« AnteriorContinuar »
write an I upon what they do, but deny themselves in spiritual things.
IV. The more truly any man does repent, the more sensible he is of his own unworthiness, and so the more self-denying in spiritual things. Ye know how it is with the prodigal in the parable, when he comes home, says he upon his return, “ I will go unto my father, and I will say, I am not worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants,” Luke xv. 18, 19. In my father's house there is bread, and I will go home, and be contented to be one of my father's hired servants. Before he went out no room in his father's house was good enough for him ; but now upon his return, any room in his father's house is good enough. Before he went out, no diet, no meat and drink in his father's house would serve his turn, but
he but now in his return, in my father's house there is bread enough, says he. And let me be as one of thy hired servants. Thus sensible of his own unworthiness, and with self-denial. Why? because now repentance had taken hold of his heart. Well, the more therefore a man does repent, the more sensible he is of his own unworthiness, and the more he will deny himself in spiritual things. But I pray what is it that does cause true repentance? Is it the gospel; or is it the law? Nay, not the law, but the gospel. Ye know what John said, ye know what our Saviour said, and ye know what the apostle said, for they all preach the same things, the same words, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They do not say, Repent for the kingdom of hell is at hand; repent or ye shall be damned: but, repent, for the kingdom of grace, mercy, and of free-remission is at hand. So that it is the gospel that does work repentance, and therefore it is the gospel and the gospel only, that does make a man sensible of his own unworthiness, and to deny himself in spiritual things.
But it will be objected now, in the Third place, How say ye, that the gospel works this? for, have we not heard, and have we not read, that many moral men, heathen men, and divers papists, that have written much, and spoken much for humility and self-denial; yea, and have gone very far in the practice of it? Ilow therefore, say ye, that this is only the work of the gospel; that this only is wrought
where the gospel comes in power in the heart of a believer, that seeks justification by faith alone?
For answer, 1 grant ye that the very heathen, papists and moral men, have spoken much, and written much, concerning humility and self-denial: and have seemed to go far in the practice of it. I have read of some papists, that have been so abstemious that they have gone up and down from one tavern to another, and from one feast to another; and when men have been eating and drinking liberally, they have sat down, abstaining from all meats and drinks, presenting themselves as patterns of self-denial in the point of appetite.
And indeed, we read of three degrees that the more moderate papists do make of self-denial and humility. The first degree, says Granatensis, and divers others, is, for a man to acknowledge, that all comes from God, and nothing from himself. The second degree of humility is, to acknowledge, that whatsoever a man hath from God, he hath it not from merit, but from grace, and mere mercy. The third degree of humility or self-denial is, for a man to be eagle-eyed, and quick-sighted, in beholding another man's excellency: but mole-eyed, and not seeing his own excellency. Even thus far the papists. So that I grant, men may seem to go very far therein. But I speak of self-denial in spiritual things : and do we read of moral, heathen men and the like; that do deny themselves, it may be in words, but, I say, in practice, that do deny or have denied themselves in spiritual things?
Take a moral, civil man; and though he may seem to be very humble, and deny himself; yet he is proud of his humility. Says one philosopher, when he came unto Plato's house, and saw his house lay very neat: I trample upon Plato's pride, says he: but Plato answered again, Not without your own pride. But now, take a believer, and he doth not only deny himself, but is sensible of his own pride, when he is most humble, in that very thing wherein he is humble.
Again, take a moral, civil man; and though he may seem to be very humble, and to deny himself; yet it is but in this or that particular thing: but now a believer denies himself in all. “I count All things but dung and dross, says the apostle) for Christ,” Phil. ii. 8.
Again, Take a moral, civil man; and though he seem to be very humble, and to deny himself; yet notwithstanding, it is but the artifice of his reason and his resolution. If I go on in such and such a way, says he, I shall be undone ; and therefore I must deny myself of this company, and of this pleasure; and so by the strength of his reason and resolution, he does deny himself. But now, a believer, a christian, he denies himself in spiritual things, by the beholding of Jesus Christ.
Again, Take a moral, civil man, though he may seem to be humble, and deny himself; yet there is no mystery, no spiritual mystery in his self-denial : in gospel self-denial there is, the gospel does work mysteriously like itself, it is the great mystery. Take a christian, a believer, and I pray, do but observe a little, what a great mystery there is in all his humility and self-denial, wrought by the gospel. As thus:
He ever cries out, What shall I do to be saved, what shall I do to be saved ? and yet he professes that he does not expect to be saved by doing. Here is a mystery.
Again, He counts himself less than the least of all God's mercies; and yet he thinks God hath done more for him, than if he had given him all the world. Here is a mystery.
Again, He prizes every duty and every gift and every grace, although it be never so small; prizes it above all the world; and yet he counts all but dung and dross in regard of Christ. Here is a mystery.
Again, He looks upon himself as the greatest sinner, and thinks of every one better than himself; and yet when he looks upon a drunkard, or a swearer, or the like, professes that he would not change his condition with him for all the world. He looks upon himself as the greatest sinner, and thinks of every one better than himself; and yet he says concerning such and such, he would not change his condition with them for all the world. What a mystery is this !
Again, He mourns under reproaches and the despisings of men, and yet he triumphs over them and is above them. Here is a mystery.
Again, He counts himself nothing, and all that ever he
does, nothing: and yet he praises the Lord for every little, and thinks that God hath done more for him, in giving him Christ, than if he had given him all the world. Here is a mystery.
Now, as for the seeming humility and self-denial that is in heathen or moral civil men, there is none of this mystery ; but there is a spiritual mystery that runs along in the veins of all this gospel humility and self-denial.
But I speak of self-denial in spiritual things; and what moral, civil man, does deny himself in spiritual things ? I remember one makes mention of a certain godly man, Dies Lusitanus, that was sorely tempted by Satan in his time. The man was much in duty, and Satan comes unto him and says, Why dost thou take thus much pains ? thou dost fast and watch, but, О man, what is there that thou doest more than I do? Art thou no drunkard, or no adulterer? Says Satan, I never was drunk, nor I never committed adultery. What, dost thou watch? Says Satan, I never slept. Dost thou fast? Says Satan, I never ate any meat, or drank any beer or wine. What therefore, Oman, says Satan, dost thou do more than I do? Yes, says he, Satan, I will tell thee what I do, I pray, and I serve the Lord, and walk humbly, and deny myself. True indeed then, says Satan, I confess herein thou dost go beyond me; for I am proud and I have exalted mysell; and therefore that thou dost deny thyself, and walk humbly with thy God, herein indeed thou goest beyond me. And know, a christian does not only go beyond Satan, but he goes beyond moral, civil, legal men; and wherever the gospel comes in power, it works this disposition and frame of heart, there it is wrought indeed.
Fourthly, You will say, What is there in the gospel, or the way of the gospel, which lies in justification by faith alone, that can work a man's heart unto this frame and disposition?
I shall name three or four things of many.
1. The more a man does see the glory of God, the more humble he will be and deny himself, even in spiritual things. Ye may read how it was with Job, chap. ix. Ye do not read in all that book, that Job does any where in one chapter so much deny himself, as concerning his own righteousness, which he stood much upon to his friends, as in this ixth
chapter, verse 15, “Whom (speaking of God) though I were righteous, yet I would not answer, but I would make supplication to my Judge.” Verse 16, “ If I had called, and he had answered me, yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.” Then at the 20th verse, “ If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect it shall also prove me perverse.” Verse the 21st, “ Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise myself.” Then at the 30th verse, “If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean ; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.” But whence did all this selfdenial in spiritual things proceed now? If you look into the former part of the chapter, ye shall see that Job had a great prospect of the glory of God: " I know it is so of a truth : but how should man be just with God? (verse the 2nd) If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him. God is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: (verse the 4th, then verse the 5th) which removeth the mountains, and they know not; which overturneth them in his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. Which commandeth the sun, and it ariseth not; and sealeth up the stars. Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. Which doth great things past finding out, yea, and wonders without number.” And now having this prospect of the greatness and glory of the Lord, he denies his own righteousness; denies himself in spiritual things. And ye know how it was with the prophet Isaiah, in the ixth chapter and 5th verse: “ Then said I, Woe is me, for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Woe is me, I am undone, a man of unclean lips. But stay, oh, thou blessed prophet, thou art a great, and hast been a great preacher, a gospel preacher; yea, thou art a prophet. Well, says he, yet, woe is me, for I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips. Why, what is the matter? At the latter end of the verse : mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” And if ye look into the former verses of that chapter, ye shall find that it was a sight of Christ in his glory, as will more