Page images

since Christian temperance is in order to holiness, purity, and heavenly affection, he can only be said to be truly temperate, whose temperance is most serviceable to the highest degrees of holiness.

And to stop short of any known degrees of temperance, is like stopping short of any known degrees of charity. It is therefore as necessary to practise all the exercises of self-denial and strict abstinence, as it is necessary to aspire after real holiness.

For as our bodies are constant, and home enemies, and have a mighty influence in all our actions, so far as we preserve them in a state suitable to holiness, so far we preserve ourselves fit for the exercise of religion.

It is out of all question, that there is a purity and impurity of our bodies, as well as of our souls; that is, there are some states and tempers of our bodies, that favour and incline to acts of virtue, and others that as much incline to all sorts of sensuality.

This is as certain, as that gluttony and drunkenness dispose men to all sorts of sins, and give them a disrelish for all kinds of holiness. For as these states of life have the utmost contrariety to religion; so every approach towards them is, in a certain degree, partaking of them.

A man that lives in such a state, as not to be called either a glutton or a drunkard, may yet be so near them, as to partake of those tempers and inclinations which are the effects of gluttony and drunk

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


For there are such degrees in these, as in other ways of life. A man may be vain and uncharitable, yet not so as to be remarkable for his vanity and uncharitableness, so he may also be under the guilt and evil effects of eating and drinking, though not so as to be esteemed either a glutton or intemperate.

So that the only security for a good Christian, is to make it the care of his life, to resist all enjoye

ments that cherish vanity and uncharitableness, not only in such degrees as are scandalous and visible in the eyes of men, but such as inwardly hurt the humility and charity of his mind.

In like manner is to eating and drinking, he is constantly to practise such abstinence as may secure him not only from sensuality in the sight of the world, but such as may best alter, purify, and humble his body, and make it the holy habitation of a soul devoted to a spiritual life.

St. Paul saith, I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth

1 Cor. ix. the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.

Let it therefore be observed, that the apostle practised this self-denial and mortification, not only as a good and advisable thing, and suitable to holiness, but as of the last necessity. It was not as he was an apostle, and that he might be fitter for the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, but it was to secure his salvation, lest when he had preached to others, he should be a cast-away.

Let it be considered that this apostle, who lived in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake, who was also full of signs and wonders, and mighty deeds, and who had been caught up into the third heavens; yet reckons all his virtues as unsecure, and his salvation in danger, without this severity of self-denial; he thought all his other advancements in piety without this, to be as vain a labour as beating the air

2 Cor. xii. So run I, saith he, not as uncertainly; by which he plainly teaches us, that he who does not thus run, who does not thus mortify the body, runs uncertainly, and fighteth to as little purpose as he that beateth the air.

Can they therefore who live in ease and softness, and bodily indulgences, who study and seek after every gratification, be said to be of St. Paul's religion, or to be governed by that spirit which governed him.

An apostle preaching the Gospel with signs and wonders, in the midst of distress and persecution, thought his owu salvation in danger, without this subjection of his own body, and shall we, who are born in the dregs of time, who have no works like his to appeal to, think it safe to feed and indulge in ease and plenty ?

A man may indeed practise the outward part of a Christian, he may be orthodox in his faith, and regular in the forms of religion, and yet live in ease and indulgence. But if he would put on Christ, and be clothed with the humility and meekness of his true disciples, if he would love his enemies, and be in Christ a new creature; if he would live by faith, and have his conversation in heaven; if he would be born again of God, and overcome the world, he must lay the foundation of all these graces in the mortification and subjection of his body. For not only religion, but reason can show us, that almost every ill temper, every hinderance of virtue, every clog in our way of piety, and the strength of every temptation chiefly arises from the state of our bodies,


The Subject of Self-denial farther continued.

WHERE are no truths of Christianity more plainly

[ocr errors]

sally acknowledged by all Christians than these two, viz. the general corruption of human nature, and the

absolute necessity of divine grace. Now these two doctrines make the reason and necessity of a continual self-denial plain and obvious to the meanest capacity, and extend it to all those things or enjoyments, which either strengthen the corruption, of our nature, or grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and cause him to leave us.

Let any one but reflect upon the nature of these two fundamental truths, and he will find himself spon convinced, that all those enjoyments are to be abstained from, which either support our natural blindness and corruption, or resist and abate the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

He will find also, that this self-denial must extend itself to every day of our lives, unless he can find a day when he is free from weakuess, or out of the way of all temptations; a day which offers nothing suitable to the corruption of his nature, or nothing contrary to the good motions and directions of the Holy Ghost. Most people acknowledge this in general, they think it right to avoid things which strengthen our corruption, and grieve the Spirit of God; but then not conceiving this with any sufficient exactness, they think that an abstinence from gross sins is a sufficient security,

But let such people consider, that the corruption of our nature is like any other bodily illness, that never keeps at one stand, but is either increasing or abating hy every thing that we do.

A dropsy or a gangreen is not only increased by drunkenness, or disorderly indulgences, but receives constant strength by all little indulgences that suit with it.

Now the corruption of our nature is an inbred distemper, that possesses us in the manner of a dropsy or gangreen; if we give in to notorious sins, wę become slaves to this corruption, and are straitway dead in sin.

But though we keep clear of such great offences,


yet if we indulge or allow ourselves in such practices as suit with the corruption of our nature, we as certainly nourish a slow death, and destroy ourselves by degrees, as a man in a dropsy, who abstains from drunkenness, yet allows himself in such ways as will not sufler bis distemper to abate.

Now as little allowances that continually increase a distemper, will as certainly in time make it mortal, as if it had been urged on by violent methods, so little indulgences, which increase the corruption of our nature, as certainly tend to a spiritual death, as other more irregular methods.

It is therefore absolutely certain, that our selfdenial is to be as universal, as the means of our corruption, that it is to last as long as our disorder, and is to extend itself to every thing, and every way of life that naturally increases it; and this, for as necessary a reason, as a man in a dropsy is not only to abstain from drunkenness, but from every indulgence that increases bis distemper.

A state of regimen, therefore, that is, a state of holy discipline, is as necessary to alter the disorder of our nature, as it is necessary to remove any distempered habit of body.

Let it be considered, that the corruption of our nature is but very weakly represented by comparing it to these distempers, that they rather express the manner of its cure, and the necessity of labouring after it, than set forth the degree of the disorder.

For a man in these distempers may have only some part affected with them, but the corruption of our natures is as extensive as our natures: it is the corruption of every faculty and every power; it is blindness in our understandings; it is ranity in our wills; intemperance in our appetites; it is self-love, anger, lust, pride, and revenge, in our pössions; it is falseness, hypocrisy, hatred, and malice in our hearts. Now all this, and more than this, makes the miserable corruption of human nature.

« PreviousContinue »