“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Acts 11:26
The Christian world is unhappily divided into numerous sect and parties, called by different names and holding different opinions. There are Papists and Protestants; Lutherans and Calvinists; Presbyterians and independents; Methodists and Baptists; and many others which we cannot now enumerate. These names have been given, generally, out of scorn and contempt. Perhaps the same may be affirmed of the name Christian, the name in which Christians profess to glory. In the first period of the Lord's church,the followers of Jesus were despised by by Jews and gentiles, and it is possible that the men of Antioch called them Christians by derision. But the general opinion is that they were so called by divine appointment. But leaving the name, let us inquire into the thing intended. What is implied in being a Christian? How may we become Christians? And what advantages do we derive from Christianity? To be a Christian implies, in the first place a sincere belief of all the doctrines of Christ, whether delivered by Christ himself or by his holy apostles. A Christian has examined the doctrines of Christ, with serious attention. He has been convinced of their truth; and he openly professes and avow s them before the world. To profess Christianity without believing it is rank hypocrisy; to believe without examination is absurd and ridiculous; and to believe without an open profession of our faith is criminal cowardice. We do not pretend to say that the faith of everyone is built upon the same degree of evidence, but every believer has sufficient evidence to satisfy his own mind. And when that evidence has sufficient weight to convince him of the truth, he embraces it with a thankful heart, renounces all other systems of doctrine, and takes the New Testament as his creed, viewing Christ as an infallible teacher, and the holy apostles as men divinely inspired.
Another thing implied in being a Christian is regeneration, or a real change of heart. For, "except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God”(John 3:3) “Except one be born of the water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God(John 3:5) The water refers to baptism and the Spirit refers to the renewing of the mind by the teachings of the Holy Spirit who produces faith and repentance. A bare belief without a new life in the heart does not make us real Christians. When we believe the doctrines of Christ, we are enlightened; and it is is by following that light that we are led into Christianity. Thus,the light discovers our sifnul condition. This discovery humbles us before God and produces sincere repentance. Repentance is a change of the mind , brought on by godly sorrow for sin, and which leads to a change of life. This leads to the obedient act of baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
. To imagine that a man may become a Christian, without a change of heart is contrary to the united testimony of Christ and all his apostles. This change of mind and life was constantly urged and generally experienced in the apostolic age. If a Christian has experienced no change of heart, what has te gospel done for him? He remains in his sins. If his heart be the same as it was before, he may be proud , covetous, and sensual. These dispositions are as contrary to Christianity, as darkness is to light. He may be a murmurer and a complainer; he may be fretful, peevish, and impatient. In short, without a change of heart he may be totally destitute of that. love to God and man, which is the life and soul of pure religion. 0, let no person claim this honorable title until he is renewed in the spirit of his mind by the Holy Spirit through the teachings of the New Testament.
A true Christian obeys the commands of Christ, and this is the best proof of his love and attachment to the Christian religion. Our Lord said to his disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments”(John 14:15). If we do not obey Christ, we deny him as our king, and may be accounted his enemies, but if we obey him he owns us as his friends. “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you”(John 15:14). “And hereby we know that we knopw Him, if we keep His commandments. By this we are assured that we know him. Hereby we do know we know him if we keep his commandments. He who says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in hirn”(1 John 2:3,4) Do we deny his authority? Do we trample his laws under our feet? What, then, is our claim to the Christian character? In this case, the devil has as good a claim to the title of a servant of God, as we have to that of Christians. Obedience proves the reality of our faith, an4 our outward conduct proves the reality of :our faith, and our outward conduct proves the reality of the inward grace. The blessedness of a Christian, both in his present feelings and in his future prospects is founded on his obedience to his Lord and Master. “Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”(Revelation 22:14). Last1y, a Christian openly confesses Christ before men. “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt.10: 32, 33). After making the good confession at baptism that He is the divine Son of God, if we refuse to confess him, through fear, shame, ä love of the world, or any thing else, we render ourselves unworthy of his name. The first Christians publicly confessed Christ as the the Divine Son of God at baptism. No one has a right to baptism who dose not believe that Christ was both human and divine. He was Immanuel, God with us. Circumcision in the Jewish religion symbolized baptism in the Christian religion. Peter says that baptism saves us. As uncircumcised people could make no claim to being the children of Abraham in the Jewish religion, so unbaptized people can make no claim to being Christians in the Christian religion. None have a right to wear the name Christian until baptism(Colossians 2:11,12). But this is not the the only way in whicha Christians confesses Christ. They openly avow their love to Christ, and are companions of the followers of Christ. They feel a deep interest in the cause of Christ, and they do everything in their power to support and propagate Christianity in the world. When the church prospers, Christians rejoice, but when she declines they weep and mourn. Christians contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.*
* Many of the good thoughts in this message were taken from a sermon written by Jonathan Edmondson, a 19th century Preacher.