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Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man
will come after me, let him deny himself.
HESE words certainly contain what SERM. is of the greatest importance to all I.
Christians, for it is an essential part of the christian character. Whatever is particularly meant by a man's denying himself, our Saviour expressly declares it, has a strict connexion with being his true disciple ; the universality of the demand, and the indispensable necessity of complying with it, could not be more strongly express'd in words, If any man, any one of mankind however diftinguished, Jew or Gentile, of whatever fort or condition he be, will become a follower of mine, he must deny himself ; on no other terms will I acknowledge him for my fincere and approved disciple. Let us therefore apply our minds to the serious consideration of that VOL. I.
SER M. self-denial which the religion of Christ enI. joyns; and to assist you in it, I will endeavour
in this discourse, first, to explain, and secondly, to vindicate it from any just imputation of severity, and shew the reafonableness of it.
First, the word denying, in its primary fignification, means either an act of the understanding, refusing its afsent to a proposition laid before it; or an act of the will refusing its consent to an application, request, or desire which is presented to it. From this last is borrowed the figurative expression of denying ones felf. As there are various tendencies in our nature, various appetites, affections, and pafsions, prompting us to different actions, when the mind deliberating upon them, comes to a determination of choosing fome, and rejecting others directly opposite, those, which are fo rejected, are faid to be denied. And because the motions, however contrary, are all from within ; for though the occafion, or the object, may be foreign, yet the propensity or the affection, we know is our own; therefore the thwarting and controuling such motions, is callid a denial of ourselves. For example, when the lower appetites and inclinations, which the apostle James calls luft, comprehending them all under one denomination,
when this, I say, comes in competition with SERM. conscience, and the virtuous affections; the I one, or the other, must be denied ; and they are both comprehended in our selves: but it is the former our religion requires us to deny. To speak in the stile of the sacred writer just now referred to, when the conceptions of lust are entertained and carry the determination of the mind, then sin is brought forth, when conscience prevails, and the practical decision is on its fide, then an act of christian selfdenial is perfected.
This notion of a diversity of practical principles, or springs of action in the human heart, is familiar in the scriptures and other moral writings ; nor without it can we understand the practice of virtue in our present state, which is a state of trial and discipline. We meet in the ancient moralists, frequently, with a distinction between the rational and irrational, the merely sensitive and the intelligent, the inferior and the superior part of men. There are fome parts of our constitution common to us with the brutal kinds ; for the animal nature to answer the ends of it's being, and it's preservation, is mov'd by instincts to pursue its proper objects; but we are capable of reflection, which the brutes are not ; of considering the ends of those instincts, and thereby judging of
SERM.the measures and limits within which their diI.
rection shall be follow'd ; and we are indued with higher faculties and affections, to which the other are subordinated ; and with liberty to pursue the nobler ends of our rational and moral
powers. Hence arises the struggle between the motions and tendencies of thefe different principles, which every man may find in his own experience, as the apostle expresses it, the fpirit lufteth against the flesh, and the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and these two are contrary, the one to the other ; a virtuous dispofition consists in the prevalence of the spirit or conscience, and a vicious temper in the predominancy of the lower appetites.
But, I know no author who carries this distinction farther, and states it more clearly, than the apostle Paul in the 7th chapter of his epistle to the Romans.
He gives a very lively description, as in his own person, of two opposite interests or principles in one man: one called fin that dwells in him, the body of fin and death, comprehending the whole complex of inward temptations, which take their rise from the body, so intimately near, that a man finds them often working in his heart, to entice and draw him away : the other call'd I more prou perly the man, the rational self-judging agent, that has the absolute supremacy by the order of nature, the right of restraining the lower
self, which the laws of our religion oblige us Serm. to deny. Again, St. Paul distinguishes these
1. two contrary springs of action, by the names of the law of the mind, and the law in the members, warring against it : they both, in
some sense, operate like laws with fanctions - upon our hopes and fears of pleasure and pain;
but the former only, that of the mind, is the true law of our nature as well as of Christianity: and the other, to be brought into subjection, or its government to be denied.
It is not necessary to enumerate the particulars contain’d in this general head, the self, to be denied. Every man knows, for he is conscious of them, the appetites of his nature to fensible objects, and which pursue the pleasures of the external senses, they are in some weaker, in some stronger, even by their different constitutions; but all have them in some degree. We find likewise aversions to bodily pain and other outward uneasinesses of various
forts, too many to be mention'd; and we find ; impulses of anger, a strong inclination, at
tended with vehement motions in the body, to
repel violence offered or harm received from a i voluntary invader ; which is properly an animal
instinct, for it is seen in beasts as well as in men, intended originally by the author of nature,