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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
yeep rovov o looola ENOEIH. Xen. Memor. Socrat. lib. i. c. Δεικνύει ποιαν οδον αυθες δει βαδιζειν, , ει ΣΩΖΕΣΘΑΙ μελλεσιν εν τω βιο» Cebes in Tabulâ.
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, woren 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.
The sufferings of the Christian are emphatically called in the text, taking up his Cross. The Gospel informs 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
there never was any kind of pain, mortification, grief, or sorrow, felt by mortal man, in mind, body or spirit, which the son of God did not feel, at some period of his passion, when he suffered for our sins: he bore our griefs, when he was visited for our iniquities: all the sorrows of a sinful world were assembled together in his single person ; and others were added, which were peculiar to himself—felt by him, but never to be known by us. The sum of his sufferings is an abyss, which we cannot fathom. Men may hear of it, and coldly regard it; but principalities and powers stand abashed at it.
Such was the example set before us by the great Captain of our salvation; who denied himself in his life, and took up the cross at his death; that we, his followers and soldiers, might be encouraged to undertake and endure all the hardships and dangers of our militant state here upon earth. Let the same mind, then, be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus, who humbled himself, that he might be exalted, and became obedierit unto death, that every knee might bow at his name. Take it as we will, the followers of Christ cắn find no other way to glory and happiness, but this of self-denial and patient suffering.
Our self-denial, as in the case of our blessed Master, must extend to our minds, our bodies, and our estates, In our minds, we are, first, to conform ourselves to the will of God; and, secondly, to be obedient to the law of God. The hardest of all Christian duties is that of resignation : no trial is like that of contradicting our own stubborn wills. Every man has a plan of his own, in which he has proposed to himself some objects which will make him happy; and without which, he concludes it impossible for him to It pleases God so to order events, as to dis
appoint him, and force his thoughts into some other channel : then, if he believes that all events are di-. rected by God's providence, he will give up his own schemes, and conclude that to be best, which God ordains; though it may not at present appear to be so. It is the proper act of faith to look forward to things invisible, and to see future good through present evil. Miserable is the man, who sets up his own will against that
power which governs the world, and has promised to make all things work together for good in the end to those that love him.
In his body, he is to deny himself by mortification, and abstinence, as his Saviour did ; without which, the will and the appetites can never be reduced to order. There is something remarkable in the words, where Christ gives instruction how to cast out devils : this kind, saith he, goeth not out, but by prayer and, fasting. The rule extends to every thing of that, kind, whether evil spirits, or evil passions, which possess men to their destruction: all are to be cast out by prayer and fasting, and not without it. All men, by nature, are possessed with evil passions, which agitate and torment them; driving them to extravagance, outrage, despair, madness, and even death itself. - All that an evil spirit could do, a man's own unmortified passions will do, to destroy him. And how are these enemies to be cast out? Will reason conquer them ? No: let the body be indulged, and reason will soon be blinded and baffled. Even religion itself, with all its motives, will not avail, without positive mortification. So salutary is the habit of self-denial, and so necessary to man in his present situation, that he should deny himself even in the smallest things, that the habit may extend to things of greater consequence. And there is a refined plea
sure in this conquest of the mind over the body, which the voluptuary neither knows, nor understands; and which, indeed, very few, in this age of professed selfindulgence, can relish or receive. I may add too,
I that the Christian religion, while it seems, in this doctrine, only to keep us down and punish us for our sins, does really admonish us for our safety, and consult our present happiness. For this practice of selfdenial is conducive to health, peace and godliness ; the only true riches on this side the grave. So that, upon the terms of Christianity, we gain more than we lose even in this world.
In his worldly estate, the follower of Christ must deny himself in what relates to his outward appearance and conversation with the world. It is our great misfortune, early in life, when we have little or no judgment, to be cheated with false ideas of pleasure and greatness, and a fanciful notion of our own importance. To himself, every man, on some principle or other, is the first personage in the world; and it is the labour of some people's lives to keep up and secure this visionary idea of their own importance. They affect distinction and superiority; and there is nothing they are so much afraid of upon earth, as of losing it, or seeming to lose it, in the eyes of other people. To prevent which, they study all the little artifices of pride; and often flatter their own vanity, by meanly transgressing the rules of common sense, and exposing the littleness of their minds to contempt and ridicule. So long as this temper has possession,
. how is it possible to be a follower of that Master who, though the richest upon earth, threw off all superiority, and made himself poor and of no reputation, for our sakes ? The children of the world are eagerly