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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
MATT. xvi. 24.-" If any man will come after me, let him deny himself."
SELF-RESTRAINT has been taught by the sages, and more or less practised by the individuals of every age. It is the giving up of a less good, for the sake of a greater: And in this view, the term is usually applied to denote the repression of our passions, or the subjugation of them to the direction of reason. To submit to this duty is absolutely necessary, both for the temporal prosperity of the individual, and for the peace and welfare of society at large. And provided it be extended no farther, than to the prohibition and suppression of what evidently tends to hurt our health or worldly interests, its propriety is universally acknowledged.
What self-restraint is in the system of the children of this world, self-denial is in the gospel of Christ, and in the faith and practice of his disciples. They agree in this, that they are both sacrifices of a smaller to a greater good: But in their objects, and in their extent, the difference is wide. The object of the one is temporal advantage; that of the other is spiritual and eternal good. The one seeks the health of the body; the other, the sanctification of the soul: The one, the esteem and praise of men; the
other, the pardon of sin, and the favour of God: The one, many years of terrestrial prosperity; the other, the endless ages of heavenly bliss. Propor.. tioned to the object of each, is the extent of the sacrifice made. The ablest proficient in self-restraint, among the worldly, will be found only to give up some sensual gratifications, that he may enjoy others; and to suppress some passions, that he may indulge others with a greater safety, and for a longer period of time. But the follower of Jesus makes an offering of himself. He sacrifices his will to the commandments and dispensations; his understanding, and all his moral powers, to the declarations, promises, and supports; his merit and attainments, to the perfect righteousness of his Mediator and Lord. In a former discourse from this text, we have shewn you,
1. That in denying himself, the christian sacrifices his own desires, and ease, and gratification, when inconsistent with duty, and the will of God. It is not the denial of happiness, or of the desire of happiness; but of that happiness for which his corrupt passions thirst; of that happiness which this world affords; and of those means by which the men of this world pursue it. He regards poverty, reproach, and suffering, as evils far inferior to sin; riches, fame, and the enjoyment of the creature, as not to be compared with the pleasures of holiness, the favour of God, the hopes and anticipations of heavenly glory; "the desires of the flesh and of "the mind," as unworthy of competition with the laws and appointments of heavenly wisdom, Though disgrace and a prison should, on the one hand, be the consequence of non-compliance with
the maxims of the world; and on the other, plea sure, credit, affluence, the result of conformity, his language is uniform and determined, "Shall I do "all this great evil, to transgress against my God."*
This self-denial is the act of a mind informed of the truth, and enlightened to understand it. It is not, therefore, the renunciation of any thing but of error, and sin, and false pleasures. It is the sacrifice of folly for wisdom, of evil for good, of those gratifications which our weakness and corruption solicit, for those objects of pursuit and enjoyment, which God, who made us and knows us, hath unalterably fixed, as alone suitable to the rational and immortal natures, with which he hath endowed us. 2. To deny ourselves, we observed, is to renounce dependence on our own wisdom and strength for duty. Every creature must act agreeably to its respective nature; and none can change the constitution of its nature without the application of external power. A man, whether unregenerate or renewed, must continue so, without the interposition of God himself. Paul affirms, with respect to the one, that his mind" is not subject to "the law of God, neither indeed can be ;"+ and John concerning the other, that "he cannot "sin, because he is born of God" or has received from God a new and divine nature different from that which he originally possessed. He, therefore, who is willing to come after Jesus, being convinced of the impotency and evil tendency of his own nature, from the divine testimony, from his personal experience, and his observation of others, renounces all dependence on his own wisdom, in+ Rom. viii. 7. f 1 John iri. 9.
Neh. xiii. 27.
clination, and ability, to sanctify his heart, and to regulate his life. Were it possible for us to renounce our evil passions, our desires after revenge, ease, sensual indulgence, and the like, and yet to retain a confidence in our own judgment and strength, as sufficient to conduct and to support us in duty, what would be the consequence? We would only forsake a treacherous guide, by fraud and force leading us directly to destruction, to follow a blind one, whose errors would as certainly involve us in the same wretched end: We would only cut the cords that drag us downwards, to commit ourselves to a frail, a rotten support, which would give way beneath us, and leave us but the more certainly to sink, from having so miserably mistaken the object of our trust. Self-denial must be total, or not at all.. In the doctrine of Christ, no distinction is acknowledged, which authorizes us to consider one part of our own nature as corrupt, and another pure; to rely on our judgment as upright, while we confess that our affections are depraved. If any man," said he, "will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, "and follow me;" let him renounce all confidence in his own understanding, as his conductor in the way of holiness and truth; let him trust to my guidance, and walk in the path which I have marked out.
3. In denying ourselves, it is implied, that we give up all dependence on our own righteousness, for justification and acceptance with God.
Dependence on our own righteousness is intimately connected with dependence on our own powers. Nothing indeed, can be more natural
than that he, who is persuaded of his own ability to fulfil the whole will of God, should also imagine himself able to satisfy all the demands of the divine law, and to present to God an obedience, which eternal justice cannot refuse to accept.While the pleasure which our pride takes, in the idea of our owing every thing to ourselves, the partiality with which we consider our own motives and actions, our unwillingness to acknowledge the whole extent of our demerit and our guilt, unite to make us cherish the opinion, that we are not unworthy of the divine. regard, and that there are many things in us, which even perfect holiness may contemplate with complacency. This, however, is not to deny, but to assert ourselves. It is to assert our own sufficiency, and our own claims, in that particular which is of all the most important; and in which self-confidence appears most directly to interfere with the Redeemer's honour, and with the necessity of his mediation. Nor do those much more nearly approach to a true selfdenial, who, though they acknowledge an atonement to be in some measure necessary, yet blend, with its efficacy, the virtue of their own obedience. According to their system, the Jews, in going about "to establish their own righteousness," were guilty of but a very venial error; and Christ came to justify, not the persons, but the performances of the natively ungodly. Or, if they attribute to him the acceptance of their persons too, they attribute it, in like manner, to themselves; and notwithstanding the total silence of scripture as to such a cooperation, they teach that we are redeemed, in part, by the sufferings of Jesus, and in part, by the