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but, if the cross lie in his way, he should not be solicitous to avoid it; but rather should take it up and carry it-Nor, while he is bearing the cross, should he account it an heavy and insupportable load; but should glory in it, and “ rejoice that he is counted worthy" to bear it-This too should be the daily habit of his minda-Let us view a malefactor bearing to the place of execution a part of the cross whereon he is shortly to be fixed, and then we shall see the degraded state in which the Christian must be content to walk in the midst of an ungodly world—If he be regarded with even a shadow of respect, he must consider it as gain, for which he did not stipulate, and which he had no right to look for---] 3. Follow Christ
[While we profess to rely on Christ for our acceptance with God, we must also follow him as our pattern and example - In the whole of our conduct we must endeavour to " walk as he walked”-Though we are not to do in all respects the very things which he did, yet we are to manifest in all things the same spirit and temper-Like him; we must abhor sin even in thought; like him; sit loose to all the things of time and sense; like him, devote ourselves entirely to our God-Nor are we to draw back when persecution arises, but still to “follow our Lord without the camp, bearing, his reproach”. Yea, if such a death awaited us as our Lord himself endured, we are not to shrink back from it, but to go' boldly forward: the language of our hearts must be, ' None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may finish my course with joyd)
Doubtless these things are difficult: but we shall not be deterred from duty by any difficulties, if we duly consider II. The importance of it
On our faithfulness unto death our eternal salvatioti depends
It may be that we may be called to die for the sake of Christ
[In the first ages of Christianity, martyrdom for the truth was common: and,
since its establishment in the world, thous sands have been called to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ-Nor are we to conclude from the test that we enjoy, that our faith and patience shall never be put to the test Indeed, there are few, if any, real Christians, who are not on some occasions made to endure the fiery trial, and to approve themselves as pure gold, by sustaining, without loss, the action of the fire-It all events we must in the habit of our minds be “ready, not only to be bound, but even to die at any time, and in any manner, for the name of the Lord Jesus”e-]
a Luke ix. 23.
Hence the word fureifer d Acts xx. 24.
If, when called to suffer thus, we are found faithful, we shall be unspeakable gainers
[We are assured, not only in the text, but in many other places, that “ if we suffer with Christ we shall also be glorified together with him;" and, that “our light and momentary atrictions shall work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”—Now what do we lose, when this poor frail life is taken from us? Nothing, but a few days or years of uncertain, and, at the best, painful existence upon earth-But what is our gain, the very instant our spirit has taken its flight? Who can conceive the rapture with which the disembodied soul will enter into the presence of its God? Who can form any idea of its joy, when it shall hear this plaudit from the Saviour's lips, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”— Will any one then think he has endured too much for his divine Master? Will any one then regret that he had not continued longer in this wretched world, and purchased a temporary ease at the price of eternal glory!-)
If on the contrary we decline suffering, our loss will be inconceivably dreadful
[ We are plainly warned that “ if we deny Christ, he will deny us;" and that if we draw back, his soul shall have no pleasure in us”- What then will a man gain by sacrificing his principles to his fears? he will protract the little space allotted for his natural life, and save himself from a few minutes of pain and torture: but he will forfeit all hope of eternal glory, and subject himself to the wrath of an incensed God- It is but a few days at most, before he must resign the life, which he is now so averse to part with: and what will his feelings be when the Saviour of the world shall say, Depart from me, I never knew thee; thou hadst no regard for me; I told thee long since that, if thou wouldst save thy life by denying me, thou shouldst have no part with my faithful followers: these on my right hand " loi ed not their lives unto death;” but thou wast of “the fearful and unbelieving, and shall therefore take thy portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone”_
Do not these considerations evince the importance of our duty? and should they not stimulate us to perform it in its utmost extent?-]
e Acts xxi. 13.
f Rev. xxi, 8.
Amongst the many REFLECTIONS arising from this subject, we may observe
1. How different a thing is Christianity from what is generally supposed!
[It is generally thought that the embracing of certain tenets, with a conformity to some rites connected with them, is sufficient to constitute us real Christians—But religion is a practical thing: it enters into every part of our conduct; and must regulate us in every possible situation-It relaxes not its demands on account of any difficulties we may have to encounter; but provides us strength to surmount them, and a glorious reward when we have overcome» Let this then be fally known; that they, and they only, who, if put to the test, would be willing to die for Christ, are real Christians in the sight of God; and consequently, that they, and they only, will be saved in the day that he shall judge the quick and dead— How insufficient are we for these things; and how earnestly should we seek of God that grace which we stand in need of_]
2. How vain are the excuses which men offer for their neglect of duty
[Every one is ready to urge the difficultieswhich lie in his way as an excuse for disobedience to the divine commands: But, what if our worldly interests be injured? what if we be called to “ resist unto blood:” we must be stedfast, and immoveable–The only question is, Shall we obey God, or man? shall we regard our bodies, or our souls!--Excuses serve but to deceive and ruin us--Let us then put them all away; for God cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked-]
3. How excellent a directory is here given us even in the most difficult cases!
(We may sometimes find it difficult to discern the path of duty: what then shall we do to avoid error? Let us follow the injunctions here given us. Let us enquire, What would
natural inclination lead me to; or, what would any unconverted person do in my circumstances. The very reverse of that is the line that I will pursue; for, while I deny myself, I cannot greatly err--Again, What would the Lord Jesus Christ do in my circumstances? That I will do; for I cannot do wrong when I follow him—Such questions as those would tend more to remove our difficulties than all the abstract reasonings that could be brought forward; for, we shall always find, that, an upright heart is the best Casuist-)
CCCXCIII. A CAUTION AGAINST DEPENDING UPON
Prov. xxvii. 1. Boast not thyself of to-morrow: for thou
knowest not what a day may bring forth. "THE opinions of men are not less opposite to the mind of God in what relates to practice, than in the most mysterious doctrines of our holy religion-We are told, that.“ the things of the Spirit are esteemed as foolishness by the natural man:” and to what an extent they are so, is visible in the commendation universally given to a worldly spirit, and in the contempt poured upon heavenly-mindedness, as though it were the offspring of folly and enthusiasm-But in the judgment of God there is no truer mark of wisdom than to consider earthly things as transient and worthless, and to place oneself continually as on the brink and precipice of eter. nity—To this effect Solomon speaks in the passage before us: in discoursing on which we shall 1. Explain the caution here given
It is of great importance to distinguish between providing for to-morrow, and presuming upon to-morrow: the former is necessary for our very existence, since without it, the whole world would be in a state of stagnation: but the acting as if we were certain of another day, is the error against which we are cautioned-Now we do this
1. When our affections are inordinately moved by present things
[If we feel eager desires after any earthly thing, so as to envy the possessors of it, and account the attainment of it necessary to our happiness; or, if we take sach delight in what we do possess, as to forget that this world is not our rest, and that infinitely higher joys are prepared for us above; or if we grieve exceedingly on account of some loss we have sustained; we manifest that we have been promising ourselves many days, and even years to come: for would a person be very solicitous about a vanity that he thought might very probably last but a day? Or would he so congratulate himself on a possession which he apprehended to be of such short continuance? or would he lay so much to heart the loss of any thing which he had expected to enjoy but a little time? We cannot but see that in proportion as he was impressed with a sense of the shortness and uncertainty of time, and its nothingness in comparison of eternity, his affections would be moderated towards every object of time and sense: he would
rejoice as though he rejoiced not, and weep as though he wept not, and use every thing as not abusing it”-]
2. When we are but little interested about eternal things
[Every one knows that sin must be repented of; and that, if the guilt of it be imputed to us, we must perish-But this is not all: we must be born again and be made new creatures in Christ Jesus: and though this be not generally understood, every one has an idea that he must become religious before he die, if he would find acceptance with God in the world to come-Now if persons be deferring the great work of religion, whence can that delay arise but from their expectation of some more convenient season, when they shall execute their purposes of reformation and amendment:-Or if they commit sin, whence can they be emboldened to do so, but from a secret confidence that they shall live to repent of it; and to rectify what they know to be amiss! - Would any man deliberately do what he knows must be undone, or leave undone what he knows he must do in order to his eternal salvation, if he were assured that he had not one day more to live? And would not the probable nearness of death influence him in like manner in proportion as it was felt?]
The whole world standing greatly in need of this caution, we proceed to II. Enforce it
The reason urged by Solomon commends itself imme. diately to our hearts and consciences; 1. We know not what shall be on the morrow
[We are to-day perhaps enjoying all that our hearts can wish; our bodies are vigorous, our spirits“ gay, our friends numerous, our means of gratification greatly diversified, and accessible at all times-To-morrow we may be cast down from our pinnacle of happiness; our honour may be laid in the dust; we may be languishing on a bed of sickness; and deprived of all the comforts of life; and our reverse of fortune may be yet further aggravated by the loss of all our friends
- l'he case of Job, if more recent instances were wanting, would sufficiently shew what may happen to us all-Shali
a Job. i. See, in spiritual concerns, the case of David, Ps. xxx. 6,7.