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SERM. being less incumber'd, and proceeding with
greater expedition in the christian race ; and
precept of self-denial, from any just imputation of severity; and Thew the reasonableness of it. This
precept of christianity has been objected against by men who attend more to the sound than the meaning of words, and are ready to lay hold on the first sender appearances of an argument against religion, without examining them thoroughly. They alledge, 'tis unna. tural 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 conftitution of our nature itself. Who does not feel interfering tendencies in his own heart ; defires at once to different objects, desires, which cannot be gratified at once, but one necessarily must yield to another ? What then thall we take
upon us to censure the work of God our maker, as an inconsistent self-contradictory
fjstem ? shall we say to him that formed us, SERMO
I. why hast thou made me thus, with inclinations not to be fatisfied ; particularly, with desires of sensual and worldly enjoyment ; with desires of revenge, or rather of self-defence, perverted by our own fault into revenge ; and at the same time with affections of a quite different tendency, and with conscience, which remonstrates against the gratifying of our lower defires in many instances, and torments us if we do not restrain them? what then ? where is the inconsistency in all this? I hope the vasiety 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 I am 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, VOL. I.
Serm.and that we cannot practise virtue without felt ).
denial. Now shall we find fault with the author of our religion for requiring us to do what our own reafon requires, and without which we cannot have peace in our own minds, nor any hopes of a future felicity ?
Again, if we consider the life of man, as it now is within the limits of the present state, abstracting from the confederation of religious virtue, and of a future condition of being, we shall find that self-denial is neceffary to our obtaining the ends of it, and that this is a precept of prudence as well as christianity. Man in his present state, which to every one who confiders it attentively will appear to be a state of probation and discipline, may be confidered in two different capacities, the natural and the religious ; between which there is a remarkable analogy: both are under the government of divine providence; both terminate in such happiness as we are capable of, but of different kinds; 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, purfues the greatest eafe, prosperity, or enjoyment, which in the whole can be attained here: the attaining of these different ends in a great meafure, depends upon ourselves. As virtue is im
proveable, and by degrees grows up to per- SERM. fection by our own diligence ; so every one sees
I. in the fruition of life, our interest is carried 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 same means, and both promoted by the same 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 con
firmed by habits. Who is the man that enjoys i life, easily attains to a comfortable worldly
estate, and to a high reputation ? not surely
has taught us to deny ourselves ; and that by e the same kind of discipline which is necessary to our being wise in our present generation, we
Serm. are imured to, and prepared for the beft and I. and most important wisdom, even that which 'is unto falvation.
Let us consider how great, how noble the ends of virtue, of moral perfection and the future happinefs, are above those of the present life ; and if wifdom 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 refpect to his concerns in this world, who will not curb his appetite of thirst to prevent or cure a dropsy; who will sacrifice a reasonable prospect of lawful gain to floth and laziness ; or who to gratify a little peevith refentment will throw himfelf out of the way of rising to an honourable station in his country ? and what shall we think of the man, who will wilfully indulge himself in these or such like paffions, at the expence of his integrity, the inward peace of his mind, and his hopes of heaven?
Thus you see, 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