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If we were correct in our remarks upon the Sermon on the Mount, p. 237, we must assign to this period the following words of Christ (Matt., vii., 22): “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”565565 There is internal proof that this passage was not (as some suppose) ascribed to Christ as a post factum prediction. Those who suppose this must conceive that the passage was invented to oppose the heretics, who boasted of miraculous powers. But in that case false doctrine would have been made more prominent than bad actions; and even the appearance of recognizing their works as real miracles would have been avoided. Words referring to that period in which Christ had already imparted miraculous powers to the disciples, and had to warn them against the danger of losing sight of the sole object of their works, in the splendour and notoriety of the works themselves. Christ then, with his piercing glance into the future, announces that not the doing great works in his name, but holy dispositions and aims alone, would be an infallible sign of discipleship. He, who recognized as his own such as gave a cup of cold water to the least in his name, repulsed, as aliens, those who pretended to do great works in his name; the disposition shown in their lives made it manifest that, although his name was upon their lips, it was not in their hearts. To such, also, might be applied his saying, “He that is not with me is against me.”
An attempt at a nearer definition of the relation in which such persons and their works stood to Christ may be made as follows: They were perhaps really, at first, in communion with him, and thus participated in the Divine life from which these miraculous powers went forth; but afterward—rejoicing more that they were able to cast out devils than that their names were written in the Book of Life—their very works became a snare to destroy them, and their higher life was lost in outward appearance. After the principle of life was gone, single and separate impulses may yet have remained. Isolated efforts may continue after the prime cause is destroyed; there may be life-like convulsions when life has departed forever. Compare what Paul says in 1 Cor., xiii., 1-3, about such separate good deeds when uninspired by the life of love.
It may be objected, however, that Christ betokens these as persons whom he had never known as his own. As such, we must believe that the new birth had never been fully realized in them; that they had been predominantly selfish from the first; that none but isolated impulses of the higher life, mere exaltations of the natural feelings or imagination, had ever found place in them. We must remember well that stimulated natural powers may do many things apparently resembling the work of Divine power, but, in fact, very different from it.
Many persons, in the places to which Christ came, were so powerfully affected by his preaching as to wish earnestly to attach themselves to him forever; but he did not receive all. Some, carried away by transient emotions, felt willing to promise more than they could perform; and he took pains to lay before such the sufferings and struggles they must undergo as his followers, the sacrifices and self-denial which devotion to him must cost.
One of these, who probably went with him a little distance from a village where he had stayed a short time,566566 If stress is to be laid upon Luke, ix., 56, 57, these little narratives, which fit so aptly to this part of the history, stand in a much clearer chronological and pragmatical connexion in Luke, ix., than in Matt., viii. said unto him, “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” Christ bade him reflect well before taking such a step: “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head;” expressing the privations and necessities to which all who followed him thereafter would expose themselves. Another whom he invited to follow him, as he was about departing, said, “Suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Under other circumstances Christ would not have hindered the indulgence of such a filial love; but he made use of this case to show, by a striking example, that those who sought to follow him must deny natural feelings that were otherwise entirely sacred, when the interests of the kingdom of God required it. “Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Let those who are themselves dead, who know nothing of the higher interests of the kingdom of God or the Divine life, attend to the lifeless clay. But thou, upon whom the Divine life, which conquers all death, is opened, thou must devote thyself wholly to propagate it by preaching the Gospel. It is for the dead to care for the dead; the living for the living.) So in answer to another, who said, “Let me first go and bid them farewell which are at home at my house,” Christ expressed a similar thought: “No one having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”567567 Wetstein adduces, in illustration of this passage, the beautiful Pythagorean sentiment of Simplicius, in his Commentary on Epictetus: εἰς τὸ ῖερον ἀπεοχάμενος μὴ ἐπιστρίφου (no one can become a proper organ of the kingdom who does not give himself up to it with undivided soul, suffering no earthly cares to distract him).
At a certain point of this journey, whole hosts of people, attracted by Christ’s appearance and preaching, followed after him (Luke, xiv., 25). Ha took pains to impress upon the minds of this multitude the necessary conditions of fellowship with him; that they were not to expect the appearance of Messiah’s kingdom in its glory upon the earth, and, therefore, to look for nothing but ease and enjoyment in his communion; nay, on the other hand, said he, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, &c., yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (The nearest and dearest earthly ties must not stand in the way of the kingdom of God.) “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”568568 It is involved in the very idea of following Christ, that he who does it decides to “bear his own cross.” The sense of this phrase is well illustrated in Plutarch (de Sera Numinis Vindicta, c. ix.), who says, that “As wickedness bears its own punishment along with it, so the wicked man bears his own cross.” Καὶ τῶ μέν σώματι τῶν κολαζομένων ἕκαστος κακούργοιν ἐκφέρει τὸν αύτοῦ πταυρόν· ἡ δὲ κυκία τ8ῶν καλαστηριων ἐφ᾽ ἐαυ τὴν ἕκαστον ἐξ αὐτῆς τεκταὲνεται, ... τις .... . This passage shows that Christ might have employed the phrase without any known reference to his death; the form of the expression is, therefore, no proof that the passage was modified after his death upon the cross. But John tells us that Christ did allude to his impending death upon the cross in the use of the word ἐψωῦν (xii., 32); and this may have been, and probably was, before his mind, in connexion with his being delivered over to the heathen, when he used the phrase in John. The passage in Matthew, therefore, may be taken as affording a similar sense; and thus John and the Synoptical Gospels agree in stating that Christ intimated the mode of his death. (As Christ, condemned to death upon the cross, must himself carry the instrument of his sufferings and ignominy, so his true followers must be prepared to undergo, of their own accord, all sufferings and shame.)
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