ENEMIES.OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST. NO. 2.
Phil. iii. 18. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
From these words, in the last discourse, I proposed to consider the following points:
I. There is reason to believe that many professors of religion are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
II. What are the characteristics of that enmity, or howmay it be known that they are such; and
III. Why is the fact of their being in the church an occasion of grief and tears.
The first point was considered; and also four specifications under the second head were suggested. I specified' the following classes as being his enemies, though in the church:
(1.) Those who have not been born again or regenerated; (2.) those who are living in the practice of any known sin; (3.) those who are pursuing a doubtful course of life without any pains taken to ascertain whether it is right or wrong; and (4.) those who in their conduct manifest none of the peculiarities of those who truly love him.
In the prosecution of the subject at this time, I propose to call your attention to some additional particulars which are expressive of hostility to him among those who professedly love him. Resuming the subject where we then left off, I observe,
(5.) In the fifth place, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ among his professed friends, who have a deeper interest in their worldly affairs than they have in the cause of the Redeemer. This is the particular thing that is specified in the verse succeeding my text. Paul, giving an account of the professors of religion at Philippi whom he regarded as the enemies of the cross of Christ, describes them as those who "mind earthly things;" that is, whose supreme care was manifested for the things of this life. "Our conversation," he elsewhere says, speaking of true Christians, "is in heaven;" their plans and thoughts pertain to the things of the earth, and they thus show, though they are professors of religion, the real principles by which they are actuated. And in the second chapter of this epistle, when describing persons of a similar character, he says, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Chap. ii. 21. And again, in 2 Timothy iii. 2, when describing a period of great apostasy and general declension in religion, he says, as the characteristics of those times, "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." This is the established mode of judging men's real character in the New Testament. "By their fruit," was the Saviour's rule, "shall ye know them." "Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles." When we see a shrub producing only thorns, we-judge that it is a thorn-bush; when producing only thistles, we judge that it is a thistle. My proposition is, that where men have a deeper interest in worldly affairs than they have in the cause of Christ, they are strangers to his religion. The proof of this proposition lies in a nut-shell. For (1.) The Redeemer himself said, "He that is not with me is against me." (2.) There must be some way of accurately arriving at a knowledge of character; and there is no better way than to observe a man's habitual walk and conversation. Character -is the result of conduct. It is not a single deed; it is not a temporary ebullition of feeling. We do not attribute the tried character of virtue to the man who has resisted a single temptation; nor of heroism to the man who has been engaged in a single conflict. It is the man who has been often tempted, and who has successfully resisted temptation-, to whom we award the praise of virtue; and it is the hero of many battles, and many scars, to whom we ascribe valor. We ask, in determining character, what is the tenor of the man's life; what it is that will call forth the latent principles of his soul? If it be to make money, we then say that that is his character. If it be to become honored, we then say so. If it be to shine in the gay circle, we then say so. And if the habitual purpose of the life be, that the man cares more for the things of this world than he does for the cause of Christ; if they occupy more of his time and thoughts; if his actions and his plans are just like those of the men of this world, and just such as Satan would have them to be, he is the enemy of the cross of Christ. (3.) The interests of Christ's kingdom are intended to be supreme. . He seeks no divided sway, and rules over no divided empire. He. came not to establish a kingdom that should be just like all other kingdoms, nor to sit on a throne that is occupied by a rival. "If any man come to me," is his language, "and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Luke xiv. 26. If the interests of his kingdom, therefore, are not supreme in the affections, and if a man is not ready to sacrifice all other interests to his, he is the enemy of his cross. (4.) The principles of the Christian religion cannot lie dormant in the soul. If those principles exist, they will be manifested. Christians are to be the light of the world ;• and a light is not kindled that it may be put under a bushel. Religion consists in love to God and love to man. Can that love exist, and yet the man always act as if it did not exist? Religion consists in meekness, forgiveness, joy; peace, long-suffering, temperance,.charity. Can these exist in the heart, and yet a man act just as though they did not? Religion consists in self-denial, in bearing, the cross, in crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts. Can those principles exist, and yet the man be just as self-indulgent, just as much seeking the pleasures and enjoyments of this life as the men of the world? Religion is holiness, not mere morality.; it is conformity to Christ, not conformity to an imaginary standard of excellence. Can that exist, and yet the. man in his manner of -life be just like all other men? Was there nothing in which Jesus Christ was distinguished from the world?
It is sometimes said that piety should be retiring, and unseen. Religion it is said, is a secret principle of the soul. It shrinks back from the public gaze, and seeks concealment, and should not seek publicity. But why is this said? There is nothing of it in the Bible; but every thing there is just the contrary. Hypocrisy, and mere profession, and ostentation, and sounding a trumpet, are rebuked. But I ask a man to point me to a single passage in the Bible where the manifestation of pure religion is rebuked. "Let your light so shine before men," is the language of the Redeemer, " that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." "He that is ashamed of me, and of my words before men, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he shall come in his own glory, and with the glory of the Father and with the holy angels." Religion, in the Bible, is supposed to be prominent, and manifest, if it exists at all. It is to constitute The character; it is to distinguish the man. I point you to the example of Christ. Religion is every thing in his life. I point you to the example of Paul. You see nothing else in his life but his religion. Among Greeks, and Jews, and Barbarians, it is alike developed. I point you to David, and Isaiah, and John, and the holy martyrs, and ask what were their principles? The men were modest men; but their religion was open and bold. It constituted their very character; and is that, and that alone, by which they are known. And thus it is in all the works and doings of God. Is the sun that rides these heavens ashamed to shine; and does he hide his noontide beams under the plea that pure light should not be ostentatious? Is the moon—that, like the Christian shines by reflected light—ashamed to emit its rays, and to sleep on the "bank" and the silver lake? Are the stars—the wandering or the fixed—ashamed to send their rays on a darkened world? No. Light, pure, rich, varied, dazzling, shines forth from these heavens by day and by night, just as the light of the Christian's example is to be poured on the darkness of the world. It shines not indeed for display, but for use; not for its own glory, but like the light that should radiate from the Christian's life, to illustrate the glory of the Great Creator. And thus it is in all God's works. The ocean that he has made is not ashamed to roll; the lightning of heaven to play; the oak to spread out its boughs; the flower to bloom. The humblest violet on which we tread is not ashamed to exhibit its beauty, and display its Maker's praise; nor will the obscurest light in the true Christian's soul seek to be hid. Light is kindled there to shine on the darkness of a lost world. And if Christian light does not shine forth in the life, we have the highest evidence that it has never been enkindled in the bosom.
The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that where men have a deeper interest in the things of this world than they have in the cause of Christ, they are the enemies of his cross. They are pursuing the course which the grand enemy of that cross would wish them to pursue. My meaning here will not be misunderstood. I refer to the cases where the concerns of this world are allowed to engross all a man's time ; where this is the-primary object of his solicitude; where it- constitutes his character, and is that by which he is every where known; and where nothing will excite an interest in religion, further than the formality of its external observances. The character of such a man is"that of a worldly man. He is living as worldly men live, and as the enemy of God wonld wish him to live, in estrangement from all the vital principles of the kingdom of the Saviour; and he must be judged accordingly.
(6.) They are the enemies of the cross of Christ in his church, whom nothing can induce to give up their worldly concerns for the cause of religion when God demands it.
I begin the illustration of this, by remarking, that, it is to be feared, there is a great and radical mistake on this point, in the feelings and language of most men. The mistake to which I refer is, a feeling that time, and talents, and strength, belong of right to us. We speak of our time, our talents, our property. We hear men use the language of complete self-appropriation, not in the qualified sense which they will use who believe that all belongs of right to God, but in the sense of absolute proprietorship. And this is not the language of the professed men of this world merely, but of the professed friends of God. The mis^ take to which I refer is, that of regarding time as Ottrs, and talent as Ours, and wealth as Oitrs. For the truth is, that the affairs of this life, as well as the business of prayer and praise, should be pursued because this is a part of the service which we owe to God. "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." The business of the farm, or the counting-room, or the office, should be conducted with as decided reference to his will as the services of the sanctuary. Nor will men understand the true nature of religion until Christianity is suffered to assert its claims over each moment of time, over each faculty of mind and body, and each plan of life. For a man may just as easily, and with just as much propriety, cultivate his farm, or make a machine, or engage in' -commerce, with a direct purpose to glorify God, and to honor the gospel in his appropriate calling, as when he prays, or reads the Bible, or goes forth as a missionary to save the world. ceive as truth that which God has stated to be truth; to admit as fact that which he has declared to be fact; and to repose sufficient confidence in him to believe what he says, that there can be no true love to Him, and no real friendship for his cause. If there be, therefore, an open opposition to the doctrines of the Bible, or a secret resistance of those truths, it proves that we have never yet submitted the understanding and the will of God. I refer to such cases as the following. (1.) Where a professed friend of Christ admits the doctrines of the Bible in general, but denies them in detail. (2.) Where he admits such doctrines in the Bible to be true as are found in systems of natural religion, but doubts, or denies those which constitute the peculiarity of Christianity. Many a man will admit cheerfully the doctrine that there is a God; will admit in general the duties of morality, while he will be an open opposer of the doctrines of human depravity, of the atonement, of divine Sovereignty, of election, and of the agency of the Holy Ghost. (3.) Where a man will not examine these doctrines to satisfy his own mind whether they are true or false, he shows that he is the secret enemy of the cross. For one of the elements of the Christian faith is a willingness to know what is true; and where a man has strong reasons to believe that if he were to examine them he would be convinced that they are true, and yet will not examine them, it shows that he is secretly opposed to them. (.4.) Where a man becomes angry, and chafed, and vexed when those doctrines are preached; where he demands the preaching of mere moral essays, and is irritated if the doctrines of religion are presented Just as they are in the Bible, it shows .that he is the enemy of the cross. He has not yet learned the first principle of religion which requires him to submit his understanding to God. (5.) Where he takes sides with the men of the world in regard to these high truths of the Bible, it shows that he is the enemy of the cross. Where in the circle of the gay, the vain, the worldly, and the scoffing, he is unwilling that it should be known that he holds them, or joins with others in opposing them, it- shows that his heart has no true love for those doctrines. For these are the times and the places that show whether he has really any attachment to the doctrines of the Bible, or whether he is really ashamed of them. And when we see a man coinciding entirely with the men of this world in regard to those truths—feeling as they feel; and talking as they talk; and opposing what they oppose; and doubting just what they doubt, we can be at no loss about his real character.
It follows, therefore, that the gospel was designed to overcome the love of the world, and to induce men to surrender all when God urges his claims. For the Redeemer said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross BailY, and follow me." Luke ix. 23. (i Let the dead bury their dead, but follow thou me." "Whosoever wilt save his life shalt lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Luke ix. 24—25. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Luke xiv. 26.
And thus we judge in every thing. You wish to try a man's patriotism. He has a dwelling near the battlefield where his countrymen have fallen in defence of freedom, and are bleeding on the cold earth. If he will not open his dwelling to receive the wounded soldier, do you esteem him to be friend of his country? You wish to know whether a man is your friend. If he will not give up his own petty gratifications to aid you in your distress, will you esteem him to be such? "If your, affairs are tending to bankruptcy, and he will not aid you; if you are naked and he will not clothe you ; if you are hungry, and he will not give you meat, thirsty and he will not give you drink; sick, and in prison, and he will not come near to alleviate your pains, to wipe the cold sweat from your brow, to moisten your parched lips, will you regard his professions to be sincere; or will you judge them to be false, and hollow?
These principles are so obvious about common affairs that they need no further illustration; and they are just as obvious in religion. My position is, that where nothing will induce men to regard their worldly concerns as subordinate to the cause of Christ, it is proof that they are the enemies of his cross. As an illustration of what is meant by this general principle, I shall refer to a few particulars. I specify, then,
First, amusements.^-'The position is, that if a professed follower of Christ will not abandon those which are obviously and certainly inconsistent with the gospel, he is the enemy of the cross of Christ. If he is engaged in just such amusements as the people of the world are; if he engages in them with the same zest, and zeal, and at the same expense; if he evinces the same gaiety, levity, and vanity that they do, it is proof that his heart is not with Jesus Christ and- his cause, but with them. If he is m the habit of attending places which he knows the Lord Jesus would not have attended; and if he is undistinguished in feeling, conversation, and deportment, from the gay and thoughtless who are professedly going away from heaven, and in the estimation of the Christian world going down to hell, it proves that he is the enemy of the cross of Christ. If' he has a deeper interest in the fashionable assembly than he has in the humble place where the true friends of God seek his blessing by prayer, who can doubt where his heart is? If he will abridge, or abandon his ordinary and proper times of secret devotion for the gaieties of the fashionable circle, who can doubt what is the real spirit that actuates his bosom? If a professed Christian, in relation to these matters, is pursuing just such a course as the great enemy of seriousness and of heaven would have him pursue; if he is found in just such places, and making just such parties, and indulging in just such expenses as will gratify, not the Lord Jesus, but the Prince of darkness, he thus shows that he is the enemy of the cross. And if this is pursued from one year to another, and it becomes the established character that the course of life is just such as will gratify Satan, and pain the bosoms of the friends of God, the character may be as certainly known as though the judgment-day were already past, and the destiny sealed.
Secondly, property.—If a man will not surrender it to God when he demands it for-his service, it proves that he is the enemy of the cross of Christ. If he is living for its acquisition just as the men of the world are; if he grasps it and hoards it with as much greediness as they do; if it be the characteristic of the man that he is a lover of gold rather than a man of prayer, it is a demonstration of his character which cannot be mistaken. If he pursues just such a mode of life as the enemy of God would desire—is just as avaricious, and selfish, and close ; or just as extravagant, and profuse in his manner of living as he would wish him to be, it shows that he is the enemy of the cross of Christ. For thus we judge in all things. If a man pursues just such a course of life as will gratify the enemies of his country, we judge that he is in their interest. If he has just such objects, plans, and modes of living, as an enemy would prescribe; if he is living so that he could not desire a change, and would not suggest an alteration, we have no doubt about the real principles of the man. His own countrymen cannot doubt; the enemy cannot doubt; the Judge of all cannot doubt:
Thirdly, time.—When professed Christians form their own schemes, and employ all their hours in doing their own will; when, they will not appropriate that which God requires for prayer, and for searching the Bible ; and when they will not devote that which he demands in efforts to do good to others, it shows that they are the enemies of the cross. When their first thoughts in the morning, and their mid-day plans, and their last thoughts at night are of the world, and not of God, .there is an indication which is infallible of the true, state of their feeling. When a man professing patriotism, lives just as the enemy of his country would wish; when all his time is employed in a manner that goes to promote his plans, and to weaken the resources of his country, it shows that he is in the service of the foe.
(7.) Those are the enemies of the cross of Christ who are opposed to all that is peculiar in the doctrines of Christianity. One of the first things which the Lord Jesus has required is, that we should be willing to receive the kingdom of God as a little child. Nothing is more evident than that where there is an unwillingness to re
(8.) Finally. They are the enemies of the cross of Christ who are opposed to all the peculiar duties of the Christian religion; who enter upon those duties with reluctance j who rejoice when they are closed; and who show throughout that the heart is not in them. I shall not pause to prove this, for it is perfectly apparent that in the sight of a holy God the character is to be determined by the state of the heart, and not by the external profession. In illustrating this head of the discourse, I refer to such cases as the following. (1.) Where the obligations of piety are admitted in general, but denied in detail. The man admits Christianity to be true in general, but he neglects prayer, or he lives for this world, or he indulges in envy or a desire of revenge, or he is ambitious, or he is unwilling to deny himself and take up his cross, until point by point the system of Christianity is all denied by him, and nothing is left but the name. There is nothing by which he is known in distinction from others, and the conclusion is, that the Christian religion exerts over hirri no influence. (2.) Where professors have no sympathy with the plans of true Christians. Where, while they admit the truth of Christianity in general, they have no sympathy with the active friends of Christ for the spread of the gospel; where they are strangers to those plans, and uninterested in their success; where they have no rejoicing at the conversion of sinners, and no tears to shed that millions are going down to hell; where nothing ever rouses them to even a momentary effort for the promotion of the cause for which the Saviour died; where they have no prayers to offer in secret, and no word of encouragement to speak to the true friends of Christ; and where their bosoms would experience no heart-felt joy in hearing that continent after continent, and island after island should be converted to God. Are there not men. in the Christian church who are fully acquainted with the state of political parties in the city, state, or nation, and whose prompt co-operation may be confidently expected by their party, but on whose aid in promoting the salvation of men no reliance can be placed? Are there not men fully acquainted with all that will go to promote commerce, and wealth, and national prosperity, whose presence and counsel we should seek in vain in any direct effort to promote a revival of pure religion? Are there not men whose bosoms are agitated by any fluctuations in the money market, or by a prospect of defeat in a political campaign, who have no. anxiety to express, and no tears to shed when the church slumbers, and when the gospel falls powerless on the heavy ears of men? And can the character of such men be mistaken, or the real object of their preference- be a matter of doubt ?— Again. Are there not those who are familiar with all the movements of the gay and fashionable world, and who possibly may be the charm of every circle that forgets God and that hates Jesus Christ, who have yet to offer the first sincere prayer for the conversion of a soul, and who leave the real friends of the Redeemer to struggle alone amidst many embarrassments and discouragements? And can it be a matter of doubt whether they have ever been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son? (3.) I refer to instances where all the sympathies are on the side of the enemy of Christ. Where the professed Christian readily falls in with the observations which the sons and daughters of gaiety and of sin make about revivals of religion; about the proper mode of preaching; about the faults of Christians, and the efforts of Christian benevolence; where, when an enemy of revivals is met, the professed Christian is an enemy also; when an enemy of missions is met, the professed Christian is an enemy also; when an enemy of godliness complains of a certain style of preaching, the professed Christian complains also; when an enemy of God dwells on the disorders of religious excitements, and the mistakes and errors of Christians, the professed Christian has the same remarks to offer, and has not one word to express in behalf of the injured and insulted cause of God. If, on all these subjects, he thinks just as the enemy of God thinks, and feels as he feels, and talks as he talks, can there be any doubt
about his true character? If my conversation be just such as the enemy of my country would desire, can there be any doubt that I am in his interest? And if, on the subject of religion, I talk just as the Devil would wish me to talk; if I make just such objections to the movements of Christians as he could wish me to make; if I oppose just those things which he would wish me to oppose; and, if my whole style of action and remark be such as would be gratifying to him, can there be any doubt about my real character? Not professions determine the character, but the language, the conduct, the life.
In closing this part of the discussion, I may observe, that the subject is one of easy application. My aim has been to make it so plain that it should be impossible to mistake my meaning; and I presume that I have not been misunderstood. The application of the eight tests of character which I have suggested, can be easily made. I may repeat a remark which is often made, that every consideration of interest, and duty, and. hope, and selfrespect, demands that we should be honest on this subject of religion, and if we are deceived, let us know it before it shall be too late forever. For "who among us can dwell with devouring fire? who can inhabit everlasting burnings?" "Faithful are the wounds of a friend ;" and I can never do any man more essential service, if he is deceived, than to show him his danger, and point him to the cross of Christ, that he may obtain true peace and salvation.
If it should be said, as possibly it may be, that there is too much of severity in the remarks which I have thus made, this is my answer. I desire not to give needless pain ; nor shall I. Pain now, may save an eternity of wo hereafter. My fears on that subject are not that too much anxiety will be excited, but that there will be too little, or that there will be none. I answer further, that these tests of character are not severe. In thousands, nay in millions of cases, they have been applied, and true religion in the heart has endured the trial. Thousands of martyrs have put these principles to the test, and they have borne it. In view of the rack and the stake; in view of conflicts with wild beasts in the amphitheatre, and of a lingering death by torture, the question as to the sincerity of piety has been tried, and piety has sustained the trial. The question has come up there—oh, with what interest—' Have I been born again; have I forsaken my sins; have I the true spirit of a Christian; have I a deeper interest in the cross than in all other things; have I been willing to forsake father, and mother, and wife, and children ; do I love the great cause of redemption, and is my sympathy with the friends of God?' and the answer before persecuting councils and kings has been prompt and steady, 'I am ready to bleed or to be burned in attestation of the truth of this religion'—Too severe! No. Nothing which men can say; nothing which tyrants can do; nothing which Satan can devise,, is too severe a test for the principles of Christian piety. These principles will bear the utmost scrutiny of torture on earth, and the deep searchings of the omniscient and most holy eye of God at the bar of judgment! And if our professed principles of piety will not bear all these, we are the enemies of the cross of Christ.. I answer, finally, that a scrutiny far more severe than any which can result from my exhibition of the truth is yet to be applied to us. Death is soon to try us, to see whether our religion will sustain us there. The searching eye of the Almighty Judge is to try us at his bar, to see if our religion will sustain us there. And if our piety will not bear the scrutiny applied by an erring and most imperfect mortal, how shall it bear the trials of the bed of death, and the solemn investigations of the final day? Let us then again take words and turn to the Lord, and say with one mind, "Search us, O God, and know our hearts; try us, and know our thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting." Ps. cxxxix. 23.