« PreviousContinue »
Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, 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.” Had Job loved and served God from mercenary motives, he would undoubtedly have felt, if not acted, as Satan predicted, when God stripped him at once of all his wealth and prosperity. But he blessed God in his sore afflictions and bereavements, which demonstrated his pure self denial and disinterested virtue. Christ, in the text, represents self denial as consisting in men's giving up private or personal good for the kingdom of God's sake. < Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, parents, &c., for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” This self denial which Christ enjoined, he also practiced. So says Paul to the Corinthians. “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Paul says to the Romans, “ We then that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please
. his neighbor for his good for even Christ pleased not him
self.” And again, the apostle says,
" Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.” According to the dictates of scripture, reason and conscience, all self denial consists in giving up our own good for the good of others, when our own personal and private good stands in competition with the good of others. We should never find any difficulty in understanding the nature and tendency of self denial, if we were only willing to practice it; and we should find no difficulty in practicing it, if we only possessed pure disinterested love to God and man. For,
II. True self denial is productive of the highest present and future happiness. Though this may look like a paradox, yet,
I trust it will appear a plain and important truth, if we consider the following things.
1. The nature of true self denial. It consists, as we have seen, in giving up a less private or personal good for a greater public good; or in giving up our own good for the greater good of others. And this necessarily implies disinterested benevolence, which is placing our own happiness in the greater happiness of others. When a man gives up his own happiness to promote the greater happiness of another, he does it freely and voluntarily, because he takes more pleasure in the greater good of another, than in a less good of his own. So that though he gives up private and personal good, yet he does not give up all good, for
he enjoys all that good of another, for which he gives up his
And since that good of another is always greater than his own good, which he gives up for it, he becomes happier than he could be without such an act of self denial. The selfish man who loves his property more than his ease, enjoys more pleasure in laboring, sweating and toiling, than in spending his time in idleness and ease. So the benevolent man, who gives up his own personal good for the greater good of his neighbor, enjoys all that greater good of his neighbor, for which he gives up a less personal good of his own; and consequently he is happier than if he had not done that act of self denial. Or if a benevolent man gives up his private good to promote a greater public good, he enjoys all that greater public good, for which he gives up his private good; and of course becomes happier than if he had not given up his private, for the public good. Or if a benevolent man gives up his house, or his lands, or his children, or any thing that he calls his own, for the kingdom of God's sake, he enjoys that kingdom of God for which he gives up his personal good, and necessarily becomes happier than if he had not done that great act of self denial. We cannot conceive of any act of true self denial, which will not be productive of the present, as well as future good of the person who performs it. It is the dictate of every man's reason, that his giving up his own personal good for the good of others, or for the glory of God, will be productive of greater good in this life and in the life to come. Let a good man labor and suffer ever so much for the good of others, or the glory of God, the good of others and the glory of God will afford him a happiness which will overbalance all his painful labors and sufferings, and certainly be productive of a greater present and future happiness. If this be true, the benevolent must know it to be true, by their own experience. Let me ask you then, whether you ever enjoyed a purer or higher happiness than you have found in promoting the good of others and the glory of God, by acts of self denial ?
2. Those who have denied themselves the most, have found the greatest happiness resulting from their self denial. God the Father denied himself in giving up his only begotten and dearly beloved Son, to suffer and die for this guilty and perishing world. But he always has been, and always will be, unspeakably more blessed by this astonishing act of self denial, than by any thing else he has ever done, or ever will do. The Lord Jesus Christ exercised greater self denial, than any other person in this world, by becoming incarnaté, taking the form of a servant, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, for the salvation of the most guilty and ill deserving creatures. But he declares that he delighted to do his Father's will in suffering and dying, and was then and always will be
more happy than if he had never suffered and died. And on this supposition, the apostle urges christians to imitate his example of self denial, as the way to become the most happy.
66 Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Moses found the greatest happiness in a long series of self denying obedience and sufferings. It is expressly said, “ By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect to the recompense of reward." Paul found self denial productive of happiness. He says, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. And ranking himself with christians, he says, “ We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." “ But though our outward man perish, the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” And again he says, after reciting a long catalogue of sufferings, “ As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Now if God, if Christ, if Moses, if Paul, and if the primitive christians, found the greatest happiness in the greatest acts of self denial, it must be true that real self denial, in all instances, will produce the purest and greatest happiness in the minds of those who practice it, both in this life and in the life to come. Thus it appears from the nature of self denial, and from the effects which have flowed from it, that it is productive of the purest and highest happiness. And this will farther appear, if we consider,
3. The great and precious promises which are expressly made to self denial, by Christ himself. When he first sent forth his disciples to preach the gospel, he forewarned them to expect opposition, reproach and persecution in every form. But he enjoined it upon them to take up their cross, and to suffer every evil that they met with, for his sake, and promised to give them an ample reward for all their self denial in promoting his cause and kingdom. He said, “ He that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it. — He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. — He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man, in the
name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Christ promised the amiable young man, whom he directed to sell all that he had and give to the poor, that if he would thus deny himself, take up the cross and follow him, he would abundantly reward him, by giving him treasure in heaven. But the young man thought this was too hard a condition of salvation, and therefore went away sorrowful. And the disciples thought so too. They were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? Christ told them that this was possible with God, though not with men. Then Peter said unto him, We have left all, and followed thee, wanting to know what reward they should receive for giving up all. “ Jesus answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”
These same promises are made in the text, and in several other places, to those who exercise self denial, or give up all for Christ's sake, or the gospel's sake, or the kingdom of God's sake. And these promises assure every one who exercises true self denial, that he shall be an hundred fold more happy in this world as well as in the next, in time as well as in eternity, than if he did not thus deny himself, and give up all for the kingdom of God's sake. And it is easy to see from the nature of self denial, that these promises not only may be, but must be fulfilled. For self denial consists in giving up a personal good for a public good, and a present good for a future good. And those who give up their personal good for the good of others, enjoy all the good of others for which they give up their own; and those who give up their own good for the glory of God, enjoy all the glory of God for which they give up their own good; and of course, they must enjoy all the good of all other beings, so far as they are capable of it, which will be a hundred, yea a thousand fold greater good than their own personal good.
1. It appears from what has been said in this discourse concerning self denial, that it is necessarily a term or condition of salvation. Christ was repeatedly asked what was the peculiar and necessary term or condition of becoming his disciple. And
whenever this important question was put to him, he always replied that self denial was an indispensable condition. He uniformly said, “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” This condition he more largely explained and illustrated in the fourteenth of Luke. When there went great multitudes with him," he turned and said unto them, if any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it, begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first and consulteth, whether he be able with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand ? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” This condition of becoming a disciple of Christ is founded in that supreme and disinterested love to him, which disposes a man to love him more than father or mother, son or daughter, or even his own life; and which at the same time disposes him to hate father or mother, son or daughter, or even his own life, when either of these stand in the way of loving Christ supremely. Christ exercised just such supreme love to his Father, when “ Peter began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord ; this shall not be unto thee;" that is, that thou shouldest die on the cross. “ But Christ turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan ; thou art an offence unto me ; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Christ had a supreme and disinterested regard to the glory of God in dying on the cross, and therefore could hate Peter, or the best friend on earth, who stood in the way of his feeling and expressing supreme love to his Father, in suffering and dying on the cross. So Christ requires every person who would become his disciple, to love him supremely, and to give up or hate every person or object that stands in the way of his loving him supremely. Now such a supreme love to Christ is not only a proper, but a necessary and indispensable condition of becoming his disciple, and obtaining pardon and salvation. Salvation consists not only in freedom from future and eternal misery, but in the enjoyment of future and eternal happiness