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And seeing we must deny our wills, we must needs deny our affections too, which are indeed nothing else but the several motions of the will towards good and evil; but usually they are so disorderly and irregular, as to place themselves upon objects directly opposite to what they were designed for; for that we ordinarily love what we ought to hate, and hate what we ought to love; desire what we ought to abhor, and abhor what we ought to desire; rejoice in those things which we ought to grieve for, and are grieved at such things which we ought to rejoice in: so that if we suffer our affections to move according to their natural tendency and corrupt inclinations, we shall be so far from going after Christ, that we shall continually be running from him. And therefore it must be our great care and study to bridle our affections, deny them their unlawful, and fix them upon their proper objects; yea, and to deny ourselves too the lawful use of such things as our affections are apt to be unlawfully placed upon. As for example; it is lawful, yea, our duty to love our relations, but if our love to them becomes exorbitant, so as to love them more than God, our love to them must be turned into hatred in comparison of our love to him.' And whatsoever lawful thing it is that we take pleasure in, if once we find that our pleasure in that extinguisheth, or but damps that pleasure which we used, or ought to have in God, we are to deny ourselves such pleasures as these are, and rather despise ourselves than God.
Yea, we must deny ourselves moreover the use
'Luke, xiv. 26.
and enjoyment of our estates and earthly possessions, whensoever they come into competition with his glory; so that if it comes to that point, that we must either leave our estates to enjoy Christ, or leave Christ to enjoy our estates, we must be willing and ready, without any more ado, to abandon and renounce whatever else we have rather than our interest in Christ. For indeed he is not worthy to be Christ's disciple that doth not prefer him before all things else; neither he that loves the world at all in comparison of Christ: For if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.'' And therefore he that would be Christ's disciple indeed, must fix his heart so fast on Christ, that it must hang loose and indifferent as to all things here below, being no more proud of them, no more delighted in them, no more concerned about them, than as if he had them not. So that though he have all things beside Christ, he must have nothing but him, or at least in comparison of him; yea, be ready to part with all, that he may gain Christ. And though many of us may think this a hard saying, we may assure ourselves, it is no more than what we must do, if we desire to be Christ's disciples.2
Furthermore, we must deny ourselves, those sins, especially, and lusts which we have or do still indulge ourselves in; for thus the gospel teacheth you in a particular manner, to deny ungodliness and worldly lust." And therefore we in vain pretend to be true Christians so long as we live in any one known sin with any love unto it, or delight in it. I suppose none of my readers guilty of all sins, and I
1 John, ii. 15. 2 Luke, xiv. 33.
3 Tit. ii. 12.
fear there are few but live in some. No man but may be naturally averse from some sins, but it is very rare to find one that is inclined to none; for ordinarily every man hath his darling, his beloved sin, his own sin, as David himself once had, though he afterwards kept himself from it. So I fear none of my readers but have some sin, which he may in a peculiar manner call his own, as being that which his thoughts run most upon, and his desires are carried most into, which he labours most after, and takes most pleasure in, which he is most loath to be reproved for, and most easily overcome by. Now this and whatsoever other sins any of us are addicted to, we must wholly leave and utterly renounce if ever we desire to be Christ's disciples. And therefore so long as any of us live in any known sin, as in pride or prodigality, in oppression or covetousness, in malice or uncleanness, in drunkenness, uncharitableness, or any other sin whatsoever, we must not think ourselves to be Christians indeed, Christ will never own us for his disciples; for so long as we live in any known sin, it is that sin, not Christ, that is our master; and therefore if we would list ourselves into his service, we must be sure to deny ourselves whatsoever we know to be offensive to him.
There is still another thing behind wherein we must deny ourselves, if we desire to go after Christ; and that is, we must deny and renounce all our self-righteousness, and all hopes and confidence from ourselves, and from what we have done, which I look upon as a very great piece of self-denial; for naturally we are all prone to sacrifice to our
1 Psal. xviii. 23.
own nets, to burn incense to our own drags, to boast of our own good works, and to pride ourselves with the conceit of our own righteousness. Though we be never so sinful, we would not be thought to be so, but would very fain be counted righteous, not only by men, but by God himself, for something or other which ourselves do; though when all comes to all, we know not what that should be; but howsoever the pride of our hearts is such, that we are loath to go out of ourselves to look for righteousness, to be beholden to another for it. And this is the reason that justification by faith in Christ hath had so many adversaries in the world; mankind in general being so much in love with themselves, and doting upon what themselves do, that they cannot endure to renounce and vilify their own obedience and good works, so much as to think they stand in need of any other righteousness besides their own, as if their own righteousness was so perfect, that God himself could find no fault with it, nor make any exceptions against it, but must needs acknowledge them to be just and righteous persons for it.
Whereas, alas! there is not the best action that ever a mere mortal did, but if examined by the strict rules of justice, it is as far from being good, yea, so far, that God himself may justly pronounce it evil, and by consequence condemn the person that did it, for doing of it. And therefore I cannot but wonder what it is that any man doth or can do, for which he can in reason be justified before God, our very righteousness being, as the prophet tells, but as filthy rags,' and our most holy performances fraught with sin and imperfection, and therefore so far from justifying us, that we may justly
be condemned for them; but this mankind doth not love to hear of, the pride of our hearts being such, that by all means we must have something in ourselves whereof to glory before God himself. But wo be to that person who hath no other righteousness but his own, wherein to appear before the Judge of the whole world; for however specious his actions may seem to men, they will be adjudged sins before the eternal God.
He therefore that would come to Christ, although he must labour after righteousness to the utmost of his power, yet when he has done all, he must renounce it and look upon himself as an unprofitable servant: For Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance:" that is, he came not to call such persons as think they have righteousness enough of their own to serve their turns, for such persons think they have no need of him, and therefore it would be in vain to call them; but he calls sinners, such as may perhaps be as righteous as the others, but they do not think themselves to be so, but look upon themselves as undone for ever, unless they have something else to trust to, than their own good works and obedience to the moral law. Such persons therefore Christ came to call; and if they come to him, they cannot but find rest and righteousness in him; and if any of us desire to go after Christ, so as to be his disciple, we must be sure to look upon ourselves as sinners, as deserving nothing but wrath and vengeance for whatsoever we have done; we must renounce all our own righteousness, and be so far from depending upon it, as to think we have none to depend upon, for so
1 Matt. ix. 13.