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Let me request your serious attention, while, in dependence on divine assistance, we attempt the improvement of this passage, by shewing,
I. What is the cost attending the christian profession.
II. Why it is necessary to count the cost : and,
III. The reasons which ought to determine our adherence to Christ, whatever that cost may be.
1. We are to consider the cost of the christian profession. The cost attending [this profession] relates, either to what it requires us to renounce; or what we are to expect; or the term and duration of the engagement.
1. In order to be the disciples of Christ, there is much that we must instantly renounce. It is a profession of holiness : it, therefore, demands the immediate renunciation of criminal and forbidden pleasures. The moment we become Christ's disciples, we commence a warfare with the flesh, engaging for its crucifixion, with all its sinful lusts and appetites. “ They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts."* To the severities of monastic discipline, in which the body is torn by scourges, and emaciated by abstaining from the nourishment required to sustain it in health and vigour, the religion of Christ is a stranger. “ For every creature of God is good, if it be received with thanksgiving.”of But a soft, voluptuous, and sensual life, is repugnant, not only to the example of Christ, but to the * Gal. v. 24.
+ 1 Tim. iv. 4.
whole genius and spirit of his institutes. By his gospel, and by his Son, God has “called us, not to uncleanness, but to holiness ; * so that he that despiseth the precepts of purity, despiseth not man, but God: “ This is the will of God, even our sanctification, that every man should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, as the Gentiles which know not God.” of However painful the sacrifice of forbidden gratifications may be, however deep and inveterate the habit of indulgence; though it may seem as necessary to us, and as much a part of ourselves, as the right hand, or the right eye; relinquished it must be, or we cannot be Christ's disciples. A life of sinful pleasure is not the life of a man, much less is it the life of a christian : “ He that liveth in pleasure” (it is the language of inspiration) is dead while he liveth.”. Let me urge every one present to count the cost in this particular, and if he is not firmly determined, in the strength of divine grace, “to abstain from those fleshly lusts which war against the soul,” let him not pollute the name of the holy and immaculate Lamb of God by associating it with his own. Such an association is his abhorrence, which he will testify in a future day; and he will vindicate his insulted purity by a final renunciation and disclaimer, saying, “ Depart from me, ye that work iniquity: I never knew you.” $ * 1 Thess. iv. 7.
+ 1 Thess. iv. 3—5. I 1 Tim. v. 6.
$ Matt. vii. 23.
2. The christian profession is spiritual, and therefore requires the renunciation of the world. The words of our Lord in this particular are decisive. “ So, likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple.”* In the interpretation of these words, we must undoubtedly distinguish between the spirit and the letter. In the ordinary circumstances of the christian profession, a literal compliance with this requirement would lead to pernicious consequences; to a relinquishment of the duties proper to our station, and a disorganization of society : but still they have an important meaning. They present the relation of a disciple to the present world in a very solemn and instructive light. They intimate, at their lowest estimate, that the relation he bears to the present state and world, is that of “ a stranger and pilgrim ;” that the relation in which it stands to him, is that of an entire and absolute subordination to the glory of Christ and the interests of eternity. At the first opening of the gospel dispensation, the sacrifice of all secular advantages, the disruption of the tender ties which connect parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and the dearest friends, was not unfrequently the inevitable consequence of an adherence to Christ. The necessity of literally forsaking all was a usual appendage of the christian profession. There was therefore a great propriety in placing the engagements of a disciple in this strong and
* Luke xiv. 33.
forcible light, which, however, prescribe nothing more than what is irrevocably binding on us under similar circumstances. To regard every worldly interest, at all times, with an attachment subordinate to the love of Christ; to treasure up our chief happiness in him, and to be willing to “ forsake all,” whenever the following him renders it necessary; are absolutely essential to the becoming his disciples.
On this ground, my christian brethren, let each of us try our religious pretensions. If you wish to carry into the christian profession the weight of worldly incumbrance, a heart corroded by its passions, and agitated with its cares ; if you are desirous of uniting the service of God and of Mammon, and think of presenting to Christ a few small relics of your time, occupied in the cold formalities of a dead and heartless religion, you cannot be his disciples. The world must be displaced from the throne, or Christ will not, cannot, enter; since he will never condescend to occupy a subordinate place. Alas !- what multitudes are there, (there is reason to fear,) who are fatally deceived in this particular ; and who, while they form a high estimate of their character as christians, have not “ the Spirit of Christ,” and are therefore “ none of his !”*
3. In order to be a disciple, it is necessary, in the concerns of conscience, to renounce every authority but that of Christ. The connexion of a
* Rom. viii. 9.
christian with the Saviour is not merely that of a disciple with his teacher ; it is the relation of a subject to his prince. “ One is your Master, even Christ. * “ My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.”+ In the whole course of our lives, if we are indeed his disciples, we shall evince our allegiance by a conscientious observance of his laws, by an implicit submission to his will, together with a sincere desire of ascertaining more and more of his mind and purpose. “We shall call no man Master upon earth," nor dare to trifle with the least of his injunctions; and while we plead the merits of his death and the perfection of his righteousness as the alone ground of hope, we shall reverence him as a Sovereign, who is entitled to that spiritual, that interior obedience of the heart, which is suited to the character of him who searches it. He who trusts in him as his Saviour, must obey him as his Lord; nor shall any be washed in his blood who will not submit to his sceptre.
The moment Paul was brought to a saving acquaintance with Christ, he wrought in him a most profound sense of his majesty; a most humble and reverential submission to his will. His proud, intractable heart, melted like wax before the sun, till, passive and subdued under the hand of Christ, he exclaims, “ Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do ?” While you prefer submission to any other yoke, while the dictates of any other authority * Matt. xxiii. 8.
† John x. 27.