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şervants, their utter worthlessness, their tendency to poison and defile the whole man, and to stop up the sources from whence true happiness flows, are clearly seen.
Not a few, who once seemed to bid fair for heaven, have been so entangled by the pleasures of sense, as to have deserted the narrow path which leadeth to eternal glory, and to have made “shipwreck of faith and a good conscience."
Against such an inordinate thirst after pleasure, the voice of God decidedly cautions us, as fatal to the
peace and prosperity of our souls; and directs us to cultivate a spiritual taste, in order that we
may approve things which are excellent, and that we may be sincere, and without offence, till the day of Christb." If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me
The necessity of attending to this duty, and what it binds us to perform, shall now be stated.
Self-denial is the refraining from the use of those things which, if indulged, would prove injurious to our bodies and souls. The things to which this act of abstinence should extend, are, either those which areimproper in themselves, on account of their sinful qualities ; or those which, though lawful and harmless in their nature, may nevertheless be abused, and become occasions of injury and falling to others.
1. Of the first class are all sinful indulgences, of what kind soever they be. These are comprehended by St. John, under the three following heads: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.'
The objects that are calculated to excite "the * 1 Tim. i. 19. Phil. i. 10. • Luke ix. 23. • 1 Jolin ii. 16.
lusts of the flesh," are those sensual gratifications which minister pleasure to a vicious carnal mind. Under this description, the apostle Paul, in the name of God, interdicts lewdness, fornication, adultery, obscenity in words or actions, drunkenness, gluttony, and every species of excess. Besides these, he specifies other hateful sins, which spring from the same vitiated fountain—" idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of Gode.”
The “lusts of the eye” are those objects which that organ of sight beholds with an eager desire of the mind to obtain them, as if the possession would secure unmingled satisfaction; such as, the pleasures and emoluments of the world, gold and silver, the possessions and decorations of life; in short, any thing which affords carnal gratification to the eye, or to the animal desires, excited by its communi'cation with the soul.
“ The pride of life” consists of the dignities, authority, reputation, splendid titles, honour, and fame of the world, or any other thing which tends to lift men above their fellow-creatures, or to flatter their ambitious pretensions.
Now, in these things the men of the world make up their happiness; after them they aspire continually; and they account the attainment of them the summit of human felicity.
We admit that the world, as it came out of the hands of its Creator, was very good', and a proper object of regard, as his work, and for his sake; but Gal. v. 19-22.
* Gen, i. 31.
as sin hath defaced and filled it with pollution, our affections ought to be alienated from its spirit, maxims, practices, unholy pleasures and amusements. God enjoins us to keep aloof from it ; lest we should manifest hostility to him, by maintaining an unhallowed intercourse with it 8:-"Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Under the division, therefore, of things which must be denied and renounced, every species of sin, every impure desire and gratification, every unholy thought, word, and deed, is expressly included. We are required to put them away from us, as we would a defiled garment, with disgust; to throw them off, lest they should encumber us in running the spiritual race : for if retained, they will certainly thrust us for ever out of heaven. night is far spent ; the day is at hand: let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ; and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."
2. The Gospel of Christ expects us to carry our self-denial, in some particular cases, to things innocent and unexceptionable in themselves; but which, through our own infirmity, or the weakness and igno
& James iv.4. bi John ii. 16, 17. i Rom. xii. 14.
rance of others, might lay a stumbling-block in their way, and endanger their salvation.
St. Paul states some instances in which it is our bounden duty to comply with the scruples of the weak, and to abstain from the use of things indifferent in their nature, for their edification. He has set us an example of conciliation, in this respect, which is worthy of general imitation. Whenever an inflexible regard to the word and glory of God would permit, he yielded to the prejudices of some and to the infirmities of others, and sacrificed his own pleasure in order that he night promote the spiritual welfare of the flock of Christ :-"All things are lawful unto me; but all things are not expedient!” “For thongh I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without the law, (being not without the law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some"."
Now, are there no gratifications of this description which charity to our infirm brethren should make us willing to forego, rather than to injure their tender consciences ? Are we careful to walk circumspectly, not abusing our Christian liberty, but shewing all wisdom, and meekness, and condescension; choosing rather to recede, at times, from our undoubted rights, than pertinaciously to * Rom. xiv. 19-22. 11 Cor. vi. 12. mi Cor, ix. 19-24.
contend for them? In a word, Do we deny ourselves the indulgence of every thing that may occasion sin in others, or be the cause of their halting or declension from the ways of God ?
If we can sport with the infirmities of our “weak brother, for whom Christ died";" if we refuse to debar ourselves from the enjoyment of things unnecessary or unessential, when they stand in the way of his advancement in the knowledge of heavenly truth ; where is our love for Christo? How great were the privations to which He cheerfully submitted, for our redemption! And cannot we make the slightest sacrifice, to promote his glory, and the happiness of his chosen people ?
3. This spirit of religious abstinence is conducive to real holiness, whilst it affords a pleasing kind of evidence of our sincerity. Without some degree of self-denial, we can never grow in grace, nor attain any establishmentin the Divinelife, nor maintain communion with God, nor give any proofs of being in a state of justification and acceptance with the Lord.
How is it practicable to go forward in the way of righteousness, so long as sin is indulged, or not opposed! To give the reins to our passions, and blindly to follow
the dictates of unenlightened reason, is the direct method to plunge our souls into the inire of pollution. To give an unrestrained licence to our animal desires, is as sure a step to the obstruction of our minds in their course to holy attainments, as it would be to embarrass the feet of a racer with heavy chains, in order to prevent his arriving first at the goal. “Let us, therefore, lay aside every weight, and the sin which Joth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, looking ni Cor, viti. 9, 13.
o ib. viii. 12, 13.