« PreviousContinue »
tion; that they be ready every moment to distribute, and always willing to communicate to every good work, wherein they can pay their homage, and express their thankfulness to him for what they have.
THOUGHTS UPON SELF-DENIAL.
THE most glorious sight, questionless, that was ever to be seen upon the face of the earth, was to see the Son of God here, to see the supreme Being and Governor of the world here; to see the Creator of all things conversing here with his own creatures; to see God himself with the nature and in the shape of man, walking about upon the surface of the earth; and discoursing with silly mortals here; and that with so much majesty and humility mixed together, that every expression might seem a demonstration that he was both God and man. It is true, we were not so happy as to see this blessed sight; howsoever, it is our happiness that we have heard of it, and have it so exactly described to us, that we may as clearly apprehend it as if we had seen it: yea, our Saviour himself hath pronounced those in a peculiar manner blessed, 'who have not seen, and yet have believed; that is, who never saw Christ in the manger, nor in the temple, who never saw him prostrate before his Father in the
1 John, xx. 29.
garden, nor fastened by men unto his cross; who never saw him preaching the gospel nor working miracles to confirm it; who never saw him before his passion, nor after his resurrection; and do as firmly believe whatsoever is recorded of him, as if they had seen it with their eyes. Such persons our blessed Saviour himself asserts to be truly blessed, as having such a faith as is the substance of things hoped for, and 'the evidence of things not seen.'1
Hence therefore, although we lived not in our Saviour's time, and therefore saw him not do as never man did, nor heard him speak as never man spake, we may notwithstanding be as blessed, or rather more blessed than they that did; if we do but give credit to what is asserted of him, and receive and believe what is represented to us in his holy gospels, where by faith we may still see him working miracles, and hear him declaring his will and pleasure to his disciples, as really as if we had then been by him. And therefore whatever we read in the gospel that he spake, we are to hearken as diligently to it, as if we heard him speak it with our own ears, and be as careful in the performance of it, as if we had received it from his own mouth; for so we do, though not immediately, yet by the infallible pen of them that did so. And seeing he never spake in vain or to no purpose, nor suffered an idle or superfluous word to proceed out of his sacred and divine mouth; whatsoever he asserted, we are to look upon as necessary to be believed, because he asserted it. And whatsoever he commanded, we are to look upon as necessary to be
1 Heb. xi. 1.
observed, because he hath commanded it; for we must not think that his assertions are so frivolous, or his commands so impertinent, that it is no great matter whether we believe the one and obey the other or no no, if we expect to be justified and saved by him, he expects to be believed and obeyed by us, without which he will not look upon us as his disciples, nor by consequence as Christians, but as strangers and aliens to him, whatsoever our professions and pretences are.
It is true, we live in an age wherein Christianity in the general notion of it is highly courted, and all sects and parties amongst us making their tences to it; whatsoever opinions or circumstances they differ in, be sure they all agree in the external profession of the Christian religion, and by consequence in the knowledge that they ought to be Christians indeed. But I fear that men are generally mistaken about the notion of true Christianity, not thinking it to be so high and divine a thing as really it is; for if they had true and clear conceptions of it, they would never fancy themselves to be Christians, upon such low and pitiful grounds as usually they do, making as if Christianity consisted in nothing else, but in the external performance of some few particular duties, and in adhering to them that profess it; whereas Christianity is a thing of a much higher and far more noble nature, than such would have it; insomuch, that did we but rightly understand it, methinks we could not but be taken with it, so as to resolve for the future, to the utmost of our power, to live up to it; to which could I be an instrument of persuading any, how happy should I think myself! Howsoever it is my duty to endeavour it, and for that purpose I
shall now clear up the true notion of Christianity, that we may know, not what it is to be professors of Christianity, but what it is to be real Christians, and true disciples of Christ Jesus, such as Christ will own for his in another world.
Now to know whom Christ will accept for his disciples, our only way is to consult Christ himself, and to consider what it is that he requires of those that follow him, in order to be his disciples; a thing as easily understood, as it is generally disregarded ; for nothing can be more plain, than that Christ requires and enjoins all those that would be his disciples, to observe not only some few, but all the commands that he hath laid upon us. Ye are my friends,' saith he, and therefore, my disciples, 'if ye do whatsoever I command you.'1 So that unless we do whatsoever he commands us, we are so far from being his disciples, that we are indeed his enemies. Nay, they that would be his disciples, must excel and surpass all others in virtue and good works. Herein,' saith he, 'is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples,'' yea, and continue in them too. He tells us also, that they that would be his disciples, must love him above all things; or rather, hate all things in comparison of him. And that
they love one another, as he hath loved them.' To name no more; read but St. Matthew, xvi. 24, and there you may see what it is to be a Christian indeed, or what it is that Christ requires of those who would be his disciples. If any man will come after let him deny himself, take up his cross,
2 Ibid. xv. 8. 3 Ibid. viii. 31.
1 John. xv. 14.
and follow me.' Did we but understand the true meaning of these words, and order our conversation accordingly, we should both know what it is to be true Christians, and really to be so ourselves. For I think there is nothing that Christ requires of those who desire to be his disciples, but we should perform it, could we but observe what is here commanded: which that we may all do, I shall endeavour to give the true meaning of them, and of every particular in them as they lie in order.
For, saith he, 'If any man will come after me,' that is, if any man will be my disciple; for masters ye know use to go before scholars, and disciples to follow after. And our Saviour here speaks of himself under the notion of a master, that hath disciples coming after him, and saith, if any man would be one of his disciples so as to go after him, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow him.' So that here are three things which our blessed Saviour requires of those that would be his disciples, and by consequence of us who profess to be so; for I dare say there is none of us but desire to be a Christian, or at least to be thought so; for we all know and believe Jesus Christ to be the only Saviour of mankind; that none can save us but he, and that there is none of us but he can save; and that all those who truly come to him for pardon and salvation, shall most certainly have it: hence it is that we would all be thought at least so wise, and to have so much care of our own souls as to go after Christ and be his disciples. I hope there are but few but who really desire to be so. Yet I would not have any think that it is so easy a matter to be a disciple of Christ, or a real and true Christian, as the world would make it: no, we