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upon by our Lord to give, could not make up his mind to part with what he loved so dearly. But indeed I had no such meaning; I chose the text for another purpose than this. Your almsgiving is a source of great pleasure to me, but I was not particularly thinking of that to-day. Seeing you here once again assembled, to remain here together in the natural course of things for a period of four months, it seems to me that something deeper and more general must suggest itself concerning you, than the wish to see you practise any one particular duty. For as St. Paul has truly supposed, that a man might give all his goods to feed the poor, and yet be nothing, much more is it possible that one might give, and even give liberally, out of his superfluities, and yet be nothing. And then what are we profited by such giving? Much rather, seeing you all, so many living souls, for whom we must give account, and who must also give account for yourselves; the one thought that rises in the mind is the earnest desire that you be not nothing but something; that you should give your account with joy and not with grief; that you should be not enemies of God, nor murmuring slaves, but His true and loving children, forgiven and accepted in Jesus Christ.
Then the application of the text to us this day becomes clear and striking, taking it not in its letter but in its spirit. There came a young man to
Christ, to ask Him what he should do to inherit eternal life; and Christ named to him some of the ten commandments, to which the young man replied, “All these have I observed from my youth.” Then says the evangelist, “ Jesus beholding him loved him.” This is, as it were, the first part of the story, and surely this case is very like our own. Are not we here come avowedly to learn of Christ, to be brought up in Christian truths and principles for this life and for life eternal ? And if Christ were to ask us of our knowledge and of our practice, surely a large proportion of us would be able to answer that they knew the main truths of the Gospel and the main distinctions between good and evil; and many of us might go farther, and say, not indeed that all their common and most obvious duties they had followed from their youth up, but at least that they had followed many of them, and desired still to follow them; that from much evil they had been accustomed to shrink, and purposed and hoped to shrink from it still. And so great is the tenderness of our Lord Jesus Christ to all his people, and especially to the young, that when He sees any of you so living as I have described, living, that is, respectably and amiably, guilty of no gross sins, and doing many duties, loved by your friends, and affectionate to them in return; it is not too much to say that Christ loves you; that His eye is upon you with a loving anxiety; that He regards you with nothing of severity nor of threatening, but with an earnest desire that you may become wholly His, and be loved by Him for ever.
So it is then, so we may venture to apply it, that we stand before Christ to-day. Jesus beholding us loves us. His voice to us is nothing harsh but full of gracious encouragement; all that there is of good in us He acknowledges and regards with approbation and love. But let us hear His words, for he speaks to the young man who had just declared that He had constantly kept His commandments, and whom as He beheld him He loved : “One thing thou lackest : go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” What is this when addressed to us, will He, does He find, that there is one thing which we lack also, and which He bids us without delay to gain? Or might He say to us that we are all clean, all His true servants, going on from good to better, and lacking nothing at all but that ripeness which added years will not fail to give us? If our consciences will not suffer us to believe this, then it must be that Christ is saying to us, “One thing thou lackest;" there may be many things which we lack, but there must at least be one.
Now the one thing which He sees wanting in so many of us, is expressed clearly in the latter part of His words to the young man in the Gospel. He
Come, take up the cross, and follow me.”
The words are figurative we see when He says, “ Take up the cross,” and we may ask what
, the figure means.
But we know that in the Latin language, the term crux, or cross, had been long used to express generally any great pain or evil; and the words crucio and cruciatus derived from it are yet used only generally; they do not express literally the pain or suffering of crucifixion, but pain and torment simply. And this manner of speaking had come into use, because the Romans used the punishment of crucifixion commonly, not only towards slaves, but towards criminals generally of their subject nations, unless they were persons of high condition. So that when our Lord tells the young man to take up his cross, it meant exactly, “ Bear thy pain or thy suffering, whatever it may be, and follow me.” And so He had said in another place, “He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me;” meaning the very same thing; he who does not submit willingly to his pain or suffering, and continue to follow after me notwithstanding the pain, he is not worthy of me. In both places we see that the taking up the cross is joined with the following after Him; in both places the cross means the same thing—cruciatum rather than crucem, pain, suffering, burden, evil hard to bear, let the particular kind be what it may.
Now to take one of those seeming contradictions in the Scriptures, of which I have spoken so often, as containing some of the Scripture's most useful lessons, let us put side by side our Lord's words, “Take up thy cross and follow me," and His other words, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In one place He seems to call His followers to the most painful service, in the other to tell them that their pain will be nothing at all. What is now called our cross, that strong term signifying the extremity of pain and suffering, is again called an easy yoke, and a light burden. Take them out of their right order, and they are falsehood and death; take them in their right order and according to Christ's mind, and they are truth and life.
He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. We were following Him, not taking up our cross : we were following Him where to follow Him was easy, and it is many times very easy. We loved those who loved us; we were glad to please them; it is good and right so to do, but surely not very hard or painful. We abstained from low vices, vices disgusting and discreditable; good and right also, but surely involving no severe sacrifice. We were good-natured and good-humoured when we