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may assure ourselves, that as it is the highest honour and happiness we can attain unto, so we shall find it the hardest matter in the world to attain unto it; not in its own nature, but by reason of its contrariety to our natural temper and inclinations. For here we see what it is our blessed Saviour requires of those that would go after him, even nothing less than to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him. All which are far greater things than at the first sight, or reading, they may seem to be.

For first, saith he, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,' which being the first thing which Christ requires of those that go after him, it is necessary that we search more narrowly into the nature of it. For if we fail in this, we cannot but fail in all the rest. And therefore, for the opening of this, I shall not trouble the reader with the various expositions, and the divers opinions of learned men concerning these words, but only remind him in general, that the self-denial here spoken of is properly opposed to self-love, or that corrupt and vicious habit of the soul, whereby we are apt to admire and prefer our own fancies, wills, desires, interests, and the like, before Christ himself, and what he is pleased either to promise to us, or require of us. And therefore, when he commands us to deny ourselves, his will and pleasure in general is this, that we do not indulge, or gratify ourselves in any thing that stands in opposition to, and comes in competition with, his interest in the world, or ours in him, howsoever near and dear it may be unto us. But to deny ourselves whatsoever is pleasing to ourselves, if it be not so to God and Christ too, so as not to live to

ourselves but only unto him that died for us, to live as those who are none of our own, but are bought with a price, and therefore should glorify God both in our souls and in our bodies, which are his.' But seeing this is not only the first lesson to be learned by Christ's disciples, but that which is necessarily required in order to whatsoever else he commands from us, I shall show you more particularly what it is in yourselves that you are to deny.

1. You must deny your own reasons in matters of divine revelation, so as to use them no further than only to search into the grounds and motives that we have to believe them to be revealed by God. For this being either proved or supposed, we are not to suffer our reasons to be too curious in searching into them, but believe them upon the word and testimony of God himself, who is the supreme truth, or verity itself.

For we who by all our art and cunning cannot understand the reasons of the most common and obvious things in nature, must not think to comprehend the great mysteries of the gospel, which, though they be not contrary to our reasons, are infinitely above them: For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' So that to the understanding of the things of the Spirit, or which the Spirit of God hath revealed to us, there is a great deal more required than what we have by nature, even the supernatural assistance of the Spirit himself that revealed them. And therefore, if any man


11 Cor. vi. 19, 20.

2 Ib. ii. 14.

amongst us seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise;' that is, he that would be wise unto salvation, must look upon himself as a fool, as one incapable by nature of understanding the things that belong unto his everlasting peace, without both the revelation and assistance of God himself; and therefore must not rely upon his own judgment, but only upon God's testimony in what he doth believe, not believing what his reason, but what God's word tells him; looking upon it as reason enough why he should believe it, because God hath said it.


I know this is a hard doctrine to flesh and blood. For, as Job tells us, vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt," Though by nature we be never so foolish, vain, and ignorant, understanding the great mysteries of the gospel, no more than a wild ass's colt doth a mathematical demonstration, yet howsoever we would fain be thought very wise men: yea so wise as to be able to comprehend matters of the highest, yea of an infinite nature, within the narrow compass of our finite and shallow capacities. But this is that which we must deny ourselves in, if we desire to be Christ's disciples, so as to acquiesce in his word, and believe what he asserts, only because he asserts it, without suffering our reason to interpose, but looking upon his word as more than all the reasons and arguments in the world besides.

2. You must deny your own wills. Our wills, it is true, at first were made upright and perfect, every way correspondent to the will of God himself, so as to will what he wills, that is, what is

11 Cor. iii. 18.

2 Job, xi. 12.

really good; and to nill what he nills, that is, what is really evil. But being now perverted, and corrupted with sin, our wills are naturally inclined to the evil which they should be averse from, and averse from the good which they should be inclined to. So that instead of choosing the good and refusing the evil, we are generally apt to choose the evil and refuse the good: yet for all that our wills are thus crooked and perverse, we cannot endure to have them crossed or thwarted in any thing, but would needs have our own wills in every thing, so as neither to do any thing ourselves, nor yet have any thing done to us, but just as ourselves will, who will usually just contrary to what we should. But now they that would be Christ's disciples, must not be thus self-willed, but deny themselves the fulfilling of their own wills, when it doth not consist with the will of God to have them fulfilled. This our Lord and master hath taught us by his example as well as precept, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." Where we may observe that our blessed Saviour, as man, could not but have a natural averseness from death, as all men by nature have, and that without sin. And though Christ's will, as man, was never so pure and perfect, yet he only submits it to the will of God. He manifested indeed that it was the will of that nature which he had assumed, not to suffer death, saying, 'If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;' but he shows withal that the will of man must still be subject to the will of God; and that man, even as

1 Luke, xxii. 42.

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man, must deny his own will, whensoever it runneth not exactly parallel with God's; saying, 'nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.'

And if Christ himself denied his own pure and perfect will, that his Father's might be accomplished, how much more cause have we to deny our wills, which, by nature, are always contrary to his will, yea, and to our own good too, preferring generally that which is evil and destructive to us, before that which is truly good and advantageous for us? And verily a great part of true Christianity consisteth in thus resigning our wills to God's, not minding so much which way our own inclinations bend, as what his pleasure and command is. A notable instance whereof we have in old Eli, who questionless could not but be very willing that the iniquity of his sons might be forgiven, and his family prosper in the world; yet howsoever, when God had manifested his pleasure to him, that his house should be destroyed, he submitted his own wholly unto God's, saying It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." And whosoever of us would be Christ's disciple indeed, must be sure thus to deny and renounce his own will, whensoever it appears to be contrary unto God's, so as even to will, that not his own will but God's be fulfilled, as our Lord and master himself hath taught us each day to pray, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.' And whosoever hath learned this art of making his own will bow and stoop to God's, hath made a very good progress in the Christian religion, especially in that part of it which requires us to deny ourselves.

1 1 Sam. iii. 18.

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