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•being less incumber'd, and proceeding with greater expedition in the christian race; and that I may the better secure to myself the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesu94: Secondly\ I come now to vindicate this precept of self-denial j from any just imputation of severity j and shew the reasonableness of it. This precept of christianity has been objected against by men who attend more to the found than the meaning of words, and are ready to lay hold on the first slender appearances of an argument against religion, without examining them thoroughly. They alledge, 'tis unnatural to require that men should deny themselves; that is, subdue, renounce, and mortify the desires and passions which God has planted in their hearts, to no purpose, unless to make them uneasy, if they are not to be gratified. Such reasoning will have very little weight with serious attentive minds : for the weakness of it presently appears when we look into the constitution of our nature itself. Who does not feel interfering tendencies in his own heart -t desires at once to different objects, desires, which cannot be gratified at once, but one neceflarily must yield to another? What then shall we take upon us to censure the work of God our maker, as an inconsistent self-contradictory system? shall we say to him that formed Us,serm; why hast thou made me thus, with inclinations not to be satisfied j particularly, with desires of sensual and worldly enjoyment; with desires of revenge, or rather of self-defence, perverted by our own fault into revenge j and at the same time with affections of a quite different tendency, and with conscience, which remonstrates against the gratifying of our lower desires in many instances, and torments us if we do not restrain them ? what then? where is the inconsistency in all this? I hope the variety which appears in our constitution, is no'argument against the wisdom and goodness of the author, since there is provision made for order and harmony, and for a high, a rational happiness to be obtain'd by us, if we will preserve that subordination in the exercise of our powers and affections, which the frame of nature itself clearly points to. But I need not carry the argument so far, my present subject does not require a defence of the foundations of natural religion and morality, it is enough to rest the defence of Christianity, that part of it lam now considering upon them. Let us then take the constitution of human nature, as in fact we find it to be; and, I think, every considerate person will be convinced, that according to it, we cannot be happy, but in the practice of virtue,
SERM.andthat we cannot practise virtue without felf^ denial. Now shall we find fault with the author of our religion for requiring us to do what our own. reason requires, and without which we cannot have peace in our own minds^ nor any hopes of a future felicity B
Again, if we consider the life of man, as it now is within the limits of the present state,, abstracting from the consideration of religiousvirtue, and of a future condition of being* we. shall find that self-denial is necestary to our obtaining the ends of it ; and that this is a precept of prudence as well as Christianity^ Manin his present state, which to every one whe* considers it attentively will appear to be a state of probation and discipline, may be considered in two different capacities, the natural and the religious; between which there is a remarkable analogy: both are under the government of divine providence j both terminate in such happiness as we are capable of, but of different kinds j. the one aims at, and has its complete end in our highest felicity, which consists in the perfection of virtue and righteousness; the other, the natural capacity, pursues the greatest ease, prosperity, or enjoyment, which in the whole can be attained here: the attaining of these different ends in a great measure, depends upon ourselves. As virtue is im
proveable proveable, and by degrees grows up to per-S Er M. section by our own diligence $ so every one sees in the fruition of life, our interest is carried U"""V~""J on, and our temporal happiness advanced by the proper exercise of our own powers, and the prudent diligent use of such means as providence puts into our hands. Both are obstructed by the fame means, and both promoted by the fame means. The great impediments to our interests in this world, I mean the regular and successful prosecution of them, are appetites and passions, especially when confirmed by habits. Who is the man that enjoys life, easily attains to a comfortable worldly estate, and to a high reputation ? not surely the glutton, the drunkard, the sluggard, the proud, the revengeful and the cruel j or that any other way gives an unbounded liberty to his lusts and his passions; but, on the contrary, he that is master of himself, that can thwart his humours, bridle his inclinations and deny his ease, or other sensual gratifications; and the same are the means of advancing to moral perfection. We fee then that God, as the master of our lives and worldly estates, the guardian of our present condition of being» has taught us to deny ourselves; and that by the same kind of discipline which is necessary to our being wife in our present generation, we
SERM.are inured to, and prepared for the best and I. and most important wisdom, even that which
u—v~",''is unto salvation.
Let us consider how great, how noble the ends of virtue, of moral perfection and the fixture happiness, are above those of the present life j and if wisdom requires our denying our appetites and passions for the latter, shall we complain of it as a hardship to submit to the same self-denial for the other? Is- he justly counted a fool with respect to his concerns ia this world, who will not curb his appetite of thirst to prevent or cure a dropsy j who will sacrifice a reasonable prospect of lawful gain to floth and laziness j. or who to gratify a little peevish resentment will throw himself out of the way of rising to an honourable station in his country r and what shall we think of the man, who will wilfully indulge himself in these or such like passions, at the expence of his integrity, the inward peace of his mind, and his hopes of heaven?
Thus you fee, that this precept, so far from being an unreasonable imposition on the liberties of mankind, is excellently accommodated to the constitution and the state of human nature, nay, and absolutely necessary to the attaining its true ends. But our Saviour has made it a part of his religion, and he has en