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utmost diligence “ to make our calling and election sure ;” as, on the other hand, the prospect of the danger which threatens the perverse, the careless, and the secure, should keep us in a state of constant watchfulness against the temptations of the world, the surprises of passion, and the allurements of sense. The Christian should remember, that the utmost he can do or suffer for himself, by a denial of his
appetites, and a resistance of temptation, or even by exposing himself to the scorn and persecution of the world, is far less than hath been done and suffered for him. And what has he to expect from a merciful, but withal a wise and righteous Judge, who thinks it hard to mortify those passions in himself, for which the Lord of life made his life an offering ?
Who ever thinks without just indignation and abhorrence of the Jewish rulers, who, in the phrenzy of envy and resentment, envy of our Lord's credit with the people, and resentment of his just and affectionate rebukes, — spilt his righteous blood ? Let us rather turn the edge of our resentment against those enemies which, while they are harboured in our own bosoms, “ war against our souls,” and were, more truly than the Jews, the murderers of our Lord. Shall the Christian be enamoured of the pomp and glory of the world when he considers, that for the crimes of man's ambition the Son of God was humbled ? Shall he give himself up to those covetous desires of the world, which were the occasion that his Lord lived an outcast from its comforts? Will the disciples of the holy Jesus submit to be the slaves of those base appetites of the flesh, which were, indeed, the nails which pierced his Master's hands and feet? Will he, in any situation, be intimidated by
the enmity of the world, or abashed by its censures, when he reflects how his Lord endured the cross, and despised the shame? Hard, no doubt, is the conflict which the Christian must sustain with the
of the enemy, and with his own passions. Hard to flesh and blood is the conflict ; but powerful is the succour given, and high is the reward proposed. For thus saith the true and faithful Witness, the Original of the creation of God: “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit down with me in my throne, even as also I overcame, and am sitten down with my Father in his throne.” Now, unto Him that loved us, and hath washed us from our sins in his own blood ; to Him that liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore ; to Him who hath disarmed sin of its strength, and death of its sting; to the only-begotten Son, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one only God, be glory and dominion, praise and thanksgiving, henceforth and for evermore.
Matthew, xx. 23.
To sit on my right hand and my left is not mine to
give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”
These, you know, were the concluding words of our blessed Lord's reply to the mother of Zebedee's children, when she came with a petition to him for her two sons, that they might be the next persons to himself in honour and authority in his new kingdom, sitting the one on his right hand, the other on his left. It was, surely, with great truth he told them “ they knew not what they asked.” At the time when their petition was preferred, they had, probably, little apprehension what that kingdom was to be in which they solicited promotion ; and were not at all aware that their request went to any thing higher, or that it could indeed go to any higher thing than the first situations in the king of Israel's court. He told them that they sought a pre-eminence not easily attained, to be earned only by a patient endurance of unmerited sufferings for the service of mankind and the propagation of the true religion ; and he asks them, in enigmatical language, whether they were prepared to follow his example? It is of the nature of ambition to overlook all difficulties, and to submit to any hardships for the attainment of its ends. Two miserable fishermen of the Galilean lake, raised to the near prospect, as they thought, of wealth and grandeur, thought no conditions hard by which they might become the favourites and ministers of a king; nor, perhaps, did they understand in what extent it was ordained that they must suffer, before they could be permitted to enjoy. They answered, that they were prepared for all difficulties. Our blessed Lord, continuing his enigmatical language, (for although their ambition was to be repressed, it was but too evident that their faith was not yet ripened to bear a clear prospect of the hardships which they had to undergo,) tells them, “ that they shall drink, indeed, of his cup, and be baptized with the baptism with which himself should be baptized.” Expressions upon which, at the time, they would probably put some flattering interpretation, understanding them only as a general declaration, that they were to share their Master's fortunes. « But to sit," says he,“ upon my right hand and my left is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”
These last words deserve particular attention. There can be no question that the kingdom of which our Saviour speaks is his future kingdom, and “ to sit upon his right hand and his left," in the sense, which, in his own private thoughts, he put upon the words when he used them, denotes a situation of distinguished happiness and glory in the future life. This is evident from the means which he points out for the attainment of this promotion. His question to the apostles implies, that what they ignorantly sought was unattainable, except to those only who
should have the fortitude to drink of his cup, and to be baptized with his baptism. His cup was the cup of suffering ; his baptism, the baptism of a violent and ignominious death. But the only promotion to which this cup and this baptism can ever lead must be a situation of glory in the life to come. This life is to be thrown away in the acquisition. The next, therefore, must necessarily be the season when the reversion is to take effect. Our Lord, therefore, speaks of the distinctions of the blessed in the future life, when he says, that “ to sit on his right hand and his left is not his to give ; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of the Father.”
It must, therefore, strike every attentive reader, that our Lord, in these very remarkable words, seems to disclaim all property in the rewards and honours of the future life, and all discretionary power in the distribution of them. They are not mine,
Not being mine, I have no right to give them away; and as I have no right, so neither have I authority for the distribution of them : the whole business is, indeed, already done : there are certain persons for whom these things are prepared, and to them, and them only, they shall be given. This declaration is the more extraordinary, not only as it is inconsistent with our general notions of the Son of God to suppose that there should be any thing not absolutely in his disposal (for all things that the Father bath are his), but because it is the clear doctrine of the Scriptures, that the general judgment is particularly committed to his management; that he is the appointed Judge who is to decide upon every man's merit ; and is to assign to every individual the particular proportion of reward