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which they held," 1 who “ loved not their lives unto the death,”but who “ came out of great tribulation, and washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” 3 as entitled to peculiar distinction before the throne of God."
But the qualification may be regarded perhaps as of a less limited extent, and may be understood to comprehend those disciples of Christ also, who in after ages, for the sake of Christ and his gospel, and of the kingdom of Christ, should suffer persecution : whether such persecution might lead to the actual laying down of their lives in defence of the Christian verity: or might stop short of the last extremity of suffering, and thus not render necessary a
" resistance unto blood.” 4 Or, again, in more peaceable times of the gospel, the conformity to the Saviour intimated by the figurative expressions of the question may probably be accomplished, not so much by a resolute and constant endurance of the perils of persecution, as by a patient, composed, and devout submission to those sufferings, which are more usually incidental to our nature and to our present state of existence.
Or, again, it may be the will of God for such conformity to be manifested, less by the patient endurance of extraordinary persecutions, or even by that of any intense degree of affliction, than by a strict imitation of the example of holiness which Christ has left us, in the general course of our Christian duty, and in a punctual following of his steps, notwithstanding the temptations of our spiritual enemies, through the ordinary offices of a “sober, righteous, and godly life,” 1 and with the meekness and humility of " little children.” 2
1 Rev. vi. 9.
Rev. vii. 14.
• Rev. xii. 11. • Heb. xii. 4.
Thus much indeed may be accounted certain, that an endeavor to “be conformed to the image of the Son of God” 8 through this season of discipline
3 and probation, in such respects and to such a degree, as the state of life, in which it hath pleased God to place us, shall render practicable, is a necessary qualification for all those his disciples, who desire to be admitted to a participation of his glory. And the more completely the Christian can succeed by God's grace, in becoming “conformed
" to the image of his Son,” by subinitting with devout resignation to severer trials, if in the good pleasure of God severer trials await him; or, if not, by “ patient continuance in well-doing," unterrified by the dangers, and unseduced by the allurements, of the world; the more properly may be said to “ drink of the cup of which his Saviour drank, and to be baptized with the baptism which his Saviour was baptized with :” and the more lively hope may he reasonably cherish, that he is a partaker of the qualifications which are necessary for his
Titus ii. 12.
9 Matt. xviii. 4.
8 Rom. viii. 29.
admission to a station of eminence in his Saviour's everlasting kingdom.
CONFORMITY TO CHRIST'S EXAMPLE THE
WAY TO HIS GLORY. Seek thou the image of the Lord to share,
And thou shalt share his glory! If the will
Of God require thee thy heart's blood to spill
And drink affliction's cup; or thro' the still
Calm vale thy course of righteousness fulfil, And his mild yoke in love and pureness wear : Hold fast the Great Exemplar!—Blest are they
Who stem serenely the world's uproar wild, Nor fears dishearten them, nor pains dismay:
Nor they less blessed, who, humbly as a child, Far from the world pursue their blameless way,
And by the world's allurements undefiled.
PRINCIPLE ON WHICH HIGHER DEGREES OF HAPPINESS
WILL BE BESTOWED.
AND this leads us to a consideration of the PRINCIPLE, according to which we presume that stations of eminence will be bestowed by the bounty of God through the merits and on the disciples of the Redeemer.
Here I would again advert to the circumstances
of the narrative on which we have already commented ; and to the condition of the two brethren, the sons of Zebedee, for whom, favored as they were by the special notice and friendship of their Lord during his earthly ministry, special marks of distinction were sought by them and by their mother in their Lord's expected kingdom. Their request on this occasion was evidently founded on their experience of his previous personal regard : and it seems to have been their apprehension that the desired distinction would be conferred on those, whom their Lord should absolutely and arbitrarily choose to be the objects of it, actuated by a feeling of partiality and fondness for their persons, and induced moreover by the solicitations and importunity of their friends.
To correct this erroneous apprehension appears to have been our Lord's purpose; and to assure them that the pre-eminence in his kingdom would not be bestowed in such a manner and from such motives as they vainly imagined, but according to certain rules prescribed by Divine Providence for bestowing them. “ To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but for whom it is prepared of my Father.” As if He had said, Such pre-eminence in my kingdom“ is not mine to give," as you fondly suppose, by any absolute will of mine, or by any arbitrary selection of objects: by any undue partiality or fondness for the persons to be admitted; or out of any undue compliance
with the earnest solicitation of others : “but” these rewards are regulated by the counsels of divine wisdom, which pervade the dispensation whereof I am the Mediator; and, accordingly, in the execution of my mediatorial office, it is mine to give it unto them “ for whom it is prepared of my Father.”
Now, who are they, for whom future blessedness and glory are “prepared of his Father,” he has not left us to conjecture, but has elsewhere graciously informed us.
They are they who love God: for "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” They are they
1 who love their brethren, the brethren of Christ as He is not ashamed to call them, and practise towards them the offices of benevolence and love : for this shall be the language addressed to them by the King, the Son of man, when He shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before Him; “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world : for inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” They are
2 they, who on their passage through this terrestrial scene confess by their conduct that “they are strangers
ii Cor. ii. 9.
* Matt. xxv. 34, 40.