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have a much smoother road to pass, and a much more delightful prospect to cheer our eyes. To drop this figurative method of speaking, however, which might lead me from my direct purpose, it may be necessary, as a preliminary step, to remark, that in the last three discourses on this text, I have been arguing the greatness of the work of religion, from the opposition with which it meets, the opposition of the devil, the world, and the flesh, the ridicule and the enmity of men, and direct persecution. These were topics of deep and vitally important, though, at the same time, confessedly melancholy interest. I discussed them, not to deter from the work of religion, for there is no salvation without this, but I discussed them for the purpose of letting you know what you must expect if you would be religious. There is nothing which is so likely, under the grace of God, to ensure success in the work of religion, as a proper estimate of the cost of the undertaking; and there is no danger more imminent than to commence or attempt to go on with that work where the cost is not counted. Failure is almost inevitable. There are some remarkable cautions of our Saviour on this subject, and some most pregnant examples. Thus: “If any man come to me, and hate
“ not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This
man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand ? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother : and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye
of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved ? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them,
With men this is impossible ; but with God all things are possible. Then answered Peter, and said unto them, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you,
which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”—“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me to go
first and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."*
Precisely on the principle on which our Lord uttered these cautions, have I discussed at length the opposition to the work of religion which you must expect to encounter. It is to put you on your guard, to prevent the possibility of deception,
• Luke xiv. 25–33. Matthew xix. 16-30. Luke ix. 57—62.
for there are multitudes who commence the work of religion, without a consideration of its cost, without an estimate of its difficulties, and then, when persecution ariseth for the word's sake, or when temptations powerfully assail or difficulties stand in the way, they either quit the pursuit altogether or decline in the path of duty, and render their last state even more hopeless than the first. I desire that you
should feel and know that there is against you a most formidable and tremendous opposition, and that it is only through the successful struggle with this that you are to expect to enter into the kingdom of God. The duty of setting this opposition before you, has been, I trust, most faithfully discharged. I have not, so far as I am aware, shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. And having done so, I feel myself authorized to present the subject in another aspect, an aspect which may seem to take up and apply even to this subject the exquisite consolation of the prophet—"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense ; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass, with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass
over it; but it shall be for those : the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there ; but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads : they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”*
It is my object to-day, my friends, to take up the
IIId general division of my subject, viz: the greatness of the work of religion, from the aids or succours which may be taken advantage of. You will probably remember, that when I commenced the consideration of the opponents to the great work of religion, I attempted to interest your attention by a recurrence to the history with which the text is connected, and I gave you some account of those enemies of Nehemiah, the Ammonite, the Moabite, the Samaritans, with Geshem, the Arab sheik. I also from collated history mentioned the reasons of their several oppositions. In entering upon the consideration of the aids to the great work of religion, the history gives us opportunity of the same ample and interesting illustration, and as a suitable introduc
* Isaiah xxxv. 3—10. Isaiah xl. 29–31.