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They shrink from religion as something gloomy, or frightful, or dull, or intrusive, or exorbitant. And, alas, sometimes it is attempted to lead them to religion by making it appear not difficult and severe. Severe truths are put aside; religion is made to consist in a worldly security, or again in a heated enthusiastic state of mind. But this is a deceit. I do not of course mean, far from it, that religion is not full of joy and peace also ; " My yoke," says CHRIST, " is easy, and My burden is light:" but grace makes it so; in itself it is severe, and any form of doctrine which teaches otherwise forgets that Christ calls us to His yoke, and that that yoke is a cross. If you
call to mind some of the traits of that special religious character to which we are called, you will readily understand how both it, and the discipline by which it is formed in us, are not naturally pleasant to us. That character is described in the text as meekness and lowliness ; for we are told to “ learn ” of Him who was
“meek and lowly in heart.” The same character is presented to us at greater length in our Saviour's sermon on the Mount, in which seven notes of a Christian are given to us, in themselves of a painful and humbling character, but joyful, because they are blessed by Him. He mentions, first, " the poor in spirit;" this is denoted in the text, under the word “lowly in heart;”—secondly, those that mourn ;” and this surely is their peculiarity who are bearing on their shoulders the yoke of Christ;-thirdly, “the meek ;” and these too are spoken of in the text, when He bids us to be like HIMSELF who “is meek ;”fourthly, those which do "hunger and thirst after righteousness;" and what righteo’sness, but that which Christ's Cross wrought out, and which becomes our righteousness when we take on uş the yoke of the Cross? Fifthly, “the merciful,” and as the Cross is in itself the work of infinite mercy, so when we bear it, it makes us merciful. Sixthly, “the pure in heart;" and this is the very benefit which the Cross first does us when marked on our forehead when infants, to sever us from the world, the flesh, and the deyil, to circumcise us from the first Adam, and to make us pure as He is pure. Seventhly, " the peace-makers," and as HE"made peace by the blood of His Cross,” so do we become peace-makers after His pattern. And, lastly, after all seven, He adds, those “which are persecuted for righteousness' sake;"
which is nothing but the Cross itself, and the truest form of His yoke, spoken of last of all, after mention has been made of its fruits.
Such is the character of which the text speaks. A man who is poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart, merciful, peace-making, penitent, and eager after righteousness, is truly (according to a term in current use) a mortified man. He is of a character which does not please us by nature even to see, and much less to imitate. We do not even approve or love the character itself, till we have some portion of the grace of God. We do not like the look of mortification till we are used to it, and associate pleasant thoughts with it. “And when we shall see Him, there is no beauty, that we should desire Him,” says the Prophet. To whom has some picture of saint or doctor of the Church any charm at first sight? Who does not prefer the ruddy glow of health and brightness of the eyes ? - He hath no form nor comeliness," as his LORD and Master before him. And as we do not like the look of saintliness, neither do we like the life. When CHRIST first announced His destined sufferings, Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Be it far from THEE, LORD, this shall not be unto Thet.” Here was the feeling of one who was as yet a mere child in grace; " When he was a child, he spake as a child, he understood as a child, he thought as a child,” before he had “ become a man and had put away childish things.”
This is St. Paul's language, writing to the Corinthians, and he there furnishes us with another description, under the name of charity, of that same heavenly teper of mind in which Christian manhood consists, and which our Lord had already described in the sermon on the Moụnt; He says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” And then He describes it as suffering long, kind, envying not, vaunting not, behaving seemly, unselfish, rejoicing in the truth, slow to be provoked, bearing all things and hoping all. And with this agrees St. James's account of wisdom, that it is “
pụre, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy, and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy 5."
5 James iii. 17.
In all these passages, one and the same character is described acceptable to God, unacceptable to man; unacceptable to man both in itself, and because it involves a change, and that a painful one, in one shape or other. Nothing short of suffering, except in rare cases, makes us what we should be; gentle instead of harsh, meek instead of violent, conceding instead of arrogant, lowly instead of proud, pure-hearted instead of sensual, sensitive of sin instead of carnal. This is the especial object which is set before us, to become holy as He who has called us is holy, and to discipline and chasten ourselves in order that we may become so; and we may be quite sure, that unless we chasten ourselves, God will chasten us. If we judge ourselves through His mercy, we shall not be judged of Him; if we do not afflict ourselves in light things, He will afflict us in heavy things; if we do not set about changing ourselves by gentle measures, He will change us by severe remedies. “I refrain my soul,” says David, "and keep it low, like as a child that is weaned from his mother.” “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection,” says St. Paul. Of course Satan will try to turn all our attempts to his own purposes. He will try to make us think too much of ourselves for what we do; he would fain make us despise others; he will try to ensnare us in other ways. Of course he turns all things to evil, as far as he can; all our crosses may become temptations : illness, affliction, bereavement, pain, loss of worldly prospects, anxiety, all may be instruments of evil; so likewise may all methods of self-chastisement, but they ought not to be, and need not. And their legitimate effect, through the grace
of the Holy SPIRIT, is to make us like Him who suffered all pain, physical and moral, sin excepted, in its fulness. We know what His character was; how grave and subdued His speech, His manner, His acts; what calmness, self-possession, tenderness, and endurance; how He resisted evil; how He turned His cheek to the smiter; how He blessed when persecuted; how He resigned Himself to His God and Father, how He suffered silently, and opened not His mouth, when accused maliciously.
Alas! so it is; not only does the world not imitate such a temper of mind as this; but, if the truth must be spoken, it despises it. As regards, indeed, our Lord's instance itself, the force of education, habit, custom, fear of each other, and some
remaining awe, keep it from reflecting upon the notes of character which the Gospels ascribe to Him, but in His followers, it does discern them, it understands and it condemns them. We are bidden lend and give, asking for nothing again ; revenge not ourselves ; give our cloak when our coat is taken; offer the left cheek when the right is smitten; suffer without complaint; account persons better than they are; keep from bitter words ; pray only when others would be restless to act; deny ourselves for the sake of others; live contented with what we are; preserve an ignorance of sin and of the world : what is all this, but a character of mind which the world scorns and ridicules even more than it hates ? a character which seems to court insult, because it endures it? Is not this what men of the world would say of such a one? “such a man is unfit for life; he has no eye for any thing; he does not know the difference between good and
he is tame and spiritless, he is simple and dull, and a fit prey for the spoiler or defrauder; he is cowardly and narrowminded, unmanly, feeble, superstitious, and a dreamer,” with many other words more contemptuous and more familiar than would be becoming to use in Church. Yet such is the character of which CHRIST gave us the pattern; such was the character of Apostles ; such the character which has even conquered the world. “In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in watchings, in fastings, by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true, as chastened and not killed, as sorrowful yet alway rejoicing;"—these are the weapons of our warfare, “which are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds." These are despised by the world, but they have subdued the world. Nay, though they seem most unmanly, they in the event have proved most heroic. For the heroical character springs out of them. He who has thrown himself out of this world, alone can overcome it; he who has cut himself loose of it, alone cannot be touched by it; he alone can be courageous, who
6 2 Cor. vi. 4-10. x. 4.
does not fear it; he alone firm, who is not moved by it; he alone severe with it, who does not love it. Despair makes men bold, and so it is that he who has nothing to hope from the world, has nothing to fear from it. He who has really tasted of the true Cross, can taste no bitterer pain, no keener joy.
I have been trying to urge on you, my brethren, that the taking of Christ's yoke, and learning of Him, is something very distinct and special, and very unlike any other service and character. It is the result of a change from a state of nature, a change so great as to be called a death or even a crucifixion of our natural state. Never allow yourselves, my brethren, to fancy that the true Christian character can coalesce with this world's character, or is the world's character improved-merely a superior kind of worldly character. No, it is a new character; or, as St. Paul words it, a new creation.” Speaking of the Cross of CHRIST,
“ God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in CARIST JEsus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision, but a new creature?.” It is a new character, and it is one ; it is ever one and the same. It is not one in Apostles, and another in the Christian of this day; not one in the high, another in the low; one in rich, another in poor; one in Englishman, another in foreigner ; one in man, another in woman. Where Christ is put on, St. Paul tells us, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male, nor female, but all are one in CHRIST JESUS 8. What Lazarus is, that must Dives become; what Apostles were, that must each of us be. The high in this world think it suitable in them to show a certain pride and selfconfidence ; the wealthy claim deference on account of their wealth; kings and princes think themselves above instruction from any; men in the middle ranks consider it enough to be decent and respectable, and deem sanctity superfluous in them; the
poor think to be saved by their poverty ;-but to one and all CHRIST speaks,“ Come unto Me,'
." « Learn of ME.” There is but one Cross and one character of mind formed by it; and nothing can be further from it than those tempers and dispositions in which the greater part of men called Christians live. To have
7 Gal. vi. 14, 15.
& Gal. iii, 28.