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shrink from calling on you to renounce this world, with all its paltriness, but that the very reason
the motive, the encouragement, the all-sufficient inducement to this is—that you have been made already the privileged denizens of another and a higher world—“ members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven !"
RENUNCIATION OF THE FLESH.
GALATIANS, v. 24. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
I FEEL that I am entering this morning on a grave and delicate subject, and I
pray, than usual earnestness, that “ with meek heart and due reverence we may hear and receive God's holy word !" For, I am now to bring before you
particular of Renunciation engaged for us by our godfathers and godmothers. “They did promise and
that I should renounce ... all the sinful lusts of the flesh"-all the excessive and unlawful desires of that corporeal nature in which our spirits, for the present, dwell.
Now, this Renunciation we are called to by our
very profession as Christian men, because the corporeal nature with which we are clothed, equally as the outward world by which we are surrounded, is seized on and abused by Satan to seduce us from God, and subjugate us to himself. As by the allurements of the World, presented through the senses, the Devil draws us from goodness ; so by the impulses of the Flesh, working in the senses, he hurries us from goodness. By the first, he deceives the understanding, and cajoles us into evil. By the second, he confounds the understanding, and precipitates us into evil. But, all with the same purpose, and to the same result to set us against God—to gain us over into opposition to His will and breach of His commandments; and thus into the final obstinacy and perdition into which himself has fallen.
By the Flesh, then, in our text, and in our baptismal vow, is meant our corporeal, earthly nature -all that we are and feel as animal beings. And by the “ affections and lusts” thereof, all the movements of which it is susceptible, all the natural appetites and impulses by which it is characterized. These impulses are not evil in themselves, just for the reason that they are natural. They were implanted by God. And they are stirred for wise and necessary purposes,-to impel us towards the Sustenance--the Refreshment and the Communication of our animal life. But they become “ sinful lusts,” and we are bound by our baptismal vow to renounce them,—that is, “not to follow nor be led by them"--whenever they seek to be indulged beyond the Degree, or without the Limits, which God himself has assigned to them by the laws of Nature, or of Social Duty. All within those spheres is good, and fulfils the will of God. All without, to the least degree of excess, or of unlawfulness, is “ sinful,” and fulfils the will of the Devil, who is the Antagonist of God.
The desire of Food, for example, is necessary to the SUSTENANCE of our animal life. But whenever this is indulged to excess, to gluttony and drunkenness, then have we forgotten our baptismal vow. And every repetition of such indulgence, every approximation to habitual “making provision for the flesh,” carries on the opposition to God's will from the body into the mind — from the blind aniinal impulse to the conscious mental purpose. O that men would recollect this encroaching character of sin, and fly, therefore, from the first approaches and occasions of it! They may count it very venial to be “overtaken in a fault.” But each single surprisal prepares for a further one each indulgence permitted, or extenuated, brings on the habit of indulgence, and therewith the grossness of sensuality, and the sting and punishment of bodily disease. “Who,” says Solomon, “ hath woe? who hath sorrow ? who hath contentions ? who hath babbling ? who hath wounds without cause ? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine, they that go to seek mixed wine. Therefore look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. For at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”
Then, again, by the desire of Rest and Sleep, we are stimulated to provide for the REFRESHMENT which our bodily frame requires. But Excess in this becomes a sinful lust. Sloth, indolence, prevailing love of ease, O how do they incrust the soul with fleshliness! What a languor do they diffuse through the whole frame! How grossly selfish do they make the man! How exactly the reverse of all the vigour and activity for which Refreshment is intended do they produce ! Nothing noble, nothing energetic, nothing useful, either to , God or man, can grow in such a soil. The wretched, listless being vegetates upon the earth, and is a burden to himself and to all around him. “ As the door turneth upon its hinges, so doth the slothful man upon
his bed: he hideth his hand in his bosom ; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.” “ The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labour.”