I here present to your serious consideration, a Subject of such Necessity and Consequence, that the Peace and safety of Churches, Nations, Families and
souls do lie upon it. The Eternal God was the Beginning and the End, the Interest, the attractive, the confidence, the desire, the delight, the All of man in his upright uncorrupted State. Though the Creator planted in man’s Nature the principle of Natural Self-love, as the spring of his endeavours for Self-preservation, and a notable part of the engine by which he governeth the world, yet were the parts subservient to the Whole, and the whole to God: And Self-love did sub-serve the Love of the Universe, and of God: and man desired his own Preservation, for these higher Ends. When sin stepped in, it broke this order: and taking advantage from the natural innocent principle of Self-love, it turned man from the Love of God, and much abated his Love to his neighbour and the public good, and turned him to Himself by an inordinate self-love, which terminateth in himself, and principally in his Carnal-self, instead of God and the Common good: so that Self is become All to Corrupted nature, as God was All to Nature in its integrity. Selfishness is the souls Idolatry, and Adultery: the sum of its Original and increased Pravity, the Beginning and End, the life and strength of actual sin: even as the Love of God is the Rectitude and Fidelity of the soul, and the sum of all our special Grace, and the Heart of the new Creature, and the life and strength of actual holiness. Selfishness in one word expresseth all our Aversion Positively, as the want of the Love of God expresseth it privatively; and all our sin is summarily in these two: Even as all our Holiness is summarily in the Love of God and in self-denial. It is the work of the Holy Ghost by sanctifying grace to bring off the soul again from Self to God. Self-denial therefore is half the essence of Sanctification. No man hath any more Holiness, than he hath Self-denial. And therefore the Law, (which the Sanctifying Spirit writeth on the heart) doth set up God in the first Table, and our neighbour in the second, against the usurpation and encroachment of this Self. It saith nothing of Love or Duty to ourselves as such expressly. In seeking the Honour and Pleasing of God, and the Good of our neighbour, we shall most certainly find our own Felicity, which nature teacheth us to desire. So that all the Law is fulfilled in Love, which includeth Self-denial, as Light includeth the expulsion of darkness, or rather as Loyalty includeth a Cessation of Rebellion, and a rejection of the Leaders of it, and as conjugal fidelity includeth the rejection of Harlots. The very meaning of the first Commandment is [Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c.] which is the sum of the first Table, and the Commandment that animateth all the rest.
The very meaning of the last Commandment is [Thou shalt Love thy neighbour as thyself] which is the summary of the second Table, and in General forbiddeth all particular injuries to others, not enumerated in the fore-going precepts, and secondarily animated the four antecedent precepts. The fifth Commandment looking to both Tables, and conjoining them, commandeth us to Honour our Superiors in Authority; both as they are the Officers of God, and so participative Divine, and as they are the Heads of humane Societies, and our subjection necessary to Common good, so that self-denial is principally required in the first Commandment, that is, The denying of self as opposite to God, and his Interest. And self-denial is required in the Last Commandment; that is, the denying of self, as it is an enemy to our neighbours Right and welfare, and would draw from him unto ourselves. Self-love and self-seeking as opposite to our neighbours good, is the thing forbidden in that Commandment: and Charity or Loving our neighbour as ourselves, and desiring his Welfare as our own, is the thing commanded. Self-denial is required in the fifth Commandment in a double respect, according to the double respect of the Commandment. 1. In respect to God, whose Governing Authority is exercised by Governors, their Power being a beam of his Majesty, the fifth Commandment required us to deny ourselves by due subjection, and by honouring our Superiors; that is, to deny our own aspiring desires, and our refractory minds, and disobedient self-willedness, and to take heed that we suffer not within us, any proud or rebellious dispositions or thoughts, that would lift us up above our Rulers, or exempt us from subjection to them. 2. In respect to humane Societies, for whose Good Authority and Government is appointed, the fifth Commandment obligeth us to deny our Private interest, and in all competitions to prefer the public good: and maketh a promise of temporal peace and welfare in a special manner to those that in obedience to this Law, do prefer the Honour of Government, and the Public Peace and welfare, before their Own. Thus Charity as opposed to selfishness, and including self-denial, is the very sum and fulfilling of the Law: And selfishness is the radical comprehensive sin (containing uncharitableness) which breaks it all.
And as the Law, so also the Redeemer, in his Example and his Doctrine, doth teach us, and that more plainly and urgently, this lesson of self-denial. The life of Christ is the pattern which the Church must labour to imitate: And Love and self-denial were the summary of his life: Though yet he had no sinful self to deny, but only natural self. He denied himself in avoiding sin; but we must deny ourselves in returning from it. He loved not his Life, in comparison of his love to his Father, and to his Church. He appeared without desirable form or comeliness: He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: he bore our grieves, and carried our sorrows, and was esteemed stricken, smitten of God and afflicted: he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him: the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment—he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of his people was he stricken:—It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he put him to grief] Isa. 53. What was his whole life, but the exercise of Love and self-denial? He denied himself in Love to his Father, obeying him to the death, and pleasing him in all things. He denied himself in Love to mankind, in bearing our transgressions, and redeeming us from the curse, by being made a curse for us, Gal. 3. 13. He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross] Phil. 2: 6, 7, 8. And this he did to teach us by his example, to deny ourselves, to [be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, that nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind that each esteem others better than themselves; Looking not every man after his own matters, but every man also after the things of others; and thus the same mind should be in us that was in Christ Jesus] Phil. 2: 3, 4. 5. He denied himself also in obedient submission to Governors. He was subject to Joseph and Mary, Luke 2: 51. He paid tribute to Caesar, and wrought a Miracle for money rather than it should be unpaid, Matt. 17: 24, 25, 26. He disowned a personal worldly Kingdom, Joh. 18. 36. when the people would have made him a King, he avoided it, Joh. 6: 15. as being not a Receiver, but a giver of Kingdoms: He would not so much as once play the part of a Judge or divider of inheritances, teaching men that they must be justly made such, before they do the work of Magistrates, Luke 12. 14. And his Spirit in his Apostles teacheth us the same Doctrine, Rom. 13. 1 Pet. 2. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Eph. 6. 1
- And they seconded his example by their own, that we might be followers of them as they were of Christ. What else was the life of holy Paul and the rest of the Apostles, but a constant exercise of Love and Self-denial? Labouring and travelling night and day, enduring the basest usage from the world, and undergoing indignities and manifold sufferings from unthankful men, that they might please the Lord and edify and save the souls of men; and living in poverty that they might help the world to the everlasting riches. In a word, as Love is the fulfilling of the whole Law, as to the positive part, so is selfishness the evil that stands in contrariety thereto, even self-conceitedness, self-willedness, self-love, and self-seeking; and thus far self-denial is the sum of our obedience as to the terminus à quo: and Christ hath peremptorily determined in his Gospel, that If any man will come after him, he must deny himself and take up his Cross and follow him: and that whosoever will put in a reserve, but for the saving of his Life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for his sake shall find it, Matth. 16. 24, 25. And that he that doth not follow him, bearing his Cross, and that forsaketh not all he hath for him, cannot be his Disciple, Luke 14. 27, 33.
According to the nature of these holy rules & examples, is the nature of the workings of the Spirit of Christ upon the soul: He usually beginneth in showing man his sin and misery, his utter insufficiency to help himself, his alienation from God, and enmity to him, his blindness and deadness, his emptiness and nothingness, and then he brings him from himself to Christ, and showeth him his fullness and sufficiency, and by Christ he cometh to the Father, and God doth receive his own again. It is one half of the work of Sanctification, to cast ourselves from our Understandings, our Wills, our Affections, and our Conversations; to subdue self-conceitedness, self-willedness, self-love and self-seeking: to mortify our carnal wisdom, and our Pride, and our concupiscence, and our earthly members: And the other (and chiefest part) consisteth in setting up God where self-did rule: that his Wisdom may be our Guide; his Will, our Law; his Goodness the chiefest object of our Love, and his service the work & business of our lives. The Spirit doth convince us that we are not our Own, and have no power at all to dispose of our selves or anything we have, but under God, as he commands us: It convinceth us that God is our Owner and absolute Lord, and that as we are wholly his, so we must be wholly devoted to him, and prefer his interest before our own, and have no interest of our own, but what is his, as derived from him, and subservient to him; Fear doth begin this work of self-denial; but it’s Love that brings us up to sincerity.
The first state of corrupted man, is a state of selfishness, and servitude to his own Concupiscence; where pride and sensuality bear rule; and have no more resistance, than now and then some frightening ineffectual check.
When God is calling men out of this corrupted selfish state, he usually (or oft at least) doth cast them into a state of Fear; awakening them to see their lost condition, and terrifying them by the Belief of his Threatening, and the sense of his indignation; and making use of their Self-love, to cause them to fly from the wrath to come, and to cry out to the messengers of Christ, What shall we do to be saved?
Some by these Fears are but troubled and restrained a little while, and quickly overcoming them, settle again in their selfish sensual senseless state: some have the beginnings of holy Love conjunct with Fear (of whom more anon.) And some do from this principle of Self-love alone, betake themselves to a kind of Religious course, and forsake the practice of those grosser sins that bred their Fears, and fall upon the practice of Religious duties, and also with some kind of faith do trust on the satisfaction and merits of Christ, that by this means they may get some hopes that they shall escape the everlasting misery which they fear. All this Religion, that is animated by Fear alone, without the Love of God and Holiness, is but preparatory to a state of grace; and if men rest here, it is but a state of Hypocrisy or self-deceiving religiousness: For it is still the old Principle of selfishness that reigns. Till Love hath brought man up to God, he hath no higher end than Himself.
The true mark by which these slavish professors and hypocrites may discern themselves, is this: They do the Good which they would not do, and the evil which they do not, they would do. They had rather live a sinful life, if they durst; and they had rather be excused from Religious duties (except that little outward part, which custom and their credit engage them to perform:) They are but like the caged birds, that though they may sing in a Sun-shine day, had rather be at liberty in the words. They love not a life of perfect holiness, though they are forced to submit to some kind of Religiousness, for fear of being damned. If they had their freest choice, they had rather live in the Love of the creature, than in the love of God; and in the pleasures of the flesh, than in the holy course that pleased God.
The third state, is the state of Love: and none but this is a state of true Self-denial, and of Justification and Salvation. When we reach to this, we are sincere: we have then the Spirit of Adoption, disposing us to go to God as to a Father.
But this Love is not in the same degree in all the sanctified. Three degrees of it we may distinctly observe. 1. Oft-times in the beginning of a true Conversion, though the seed of Love is cast into the soul, and the Convert had rather enjoy God, than the world, and had rather live in perfect holiness, than in any sin, yet Fear is so active, that he scarce observed the workings of the Love of God within him: He is so taken up with the sense of sin and misery, that he hath little sense of love to God, and perhaps may doubt whether he hath any or none.
- When these Fears begin a little to abate, and the soul hath attained somewhat of the sense of God’s Love to itself, it Loveth him more observably, and hath some leisure to think of the riches of his grace, and of his Infinite excellency, and attractive goodness, and not only to Love him because he Loveth us, and hath been Merciful to us, but also because he is Goodness itself, and we were made to Love him. But yet in this middle degree of Love, the soul is much more frequently and sensibly exercised in minding itself than God, and in studying its own preservation, than the honour an interest of the Lord. In this state it is, that Christians are almost all upon the inquiry after marks of Grace in themselves; and asking [How shall I know that I have this or that grace, and that I perform this or that duty in sincerity, and that I am reconciled to God, and shall be saved?] Which are needful questions, but should not be more insisted on, than questions about our duty and the Interest of Christ. In this state, though a Christian hath the Love of God yet having much of his ancient Fears, and Self-love, and the Love of God being yet too weak, he is much more in studying his Safety than his Duty; and asketh oftener, how may I be sure that I am a true believer? then, What is the duty of a true believer? There is yet too much of Self in his Religion.
- In the third degree of Love to God, the soul is ordinarily and observably carried quite above itself to God; and mindeth more the Will and Interest of God, than its own Consolation or Salvation: Not that we must at any time lay by the care of our Salvation, as if it were a thing that did not belong to us, or that we should separate the ordinate Love of ourselves from the Love of God, or set his Glory and our Salvation in an opposition: But the Love of God, in this Degree, is sensibly predominant, and we refer even our own Salvation to his Interest and Will:
In this Degree, a Christian is grown more deeply sensible; he is not his own, but his that made him and redeemed him; and that his principal study must not be for himself, but for God; and that his own interest is in itself an inconsiderable thing, in comparison of the interest of the Lord, and that Rewarding us with Consolation is Gods part, and loving and serving him is ours (assisted by his grace;) and that the diligent study and practice of our duty, and the lively exercise of Love to God, is the surest way to our consolation.
In our first corrupt estate we are careless of our souls, and are taken up with earthly cares. In our estate of Preparation we are careful for our souls, but merely from the principle of Self-love. In our first Degree of the state of saving grace we have the Love of God in us; but it’s little observed, by reason of the passionate fears and cares of our own salvation that most take us up. In our second degree of holy Love, we look more sensibly after God for himself, but so that we are yet most sensibly minding the Interest of our own souls, and inquiring after assurance of salvation. In our third Degree of saving grace, we still continue the care of our salvation and an ordinate self-love; but we are sensible that the Happiness of Many, even of Church and Common-wealth, and the Glory of God, and the accomplishment of his Will, is incomparably more excellent and desirable than our own felicity: And therefore we set ourselves to please the Lord, and study what is acceptable to him, and how we may do him all the service that possibly we can, being confident that he will look to our felicity while we look to our duty; and that we cannot be miserable while we are wholly his, and devoted to his service. We are now more in the exercise of Grace, when before we were more in trying whether we have it: Before we were wont to say, O that I were sure that I love God in sincerity! Now we are more in these desires: O that I could know and love him more! and serve him better! that I knew more of his holy will, and could more fully accomplish it! and O that I were more serviceable to him! and O that I could see the full prosperity of his Church, and the glory of his Kingdom! This high degree of the Love of God, doth cause us to take ourselves as Nothing, and God as All; and as before conversion we were careless of our souls, through ignorance, presumption or security, and after conversion were careful of our souls, through the power of convincing awakening grace; so now we have somewhat above our souls (much more our bodies) to mind and care for: so that though still we must examine and observe ourselves, and that for ourselves, yet more for God than for ourselves: When we are mindful of God, he will not be unmindful of us: When it is our care to please him, the rest of our care we may cast on him, who hath promised to care for us. Even when we suffer according to his will, we may commit the keeping of our souls to him in well doing as to a faithful Creator, 1 Pet. 4. 19, And it is not possible in this more excellent way (1 Cor. 12. 31) to be guilty of a careless neglect of our salvation, or of the want of a necessary Love to ourselves; For the higher containeth the lower, and perfection containeth those degrees that are found in the imperfect: This neglect of our selves through the Love of God, is consequentially the most provident securing of our selves: This carelessness is the wisest care: This ignorance of good and evil for ourselves, while we know the Lord, and know our duty, is the wisest way to prevent the evil: To be something in ourselves, is to be Nothing: But if we be Nothing in ourselves, and God be All to us, in him we shall be something. Be not wanting to God, and I am sure you cannot be wanting to your selves. He will Reward, if you’ll obey.
I have showed you hitherto the Nature and Necessity of Self-denial: O that I could next show you the Nations, the Churches, that are such indeed as I have described! But when I look into the world, when I look into the Churches of all sorts, and consider men of all degrees, my soul is even amazed and melted into grief; to think how far the most forward professors are swerved from their holy Rule and pattern! O grievous case! how rare are self-denying men? Nothing in the world doth more assure me, that the number that shall be saved are very few: When nothing is more evident in Scripture, than that none but the self-denying shall be saved, and nothing more evident in the world, than that self-denying men are very few. Would God but excuse men in this one point, and take up with preaching and praying, and numbering ourselves with the strictest party, then I should hope that many comparatively would be saved. Would he give men leave to seek themselves in a Religious way, and to be zealous only from a selfish principle, and would he but abate men this self-denial and the superlative Love of God, I should hope true godliness were not rare. But if self-denial be the mark, the nature of a Saint, and this as effected by the Love of God, then alas, how thin are they in the world! and how weak is grace even in those few! It is the daily grief of my soul to observe, how the world is captivated to it SELF; and what sway this odious sin doth bear among the most forward professors of Religion; and how blind men are that will not see it; and that it hath so far prevailed that few men lament it, or strive against it, or will bear the most suitable remedy. Alas, when we have prevailed with careless souls, to mind their salvation, to read and pray, and hold communion with the godly, and seem well qualified Christians, how few are brought to self-denial! and how strong is Self still in those few? What a multitude that seem of the highest form, in zeal, and opinions, and duties, delude themselves with a selfish kind of Religiousness? And it grieved my soul to think, how little the most excellent means prevail, even with Professors themselves, against this sin! What abundance of labour seemeth to be lost, that we bestow against i? When I have preached over all these following Sermons against it, (though grace hath made them effectual with some, yet) selfishness still too much bears sway in many that heard them. O what a rooted sin is this! How powerful and obstinate! Men that seem diligently to hear, and like the Sermon, and write it, and repeat it when they come home, and commend us, do yet continue selfish. And they that walk evenly and charitably among us in all appearance, as long as they are smoothly dealt with, when once they are but touched, and crossed in their self-interest, do presently show, that there is that within them which we or they before perceived not. It was (doubtless) from too much experience of the selfishness even of Professors of Religion, and of the successfulness of temptations in this kind, that Satan did tell God so boldly, that Job would sin if he were but touched in his self-interest, Job 1. 9, 10, 11. & 2. 4, 5. [Doth Job (saith he) fear God for nothing! hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hand, and his substance is increased in the Land: But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.] As if he should have said, [Glory not of Job or any of thy servants: It is not thee, but themselves that they seek: They serve thee but for their own commodity: It is Self and not God that ruled them, and that they do all this for: Seem but to be their enemy, and touch their self-interest, and cross them in their commodity, that they may serve thee for nothing, and then see who will serve thee.] This was the boast of Satan against the Saints of the most high, which hypocrites that encouraged him hereto would have fulfilled; and which God doth glory in confuting: and therefore he gives the Devil leave to try Job in this point, and putteth all that he had into his power, ver. 12. And when Satan by this succeeded not, he yet boasteth that if he might but touch him more nearly in his self-interest, he doubted not to prevail, c. 2. 4, 5. [Skin for skin, yea all that a man hath will he give for his life: Put but forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.] This confidence had Satan, even against such a servant of the Lord, [That there was none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, that feared God and eschewed evil] c. 1. 8. And though the power of grace in Job did shame the boasts of Satan, yet how frequently doth he prevail with men that seem Religious? How truly may he say of many among us [Now they seem godly, but let the times turn, and godliness undo them in the world, and then see whether they will be godly: Now they seem faithful to their Pastors and Brethren; but give them a sufficient reward, and see whether they will not play the Judas: Now they seem peaceable humble men: but touch them in their self-interest, cross them in their commodity or reputation by an injury, yea or by justice or necessary reproof; and then see what they will prove] O that the Devil could not truly boast of thousands that by a few foul words, or by crossing their self-willedness, he can make them speak evil of their neighbours, and fill them with malice and bitterness against their truest friends. Oh where are the men that maintain their Love, and Meekness, and Concord any longer than they are pleased, and their wills and interests are complied with, or not much contradicted?
Besides what I have more largely spoken of this master common sin, in the following Discourse, take notice here of a few of the discoveries of it.
- Observe but the striving that there is for Command and Dignity, and Riches, and this even among Professors of Religion, and judge by this whether they are self-denying men. Who is it for but themselves that men make such a stir, for Offices and Honours, and places of Superiority? Surely if it were for the good of others, they would not be so eager and so forward. We cannot perceive that their Charity is so his, as to make them so Ambitious to be serviceable to their Brethren. If that be it, let them keep their service till it be desired or much needed, and not be so eager to do men good against their wills, and without necessity. As Greg. Mag. saith of the Ministry, [Si non ad elationis culpam, sed ad utilitatem adipsci desiderat, prius vires suas cum eo quidem subiturus onere: ut & impar abstineat, & ad id cum metu cui se sufficere existimat accedat.] Men use not to be ambitious of duty or trouble. He that desireth Government ultimately and principally for himself, desireth Tyranny, and not a lawful Government, whose ultimate end is the common good. And will not the wrath of the King of Kings be kindled without so much ado, nor hell be purchased at cheaper rates, than all the contrivance, cares and hazards, that ambitious men do draw upon themselves? O ambitio, (inquit Bernardus) ambintium crux, quomodo omnes torques? Omnibus places, nil acrius cruciat, nil molestius inquietat, niltamen apud miseros mortales celebrius negotiis ejus.] Wonderful! that such abundant warning tamed not these proud aspiring minds! They set up or admired them but yesterday, whom they see taken down and despised to day, and see their honour turned to scorn, and yet they imitate their folly! They see the sordid relicts of the most renowned Conquerors, and Princes levelled with the dirt; and yet they have not the wit to take warning, and humble themselves that they may be exalted! They know how death will shortly use them, and read of the terrors that pride and ambition bring men to; but all this doth not bring them to their wits. When Death itself comes, then they are as sneaking shrinking worms as any: and the worm of ambition that fed upon their hearts in their prosperity doth breed a gnawing worm in their consciences, which will torment them everlastingly. But (ut Juvenal.) —Mors sola fatetur, Quantula sunt hominum corpuscula—This Aerugo mentis, as Ambrose calls it, and regnandi dira cupido (ut Virg.) doth keep men from knowing what they know, and denied them the use of their understandings. All former professions are forgotten; repenting are repented of; the best parts are corrupted and sold to the Devil (as truly, as Witches sell themselves, though not so grossly) and men are anything that self would have them be, where the humour of Ambition doth prevail, and this secret poison insinuated itself into the mind: This subtitle malum (ut Bernard) secretum virus, pestis occulta, doli artifex, mater hypocrisis, livoris parens, vitiorum origo, tinea sanctitatis, exaecatrix cordium, ex remediis morbos creans, ex medicina languorem generans.] The God of Vengeance that abhorred the Proud and beholdeth them afar off, and that cast aspirers out of Paradise, will shortly take these Gallants down, and lay them low enough, and make them wish they had denied themselves.
- Observe but men’s desire of applause and their great impatience of dispraise, and judge by this of their self-denial. Who is it that is angry with those that Praise them, yea though they exceed their bounds, and ascribe more to them than is due? Saith Seneca [Si invenimus qui nos bonos viros dicat, qui prudentes, qui sanctos, non sumus modica laudatione contenti; quicquid in nos adulatio sine pudore congessit, tanquam debitum prehendimus: Optimos nos esse, sapientissimosque affirmantibus assentimus, quum sciamus illos saepe multa mentiri. Adeo quoque indulgemus nobis, ut laudari velimus in id, cui contraria maxime facimus.] Even Proud men would be praised for Humility, and covetous men for Liberality, and fools for Wisdom, and ignorant men for Learning, and treacherous hypocrites for sincerity and plain honesty; and few of the best do heartily distaste their own commendations, or refuse anything that’s offered them, though beyond desert. But if they think they are lightly or hardly thought of, or hear of any that speak against them, or dishonor them in the eyes of men, you shall see how little they can deny themselves. O how the hearts of many that seemed godly men, will swell against them that speak to their disparagement? What uncharitable, unchristian deportment, will a little injury produce? What bitter words! What strangeness, and division, if not plain hatred, and reviling, and revenge! Yea, it were well (in comparison) if a due Reproof, from neighbours or from Ministers (that are bound to do it by the Lord) would not draw forth this secret Venom, and shew the world the scarcity of self-denial. Let others speak never so well of God, and of all good men, and be never so faithful or serviceable in the Church, yet if they do but speak ill of them (though it’s like deservedly and justly) these selfish men cannot abide them. By this you may perceive what interest is strongest with them; were they carried up from themselves by the Love of God, they would delight to hear the Praise of God, and of their Brethren, and be afraid to hear their own; and say from their hearts, Not unto us O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name be glory, Psal. 115. 1. To praise another may be our gain (in the discharge of a duty, and exercise of Love) but to be Praised ourselves is usually our danger. Pride needed no such fuel or bellows. Non laudato, sed laudant bus prodest, saith Augustine. Esse humilem est nolle laudari in se: Qui in se laudari appetit, superbus esse convincitur, inq. id. It is the expectation of these proud and selfish men, that tempted men to the odious art of flattery, when they find it is the way to please. And when one is flattering, and the other pleased with it, what a foolish and sordid employment have they? [Et Vani sunt qui laudantur, & mendaces qui laudant:] saith Austin. It is God to whom the Praise is due, whom we know we cannot Praise too much, whose praises we should love to speak and hear. [In laude Dei est securitas laudis; ut laudator non timet, ne de laudato erubescat] saith Austin. We may boldly Praise him, of whom we are sure we never need to be ashamed. It is God in his servants that we must praise, and it is only his Interest in our own Praise that we must regard.
- Observe but upon what account it is that most men’s Affections are carried to, or against their neighbours, and then judge by this of their self-denial. Even men that would be accounted godly, do Love or hate men according as their self-interest commandeth them, more than according to the Interest of Christ. Let a man be never so eminent in holiness, and never so useful and serviceable in the Church, and one that hath proved faithful in the greatest trials, if he do but oppose a selfish man, and be thought by him to be against him, he hateth him at the heart, or hath as base contemptuous thoughts of him, as malice can suggest. He can as easily nullify all his graces, and multiply his smallest infirmities into a swarm of crimes, by a censorious mind and a slanderous tongue, as if virtue and vice received their form and denominations from the respect of men’s minds and ways to him; and all men were so far good or evil, as they please him, or displease him; and he expects that others should esteem men such as he is pleased to describe or call them. Let all the Country be the witnesses of a man’s upright and holy life, yea let the multitude of the ungodly themselves be convinced of it, so far as that their consciences are forced to bear witness of him, as Herod did of John, Mark 6. 20. that he was a just man and an holy; yet can the selfish hypocrite that is against him, blot out his uprightness with a word, and make him to be Proud or False, or Covetous, or what his malice please; yea make him an Hypocrite as he is indeed himself. No man can be good in their eyes that is against them: or if he be acknowledged honest in the main, it is mint with exceptions and charges enough, to make him seem vile while they confess him honest: and if they acknowledge him a man, they will withal describe him to be so plagued or leprous, that he shall be thought not fit for humane converse. Such a man is an honest man, say they; but he is a peevish, humorous, self-conceited fellow: And why so? Because he is against some opinion or interest of theirs: He is proud, because he presumed to dissent from them, or reprehend them: He raileth, every time he opened their errors, or telleth them of their misdoings: He is a Liar, if he do but contradict them, and discover their sins, though it be with words of truth and soberness. In a word, no person, no speeches, or writings, no actions can be just, that are against a selfish man. In differences at Law, his cause is good, because it is his: and his adversaries are always bad, because it is against him. In public differences the side that he is on (that is for him) is always right, let it be never so wrong in the eyes of all impartial men: The cause is good that he is for, (which is always that which seems for him) though it be undoubted Treason and perfidious Rebellion, accompanied with perjury, murder, and oppression: And the cause must be always bad that is against him; and they are the Traitors, and Rebels, and Oppressors that resist him. His own murders are honourable Victories, and other men’s Victories are cruel and barbarous murders. All is naught that is against themselves. They are Affected to men according to their self-interest: they judge of them and their actions according as they do Affect them: they speak of them and deal by them according to this corrupted judgment.
But as for any that they imagine do Love and Honour them, they can Love them and speak tenderly of them, be they what they will. A little grace or virtue in them, seemeth much: And their parts seem excellent that indeed are mean: If they drop into Perjury, Fornication, Treason, or such like scandalous sins, they have always a mantle of Love to cover them: or if they blame them a little, they are easily reconciled, and quickly receive them to their former honour. If they have anything like Grace, it’s easily believed to be Grace indeed, if they be but on their side: If they have nothing like Grace, they can Love them for their good natures, but indeed it is for themselves.
When this self-love describeth any person, when it writeth Histories or Controversies about any cause or person that they are concerned in, how little credit do they deserve! Whence is it else that we have such contrary descriptions of Persons and Actions in the writings of the several Parties as we find? How holy, and temperate, and exceedingly industrious a man was Calvin, if the whole multitude of sober, godly men that knew him may be credited; or if we may believe his most constant intimate acquaintance; or if we may judge by his judicious, pious, numerous writings: And yet if the Papists may be believed (contrary to the witness of a Popish City where he was bred) he was a stigmatized Sodomite; he was a glutton (that eat but once a day, and that sparingly;) he was an idle fleshly man (that preached usually every day, and wrote so many excellent Volumes;) and he dyed blaspheming and calling on the Devil (that is, in longing and praying for his remove to Christ, crying daily, How long lord! how long!) and how comes all this inhumane forgery about? Why, one lying Pelagian Apostate Bolsecke wrote it (whom Calvin had shamed for his errors:) and a peevish Lutheran; Schlusselburgius hath related part of it from him; and this is sufficient warrant for the Papists, ordinarily to persuade their followers it is true, and with seared Consciences to publish it in their writings, though Massonius and some other of the soberer sort, among themselves, do frame them for the forgery. So do they by Luther, Beza, and many more.
Among ourselves here, how certainly and commonly is it known to all impartial men acquainted with them, that the persons nick-named Puritans in England have been (for the most part) a people fearing God and studying an holy life, and of an upright conversation, so that the impartial did bear them witness, that in the scorners mouth, a Puritan was one that was Integervitae, scelerisque purus; and this was the reason of their suffered-scorn; and that the name was the Devils common engine in this Land, to shame people from reading and hearing Sermons, and praying, and avoiding the common sins, and seriously seeking their salvation: A Puritan was one that [Believeth (unfeigned) that God is: and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him] Heb. 12. 6. that strives to enter in at the strait gate, and lives as men that believe that Heaven is worth their labour, and that Gods Kingdom and its Righteousness should be first sought, Mat. 6. 33. And yet if Fitz Simon and other Jesuits, and Bishop Bancroft, Dr. P. Heylin, Mr. Tho. Pierce, and other such among us are to be believed, what an abominable odious sort of people are they (and especially the Presbyterians, who are the greatest part of them) what intolerable, hypocritical, bloody men? And what’s the reason of these accusations? Much is pretended; but the sum of all is, that they were in some things against the Opinions or Interests of the persons that abuse them: the Jesuits know that they were averse from their Doctrines and Practices. The rest are angry because some of them would be excused from two or three Ceremonies and from Vowing Obedience to the Ceremony makers. Yea many of their accusers think themselves injured, if not oppressed and persecuted, as long as they are with-held from silencing, ejecting or persecuting these, that would fain serve God according to his Word, as the sufficient Rule, and have nothing imposed on them in matter of worship, but Necessary things, according to the Apostles decree, Acts 15.28. By all this judge how rare self-denial is, when the Interest of men’s own Opinions, Persons or Parties, can cause such unchristian dealing from self-esteeming-professors and Preachers of the Gospel. Selfishness is the greatest Liar, and Slanderer, and the most malicious Calumniator in the world.
- Observe but how light most make of their own sins, and how easily they aggravate the sins of others; and how light they make of the good that is in others, in comparison of that which is in themselves, or those that are of their side; and judge by this of their self-denial! Judah would have judged Tamar hardly; but he was not so severe against himself David pronounceth very peremptorily the sentence against the offender, till he heard from Nathan, Thou art the man. How hard is it to convince a selfish one of any sin that will admit of an excuse or cloak? All the Town can see the Pride of some, the covetousness of others, the unpeaceable unchristian behaviour of others, and yet themselves, that should most observe it, and best discern is, perceive it not, nor will by any means be brought to see it. No Minister can put them down, when they are justifying themselves; nor make them humbly and heartily confess that they have sinned. (But God will ere long convince them irresistibly, and teach their tongues another kind of language.) Let the case of another come before them, and how readily will they adjudge him to penitent confession, reparation, restitution, and through-reformation! But the case is altered, when it becomes their own. Such incompetent Judges are these selfish hypocrites.
5.Observe but how cozily men fall out with one another, and how hardly they are reconciled, and how much ado any peace-maker shall have to end the difference; and observe also whether all the quarrel be not about some selfish interest: and judge by this of their self-denial. When do they so fall out with men, for wronging God, or the Gospel, or their own souls, as they do for wronging them?
And if a Minister that can bear an injury against himself, do faithfully rebuke them that deal injuriously against Christ, and against the Church, and the souls of men, (especially if they be Great men in the world that are reproved) it’s strange to see how self makes them storm; though they have read what a mark of Rebellion, and prognostic of misery it was, even in Kings, to reject the reproofs of the Messengers of the Lord? much more to hate or persecute the reprover.
6.Observe also how forward many are, unreasonably to exalt their own understandings, above those that are far wiser than themselves: and judge by this of their self-denial. Though their Brethren or Teachers, have studied, and prayed, and sought after knowledge, ten times, or twenty times more than they, and have as faithfully obeyed according to their knowledge, and indeed be incomparably beyond them in understanding: yet how commonly shall you meet with unstudied, unexperienced Novices (notably described, 1 Tim. 3. 6. & 6. 4.) of undigested notions, and green, and raw apprehensions, that are so puffed up, with a little smattering seeming knowledge, that they despise both Ministers and people, that be not of their mind, and vilify them as a sort of ignorant deluded men. And do they indeed excel us in knowledge as much as they pretend? O that they did that so we might see the Church furnished with wiser better Teachers, and might ourselves have the privilege of being their hearers, and of being better instructed by them! But how evident is it to all that have eyes, that it is in Pride, and not in Knowledge that they excel; and that all this comes from the Dominion of Self? and that they speak evil of the things they know not, Jude 10.
- Observe also how far men are carried by the fond over-valuing of their own opinions against all Reason, and former promises, and against all bonds to God and man; and then judge of their self-denial. If once they feel a new apprehension, it tickleth them with delight, as being an elevation of their understandings above other men’s; and as Parents are fond of their children, because they are their own, so are the Proud through the corruption of their minds as fond of an Opinion which they can call their Own, if there be any thing of singularity in it to make them seem persons of more than ordinary understanding. And when they are once possessed of it, how partially do they indulge it? How light do they make of the strongest arguments that are brought against it? How contemptuously do they think and speak of the persons, the judgements, the writings, the reasoning of any that are against them? Nay usually they will not be persuaded so much as once to read the writings that contradict them. Or if they do, it is with so much prejudice and partiality, that they have in their minds confuted them, before they read or understand them, and instead of considering the weight of arguments, and comparing faithfully cause with cause, they only study what to say against their adversary (for so they account those that would cross or confute their opinions.)
Nay observe but what a change a new opinion makes upon them in reference to their former friends. How strange do they look at them that cannot follow them in their fancies? Though before they were their bosom friends, yet without any change in themselves, they have lost their interest in these changelings: And though before they honoured and praised them, yet all’s changed when they themselves are changed; and their friends must seem to have lost their wits or honesty (or never to have had any) as soon as themselves have lost their humility and charity. How much am I able to say of this, from sad experience of the change of many of my ancient friends? Some of them are changed to a reproaching of the Scripture, Church, and Ministry, and Ordinances, and to a denying of the Christian Faith; and these I have lost (for they have lost themselves:) And indeed these have constrained me to withdraw from them my ancient Love of complacency, though I have a Love of compassion to them still. Others are secretly ensnared by the Papists: and these I have lost, (though they seem to bear me some respect.) Others are changed to opinions which they think meet to Hide: and these look strange at me; especially since I wrote against these Hiders. Others are changed in the point of Baptism: and these are greatly offended with me, for dissenting and giving the Reasons of my dissent: & what uncharitable dealings some of them have been guilty of, I shall not now express. Some of them have turned to one opinion, and some to another, and almost all that make these turns have left their Charity behind them: Some of them take up new Causes in the Commonwealth: and these are as angry with me as the rest, because I cannot follow them in their Changes! How many ways hath a man to lose a selfish friend! I was once beloved by all these men: and now I am either hated, or looked at as a stranger (at least:) when I am where I was when I had their Love.
If I know my heart, I speak not this in any great sense of the loss of my own interest, but in the sense of the lamentable Power and Prevalence of Self-love, and Self-conceitedness in the world. And while I am bitterly censured by almost every party, how easily could I recover my interest and reputation with any one of them, if I could but be of their mind and side? How wise and how honest a man could I be with the Anabaptists, if I would but be Re-baptized, and turn to them? And how much should I be valued by the Papists, if I would turn to them? The like I may say of all the other fore-named parties: For every one of them have by word or writing signified so much to me. Even the Grotian Prelatists would wipe their mouths, and speak me fairer, if I could turn to them: Mr. Pierce himself that hath exceeded all men (in his late Book abounding with visible falsehoods and unchristian abuse of the servants of the Lord, whom he calleth Puritans) yet telleth me, page 212. [We contend for your fellowship, and daily pray for your coming in; if you, by name, should have occasion to pass this way, and present yourself with other guests, at the holy Supper of our Lord, no man on earth should be more welcome: but if you and your partners will continue your several separations, and shut your selves out from our Communion, as it were judging your selves unworthy of the Kingdom of God, and excommunicating your selves, &c.—] See here the power of Selfishness! A man that is painted out as Lazy, a Reader, a Proud Hypocrite, and much more, should be as welcome as any man on earth, if he will but have communion with them in their way! how much more if he were but of their party? This would cure Hypocrisy, Pride, and all these crimes. And till we can comply with them we [Excommunicate ourselves, and judge ourselves unworthy of the Kingdom of God.] He that thinks Bishops should not be, as now, Diocesan, and undertake many hundred Parishes, and then feed and govern them by others; and he that submits not to their mode, in a Surplice, or some form of Prayer, doth therefore judge himself [unworthy of the Kingdom of God:] as if Gods Kingdom were confined to them, and lay in meats and drinks, and not in Righteousness and Peace! And as if we continued in an excommunication of ourselves, because we are not of their party: when yet we deny no Protestants to be our Brethren, nor refuse local Communion with them, so they will grant it us on Scripture-terms: which if they will not, we will yet hold communion with them in several Congregations. But thus it appeareth how strong self-interest is in the world; and how charitable men are to those of their own opinions or parties, and how easily many do take liberty to speak their pleasure against any that are not of their mind.
- Observe also how forward men are to Teach, and how backward to be Learners, and then judge of their Self-denial. Why are so many unwilling to enter by the way of Ordination? but (too commonly) because they judge better of their Own abilities than Ordainers do, and therefore suspect that they may be rejected by the Ordainers, or disgraced at the least, while they think highly of themselves. But if they were self-denying men, they would think the sober, faithful Pastors, much fitter Judges of their abilities than themselves, and would not run before they are sent. Many that reproach the Ministers as deceivers, will needs be themselves the Teachers of the people: As if they should say, (We silly ignorant souls) are wiser and fitter to be Teachers than you: come down and let us take your places.] In conference you may observe that most are forwarder to speak than to hear: which shows that they over-value their own understandings. And so much are proud men delighted to be thought the Oracles of the world, that if you will but seem to hearken to them, and learn of them, and yield to their Opinions, you win their hearts, and shall be the men that have their commendations. Insomuch that some late ambitious persons, that have thought to rise by the art of dissimulation, have found that there is no way for the deceiving of the people, and procuring the good will of most, like this; even to seem to be of every man’s opinion that they talk with, and to make every Sect and Party believe that they are their friends, and of their mind: Especially, if you will seem to be changed by their arguments, and give them the glory of your convictions and illuminations, you will then be the dearly beloved of their hearts. In all this you may see the rarity of self-denial: Yea in the very work of God, too many of the most zealous godly Ministers, that have been the instruments of converting many souls, are touched a little with the temptation to this selfishness, looking too much to their own part in the work.
- Observe but how commonly with men called Christians, the interest of Christ is trodden in the dirt, when it seemeth to cross any interest of their own. An Argument drawn from the commands of God, or the necessity of the Church, or of the souls of men, seems nothing to them, if their Honour, or Gain, or Greatness, or safety, do stand up against it, and be inconsistent with its conclusion. Hence it is that the souls of Hypocrites do cheat themselves by a Carnal Religiousness, serving God only in subservience to themselves. Hence it is that Hypocrites do most show themselves in matters of self-interest: In the cheap part of Religion, they seem to be as good as any: as zealous for their party and opinions, (which they call the Truth) and as long and loud in prayer, and for as strict a way of Discipline with others: But touch them in their Estates or Names: Call them to costly works of Charity, or to let go their right for peace, or public good, or to confess and lament any sin that they commit, and you shall then see that they are but common men: and Self bears rule instead of Christ. Hence also it is, that so many persons can bear with themselves in any calling or trade of life that is but gainful, be it never so unjust, and will not believe but it is lawful, because it is profitable; for they suppose that gain is godliness, 1 Tim. 6. 5. Hence it is that so many families will be so far Religious as will stand with their commodity; but no further: Yea that so many Ministers have the wit to prove that most Duties are to them no Duties, when they will cost them much labour or dishonour in the world, or bring them under sufferings from men: And hence it is that so many Carnal Politicians do in their Laws and Counsels always prefer the interest of their bodies before Gods interest, and men’s souls: Yea some are so far forsaken by common reason, and void of the Love of God and his Church, as to maintain that Magistrates in their Laws and Judgments must let matters of Religion alone; as if that self, even carnal self were all their Interest, and all their God: and as if they were of the Profane Opinion [Every man for himself, and God for us all] or as if they would look to their own cause, and bid God look to his.
From the Power of this selfishness it is that so many Princes and States turn persecutors, and stick not to silence, banish (and some of the bloodier sort, to kill) the Ministers of Christ, when they do but think that they stand cross to their carnal interests: And if you will plead the Interest of Christ and souls against theirs, and tell them, that the banishment, imprisonment, silencing or death of such or such a servant of the Lord, will be injurious to many souls, and therefore if they were guilty of death in some cases, they should reprieve them, as they do women with child, till Christ be formed in the precious souls that they travail in birth with (so their Lives be not more hurtful by any contrary mischief, which death only can restrain, which is not to be supposed of sober men) yet all this seems nothing to a selfish Persecutor, that regards not Christ’s interest in comparison of his own. Self is the great Tyrant and Persecutor of the Church.
- Observe also how few they be that satisfy their souls in Gods Approbation, though they are misjudged and vilified by the world: and how few that rejoice at the prosperity of the Gospel, though themselves be in Adversity: most men must needs have the Hypocrites reward, Matth. 6. 2. even some commendation from men: and too few are fully pleased with his eye that seeth in secret, and will reward them openly, Matth. 6. 4, 6. And hence it is that injurious censures and hard words do go so near them, and they make so great a matter of them. Those times do seem best to selfish men, which are most for them: If they prosper, and their party prosper, though most of the Church should be a loser by it, they will think that it is a blessed time: But if the Church prosper, and not they, but any suffering befall them, they take on as if the Church did stand or fall with them. Self-interest is their measure, by which they judge of times and things.
- Observe also how eagerly men are set to have their own wills take place in public businesses, and to, have their own opinions to be the Rule for Church and Common-wealth: and then judge by this of their self-denial. Were not self-predominant, there would not be such striving who should Rule, and whose will should be the Law: but men would think that others were as likely to Rule with Prudence and Honesty as they. How eager is the Papist to have his way by a Universal Monarch? How eager are others for one Ecclesiastical National Head? How eager are the Popular party for their way? as if the welfare of all did lie in their several modes of Government. And so confidently do the Libertines speak for theirs, that they begin now to make motions that our Parliament-men shall be hanged or beheaded as Traitors, if any should make a motion in (a free) Parliament, against the General Liberty which they desire. Wonderful! that men should ever grow to such an over-weaning of themselves, and over-valuing their own understandings, as to obtrude so palpable and odious a wickedness upon Parliaments so confidently, and to take them for Traitors, that will not be Traitors or grossly disobedient against the Lord? Self-denial would cure these peremptory demands, and teach men to be more suspicious of their own understandings.
- Lastly, Observe but how difficult a thing it is to keep Peace (as in families and neighbourhoods) so in Churches and Common-wealth’s; and judge by this of men’s self-denial.
Husbands and Wives, brothers and sisters, masters and servants, live at variance, and all through the conflicts that arise between their contrary self-interests. If a beast do but trespass on a neighbours grounds; if they be but assessed for the State, or poor, above their expectations; if in any way of trading their commodity be crossed; you shall quickly see where self bears Rule. This makes it so difficult a work to keep the Churches from Divisions. Few men are sensible of the Universal Interest, because they are captivated to their own: And therefore it is that men fear not to make parties and divisions in the Church: and will tear it in pieces to satisfy their interest or selfish zeal: Hence it is that Parties are so much multiplied, and keep up the buckler against others, because that selfishness makes all Partial. Hence it is that people fall off from their Pastors, or else fall out with them, when they are crossed in their opinions, reproved for their sins, or called to confess or make restitution, and perhaps that they may sacrilegiously defraud the Church of Tithes or other payments that are due. Hence it is also that members so oft fall out with one another, for foul words, or differences of judgment, or some point or other of self-interest: Nay sometimes about their very seats in the place of Worship; while every man is for himself, the Ministers can hardly keep them in Charity and Peace.
And is any of this agreeable to our holy Rule and Pattern? No man can think so that hath read the Gospel, but he that is so blinded by selfishness as not to understand what makes against it. And here, besides what is largely spoken after, let me tell of a few of the evils of this sin, and the contrary benefits of self-denial.
- The Power of selfishness keeps men strangers to themselves: They know not their Original nor Actual sins, with any kindly humbling knowledge. The very nature of Original sin doth consist in these two things: Privately, in the want of our Original Love, or Propensity to God as God: I mean, the Privation of the Root, or Habit, or Inclination, to Love God for himself, as the Beginning or End of us and all things, and the absolute Lord, and infinite, simple, inestimable Good. And Positively, in the inordinate Propensity or Inclination to ourselves: as for ourselves, and not as duly subordinate to God: The soul having unfaithfully and rebelliously withdrawn itself from God, in point of Love and subjection, it become its own Idol, and looks no higher than itself, and Loveth God and all things but for itself (and principally for its carnal pleasure:) And the Propensity to this, with the Privation of the souls Inclination to God, is Original sin; the Disposition suited to the actual sin that caused it, which was a retiring from God to self. He that felted not this evil in himself, hath no true knowledge of Original sin. And it’s the want of the sense of this great evil, (and so the want of being acquainted with their hearts) that caused so many to turn Pelagians, and to deny the being of Original sin.
- Both selfishness, and the want of a true discerning of it, doth breed and feed abundance of errors, and teach men to corrupt the whole body of Practical Divinity, and to subvert many Articles of faith, which stand in their way. How comes the world to be all in a flame about the Universal Reign of the Pope of Rome, but from the dominion of selfishness? Whence is it that the Nations of the earth have been so troubled for Patriarchs, Metropolitans, and Diocesans that must do their work by others, and for many things that (at best) can pretend to be but humane, indifferent, changeable forms, but from the prevalence of Self? Whence is it that men’s consciences have been ensnared, and the Churches troubled, by so many Ceremonies of men’s invention, and the Church must rather lose her faithful Pastors, than they be permitted to worship God as Peter and Paul did? Hath not selfishness and Pride done this? It is self that hath taught some to plead too much for their own sufficiency, and to deny the need of special Grace. And so far hath it prevailed with some of late, as to lead them Doctrinally to deny, that God is the Ultimate End of man, and to be Loved for himself, and above ourselves and all things; but only (they say) he is our finis cujus vel rei to be loved amore concupiscentiae: In a word, it is this woeful principle that hath corrupted Doctrine, Discipline and Worship, in so many of the Churches.
- We shall never have Peace in Church or Commonwealth, while selfishness bears sway. Every man’s Interest will be preferred before the public Interest, and rise against it as oft (which will be oft) as they seem inconsistent. This is the Vice that informeth Tyranny, whether it be Monarchy, Aristocracy, or Democracy, when selfish interest is preferred before the Common Interest. This makes our people think themselves too wise or too good to learn, or to be guided by their Pastors, and every man (of this strain) seems wise enough to lead off a party of the Church into a mutiny against the Pastors and the rest. This makes the labours of Reconcilers unsuccessful, while selfishness engaged so many wits, and tongues, and pens and parties, against the most necessary equal terms, and endeavours of such as would Reconcile, Were it not for these selfish men, how soon would all our rents be healed? how soon would all our wars be ended? and all our heart-burnings and malicious oppositions be turned into charitable consultations for an holy peace? If once men were carried above themselves, they would meet in God the Centre of Unity.
- It is for want of self-denial that we undergo so many disappointments, and suffer so much disquietment and vexation. Were our wills more entirely subjected to the will of God, so that his will were preferred before our own, we should Rest in his will, and have no contradictory desires to be disappointed, and no matter left for self-vexation. Had we no disease, we should feel no pain: and it is our self-will rebelling against the will of God that is our disease. Self-denial removed all the venom from our hearts: Persecution, and poverty, and sickness may touch our flesh, but the heart is fortified so far as we have his Grace. O how happily doth it quiet and calm the mind, when things befall us that would even distract a selfish man! O happy man, where God is All, and Self is Nothing! Their Duty, and Love, and Joy are all, and trouble and distress is nothing; these are not our matters now; Partly because we are above them, and partly because they belong not to our care, but to his Providence. Let us do our Duty and adhere to him, and let him dispose of us as he sees meet. Who would much fear a Tyrant or any other enemy that saw God and Glory, which faith can see? Did we see the glorious Throne of Christ, we should be so far from trembling at the bar of Persecutors, that we should scarce so much regard them as to answer them; the infinite Glory would so potently divert our minds. As we scarce hearken to our children’s impertinent babblings, when we are taken up with great Affairs; so if a Tyrant talk to us of engaging or imprisonment, we should scarce hearken to such trivial impertinences, were we so far above ourselves, as Faith and Love should advance the soul.
I have further showed you in the following Treatise, how self-denial disabled all Temptations; how it conduced to all eminent works of Charity, but especially to the secret works of the sincere: It is of absolute necessity to salvation: It is the thing that hypocrites are condemned for want of: It is the wisdom of the soul, as being the only way to our own security: And it is the holiness and justice of the soul (as it is conjunct with the Love of God) in that it restored to God his own: The excellency of Grace is manifested in self-denial. To do or suffer such little things as self is not much against, is nothing: But to be nothing in ourselves, and God to be our All, and to close with our first and blessed End, this is the nature of Sanctification.
Alas, poor England, (and more than England, even all the Christian world) into what confusion and misery hath selfishness plunged thee! Into how many pieces art thou broken, because that every hypocrite hath a self to be his principle and end, and forsakes the true Universal End! How vain are our words to Rulers, to Soldiers, to Rich and Poor, while we call upon them to deny themselves! And must we lose our labour? and must the Nation lose its peace and hopes? Is there no remedy, but selfishness must undo all? If so, be it known to you, the principal loss shall be your own; and in seeking your safety, liberty, wealth and glory, you shall lose them all, and fall into misery, slavery and disdain. Deny your selves, or save your selves, if you can. God is not engaged to take care of you, or preserve you, if you will be your own, and will be reserving or saving your selves from him. And though you may seem to prosper in self-seeking ways, they will end, yea shortly end, in your confusion. You have seen of late years in this Land, the Glory of Self-seekers turned to shame. But it’s greater shame that’s out of sight. The word and works of God have warned you. If yet the Cause and Church of God shall be neglected, and your selves and your own affairs preferred, and men that shall not be tolerated to abuse you, shall be Tolerated to abuse the souls of men, and the Lord that made them; and if God must be denied, because you will not deny your selves, you shall be denied by Christ, in your great extremity, when the remembrance of these things shall be your torment. Hearken and Amend; or prepare your answer: for behold the Judge is at the door.
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