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called upon to shew that he has this decided preference for me. He must take up his cross." This expression has reference to the custom of making the malefactor carry his cross to the place of execution. "He must be willing to suffer both in person and reputation. He must follow me, follow me in his spirit and in his conduct, and be partaker of the treatment I meet with." And since the profession of the Gospel thus implied pain and self-denial, he required his followers to consider before hand whether they were able to submit to the suffering. "Let him sit down first, and count the cost."
This subject leads us to consider what it was in the religion of Christ which so remarkably required his disciples to bear their cross. That a spirit of opposition to Christ, and a severe persecution of him and his followers, arose, we all know; but how was this excited? What was there in the nature of the Gospel which so unavoidably produced hostility? In what points was it so contrary to the spirit of the world that men would not bear it, and that such a fortitude and indifference to character were requisite in those who embraced it as might be justly compared to the taking up of our cross and carrying it?
It may be thought by some a sufficient reply, that Christ propagated a new religion, and that his attack on the prevailing prejudices of man could not fail to provoke opposition. But this is not a complete answer; for it is not certain that because a man propagates a new religion he must be hated. Much depends on the nature of the religion which he introduces: it may be weak and futile, and then might only be neglected; it may be absurd, and might be ridiculed; it may accord with worldly wisdom and policy, and then might be approved; it may be elegant and refined, and might excite the admiration of many persons. Our Lord, indeed, did not establish a religion altogether new, yet was he persecuted and opposed. He professed his full belief in the Revelation given by Moses: he had been
circumcised, and had carefully observed the precepts of the Law, both moral and ceremonial. No one was a more punctual attendant at the temple and in the synagogue: and no one spake more respectfully of the Law and the Prophets; and his disciples were remarkable for an attachment to the Mosaic ritual, which even all their proficiency in the religion of their Master was scarcely able to do away.
Doubtless several causes tended to produce opposition to Christ and to his Apostles, causes varying at different times or in different ages. The great cause was, the general contrariety of the genius of his religion to the common spirit and temper of the world. It was the opposition of sin to piety. Hence men of many religions agreed in their hostility to our Lord and to his disciples. The hypocritical Pharisees, the proud Scribes, the profane Sadducees, the corrupt multitude, hated him though a Jew, and though he asserted the truth of their Scriptures and the honour of their Prophets. He was equally opposed by the corrupt Heathens. On the other hand, we do not hear of any truly pious persons amongst the Jews, or of peculiarly well-disposed individuals among the Heathens, rejecting Christ with disdain or abhorrence. These honoured him. A devout Nicodemus, an upright Nathaniel, a religious Centurion who was not a Jew, paid respect to him, and were prepared to receive his word.
If we inquire what was the kind of self-denial inculcated by our Lord, we shall find that it had respect to the desire of wealth, the love of fame, and general self-indulgence. When he explained to the Apostles the sufferings which he should undergo, and Peter began to rebuke him, saying, "Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee;" he reproved Peter, saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." He added, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me." Let him renounce a
life of care and worldly distraction, and prepare to suffer if it be the will of God. Having spoken of the corrupt lusts natural to man, he adds, "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; and if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee;" that is subdue your passions, mortify your corrupt inclinations, though they be as dear to you as a right hand or a right eye. Part with them, however painful the separation may be.
The religion of Jesus Christ had, therefore, no charms for a worldly, proud, and sinful heart. It gave scope to no ambitious thoughts; it gratified no evil passion; it tolerated no beloved sin; it enjoined poverty of spirit, deadness to the world, and self-mortification. It called the affections to things above, and required the interest of others to be preferred to our own. It insisted upon the forgiveness of injuries:-if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he be naked, clothe him. It made Christian greatness consist in a more extended usefulness and deeper humility. "Whosoever will be great amongst you, let him be your servant." Such a religion would not please the taste of the chief priests and scribes; it was too humiliating: nor of the pharisees; it was too spiritual: nor of the vicious; it was too pure and holy. But it suited the poor in spirit: it suited those who mourned for sin, and were weary and heavy laden with its burden; those who were anxious to serve God, and disposed to make any sacrifice for his sake. The manner in which it was received by many is most instructively described in the parable of the Marriage Supper. One of those invited had bought an estate, and must needs go and see it. Another was immersed in business: he had bought a yoke of oxen, and must needs go and prove them. A third was occupied with domestic cares and enjoyments;-I have married a wife and cannot come. The offer was then made to the poor and destitute, in the highways and hedges; to the blind, and halt, and lame; to those who looked upon themselves as unworthy of the invitation,
and who made no excuse. Dives, engrossed with the enjoyments of this life, was indisposed to receive the Gospel, while a forlorn Lazarus gladly embraced it. The poor prodigal was willingly accepted; while the elder brother, in the pride of his heart, asserted his goodness, and would not come in. The woman who was a sinner, to whom much had been forgiven, embraced the feet of Jesus; while the less openly corrupt, but less humble, Simon, entertained no love for his illustrious Guest. Thus the publicans and sinners went into the kingdom of heaven, while the pharisees and scribes were rejected. The rich ruler, who affirmed that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, preferred his estate to a treasure in heaven; while the humble publican, Zaccheus, who voluntarily engaged to give one half of his goods to the poor, and if he had injured any man to restore fourfold, had salvation brought to his house. And, to bring no more instances, the self-justifying pharisee in the temple was rejected; while the self-accusing publican, who durst not lift up his eyes to heaven, went down to his house justified.
I repeat, that the spirit of the world was opposite to that of Jesus Christ. "I am not of the world," he said; "and, if ye were of the world, the world would love its own." "What is highly esteemed, amongst men, is abomination with God." The world loves distinction, luxury, pleasure, ease, self-indulgence. The man of the world is one who labours to advance himself in wealth or honours: who is well versed in the ways of men; and knows how to turn every thing to his advantage or enjoyment. He is not one who is distinguished by his devotion, his self-denial, his charity, his humility, his tenderness of conscience, his desire of spiritual blessings; he is not one who mourns for sin, who is of a contrite heart, and who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. This worldly spirit Christ came to oppose, in all its shapes and appearances. He was himself of an entirely different character. He sought the favour of God, rather than that of men; the honVOL. II.
our which cometh from God, rather than that which cometh from man; he was meek, and lowly, humble and unassuming, disinterested and self-denying. He shewed his indifference to worldly things by his poverty, not having a place where to lay his head; and his humility, by the patience with which he received the most provoking insults. His conversation and his thoughts were occupied by subjects far higher than the vanities of this life, and quite uninteresting to worldly men; and his whole life was engaged in accomplishing that for which the world did not care.
And what he was, he required his disciples to be. They were to be distinguished by not being of the world. They were to follow Christ in the regeneration. They were to become new creatures; to put off the old man which is corrupt, and to put on the new man which is renewed after the image of God. This was required of them, although they were already Jews; although they were called the people of God; although they had been circumcised; although they regularly worshipped in the temple, and punctually observed the rites and ceremonies of their religion.
It is a great though common mistake, to suppose that Christ came to introduce an entirely new religion; that he came to substitute Christian for Jewish forms, of worship, and to baptize the heathens who should leave off the practice of idolatry. It would be more just to say, that Christ came to oppose a worldly spirit; to mortify sin wherever it was found: to introduce the substance of religion in the place of the shadow; the spirit instead of the letter. A Jew converted by him might continue to be a Jew, but he would now worship God in spirit and in truth: he would be adorned with graces which few Jews possessed-with humility, meekness, and deadness to the world.
The Jewish religion had been given by God. It contained the seeds of every truth afterwards revealed, though some of them were very imperfectly developed: it afforded scope for piety, for lively devotion, for holy