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authority, natural, ecclesiastical, and civil, must be exercised with respect to God, who is the fountain of all power. That the most allowable affection to the friend of our bosom, and natural tenderness to our own offspring, will not justify the transgression of our duty; because, if we truly love God, we should suffer no creature to be his rival. That our whole subsistence in this world must be abandoned, when we cannot keep it without making shipwreck of conscience; because otherwise we shall certainly lose the inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not. That life itself, which nature has taught us to guard with so much care, must be readily parted with, rather than deny the truth; because this is, in such a case, the only method to secure the blessings of life eternal. And that, though the pain and ignominy our persecutors inflict, should equal that of the cross, yet it must be patiently endured, rather than disown our blessed Master, who suffered that infamous punishment upon our account, and will deny us before his Father, if we deny him before men.
Q. Is this duty of self-denial of indispensable obligation?
A. Religion being a duty we owe to God, can never be superseded by any commands even of our lawful superiors; because we are obliged to obey God rather than men. And when we are brought before kings and governors for Christ's sake, we are to bear our testimony against them, because all their authority is derived from God; so that they can have no power to control those commands he lays upon us. And if, through fear, or any other worldly passion, we are prevailed upon to comply against the truth, we may justly expect the
Acts v. 29.
dreadful fate of being denied by our Saviour at the great day, before his Father who is in heaven.
Q. How is the denial of our innocent appetites instrumental in mortifying our sinful desires and disobedient actions?
A. Because if we gratify them in all things, where we lawfully may, they will, by long use and indulgence, acquire a great power and empire over us, and it will be a difficult task to deny them any thing; for our appetites make no difference between an innocent and sinful enjoyment, they are only moved by pleasure; so that if we will be sure to conquer and subdue them in all instances that are sinful, we must take care they grow not strong upon us in any instances whatsoever.
Q. Wherein appears the reasonableness of this duty of self-denial in the strictest sense?
A. Because that as God has promised to assist and support us by his Holy Spirit in the discharge of this difficult duty; so he has been graciously pleased to assure us, that he will reward the practice of it with greater degrees of eternal happiness; and nothing can be more reasonable than to part with things of small value, for things infinitely greater and more considerable. And we are sure, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed. We are his creatures, and the purchase of our Saviour's blood; therefore no consideration whatsoever should stand in competition with the serving him. Besides, the blessed Jesus, who requires it from us, has given us the greatest example of self-denial that ever was, and that in pity and kindness to us, and wholly for our benefit and advantage.
Rom. viii. 18.
FOR THE IMITATION OF SAINTS.
O ALMIGHTY God, whom truly to know is everlasting life; grant me perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life; that following the steps of thy holy Apostles, St. Philip and St. James, I may stedfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life, through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF GRACE.
GRACIOUS God, teach me readily to obey thy hea venly call; carefully to attend to all the suggestions of thy blessed spirit; entirely to give my assent to all those truths which have been attested by miracles, and carry in their nature an evidence that they come from above. And when thou hast thus illuminated my understanding with a ray of heavenly light, rectify my crooked and perverse will, by the practice of thy holy precepts, and excite all my affections to a constant observation of them. Make me zealous to propagate this sure way to true happiness, to all those who sit in the darkness of error, or in the slavery of sin. Raise up a primitive spirit of zeal and fervour to convert souls, among those who wait at thy altar; engage the minds of the great and powerful to countenance all such pious undertakings, and let every Christian in his place and station contribute to so good a work; that the whole world may be enlightened with the knowledge and love of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
FOR FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAINTS.
BLESSED God, who hast set before us the examples of thy saints, that our duty may become familiar to us, since performed by men of like passions with ourselves; arm me with resolution to confess thee before men, as they did; that neither profit may engage, nor pleasure soften me into any sinful compliance, nor any sufferings or persecutions so far influence my fear, as to make me stagger or move from my stedfastness; that in all my sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, I may fix my mind upon those things thou hast prepared for them that love thee, and by the example of thy saints, pray to thee for those that cruelly and despitefully use me, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God, to succour those who suffer for thee, the only mediator, and advocate. Amen.
THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Q. What Festival does the church celebrate this day? A. Our blessed Saviour's ascending into heaven in his human nature, and his sitting at the right hand of God.
Q. When did our Saviour ascend into heaven?
A. Forty days after his resurrection; during which time he confirmed the truth of his resurrection, by appearing several times to his disciples, discoursing with them, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God."
" Acts i. 3.
Q. How was the Ascension performed? A. While Jesus was blessing his disciples, he was taken up in a bright cloud, they all stedfastly looking after him, till he was entirely gone out of their sight." Q. What testimony did the angels bear at his Ascension?
A. While the Apostles were looking after our Saviour, two of them appeared to them, assuring them, that as Jesus was taken from them into heaven, so he should in as glorious a manner return again to judge the world.
Q. Was it necessary the Apostles should be eyewitnesses of the Ascension?
A. Yes, in order to the confirmation of the certainty and reality of it. For though this was not necessary in his resurrection, because whatever was a proof of his life after death, was a demonstration of his resurrection; yet the Apostles not being to see him when in heaven, it was necessary they should be eye-witnesses of his act of ascending, that so they might be able to bear their testimony to it.
Q. What further proof had the Apostles of our Saviour's Ascension?
A. Before they saw our Saviour ascend, he had told them whither he was going, and what power and dignity would be conferred upon him; and, as an evidence of this his exaltation to the right hand of God, had promised to send down the Holy Ghost upon them in a sensible manner; so that they, afterwards receiving the wonderful effects of his being there, had abundant evidence of his exaltation in heaven.
Q. How was Christ's Ascension typically represented under the law?
b Acts 9, 10.
@ ver. 11. d John xiv. 28, 29. John xv. 26.