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tion of our nature: But by following it in anything, we so far strengthen the perverseness of our will ; and by indulging it, we continually increase the corruption of our nature. So, by the food which is agreeable to the palate, we often increase a bodily disease: It gratifies the taste, but it inflames the disorder ; it brings pleasure, but it also brings death.
6. On the whole, then, to deny ourselves, is, to deny our own will, where it does not fall in with the will of God; and that however pleasing it may be. It is, to deny ourselves any pleasure which does not spring from, and lead to, God; that is, in effect, to refuse going out of our way, though into a pleasant, flowery path; to refuse what we know to be deadly poison, though agreeable to the taste.
7. And every one that would follow Christ, that would be his real disciple, must not only deny himself, but take up his cross also. A cross is anything contrary to our will, anything displeasing to our nature. So that taking up our cross goes a little farther than denying ourselves ; it rises a little higher, and is a more difficult task to flesh and blood ;-it being more easy to forego pleasure, than to endure pain.
8. Now, in running “the race that is set before us,” according to the will of God, there is often a cross lying in the way; that is, something which is not only not joyous, but grievous; something which is contrary to our will, which is displeasing to our nature. What then is to be done? The choice is plain: Either we must take up our cross, or we must turn aside from the way of God, “ from the holy commandment delivered to us ;” if we do not stop altogether, or turn back to everlasting perdition !
9. In order to the healing of that corruption, that evil disease, which every man brings with him into the world, it is often needful to pluck out, as it were, a right eye, to cut off a right hand ;--so painful is either the thing itself which must be done, or the only means of doing it; the parting, suppose, with a foolish desire, with an inordinate affection; or a separation from the object of it, without which it can never be extinguished. In the former kind, the tearing away such a desire or affection, when it is deeply rooted in the soul, is often like the piercing of a sword, yea, like “ the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow.” The Lord then sits upon the soul as a refiner's fire, to burn up all the dross thereof. And this is a cross indeed ; it is essentially painful ; it must be so, in the very
nature of the thing. The soul cannot be thus torn asunder, it cannot pass through the fire, without pain.
10. In the latter kind, the means to heal a sin-sick soul, to cure a foolish desire, an inordinate affection, are often painful, not in the nature of the thing, but from the nature of the disease. So when our Lord said to the rich young man, “Go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,” (as well knowing, this was the only means of healing his covetousness,) the very thought of it gave him so much pain, that “ he went away sorrowful;" choosing rather to part with his hope of heaven, than his possessions on earth. This was a burden he could not consent to lift, a cross he would not take up. And in the one kind or the other, every follower of Christ will surely have need to “take up his cross daily.”
11. The “taking up” differs a little from “bearing his cross.” We are then properly said to “bear our cross,” when we endure what is laid upon us without our choice, with meekness and resignation. Whereas, we do not properly “take up our cross,” but when we voluntarily suffer what it is in our power to avoid ; when we willingly embrace the will of God, though contrary to our own; when we choose what is painful, because it is the will of our wise and gracious Creator.
12. And thus it behoves every disciple of Christ to take up, as well as to bear, his cross. Indeed, in one sense, it is not his alone; it is common to him, and many others ; seeing there is no temptation befals any man, en un avopwativos,—" but such as is common to men ;” such as is incident and adapted to their common nature and situation in the present world. But, in another sense, as it is considered with all its circumstances, it is his ; peculiar to himself: It is prepared of God for him ; it is given by God to him, as a token of his love. And if he receives it as such, and, after using such means to remove the pressure as Christian wisdom directs, lies as clay in the potter's hand; it is disposed and ordered by God for his good, both with regard to the quality of it, and in respect to its quantity and degree, its duration, and every other circumstance.
13. In all this, we may easily conceive our blessed Lord to act as the Physician of our souls, not merely “for his own pleasure, but for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.” If, in searching our wounds, he puts us to pain, it is only in order to heal them. He cuts away what is putrified or unsound, in order to preserve the sound part. And if we freely choose the loss of a limb, rather than the whole body should perish ; how much more should we choose, figuratively, to cut off a right hand, rather than the whole soul should be cast into hell !
14. We see plainly then both the nature and ground of taking up our cross. It does not imply the disciplining ourselves ; (as some speak ;) the literally tearing our own flesh; the wearing hair-cloth, or iron-girdles, or anything else that would impair our bodily health ; (although we know not what allowance God may make for those who act thus through involuntary ignorance ;) but the embracing the will of God, though contrary to our own; the choosing wholesome, though bitter medicines ; the freely accepting temporary pain, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, when it is either essentially or accidentally necessary to eternal pleasure.
II. 1. I am, Secondly, to show, that it is always owing to the want either of self-denial, or taking up his cross, that any man does not throughly follow Him, is not fully a disciple of Christ.
It is true, this may be partly owing, in some cases, to the want of the means of grace; of hearing the true word of God spoken with power; of the sacraments, or of Christian fellowship. But where none of these is wanting, the great hinderance of our receiving or growing in the grace of God is always the want of denying ourselves, or taking up our cross.
2. A few instances will make this plain. A man hears the word which is able to save his soul : He is well pleased with what he hears, acknowledges the truth, and is a little affected by it; yet he remains “dead in trespasses and sins," senseless and unawakened. Why is this? Because he will not part with his bosom-sin, though he now knows it is an abomination to the Lord. He came to hear, full of lust and unholy desire; and he will not part with them. Therefore no deep impression is made upon him, but his foolish heart is still hardened: That is, he is still senseless and unawakened, because he will not deny himself.
3. Suppose he begins to awake out of sleep, and his eyes are a little opened, why are they so quickly closed again ? Why does he again sink into the sleep of death? Because he again yields to his bosom-sin ; he drinks again of the pleasing poison.
Therefore it is impossible that any lasting impression should be made upon his heart : That is, he relapses into his fatal insensibility, because he will not deny himself.
4. But this is not the case with all. We have many instances of those who when once awakened sleep no more. The impressions once received do not wear away : They are not only deep, but lasting. And yet, many of these have not found what they seek: They mourn, and yet are not comforted. Now, why is this? It is because they do not “ bring forth fruits meet for repentance ;” because they do not, according to the grace they have received, “ cease from evil, and do good.” They do not cease from the easily besetting sin, the sin of their constitution, of their education, or of their profession; or they omit doing the good they may, and know they ought to do, because of some disagreeable circumstances attending it: That is, they do not attain faith, because they will not “ deny themselves,” or “take up their cross."
5. But this man did receive “the heavenly gift ;” he did “ taste of the powers of the world to come;" he saw “the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;" the “ peace which passeth all understanding" did rule his heart and mind; and “the love of God was shed abroad” therein, “ by the Holy Ghost which was given unto him ;"—yet he is now weak as another man ; he again relishes the things of earth, and has more taste for the things which are seen than for those which are not seen; the eye of his understanding is closed again, so that he cannot see Him that is invisible;" his love is waxed cold, and the peace of God no longer rules in his heart. And no marvel; for he has again given place to the devil, and grieved the Holy Spirit of God. He has turned again unto folly, to some pleasing sin, if not in outward act, yet in heart. He has given place to pride, or anger, or desire, to self-will, or stubbornness. Or he did not stir up the gift of God which was in him ; he gave way to spiritual sloth, and would not be at the pains of “praying always, and watching thereunto with all perseverance :” That is, he made shipwreck of the faith, for want of self-denial, and taking up his cross daily.
6. But perhaps he has not made shipwreck of the faith: He has still a measure of the Spirit of adoption, which continues to witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. However, he is not “ going on to perfection ;" he is not, as once, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, panting after the whole image and full enjoyment of God, as the hart after the waterbrook. Rather he is weary and faint in his mind, and, as it were, hovering between life and death. And why is he thus, but because he hath forgotten the word of God,—“By works is faith made perfect ?” He does not use all diligence in working the works of God. He does not "continue instant in prayer,” private as well as public; in communicating, hearing, meditation, fasting, and religious conference. If he does not wholly neglect some of these means, at least he does not use them all with his might. Or he is not zealous of works of charity, as well as works of piety. He is not merciful after his power, with the full ability which God giveth. He does not fervently serve the Lord by doing good to men, in every kind and in every degree he can, to their souls as well as their bodies. And why does he not continue in prayer? Because in times of dryness it is pain and grief unto him. He does not continue in hearing at all opportunities, because sleep is sweet; or it is cold, or dark, or rainy. But why does he not continue in works of mercy ? Because he cannot feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, unless he retrench the expense of his own apparel, or use cheaper and less pleasing food. Beside which, the visiting the sick, or those that are in prison, is attended with many disagreeable circumstances. And so are most works of spiritual mercy ; reproof, in particular. He would reprove his neighbour; but sometimes shame, sometimes fear, comes between: For he may expose himself, not only to ridicule, but to heavier inconveniences too. Upon these and the like considerations, he omits one or more, if not all, works of mercy and piety. Therefore, his faith is not made perfect, neither can he grow in grace; namely, because he will not deny himself, and take up his daily cross.
7. It manifestly follows, that it is always owing to the want either of self-denial, or taking up his cross, that a man does not throughly follow his Lord, that he is not fully a disciple of Christ. It is owing to this, that he who is dead in sin does not awake, though the trumpet be blown; that he who begins to awake out of sleep, yet has no deep or lasting conviction ; that he who is deeply and lastingly convinced of sin does not attain remission of sins; that some who have received this heavenly gift retain it not, but make shipwreck of the faith ; and that others, if they do not draw back to perdition, yet are weary and