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MARK viii. 38. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me, and
of my Words, in this adulterous and finful Generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the Glory of his Father, with the holy Angels.
EX89& * T the thirty-fourth Verse of this
Chapter our Lord, having calloso A Sorted the People and his Disciples XX*** to him, declares openly to them
* upon 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 Affistance 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, fays our Lord, will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up bis 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 fake: Whosoever will save his Life, Mall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his Life for my fake and the Gospel's, 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 Cafe at prefent, and therefore I shall not spend the Time in fortifying your Minds against Terrors, removed, I hope, at a great Distance froñ 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 rafhly 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 upon 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 bis 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 bis Word, is to deny or disown Christ and his Doctrine before Men. In this Language both Parts are expressed in the tenth of St. Matthew: Whofoever, says our Lord, Mall confefs 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 diffembling our Knowledge of him, we might keep our Faith and our Religion to ourselves, and by so doing avoid mapy Inconveniencies to which the open and fincere 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 fupport this Doctrine, we are called upon 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 Shews and Profeffions which we make: That God, who knows the Heart, will judge us by it at the last: That, consequently, 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 Knowledge in a Matter where they have, where they can have, no Cognizance.
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 Expence 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 deftroy us the Moment we confess the Truth?
It is no Wonder that Flesh and Blood Thould furnish some plausible Excuses for