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weighed thefe in a juft Balance, the momentary Pleasures and Profits of this Life, with that Eternity of Happinefs or Mifery, that waits us in the next, we can then take a Survey of the Road that leads to our Duty, and view carefully all the Difficulties and Temptations, that lie in our Way; and, when we have made a proper Eftimate of both, ask our Hearts feriously, whether, for the Joys, that are fet before us, in a diftant Country, they are willing to furmount the one, and renounce the other. After we have thus calmly confidered with ourselves all the Arguments against our Lufts, and all the Difficulties of forfaking them, and have reafoned our Wills into an exprefs Confent to abandon them for ever; we can then fall down upon our bended Knees, and, in a folemn Manner, devote ourselves to God's Service, most religiously vowing and promifing, that, whatever we have done amifs, we will never do fo any In Obedience to this Refolution, we can keep ourselves at a wary Distance from our Lufts, and every Thing, that may prove an Excitement to them; at leaft, till we have fo far gotten the Maftery of them, that their Nearnefs ceafes to be a Temptation to us: And, to compleat this Maftery, we can draw off from the Enemy their Succours, by Fafting and Abftinence; can confirm our Party by a religious Obfervation of God's holy Ordinances; and procure fresh Auxiliaries from above, by conftant Invocation and Prayer.
This is certainly what any of us can do: And, if we continue to do this, with an hearty Purpose to extricate ourfelves from the Paths of Deftruction, there is no Doubt, but that God's Grace will be fufficient for us. By the Concurrence of this Principle with our own Faculties, this holy Refolution was at first begotten in us; and therefore 'twill injure the Character of our Heavenly Fa
ther, to think, that, for Want of any Affiftance, fo long as our own Endeavours are not wanting, he will suffer his own Offspring to become abortive.
HE only Place, as I remember, wherein the Duty of Self-denial is exprefsly enjoined us, is in the Difcourfe, which our Saviour held with his Difciples, not long before his Crucifixion; and, to find out the true Sense of the Word, it may not be amifs to enquire a little into fome Circumftances, that occafioned the Difcourfe. Our Saviour, as the Text acquaints us, had, fome Time before, fhewn unto his Difciples, that he must go up to Ferufalem, and fuffer many Things of the Elders, and Chief Priests, and Scribes, and, at laft, be killed. Upon the hearing of this, Peter, who was always particularly zealous for his Mafter's Welfare, prefumes to expoftulate with him, and (as the Text expreffes it) to rebuke him, faying, Be it far from thee, Lord, this fhall not be unto thee. There is a peculiar Emphasis in the Words, Inews σ xúpe, which our Translation does not fo well answer. For they properly mean, Lord, favour thyfelf, or be not fo negligent of thy Safety, as to fuffer fuch Evils to come upon thee. This, in itself, was no unkind Speech of the Apostle; but then the Misfortune was, that he had made no provisional Exception for the Glory of God, nor any Referve for thofe Obligations, which the Caufe of Righteousness required of his Mafter; and for this Reafon he met with so severe a Reprehenfion Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an Offence to me; for thou favoureft not the Things that be of God, but those that be of Men. The Character of this Disciple will hardly admit us to think, that, how much foever his Advice might favour of Flesh and Blood, there was any Spark in it, either of
Pride, Diffimulation, or Malice of Intention, which the Devil is wont to make ufe of in his Addreffes to Mankind; and therefore it may be no bad Conjecture, that our Bleffed Saviour called his Difciple Satan," because he had imprudently run upon the "fame Advice, that Satan employs, the most fuc"cessfully of all others, to ruin and undo Men by, "and that is the Advice of Self-indulgence."
However this be, 'tis certain, that our Saviour takes Occafion, from hence, to recommend two Duties, which himself intended to practife, though little in Ufe, before his Example taught us the Way; Self-denial, which, being a Man's own Act, requires, that he should fuffer from himself by voluntary Inflictions; and taking up our Cross, which, being inflicted by another's Act, (for every condemned Person was, by his Sentence, to bear his Crofs to the Place of Execution) requires a fubmiffive and patient bearing of involuntary Evils, or fuch as the Providence of God ordains to come upon us from other Hands. Then faid Jefus unto his Difciples, if any Man will come after me, in the Capacity of a Difciple, and Profeffor of my Religion, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow me.
From this Expofition of the Context we may obferve, that, by the Word Self, in the Compound, we are not to understand (as some have imagined) any of the criminal Affections of our animal Part, but fuch only as are of an indifferent Nature. In our Conftitution (as we faid in the former Section) we have Appetites, fome that are morally evil, and others, that in themselves are innocent, and only liable to be depraved, if they chance to be immoderately indulged. Of this Kind are the Defires of Ease and Indolence, of proper Refreshments and honest Pleasures, and of avoiding fuch Things, as are noxious and afflicting to human Nature; thefe
were in our Nature from the very firft, even before · Sin had defaced its Purity, and, confequently, our Saviour took them upon him with our Nature, though, it is certain, he partook of nothing that was finful in it. To thefe it was, that St Peter, in the Advice he gave his Master, addressed himfelf; and his Mafter, in his Rejection of that Advice, has given us to understand, that even the most innocent Defires of Nature are, upon fome Occafions, to be reftrained. So that the Sum of the Doctrine, we are to insist on under this Head, will amount to this" That there are voluntary ·
Severities, confifting in the Submiffion of our"felves to many unpleafing Things, tho' other"wife avoidable; and in the Reftraint of ourselves "from many pleasant Things, tho' otherwife lawful, which, upon their respective Occafions, we ought to engage in, as abfolutely neceffary to "make us good Chriftians."
When we find the Christian State so often compared unto a Warfare, it is to let us understand, that there is a neceffary and continual Engagement of our rational Defires against our fenfual, in order to bring them under, and keep them in Obedience; and this is a Warfare, from whence there must be no Difmiffion. There must be no League, no Truce, no laying down of Arms in it: For our Enemies are perfidious, and will never keep Peace; and therefore we are never out of Danger, but while we are actually fighting. St Paul, a Man of Miracles and Vifions, and of Sanctity of Life more glorious than either, even while he was daily fought against from without, by the Malice of Satan and evil Men, was nevertheless obliged to fight against himself, to caft down his Mind, as he calls it, and to beat down his Body, and bodily Affections: And left we might fuppofe, that he did this from a Principle of Vain-glory, the Affectation of Singu
larity, or a fimple Miftake of Judgment, he tells us withal, that the Reafon of his exercifing fuch Discipline over himself was, left, for the Want of it, he might poffibly be a Caft-away: And, if so great a Saint was obliged to maintain this Fight, for Fear of being a Caft-away, who among Chriftians can lay down their Arms, and be fafe?
Now, this fighting with our Appetites and Defires is the very fame Thing, as denying ourselves ; and the Practice of it confifts in reftraining them, and not giving them leave to fatiate themfelves on their particular Objects: For he that gives his Appetites their loose, and their fill, even of Enjoyments, that are otherwife lawful, brings himfelf in Danger of being worsted by them: Because, by what he allows them, they will grow fo very strong, that 'tis a thousand to one, but they will take the reft, in Spite of his Approbation.
Thus, in the ordinary Course of every Man's Life, the Duty of Self-denial is neceffary, even tho' he has never fallen into any flagitious Way: But then, if unhappily he has been engaged in a Course of Sin, the Reasons and Obligations of it become ftronger. To this Purpose, St Paul, fpeaking of the several Offices of Repentance, reckons them up in the following Manner: Behold this felf-fame Thing, that ye forrowed after a godly Sort, what Carefulness is wrought in you, yea, what Clearing of yourfelves, yea, what Indignation, yea, what Fear, yea, what vehement Defire, yea, what Zeal, yea, what Revenge! So that a Man cannot repent, in the Senfe of the Scripture, without bringing himself under the daily Severities of Mourning, and Vigilance, and Reftraint of Delights, and Labour in the Works of Charity, and whatever elfe may conduce to the humbling of our Nature, and taking Revenge upon those Paffions and Defires, whereby we have offended God. And, for this Reafon, I