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Age, says the proverb, strips us of every thing, even of resolution. Tomorrow we shall be older ; tomor. row, indeed, death may fix his seal for ever on our characters. It is a seal, which can never be broken, till the voice of the Son of man shall burst the tombs, which enclose us. If, then, we leave this place, sensible of a propensity, which ought to be restrained, of a lust, which ought to be exterminated, of a habit, which ought to be broken, and rashly defer the hour of amendment, consider, I beseech you, it may, perhaps, be merciful in God to refuse us another opportunity. It may be a gracious method of preventing an abuse, which will only aggravate the retribution, which awaits the impenitent. Make haste, then, and delay not to keep the commandments of God; of that God, who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live.
MATTHEW X. 39.
SHALL GONFESS ME BEFORR MEN, HIM WILL I ALSO
MY FATHER, WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.
No man can read the discourses of our Saviour with his disciples, without observing, how frequently he insists upon the necessity of courage and fortitude in his followers. Never was a leader less studious to conceal the difficulties and dangers of the service, in which his adherents were to engage; and never was the fidelity of disciples more severely proved, than was the fidelity of the first converts at the commencement of our religion. With only twelve constant companions Jesus began his preaching. Their dispositions, as various as their employments and capacities, were all to be trained up for a perilous service. There was Matthew, called unexpectedly from the profits of a lucrative trade; Peter, ardent, confident, ambitious, but inconstant; John, affectionate, gentle, amiable, but unenterprising; Thomas, slow to believe, quick to doubt, and curious to examine; Judas, dark, designing, covetous and treacherous; with several others, who joined themselves to Jesus, full of indefinite hopes, and solicitous to share in the emoluments and dignities, which they daily expected their master would dispense. Such were the minds, which our Saviour was to prepare for disappointment, and discipline to courage and endurance. To the worldly among them he talked, sometimes of the uncertainty, and sometimes of the worthlessness of present possessions; here placing before them pictures of poverty, and there recommending to them treasures in heaven. To the ambitious he discoursed of humility, of contentment, and laborious servitude, studiously undervaluing the easy dignities and powerful stations, to which they aspired. To the wavering and doubt. ful he proposed frequent experiments of their confidence, and insisted on the excellence of faith. To the gentle and feeble-minded he talked of impediments, hardships, disgrace, persecutions, and death. To the treacherous he entrusted the purse, which contained the stock of the little company, that the traitor might see, how little the success of the gospel and the support of its followers depend on money, which thieves like him could pilfer, and on fidelity like his, which lasted as long only, as it was serviceable to the purposes of his avarice. Such was the tenour of the conversations, by which our Saviour was continually preparing the minds of his disciples for the severities, which they were soon to suffer; and, without doubt, much of the disinterestedness, the patience, and the intrepidity of the apostles, after the ascension of their master, is to be ascribed to the lessons, with which he had fortified their minds, while he remained with them on earth.
Now, my christian friends, when we observe, how essential it was then made to the character of a chris. tian, that he should possess a spirit, which could sustain indignities, support disgrace, relinquish comfort, endure torture, and triumph over death ; when we see, how frequently our Saviour insisted on independence and magnanimity in his followers, and studi:
ously instructed and disciplined their minds for tho extraordinary sufferings, which awaited them, it is surely worthy of consideration, whether we have, in any sense, exercised a spirit, similar to that which animated the primitive disciples. It is surely of some consequence to inquire, in what manner we, who
repose in religious security, we, whom no perse. cutions assail, no difficulties molest, and no terrourg alarm, may now exhibit something of the undauntedness of proselytes, something of the patience of the saints. Surely, the path of christian profession, which was once spread with thorns, is not now covered only with flowers. Surely, the descendants of those men, who once made the most magnanimous surrender of comfort and of life, cannot follow the same master to heaven, without meeting an impediment, and without making a sacrifice. To confess Christ now before men, cannot be utterly dissimilar to the confession of Christ in the age of the apostles. Let us endeavour, then, to ascertain, how we may now confess Christ before men, so that he may confess us hereafter before his Father, who is in heaven.
1. He, who now confesses Christ before men, must not be unwilling to avow the sentiments, which he entertains of his character. To believe in Christ, is not simply to believe, that such a person once existed, This you may believe of Julius Cæsar, or of Pilate. Neither is it enough to talk of him as a good man, or a wise teacher, to praise his example, to descant upon his precepts, to admire his sufferings, and to declaim about the excellence of his character. In this way, as every moralist flourishes about Socrates, every skeptic may harangue about Christ. To confess Jesus, is to confess him in the character, which you believe he supported, and in the authority, which you believe he claimed. It is to acknowledge him, as the Son of God, the image of Deity, the representative of the Father's authority, the conye him.”
stituted teacher, legislator, redeemer, and judge of the world. In Jesus of Nazareth were exhibited, in an unparalleled degree, the powers and characters of Jehovah. 66 This is my beloved Son," was the attestation of heaven, “ in whom I am well pleased: hear
66 Whom,” says our Saviour to the apostles," whom do men say that I am ?” “ And they answered, some say, John the Baptist; others say, Elias; others, Jeremias, or that one of the old prophets is risen again.” “ But,” continues our Saviour, “ whom say ye that I am ?" 66 Peter answered, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You, then, who profess to adopt the name of christians, recollect, that the relation, in which you stand to Christ, is unlike any other, into which you can enter. His doctrines, where you have clearly discovered them, are not controvertible, like the tenets of a philosopher; nor are his recommendations to be discussed, as if they were the counsels of a fallible adviser. If you are satisfied, that his authority is divine, your opinions are to be submitted to his instructions; if you have taken his hand, you must suffer yourselves to be led by his wisdom. You believe in God, believe also in Jesus. From the authority of men, it is lawful to appeal to that of God; from the authority of Christ there is no appeal, for whoever receiveth him, receiveth God that sent him.
2. To confess Christ before men, it is not enough, that we are willing to avow our implicit belief in his authority; we must, secondly, discover in our lives, that we are not ashamed of any peculiar restraints, sacrifices, privations, or labours, which this confes. sion imposes. We profess to take Jesus of Nazareth for our guide to everlasting life. It is naturally expected of disciples, that they exhibit a character, like that of their master. Ye call me master and Lord, says our Saviour; and ye say well, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and master, have given