Page images

belong to a state of sin, but whilst such a state continues they are the indispensable duty of sinners, and as necessary and acceptable to God asrelieving

the poor.

This must be allowed, or we must deny that there was any real atonement for sin in the suiferings and death of Christ; for if there was any real atonement in the sufferings of Christ, if his sufferings rendered God propitious and reconciled to sinners, it is undeniable, that all who suffer with the same spirit that Christ suffered, must in their degree recommend themselves to the favour of God, on the same account, and for the same reasons, that the sufferings of Christ procured peace and reconciliation.

If Christ, the Lord of all, and head of the church, is still making intercession for us at the right hand of God, does not this plainly teach us, that we cannot be accepted by God, unless we live in a state of supplication and prayer for ourselves ?

And if he, who had no sin of his own, was obliged to such sufferings, to make himself to be heard as an advocate for sin, surely sinners themselves cannot presume to sue for their own pardon, without putting themselves in the like state of humiliation and suffering. For since the atonement is made by sufferings, this as truly recommends sufferings to sinners, as if it had been made by prayer, that would have shown the way of prayer to have been the way of finding pardon.

Self-denial, therefore, and sufferings, are duties essential to the present state of sin, and recommend us to God, as holiness and purity recomniend us, by their own nature, and intrinsic fitness, thai is, they are good, as prayer, humility, and charity are good.

When we shall be removed to a state that is free from sin, self-denial and mortification will then be no part of our duty, but so long as this state of sin lasts, so long does the necessity and reason of self

denial and mortification last; they are as necessary as prayers and devotion, and are as truly essential parts of holiness, as charity and humility.

For repentance and sorrow for sin is as necessary to a being in a state of sin, as necessary on its own account, and from the nature of the thing, as the love of God is necessary for a being that receives all his happiness from God.

For to express our indignation, and inflict punishment on that which displeases God, is as reasonable in itself, and as much an act of holiness as to love and cherish that which God loves. So that all our self-denials, as punishments of sin, as expressions of sorrow for guilt, and as preventions of temptation, may be considered as so many instances of our love of purity.

Whilst therefore we continue in a state of corruption, it is as necessary that we continue in a state of repentance, self-denial, and sorrow, as it is necessary to continue our desires and endeavours after purity.

If we can find a time when we have no sin to lament, no occasion for the severities of repentance, it may be granted, that that would be a time for the abstaining from self-denial, and voluntary sufferings.

But if human life knows of no such season ; if we can never look at ourselves, but under the weight of sin, it is a demonstration, that indignation at ourselves, and a voluntary suffering for sin, is the necessary constant state of Christians.

Indeed if it be allowed that repentance and sorrow for sin is necessary, and that it ought to be the constant habit of a Christian's mind, till this life be at an end, we need no stronger proof of the constant necessity of self-denial and niortitication.

For what reason can there be for sorrow and grief for sin, which is not the same reason for selfdenial, and the daily cross ? Is not grief and sorrow

for sin a suffering and punishment for sin? Or can we grieve and afflict ourselves for our sins, unless we express that grief by a hearty indignation and real self-denial ?

If therefore we consider the reason and fitness of repentance, we see the reason and fitness of selfdeniai and voluntary sufferings; and consequently we must acknowledge that these self-denials are not less necessary, nor less recommended to us, than repentance and sorrow for sin.

For since they are of the same nature, and for the same end, and also essential to true repentance, it follows, that all Christians are obliged to be as constant in their self-denials and mortifications, as they are to be constant in their repentance.

Because such voluntary sufferings have the same essential relation to holiness, that charity and the love of God have.

though charity and the love of God will never cease, but this self-denial will have an end ; yet is this self-denial, during this state of sin, as essential to the holiness of persons in such a state as any other virtue.

It being the same degree of inward purity, and as right a spirit and temper to mourn and afiict ourselves for our sins, as to love that which God loves, or be thankful for his mercies. Now if a person was to give himseif up

to sorrow in a state of happiness, or to unthankfulness, though in the midst of mercies, he would act just as unreasonably, just as contrary to the nature of things as he that gives himself up to pieasures and indulgencies in a state of corruption and sin.

Let it therefore be carefully observed, that selfdenial and mortification are only other words for repentance and surrow for sin, and he that can distinguish them one from another, may distinguish grief from sorrow.

He therefore, that can doubt whether Christians are called to a daily practice of self-denial, seems to know as little of true religion, as if he doubted whether they were called to a daily repentance; for when we may live in a state contrary to repentance, then, and then only, may we live in a state contrary to self-denial.

Let a Christian ever cease from self-denial, let him ever forbear the mortification of his appetites, and at that time he ceases to consider himself as a sinner, and behaves himself as though he were then free from the guilt and danger of sin.

But as he never is in this state of freedom, so if he acts as if he were so, he acts as falsely as if he took himself to be an angel.

There is, therefore, as much reason, that the daily cross, or self-denial, should be imposed upon Christians as a daily prayer or repentance, and there is the same impiety, the same false judgment in refusing a daily self-denial, as in refusing or ceasing from a daily devotion and sorrow for sin.

For a man may as well imagine that he prays, or gives thanks to God, when he only repeats the words of a prayer or thanksgiving, as that he repents for his sins, unless his repentance be a real punishment, a true state of mortification. We

may now observe, that this doctrine of selfsuffering is founded upon the most important fundamental articles of our religion.

If we consider our redemption as an atonement made by suffering, does not this show. us the necessity of seeking pardon by a fellowship in the suflerings of Christ?

Need we any other argument, that there is no state so suitable to a sinner as that of suffering, when God has appointed sufferings as the atonement for sin ?

If we consider that we are devoted to death, and under a necessity of falling into dust, as a sacrifice for sin, does not this teach us the necessity of



[ocr errors][merged small]

making our life conformable to the intention of such a death?

For could there be any necessity that we should die as a sacrifice for sin, if we might lead a life of a contrary nature? Or could we act more contrary to God, than by making that life a state of pleasure and indulgence, which he has laid under the curse of death ? Ought we to indulge a life, which God considers as

too unholy to continue in being ?

Lastly, If we consider that repentance is the chief, the most constant and perpetual duty of a Christian, that our holiness has hardly any other existence than what arises from a perpetual repentance, can it be doubted that mortification and selfdenial are essential, perpetual parts of our duty?

For to suppose a repentance without the pain of mortification, and the punishment of self-denial, is as absurd as to suppose a labour after holiness, which takes not one step towards it.

For if repentance be not an exercise of mortification and self-denial, it is no more a state of repentance, than the lifting up our hands without our hearts is a state of prayer

and devotion. Repentance is a hearty sorrow for sin; sorrow is a pain or punishment, which we are obliged to raise to as high a degree as we can, that we may be fitter objects of God's pardon.

So that self-denial and mortification is only another word for a real repentance.

If Christians will still so far forget the nature and design of their religion, as to imagine that our Saviour's call to a daily cross and self-denial, was only a call to his first disciples to expect sufferings and death from their enemies; they are governed by as little reason, as if they should think, Repent ye, for the kingdom of hearen is at hand, only obliged those to repentance, who first entered into the kingdom of God.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »