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CHAP. III. USE. 1. A GENERAL COMPLAINT OF THE PREVALENCY OF SELFISHNESS

With Christ My Savior

CHAP. III. USE. 1. A GENERAL COMPLAINT OF THE PREVALENCY OF SELFISHNESS

Use. 1. AND now we have seen from the words of Christ the absolute Necessity of self-denial, and that there is no true Christianity nor salvation without it; let us next take a view of ourselves, and of the world, and Judge of our condition by this certain Rule.

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Look well into your selves, and into the world, and tell me whether you find not cause to lament, 1. That true Christianity is so rare a thing, even among the professors of Christianity, seeing self-denial is so rare. 2. That Grace is so weak and small in the most of the regenerate, seeing self-denial is so little and imperfect.
O if the name of Christians would prove us Christians, and the magnificent Titles we give to Christ would prove that we are his true Disciples; if reading, and hearing, and outward duties, and a cheap Religiousness would serve turn, we have then great store of Christians among us: If Christ would have left out but this one point of self-denial from his Laws and conditions of salvation, what abundance of Disciples would he have had in the world? and how many millions might have come to Heaven, that now must be shut out? It is this point that hindereth all sorts of Heathens and Infidels from being Christians. The Jews will believe in no Christ but one that will restore their Temple and outward glory, and make them great and Rulers of the world: and therefore they will not be the servants of that Christ that calleth them to the contempt of all these things, and of life itself for the hopes of an invisible Kingdom. The Mahometans had rather believe in Mahomet that giveth them leave to please their lust, than in Christ that calleth them to mortification and self-denial, and tells them of nothing but suffering and patience, duty and diligence, till they come into another world: The Idolatrous Heathens abhor Christianity when they hear how much they must do and suffer, and all for a reward in the life to come. Its an informing instance that Pet.

Maffaeus gives us in his Indian History of the first King of Congo that was baptized: He quickly received the Articles of faith, and the form of Worship, and the outside and cheaper part of Religion; and so did many of his Nobles and followers: But when he was called to confession, and understood that he must leave his gluttony, and drunkenness, and whoredom, and oppression, and inordinate pleasures, he would be a Christian no more; his Nobles persuading him, that the forsaking of all this mirth, and pleasure, and delights of the flesh, and taking up so strict a life, was too dear a price to pay for the hopes of a life to come, and it was better keep the pleasure they had, and put another life to the venture: And thus Christianity had been quickly banished that Kingdom again, if it had not taken deeper rooting in his Son and Heir Alphonsus, and made him venture his Crown and Life for the sake of Christ. And thus is it at the heart with the most, even of Baptized persons, and those that take themselves to be Christians: Because it is the Religion of the Country, and they are taught that there is no salvation without it, they will be Baptized, and be called Christians, and say their Prayers, and come to Church, and say they believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and they will go as far with you in Religion as they can without denying themselves: but for the rest, which is the life and truth of Christianity, they will not understand it, or believe that it is of such necessity: God forbid say they, that none should be Christians and saved but those that thus deny themselves, and take up their cross and forsake all they have, and accept not Life itself from Christ: They say they believe in Christ, and yet they say, God forbid his word should be true; or God forbid we should believe Christ that hath spoken this in the Gospel! See what kind of Christians multitudes are! Every man and woman on earth, that takes themselves for true Christians, and yet do not deny themselves, even life and all for the sake of Christ and the hope of everlasting glory, are mere self-deceivers, and no true Christians at all.

He that will save his life, saith Christ, shall lose it; that is, He that in his coming to Christ, and Covenanting with him, will put in an exception for the saving of his Life, and will forsake all for Christ if he be put to it, except Life itself, this man is no true Disciple of Christ, and shall be so far from saving his life, that he shall lose both Heaven, and Life, and all: and the Justice of God shall take from him that Life which he durst not resign to the will of mercy; and he shall lose that for nothing which he would not lose for Christ and Heaven. It is impossible for that man to be Christ’s Disciple that loveth his life better than Christ and the hopes of Life everlasting, Mat. 10. 37, 38. Luk. 14. 25, 26, 33. Some Self-denial there may be in the unsanctified: Many of them would leave a little pleasure or profit rather than be damned; and many had rather suffer a little than venture upon eternal sufferings. But I beseech you remember that this is the lowest degree of Self-denial that is saving, to set more by Christ and the hopes of glory than by all this world and life itself; and to be habitually resolved to forsake life and all, rather than to forsake him. No less than this is proper self-denial, or will prove you Christians, and in a state of life. This was the trial that Christ put one to, that had thought to have been his Disciple, Luke 18. 21. [Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast and distribute to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven, and come and follow me] Not that every man must actually sell all, but every man must set more by Heaven than all, and therefore part with all when Christ would have him; and he that is not thus resolved, let him go never so far in all other things, doth yet lack one thing, and such a one thing as he shall never be saved without. For the meaning of the text is, that Christ would try by this command, whether he set more by anything than him, and whether he set more by Heaven or Earth; and so would have us all to judge of our selves by the same evidence within, though he put not all on the same way of discovering it.

Many a man can deny self the superfluities of pleasure, and as this rich man did, can avoid enormous crimes, and say of whoredom, and theft, and drunkenness, and oppression, and gross deceit, All these have I avoided from my youth. Education may moderate some selfish desires, and natural temper may further that moderation: and custom and good company and holy precepts may yet do more: and wit may teach men to do or suffer somewhat rather than to run on the wrath of God: and therefore many thousands may deny self the pleasure of some inordinate lust, or of some recreation, or excess in meat or drink, and yet be far from denying life and all, and so from the true self-denial of a Christian: Nay a man may deny self for self in many particulars, and so may please self-more than he denyeth it. Many a civil ingenuous Gentleman and other persons will forbear the disgraceful sins of Drunkenness, filthy speaking, Whoredom, Incivility, notorious Profaneness, even because they are disgraceful, and therefore are against the Interest of self; so much as self can possibly spare, a carnal heart may be brought to part with. But still self is alive and predominant within them, still it is the Ruling end and Principle. But to go out of self to God, and resign up ourselves to him, and possess no interest but him and in him, and to have nothing that we esteem or love, or care for, in comparison of him, knowing that for him we were made, redeemed, preserved and sanctified, and therefore desiring to be wholly and only his, and to have no credit, no goods, no life, no self, but what is his, for his service, at his will and at his Disposal and Government and provision; this is the true self-denial, which the spirit of God worketh in a prevailing though not a perfect measure, in every gracious believing soul.

But alas Sirs, how strange is this in the world, and how weak and low in the souls where it is found! And what matter of Lamentation would a survey of the world, or of our selves present us with! Is not SELF the great Idol which the whole world of unsanctified men doth worship? Who is it that ruleth the children of disobedience, but carnal self? For what is all the stir and stirrings, the tumults and contentions of the world but for self? This ruleth Kingdoms, and this is it that raiseth wars, and what is it except the works of Holiness but self is the author of? Look unto the Thrones and Kingdoms of the earth, and conjecture how many self hath advanced and placed there; and how few have stayed till God enthroned them and gave them the Crown and Sceptre with his approbation. Among all the Nobles and great ones of the earth, that abound in riches, how few are there that were not set a work by self and ruled by it, in the getting or keeping or using their riches, dignities and honours? Look on the great Revenues of the Nation, and of the world, and consider whether God or self, have the more of it. One man hath many thousands a year, and another hath many hundreds, and how much of this is devoted to God, and how much to carnal self? And the poor that have but little, would think us injurious to them if we should call to them for anything for God, who have not enough for themselves; when indeed God must have all, and self must have nothing, but what it hath by way of return from God again, and that for God, and not for self but as subservient unto him. Alas, of many hundred thousand pounds a year, which the inhabitants of a Country possess among them, how little hath God that should have all, and how much hath self that should have nothing? O dreadful reckoning when these Accounts must be all cast up! Judge by the use of all whether self-have not yet Dominion of all? If men throw out to God his tenth, which is none of their own; or if they cast him now and then some inconsiderable alms, when in his member he is fain to beg for it first, they think they have done fair, though self-devour all the rest.

Is it more think you for God or self that our Courts of Law are filled with so many Suits, and Lawyers have so much employment? Is it more think you for God or self that Merchants compass Sea and Land for commodity? Who is it that the Soldier fights for? is it for God or self? Who is it that the Tradesman deals for, that the Ploughman labours for, that the Traveller goes for? is it more for God or self? Who is it that the most of men’s thoughts are spent for, and the most of their words are spoken for, and the most of their rents and wealth laid out for, and the most of their precious time employed for? is it for God or self? Consider of it whether it be not self that finally and morally rules the world. What else do most live for or look after? And is not the common Piety, Religion and Charity of the world, a mere sending God some scraps of the leavings of carnal self; If the flesh be full, or have enough; then God shall have the crumb that fall from its Table, or at most so much as it can spare: but till the flesh have done and be satisfied, God must stay even for these scarps and crumbs! and if they can but say, [I want it myself, or have use for it myself] they think it a sufficient answer to all demands. One may see by the irregularity of the motions of the world, the confusions, and crossings, and mutability, and contradictions, the doing and undoing again, the differences and fierce contending, that it is not God but self that is the End and Principle of the motions. Nay most men are so dead to God, and alive only to themselves, that they know not what we mean when we tell them, and plainly tell them, what it is to live to God, and what it is to serve him in all their affairs; and to eat, and drink, and do all things for his glory; but they ask in their hearts as Pharaoh, [Who is the Lord, that I should serve him?] And when they read these passages about self-denial, and about referring all to God, they will not understand them: for they are unacquainted with God, and know no other God indeed but self, though in name they do.

Nay it were well if self were kept out of the Church, and out of the Ministers of the Gospel, that must teach the world to deny themselves; that it did not with too many choose their habitations, and give them their call, and limit them in their labours, and direct them in the manner and measure; It were well if some Ministers did not study for self, and preach and dispute for self, and live for self; when they materially preach against self, and teach men self-denial. And then for our People, alas, it rules their families, it manageth their business, it drives on their trades; it comes to Church with them, and fights within them against the word, and perverteth their judgement, and will let them relish nothing, and receive nothing but what is consistent with selfish, interest: in a word, it makes men ungodly, it keeps them ungodly, and it is their very ungodliness itself. O, we it not for carnal self, how easily might we deal with all sorts of sinners? but this is it that overcometh us.

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