Page images
[ocr errors]

feather; a nothing, when put in the balance against the honor of Christ and the good of His kingdom.

Such is the spirit of self-denial. It is the result of a calm, deliberate, invincible attachment to the highest good, flowing forth in the voluntary renunciation of every thing that is, inconsistent with the glory of God, and the good of our fellow men..

That this is the scriptural idea of self-denial, it would be easy to illustrate by a multitude of examples. This is the elevated spirit that prompted the father of the faithful to offer, up the son of promise; that bore the three worthies of Babylon to the burning fiery furnace, and that led the Apostles and martyrs to glory in tribulation. It has borne the test of ridicule and reproach; stood undaunted before the scourge and the prison; triumphed amidst the light of the faggot, and smiled at the point of the sword. This is the spirit which shone with such signal lustre in the sufferings and death of our blessed Lord. It was eminently the characteristic of this Divine Personage, that in all He did and suffered, He pleased not Himself.. He sought not this own glory, but the glory of the Father who sent Him. Though He was rich, yet for OUR SAKES He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.” He often anticipated the day of His death, and in itself considered, earnestly desired to be delivered from that fatal hour. He knew the malice of his ene.

mies, and expected to feel the weight of it in his last sufferings He foresaw all the circumstances that would add poignancy to his anguish, and foresaw them with distress and agony. But does he shrink from the dreadful undertaking? You see him steadfastly setting his face' to go to Jerusalem; you hear him telling his disciples that he must go;

he must suffer; he must be killed; but do you hear him complain? Go to Gethsemane, and there behold the Son of God under the most clear and awful view of his approaching crucifixion, and learn what it is to deny yourself for the sake of advancing the Father's glory. Listen to the language of a heart already broken with grief: "I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.” This body sweats as it were great drops of blood. The hidings of my Father's face are enough to bury me in eternal darkness. The guilt of this falling world will sink my feeble frame to the grave. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me! But now is my soul troubled. The hour is come, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour! But for this cause came I to this hour. Father, GLORIFY THY NAME!” This was carrying self-denial to its highest pitch. So pure was the disinterestedness of the Savior, that the sweetest feelings of his heart would have remained for ever ungratified, without the privilege of expiring on the cross.

This too is the spirit which is no less strongly enforced by precept than example, How often are believers exhorted, not to seek THEIR OWN; NOT to live unto THEMSELVES; and whether they live, to live UNTO THE LORD; or whether they die, to die UNTO THE LORD? That charity which the apostle represents as the distinguishing characteristic of believers, is self-denying; it SEEKETH NOT her own. “If any man,” saith the divine Savior, “will come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and take up the cross and follow me. Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.”

One would think it difficult, after such an explication, to be long in doubt as to the nature of one of the most decisive evidences of real religion. We can hardly turn to a page in the Bible, without being convinced, that the grand distinction between true religion and false, is that the one is disinterested, the other is supremely selfish. For whether we be beside ourselves," says the apostle to the Corinthians, “it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for YOUR CAUSE. For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should NOT henceforth live unTO THEMSELVES, but unto HIM WHICH DIED FOR THEM AND ROSE AGAIN.” Those who are in the flesh, unbelievers, live unto themselvcs; those who are in tlie spirit, believers,

live unto Christ. There are but two moral characters that are essentially different, and this is the radical difference between them.

Here then you have another criterion of Christian character. It is not supposed that in the present state, we shall find self-denial unalloyed with selfishness. There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not. Still, in the affections and conduct of every child of God, the spirit of self-denial is the prominent feature. He who possesses most of this spirit, possesses most of the spirit of his Divine Master. In the same proportion in which the glory of God and the wel. fare of His kingdom take the place of personal advancement, does vital religion predominate in the soul.

I wish I could press this point upon the conscience of the reader as closely as its im* portance demands. The end of the Christian in the exercise of grace, is the glory of God, and not merely his own present or future bappiness. The object at which he aims 3 rises far above any thing that is confined within the limited circle of which his little

self is the centre. Let the reader call in his wandering thoughts, and inquire, Have. I

ever been taught to fix my heart on any thing infinitely more important than myself? Do not all my religious affections spring from some selfish motive? Is the desire of self-advancement, or the desire to advance the glory

of God, the paramount principle of my feel. ings and conduct?

The Monastery and the Cloister, are not the only evidences that there is much of the show of self-denial where there is none of its spirit. We must look diligently into the nature of our religion, if we would not be deceived. Men may deny themselves in a thousand instances, from no other motive than that they expect to be the gainers by it.' “And no marvel; for Satan bimself is transformed into an angel of light." You cannot know whether your self-denial is genuine, or whether it is spurious, without knowing whether it is founded upon a supreme attachment to the glory of God. To deny yourself from a supreme regard to a higher interest than your own, is to possess the spirit of the gospel. Is this then the principle which regulates your conduct both toward God and toward man? Which do you pursue most, your interest or your duty? Which do you think of most, your interest or your duty? Can you sell all for the pearl of great price? Can you renounce your case, your profit, your honor, when they come in competition with your duty? Can you renounce every thing which is inconsistent with the glory of God, and the highest good of your fellow men? Are these the natural breathings of your heart-Thy. kingdom come! Thy will be done! Is the highest interest of this kingdom identified with the object of your highest wish, and your most vigorous exertion? Is the cause of

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »