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wife and children, and brethren and sisters," those nearest and dearest relations according to the flesh, 6 yea, and bis own life also,” when the preservation of it becomes inconsistent with the duty he owes to God," he cannot be my disciple.” And again, “ Whosoever he be of you that forsaketb not all that he bath,” namely, habitually in affection, and actually too, when God calls him to it, “ he cannot be my disciple.” These are the permanent, the invariable laws of Christ's spiritual kingdom, and are equally binding on us, as on those to whom they were originally addressed. For had our Lord ever intended to relax or mitigate them in any degree, he would certainly have done it in favour of his first disciples, when his church was yet in its infant state, and therefore stood in need of greater indulgence. But these seemingly bard sayings express the true spirit of Christianity, and afford the most convincing proof of its di. vine origiliai. Man fell by seeking himself, and must therefore be raised in the way of self.denial. He forfeited his innocence and happiness by hearkening to the solicitation of a fleshly appetite; and, before he can regain happiness, the flesh must be crucified, with the affections and lusts.
Accordingly, we find that our Saviour's meaning was well understood by bis immediate followers; and their practice is the best commentary on his injunctions. What he recommended, they laboured to attain. Thus Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.” The remainders of corruption within him, made him cry out with all the emphasis of distress, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Nay, so sensible was he of the importance and necessity
of this deliverance, that, as he expresseth it bimself, “ He counted all things but loss and dung;" first, * That he might win Christ, and be found in him not having his own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” And next, “ That he might know Christ” experimentally," and the power of bis resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable onto his death.” Nor was this only his wish ; we find also that it was his real attainment. “I am crucified,”
says he, “with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life wbich I now live in the flesh, 1 live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” “And God for. bid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Cbrist, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Neither was Paul singular in this. It appears to have been the common attainment of all true Christians in his time. For it is spoken of in my text as the badge of Christianity, the very thing which distinguished Christians from all other men. “ They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affec. tions and lusts." I have given a recital of these passa. ges of Scripture, as they serve to explain one another: and I hope that when they are compared together, and duly considered, they will appear to be a sufficient de. monstration, that none whose flesh is not crucified, with its affections and lusts, can, with a Scriptural warrant, lay claim to an interest in Cbrist.
Thus have I endeavoured to explain what is meant by “ crucifying the flesh, with the affections and lusts;" and have shewn you, that this is the actual attaioment of every true Christian. Allow me now to conclude this dig. course with a practical improvement of the subject. From what hath been said, then, we learn in the
1st place, What is the true nature of our holy religion. It is not a mere bodily exercise, consisting only in external ceremonies or observances. Eartbly rulers can ask no more but an outward homage: but the Searcher
of bearts challengeth the sincere adoration of the inner e man. He who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit
and in truth. So that to attend the church, to partake
of religious ordinances, and to perform the external da| ties of religion, will be of no avail in the sight of God, un
less these outward services proceed from a heart warmed with his love, in wbich every usurping lust, that would share his place, is vanquished and dethroned. To be a real Christian, therefore, is not so easy an attainment as many seem to imagine. Flesh and blood must be wrestled with, and overcome; “for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Every gratification that is contrary to the holiness of the divine nature, although dear to us as a right hand or a right eye, must be denied. Nay, the very inelination to vicious indulgences must be subdued, otherwise our abstaining from the outward aets of them will be of no avail. It is the heart that God requires; and if we deny bim this, we can give him notbing that is worthy of his acceptance.
An inoffensive outward deportment may sooth your consciences, and prevent the uneasy feelings of remorse, but will not save you from final ruin. The very interest of the flesh may make a man forbear disgraceful sins, and may, for a time, chain up, without weakening, the vigour of corruption. You may be possessed of many amiable qualities, by which you deserve well of society, and yet be total strangers to that character of real Chris. tians which is given in this text. If temporary good impressions, or restraints of the flesh for a season, would amount to that character, then Felix, wbo trembled un. der conviction, and Herod, who did many things in consequence of the Baptist's preaching, had been real Christians. If the estimable qualities of social life were a proof that Cbristianity had its full effect on the mind, then the young ruler, who had kept the second table of the law from bis youth upwards, would have had an unreserved approbation from our Lord. But Felix and Herod re. lapsed under the dominion of their lusts; and through the love of this world, the young ruler fell short of the kingdom of heaven. In the
2d place, From what hath been said, let each of us be prevailed on to try how matters stand with himself. You see that it is not a point to be lightly taken for granted, that a man bath a real interest in Christ. I have already mentioned several things under my first head of discourse, which may serve as hints to direct you in this trial. All that I have further to beg of you is, that you would judge yourselves impartially, as those who expect a judgment to come. Try every ground of hope upon which you have hitherto rested ; let every rotten pillar be removed, or else the whole building, however glorious in appearance, will shortly fall to the ground. Self-love may, for a season, blind your eyes; but remember, that it will throw no veil over that impartial judgment which will overtake you at the bar of God. Compare, then, your actions, and dispositions with that holy and spiritual law which flatters no man; and then, if conscience gives an unbiassed judgment, I have little doubt that numbers in this assembly will discover, that “ the flesh, with its affections and lusts," is not only alive, but in full vigour. Nay, the very best will find cause to conclude, that the corrupt principle is not yet crucified as it ought to be.
As for those of the first class now mentioned, if the text itself does not furuish them with a sufficient motive
for crucifying the flesh, I despair of being able to offer any other which will be more powerful. I might tell you, how mean it is to let sense give law to reason, and to prefer the earthly tabernacle to its immortal inbabitant. I might assure you, that you are serving an ungrateful master, whom you can never satisfy; that, while you feed one lust, you must starve another, whose importunate cravings will destroy the relish of your imagined happiness. I might tell you, that the flesh must ere long be reduced to rottenness and dust, and be buried under ground, that it may be no offence to the living. But what are all these arguments compared with that motive which is implied in the text, that, unless you crucify the flesh, you do not belong to Christ; and if you have no interest in Christ, God is a consuming fire? So that this furnish. eth me with an address, to the same purpose with what a brave officer made to his soldiers in a day of battle, “ Unless ye kill your enemies," said he, “they will kill you." In like manner, I say to you, Unless ye crucify the flesh, it will be your everlasting ruin. “ For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.”
As for you who are mourning over the remainders of corruption, and struggling to get free from them, I know that you will require no motives to engage you to go on in this opposition to the carnal principle. I shall there. fore, only offer you a few directions, with which I will now conclude.
Keep a strict watch over your senses. Let nothing enter into the soul by these avenues without a strict examination. Avoid with the utmost caution all those things which may inflame your passions, and accustom yourselves to contradict them in their first tendencies to evil. A spark may easily be quenched, which, after it hath kindled a flame, will baffle all your industry. Improve that holy ordinance, which you have been celebrating,