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temper Christianity was professed by those saints and martyrs, who endured unto the end, and triumphed over all the enemies of our salvation. But now the whole doctrine of self-denial is dismissed with a high hand, as fit only for weak women, solitary monks, or deluded enthusiasts. And, I am sorry to say it, there are too many in the church, who, although they ought to know better, because it is their calling to teach better, are yet so ignorant, or so mistaken, as to congratulate themselves on the established lawfulness of ease, pleasure and self-indulgence, as a great and very happy improvement of the Protestant Reformation: and they think we are fallen into blessed times, now the calendar of a wise man has no fasting days in it. But this opinion is not only false in itself, injurious to Christianity, and a fatal snare upon Christian people; but contrary also to the common sense of the whole world. I will appeal to all mankind, whether it is not their general practice to suffer pain willingly, for the sake of future profit ?- Whether they do not, by their own choice deny themselves, and part with what they value, to obtain what they hope for? How then can he be thought to have the hope of the gospel in him, who will neither abstain from any present good, nor bear any present evil, for the sake of it? The Christian hath nothing in his power, whereby to testify the sincerity of his hope, but abstinence and patience: and he, who refuses to give this proof, can never be thought to set much value on the prize of the high calling that is set before him.
If we observe mankind in their several pursuits, we shall find, that they never seek a prize, without submitting to some hardships in obtaining it. For what they expect in future they give up present ease and pleasure; and there are few examples, where future
enjoyment does not depend upon present self-denial. Hethat striveth for the mastery,is temperate in all things. The champions, who were candidates for the victory in any trials of skill, prepared themselves by laborious exercise; abstaining also from every gratification, which might reduce their strength, abate their courage, or lessen their activity; and cheerfully exposing themselves to all that severity of discipline, which was necessary to insure the victory. Now they did it, as the Apostle notes, to obtain a corruptible crown; while we strive to obtain an incorruptible one, a crown of glory which fadeth not away, as those temporary garlands of herbs and flowers did, which were given to victors in the heathen sports. The merchant leaves his native climate, his relations, his friends, his family, his domestic comforts, to traverse the wide ocean at the hazard of his life; and is content to be scorched with heat in the Indies, or frozen with cold in the northern regions. The soldier, for honour and promotion, endures the fatigues of a campaign, the discipline of a camp, and the dangers of a battle. The heir, who expects an inheritance, accommodates himself, perhaps for many years, to the humours of a capricious and imperious testator. The physician, for reputation and for profit, is hurried abroad by day, and deprived of his rest by night, without leisure to follow his favourite studies, or enjoy the comforts of life; and finds most trouble when the years, which have added to his wisdom and experience, have made him less able to endure the fatigues of his profession. Fair weather is agreeable and delightful: it pleases the eye, and it cheers the mind: but the husbandman knows, that perpetual sun-shine must end in poverty, and drought, and famine, and pestilential diseases; and that cloudy days, and weeping skies are abso
446 THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF SELF- [serm. Xiv.
THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF
lutely necessary to a plentiful harvest. He that now goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed, shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him. The labourer, for his hire, submits to daily confinement; and the scholar, for the enjoyment and advantages of learning, loses his rest, impairs his eyesight, and injures his health. In a word, all mankind, who are rationally employed, are denying themselves, with the prospect of some future advantage. All the world is doing what some Christians, who think they see farther than the rest, refuse to do; who professing themselves to be wise, forfeit their title to common sense. The Christian profession would be unlike all others, if its rewards were to be thrown away upon the folly of impatience, the stupidity of idleness, the unprofitableness of pleasure and self-indulgence. As its prize is the richest, it has a right to require a longer probation of us, and to put us upon a severer trial.
And let me here add, that he who does not deny himself on motives of piety and prudence, shall be no gainer, even according to his own sense of things. It is a poor bargain, by which we gain the pleasures of a swine, and lose the pleasures of a man. Self-indulgence not only unfits a man for every great and useful employment, (as the swine is the most useless creature living); but passions unmortified and headstrong will be sure to create many and great troubles; so that a man's vices shall bring him under a discipline far more severe than that which purifies the heart of a Christian and prepares him for eternity. Think how many are now sick, who might have been well; how many are poor, who might have been rich; how many are dead, who might have been alive; how many are in prison, who might
have been as free as we are! to all these the precept in the text-let him deny himself-would have acted as a grand preservative, and secured to them their health, their wealth, their life, their liberty. Some of the purest philosophers among the heathens, who. saw by experience how great a thing it is for man to be delivered from the fatal effects of his own appetites, called a state of temperance, and self-denial, a state of salvation *.
How happy is it, therefore, for us, that the duty, which prudence should take up of choice, is imposed upon us of necessity, as we are Christians, that is, followers of Jesus Christ in principle and practice; who, for the glory that was set before him, preferred a life of self-denial, which ended in the sufferings of the cross!
Before he entered on the great work of his ministry, he retired into the wilderness, to prepare himself by a fast of forty days. He was there separated from the conversation of his friends, and from the common supports of life; the world, and all its enjoyments, were left behind : the ground was his bed, and the beasts of the desert were his companions. And when hunger prevailed most, after such severe abstinence, he yielded not to the plausible arguments of the
Tempter for the supplying of his wants. And, indeed, it was a frequent custom with him to retire into solitary places, by day and by night, to exercise himself in fasting, prayer, and holy meditation,
With regard to his condition upon earth, he avoided every appearance of greatness, and took upon him the form of a servant. He was born in a stable; he laboured in a low occupation; when he provided for the wants of others, he was himself more unprovided than the birds of the air, or the foxes of the earth. The garment, which he chose to wear constantly, was without seam, woven from the top throughout ; and therefore could admit of nothing that was curious or elegant in the form of it.—And, who was it, that thus made himself of no reputation ? It was the Son of God, who could not be looked upon by mortal eyes, till he had emptied himself of his glory. It was the Creator of the world, who made himself inconsiderable and poor, and possessed nothing in that world, which himself had made. When the Jews would have taken him by force, to make him a king, he concealed himself from their sight: and when the world, with all its grandeur and empire, was offered to him, he renounced it all; preferring the glory of God, and putting off his own exaltation, till the way of self-denial and suffering should lead him up to it.
* Ouru yap uovov O TOLUTOS ZNOEIH. Xen. Memor. Socrat. lib. i. C. 5. * Δεικνυει ποιαν οδον αυτος δει βαδιζειν, ει ΣΩΖΕΣΘΑΙ μελλασιν εν tw Biw. Cebes in Tabulâ.
The sufferings of the Christian are emphatically called in the text, taking up his Cross. The Gospel in forms us, that this was done by our Saviour, in his way to his crucifixion. A circumstance, which shews that his sufferings were voluntary. He took up this burthen, when he might have called for twelve legions of angels; and he submitted freely to all the sorrows which attended it. The Cross was the instrument of his death: but the word includes all the circumstances of sorrow belonging to it. He, who took up his cross, took the pain, the shame, and the grief of it; all the persecution, which preceded, and all the agony which followed, till the moment in which he gave up the Ghost.
I believe I shall speak a great truth, if I affirm that