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III. CARIst is denied by his followers in numerous instances and in a variety of ways.
1. Where the general characteristics of Christianity do not appear in their conduct.
Soon after the resurrection, when two distinguished disciples were brought before the Jewish Sanhedrim, we are told, that the persons constituting that judicial assembly, took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
No man who has been with Jesus, can have intercourse with the world without imparting to all around him a knowledge of this fact. The mechanic no sooner discloses, by those ten thousand little allusions and associations, his calling; nor the man of law his profession, than the Christian, by a subdued and chastened spirit, a meek and heavenly temper—desires, hopes and expectations, that constantly look away from this sublunary scene to the eternal world—a soul that seems imbued in all its thoughts and affections with the very sentiments that animate the seraphic host around the throne-and by a strict regard in all his conduct to the will of his Heavenly Father—the fact, that he has been with Jesus. The spirit which animates, and the maxims which govern him, are altogether different from the spirit which animates, and the maxims which govern the world.
He acts from the steady and fixed principle of right—the world, from the steady and fixed principle of interest. Consequently on a theatre like this, where interest is the great moving principle, and where so many interests are continually conflicting, the man, who in all things is governed by the changeless principle of right, will doubtless have to submit to sacrifices. In a world like this, where there is so little relish for holiness, and where the very name of God and Heaven strikes upon
the ear like a jarring and inharmonious note, it is no wonder if he, whose conversation is in Heaven, and whose every word breathes of hopes anchored in the eternal throne, should be looked upon as a strange and singular character-and should become the butt of ridicule and the subject of derision among the frivolous and profane. If
, therefore, a man kneels at the altar, and there vowing eternal allegiance to the Savior, does not, when he leaves that altar,
carry along with him into the world the spirit of Christ, and the maxims of his pure and holy religion for the regulation of his conduct, his deportment will soon show it. If earthly objects have the ascendancy in his affections--if this world's favor and its gain be the things to which he principally looks, the distinctive marks of Christianity will be no longer discoverable in his characterand on his doings will be written, in broad and legible lines, I know not the man,-I know not Jesus of Nazareth.
2. Worldly conformity, in those who profess to be the followers of CHRIST, is a direct denial of him.
Unhappily for the cause of Christ, there are not wanting in the Church, at the present day, instances of men who have left their first love-of individuals, who set out in the Christian path with fervor and engagedness, but have speedily turned aside, and gone back to the very spirit and round of worldliness that formerly distinguished them. The worst feature in their case, however, is that they think they are still Christians.
The class of persons to whom I refer, pursue the vain and empty things of the world with the same avidity--are equally infatuated with its pomp and pageantry--and are just as ready to sacrifice principle and duty, when they stand in their way to wealth, distinction, and pleasure, as their unrenewed neighbors, who lay no claim to the Christian character. In all their deportment, conversation, and pursuits, there is such a constant reference to things present and temporal, that it is abundantly evident that the world and its favor are the supreme objects of their thoughts and affections.
And yet once it was far otherwise with them. Once they knew no happiness comparable to that of sitting at the feet of Jesus, and waiting to feast upon the smiles of his countenance. Then, in the ardor of their attachment to the Savior, with Peter they would have exclaimed though I die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” Yet now such a worldliness sits upon all their actions that no one would imagine that they had ever been with Jesus.—In the awful dereliction, stamped upon their conduct may be read in letters of sunbeam-I know not the man.
They did not go all these fearful lengths at once. Their
apostacy was progressive and imperceptible, of which they themselves were almost unconscious. Peter at first followed Jesus afar off. Then he faintly, and with evident compunction, denied Him. But at last-such is the progressive and continually augmenting force which sin acquires-he boldly affirmed, and that with an oath-I know not the nian.
This is the history of thousands. They begin with the neglect of some known duty. Perhaps it is prayer. The Christian who is not a man of prayer may expect to fall-may calculate with the utmost certainty upon growing cold and careless. The Most High has promised His heavenly grace upon the sole condition of prayer. Prayer is the food upon which the soul subsists, the wings with which the Christian flies to Heaven. Take away this food, and the divine life expires--take away these wings, and the believer no more visits the celestial court-no more beholds the face of his heavenly Father--no longer loves the place of his habitation. Prayer is the means by, and the medium through, which we commence and carry on an acquaintance with God, the act by which we acknowledge CHRIST as our mediator. The neglect of it, therefore, is a virtual denial of Him-a tacit declaration to our families and children that we know Him not.
Observe the character of that man who, day after day, retires to his rest and rises from his couch without lifting up his thoughts in devotion to God. Though a professed follower of CHRIST, no one would imagine it from any thing discoverable in his conduct or conversation. An entire worldliness, an apparent utter forgetfulness of God, is stamped upon his whole demeanor. His course on to this fearful and far gone alienation was gradual and progressive. With the neglect of prayer he began to grow more familiar with sin. At first he tremulously approached the line that separates right from wrong; drawn by passion or allured by pleasure he crossed that line, designing immediately to return--but around him gathered pleasures more fascinating, and still more fascinating. By little and little he yielded to the soft and alluring blandishments of sin---the world by degrees acquired a higher and higher ascendancy over his affections--the thoughts
of God came less and less frequently into his mind--the glorious image of CHRIST began to grow dim--and the salvation He wrought diininished in his view—till at length, in this downward progressive course, all love to the Savior expired.
Ah, have I not been narrating the history of several individuals in this very assembly? They went on by imperceptible degrees. The chains that bound them were invisible, and the hand that rivetted those chains, unseen. Had they, however, in the beginning, heeded the voice that warned them of danger—had they been less self-confident, less self-presuming—had they been more watchful, more conscious of their need of divine assistance—had they looked more frequently to God for guidance and direction, and kept more closely at the feet of the Redeemer--the world would never have gained such an ascendancy over their affections, nor led them into a train of doings which have ten thousand tongues, all clamorous in the declaration-1 know not the man, I know not Jesus of Nazareth. If any such fallen Christian be now within these walls, let him remember the unaltered and unalterable decision of the Savior—" whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven.”
3. They who profess to be followers of the Cross, cannot depart from the exalted standard of morality exhibited in the Gospel, without denying Christ.
In Him resides supreme legislative power. He has enacted various laws for the regulation of our conduct. Every act of injustice, every deviation from strict rectitude, every delinquency in moral duty, every aberration from the path of holiness, is a direct infraction of those laws—and every such infraction speaks with deep and tremendous emphasis-I know not the man-I acknowledge not his authority- I submit not to his government.
4. Again : Christ is denied by the coldness, apathy, and supineness of many who profess to be his followers.
They, in whose hearts the principle of divine life exists in freshness and unimpaired vigor, are distinguished by their devotedness to the Savior—their zeal and engagedness in the extension of his kingdom-and their tender anxiety and deep solicitude for the salvation of their fellow men. They imbibe his sentiments, and
become animated with the same spirit that glowed in his bosom. He was all activity–His love for perishing sinners was boundless -His estimate of the worth of the soul can be gathered from the emphatic and eloquent inquiry—“ what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul-or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" To understand the full import of this inquiry, behold him expiring on the cross, pouring out his life in bitter agony, to rescue the immortal soul from death!" Now they who profess to be his disciples, and neither feel nor manifest any deep interest in the beings around them that have been ransomed by his blood--they who do not stand forth and actively engage in some efficient operation-put their hand to some powerful moral enginery, designed and fitted to reclaim those beings from error and death-by this very inaction and manifest indifference proclaim to the world, in language most unequivocal, I know not the man.
5. They deny CHRIST who are merely nominal Christians; refusing to honor Him by cordially embracing the offers of life, and observing the institutions of the Gospel.
This description embraces a large class of individuals. For we live not in a Pagan, Jewish or Mahometan, but in a Christian country. The Christian religion is the religion of our fathers; most of us have been brought, in early infancy, within the Christian covenant, by the kind solicitude of our parents. Even from that early period, the elementary principles of the religion of the Cross have been instilled into our minds, and the proof of its divine origin placed in every attitude and aspect before us. We are convinced of its truth, and have a theoretic knowledge of its doctrines, and the terms upon which we can be saved.
But something more than this theoretic knowledge is necessary. Man must "believe with the heart unto righteousness." The ordinances and sacraments of the Gospel must be received, before any substantial evidence can be furnished of a sincere and honest intention to follow CHRIST. I appeal then to you, my hearers; have you in very truth embraced the overtures of mercy beld out in the Gospel, and taken Jesus Christ for your Lord and Master? I am addressing numbers, who in infancy were brought to