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have set to the affections, the pursuit and en-Serm.
I. joyment. The desire of eating and drinking may
be lawfully gratified, so far as the neceffity of life requires, but in being drunk with wine there is, excess, as the apostle speaks; indulging appetite in such a measure as to oppress nature, and render us unfit for rational, manly, pious, virtuous and charitable exercises : this is finful, and ought to be denied. Natural affection to parents, to brothers and sisters, and to children is innocent, nay virtuous : and to be without it is one of the worst of characters : but it becomes criminal when it prevails to such a degree, that thro' the influence of our dearest selatives, or a solicitude for their intereft, we desert our duty to God, Here the province of self-denial is very plain. It is to restrain our appetites, desires, and passions within due bounds, so as to preserve the supremacy of conscience; their just share to the higher affections in forming our tempers, and their proper
influence in the direction of our con, duct. And if the instincts of nature are to be so far under government, our obligation must be as great with respect to propensities we have contracted, which are sometimes strong even as nature itself, taking their rise from prejudice, custom, and false notions, which we have imbibed thro' inattention. And,
Lastly, It should be our constant care, that our thoughts do not unduely dwell on the objects of the lower appetites and passions; for the tendency of this is to strengthen our affections to them, and increase their influence on our practice. · We cannot hinder the first impressions of thefe objects, nor the first motions of our affections and desires to them: but the entertaining them in our thoughts, and meditating upon
them is more voluntary. The imagination is often employed actively in colouring them, and setting them off with advantage ; in forming scenes of pleasure which heighten desire, and various projects in order to fulfil it. This might be in a great measure restrained, by a careful attention and purpose of heart to exercise our thinking powers in a better and more proper manner : but when our vain thoughts lodge within us, and the fancy, not corrected by reason, heightens the apparent agreeableness of tempting objects, the mind is thereby betrayed into a compliance with the motions of lusts beyond the bounds which God's law has set us: and this by frequent indulgence grows into habit, which becomes a strong principle of action, forming the temper, and depriving the superior powers of their juft dominion.
As this is the natural progress of fin, where- SERM. by it advances to its reign in our mortal bo
I. dies, bringing the soul into the most abject Plavery; in opposition to it, self-denial become habitual would recover us to true freedom, restoring the sovereignty of reason and conscience. And the acquiring of such a habit I would principally recommend as the very perfection of our obedience to our Saviour's command in the text. It is acquired as all other habits are, by customary practice or frequently repeated acts. Let us then arm ourselves with strong resolution, and in pursuance of it, accustom ourselves to watch over the first tendencies of appetite and passion; to examine carefully the report of the imagination concerning them ; to suspend our consent to their motions, till we have maturely weighed and compared them with the just rules of action, and seen them agreeable ; peremptorily to reject their demands when conscience gainsays, or is doubtful; and resolutely to oppose their dominion. When this kind of discipline is habitual to us, the difficulties of self-denial are conquered, and the practice of our duty is easy.
Indeed, when men have long gone on in an evil course, and have been used to indulge every appetite without controul, their first
SERM. efsays in the way of self-denying virtue will I.
be painful to them. The * Prophet Jeremiah compares the impotence of mind to act worthily, which is contracted by vicious habits, to natural impossibilities. As the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard bis Spots, so they who have been accustomed to do evil, cannot learn to do well: which, at least, imports a very great difficulty. But even this difficulty is not altogether unconquerable. Strong virtuous resolutions, by the assistance of divine grace, have got the better of very bad habits. The conquest however cannot be obtained without a struggle ; and they who will break off their fins by repentance, and return to the paths of righteousness, must lay their account to meet with pain and uneasie nefs, especially at the beginning. To this imperfect state of mens minds are accommo, dated the Scripture representations of this duty, which describe it under the notions of morti, fying the deeds of the body and crucifying the fes with its affections and lusts t. . Our Sam viour uses the figurative expressions of #plucking out the right eye and cutting of the right band, which mean the same thing with deny, ing ourselves, only fignifying, that violence must be done to vicious and worldly inclina
tionsfer. xiii. 23. + Gal, v. 24.
| Matt. V. 29.
tions confirm’d by habit, and the reluctance SERM.
But Christians should always be growing up to
perfection in every virtue : and in order to that : increasing in self-denial, which it may be ex
pected will go on the more successfully, because
useful for Christians of the highest at-
their liberty, within the limits of what is strictly lawful, that they may the more effectually restore and preserve a dominion over themselves, that thereby they may be the more stedfast, abounding in the work of the Lord. This kind of discipline St. Paul used, as he tells 1 Cor. ix. 27. I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; that is, as appears from the preceding verses, by denying myself liberty in the use of indifferent chings, in order to my