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So that it is necessary that our lives be a state of regimen, that we live by such rules as are contrary to this variety of disorders, as it is necessary for a man under a complication of habitual distempers to enter into a course of regularity.
I suppose it will be readily granted, that all tempers are increased by indulgence, and that the more we yield to any disposition, the stronger it grows; it is therefore certain, that self-denial is our only cure, and that we must practise as many sorts of self-denial, as we have ill tempers to contend with.
Pride, hypocrisy, vanity, hatred, and detraction, are all disorderly indulgences, and have their only care in self-denial, as certainly as drunkenness and sensuality.
To deny one's self all indulgences of pride and vanity, all instances of falseness and hypocrisy, of envy and spight, requires greater care and watchfulness, and a more continual self-denial, than to avoid the motives to intemperance.
And he that thinks to render himself humble any other way, than by denying himself all instances of pride, is as absurd as he who intends to be sober, without abstaining from all degrees of intemperance. For humility as truly consists in the practice of things that are humõle, as justice consists in the doing things that are just.
Every virtue is but a mere name, and empty sound, till it shows itself by an abstinence from all indulgences of the contrary vices, till it is founded in this self-denial.
Now this is readily granted to be true in all sensual vices, that they are only to be cured by a perpetual self-denial.
But the practice of the same self-denial is as absolutely required, to destroy every ill temper of the mind, as any sort of sensuality.
Self-love, pride, vanity, revenge, hypocrisy, and malice, are acknowledged to be very gross sins, and indeed they are of the very nature of the devil, and as certainly destroy the soul, as murder and adultery.
But the misfortune is, that we govern ourselves in these tempers, not by what is sinful according to the principles of religion, but by what is odious in the eyes of the world. We do not labour to avoid the sin, but are content to avoid what is scandalous in it.
Thus for instance, people would not be thought proud; but then they are afraid of no degrees of it, but such as the world condemns: they do not form their lives by the Scripture-rules of humility, but only endeavour to be decent and fashionable in their pride.
Others would be very sorry to be remarked for an envious and malicious spirit, who, at the same time, make the faults of their acquaintance the pleasure of their lives, and turn all their conversation into evilspeaking and detraction.
Now all this proceeds from hence, that they govern themselves by the spirit of the world : the world allows of evil-speaking and detraction, and therefore they practise it openly, though it is as contrary to religion as murder and injustice.
And thus it will be with all these wicked tempers, till we practise an universal self-denial, and labour after a religious perfection in all our ways of life.
We are certainly under habits of pride, till we are governed by humility; and we are not governed by humility, till we deny ourselves, and are afraid of every appearance of pride, till we are willing to coniply with every thing and every state, that may preserve and secure our humility.
No man is governed by a religious justice, till he is exact in all degrees of it; till he denies himself all approaches towards injustice; till he fears and
abhors every appearance of fraud and crafty management.
Now it is this temper and state of mind, that is the measure of
every virtue. A common liar may hate some sort of lies; an unjust man may avoid some sort of injustice: so a proud person may dislike some instances of pride; but then he has no more title to humility, than an unjust man has a title to integrity, because there are some sorts of injustice that he avoids.
So that it is not any single acts, or any particular restraints; but it is an uniform state and temper of the mind, that stands constantly disposed to every degree of humility, and averse from every degree of pride, that is to denominate a person to be truly humble.
To measure any virtuous temper by any other standard than this, is not to measure ourselves by religion. How can any one be said to be religiously chaste, unless he abhors and avoids all instances of lewdness and impurity? How could he be said to be sincerely pious, unless he was fearful of every occasion of sin?
Must it not therefore be the same in humilty and every other virtue? Can any one be reckoned truly humble, till he denies himself all instances of pride?
Self-denial therefore is so universally necessary, that it is the foundation of every virtue: humility and charity requiring more self-contradiction and self-denial, than the strictest temperance.
From these observations we may be able to pass a true judgment upon ourselves as to our state of virtue. If we are denying ourselves, we are so far) labouring after virtue: but if self-love, if idleness and indulgence, be the state of our lives, we may
be sure that we are as distant from true religion, as the sot is distant from strict temperance.
A life of idleness, indulgence, and self-love, is an entire resignation of ourselves to every vice, except
such as cannot be committed without trouble; and we may assure ourselves, that if we are in this state, we are not only strangers to virtue, but ready for every sin that suits with ease and softness.
Persons of this turn of mind, lose the very form of piety, and find it too great a contradiction to their idleness to comply with the very outward appearance of religion. They would be oftener at church, but it may be their seat is crowded, and they can sit with more ease by their tire-side at home. They would be more exact in kneeling when they are there, if they had always the same ease in kneeling,
I mention these particulars, as only small instances of that general deadness and indisposition towards all parts of religion, which this spirit of idleness and indulgence creates. For it affects people in the same manner as to every other part of their duty, and makes them incapable of attending to it. a person, that is too idle and self-indulgent to undergo the constant trouble of public worship, must be at a great distance from those virtues, which are to be acquired by care and watchfulness, which are to crucify us to the world, and make us alive unto God.
Ambition and worldly cares distract the mind, and fill it with false concerns; but even these tempers are in a nearer state to religion, and less indispose the soul to it, than idleness and indulgence. For ambition and worldly cares, though they employ the mind wrong, yet as they employ it, they preserve some degree of activity in it, which by some means or other may happen to take a right turn; but idleness and indulgence is the death and burial of the soul.
I have been more particular upon this temper, because it is so common, and even acknowledged without shame. People, who would not be thought reprobates, are yet not afraid to let you know that they hardly do any thing but eat, and drink, and sleep, and take such diversions as suit with their ease; whereas if such a state of life be examined by the rules of reason and religion, it will appear as dangerous and frightful, as any other reprobate state of sin.
For it is a state that nourishes all the corruptions of our nature; that exposes us all to the vanity of the world ; that resigns us up to all the power of the devil.
Did we design to set ourselves in the fairest posture for the devil to hit us, we ought to choose that of idleness and indulgence.
Watch and pray, saith our Saviour, that ye fall not into temptation. The devil's advice is, be idle and indulge, and then ye will yield to every temptation. For if watching and prayer have any tendency to prevent our falling into temptation, it is certain that idleness and indulgence must, in an equal degree, make us incapable of resisting them.
To return: as certain therefore as our nature is in a state of corruption, as certain as this corruption consists in ill tempers and inclinations; so certain is it, that if we would not die in our sins, we must enter upon such a course of life as is a state of denial, not only to this or that, but to all those corrupt ten pers and inclinations.
For since man is only a compound of corrupt and disorderly tempers, it is as necessary to deny himself, as to resist eril; and he is indeed only so far virtuous, as he has put off himself, and is guided and governed by another spirit.
When we speak of self-denial, we are apt to confine it to eating and drinking; but we ought to consider, that though a strict temperance be necessary in these things, yet these are the easiest and smallest instances of self-denial; pride, vanity, self-love, covetousness, envy, and other inclinations of the like nature, call for a more constant and watchful selfdenial, than the appetites of hunger and thirst.