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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 pleasure 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 self-indulgence, can relish or receive. I may add too, 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 self-denial 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 running into higher company, to borrow some consequence, which does not belong to them; but he associated with fishermen, and preferred the company and conversation of an obscure, godly family in Bethany: he chose the little things of this world to confound the great, and foolish things to confound the wise. But alas!
alas! Look at those who are called by his name, and see what stirring there is for precedence! What mean, servile endeavours, to procure honour from men, even from people of no judgment; while they neglect the only true honour which cometh from God; who hath far other notions of greatness and importance than those which the fashion of this world hath introduced and established.
And now, having considered the doctrine of self-denial, so far as the time will permit, I have only farther to observe, that the follower of Christ must be ready to imitate his Master in taking up the Cross: and we may assure ourselves, that the divine providence, with a fatherly attention, never fails to correct those of whose reformation there is any hope. Some, indeed, are left to themselves little interrupted in the enjoyment of the world: They come into no misfortune like other folk, neither are they plagued like other men. God deliver us from being of that number! For such an exemption, while it seems to be a privilege, is the greatest curse under heaven. Let no good man ever wish to have his portion in this life on the terms of the rich man in the Gospel. Besides this, the best and the wisest have their sins and their follies, which nothing but their own
own sufferings can cure; and as the Cross of Christ was the remedy for the sins of the world, so every individual must take that Cross from the appointment of God, which is adapted to his own particular case. As the occasion may require, we are visited with bodily pain and sickness, loss of wealth or reputation, unmerited neglect and dishonour, inconstancy of friends, who often stand at a distance, and are least useful, when they are most wanted. And, when God pleases, even the refreshments and comforts of the divine presence are withdrawn: the saint complains, like his Saviour on the Cross, that his God hath forsaken him. Such things are necessary for a time, to make us sensible of our own weakness and misery; to punish our past unprofitableness under the means of grace; and to mortify those who have neglected to mortify themselves.
The Cross of Christ was fore-ordained of God, with infinite wisdom, as the proper instrument of his death: and with the like wisdom he appoints the Cross, by which every particular man is to suffer. The precept directs every one to take up his Cross; not the trouble of another man, but that, which is sent for his own trial, and adapted to his own case. The God, who made him,
him, knows his wants and his feelings; and applies the trial to the proper part.-Monastics may whip and scourge themselves, and wear horse-hair garments to afflict their skin: but these are crosses of their own making. The question is, whether a man will take in Faith and Patience, as absolutely necessary to his own good, that Cross, which God's wisdom hath ordained for him, and laid upon him. How common is it for people to complain, that they could have borne any thing else but that present evil under which they are suffering! God knew that, and therefore he sent it; to punish their sin; to teach them patience; and to make them fly to him for help and support under the pressing sense of their own weakHere our faith is to resign itself, and to say, with the afflicted king Hezekiah,-O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit; so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live!