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one inwardly, and Circumcision is that of the Heart, in the Spirit and not in the Letter, whose Praise is not of Men, but of God.
DISCOURSE V. The Nature and Advantage of Self
MAT. xvi. 24. Then said Jesus unto his Disciples, if any
man will come after me, let him deny himself. to HESE Words exhibit to us T a Duty, which, at the first Loi Proposal, bids as fair for our s o Assent, and carries as much Conviction with it, as any we are concerned in. The least Reflection will inform us, that the human Nature wants Guidance and Direction, Re
straint and Discipline ; and if indulg'd in all its Appetites, and all their Degrees, must be greatly disordered, if not immediately dissolved.
But notwithstanding this ready Afsent to the Duty of Self-Denial in general, when we come to inquire into the particular Exercise of it, we find our selves involy'd in great Difficulties. We feel our selves. press’d with a natural and necessary Love of our selves, which it is not in our Power to divest our selves of: The Love of our own Being, Perfection and Happiness, is interwoven with our Being it self; Sense and Consciousness are not nearer to us; and when we examine this our most Domestick Instinct, we cannot but approve it entirely. The Preservation of our Being, and the Increase of our Perfection and Happiness, are manifestly our highest Duty and supreme Interest. What can make us amends for the Loss of our Being, what valuable Exchange can we make for Happiness ?
At the same time as Self-love is thus highly reasonable and absolutely necessary, Self-denial must be confess'd to be so coo.
How far this necessary, this reasonable Instinct ought to be restrained or encouraged; (for it neither can nor ought to be cancelled or struck out of our Composition) where to fix the exact Limits or Boundaries of it, seems to be a Business, not only of great Importance, but of uncommon Delicacy and Niceness.
Now as a general and confused Conviction of a Dury, without a certain, and definite Application of it in Practice, can serve only to perplex our Minds, and render us unstable in our Manners; so I cannot better employ the present Occasion, than in endeavouring to state the Grounds and Reasons of Self-Denial, from whence the
Limits and Boundaries of it will appear; which being known, we need no longer fight, as those who beat the Air, but walking in the Light, may make straight Paths to our Feet.
Self-Love then, as was before observed, is a necessary and reasonable Principle; 'tis our highest Dury and supreme Interest to seek our highest Perfection and Happiness ; a Dury, which no Case or Consideration whatsoever can interfere with. To suppose any Being, under Obligations to destroy it self, or neglect its own Happiness, is to charge the Author of Nacure with Inconsistency and Cruelty, and is the highest Reflection on the divine Wisdom and Goodness.
This being allowed, the Duty of Self-Denial can stand only upon this Ground: It supposes and implies, that we are apt to love our felves irregularly, to mistake our true Happiness, to pursue things as agreeable or good,