The Unchanging Cost of Discipleship
"God forbid," said St. Paul, "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."1
I desire to know why any Christian should think it less dreadful not to be crucified and dead to the world than St. Paul thought it? Is not the spirit which the Apostle shows here as much to be aspired after as in any other part of Scripture?
Or can they be said to have the spirit of Christ who are directed by a spirit contrary to that of the Apostle? Yet the Scripture says expressly that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."2
This renunciation of the world, which is thought too great an extreme to be taken from the command to the young man in the gospel, is at the very heart of Christianity. It is indeed the natural soil, the proper stock from whence all the graces of a Christian naturally grow forth; it is a disposition most necessary and most productive of virtue.
Let us suppose that rich men are now enjoying their riches and taking all the common delights of plenty, that they are projecting and contriving scenes of pleasure and spending their money lavishly.
Let it be imagined that we saw the holy Jesus, who had not where to lay His head, with His twelve disciples who had left all to follow Him.
Let us imagine that we heard Him call all the world to take up the cross and follow Him, promising a treasure in heaven to those who would quit all for His sake, rejecting all who would not comply with such terms and pronouncing woe and eternal death upon all who lived in pomp and worldly delights.
Let us imagine that we heard Him commanding His disciples to take no thought of what they should eat or drink or with what they should be clothed, saying that "after all these things the Gentiles seek."3
Let it be further imagined that we saw the first Christians taking up the cross, renouncing the world, and counting all but dung that they might gain Christ. Let the imagination determine whether it is possible for two sorts of men to be true disciples of the same Lord.
Let us suppose that a rich man was to make this kind of prayer to God: "0 Lord, I, thy sinful creature, who am born again to a lively hope of glory in Jesus Christ, beg of thee to grant me a thousand times more riches than I need that I may be able to gratify myself and my family in the delights of eating and drinking and a state of grandeur.
Grant that as the little span of life wears out, I may still abound more and more in wealth and that I may perceive all the best and surest ways of growing richer than my neighbors. . . ."
There is no one, I believe, who would not be ashamed to make this kind of prayer to God. However, all who have not truly overcome the world are guilty of the spirit of such a prayer.
As we live, so we really pray, for as Christ says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."4
As the manner of our life is, so is our heart; it is continually praying what our life is acting, though not in any express form of words.
Dare we approach God with such a spirit? How dare we then think of approaching Him with such a life?
Need we any other conviction that this manner of life is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and that the praying of it in Christ's name comes near to blasphemy?
We may indeed do several innocent things which, on account of their littleness, do not adversely affect our devotions. But if the main actions of our life are not such as we may justly beg the assistance of God's Holy Spirit in the performance of them, we may be assured that such actions make our lives as unholy as wrong petitions.
I think it is sufficiently plain that the present disciples of Jesus Christ have no more to do with worldly enjoyments than those whom He chose while He was upon earth, and that He expects as much devotion to God and heavenly affection from us as from any that He conversed with.
I. Galatians 6: 14
2. Romans 8:9
3. Mattbew 6:32
4. Mattbew 6:21