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suffering, every Christian acts against the reason of things that does not endeavour to pay some part of that debt which is due to sin.
Indeed it would be strange to suppose, that mankind were redeemed by the sufferings of their Saviour, to live in ease and softness themselves; that suffering should be the necessary atonement for sin, and yet that sinners should be excused from sufferings.
Such an high-priest became us, says the apostle, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.
Now if the holiness of Christ rendered his sacrifice acceptable to God, does not this teach us that we must labour to be holy, in order to be accepted of God?
But is there not the same reason, and the same example in the sufferings of Christ? If they made God more propitious to sin, must we not as well take this way of suffering, to make ourselves fitter objects of divine pardon?
There is therefore the same reason, in the nature of the thing, for us sinners to endeavour to conform ourselves to the sufferings, as to labour after the holiness of Christ, since they both jointly conspired to recommend the great atonement for sin, and must jointly conspire to render us proper objects of the benefits of it.
Nor is the sinless state of Christ a better reason for us to avoid and flee from sin, than his suffering state is a reason for 'our renouncing all softness and indulgence in pleasures.
Had Christ wanted either holiness or sufferings, his sacrifice had been wanting in an essential part. If therefore we think to be accepted of God by holiness, without suffering, we seem to contradict the nature of our religion as much, as if we thought to be accepted through sufferings without holiness.
It may perhaps be said, in the words of our Liturgy, That Christ, having by his one oblation of himself once offered, made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world, Christians have no occasion to make any sufferings for sin.
To this it may be answered,
That the sacrifice of Christ is full and sufficient; first, as it takes away the necessity of all the legal sacrifices: secondly, as it has no need to be repeated again : and thirdly, as it fully reconciles God to accept of us upon the terms of the new covenant.
Now there is no occasion to suffer for sin, in order to make the sacrifice of Christ more complete, or to add a further value to the atonement for sin; but then it is to be considered, that if self-suffering for sin be a good and reasonable duty in itself, and proper for a sinner, that the fulness of Christ's sacrifice has no more taken away the necessity of it, than it has taken away the necessity of humility, or any other virtue..
Christ is as well said to be our sanctification, our holiness and righteousness, as our atonement for sin; yet we should much mistake the Scripture, if we should think, that because he is our holiness, therefore we need not endeavour to be holy ourselves.
Yet this is as good a conclusion, as to imagine, that we need not suffer for our sins ourselves, because Christ's sufferings are a full atonement for sin.
For they are no otherwise a sufficient atonement for sin, than as Christ is our sufficient holiness; so that
as well trust to his holiness, without labouring to be holy ourselves, as trust to his sufferings, without making ourselves also sufferers for sin.
Let it now therefore be observed, that were there no particular precepts or doctrines, that expressly called us to a state of self-denial and self-suffering, the very nature of religion is an undeniable argument, that the way of suffering is the right and certain way for sinners to find God more propitious to their sin.
He that can doubt of this, must suppose, that God required a way of atonement in Jesus Christ, that had nothing of atonement in it; for if it had, it must be undeniable, that all, who, as far as their natures will allow, conform themselves to the similitude of Christ's sacrifice, must make themselves more acceptable to God.
That Christ's sufferings have not made all other sufferings for sin needless, is plain from hence; that all Christians are still left subject to death : for surely it may with truth be affirmed, that death is a suffering for sin.
Now since all Christians are to offer up their bodies at death, as a sacrifice or suffering for sin, this plainly teaches us, that a state of self-denial and suffering is the proper state of this life: for surely it must be proper to make every part of our life suitable to such an end.
Does God unmake us, and dash our very form into pieces, and can we think that a life of pleasure and self-indulgence can become us under such a sentence ?
What plainer proof can we have, that we are devoted sufferers for sin, than that we are devoted to death? For death hath no place in a state of allowed pleasure and enjoyment. When the suffering for sin is over, there will be no more death ; but so long as death lasts, so long are all beings that are subject to death, in a state that requires humiliation and suffering ; and they rebel against God, if they do not make their lives conformable to that mark of divine displeasure, which death signifies.
Thus as the mortality of our condition is a certain proof that our life is in disorder, and unacceptable to God, so is it also a proof, that we ought to refuse pleasures and satisfactions, which are the pleasures of a state of disorder, and stay for joy and delights till we are removed to such a state of perfection, as God will delight to continue to all eternity.
The apostle tells us, that flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of God; must we not therefore be very unreasonable, if we can cast about for mirth in such a condition, or give up ourselves to the vain pleasures and indulgencies of a flesh and blood, which are too corrupt, too unholy to enter into the kingdom of God?
This may suffice to show us the excellency and reasonableness of our Saviour's doctrine.
He said unto them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
Here is a common condition proposed to all that would be Christ's disciples, they are called to deny themselves, and take up their cross daily. To show us that this belongs to all Christians, the apostle saith, He said unto them all; St. Mark hath it thus, And when he had called the people unto him, with his disciples also, he said unto theni.
The church of Rome refuses to give the cup in the holy sacrament to the laity. We reckon it a very good argument against that custom, that our Saviour, when he delivered the cup, said unto them, Drink ye all of this.
Now if it be an argument that all Christians are to receive the cup, because in the institution of the sacrament it is said, Drink ye all of this, is it not as good an argument that all Christians are here called to deny themselves, and take upt heir cross daily, because it is delivered in the same manner, He said unto them all; and again, When he called the people unto him, with his disciples also, he said unto them?
To me this place seems as general a call to all Christians, as, Drink ye all of this, is a general command to all Christians. Let any one try to evade the obligation of this text, and he will find that he must use such arguments, as will equally serve to get rid of any other part of holy Scripture.
If this passage only called the first disciples of Christ to an external state of sufferings and persecutions from other people, it might with some pretence be supposed only to relate to people, when they are in such a state of persecution.
But as it calls them to deny themselves, to take up their cross daily, it is plain, that it calls them to a suffering and self-denial which they were to inflict upon themselves.
Now if they are thus called to deny themselves, and subject themselves to a voluntary cross, in order to be Christ's disciples, it will be hard to show that self-denials are not as lasting terms of Christianity, as baptism and the Lord's supper.
Water-baptism is necessary, because our Saviour has instituted it, and the reason for continuing it is the same as for observing it at first. But still it is but an external rite or sacrament, which, in its own nature, hath nothing relating to holiness and purification of the soul, but has all its excellency from the institution of Christ.
This cannot be said of these sort of suffering's, for they have an internal and essential relation to holiness and purification in the present state of man.
I say in the present state of man, because though these self-denials or mortifications are only proper to man whilst he is in this state of corruption, yet they are as true parts of holiness, and as essential virtues, as those which will last for ever.
Charity to the poor is founded in the necessities and infirmities of this life, yet is it as real a degree of holiness, and as much to be performed for its own sake as that charity which will never have an end.
It is the same in these self-denials, they only