« PreviousContinue »
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
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 tells us, "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
were pleased and happy, a right temper and an amiable one, but still there is no bearing our cross in this. He beholds us and loves us, but He calls us to something of a more real service. He says, "You have followed me where it was easy, and you have done well, but now prepare for something far more trying, I call you to follow me where it is hard. Be quite sure that there is in you, somewhere or other, a temper or an inclination which do not suit my law. Follow me in this point, and you will know what it is to take up your cross; follow me always, and this point, and many such points, will be found in you." It is easy to be temperate in meat and drink when you are neither hungry nor thirsty. It is easy to speak truth when the truth is convenient and creditable. It is easy to work when the work to be done is pleasant, and when you are strong; but to be temperate always, to speak truth always, to do our appointed work always, this is not easy, this is to bear our cross. And here, in how many points is your cross very near to you, the pleasant fault to be shunned, the painful duty to be done, the scornful smile to be endured and unheeded, the unkindness to be borne without irritation or desire to return evil for evil, the regulation to be kept when it may be broken without detection, and apparently with no worse fault than the simple breaking it; all these things, and such as these, which
run through your lives daily, which you well know from past experience, which are coming or come to you again this half-year, as they came the last; these are the things with regard to which Christ tells you, "One thing thou lackest; come, take up thy cross and follow me." Now may I venture to alter the words of what next follows in the Gospel, while I faithfully keep its spirit: "They were sad at that saying and went away grieved; for they were young and at school." Even so it is, and even such is sometimes the very actual language which may be heard; this is too hard for us; it is not possible to be fully such as we should be at school; there are things, not right we know, but which we cannot help doing; there are things, right we know, but which we cannot here set ourselves to practise; the principles and practice around us must in some degree be ours; we have followed Christ in many things from our youth up, and hope still to follow Him, but this hard saying, to follow Him where it is very painful, to shun the fault which all practise, to do the duty which all neglect, this we cannot do. And even so it is continually; they go away grieved, for they are young, and they are at school.
"Then Jesus looked round about and said, How hardly shall they that are young enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a young man to