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“This spirit shall return to him
O Brother! however feeble thy talent or humble thy world's position, thou art greater than the globe beneath thy feet, or the great stars that roll above thee.
Christ-like Love is greater than either. “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Here is a material representation of a spiritual principle. It does not mean, of course, that we are literally to "take up the cross;" but that we are to be swayed by the same principle of action as that which led Christ to take up the Cross. There must be an identity of moral disposition. The question is, What was the principle that induced Christ to endure such ignominy and suffering ? He could have avoided all this ; He could have appeared in more than Royal affluence and splendor. What influenced Him otherwise ? Here is the philosophy :-"Ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," &c. The principle of self-denial is often enforced from pulpits, but seldom rationally and scripturally explained. It is popularly supposed that, it is the principle that prompts us to give up one good in order to obtain another, and a higher : to give up the world in order to get heaven. This is selfishness in its most iniquitous form. What is it then? It is that sympathy with the claims of God and His universe which make us delightfully oblivious of all mere personal considerations. Christian self-denial is not painful but pleasant; it is not slavery but freedom. Christ's "yoke is easy." The greatest happiness of moral beings is in loving. And the greatest happiness of loving is giving. The sweetest thrill of pleasure springs from the greatest sacrifice of love. How happy is the affectionate mother, when ministering to her sweet suffering infant the produce of her hard earnings. Her nights of refreshing sleep, all her personal comforts, she sacrifices with a hearty pleasure, in order to soothe the anguish of her afflicted babe. The martyr throws his life upon the flame in song.
Now this Christ-like love, which sacrifices the material to the spiritual, the personal to the universal, from an overflowing love to God and His creation, is true religion, and nothing else is. It was “ the love of Christ,” the Christ-like affection that constrained Paul, that was in truth His inspiration; and this Christ teaches, by inference, is greater than either the world or the soul.
The passage leads us to make four remarks in relation to the greatness of this principle :
I. THAT OUR SAFE RELATION TO CHRIST DEPENDS UPON THE POSSESSION OF THIS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross;"- Let him have the principle, that will qualify him to do that which I am doing. Two remarks will illustrate this proposition :
First: That our everlasting well-being depends upon following Christ. Unless we follow Him, act as He acted in relation to God and man, we must inevitably fail of a happy destiny. He is the only perfect example, the only safe guide ;-there is no other way to blessedness but that which He trod. man can come unto the Father,” &c.
Secondly : That without the love that influenced Him we cannot follow Him. Indeed we cannot understand Him without
Love alone understands love. Where there is no love in the heart, there is no eye to see the forms and manifestations of love without. For the want of this, the world understood not Christ and His apostles. Moreover, without this, we cannot be attracted by Him ; for those who have not this love, He has no charms. “He is to them a root out of a dry ground.” The magnetic force of His character can only
act upon kindred souls. Indeed, without this love, you have not a foundation on which a Christian character can be built; not a soil on which a Christian character can grow. Human virtues since the fall, have never grown elsewhere.
II. THAT THE WORTH OF OUR EXISTENCE ITSELF DEPENDS UPON THE POSSESSION OF THIS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” To lose this life or soul, does not mean, of course, to lose its existence-consciousness or moral obligations. All this would seem impossible—but to lose its well-being—to lose all that makes its existence worth having. The idea does not seem, to me, to be, that he who sacrifices his bodily life shall secure his spiritual life, and vice versa ; but that he that seeks his own happiness from selfish considerations in life, will lose it; whilst he who from love to God and man-Christ-like love, forgets himself in the great cause of piety and benevolence, will secure the blessedness of his being. This is an undeniable truth. The laws of our nature render it impossible for a selfish man to be happy. Happiness can never come by seeking it as an end. (1) Moral approbation is necessary to happiness. Where conscience does not approve, Can there be any blessedness ? Impossible. But conscience never has said, never can say, “Well done” to a selfish purpose, a selfish act, still less to a selfish life. (2) The approbation of others is essential to happiness. The consciousness of being loved is an element of gladness. But whilst society may flatter a selfish man, it can never love him. (3) The approbation of God is essential to a happy life. His “well done" is indispensable. “In thy presence," &c. But He never has approved, and never will approve, of a selfish life. (4) The harmonious development of our spiritual powers is essential to a happy life. But this can never take place under the government of selfishness.
It is an eternal law, therefore, that Christ here propounds. The soul that seeketh happiness as its end, is like a man seeking to grasp his shadow; the swifter he runs the swifter runs the shadow. Thus if we would be happy, we must repeat in our own life the sacrifice of Christ; we must give up ourselves to the common cause of benevolence. Indeed, unless we thus sacrifice,-His sacrifice is worthless ; unless we give ourselves, His giving Himself is of no avail to us. He alone understands and appropriates the sacrifice of Christ who has thus sacrificed himself.
III. THAT THE VALUE
TO US, IS MEASURED BY THIS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" &c. There are three remarks suggested here :
First : The possession of the whole world would be useless without this. Avaricious men are constantly striving to gain as much of the world as possible ; but though a few sometimes gain much in comparison with what others have, the greatest possessor holds but a fraction of its vast treasures. But take the supposition ; invest a selfish man, or a man destitute of this Christ-like love with the whole world, is he happy! No, it has only increased his anxieties, augmented his responsibilities, pampered his appetites, carnalized his nature.
Secondly: Nothing in the universe would be of any real service without this. “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”—His happiness? The whole universe of God is of no avail without it.
Thirdly: With it, you really gain the world, and secure the soul. With this love everything is valuable to man; and in a true and glorious sense, everything belongs to him. world is yours, all things are yours."
IV. TAAT THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WILL IMPORTANCE OF POSSESSING THIS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. the Son of Man shall come in his glory,” &c.
He will come in overwhelming glory, come to wind up the affairs of the globe, come to raise the dead, to judge the world, “ to render unto every man according to his works.” Now if you will
refer to a representation of the Day of Judgment contained in the 25th chapter of Matthew, you will find that the everlasting destiny of all on that day will be determined by the possession or non-possession of this principle. “Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these,” &c., or otherwise,
" No work shall find acceptance on that day,
Mark then, brother, well the fact, that this Christ-like love is thy chief good. Without it, thou canst not “follow" Him one step, who is the only true guide of thy being ; without it, thy soul, thyself is lost,—lost to virtue, to usefulness, to true felicity and to God; without it, even the world itself, couldst thou possess it, would conduce nothing to thy real enjoyment; it would only be as music to the deaf, beauty to the blind, luxury and liberty to the paralytic; without it, the approaching day of judgment will be a terrible day for thee. Get then, into thy soul this principle; it is the life of Christ; it is the soul of goodness ; it is the philosophy of the universe ; it is the inspiration of God. There abideth then these three :—the world, the soul, and Christ-like love ; but the greatest of these three is love. The world is nothing without the soul, and the soul is nothing without love. Fill thy soul with love, and thou wilt fill thy universe with all that is good and glorious.
“ The soul, whose sight all-quickening love renews,