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service: and it is only by a voluntary oblation of themselves, that they can join in the chorus of the creation. The bringing of us to bear a part in this magnificent act of praise, is the great design kept in view throughout the Christian revelation : which therefore invites us, not to a blind, not to a partial, not to a forced obedience, but to a rational, an entire, and a willing devotion of all our faculties and our affections. This surrender, under the favorite emblem in Scripture, of a sacrifice, is beautifully referred to in that most solemn office of our religion; in which, according to a form handed down to us from very early times, after celebrating the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and after offering the sacrifice commemorative of it in bread and wine; we offer ourselves, souls and bodies, to be living sacrifices unto the Divine Majesty. It is a sublime exercise of devotion; and full of edification and of comfort to all those, who thus dedicate themselves, without reserve, to their great Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer.
The religion of the Cross imparts true dignity and elevation to the human character. It lifts the frail, erring creature, man, from the dust, and binds him with a golden link to the great, eternal God. Having brought him into this exalted connection, it exerts a regenerating and purifying influence upon his nature, awakens in his soul and engrafts upon his character all that is generous, and great, and good.
This religion spreads a charm over life-bereaves the grave of its terrors, and opens the prospect of future and unending bliss upon the delighted gaze. There is so much that is lovely and valuable connected with the hopes and promises of the Gospel, that if a wish or a sigh could make men Christians, the efforts of the minister of Jesus Christ, we doubt not, would be attended with unbounded success, and he would soon see the whole world ranging themselves under the banner of the Cross.
The blessings offered by the Gospel are desired by all, but the terms upon which they are offered are exceedingly disliked. Could men 'become partakers of the hopes of the Gospel of Christ, and at the same time retain their sinful attachments, and be allowed their sinful indulgences, they would glory in the name of Christians.
But the very first advance toward the VOL. II.-15
Christian character consists in an entire and eternal renunciation of
This abandonment and renunciation of sin, is often attended with pain, and temporary inconvenience. It may involve us in great trials, and subject us to numerous sacrifices. Rather than encounter these difficulties, and submit to these evils, many are disposed to disclaim all connection with Christ, and say with the unfortunate disciple whose words, uttered upon one of the most memorable and unhappy occasions of his life, have been announced as our text-I know not the man.
Previous to delineating those several classes of individuals, who, like Peter, deny CHRIST, I wish to call your attention to the consideration of the sin of this deliberate denial of the Savior, and the causes that lead to it.
1. The sin of denying CHRIST.-We should never lose sight of the fact, that in accomplishing the work of our salvation, Christ stooped from an amazing height, and voluntarily encountered labor, shame, danger and death-if He put on the form of a servant, it was for our sakes. If He became of no reputation, it was to render it possible for us to become the honored sons and daughters of GOD ALMIGHTY. If He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, it was for our salvation and eternal rescue.
On this very account God determined highly to exalt Himto give Him a name above every name, to have all men honor Him, even as they honor the Father.--Hence, also, much importance is attached to an open and fearless confession of CHRIST. This confession is indeed laid down as one of the terms upon which salvation is suspended—“If thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God raised
Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." And the Savior himself held out the promise of life on the same terms—“Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father, which is in Heaven."
Not to confess Christ, is to withhold from him the honor due to his adorable nature—an act on our part fraught with deep and peculiar guilt, inasmuch as it was for our sakes that he disrobed himself of the splendors, and shrouded, beneath a veil of flesh, the majesty, of the eternal GODHEAD.
To deny CHRIST, then, would evince a depth of ingratitude, and fix upon the character a degree of guilt, which no language can adequately express. And the Savior himself hath forewarned us of the dreadful consequence of such a denial. “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven.” And St. Paul, alluding to this declaration, joins to it his testimony—“it is a faithful saying, if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” But,
II. What are the causes that lead men to deny Christ?
It was not because he had not witnessed sufficient evidence of his divine power, and his unquestionable claim to the character of a teacher sent from God.
No: he had been one of the most highly privileged of all the apostles. He had seen the eyes of the blind opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. He had seen the loathsome leprosy driven from the body by a single volition-and the chains which demons had rivetted upon the soul, broken by a word. He had seen the lame, at the bidding of Jesus, leap as an hart, and heard the tongue of the dumb to sing. He was one of the three permitted to accompany the Redeemer to the place of his transfiguration, where he beheld his face shining like the sun, and his raiment lustrous and effulgent as the light. He was one of those that stood before the tomb of Lazarus, listening to the voice of the Son of God as it echoed through the still and noiseless cells of that subterranean abode, and witnessed the wondrous scene that ensued--that of a dead man starting up and coming forth, at the Savior's summons, attired in grave clothes.
Peter was fully convinced of the Divine character of Jesus. This, on a memorable occasion, he had distinctly avowed, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
His denial of Christ was not owing to any want of ardent and devoted attachment to Him-he had forsaken all to follow Jesus, and on numerous occasions evinced the most affectionate regard for him. Such was the ardor of his attachment and the fervor of his feelings, that in the presence of all the disciples, he had most positively assured his Divine master, though I die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. How little can we calculate when all things go on well and prosperously with us, how we shall feel and act in the dark hour of adversity and trial !
This confident declaration of Peter was uttered in the moment of fervid feeling, when no danger was near.
But now unexpected events had transpired. Things had undergone a great change. Jesus had been arrested upon charges of high misdemeanor, and dragged by a rough band of soldiers, like a guilty culprit, to the hall of Pilate. Under these circumstances, no man could be recognised as his follower or adherent, without encountering danger and disgrace. Hence his disciples all forsook him and fled.
Where now was devoted and magnanimous Peter? What had become of all his high and bold resolves ? He is seen following Jesus afar off. At length he cautiously approaches the place of his master's confinement, and after many misgivings, ventures to enter one of the outer apartments. There a servant "maid looked at him, and said, thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth, and he denied and said, I know not the man."
The fear of danger and disgrace seems to have operated most powerfully upon his mind-for his connection with Jesus was insisted upon, at three different times, and at each of those times positively denied, and the last denial accompanied with a solemn oath. This, however, is not a solitary or singular case. Peter has had more to imitate him in his denial of Jesus, than to follow him in his subsequent penitence and contrition. It will be found that the fear of danger or disgrace--an unwillingness to suffer or submit to sacrifices for Christ, are among the most prominent and frequent causes that lead men to deny the Savior,