agonies of our own repentance; that we are justified, in part, through his perfect righteousness, and in part, enjoy it as the prize of our own merit. Such persons, however, it is but too evident, have neither learned to deny themselves, nor to receive, with implicit credit, the declarations of the divine word; and ere they can truly follow Christ, must be improved, both in humility and in faith.

Such, then, are the objects, and such is the wide extent, of self-denial. And what evil desire or pursuit of the flesh, or of the mind, is not included under one or other of these particulars ? Drunkenness, gluttony, and lewdness, the filthy brood of sensual desire; vain-glory, self-confidence, selfconceit, self-righteousness, envyings, hatred, emulations, wrath, revenge, the offspring of pride; with ambition and covetousness, with all the desires and endeavours by which they are gratified, and all the passions which they gratify, are to be mortified, and crucified together with Christ. “Every thought” must be brought “ into captivity, to the obedience “ of Christ,” and every proud imagination cast down.

Thus far, have ye, my professing christian brethren, yet learned to deny yourselves? Or can you truly say, that it is your daily prayer and study, to carry thus far your renunciation of sinful self? -Some, however, may perhaps flatter themselves that their duty is not of such extent, as that which we have described. But our description of it was founded, not on the authority of human wisdom, but on that of divine revelation. And revelation, we have seen, requires you to sacrifice every thing to conscience, to your christian profession, to duty, and

to truth.--Or perhaps some may imagine that their particular situation in life, their station or progress in the church, ought, in-some degree, to exempt them from obligations so comprehensive and so strict. Thus those, who are in a state of immediate dependence upon others, may suppose, with Naaman the Syrian, that certain worldly compliances will be allowed in them; and that these, though deliberately made, will be forgiven on uttering his prayer, “ In this " thing, the Lord pardon thy servant."* And othiers may persuade themselves, that universal selfdenial is neither required nor expected of the young convert, or of the ordinary class of professing christians, but is a branch of that “ wisdom,” which is spoken“ among them that are perfect.”+ But ye, who are thus apt to delude yourselves, and to catch at every thing which may give allowance to lust, or serve to lull conscience asleep, do ye not perceive how directly the words of Jesus are pointed against such false, though flattering opinions? “ If

any man will,” or incline to “ come after me, let “ him," --from the very beginning, as his very first lesson," let him deny himself, and” then“ follow

me.” . Our self-denial must be unlimited; our surrender of ourselves, to the authority and the grace of Christ, universal, without exception or reservation,

In order, through the divine help and blessing, to persuade you to the study and the practice of this important duty, in its full extent, we shall now endeavour,

II. To prove to you the reasonableness of selfdenial, as above explained. 2 Kings v. &

t I Cori ürer

[ocr errors]

Man must live either in sin, or in holiness; either to himself, or to God. Somewhat he must be, desire, and do: Some law he must follow : Some motive or other must actuate him. If he deny himself, then, he must acknowledge and obey God ;-and self-denial, as required by Christ, evidently imply. ing a surrender of ourselves to God, the reasonableness of the one shews that of the other. But to present ourselves

living sacrifices to God," is surely, to use the language of an inspired writer,

our reasonable service."* Self-denial, then, in all its extent, will appear most reasonable, if we consider

1. That we are not our own, but God's:

2. That the ingredients of our happiness are not derived from ourselves, but from God:

3. That our capacity of happiness, or the adaption of our nature to the enjoyment of it, depends not on ourselves, but on God: and,

4. That the condition of obtaining it, or the price by which it is purchased, depends not on us, but on God..

Are we God's? It is reasonable that we “ render

unto God the things which are God's,” and that we seek not to embezzle, or to alienate his property: Are the ingredients of our happiness the object of his will? Then it mụst be wise and reasonable to renounce, to desire, and to do whatever he requires. Does he adapt our nature to our happiness? or, does our capacity for it depend on him? Then it is reasonable that we trust in him, that we give up ourselves to him, to be modelled for it, by his power

* Rom. xii. I.



working in us“ both to will and to do," and that we lean not to our own understanding, or our owni strength. And does the condition of our obtaining it depend on him, and not on us ? Then surely it is fit that we be satisfied to receive it on the condi. tion which he requires; that the condition itself be the object of our approbation and gratitude; and that we presume not to frame conditions for ourselves, or to prescribe them to him, either instead of that which he hath appointed, or in addition to it.

request your attention to a short illustration of each of these particulars.

1. You are not your own, but God's. Is it not, then, the most reasonable, the most equitable deed that you can do, to surrender yourselves entirely to the government and disposal of God? For,

what “hast thou that thou didst not receive"* from him, and dost not still hold in entire dependence on him? Your condition in life, and your means of subsistence are from him, and dependent on his providence. His are your powers and faculties, by unalienable right, the right of original creation, and continual preservation. To him you are beholden for every breath which you draw, for every comfort that fills your lot, and for every moment that is added to your existence ;-and if so, it is reasonable not only to " honour him with our substance, and 6 with the first-fruits of all our increase,”'t but to subject ourselves to him, to prostrate our understandings, our wills, our affections, and all our faculties, at his feet. It is reasonable that we seek not to dispose of ourselves otherwise than agreeably to his pleasure, but that we cheerfully obey what he * 1 Cor. ir. 7.

† Prov. üi.

requires us, in his word, to do; and cheerfully submit to what he wills us, in his providence, to endure. Remember, then, whosoever thou art, that acknowledgest not him in all thy ways, remember that as often as thou followest thinc own will, without respect to the commandments of God, or in

opa position to them, thou art serving another than thy rightful master: Thou art giving away whạt belongs to thine absolute owner, and art doing what is as imprudent with regard to thine own interest, as it is unreasonable in itself: For to the recollection of the injustice of such conduct, add the recollec. tion of this also, that thy sovereign Lord cannot be deceived, so as not to detect the embezzlement of his property, is not so indifferent as not to heed it, and is not so weak as not to punish it. He is jealous of his rights, both as they are sacred in themselves, and as their maintenance is essential to the welfare of the universe; and he is not less able, than ready, to support them. He shall cut off all those who say,

“ Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?”* And whosoever will not submit now to be disposed of agreeably to his commands, he will, in the day when he shall come to take account of their stewardship, dispose of them contrary to their pleasure, in everlasting chains, as perpetual examples of his penal justice.

To all this you may perhaps reply, that you are not, like inanimate matter, to be disposed of without your own consent, and impelled merely by external force. Without your own consent, it is not required. We ask your consent, but we ask it not unreasonably; we ask it to the commandments and

• Psalm xii. 3, f.

« VorigeDoorgaan »