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SERMON VII.

A SEVERE LIFE NECESSARY FOR CHRIST'S
FOLLOWERS.

ST. LUKE ix. 23.

'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take his cross daily, and follow me."

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WE read in the Gospels both of St. Matthew and of St. Mark, that this startling precept was given at the time when Peter had been sternly rebuked for his misguided affection for his Lord. It was at the same time, when in the foresight of His coming agony, the Lord Jesus began to teach them what things the Son of man should suffer; and Peter, in the forwardness and blindness of his heart, " took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee. But He turned, and said unto Peter, 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." And then, to shew the breadth of this great law of suffering, and how that

the law which reached even unto Him bound also every living soul that followed Him, He said unto them all," If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." And thus, by words between a proverb and a prophecy, He foreshewed them both His own lot and theirs: He taught them the mysterious order of His unseen kingdom; how that He and His must all alike suffer, all deny self, all bear the cross. Again and again, through His whole ministry, He threw out this strange lure to win them more closely to Himself. It was so He strengthened His followers against the rending asunder of households and of kindred: it was so He tempered the over-ready eagerness of some that would follow Him before they had reckoned up the cost: it was so He sought to bind the rich young man for ever to His service, by one more, and that the last and strongest link. And the same deep truth we trace throughout the whole texture of His words and deeds: His own visible self-denial, and the cross which He daily bore, alike bespoke the lot of all that would be His. And what His life ever testified, He here expressly declared. And His words are both a bidding and a warning: they bid us that we come after Him; they warn us that we must deny ourselves; and they teach us that self-denial is the absolute condition of His service: or, in

other words, that without self-denial no man can be a faithful Christian.

And how universally this great condition has been fulfilled in all His true servants, is shewn by the whole history of the Church. The apostles, martyrs, confessors, bear witness with one voice to the same mystery of suffering. They testify that the badges of Christ's people are sufferings for Christ's sake; and even they to whom it was given to believe in Christ, but not to suffer for Him, even the fellowship of all saints, conspires in the same awful testimony. They have each one borne the cross-each in his own unnoticed way; even though the nighest to them, it may be, knew it not in some hidden grief, in some despised affliction, in some thing they burned to utter, but never dared to speak. Though the form of their affliction was invisible, yet they visibly bore the cross; and in bearing it, they shewed whose steps they followed. The character which was upon them was a legible countersign of their claim to be His servants. They had about them an integrity and completeness of the moral life, a fulness and distinctness of character; standing out from the world around, and yet dwelling in it; separate, and yet mingled in it; in contact with it, but unsullied by its touch; external to it, but guiding and checking its course; moving it, but not borne along with

it; though in most things like other men, and to most eyes undistinguishable among the throng which gathers in kings' palaces, or learned schools, or busy marts, yet to eyes whose sight is purged, bearing most visible tokens of their Master's calling. We see in them the mind of Christ; the high dignity of an austere calmness; a greatness of soul which the world's busy fretfulness can seldom ruffle; a voluntary disentanglement from all the world counts dearest; a habitual self-mastery in foregoing honours, gains, and happiness, in choosing hardness, contempt, and isolation. By these the saints of all ages bear their witness to this great law of Christ's regenerate kingdom, that without denying self no man can serve Him.

So.

But we must go further. Our Lord does not only tell us that this shall be so, but that it must be "Whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple." It is not so much a general fact in the history of Christendom, as an universal law working out its own fulfilment. It is no accidental dispensation or arbitrary condition imposed upon the Church by the will of Him we serve, but the inevitable law of a deep moral necessity; for it is not more certain that without holiness no man can serve Him, than that without self-denial no man can be holy. And so it must be from the nature of mankind, and the nature of

Christ's service.

For what is man's nature but

sinful flesh? and what His service but a sharp corrective? What is man's sin but the domination of self-will? and what is the corrective but its abasement and abolition? What is each several characteristic form of sin, but self-will lusting on every side, and predominantly in some one direction? and what is our enfranchisement from sin, but the quelling of sinful lusts by Christ's Spirit working in us through self-denial? No two powers can be more antagonist than man's nature and Christ's service; and the struggle issues, as either power prevails, in apostacy or in self-denial.

We will take one or two particular proofs of this moral necessity.

1. In the first place: without crossing and denying of self, there can be no purifying of the moral habits. Without a true compunction and a tender conscience, purity of heart, and the energy of a devout mind set free from the thraldom of evil, no man can have fellowship with Christ; and no man can have these without self-denial. There hangs between Him and the soul which is sullied by permitted lusts, a dark and impenetrable veil. No holy lights stream through upon it; no softening influence pierces the inner gloom; no invitations from above draw up the sullen mind towards heaven; no yearnings of heart stretch forth their hands unto

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