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SERM. he was to endure for their sakes, he takes XVII.
the same opportunity of informing them what he should expect from them for bis: “ If any man will come after me, let him “ deny himself, and take up his cross and “ follow me.” That is, if any man will be my disciple, if he will entitle himself 'to the merits of my death, and to the glorious rewards I have promised, he must have the resolution to forego every pleasure, and to endure every pain," nay even to lay down his life itself, whenever his religion demands it of him,
Of all seasons which could have been chosen for inculcating this difficult and unpalatable lesson, that certainly was the most proper when he had just been speaking of what were to be his own sufferings. If his followers had any generosity, if they had any gratitude, they could not repine at completing for themselves what their benevolent master was going to begin for
them; they could not think it much to lay SER M.
XVII. down their own lives to save their own souls, when their Redeemer, without any other motive but their interest, was alout to set them so noble an example.
This duty of self-denial, and suffering for Christ's sake, was not only binding upon those to whom it was immediately taught, but is also incumbent upon all the followers of Jesus of every age.
And though all are not called upon to practise them in so particular a manner, to pass through such fiery trials for the sake of their Redeemer, to brave death in such various and terrible shapes as the first Christians were, and as others, in afterages, have been, yet all will meet with sufficient occasions to try their virtue, sufficient temptations to exercise their resolution ; or, in other words, they will find their religion and their inclination so frequently at variance, as to give ample scope
SERM. for the display of whatever hold the love XVII.
of their Redeemer may have taken of their hearts. This duty of self-denial has been much mistaken; some have placed it in a gloomy refusal of every thing which could give pleasure to the senses, in an absolute retirement from the world, in rigorous fastings, in voluntary penances and mor: tifications; but this is not the sort of selfdenial which our Saviour intended to recommend :-he meant not to enjoin an abstinence from lawful, but from unlawful gratifications :-he meant not to forbid the indulgence of innocent pleasures, but of such as are in their nature guilty, or in their tendency lead to guilt. Nor are we obliged to endure any sufferings which we can avoid, provided our escape from them be not purchased at the expence of virtue.
Temporary retirement indeed, and moderate fasting, have their uses; the one gives leisure for recollection and exami:
nation of our lives, and fits us for acting SER M. our parts in the world with greater consistency and rectitude ; while the other, by allaying the violence of passion, places worldly objects in their right point of view: but neither of them are meritorious or requisite in themselves, but merely from the effects which may be expected from them. The moderate enjoyment of those pleasures which neither religion nor morality prohibit, by which neither the commands of God are infringed, nor the concerns of our neighbour injured, is perhaps the most acceptable method of shewing our gratitude to the bounteous giver ; but when the things of this world and the next come in competition, when our interest points one way and our duty another, then it is that to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow the example of our Redeemer, becomes indispensable: we must forego our dearest delight, give up
SERM. our most favourite possession, undertake many labour, endure any pain, meet death
itself in its most terrible shape, if our religion requires it of us. In the language of the scripture, “ We must pluck out an
eye, or cut off an hand, if they bring “ our salvation into darger; for it is better “ to enter maimed or blind into life, rather
than having two eyes or two hands to be “ cast into everlasting fire.”
To be more particular: suppose a man is offered some emolument upon certain conditions, which religion, virtue, and his own conscience condemn ; suppose him in great distress, and that this emolument would entirely extricate him, make him happy himself, and enable him to provide amply for his family, otherwise destitute; what must he, what ought he to do? if he is a Christian, if he means that his Saviour shall not have died for him in vain, he must deny himself, he must be content to