I have been trying to urge on you, my brethren, that the taking of Christ's yoke, and learning of Him, is something very distinct and special, and very unlike any other service and character. It is the result of a change from a state of nature, a change so great as to be called a death or even a crucifixion of our natural state. Never allow yourselves, my brethren, to fancy that the true Christian character can coalesce with this world's character, or is the world's character improved—merely a superior kind of worldly character. No, it is a new character; or, as St. Paul words it, "a new creation." Speaking of the Cross of Christ, he says, "God forbid 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. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." [Gal. vi. 14, 15.] It is a new character, and it is one; it is ever one and the same. It is not one in Apostles, and another in the Christian of this day; not one in the high, another in the low; one in rich, another in poor; one in Englishman, another in foreigner; one in man, another in woman. Where Christ is put on, St. Paul tells us, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus [Gal. iii. 28.]. What Lazarus is, that must Dives become; what Apostles were, that must each of us be. The high in this world think it suitable in them to show a certain pride and self-confidence; the wealthy claim deference on account of their wealth; kings and princes think themselves above instruction from any; men in the middle ranks consider it enough to be decent and respectable, and deem sanctity superfluous in them; the poor think to be saved by their poverty;—but to one and all Christ speaks, "Come unto Me," "Learn of Me." There is but one Cross and one character of mind formed by it; and nothing can be further from it than those tempers and dispositions in which the greater part of men called Christians live.
To have one's own way, to follow one's own tastes, to please one's self, to have things to one's mind, not to be thwarted, to indulge in the comforts of life, to do little for God, to think of Him now and then indeed, but to live to this world; to aim at things of this world; to judge of things by our own accidental judgment, be it better or worse; to measure religious men, to decide upon right or wrong in religion, by our favourite fancy; to take a pride in forming and maintaining our own opinion; to stand upon our rights; to fear the hard words and cold looks of men, to be afraid of being too religious, to dread singularity; to leave our hearts and minds, our thoughts, words, and actions, to take care of themselves:—this, on one side or the other, in this measure or that, is the sort of character which the multitude, even of what are called respectable men, exemplify; and no wonder, this being the case, that they speak against those who have, or strive to have, a more serious view of religion, and whose mode of living condemns them. If there be but one character of heart that can please God, both of these contrary characters cannot please Him, one or the other does not; if the easy religion is right, the strict religion is wrong; if strict religion is right, easy religion is wrong.
Let us not deceive ourselves; there are not two ways of salvation—a broad and a narrow. The world, which chooses the broad way, in consequence hates and spurns the narrow way; and in turn our Blessed Lord, who has chosen for us the narrow way, hates, scorns, spurns, denounces, the broad way. Surely He does so; He hates the broad way as entirely as the world hates the narrow way; and if we are persuaded to take part with the world, we take part against Him. When St. Peter said, "Be it far from Thee, Lord," being shocked at the notice that his Lord should suffer, what was His answer? Did He thank him for his zeal? Did He, at least, let it pass in silence? He answered, "Get thee behind Me, Satan, for thou art an offence unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." [Matt. xvi. 23.] And in like manner to the corrupt church of Laodicea He says, "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will cast thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not, that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." And then He adds: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten;" that is, He puts on them His yoke; "Be zealous therefore and repent." [Rev. iii. 16-19.]
To conclude. If Almighty God moves any of us, so that we have high thoughts; if from reading Scripture or holy books we find that we can embrace views above the world; if it is given us to recognize the glory of Christ's kingdom, to discern its spiritual nature, to admire the life of saints, and to desire to imitate it; if we feel and understand that it is good to bear the yoke in our youth, good to be in trouble, good to be poor, good to be in low estate, good to be despised; if in imagination we put ourselves at the feet of those mortified men of old time, who, after St. Paul's pattern, died daily, and knew no one after the flesh; if we feel all this, and are conscious we feel it; let us not boast—why? because of a surety such feelings are a pledge to us that God will in some way or other give them exercise. He gives them to us that He may use them. He gives us the opportunity of using them. Dare not to indulge in high thoughts; be cautious of them, and refrain; they are the shadows of coming trials; they are not given for nothing; they are given for an end; that end is coming. My brethren, count the cost; never does God give faith but He tries it; never does He implant the wish to sit on His right hand and on His left, but He fulfils it by making us wash our brethren's feet. O fearful imaginations, which are sure to be realized! O dangerous wishes, which are heard and forthwith answered! Only may God temper things to us, that nothing may be beyond our strength!