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For there is nothing in the nature of repentance that shows it to be a more constant duty, or more essential to the Christian life, than there is in this mortification and self-suffering.
It is also very absurd to suppose, that a command to deny themselves, and take up their own cross daily, should mean only the enduring and expecting of sufferings from others.
Let us now suppose the contrary, that Christians are not called to this state of mortification, or denial of their appetites. Let us suppose that Christian churches are full of fine gay people, who spend their days in all the pleasures and indulgencies which the spirit of the world can invent.
Can it in any sense be said of such, that they live in a state of repentance and sorrow for sin? May they not, with as much regard to truth, be said to live in sackcloth and ashes? Can their hearts feel any sorrow, or be mourning for the weight and misery of sin, who live only to the studied enjoyments of ease and pleasure? Can they be said to grieve at guilt, or be afraid of sin, who pamper all their appetites, and seek all the enjoyments that lead to temptation? Can they, who live in the gratifications of the flesh, and scenes of pleasure, be said to be working out their salvation with fear and trembling? May they not as justly be said to be waiking bare-foot to Jerusalen?
If therefore we will not destroy the whole state of religion, if we will but own it to be a state of trial and probation, we must also allow, that selfdenial and abstinence from pleasures are daily essential duties of it.
For a life of sorrow for sin, and mourning for the guilt of it, and a life of pleasure and indulgence, are inconsistent states, and as necessarily destroy one another, as motion puts an end to rest.
Repentance will have no place in heaven, because that will be a state of perfection; and for the same
reason it ought never to be laid aside on earth, be cause there is no time when we are not under the guilt, and subject to the danger of sin.
This does not suppose, that we are always to be. uttering forms of confession from our mouths; but it
supposes, that we are always to live with so much watchfulness as becomes penitent sinners, and never do any thing, but what highly suits with a state of repentance.
So that whenever we can abate our self-denials, without abating our sorrow for sin, when we can find pleasures that neither soften the mind, nor make it less fearful of temptation; then, and so far only, may we seek our ease.
For repentance, whilst it is only a lip-work at stated times, is nothing; it has not had its effect, till it has entered into the state and habit of our lives, and rendered us as fearful of sin in every part of our lives, as when we are making our confessions.
Now this state of penitence, which alone is suited. to a state of corruption and infirmity, can no more exist without constant daily self-deniai, than we can daily govern our appetites, without daily looking after them.
To proceed: Our Saviour saith, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Now this is another direct call to self-denial, and abstinence from pleasures, as must appear to every one that knows mourning to be different from pleasure and indulgence.
The blessedness that is here ascribed to mourning, must be understood in relation to mourning, as it is a state of life, and not as to any transient acts, or particular times of mourning.
For no actions are valuabie or rewardable, but as. they arise from a state or temper of mind that is constant and habitual.
If it had been said, Blessed are the charitable, it must have meant, Blessed are they who live in a
state and habit of charity. For the same reason, are we to understand the blessedness, which is due to mourning, to be only due to a state and life of mourning.
Secondly, Blessed are they that mourn, shows us, that this mourning concerns all men as such, without any distinction of time or persons; so that its excellency and fitness must be founded upon something that is common and constant to all times and all persons. For if there was any time when we might change this state of mourning, or were there any persons that might be excused from it, it could not be said in general, Blessed are they that mourn.
If therefore this mourning be a reasonable and excellent temper, that equally leads all orders of men to blessedness, its reasonableness must be founded in the common state and condition of man; that is, if mourning be good for all men, it must be because the state and condition of all men, as such, requires mourning.
But if this mourning be founded in the present state of man, as suitable to his condition in this life, it must be always the same excellent and proper temper, till death changes his state, and puts him in a condition that requires another temper.
Now what can this state of mourning be, but a godly sorrow founded upon a true sense and feeling of the misery of our state, as it is a state of fallen spirits, living in sin and vanity, and separation from God?
What can it be, but a ceasing to enjoy and rejoice in the false gools and enjoyments of this life, because they delude and corrupt our hearts, increase our blindness, and sink us deeper in our distance froin God?
What mourning can be blessed, but such as mourns at that which displeases God, which condemns and rejects what the wisdom of God rejects, which loosens us from the vanity of the world, lessens the weight of our corruption, and quickens our motions and aspirings towards perfection?
This is not a mourning that shows itself in occasional fits of sorrow, or dejection of mind; but it is a regular temper, or rather a right judgment, which refuses pleasures, that are not only the pleasures of a corrupted state, but such as also increase and strengthen our corruption.
One constant property of a true mourning, is abstinence from pleasures; and we generally reckon a sorrow very near its end, when diversions and amusements begin to be relished.
This mourning therefore to which this blessedness is ascribed, must be a constant abstinence from vain joys; it must preserve itself by rejecting and disrelishing all those worldly delights and satisfactions, which, if admitted, would put an end to its state of mouuning
Now what is all this, but that state of self-denial and daily-cross, to which our Saviour called his disciples ?
For we may imagine any thing, if we can imagine that a state of religious mourning is not a state of religious self-denial.
Unless therefore we will say, that the blessedness of mourning was also only preached to Christ's first followers; we must allow, that all Christians are equally called to that daily-cross and self-denial, which was then required.
It ought also here to be observed, that we are called to these duties upon our hopes of happi
For Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted, is the same thing as saying, miserable and cursed are they that do not mourn, for they shall not be comforted. Again,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of hearen.
Nothing can carry a greater denial and contradiction to all the tempers and ways of the world than this doctrine; it not only puts an end to all that we esteem wicked and immoderate desires of worldly satisfactions, but calls us from all worldly satisfactions, which any way fasten the soul to any false goods, and make it less ardent after true happiness. As the Christian religion regards only the salvation of our souls, and restoring us to a life with God in heaven, it considers every thing as ill, that keeps us in a state of any false enjoyment, and nothing as good, but what loosens us from the world, and makes us less slaves to its vanities. Blessed are the poor in spirit, because it is a spirit of disengagement and disrelish of the world, that puts the soul in a state of liberty and fitness to relish and receive the offers of true happiness.
The doctrine of this text is purely the doctrine of self-denial and daily-cross, to which our Saviour called his disciples.
For let any one consider, how it is possible for a man to be poor in spirit, but by renouncing those enjoyments, which are the proper delights of such as are high and rich in spirit. Now a man is high in spirit, when his own state and dignity give him a pleasure; he is rich in spirit, who seeks and delights in the enjoyments and felicities which riches afford; he is therefore poor in spirit, that mortifies all vain thoughts, rejects every self-pleasure, and avoids and dislikes the empty satisfactions which riches and fortune give.
Now this, which is undoubtedly the doctrine of this passage, is the very essence and soul of all selfdenial and mortification, which is nothing else but a constant checking all our vain tempers, and a denying ourselves such enjoyments as naturally strengthen and support them. So that the blessedness of poverty of spirit, is the blessedness of selfdenial and mortification.
For surely if we are called to a constant poverty