ENEMIES OF The'CROSS OF CHRIST. NO. I.
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.
Are we true Christians? is the most important question which can be asked in relation to ourselves. It is a question which may be examined with the utmost attention without danger of injury. True piety, like gold, will bear any test that can be applied, and will be all the brighter and purer for it, and no sincere Christian need be alarmed by any examination of his religion, however rigid or severe. If our religion is not genuine it should be examined by the strictest tests, and when believed to be false it should be honestly abandoned. .
It is evident that the persons referred to in the text were professors of religion. The term "walk" is commonly used in the New Testament to denote Christian conduct; and the undoubted meaning of the text is, that there were many persons in the church at Philippi—pure and noble as that church was in the main, who professed to be Christians, but who showed by their deportment that they were real enemies of the religion which they professed. The " Cross of Christ" is an emphatic phrase to denote the Christian religion. As the sacrifice on the cross constituted the very essence of Christianity, the term came to denote the Christian religion itself. It is here used, perhaps, also to show more emphatically the apostle's view of the extreme heinousness of the offence, that, while they professed to be Christians, they were in fact the enemies of the very peculiarity of the Christian religion.
Of the existence of such strangers to religion in the church, Paul had been long aware. Of their character, and of their fearful doom he had told them often. He now again reminded them, with tears, of the melancholy truth. He used not towards them the language of harsh and angry denunciation. He did not hold them up to public scorn and indignation. He did not attempt to wound their feelings by satire, or to overwhelm them with harsh invective. He was too deeply impressed with their guilt and their danger to do this. He knew that the way to reclaim the deceived and the erring was not to denounce them with harshness, but to entreat them with tears. Kindness accomplishes what severity cannot do,— as, in the fabled strife between the sun and the north wind, the sun with gentle and warming beams removes the cloak which the north wind could not strip away by violence. The language of tenderness will find its way with reforming power to the heart, where, the words of harsh rebuke would tend only to irritate and confirm in error. Paul felt also, probably, as every minister of the gospel should, that it little becomes a dying mortal, conscious of many imperfections and much liability to selfdeception himself, to use the language of harsh denunciation when speaking to others. Conscious imperfection will speak tenderly of the faults of others, and will weep rather than denounce when there is need of speaking of the errors and dangers of professed Christians.
From the words of the text, the following points of remark are naturally suggested.
I. There is reason to believe that many professors of religion are the real enemies of the cross of Christ.
II. What are the characteristics of that enmity; or how may it be. determined that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ? and
III. Why is the fact of their being in the church fitted to produce grief and tears?
I. The first proposition is, that there is reason to believe that many professors of religion are the real enemies of the cross of Christ. The proof on this head might be drawn from what we know of the deceitfulness of the heart; the numerous cautions against deception in the Scriptures; and from the case of Judas among the apostles, and other instances specified in the New Testament. I choose, however, rather to rest the whole proof of this point on the account which the Lord Jesus has himself given of the condition of the church in the two instructive parables of the tares of the field, and of the net cast into the sea. "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather ye the wheat into my barn." Matth. xiii. 24—30. "Again: the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just; and shall cast them into the furnace of fire." Matth. xiii. 47—50.
That our Saviour meant to teach in these parables that there would be many who would profess his name who would be strangers to him, there can be no doubt.— The same thing he affirmed in his account of the transactions of the day of judgment. Matth. vii. 21—23: "Not every one that shall call unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I Never Knew Yott."
It is not my purpose to dwell on this part of our subject. I wish simply to place the proof of the fact before our own minds as furnishing a reason for whatever earnestness I may evince in urging the language of the Bible, " Be not deceived." I may just observe, however, in passing, (1.) That Christianity is not responsible for the hypocrites or self-deceived professors that may be at any time in the bosom of the church. Religion does not produce or countenance hypocrisy. No book more decidedly condemns it than the New Testament; no person ever did it with more severity than the Saviour. The Christian religion should no more be held answerable for hypocrisy, than friendship is for false professions, or the patriotism of Washington, for the treason of Arnold. (2.) The Christian religion does not stand alone in this. There are men who make professions of friendship which are false; men who make professions of patriotism which are false; men who make professions of honesty, temperance, chastity, and honor, which are false, as well as men who profess religion who are false. If our revolution produced a Washington, it produced also an Arnold; and if great and trying times have produced patriots who would shed their blood for their country, they have produced men also who would sell their country for gold. (3.) We claim for Christianity only the good which it has done. We point to the sinners whom it has reformed; to the vicious whom it has reclaimed; to the proud whom it has humbled; to the virtues which it has created and cherished, and to its influence on the morals and the destiny of mankind, as the proof of its power. We claim not for it the "tares" which have been sown in the field. "An enemy hath done this." Patriotism may speak of its achievements, and of the heroic virtues which it has summoned forth and sustained, but it is not to be charged with the crimes which under the name of love of country have aimed a vital stab at liberty. (4.) We ask that, on this subject, the language of discrimination and justice should be used. We have no wish to screen the hypocrite, or to be apologists for deceit. We ask that Christianity should not be held answerable for what it has not contributed to produce and foster. And we especially desire that the facts to which Ave are now adverting should not be made the occasion of the ruin of the soul. It will be a poor compensation for the loss of the soul to reflect that many were deceived in the church, and, to be able to prove, if you are lost, that your most sanguine calculations of the number of hypocrites was correct, or fell short of the reality. Such a reminiscence in the world
of wo will not constitute even the "single drop of water" that shall be needed to cool the parched tongue. It will be no alleviation to your sorrows or mine, that others were deceived; and to prove that they have gone to hell will constitute no passport for us to heaven.
II. My second object was to show how we may determine when those who profess religion are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
The great importance of this enquiry, and the necessity of obtaining discriminating views on it, will constitute the apology for all the attention which I shall ask to this head of the discourse.
The modes in which we discern the existence of hostility are the following. (1.) When it is avowed and declared, as between nations at war, or individuals engaged in contention and strife. (2.) It may be evinced by neglecting to manifest friendship in circumstances fitted to test the character, and to bring out the real principles. In a nation, if all are summoned to its defence, and a part neglect or refuse to come to its aid, their real principles cannot be a matter of doubt. The danger of the nation may be so imminent, that a neglect to act is in fact an indication of hostile feelings. (3.) It is evinced by failing to manifest the characteristic spirit of friendship. If we are in distress, and a professed friend could aid us, but will not; if we are hungry, and he will not feed us; if we are thirsty, and he will not give us drink; if we are naked, and he will not clothe us; if we are sick and in prison, and he will not visit us; if our affairs are in danger of bankruptcy, and he will not help us ; if we are dying, and he will not come near us to moisten our parched lips, or to close our eyes in death, we have no doubt about the nature of his professed friendship ;—for these are the scenes which determine the reality of affection. (4.) It is evinced where the professed friend is found coinciding in his plans and feelings with those of an enemy; where the course of life he leads is such as to throw no obstacle in the way of our antagonist, but is such as rather to facilitate his plans; and where he refuses to lend his aid to us, to cripple the efforts and to embarrass the movements of the foe. If our professed friends find all our schemes and movements only embarrass theirs; if we have no sympathy with them, and are always found doubting the wisdom of their plans, and suggesting errors and evils; if we have no plans of our own to propose, but live only to suggest doubt about the expediency of those adopted by them, it proves that our real sympathies are not with them, but with their foes. (5.) If we are secretly aiding and abetting an enemy, it shows that we are really in his interest. If we are suggesting the counsels which he would suggest, if we are forming the plans which he would form; if we are throwing embarrassments where he would do it, it shows that we are really advancing his cause. Further. There are often decisive moments —the crises of events—where a slight circumstance will determine the scale, on one side or the other. If, in those trying times, when every man is expected to be found at his post, we are found in ever so small a matter abetting an enemy, it shows that we are under his influence and control. A word or a single action may often do more to decide the character and determine the real feelings in the crisis of a battle than the conduct of many hours and months in a time of peace. (6.) The character is often suddenly developed by some circumstance which shows what it is. Some strong temptation brings out the true feelings of the soul, and shows what is the real object of attachment, while the general course of the life may have been apparently otherwise. Such was the case in the instances of Achan and Judas. In the comparatively monotonous scenes of life, the profession may be uniform and fair, and nothing may occur that shall determine the true feelings of the soul. For it is not the uniformity of the profession that determines character; it is the crisis, the moment of intense interest, the period when all. the real principles of the life are rallied and exhibited, that constitutes the true criterion of the character.
Our object is to ascertain how we may determine whether we are the friends or the enemies of the cross of Christ. Applying these obvious principles for determining the characteristics of friendship or enmity, I shall now call your attention to several particulars which may aid us in deciding this momentous question. I observe, then,
(1.) That those are the enemies of the cross of Christ in the church who have not been born again. The proof of this is brief, but unquestionable. For, "the carnal mind is enmity with God," and men are by nature "dead in trespasses and in sins," and unrenewed men are "the children of the wicked one." There are but two spiritual empires in this world—the kingdom of light, and the kingdom of darkness; the empire over which God rules, and the empire over which Satan is the absolute monarch. They who are not the subjects of the one, are the subjects of the other; and they who have not, by the new birth, been translated out of the "kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son," are still the subjects of the enemy of man. God is building up a kingdom on the earth; and it is done by a change in character, and views, and feelings, the most momentous and thorough that the mind ever undergoes. In the Bible it is designated as "life from the dead," and as a "new crea-' tion;" and it is impossible that this change should take place and no evidence be furnished of it; or that it should occur and produce no difference in the life. Can the vegetable world again bloom with beauty in the returning spring after the long death of winter, and give no evidence of life? Can the buds open, and the flowers blossom, and the grass carpet the earth, and yet all be as cold and sterile as in the winter? Could the now pale, and stiff, and mouldering corpses under ground leave their graves and come forth, and yet there be no evidence of life? Could the sun rise suddenly at midnight, and shed his beams on the dark world, and there be no evidence of the mighty change? And can a sinner dead in sins be quickened into life by the power of God's Spirit, and still there be no life? Can the powers of the soul, long torpid and chill in the dreary winter of sin, be warmed and animated with the love of God, and no one know it? Can the pure light of the Sun of righteousness pour its beams into the soul darkened by sin, and all be as benighted as ever? Can the slave in sin be set at liberty; can the gospel touch his shackles, and his limbs feel the manly impulse of the freedom of the sons of God, and he continue to feel and act as if he were still a slave? Can the poor maniac be restored to his right mind; the wandering eye of the lunatic become settled and calm,
and no one know it? Can he who has all his life hated eternal and infinite excellence, be brought to love it, and the soul itself be ignorant of the amazing transformation? And can he who has despised the cross, and trampled the blood of the covenant beneath his feetr embrace that cross as the only foundation of his hope of heaven, and yet give so dubious indications of the change that no one shall know it, or suspect it from his conduct?
Herein is the origin of all our leanness. I verily believe that the true source of the coldness and deadness of professing Christians is to be found in low and inadequate views of the nature of conversion to God. We linger at the threshold of life. We have not yet settled the ,great point whether there is such a thing as regeneration, or whether "there be any Holy Ghost." Multitudes have no correct views of the great change which takes place 'when the soul is renewed, nor have they any belief of the truth which the Bible reveals on that subject. They speak of seriousness, instead of regeneration. They talk of being thoughtful, instead of being converted. They have some indistinct image of an external work, while the Bible describes it as passing from death to life. They seem to suppose that the act of becoming connected with the church is to be attended with a breaking off from some open sins; that they are to' take their leave of the grosser forms of iniquity, and that they are, for the time at least, to give themselves to increased seriousness. But do they speak of a mighty, thorough, transforming change, as the Bible does? Have they any sympathy with the description of the new birth in the New Testament? Know they any thing of compunction for sin; of grief that they are poor, arid, polluted before God; of the joys of pardon ;• of the new views of the glory and grandeur of the divine character as now seen in the Son of God? Is there a new heart; a new life; a new conversation? Are there new hopes; new joys; new objects of pursuit? Or is there amidst the seriousness some plan for compromising matters with God, and an enquiry even then how the hold on the world may be continued? Is there still a purpose, while the decencies of the Christian profession shall be maintained, to grasp still as much of the world as possible; to pray as little as possible; to be
as gay, and as fashionable, and as happy in the world as may possibly consist with the Christian profession? I tremble when I think of a man just entering on the professed Christian life, endeavoring to make a compromise with God, and a league with the world; attempting to make light and darkness, and rreaven and hell meet together.
Here, I repeat it, is the source of our difficulties. It consists in low, and unscriptural, and unsatisfactory views of conversion to God. And the influence of those views spreads through, all the life, and moulds the character. But the truth of the Scriptures on this point is plain.. There is no religion where there has been no conversion; and if in our personal experience we have not known what the Saviour meant by the new birth, our hopes of heaven are built on the sand. If his language on this subject is to us mysticism or fanaticism; if we do not know what is meant by the new creation, and by the life from the dead, and by the love of God shed abroad in the heart, and by the peace that passeth all understanding, I would tell you, even weeping, that we are the enemies of the cross of Christ!
(2.) They are the enemies of the cross of Christ, who are living in the indulgence of any known sin. It was the indulgence of a single sin, and not any general depravity of manners, that determined the character of Achan and of Judas. It needs no argument to show that the man that is seeking my hurt in any way, is my enemy; and that he who is aiding and abetting a foe in the smallest matters, is to be set down as a traitor to his country. It is not in great transactions that the character is best determined. He who gives a foe information of a weak point in a fortress, is as really an enemy to his country as if he were to surrender the garrison; and he who furnishes an enemy with a small boat for his service, is as really a traitor to his country as though it were a ship of the line. It was for this reason that our Saviour said, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee, that thy whole body be not cast into hell." Matth. v. 29, 30. And for this reason David said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me;" and for this reason he exclaimed, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Psal. xix. 12.
It is perfectly manifest, that the man who indulges deliberately in any known sin, is the foe of his Maker. He shows that he disregards his authority, and despises the work of Christ, for he came that he might "cleanse us from all iniquity." It matters not what this sin is; nor is it to be supposed that it is the same in all. It may be levity, pride, ambition, envy, malice, backbiting, or covetousness. It may be a purpose of revenge for a real or supposed affront. It may be an unwillingness to confess a fault, and to ask for pardon. It may be a refusal to make restitution for an injury done to a neighbor's person or property. It may be the indulgence of an unholy temper, or an unhallowed filling the mind with images of sensuality and licentiousness. It may be an incessant aspiring after the honors of the world, or a desire for its wealth that is never at ease, and that is never satisfied. It may be a habit of murmuring at the allotments of Providence, and the indulgence of envious feelings that others are more honored, or more prospered than ourselves. It may be attachment to some idol, or inconsolable grief that some object of affection has been removed by the hand of God. Whatever it is, hostility to the cross is evinced by its indulgence; and the man as certainly shows that he is the enemy of Christ, as if he had driven the nails that fastened him to the tree, or plaited for him the crown of thorns. 'I kept the raiment of those that stoned the martyr Stephen,' said Paul; and though he did not throw a stone, he regarded himself as not meet to be an apostle. One of the very elements of Christianity is, that he who does not desire to renounce every thing that is sinful, is the enemy of God.
(3.) Those who are pursuing a doubtful and undecided course of conduct without any effort to know what is right, are the enemies of the cross of Christ. An honest man, a sincere Christian, will be willing to be made acquainted with all his faults. He will not turn away Iris ear from reproof, but will candidly and prayerfully desire to know what is the will of God. For it is one of the very elements of Christianity, that a man should come to Christ as a little child, and be willing to sit at his feet. Where he will not pray, and examine, and make it his business to ascertain whether he is, or is not, pursuing a course of life that shall please God. In all these cases, he is evidently an enemy of the cross of Christ; for he evinces just the spirit which the enemies of God do always, and which a true Christian can never. The men of the world pursue their own ways ; will not be admonished ; will not stop to inquire whether their course is one that pleases God; and become irritated and v«xed if God by his Providence or his Spirit so far interferes with their doings, as to call in question the propriety of their conduct. And when professing Christians do the same thing, they show that they have the same spirit, and that they have never been born again. You pursue a course of life, it may be, for which your conscience reproves you, and for which the world reproaches you, and which real Christians think to be wrong, and which you have every reason to think the Bible condemns, and yet you are at no pains to examine it. You continue to pursue it from year to year, and you thus show, that you are an utter stranger to the very elements of that gospel which Paul embraced when he said, "Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?"
(4.) They are the enemies of the cross of Christ among his professed friends, who manifest in their conduct none of the peculiarities of those who truly love him. There is something that constitutes the peculiarity, the essential nature, of the Christian religion. There was something which distinguished the Lord Jesus from the mass of men, and which constituted the peculiarity of his character. There is something—whatever it may be—which is required in the New Testament as the distinguishing evidence of attachment to the Lord Jesus. There is something which is to serve to distinguish Christians from other men, or the religion is worthless. Now, my position is, that, whatever this is, unless we possess it, we are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Whatever this is, it is not external morality, for many men of the world are moral men. It is not amiableness of temper, for many of them are amiable and kind. It is not simply honesty and integrity, for many of them are honest. It is something which is to distinguish us from all the men of the world, and it we are destitute of that, our profession is "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbol."
But how; perhaps it may be asked, does it appear that there is to be any thing peculiar in the Christian profession? I answer. It is not the nature of religion to be hid. Men do not light a candle to put it under a bushel. I answer further, that the stupendous truths of redemption are not brought to bear upon the human soul that it might be just what it was before. Did Christ die that his followers might be just like other men? Was his precious blood shed on Calvary that his followers might be undistinguished in the mighty mass of sinners? Did the Son of God toil and bleed that the kingdom which he reared might be just like all other kingdoms? Did the apostles labor, and suffer, and die as martyrs that they might leave the world as they found it? And does the Holy Ghost effect the mighty change of the new creation in the soul, that the man might be just what he was before? And are the solemn truths pertaining to God's authority, and to heaven and hell, brought to bear on the conscience, that the friends of Christ may be just as worldly minded, and as gay, and as prayerless, and as vain, and as ambitious, as other men? Are morality and kindness alone to be baptized, and are these all that the blood of the Saviour purchased on the cross? Then were those pangs in vain. And then this stupendous scheme of the incarnation and death of God's own Son, was a scheme of most mighty preparation for most unimportant results. But it is not so. He designed that religion should be seen, and known, and felt. He meant that his people should be a peculiar people. He intended to rear a kingdom unlike all other kingdoms; to be at the head of an empire unlike all other empires; and to marshal an immense host that should shine like the stars of night, or like suns, in the darkness of a lost world. And if we have not the peculiarities of his friends, we are the enemies of his cross!
I close this discourse by observing, that were the discussion to end here, perhaps enough has been already said to destroy the false hopes of some who now hear me. I have specified four particulars; and there may be many professors who, if weighed in these balances, would be found wanting:—many who have not the slightest evidence that they have ever been regenerated; who are habitually indulging in some known sin without any effort to overcome it; who are pursuing a doubtful course of life without any pains taken to inquire whether it be consistent with the New Testament or not, and who are conscious that they have none of the peculiarities which went to make up the character of Christ; who are conscious that they have never formed a plan, or performed an action, which-the, man of the world might not do, and who have never put forth One effort solely to promote the glory of God.
If this be the state of the mind in any case, the conclusion is inevitable. Light has no fellowship with darkness, nor Christ with Belial. Painful as is the conclusion, yet we are to remember that an enemy hath sown tares in the great field which God will soon reap, and that the proof is clear in the New Testament that the enemies of Christ will in various ways come into his church. It was from no wish to give pain that the Saviour stated this doctrine, and it is. from no wish, to produce pain that it is now repeated. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Timely admonition evinces more friendship, than an attempt to "daub with untempered mortar," or to "cry peace, peace, when there is no peace." Not in words only, therefore; not in the way of professional duty merely, but in the sober language of friendship, and with the apprehensions of just alarm, do I exhort each professor to examine his heart, and his life. For soon these eyes will open upon the judgment seat; and soon our own ears will hear the words addressed to many unhappy mortals, once professors of the religion of Christ, "Depart from me, I Never Knew rou."
I anticipate that this discourse will give pain, if pain at all, where it is least desirable that it should be done. The humble, pious, modest, praying, real Christian, is usually the one who is most alarmed by appeals like this. The man deceived ; the cold, formal professor; the one really intended, and who is really the enemy of the cross of Christ, is usually the man least affected, least moved, least concerned. Judas was the last man at the table to express concern when Jhe Saviour said that one of them would betray him. "Lord is it I?" was the reluctant, and hollow language, of the traitor at last. And the last man who might ask the question here,' am I unrenewed, am I indulging in known sin, am I pursuing a doubtful course of life, am I failing to exhibit the peculiar spirit of a Christian,' might not improbably be the very one who has most undoubted evidence of being the enemy of the cross of Christ. Such are not alarmed. They thank not the Saviour for his admonitions and reproofs. Let us take to ourselves words and turn to the Lord and say, "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."