« PreviousContinue »
thought and chief care is, what they shall eat, what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed : whose profession of the christian religion only holds good while they receive comfort from it; but who start aside and are offended, so soon as it calls on them to deny themselves any bodily delight; to mortify their members upon earth; to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. It is evident that all who are of this description, come within the range of the apostle's condemnation. They who are such, serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly;" and while they continue in their bondage, enslaved by their fleshly lusts, they are excluded from the promises of the Gospel ; they must be reckoned among the enemies of Him who came to make it known, and who bids us therein, not to labour " for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.”
Secondly, let us look at another class of the enemies of the cross of Christ. Those who have this mark, that their “ glory is in their shame.” They glory in those very acts of sin of which they ought to be ashamed ; acts I need not specifically name. It is not necessary, my brethren, to shock your ears by more than alluding to those who offend of malicious wickedness; whose profligate, and profane lives are rendered doubly hateful by
the open avowal of their infamy: who sin in the sight of day, heedless alike of God and man. That such hardened recklessness should earn for those who manifest it the sad title of “enemies of the cross of Christ,” cannot be a matter of surprise to any one.
The only wonder is, that the Lord against whom they mock; whose cross, and sufferings they set at nought, and trample as it were under foot, should bear so long, and so patiently with their insults. Unhappy and deluded ! are ye stronger than God, that ye dare to brave His anger? Do ye not consider how in a moment your laughter might be turned into mourning, your scoffing, and contempt into despair ? Did you never hear this, which is written in God's book, “ Fools make a mock at sin ?” And that other scripture which saith, “ Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in thy youth, and walk in the way of thine heart, and in the light of thine eyes; but know thou that for these things God will bring thee into judgment."
The third mark affixed to the enemies of the Saviour's cross by St. Paul is, that they “mind earthly things."
And this is a mark that very many will on inquiry be found to bear. Many whose lives, when compared with the character above considered, would, but for this single cause, scarcely appear to warrant the application of so
harsh a name. But if by minding earthly things is meant that undue love of the world ; the too great care about its pleasures and its business; that absorbing and engrossing attention to present objects which renders a man's heart less capable than it otherwise would be of higher, and holier considerations; which causes him to lay up treasures here, as the first and foremost end of his being ; which shuts out the prospect of a better life, and prevents his making any preparation for it; which keeps his thoughts fixed wholly upon uncertain riches, and will not let them rise to the contemplation of the only true riches, “ the unsearchable riches of Christ;" which makes him look at death with fear, because it threatens to take from him what he most prizes, and in what he most trusts ;if this be that minding of earthly things which the apostle's words intend, -then verily in his judg. ment—and remember it is the judgment of a man wholly filled with the Spirit—the great majority of Christians at the present day would seem liable to the reproach of the text; would be chargeable with being “ enemies to the cross of Christ.”
For so it undoubtedly is: the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, are the thorns, and briars which, as it was foretold, more than any other hindrance, choke the words of the Gospel, and make it unfruitful. And this not among one or two classes only, but among all ranks, and degrees of professed believers, poor, as well as rich ; among those who need, as well as among those who have enough, and to spare. “ Thou art careful and troubled about many things,” is a reproach applicable more or less to us all. We are all too apt to lose sight of the “ one thing needful," namely, preparation for God's kingdom in heaven : and losing sight of this, we spend our best days, and our best strength, and the best faculties of our mind, and body, in seeking to secure some short-lived enjoyment of this present time; and not, as we are bound to do, in the service of our Maker and Redeemer.
And why, my brethren, do we act thus foolishly? Wherefore do we spend our money for that which is not bread, and our labour for that which satisfieth not ?” Surely it were better to turn our thoughts, and fix our affections upon Him who is above, and who is gone before to prepare a place for them that love Him. Surely it were better to mind how we might please the Lord, and to prove ourselves his true disciples, than to mind only, or chiefly, the things which we now see, regardless of the consequence which must ensue.
That consequence is, we shall be counted as enemies of the cross of Christ.” For of this we may be well assured, we cannot in God's sight hold a neutral place; we cannot be neither friends nor enemies to
the Gospel. The very
fact that we are not the one, is the reason why we must be reckoned to be the other: “He that is not with me," saith the Lord, “is against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”
I have now shortly reviewed the three several marks by which St. Paul describes “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” First, those who make their belly their god ; secondly, those who glory in their shame; thirdly, those who mind earthly things. They are marks which, as we have seen, denote a very large class amongst Christians; but, alas ! there are more behind : there are other enemies of Christ beside those mentioned in this part of the apostle's writings, but which are clearly pointed out elsewhere. Such are the self-righteous, those who overlook their natural infirmity, and arrogate to themselves a place in heaven through their own deservings; who dwell upon their decent life, their many charities, their abstaining from gross sins, as so many proofs of their right to be counted worthy of a blessed resurrection : in short, who lose sight of the one leading doctrine of our religion—that we are justified before God, not for anything that we can do, but for the sake of what His blessed Son Jesus Christ our righteousness hath done for us ; and through faith in His blood.
Others there are, the opposite to these, who make