« السابقةمتابعة »
of Christ, in every period of time, seems to have been not unworthy of divine interposition.
III. The next inquiry which arises on this subject respects the propriety and import of this name.
1. Of its propriety no doubt can be entertained. It has always been usual in the schools of philosophy, and in the sects arising out of a difference of opinion in religion, to give to the partizans the name of the founder. Thus the Platonists were so styled from Plato, the Pythagoreans from Pythagoras, the Aristotelians from Aristotle, the Sadduceans from Zadoc. The propriety of the followers of Christ taking their name from him was still more striking. The respective leaders we have mentioned merely communicated their opinions to their followers; and, after they quitted the present [state], had no further influence over them; the conviction ceased for ever. It is far otherwise with the disciples of Christ: he is now as much as ever their living head; he lives in them, and they live by him. To them he stands in the same relation as the natural head to the members. It is not a civil, but a vital-not a temporary, but a perpetual and eternal union, which subsists betwixt Christ and his followers. By a sacred and mysterious influence, he imparts his very image to his disciples; and it is surely fit they should receive their name from him from whom they have derived their nature.
In bestowing the appellation of Christians on the disciples of Christ, God may be considered as fulfilling that gracious declaration, "Thou shalt be
called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name ;"*"The Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name."+
It soon began to prevail to the exclusion of every other. When Peter wrote his first epistle, it seems to have been in familiar use: "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." St. James styles it "that worthy name;" it is truly a most excellent and honourable appellation: "Do they not blaspheme that worthy name, by which ye are called?"§ In the times of persecution, the only question asked of such as were arraigned at the tribunal of the magistrate was, "Are you a Christian?" To answer this in the affirmative was looked upon as in every way to justify the proceeding to the utmost extremities. And in the midst of the sharpest torments, the martyrs found a relief and refreshment in repeating, at each pause of agony, "I am a Christian."
2. The proper import of this name is, a follower of Christ: it denotes one who, from mature deliberation and an unbiassed mind, embraces the religion of Christ, receives his doctrine, believes his promises, and makes it his chief habitual care to shape his life by his precepts and example.
The christian and the man of the world are diametrically opposite characters; since it is a chief part of our Saviour's design, and the great
*Isa. lxii. 2.
1 Pet. iv. 16.
+ Isa. lxv. 15.
§ James ii. 7.
scope of his religion, to redeem us from the present evil world.
The christian is one who professes to have attained such a practical knowledge of Christ as engages him to walk even as he walked. The rules by which he lives are the words of Christ; his example is the model after which he copies; the happiness he aspires to is that of being for ever with the Lord.
Here it is too apparent that multitudes assume the name of christian, to whom it is, in strict propriety, utterly inapplicable. Educated in a country where christianity is the established religion, they acquiesce in its truth, or, perhaps, never thought the inquiry, whether it were true or not, of sufficient importance to engage their attention. But to whatever distinguishes the real christian-his faith, his hope, his charity; to whatever relates to a spiritual union with Christ-faith in his sacrifice, delight in his person, or an animating hope of his appearance, they remain total and contented strangers. They have neither any share in these things, nor are dissatisfied at the consciousness of not possessing them. They feel no scruple in associating the name of Christ with many, perhaps, of the vices, and with all the spirit of the world. This assumption of the name of Christ, without aspiring to the least resemblance to his character, has done incalculable injury to the interest of religion. To this, more than to any other cause, we must
ascribe the little progress vital christianity has made in the world. It is [this] that imboldens the scoffer, encourages the infidel, the profligate, the votaries of paganism, and seals the eyes of the impenitent in every nation in deeper and more death-like slumber: "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written."* The time is coming when the Lord Jesus will vindicate the honour of that name which wicked men have disgraced. It had been better for them not to have named the name of Christ, than, having named it, not to depart from all evil.
IV. Let me take occasion from these words to urge you to become christians in reality and truth. The name, without the reality, will only augment your guilt and aggravate your doom; but the possession of genuine religion will add unspeakably to your happiness both here and hereafter. To be a partaker of Christ is to be at peace with God; to have peace of conscience, to possess a beneficial interest in all things, and an assured hope of life everlasting. He came that you might have life, and more than life. He came to give rest to your souls, to afford you strong consolation under the sorrows of the world, support in the hour of death, and an entrance, when your mortal course is ended, into the glory to be revealed. He is ready to vanquish your spiritual enemies for you, to cleanse you from all your impurities, purge
*Rom. ii. 24.
you from all your guilt, and make you "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." While the bare profession of christianity will bestow neither profit nor delight, the possession of it in reality will be replete with both, and will afford the "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."* It will deliver you from a thousand snares against which there is no other relief; emancipate you from the bondage of a multitude of degrading passions, and invest you with the "glorious liberty of the children of God." However lightly you may esteem it now, be assured that the moment is coming when, to belong to Christ, to be in union with him, will be felt to be a greater happiness than to be master of the world. Every other honour will fade; every other distinction will pass away; every other enjoyment be exhausted; while the crown of righteousness which Christ will give to his sincere followers will shine with undecaying brightness through the ages of eternity. Let the young be persuaded it will add unspeakable grace to the charms of youth; temper its vivacity with wisdom, tincture its passions with innocence, and form it for a happy, useful, and honourable life. It will be an ornament to youth, a safe directory in the active pursuits of life, a staff and a consolation amidst the decays and infirmities of age. To see you set out in the ways of Christ will afford the highest satisfaction to the church of God; the 1 Tim. iv. 8.