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here, can find no quiet nor satisfaction in it; but the disciples of Christ' they are not of this world,' as Christ himself tells us.1 And therefore no wonder if the world frowns more upon them than others; the way they walk in is opposite to the world, it is enmity itself to the flesh, and therefore no wonder if they meet with so much enmity and opposition here; the way wherein they go after Christ is a cross way, it is cross to sin, cross to Satan, cross to the world, cross to our very selves as we are by nature, and by consequence cross to all men in the world but Christ's disciples; and therefore it is no wonder they meet with so many crosses in it. But howsoever, if we desire to go after Christ, he hath told us beforehand what we must expect; as he hath borne the cross before us, he expects that we now bear it after him; yea, we must not only bear it, but take it up too: not that we should run ourselves into danger, but that we should baulk no duty to avoid it, so as to be willing and ready to undergo the greatest suffering, rather than to commit the least sin, and to run the greatest danger rather than neglect the smallest duty. If whilst we are walking in the narrow path of holiness, there happens to lie a cross in the way, we must not go on one side nor on the other side of it out of the path we walk in, neither must we kick and spurn it, but we must patiently take it up, and carry it along with us; if it be a little heavy at first, it will soon grow lighter, and not at all hinder, but rather further our progress towards heaven.
But here we must have a great care to under
1 John, xvii. 14.
stand our Saviour's meaning, and so our own duty aright; for we must not think that every trouble we meet with in the world is the cross of Christ, for we may suffer for our fancy or humour, or perhaps for our sin and transgression of the laws of God or men; and if so, it is our own cross, not Christ's which take upon us; we may thank ourselves for it; I am sure Christ hath no cause to thank us: 'For this is thank-worthy,' saith the apostle, 'if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." And therefore the duty which our Saviour here imposeth on us in few terms is this, that we be ready not only to do, but to suffer what we can for the glory of God, and the futherance of the gospel, and that we omit no duty, nor commit any sin for fear of suffering; nor think so much of any trouble that befals us for Christ's sake, but rather to rejoice at it, even as the apostles rejoiced, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Which was a clear instance of their performing the duty here enjoined both them and us, under the name of 'taking up our cross.'
And I hope there is none of us can take it ill, that Christ hath imposed so severe a duty upon us; for we may assure ourselves he requires no more of us than what himself hath undergone before, so that we can suffer nothing for him but what he hath suffered before for us. Have we grief and trouble in our hearts? So had he. Have we pains and tortures in our bodies? So had he.* Are we derided and scoffed at? So was he. Are
1 1 Pet. ii. 19, 20.
2 Acts, v. 41.
4 Matt. xxvii. 29, 30.
5 Matt. xxvii. 31.
we arraigned and condemned, yea, do we suffer death itself? It is no more than what our Lord and master hath done before. And let us remember what he told us when he was upon the earth, 'The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord." If we be Christ's disciples, we cannot expect to fare better in the world than Christ himself did, neither indeed can we fare so bad; for it is impossible that we should undergo so much for him as he hath undergone for us, ours being only the sufferings of men, his the sufferings of one who was God as well as man; whereby sufferings in general are sanctified to our human nature, it having already undergone them in the person of the Son of God; so that it can be now no disparagement at all to undergo any trouble, as hatred, reproach, poverty, pain, yea, death itself, or any other calamity whatsoever in this world, seeing the Son of God himself, he that made the world, underwent the same while himself was in it. And therefore we need not think it below us to stoop down and take up the cross of Christ, as considering that Christ hath borne it before us, hath so blessed and sanctified it unto us, that it is now become an honourable, and advantageous, yea, and a pleasant cross, to them that bear it patiently, thankfully, and constantly, as they ought to do, especially seeing it is such a cross as leads unto a crown; whatsoever we can do or suffer for Christ here, will be fully recompensed with glory hereafter; and therefore instead of being troubled to take up our cross, we are rather to rejoice that we have any to take up.
1 Matt. x. 24.
Thus we see in few words, what it is which our Saviour commands us, when he enjoins us to deny ourselves, and take up our cross; even that we do not gratify ourselves in any thing that is ungrateful unto him, nor grudge to take up any cross, or suffer any trouble we meet with in the world for his sake, thinking nothing too dear to forsake, nor any thing too heavy to bear for him, who thought not his own life too dear, nor the cross itself too heavy to bear for us. What now remains, but that knowing our Saviour's pleasure we should all resolve to do it? There is none of us but hope and desire to be saved by him; but that we can never be, unless we observe what he hath prescribed in order to our salvation: and amongst other things, we see how he hath commanded us to deny ourselves, and to take up our cross. As any of us therefore desire to be Christians indeed, so as to see Christ's face with comfort in another world, let us bethink ourselves seriously what sins we have hitherto indulged ourselves in. I fear there are but few, if any amongst us, but are conscious to themselves, that they have, and do still live, either in the constant neglect of some known duty, or else in the frequent commission of some beloved sin: what that is I dare not undertake to tell, but leave that to God and to men's own consciences; only I desire them to deal faithfully with their own souls, and not suffer themselves to be fooled into a fond and vain persuasion that they have any interest in Christ, or are truly his disciples, until they deny themselves that sin, whatsoever it is, which they have hitherto indulged themselves in. And let us not think that we shall deny ourselves any real pleasure or profit, by renouncing
our sins; for what pleasure can we have in displeasing God; or profit in losing our own souls? No, we shall gratify ourselves, more than we can imagine, by denying ourselves, as much as we are able, whatsoever is offensive or displeasing unto God; for we may be sure, he that came into the world on purpose to save us from evil, commands us nothing but for our own good; neither would he ever have obliged us to deny ourselves, if we could have been saved without it; and as for the cross, that he was so well acquainted with, that he would never have imposed it upon us to take it up, but that it is indispensably necessary for us. And therefore if we be what we pretend, real and true Christians, let us manifest it to the world, and to our own consciences, by denying ourselves whatsoever Christ hath denied us, and by observing whatsoever he hath commanded us, even to the taking up of any cross that he for his own sake shall suffer to be laid upon us; still remembering, that self-denial, though it be unpleasant, is a most necessary duty; and the cross, though it be never so heavy, is but short, and hath nothing less than a crown annexed unto it, a glorious and eternal crown, which all those shall most certainly obtain, who deny themselves.