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have set to the affections, the pursuit and en-SERM, joyment. The desire of eating and drinking I. may be lawfully gratified, so far as the necessity of life requires, but in being drunk with wine there is excess, as the apostle Speaks; indulging appetite in such a measure as to oppress nature, and render us unfit for rational, manly, pious, virtuous and charitable exercises; this is sinful, and ought to be denied, Natural affection to parents, to brothers and fifters, and to children is innocent, nay virtuous : and to be with out it is one of the worst of characters: but it becomes criminal when it prevails to such a degree, that thro’ the influence of our dearest Țelatives, or a solicitude for their interest, we desert our duty to God. Here the province of self-denial is very plain, It is to restrain our appetites, desires, and passions within due bounds, so as to preserve the supremacy of çonscience; their just share to the higher af fections in forming our tempers, and their proper
influence in the direction of our conduct. And if the instincts of nature are to be so far under government, our obligation must be as great with respect to propensities we have contracted, which are sometimes ftrong even as nature itself, taking their rise from prejudice, custom, and false notions, which we have imbibed thro' inattention. And,
our thoughts do not unduely dwell on the ob-
As this is the natural progress of fin, where- SERM. by it advances to its reign in our mortal bo
1. dies, bringing the soul into the most abject Slavery; in opposition to it, self-denial become habitual would recover us to true freedom, restoring the sovereignty of reason and conscience. And the acquiring of such a habit I would principally recommend as the very perfection of our obedience to our Saviour's command in the text. It is acquired as all other habits are, by customary practice or frequently repeated acts. Let us then arm ourselves with strong resolution, and in pursuance of it, accustom ourselves to watch over the first tendencies of appetite and passion; to examine carefully the report of the imagination concerning them ; to suspend our consent to their motions, till we have maturely weighed and compared them with the just rules of action, and seen them agreeable ; peremptorily to reject their demands when conscience gainsays, or is doubtful; and resolutely to oppose their dominion. When this kind of discipline is habitual to us, the difficulties of self-denial are conquered, and the practice of our duty is easy.
Indeed, when men have long gone on in an evil course, and have been used to indulge cyery appetite without controul, their first
Ser M. effays in the way of self-denying virtue will I.
be painful to them. The * Prophet Jeremiah compares the impotence of mind to act worthily, which is contracted by vicious habits, to natural impossibilities. As the Ethiopian cannot change bis skin, nor the leopard bis Spots, so they who have been accustomed to do evil, cannot learn to do well: which, at least, imports a very great difficulty. But even this difficulty is not altogether unconquerable. Strong virtuous resolutions, by the affistance of divine have
the better of very grace, got bad habits. The conqueft however cannot be obtained without a struggle ; and they who will break off their fins by repentance, and return to the paths of righteousness, must lay their account to meet with pain and uneasis nefs, especially at the beginning. To this imperfect state of mens minds are accommodated the Scripture representations of this duty; which describe it under the notions of mortis fying the deeds of the body and crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts it. Our Sam viour uses the figurative expreffions of I plucking out the right eye and cutting off the right band, which mean the same thing with denys ing ourselves, only fignifying, that violence must be done to vicious and worldly inclina
tions Jer. xiii. 23. + Gal, v. 24.
| Matt. V. 29.
tions confirm’d by habit, and the reluctance SERM, arising from their prevalence in the heart must I. be overcome, be it ever fo painful. This is the disadvantage which attends our infancy in a virtuous state; and therefore the scripture account of felf-denial under the idea of mortification was well adapted to the new disciples of Christ in the first age, as it is to others in every age, whose condition is parallel in refpect of weakness.
But Chriftians should always be growing up to perfection in every virtue : and in order to that increafing in felf-denial, which it may be ex
go on the more successfully, because it ftill becomes more easy. And indeed it may be very
useful for Christians of the highest attainments who are zealously pressing on to perfection, by a customary feverity towards their inferior appetites, to lay restraints upon their liberty, within the limits of what is strictly fawful, that they may the more effectually restore and preserve a dominion over themselves, that thereby they may be the more stedfaft, abounding in the work of the Lord. This kind of discipline St. Paul ufed, as he tells i Cor. ix. 27. I keep under my body, and bring it into subječtion ; that is, as appears from the preceding verses, by denying myself liberty in the ufe of indifferent things, in order to my