ON THE RULES PRESCRIBED BY JESUS CHRIST TO HIS FOLLOWERS
Consider first, the laws of the military discipline which Jesus Christ prescribes to all that desire to be soldiers, Matt. xvi 24, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ The observance of these three articles makes a complete soldier of Christ. We must renounce ourselves, we must bear our crosses, and we must walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. The corruption of man by sin, the wounds that sin has left in all the faculties of the soul, the violence of our disorderly passions, and the bent of our natural inclinations to evil, infer a necessity of renouncing ourselves, of fighting against ourselves, and of hating our natural inclinations, if we hope to be happy either here or hereafter. We have not a more dangerous enemy than ourselves, the devil himself cannot hurt us half so much as we hurt ourselves, when we follow our own will, and indulge our own inclinations. The denying, therefore, of ourselves, is the first article of unhappy self-love, the root of all our evils, and its three principal branches, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The Son of God came down from heaven to engage us in the holy warfare. The humility, the poverty, the voluntary sufferings of his birth, of his life, and of his death, were all levelled against these enemies.
Consider 2ndly, that the soldier of Jesus Christ must stand to his colours, he must not run from the cross; he must bear and forbear; he must endure many conflicts; he must patiently submit to, and courageously go through, the labours and hardships of this short campaign of his mortal life. He must not pretend to fare better than his captain and his king. All sufferings and hardships appear nothing to a brave soldier, when he is following his prince, and is happy in his company. The Christian soldier then, must be willing to carry his cross after Jesus Christ, who opened heaven to us by the cross, and conducts his soldiers thither by the way of the cross. Embrace then, O my soul, this happy instrument of thy salvation, in which, if thou bearest it in a proper manner, thou wilt find an inexhaustible source of grace and comfort. Embrace the holy will of God, which lays the cross upon thee, to bring thee to himself. He knows what is best for thee, because he is infinitely wise, and he sends thee what he knows is for the best, because he is infinitely good, and good to thee. Thou canst not be in a safer or better way than in the way of the cross, by which Jesus Christ and all his saints have gone to heaven. Even in this life, the true soldiers of Christ find often a greater sweetness in the cross, than in all the pleasure of this world.
Consider 3rdly, that the soldiers of Christ are all called, even as his first disciples were, to follow him; that is to walk in his footsteps by an imitation of his life. He came down from heaven to be our teacher, and our model, and it is the great duty of all that desire to belong to him, to copy after this blessed original, and to show forth in themselves the life of Jesus Christ; to learn of him to be meek and humble of heart; to learn of him poverty of spirit, a contempt of the honours, riches, and pleasures of this world, and a disengagement of the heart from all earthly things; to learn of him a horror of sin, and an obedience even unto death; in fine, to learn of him a perpetual conformity to the will of God, and an unbounded charity to every neighbour. Such was the life of Jesus Christ, and such ought to be the life of all his soldiers.
Conclude to embrace henceforward this discipline of Jesus Christ, in all its parts. It is a heavenly discipline indeed since he came down from heaven to teach it, and the observance of it is to bring us to heaven.