great privilege to learn of Him; and they are
not contented with merely listening to the words of Christ, they believe his doctrines, and obey his precepts, resolved and prepared to receive his truth in the love of it, that they might be saved. Thus simple and obvious is the meaning of the word disciple ; yet, to prevent the possibility of mistake in an enquiry so interesting and important, let me enumerate some of the essential dispositions, or graces, by which the disciples of Christ are characterized, producing as my authority, the very words of Scripture. We begin with faith, because it is frequently urged as a duty, and so beautifully delineated as one of the sister graces. When the first miracle was wrought in Cana of Galilee, Jesus “ manifested forth his glory ; and his disciples believed on him.” (John. ii. 11.) The principle of faith, moreover, must recognize the Lord Jesus in all the offices which he sustains. On him alone the disciples will depend for salvation; and to his supreme authority, they must ever yield implicit and entire obedience. In fact they live, as the Apostle Paul express it, “by the faith of the Son of God.”.
There is required also of the followers of Chrit, the constant exercise of self-denial. “ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Matt. xvi. 24. The friendship of the world must be renounced ; persecution, whether its forms be comparatively mild or severe even unto death, must be endured. Easily besetting sins, though dear as a right eye, or valued as a right-hand, must be entirely given up. In short every thing that is opposed to the will of Christ must be cheerfully sacrificed, or the divine master will not own us as his disciples. Nor can we ap
propriate this honorable relationship, if the grace of love be wanting. Pre-eminent love to the Saviour is frequently spoken of in the New Testament as essential to the Christian character. “He that loveth me not,” saith Jesus, “keepeth not my savings." John xiv. 26. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Luke xiv. 26. The term hatred, is here used in a comparative sense. We are commander to love those that are bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. It is assumed that this attachment is usually very strong and ardent; and then to shew how great should be our love to Christ, we are reminded that even the affection we cherish towards our nearest relatives, must be less ardent, and less influential than the love we bear to Jesus; nay, we must value Christ more than even our own life. And while the disciples cherish this supreme affection towards the Lord Jesus, they are required also to love one another. Being members of the same family, they recognize God as their Father, Jesus Christ as their elder Brother, and are anticipating the same heavenly home. Drawn---all of them by the cords of love to Christ, it cannot be that they should be estranged from each other. Their mutual affection is seen and admired by all around them ; it is their characteristic and honorable distinction. In the first ages even their enemies were heard to say, “ See how these Christians love one another.” Jesus Christ himself seems to have anticipated this pleasing testimony, since, when upon earth he was heard to say, “By this shall all men know
that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John xiii. 35. Another important distinction characterizing the disciples of Christ, is this--they “ follow holiness, without which, no man can see the Lord." Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts; they have learned to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Herein consists the loveliness and the excellence of the religion of the Bible, it purifies the heart, and relates the life; it restores the image of God which had been lost by the fall ; and provides not only justification, but sanctification and complete redemption. Is the Christian compared to a tree which the Lord hath planted ?
the fruits of righteousness are to be gathered from every bough, and hereby God is honored. • Herein," saith Christ, “is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” John xv. 8. Here also an important question arises :-to what source must we ascribe all the graces which are essential and ornamental to the Christian character ? • No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" hence, to constitute discipleship to Christ, there must be the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. How explicit the language of the Apostle Paul, “ Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Rom. viii. 9. And the relationship we are here describing, be it remembered, is of an enduring character; it is not the result of momentary feelings, but rather of fixed and abiding principles. The judgment is convinced while the heart is gained. The disciple having counted the cost, has respect also to the future recompence of reward; he submits to the cross because he anticipates the crown of life; and he knows full well, that it were vain to look for the reward to anticipate the crown, unless he is faithful unto death. What said Jesus Christ to some of the Jews when they first believed on him?—"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." John viii. 31. Thus clear and decided is the authority of the Bible, as to the essential graces without which no man can be approved in Christ. On reading the New Testament, moreover, we become acquainted with not a few honored individuals, who, when upon earth, were living disciples ; to some of these we may refer both by character and by name; and this from a conviction that a portrait is generally more faithful and impressive when it is drawn from real life. There was MARY; she sat at the feet of Jesus, and heard his word; instead oi suffering her heart to be engrossed by the cares of this life, and her hands to be unceasingly employed in attending to family duties, she embraces every seasonable opportunity for gaining spiritual improvement; she felt that religion was “ the one thing needful," and deliberately chose that good part, which could never be taken from her. There was also NATHANAEL; he was open to conviction, prompt to admit the claims of the Lord Jesus, and prepared with the heart to believe on him as the promised Messiah. There was in this man, no affectation, no pride, no hypocrisy ;-he was retiring, devotional, sincere, and conscientious ;-" an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile." There is another disciple of whom we read, named ZACCHEUS; from