The Duty of Self-Denial

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Beautiful reflections by a deeply thoughtful preacher. Nov 28, Leila McGrath rated it it was amazing. So little of this today.

The Duty of Self Denial, Part 3

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The more one values himself, the less God and angels value him. Let a person be eminent—yet, if he is self-conceited, he is loved by none. He is like a physician who has the plague. Though he may be admired for his skill—yet none care to come near him. Such as have a high opinion of their own excellencies are on the fast track to eternal ruin!

Either God infatuates them, Isaiah Peter, who was so well-conceited of himself, as if he had more grace than all the Apostles, the Lord let him fall very low! He denied Christ with an oath, nay, an imprecation, Matthew Peter wished a curse on himself if he knew Christ; nay, some think he cursed Christ.

The Lord sometimes lets vain, conceited people fall—not only foully, but finally. Let all this, make us deny our pride; let it kill the worm of self-conceit. If we are proud of our knowledge—the devil does not care how much we know. Let Paul be our pattern. Though he was the chief of the Apostles, he says, "I am less than the least of all God's people. This illustrious Apostle, a star of the first magnitude, shrank into nothing in his own eyes.

It is excellent to be like Moses, whose face had a luster on it—but "he was not aware that his face was radiant. The gluttonous appetite cries, "Give, give! Paul beat down his body, 1 Corinthians 9: Such a proportion only is to be taken for the recruiting of nature, as may help forward God's service. More are hurt by excess in lawful things --than by meddling with sinful things. More are killed by wine --than by poison. Many make their belly their god, Philippians 3: And to this god, they pour their drink offerings!

And to this god, they pour their drink offerings. Clemens Alexandrinus writes of a fish whose heart is in his belly. This is an emblem of epicures, whose heart is in their belly; they are devoted to their appetite! Excess in food or drink clouds the mind, chokes holy affections, and provokes lust. The foulest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. Intemperance shortens life—as too much oil extinguishes the lamp. Many dig their graves, with their teeth! Christ cautioned His Apostles, Luke What a shame is it—that the soul, that princely part, which sways the scepter of reason, and is akin to the angels, should be enslaved to the brutish part!

Deny the sinful cravings of the flesh. What has God given conscience for, but to be a golden bridle to check the inordinacy of the appetite! It is loath to take pains for heaven. Weeds and vermin grow in untilled ground, and all vices grow in an idle, untilled heart. How can they expect to reap a harvest of glory— who never sowed any seed? Is Satan so busy in his diocese, 1 Peter 5: Are they like the lilies—which neither toil, nor spin? O deny your ease! Seneca, a heather, devoted himself to labor and spent part of the night in study.

Hannibal forced his way over the Alps and craggy rocks. We must force our way to paradise. Let us shake off sloth—as Paul did the viper! Never think to be brought to heaven as the passengers in a ship are brought to their ports—while sleeping! Those slothful people in Eturia, who like drones enter into the hive and consumed the honey, were expelled from others and condemned to exile. Such as idle away the day of grace and fold their hands to sleep when they should be working out salvation, God will condemn to a perpetual exile in hell.

This is the wisdom of the flesh , 2 Corinthians 1: Carnal policy is craft. The politician does not consult what is best for the country—but what is the safest policy for himself. The politician is made of willow; he can side with all parties; his religion is cut according to the fashion of the times; he can bow either to the east or to the west. Zeal for truth, is blotted out of the politician's creed. Sir Thomas More said that he would not follow truth too near the heels—lest it should dash out his brains. It is judged by some a piece of wise policy, not to declare against error for fear of losing a party.

The Politician is a latitudinarian. He can go all ways. The ostrich's wings help her to outrun other creatures. Sinful policy makes men run further than they can, who are of purer consciences. In short, the politician is like a chameleon, who can change into all colors—and be of the same mind as his company is. He can be either serious or feathery. I grant that Christian prudence is commendable—but the serpent shrewdness must not devour the dove inoffensiveness.

That policy is unjustifiable, which teaches people to avoid duty. Deny carnal policy; dare to be honest. The best policy is to hold fast to honesty and integrity. Augustine compares the tongue to a furnace, and too often sparks of anger fly out of it! The Holy Spirit once descended in cloven tongues of fire, Acts 2: But the Apostle James speaks of a tongue that is set on fire of hell, James 3: Some cannot rule their own spirit—but are carried away with their passions as a chariot with wild horses.

There is, I know, a holy anger against sin—but the fury of anger is the scum which boils off from an unsavory heart! Anger disturbs reason, and makes a person unfit for holy duties. O Christians, deny yourselves! Pray that God will set a watch before your lips, Psalm Labor to quench the fire of wrath—with a flood of tears! It is recorded of Mr. John Bruen, in the county of Chester, that though he was naturally of a hasty, angry spirit—yet at length he got the victory over his passions, and grew so meek and calm that his very nature seemed to be quite altered.

Grace does to the passions what Christ did to the sea when it was stormy. He said, "Peace, be still. Grace turns the fierceness of the lion—into the meekness of the dove! If the old Christians were to rise out of their graves—our new fashions might frighten them into their graves again! Was there ever such excess in hair?

One asked Pastor Dod why he did not preach against those ruffians who wore long hair. He replied, "If grace comes into their heart—it will make them cut off their hair. Nor can the female gender be excused for their excess in apparel. Gone will be their scarves, ankle chains, sashes, perfumes, and charms; their rings, jewels, party clothes, gowns, capes, and purses; their mirrors, linen garments, head ornaments, and shawls.

Seneca complained of those in his time who hung two or three houses on their ears! Some wear half their incomes upon their backs! Lysander would not allow his daughters to be too gorgeously attired, saying "it would make them more common —than lovely.

That professors should conform and comply with others in their antic dresses, is a reproach of piety! A tear in the eye—would more adorn than a tower on the head. Pull down these flags of vanity. Have not God's judgments humbled you? They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.

He must not look with one eye at piety—and aim at himself with the other eye. He must not aim at self-enriching and self-applause. He must not aim at self-enriching. Some espouse the gospel only for gain. They court this queen, not for her beauty but for her jewels! It is not the fire of the altar they regard—but the gold of the altar! Judas preached and wrought miracles—but his eye was chiefly on the money bag.

How do many ministers heap benefice upon benefice, minding the fleece more than the flock! Dumb dogs that is, those who are afraid to speak the truth for fear that it will offend the rich are greedy dogs. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes.

They love to lie around, sleeping and dreaming. And they are as greedy as dogs, never satisfied. They are stupid shepherds, all following their own path, all of them intent on personal gain. These make use of the ministerial function, only as a net to catch filthy lucre. This is to be profane in sacred things. It is sordid and unworthy of a Christian, to make piety bow to secular interest.

The Duty of Self-Denial: And 10 Other Sermons

A Christian must not aim at self-applause. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. They prayed and gave alms—that they might be seen by men. The oil of vain-glory fed their lamp! Verse 5, "Truly they have their reward. They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi.

Luther confessed that, although he was never tempted with covetousness—yet he was sometimes with vain-glory! The moth breeds in the finest cloth; and self-seeking is apt to breed in the best duties. Sinister aims corrupt piety. A good aim will not make a bad action good—but a bad aim will make a good action bad. To blame are they who, when they have done any glorious service in the church, take the praise themselves, like those heathens who sacrificed the wax to their gods, but kept the honey to themselves.

Matthew Paris speaks of one who, having in several lectures proved strenuously that Christ was God, and being highly applauded for it, cried out saying, "O Jesus, You are indebted to me for Your divinity this day. Let this cause trembling and humility in Christians. Some ships which have escaped the rocks, have been wrecked upon the sands.

The Duty of Self-Denial

Many who have escaped the rocks of gross scandals have been wrecked upon the sands of self-seeking. Tacitus said he would not have Erasmus's fame and applause, for all the world. No—but to have esteem in God's church is a blessing. But the sin is when self-applause is the only thing hunted after. Popular applause is the golden arrow which glitters in the eye—but wounds the heart. How many have been blown to hell with the breath of popular applause.

O let us deny, yes, abhor this vain-glorious temper. We have a holy example in John the Baptist, who sought to lift up Christ and beat down himself. Christ, who comes after me, is the Prince. I am but the morning star; He is the sun. I baptize only with water, He with the Holy Spirit. When Joab had taken Rabbah, he did not usurp the praise to himself—but sent for King David that he might carry away the glory of the victory, 2 Samuel So, when any eminent service in church has been done—the glory of all should be given to Christ and free grace! It is better that God should approve—than that the world should applaud!

If we are faithful, we shall have honor enough in heaven. Let this be our chief aim in duty that we may grow more in love with God and be made more like Him, have more communion with Him, and bring more revenues of honor to Him. It was a worthy speech of Philip de Mornay upon his deathbed, that he had, through the course of his life, made God's glory his end and aim. As all the rivers run into the sea, so all our actions must run into God, the infinite Ocean!

The scripture gives no license for sin. It bids us to deny ungodly lusts. It is not likely he will sacrifice his Isaac —his worldly profits—who will not sacrifice the ram —his vile lusts! A Christian must deny his malice, revenge, covetousness, uncleanness, superstition, and heterodoxy. A man may as well go to hell for a drunken opinion—as a drunken life. And let me especially instance two sins a Christian must deny:.

A Christian must deny the sin of rash censuring. You shall hear them say, "Such a one is proud, factious, and hypocritical. The root of censoriousness is pride.


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A person thinks that by taking away from another's reputation—he shall add something to his own. But let him who shall raise himself upon the ruin of another's fame, be warned. Do you think it is no sin to murder a man in his name? You who are such a critic, it is to be feared you can spy all faults but your own! O Christian, look inward. If you viewed your own spots more in the looking-glass of the Word, you would not be as ready to throw the stone of censure at others.

Deny this sin of rash censuring and smiting with the tongue , Jeremiah You who speak reproachfully of your brother without a cause, the time may come that he may be accepted—and you rejected! He may be found gold—and you reprobate silver! A Christian must deny his besetting complexion sin. This must be denied.

The devil can hold a man fast by one sin. A jailer can hold the prisoner fast by one fetter. One sin is enough to stop the current of mercy. One sin may damn as well as more, just as one millstone is enough to sink a man into the sea. If there is any lust which we cannot deny, it will be a bitter root either of scandal or apostasy. When our friends would prove snares, and hinder us from our duty, we must either leap over them or tread upon them! Here is faith in God.

A carnal heart will commend and profess Christ—but will part with nothing for Him. The young man in the gospel was Christ's hearer —but not His follower. When Christ said to him, "Sell all and give to the poor," he went away sorrowful, Matthew When riches are joined with a bad heart, they do much hurt. The world lay nearer the young man's heart than Christ.

Have some of the heathens denied the world? Epaminondes, a Grecian captain who obtained many glorious victories, was a great despiser of the world. He refused vast sums of money sent him from the King of Persia, so that when he died he left scarcely enough to defray the charges of his funeral. Did a heathen go thus far in denying the world, and shall not Christians do much more? Let the wedge of gold be denied for the pearl of great price. Galeacius, marquess of Vico, parted with a fair estate to enjoy the pure ordinances of Christ at Geneva.

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When a Jesuit persuaded him to return to his popish religion in Italy, promising him a huge sum of money, he said, "Let their money perish with them, who esteem all the gold in the world worth one hour's communion with Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. This is in the text, "Let him take up his cross. He who suffers against his will— bears the cross; he who suffers willingly— takes up the cross.


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  • A fair virgin fell in love with Crates for his learning. He showed her his staff and his scrip. If we will not have Him upon these terms, the match is not likely to go on. Sufferings are waiting for us, Acts The devil has not grown kinder. Some think of reigning with Christ—but not of suffering with Christ.

    Joseph dreamed of his advancement, but not of his imprisonment. The flesh cries out, That cross is painful! There are nails in that cross which tear me! But life must be denied , yes, hated for Christ. The primitive worthies snatched up torments as so many crowns, and were content to shed their blood for Christ, knowing they would exchange their bloody robes-for white ones.

    The prophet Isaiah was sawn in half. Jeremiah was killed by stoning. Amos was killed with an iron bar. Luke was hanged on an olive tree. I read that Irenaeus was carried to a place where a cross was set on one side and an idol on the other. He was given a choice either to bow to the idol—or suffer on the cross. He chose the latter.

    The duty of self-denial briefly opened and urged. By Thomas Watson, minister of the Gospel

    Basil speaks of a virgin condemned to the fire. She was offered her life and estate if she would bow down to an image. She answered, "Let life and money go; welcome Christ! Though every Christian is not actually a martyr—yet he has a preparation of mind, and is ready to suffer—if God calls. Luther said he would rather be a martyr than a monarch. Let us then, take up the cross. Can wicked men be content to suffer for their lusts, and shall we not suffer for Christ? We are to look upon our sufferings as a badge of honor.

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    If we receive honor when we are reproached for Christ, much more shall we receive it when we die for Him. Paul's being imprisoned made the gospel to be more enlarged, Philippians 1: Justin Martyr was converted to the faith by beholding the heroic patience and courage of the Christians in their sufferings. The cross leads to the crown.

    Persecutors may take away from us our goods —but not our God. They may take away our liberty— but not our freedom of conscience. They may take off our head —but not our crown! He who cannot deny his life for Christ, will deny Christ. And he who is ashamed of Christ, Christ will be ashamed of him.

    The grand reason why we must deny ourselves, is because we can be saved no other way. A town or castle may have several ways leading to it. But there is only one way leading to the celestial paradise, and that is self-denial. Without self-denial, we can never come up to Christ's terms. If the world cannot be denied—Christ cannot be trusted. If the will is not denied—Christ cannot be obeyed. Therefore, self-denial is absolute necessity to enter heaven. From all that has been said, see how hard a thing it is to be a Christian.

    Were it only to put on the mantle of profession , it would be easy. Even Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, 2 Corinthians But a man must deny himself. This self-emptying or self-annihilation is the strait gate through which a Christian must enter into the kingdom of God. He is not to deny only those things which are outside of him—his worldly profits; but those which are within him—his sins, nay, his righteousness. Self is an idol, and it is hard to sacrifice this idol ; but this must be done.

    Either carnal self must be denied, or we cannot truly follow Christ. This justly indicts those who live in a contradiction to the text, who instead of denying themselves—they let loose the reins and give themselves up to all manner of pleasure and licentiousness. How terrible it will be for you who sprawl on ivory beds surrounded with luxury, eating the meat of tender lambs and choice calves. You sing idle songs to the sound of the harp. Pleasure enchants men's minds, and transforms them into beasts! There is a place in Africa called Tombutium where the inhabitants spend all their time in singing and dancing.

    And have we not many who consume their hours in plays and brothels? As if God has made them like the leviathan—to play in the sea Psalm How will their countenances be changed when God shall say, "Give an account of your stewardship! They pamper their bodies—but starve their souls! As if one should feed his dog —but starve his wife! Do epicures deny themselves? Indeed, in one sense they do. Enjoying their lusts— they deny themselves a part in heaven!

    In the country of Sardinia there is an herb-like balm, that if a man eats of it, he shall die laughing. Such an herb is 'pleasure'. If one feeds immoderately on it, he will go laughing to hell. Esau lost the blessing while he was hunting. How many, while they are hunting after worldly pleasures, lose eternal blessedness?

    There is a 'sin cup' brewing which will spoil the sinner's mirth. He pours the wine out in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it, draining it to the dregs. The Lord will proportion a sinner's torment to his pleasure.

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    In the next place, we may sadly lay to heart the lack of self-denial. O self-denial, where have you gone? We live in a knowing age—yet few know how to deny themselves! Selfishness is the reigning sin of the world. This makes the times have a bad aspect. SELF may have divers actions brought against it.



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