Page images
PDF
EPUB

in heaven. But heavenly happiness is a social happiness, and consists in union and communion with God, with holy angels and the spirits of just men, made perfect in pure, disinterested love. All heaven is full of disinterested love and self denial. God has denied himself, Christ has denied himself, the Holy Spirit has denied himself, the holy angels have denied themselves, and all departed saints have denied themselves, and always will deny themselves, in giving up impenitent angels and impenitent men to eternal perdition. Without self denial, therefore, no man can see God, or see and enjoy the kingdom of God. Self denial is not a mere arbitrary condition of salvation, but the only possible condition of salvation. Men cannot be saved upon any lower or easier condition. They cannot embrace the gospel without it, and they cannot enjoy the salvation of the gospel without it.

2. It appears from what has been said in this discourse concerning self denial, that the doctrine cannot be carried too far. Though every one will allow that self denial is a scriptural doctrine, and ought to be preached, and that all ought to practice self denial, yet many imagine it may be, and sometimes is carried too far. But ought it not to be carried as far as Christ carried it? And can it be carried any farther than he carried it? He required men to deny themselves, and take up their cross, and give up not only little things, but great things; and not only some things, but all things. And lest he should be misunderstood, he mentions particulars. He mentions houses and lands, which include every species of property. He mentions fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and children, which include the nearest and dearest connections and friends. And to all these sacrifices he adds the sacrifice of life itself. “ Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” The life here spoken of as lost and as found, is not mere temporal, but eternal life. What preacher ever taught self denial in a plainer or more extensive sense than Christ did? Or what preacher can carry the doctrine farther, or to a higher degree than he did? He makes self denial in the highest sense and in the highest degree, an indispensable condition of salvation to every person in the world, whether rich or poor, high or low, bond or free, learned or unlearned. Though few presume to complain of Christ for preaching the doctrine of self denial too plainly and extensively, yet many complain of ministers for preaching the doctrine as plainly and extensively as he did. They say this doctrine is strong meat, too strong for common people to hear, understand, believe and love.

[ocr errors]

Indeed, many are ready to cry out with those who heard Christ preach this doctrine to the amiable young man,“ Who then can be saved ?” They say it amounts to unconditional submission, or a willingness to be cast off for ever. And this is undoubtedly true. But what if it does amount to this, shall it not be preached ? Shall not the only condition of salvation which Christ has proposed, be preached? Can the gospel be really preached to sinners so that they can understand it, unless this doctrine be preached ? Shall ministers presume to alter, or bring down the condition of salvation ? Or if they do bring down the condition of salvation, and men comply with their condition thus modified, will it prepare them for heaven, or will Christ admit them there? I now ask, what shall ministers do, or what shall I do, in preaching the gospel ? The doctrine of self denial as Christ preached it, is disbelieved, denied, opposed and even ridiculed, by nine in ten, if not by ninety-nine in a hundred, from Maine to Georgia; and not only by the men of the world, but by christians and christian ministers. The question returns, what ought ministers to do? or what must they do, in respect to preaching the doctrine of self denial ? Shall they wholly omit it? or shall they preach it obscurely? or shall they preach it plainly and fully, as Christ did? They must take up their cross and preach it; and a heavy cross it is. But heavy as it is, it is light compared with what must be endured by those who are unwilling to bear it.

3. If Christianity requires men to exercise true self denial, then the christian religion is not a gloomy, but a joyful religion. It affords a hundred fold more happiness than any other religion can afford. Those who embrace Christianity in the spirit of self denial, give up their own good for the good of others, and for the glory of God, and thereby put themselves into the enjoyment of all the good for which they give up their own private, personal good, which is a hundred and a thousand fold greater than any private, personal and selfish good can be. This is not only theoretically, but practically and experimentally true. All who have embraced the gospel in the spirit of self denial, have always been the happiest men in the world. Abel was happier than Cain, Enoch was happier than Nimrod, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles, and all the primitive christians, were a hundred fold happier than the unbelieving world among whom they lived. Christians now are far more happy in the continual exercise of self denial, than sinners in their highest state of prosperity. Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. While they keep their hearts in the love of God and man, and place their happiness in the happiness of others, and in the glory of God, they rejoice always, and enjoy

all the good that comes to their knowledge. They enjoy the houses, and lands, and prosperity of the men of the world. They enjoy the temporal and spiritual happiness of their fellow christians, and they enjoy the kingdom of God and all the blessings contained in it. They enjoy all the good they see in this world at present, and all the good of the world to come, in a lively hope and prospect. God has filled this world with his goodness, and those who have given up their own good for the good of others, enjoy all the goodness he has displayed towards themselves and others. They experimentally know the truth of Christ's declaration and promise, “ 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-— and in the world to come, eternal life.” So long as christians keep themselves in the faith and love of God, and give themselves and all they have to him, though having nothing, they possess, or enjoy, all things. They have more reason to rejoice, and do actually rejoice more than any other men in the world. Their path is not dark and gloomy, but like the rising sun shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.

4. It appears from the nature of that self denial which the gospel requires, that the more sinners become acquainted with the gospel, the more they are disposed to hate it and reject it. All sinners are lovers of their own selves, and regard their own good supremely and solely, and the good of others only so far as it tends to promote their own private, personal and selfish good. But the gospel requires them to deny themselves, and give up all their private, personal, separate good, for the good of others, and for the kingdom of God's sake; and this is diametrically opposite to their selfish hearts; it is a hard saying, they cannot bear to hear it. The whole gospel is a scheme of self denial, and therefore the whole gospel is perfectly disagreeable to the hearts of sinners, when they clearly understand it. There are many, however, that believe, maintain and teach, that sinners would love and cordially embrace the gospel, if they only understood it, and that nothing but ignorance prevents their embracing it. But this is contrary to scripture, reason and fact. Christ said to sinners, “ Ye have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” It is contrary to reason to suppose that sinners who are entirely selfish, should love the gospel, which requires them to give up all they have to embrace it. And it is contrary to fact. The more sinners know the gospel, the more unwilling they are to embrace it. The experiment has been made. The plainer Christ preached the gospel, and the more they understood it, the more they hated and opposed both him

and the gospel. The plainer the apostles preached the gospel to sinners, the more they hated and opposed it. And the plainer the gospel is preached at this day, the more the carnal mind of sinners is awakened, and rises in opposition to it. It is found by experience, that it is impossible to preach the gospel plainly and intelligibly to sinners so as to please them. The offence of the cross has not ceased. Self denial cannot be truly explained and exhibited, so as to become pleasing to any selfish heart.

5. It appears from the nature of that self denial which the gospel requires, why sinners are more willing to embrace any false scheme of religion than the true. We find sinners of all descriptions more willing to embrace Arianism, Socinianism, Arminianism, Antinomianism, and Universalism, than the plain truths of the gospel; and the reason is obvious. The gospel requires self denial, but no false scheme of religion does. Every false scheme of religion teaches men that they may and can go to heaven, without self denial, or without giving up all they have for the kingdom of God's sake, or without unconditional submission, or without being willing that God should dispose of them for time and eternity, according as it shall be most for his own glory. No Arian, no Socinian, no Arminian, no Antinomian, no Universalist, ever.preaches gospel self denial, or any doctrine which flows from it. And all these preachers will tell their hearers that the gospel doctrine of self denial is false and absurd, and ought never to be preached, or believed, or practiced. And this is highly pleasing to every unrenewed, unsanctified and unholy heart. This will account for all the success which false teachers have had, in every age, and in every part of the world. They have left out of the gospel all that is displeasing to sinners, and preached all in the gospel which is pleasing to them. All men desire salvation, and are highly pleased to be told that they may have salvation, and retain all their selfish desires, and hopes, and enjoyments. But this is preaching another gospel than that which Christ and the apostles preached, and will deprive those who embrace it of all the good which the gospel of Christ promises, and subject them to all the evils that it threatens. It most seriously concerns every one to shun and avoid those who would pervert the gospel of Christ, and lead them in the broad and smooth road to ruin. Christ forewarns men to beware of false teachers, who are wolves in sheep's clothing, and declares, that if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch, and perish. It is only through the strait and narrow gate of self denial, that any can enter into the kingdom of heaven. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.

6. It appears from the nature of that self denial which the

gospel requires, that sinners have no excuse for not embracing the gospel. The only excuse they make is, that they are unable, that they cannot embrace it. But there is nothing in the way of their embracing the gospel, except that self denial which it requires. And it requires self denial only because it is absolutely necessary in order to be completely happy, both in this world and in the next. It is entirely reasonable that they should deny themselves, and place their happiness in the happiness of others, and in the glory of God; which will make them a hundred fold more happy than they can be while they enjoy only a private, separate and selfish good. They have no excuse, therefore, for retaining their selfishness another moment. It is their immediate duty to forsake all for Christ's and the gospel's sake. The apostles did, Zaccheus did, and thousands did in Christ's and the apostles' days, and millions since. Christ now commands you to take up your cross and follow him, and promises to reward you a hundred fold both in time and in eternity. It is much easier to be benevolent than selfish. There is far more pleasure in seeking the things of Christ, than your own things. There is far more happiness in being united with his friends, than in being united with his enemies, who are enemies to you, as well as to him. It is impossible for you to be united to his enemies, because they cannot be united to you, or to one another. Selfishness is a repulsive principle, and forbids union. Be entreated then to renounce it, and become united to Christ, to God, and to all holy beings, and you shall receive a hundred fold more happiness in this time, and in time to come, for ever. The good which you have always been seeking, but which you have never found, you shall immediately find by coming to Christ, taking up your cross, and following him. If you do not give up all that you have, all that you have will be taken from you. This is your only alternative. Choose you this day, whether you will seek to save your life, and lose it; or voluntarily lose your life, that you may find it.

Finally, if men must give up all they have to be christians, then it is a great thing to be a christian. He is essentially different from every sinner in the world. He exercises that pure, disinterested love, that no sinner is willing to exercise, even to obtain eternal life. He is more amiable, more excellent, more worthy of the love of God and man, than any totally selfish creature in the universe. He now enjoys, and will for ever enjoy, more happiness than any selfish heart can feel. He has the witness in himself that he belongs to Christ, and is a joint heir with him to all the blessedness of the heavenly world. Who, then, must not wish to be a christian? Who, that is one, cannot know it? And who that is not, cannot but know it?

« PreviousContinue »