Tag Archives: Thomas Manton

Self-Denial In Respect To Our Neighbour Pt 2

  We conclude this magnificent treatise on self-denial.  In this final section may the Spirit of God lead you to make note of how you can apply these concluding exhortations to deny self.  Does the public good promote the glory of God more than the private good?  Read and find out.  And what does the result of self-denial often look like?  What does it look like when a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies?  Remember Jesus.  If anyone understands self-denial He does.  The crowd.
https://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201704/r1688885_26171892.jpg
As seen at www.abc.net.au
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO God

III. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO OUR NEIGHBOUR

  1. Love to Our Neighbour Is a Means to Preserve Our Respects to God.
  2. The Depth of Love to Our Neighbour

And now…

3. Love his neighbour more than himself

In some cases a man is bound to love his neighbour more than himself. In the Law it is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”; but in the gospel we have a higher pattern: “As I have loved you, so ought you also to love one another” (see Joh 13:34). Now the Lord Jesus has loved us with a high love:

He has laid down His life for us.

And it is no strain to apply this in some cases to love to our neighbours: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jo 3:16). He shed His precious blood, which was more valuable than all the world, therefore we should not refuse to give anything, not even life, which is our most precious possession! Life and all must go for our neighbour’s sake.

But you will say, “In what cases?”

[3.1] To save the whole community

First, I am to give my single life, when necessary, to save the whole community and society. It is a constant rule that all private things must give way to public, for God’s glory is more promoted and concerned in a public good than in any private.[1] Therefore a public good is better and more considerable in itself than any particular happiness of our own. In the whole business of self-denial, the great question is, which shall take place, God’s glory or my own profit? Thus Jonah,[2] to save the company, says, “Cast me forth into the sea” (Jon 1:12). When he was discovered and found out by lot, it was, not only an act of patience and submission to the sentence of God, but also an act of charity to save those that sailed with him. Men should be contented to be sacrificed for a real public good…

[3.2] To help another’s spiritual good

We ought to help one another’s spiritual good with the loss of our material things— which are temporary—and to venture person and estate for the propagation of the gospel. We are in some degree to imitate the glorious excess of charity in Paul, who could wish himself to be cursed from Christ for his brethren and kinsmen in the flesh (Rom 9:3); and Moses, who asked God to blot his name out of His book if God would spare His people (Exo 32:32). With our loss we are to promote the spiritual good of others. We have a high instance in our Lord Jesus Christ: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor 8:9). When He was rich, rich in the glory of the Godhead, yet He would come in the form of a servant. But, alas, who becomes poor for Christ now? Who is willing to go back any degree of his own pomp and pleasure, that he may advance the public good and promote the glory of Christ? Public spiritual good is far more valuable than any temporal good.

[3.3] To assist another in certain danger

It is a necessary act of our love to God when we expose ourselves to uncertain dangers to assist another in certain danger. If a man were assaulted by thieves and ruffians, to prevent murder I am bound to endanger my own life. If I may possibly contribute help, by the laws of God, I am to help the wronged party though it be to my own hazard. Thus Esther said, “If I perish, I perish,” when she went into the king (Est 4:16). There was a double ground of that resolution; one was, she preferred the public good before her own private life; the other, the cause was not only dangerous but also likely to result in tragedy. Now this case is the more binding, if it be the life of a public person, of a minister or magistrate. A subject is bound to preserve the life of a magistrate more than his own; the hand will put up itself to save the head. So also with ministers, as Romans 16:4, “For my life [they] laid down their own necks.” Paul speaks of Aquila and Priscilla, who exposed themselves to danger of death to save him in some tumult. Therefore he says, “Not only do I give them thanks, but all the churches of the Gentiles give them thanks!” If it be but the life of a private friend that is in danger, I am bound to expose myself to some hazard for his sake: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Joh 15:13). Christ speaks of it as an act of love. For though my life and his are of a like value, and mine may be more dear to myself than his, yet my duty to him and his life must overrule—especially if the case is dangerous, as to rescue him from an assassin.

C. Application

I shall conclude all with a word of application, which is to condemn two sorts of persons: self-lovers and self-seekers.

1. Warnings to self-lovers

First, the doctrine of self-denial condemns self-lovers. There are several sorts of them.

[1.1] When men seek their own contentment above the public benefit

They care not how it goes with the public, just so their private interest flourishes. The sin is more aggravated if men are neglectful in times of public danger. Among the Romans, men would leave their shops and trade, and venture all for the common good. But when in dangerous cases men are diverted from public service by a zeal to private interest, this is a foolish course—like to those that would look to their own cabins aboard ship, when the vessel itself is in danger. When Israel was under the oppression of Jabin, those who were lacking in public duty were blasted with infamy and shame: Dan and Ashur, that had their country near the sea (Jdg 5:17-18). And at the same time the tribe of Reuben, which lived on the other side of Jordan, stayed at home unworthily, to tend their cattle and flocks; and they were more affected with the bleating of the sheep, than with the groans and complaints of their brethren, under the oppression of Jabin. Those that did not come out for the help of God, they are cursed (Jdg 5:23)…

[1.2] When men mind only their own things

The doctrine of self-denial condemns men who in the course of their lives do mind only their own things, and are wholly taken up in fulfilling their own wills and desires. This is the temper of most men, they are of a narrow private heart and do not seek the welfare of others. It is both against nature and grace.

(1.) Against nature

No man is born for himself. His country has a share in him; his friends, and the persons with whom he lives, also have a share, for by nature man was made to be helpful to others. Man by nature is a sociable creature who is made for commerce.[3] If man could live of himself, he might live to himself. Now human society is built upon communion and commerce. The eye cannot say to the foot, “I have no need of thee” (1 Cor 12:14-27); and we cannot say of the most common person, “We have no need of thee.” It is the wisdom of providence to cast the frame of the world into mountains and valleys, to make some poor and some rich. The poor are as necessary…as are the rich. It is against nature when men wholly live to themselves.

(2.) Against grace

So it is also against grace, which casts us into one mystical body. The Apostle has a notable expression, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom 12:5). There is a greater “self” we are to regard, and that is the societies to which we belong; the welfare of this great body we must seek and promote. As in a clock, one wheel moves another; each part gives and receives help one from the other. So should everyone be serviceable, and put his heart, hand, and head to the common good, and be sensible of the common evil. As in the natural body, there is no disaster that happens to any one member but all the rest are affected also. The tongue cries out when we tread upon the toe, “You have hurt me”; or if the foot be pricked with a thorn, the rest of the members will testify their compassion. The tongue complains, the eyes shed tears, the head considers how to remove the thorn, and the hands provide assistance.

[1.3] Three ways to serve one another

There are three ways in which we are especially to serve one another: by prayers, by counsel, and by outward actions of relief.

(1.) By prayers

We are to mind in our prayers the good of one another, and labour for it with God, as we would seek His face for our own souls. This is an act of charity that costs us no money, and using another’s need as an occasion to go to God is both an advantage to us and a benefit to them. David, you know, fasted for his enemies (Psa 35:1-16), and Abraham prayed for Sodom (Gen 18). But, alas, few are nowadays touched with the miseries of others! If we be free from trouble, we care not what others suffer. Now the apostle says, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Heb 13:3). We who are at liberty must not forget them who are in bonds, but esteem the bonds as our own, until God sets them free. Can you be a member and not be affected? The children of God, when they have been in a flourishing condition themselves, have always laid to heart the miseries of others of God’s children who have been in a suffering condition. Nehemiah was a favourite at court, the king’s cupbearer, yet he was sensible of the affliction of his country (Neh 1). And Daniel was a great prince in Babylon, yet how he pleads with God for Zion (Dan 9). We are to plead their case with God, though we are never so well.

(2.) By counsel

Another way to serve one another is by counsel. You are not to suffer sin upon your brother, no more than upon your own soul, for every man is made his brother’s guardian and keeper. “Exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). Take heed lest, not only you yourselves, but any of your body and society, be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin…Therefore, we should be much in spiritual counsel, though we spend ourselves and be spent. This is a great part of self-denial that is required of us. Jesus Christ was weary, yet He speaks with the woman of Samaria about conversion (Joh 4).

(3.) By outward acts of relief

This love is to be manifested by sensible acts of charity and relief. You need to be much in this, for Christ takes notice of it as if it were done to Himself. If Christ lay languishing upon His bed, we all pretend we would go and visit Him. But Christ said, “What you do to the least of these my brethren you do to me” (see Mat 25:40). He tries the young man by the same: “Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor” (see Mar 10:21). It is the doctrine of self-denial to the young man, as if self-denial and giving to the poor were equivalent terms. I emphasize it to you because men love a cheap religion. They pretend to pray for others, but yet refuse those costly acts of charity; they can give good words and counsel, but will not relieve and clothe. But we cannot satisfy God with mere words, as we cannot pay debts with the noise of money. There must be some real bounty[4] by which you should prove your heart to God. Christ takes notice of this in the Day of Judgment (Mat 25:31-46).

[1.4] When men give only to their own friends

When, in acts of charity to others, men only regard their own relations and friends, this is but a natural love to self, because relations and friends are but self-multiplied. “If you only love them that love you, what reward have you?” (see Mat 5:43-48). Who will give you thanks for the mere motion of nature? But it is according to Christ’s pattern when you can “love your enemies” and love those that wrong you. Christ loved us when we were His enemies and children of wrath. When we had offended God, He loved us and gave His Son to be the propitiation[5] for our sins (1Jo 4:10). Therefore you are not only to love your own relations and allies, but also your enemies, who may qualify as your neighbour (Luke 10:29). It is a high privilege to be a forgiver. Therefore, let us not lose this crown of honour. Let us test who will hold out the longest, they in offending, or we in pardoning.

2. Warnings to self-seekers

The doctrine of self-denial reproves not only self-lovers, but also self-seekers.

[2.1] When men first serve themselves

Self-seekers are they who feather their own nests with public spoils, set a house on fire to cook their eggs, and start schemes to promote themselves. Men had better be careful in such cases…Nehemiah took not the allowance of a governor (Neh 5:14-15). We should not carve out such large portions to ourselves in times of distress and calamity…Therefore, it is the glory of a man in a public place rather to depart from his own rights than to make a merchandise of the times and a prey of his brethren.

[2.2] When men make merchandises of their private courtesies, and aim only at their own praise

When men eye self in all they do, and in all the public good they do have an aim only to advance themselves in the esteem of others, these are self-seekers indeed. The heathen poet could say, “For a man to give something as alms that will not bring a profit in business brings no benefit to him at all.” Still, we must look to the pattern of Jesus Christ: when He loved us, He pleased not himself (Rom 15:3)…

[2.3] When men envy others

These are envious persons who would have a monopoly of gifts to set off themselves, and envy the gifts and graces of others; whereas God would have us rejoice in one another’s grace and labours. What is theirs by labour is ours by love, by virtue of the mystical body. Whatever members do, the glory and good rebounds to all. We, being in the body, should not envy them, as the foot doth not envy the eye because it is seated in a higher place. Envious persons are not members of the body, but leeches that grow monstrous by sucking. They seek to draw all to themselves, therefore they cannot rejoice in the good of others.

Questions & Notes

  1. Is God’s glory more promoted and concerned in a public good than in any private?
  2. However, Jonah, as the Scriptures make clear, was the cause of this calamity because of his disobedience.
  3. commerce – social exchange.
  4. bounty – gift given; generosity.
  5. propitiation – sin offering that turns away wrath; appeasement.
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

Self-Denial In Respect To Our Neighbour Pt 1

  The perpetual motion machine.  Love God.  How?  Love your neighbor. How?  Love God.  On and on it goes.  Add the element of truth and this thing starts spinning.  (Phil 1:9-11) The outcome will be righteousness, holiness, and the fulfilment of what God created us for.  In these last two posts on this book, Manton moves from the inward to the outward and practical aspects of self-denial.
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO God

And now…

III. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO OUR NEIGHBOUR

Having considered self-denial in reference to God, I shall now speak of it with respect to our neighbour. As there is a carnal self in opposition to God, so there is also a carnal self in opposition to the good of others, to the duty we owe to our neighbour. In a moral consideration, there are three general beings: God, your neighbour, and yourself. Now, self is ravenous; it devours the respects due to both the others. It seeks to intercept and take to itself the rights of the Godhead, and to divert and absorb the respects that are due to our neighbour.

I shall now speak of self-denial with reference to our neighbour, because it is established by God’s Law in the next place to our respects of God: “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1Jo 4:21). The Scripture speaks very little of love to ourselves, because of the strong bent of nature that way; there is merely somewhat of allowance, but nothing of precept. Self-love is not commanded in Scripture, but regulated.[1] The commandment takes notice of our love to God, and then of our love to our neighbour. This grant we have, that we should love ourselves; but this by commandment, to love our neighbour.

A. Love to Our Neighbour Is a Means to Preserve Our Respects to God.

We must deny ourselves by loving our neighbour, partly because love to our neighbour is a means to preserve our respects to God, and partly because He tries us by this sensible way. God needs nothing from us; He is elevated far above our bounty and kindness. Therefore, it would have been easy to pretend love to God, if God had not delegated His own right upon our neighbours, and made them His agents to receive those respects, that we cannot so well bestow upon God Himself. God needs not our love, but His servants do! Therefore it is made the test of our love to God that we love our brother. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1Jo 4:20); if a man loves not his brother, “how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1Jo 3:17).[2] We cannot love God aright without loving our brother, and we cannot love our brother aright if we love not God. We must love our brother for God’s sake. Therefore, our pretensions are mere lies when we pretend to be open to God, and yet our hearts are shut against our brethren…

B. The Depth of Love to Our Neighbour

A man is bound with many engagements 1) to love his neighbour, 2) to love his neighbour as himself, and 3) in some cases, to love his neighbour more than himself.

1. Love his neighbour

A man is by many engagements bound to love his neighbour. No man is born for himself. Nature teaches this, and grace establishes this dictate of nature. This is pressed earnestly in Scripture: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14). Now, how can the apostle say, “All the law,” for there are respects due to God, as well as to man, that are established by the Law? The meaning may be all the civil part of the Law, the whole second table, or else all the Law, as we obey God in loving man for God’s sake, so we turn the duties of the second table into duties of the first, and make all of life to be a kind of worship.

Besides, this is Christ’s solemn command: “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (Joh 15:17). This is the sum of Christ’s charge to His disciples. By way of special charge, it is ranked with faith: “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1Jo 3:28). Here are great commandments: faith in God, and love of the brethren—the great charge of Christ that He left at His death (Joh 13:34; 14:1).

It is therefore a legacy as well as a precept. Speeches of dying men tend to be received with the most veneration and reverence, but especially the charge of dying friends. When the brethren of Joseph were afraid that he would remember the injuries they had shown to his person, they sent messengers unto him, saying, “Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, forgive the trespass” (Gen 50:16-17). Oh, let us fulfil the will of Him Who died! When Jesus Christ took His leave of His disciples, this was what He gave in charge: that we should have special respect to the good of one another. Therefore, when you are prone to quarrel with others or to neglect them, say to yourself, “What love do I bear to Christ, since I do forget the solemn charge the dying Jesus left to His disciples!”

Christ calls this His new commandment: “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another” (Joh 13:34). How could He say so, since it was as old as the moral Law or the law of nature? It is “new” because it is excellent, as a new song among the Hebrews is an excellent song. Or, it is “new” because it is solemnly and specially renewed by Him and commended to their care. New things and laws are much esteemed and prized; so it is as if Christ were saying, “let this my new commandment be held in high esteem and regard.”[3]

Let me add further, one reason why Christ came from heaven was to propound to us a pattern of charity,…to elevate duty between man and man, and therefore is His example so often urged in this case: “That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (Joh 13:34), and, “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph 5:2). Christ would come from heaven to show us the highest pattern of self-denial: He revealed to us the love of His Father, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you” (Joh 15:9). The Father loved Him with an infinite love, yet parted with Him for the salvation of mankind. He parted with His dear Son to be treated unworthily in the world for our sakes. And Jesus Christ parted with Himself[4] and all, to raise our love to God and men. Therefore we ought to “walk in love,” as Christ has loved us (Eph 5:2).

2. Love his neighbour as himself

The ordinary measure of our respect to our neighbour is the love that we bear to ourselves, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well” (Jam 2:8). This is the royal law, the solemn standard of equity and the measure of all respects between man and man, like the king’s highway and road of duty. Self and neighbour being equal in the balance, they are therefore to have the same respect.

Now this rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” implies two things.

[2.1] Do them no more hurt than I would do to myself.

“Love thy neighbour as thyself” implies that I am to do them no more hurt than I would do to myself. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12), that is, this is the sum of the whole Word concerning moral duties. As I would not have them to injure me, so must I not injure them nor wish them any more hurt than to my own soul. I must hide their defects and infirmities as I would hide and conceal my own. And in all contracts and acts of commerce, I am to put my soul in their soul’s stead. In short, to wish or to do them no more evil than by a lawful act of self-love I would wish or do to myself.

[2.2] Promote their good as my own.

“Love thy neighbour as thyself” implies that I am as ready to promote their good as my own: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Cor 10:24)—that is, not seek his own wealth so as to exclude another. Seeking another’s wealth is not to be understood simply by itself, for a man is to seek his own things; but let him not seek his own things so as to neglect his care of another’s welfare.

We are to perform all offices of humanity suitably to their necessities; we are to wish them all spiritual graces and eternal blessings as we would to ourselves, “I would to God, that all that hear me this day were such as I am” (see Act 26:29). We are not only to wish but to procure their good…

But in expressing the effects of this love, by industry, care, and bounty, there is a method and order prescribed by God; and so I am first to love my own body; next, my near relations, the wife of my bosom and children; then neighbours; then strangers; then enemies.[5] “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph 5:28). It is made the rule of marriage; therefore there must be a subordination: first wife, then children, then kindred, then neighbours. Therefore, the apostle said, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1Ti 5:8)…The effects of bounty and love are to be dispensed to the urgency of necessities. The necessities of those who dwell about us and are more frequent with us provoke us more to acts and expressions of love towards them.

Questions & Notes

  1. Self-love is not _________ in Scripture, but _________.
  2. What is made the test of our love to God and what is the Scriptural basis for it?
  3. The newness of the precept here promulgated is evident from the fact that Jesus requires that His disciples shall love one another as He loved them! (William Hendriksen, Gospel According to John, Vol. 2, 253)
  4. parted with Himself – He laid down His life.
  5. In expressing the effects of this love, by industry, care, and bounty, there is a _________ and _________ prescribed by God.
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

God the Last End – Denying Self-seeking Pt 2

  Don't you love it when you go to the dentist and he tells you to sit down in the chair, open your mouth, then reaches for a different instrument and says, "This is going to hurt a little?"  Manton starts off by saying such. Well, I took about an hour to read through this thoughtfully and it wasn't too bad.  I think my personality plays into that, but it lacks a great deal of the power to remedy this problem of self-seeking.   

  We are currently coming away from an election that took place two days ago.  This section by Manton helped me to see how important it is to understand self-denial.  Currently, Trump is being ostracized for mentioning how many more votes he received in Florida than DeSantis.  It was a brash show of self-conceit.  So much so that his Party is considering removing him from being the leading contender as the Presidential candidate.  His self-seeking ruined not only himself but caused undo commotion in his Party.  Now, consider these revealing words by Manton and ask yourself who you want to follow.  What ship are you willing to step on – one whose captain has made it clear he has aimed at the wrong destination?

They who have an ill end will not be bothered by an ill way. He that has a right aim in mind will hardly fail so much as he that has a wrong aim.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/92/f0/1c/92f01caa3b0e9536e76957a9fca79acb.jpg
As seen at i.pinimg.com
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO God

A. God The First Cause / Denying Self-dependence

B. God the Highest Lord / Denying Self-will

C. God the Chief Good: Denying Self-love

D. God the Last End And now…

1. What Self-seeking Is

And now…

2. The Evidences of Self-seeking

Now to give you three signs by which a self-seeker may be discovered. The best judge is his own conscience, yet [we shall mention some things in order] to revive conviction.

[2.1] When a man professes godliness for worldly advantage

A man is guilty of this self-seeking when he makes a profession of godliness because of the promise of some worldly advantage. Observe the argument of the Hamor and Shechem; they would yield to circumcision upon this supposition: “Shall not all their cattle, and all that they have be ours?” (see Gen 34:20-24)—a brutish argument, and yet this is very common, especially in times of public changes. It is common for men to follow a dying church for a legacy,[1] as vultures for a carcase; the change may be good, but their end is stark wickedness. There may be a great idol in their own hearts. Men may follow Christ “for the loaves” (Joh 6:26); they did not value His person, but they would live at ease and be fed with miracles. Seldom is Jesus valued for His own sake. Men seek temporal conveniences in the practice and profession of the gospel—ease, peace, wealth, credit—and so they appropriate Jesus Christ to secular uses. It was an inestimable mercy that God should send His Son, yet they looked no further than the loaves!

[2.2] When a man cannot endure to be crossed for his religion

Carnal professors are enemies to Christ’s cross (Phil 3:18-19); their lamp will not burn, unless it be fed with the oil of praise and profit. A godly man is contented to be neglected and abased for Christ, and yet still is satisfied with Christ’s workings…A horse that has a nail in his foot may travel well upon soft ground, but in a hard and gravelly path he halts. So men may like religion as long as it is accompanied with convenience, but they are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18-19).[2] They are but hirelings, and will soon prove to be changelings: “Dost thou still retain thine integrity?” (Job 2:9). When men are delicate and tender, and cannot endure the cross (Mat 16:24), it is a sign they had other aims of credit and profit in their profession of faith.

[2.3] When a man envies others in the same profession

We should rejoice in others’ gifts and graces, and be glad that God may be honoured through them as well as ourselves. But proud men would shine alone; they envy the gifts and graces of others. This is a sure note of self-seeking. It is not grace they look after, but carnal advantage. This is the practice of the elder brother, whom Christ exposes (Luk 15:25-32). He who is truly gracious desires that others may partake of the same grace, for he knows that God is thereby the more glorified. But when we are covetous of reputation and design our own honour, then the fewer [who partake of the same grace], the greater is our advantage. These men know that their own stream will suffer some loss when it is diffused into so many channels.

What Paul says is notable: “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:26). Self-seeking puts men upon passions and envy. They are touchy because they are jealous of their own interest, and they are envious because they think the commonness of gifts and graces detracts from their esteem.

3. The Necessity of Denying Self-seeking

Now I will show you how necessary it is that you should practise, and that we should preach, this part of self-denial. How necessary it is appears enough already, but we will encourage you yet further.

[3.1] The necessity of practicing self-denial

(1.) That you do not rob God of His essential honour

You should deny self-seeking, partly, so that you may not rob God of His essential honour. There is nothing that alienates a man from God so much as self-seeking…When men look to the world and the approval of men, they do not care for God. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1Jo 2:15). Christ is troublesome to such, not welcome, because of the debt they know they owe Him.

Brethren, it is no small matter I am speaking about; self-seeking abuses God exceedingly.[3] It is one of His prerogatives to be the utmost end of the creature’s being and operation, and you therefore usurp that which is proper to God. When self has a preeminence above God, God is kept out of the throne. Pharaoh reserved only this: to be greater in the throne than Joseph. You may do much that is good—clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give your body to be burnt—but all this while self is greater than God in the throne of your life.

(2.) That you do not rob God of His tribute from His creatures

Denying self-seeking is very necessary, that you may not rob God of His tribute from the creatures. God has given us many things, but reserved this: “My glory will I not give to another” (Isa 42:8). He has given us the profit, that we may give Him the glory. God has given us a loan of the comforts of the world; but this has He reserved as His rent and acknowledgment: that He will be glorified in all our actions and honoured in all our blessings. God has made us, and has a right and title to us (1 Cor 6:20).[4]

He that planted the tree has a right in the fruit. God, Who made us, certainly expects some fruit from us.

God gave us talents to this purpose, or rather lends us; we are but servants to employ the talents to our Master’s use. A Christian has given himself up to God as a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1). You are not your own; God has a right and title to you. Therefore do not rob Him of His glory. A sacrifice under the Law was no more his that offered it, but the Lord’s.

[3.2] The necessity of preaching self-denial

As it is necessary you should practise the denial of self-seeking, so it is necessary we should press it again and again upon you. Self-seeking is a secret evil, as well as a dangerous and heinous one.[5] Two things I observe.

(1.) The greatest self-seeking may be carried on under the colour of self-denial.

As the Gibeonites put on old shoes and old garments to make a league with Joshua (Jos 9:3-6), so too many pretend mortification and self-denial to endear themselves to others, for worldly profit and advantage. Carnal designs of men have been carried on under a pretence and veil of religion. Herod pretended to worship, but afterward sought to have Christ destroyed (Mat 2:8-16); Jezebel proclaimed a fast to destroy Naboth (1 Kings 21:9-10); and Simeon and Levi pressed the Shechemites to be circumcised out of revenge (Gen 34:13-29). A crocodile weeps and then catches a prey. Carnal ends are often shrouded under religious pretences.

(2.) We are more apt to accuse others out of envy than to reflect upon ourselves.

Many think self-seeking is a sin only incident to those who are called to public employment, either in the church or commonwealth. Now, we may warn others, but we cannot judge them; for self-seeking lies in the aim of the spirit, and is liable to the censure and judgment of God alone.[6] When Job’s action was fair, yet it was Satan’s accusation, “Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9). You should not out of envy accuse others, but rather reflect on your own heart. We may not have such opportunity as they to enrich ourselves, and that may make us envious; but are you not a self-seeker so far as you can reach? Oh, the envy that is in our hearts, and the pride that is in our prayers and conferences, which we do not take notice of! If you would be thought well of in your place, as Simon Magus would be “some great one” (Act 8:9), then you may be guilty of simony,[7] as they may be guilty of hypocrisy, bribery, and purloining from the public.

4. The Difficulty of Denying Self-seeking

To deny self-seeking is a difficult and hard piece of self-denial. Self-seeking is natural to us: “All seek their own” (Phil 2:21). All our aims, naturally, are at our own profit or credit. Self-seeking is laid aside with great difficulty, for base and unworthy desires are very persistent, and recoil upon us even after mortification and after resolutions to the contrary. We often find that we begin well. We aim at the glory of God; it is our habitual aim. But then thoughts of pride grow upon us in the very middle of the action, or else after it is ended. It is an impudent sin that will assault us again and again.

5. Remedies for Self-seeking

Let me give you some remedies against this sin, by way of consideration and practice.

[5.1] By way of consideration

(1.) Consider, self is unworthy.

Self is a base and unworthy mark to be aimed at. He that shoots at a shrub will never aim so high as he that shoots at a star. That service necessarily must be base that does not intend Christ and center in Him. All actions reflect their end. How low-spirited are they that seek themselves! How soon they are apt to further turn aside!

Self-seeking only exposes you to temptation. They who have an ill end will not be bothered by an ill way. He that has a right aim in mind will hardly fail so much as he that has a wrong aim.

(2.) Consider the greatness of the sin

Consider the greatness of the sin in making other things our end besides God.[8] You use the name of God that you may enjoy the world; you make Him a minister of sin! You make religion a bait, and Christ a means to accomplish your carnal purposes. It is a question who sins more: he who makes use of wrong means,[9] or he who proposes a wrong goal. He who makes use of wrong means makes the devil serve God, but he who has a wrong end makes God serve the devil. You make the end serve the means!

Though it be but in a glance and in a thought, it is a degree of whoredom! God would have Israel [sew a blue fringe on their garments] (Num 15:39), that they might look upon it, and remember the commandments of the Lord, and “do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring.” You know that the glance of the eye outwardly, and a thought in the heart, is whoredom: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:28). Evil imaginations that draw us away from God are whoredom; you break the vows of loyal love affection to Christ. As a man may be an adulterer in thought, so he may be a spiritual adulterer too: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (Jam 4:4). The devil, for one sin of thought, for desiring the dignity of God for himself, was turned out of heaven.[10] Now, in your own thoughts, you make your own praise your end.

(3.) It is an ill sign.

To know the purpose for an action distinguishes a man from a beast, and to choose his purpose distinguishes one man from another. Survey all the world, wherever the name of Christ is heard, you will find that here is the great difference between man and man: in what they make their utmost end and chief good. Therefore, when you make self your end, it is an ill character and sign.

(4.) No man less enjoys himself than he that most seeks himself.

Self-seeking is always attended with self-losing, for we cannot expect rewards from God and mammon too. And material rewards are very uncertain. God tends to disappoint carnal aims…

(5.) You shall have the greater judgment.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Mat 23:14)…All sin is out of measure sinful, this sort especially. Pretence, when you would seem to be good and are in fact very wicked, aggravates the sin before God. If we would be accounted good when we have an evil aim within ourselves, when we take up religion for an ill purpose or only for a disguise, then the sin is the greater—and so also will be the judgment.

(6.) Consider the dishonour that comes to Christ by self-seeking.

Among the greatest enemies of the gospel are self-seeking Christians. “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly” (Phil 3:18-19). There are few enemies of God greater than those who make a god of their belly. What is the reason few are now converted, and that ordinances are not so powerful as they used to be, but because many hide themselves under the name of “Christian,” and yet mind nothing but their own profit and gain? We must testify against them, though with grief, so that we may keep up the honour and reputation of religion, which is mightily stained by them.

It is an honour to God when we serve Him out of pure love, not for pay and gain. But when men merely make a market of religion, Satan and his instruments take advantage of this. They will say they profess religion only to get great places. God may have servants enough upon such terms. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9), as if to say, “It is true, Job is diligent and zealous, but Job has not lost anything by his profession!” So carnal men will say, “Is it for nought?” They hunt after great places and preferred positions in the world.

It was an old complaint of the heathen, “Lo, those that talk of their being freed from the tyranny of the devil, of being dead to the world and alive to Christ, yet we see them to be as base and self-seeking as any. In vain do they talk of baptism, the gospel, and the Holy Ghost (by which they think they are ruled in all their actions), when their whole life is nothing else but a contradiction to the rules of the gospel.” It is a mighty prejudice to religion and a dishonour to God when men hide themselves under the name of Christian and zealous persons but secretly aim at their private profit.

[5.2] Be more frequent in prayer and praise.

To remedy this evil by way of practice, be more frequent in prayer and praise. Be frequent in prayer in order to be purged from self-seeking and wrong motives; carnal affection will be persistent. Then for praises, cast the honour upon God Himself. When men would have given the apostles divine honour, they cried out, “We are men of like passions with yourselves.” (see Act 14:9-15). In the same way, when we meet with praise from the world and are apt to be puffed up, we should cast it back, and remember that God is to have this praise. As Joab sent for David that he might have honour in taking the royal city (2 Sam 12:27-28), so should you give God all the glory and praise.[11]

Questions & Notes

  1. follow a dying church for a legacy – The 17th century saw significant shifts in ecclesiastical and political power in Britain. Manton appears to be referring here to some in his day who opposed the established church in Britain just so they might benefit on the establishment of a new order, not for the glory of God and the advance of the truth.
  2. Some explain cross to mean the whole mystery of redemption, and they explain that this is said of them, because, by preaching the Law, they made void the benefit of Christ’s death. Others, however, understand it as meaning that they shunned the cross and were not prepared to expose themselves to dangers for the sake of Christ. I understand it, however, in a more general way, as meaning that, while they pretended to be friends, they were, nevertheless, the worst enemies of the gospel. For it is no unusual thing for Paul to employ the term cross to mean the entire preaching of the gospel. (John Calvin, Commentaries on Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, 107)
  3. It is no small matter I am speaking about; self-seeking _________ God exceedingly.
  4. God has made us, and has a _________ and _________ to us (1 Cor 6:20).
  5. Self-seeking is a _________ evil, as well as a dangerous and heinous one.
  6. Self-seeking lies in the _________ of the spirit, and is liable to the censure and judgment of God alone.
  7. simony – buying or selling of religious benefits.
  8. Consider the greatness of the sin in making _________ _________ our end besides God.
  9. means – instruments and methods for accomplishing a goal.
  10. Derived by many from an interpretation of Isaiah 14:12-13.
  11. Explain the remedy for self-seeking.
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

God the Last End – Denying Self-seeking Pt 1

  When Jesus began His ministry He noticed two men following Him.  "And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?'" (John 1:37-38)  What do you seek?  What do you want?  That's always a good question to ask from time to time.  What is the aim of your life?  Why did you get up this morning?  Why are you climbing that ladder?  The highest joy a man can experience is found in the aim of his life.  This is Manton's concern in this section.  Be careful what you aim at.  
C:\Users\Robert\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\IE\1XSEYYLK\arrow-on-target[1].jpg
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO GOD

A. God The First Cause / Denying Self-dependence

B. God The Highest Lord / Denying Self-will

C. God The Chief Good / Denying Self-love

And now…

D. God the Last End – Denying Self-seeking

The fourth branch of self-denial is against self-seeking, by which I mean a denial of our own ends, goals, and purposes, for God must be the utmost end of all the creature’s actions.

Here I shall show,

  1. What this self-seeking is,
  2. The evidences through which it shows itself,
  3. How necessary it is to handle it,
  4. How difficult it is to deny this part of self, and
  5. Some remedies by way of consideration and practice.

1. What Self-seeking Is

Self-seeking is a sin by which men refer all they do, or can do, to their own glory and advancement.[1] There is a double self-seeking, which reflects the double end of the creature’s being and operation: 1) one by which we aim at our own profit, and 2) another by which we aim at our own glory. For the two great ends of the creature’s being are that we may enjoy God, and then that we may glorify God.

[1.1] When we aim at our own profit, and are satisfied with it without God

Our great aim should be to enjoy God, that is, the happiness to which we are inclined by the bent of nature. An immortal soul was made for an eternal good; nothing beneath God will satisfy it (Ecc 5:10). The heaven that we expect is the filling up of the soul with God (Eph 3:19). In this world, while we are here below, there is a great controversy between God and self; but in heaven the quarrel will be resolved, and we and God will be united in the nearest and closest way of union and communion, so that we may enjoy Him forever.

Now, when we rest in any low enjoyment, and are satisfied with it without God, that is self-seeking; in effect, it is self-destroying and self-losing (Mat 16:25). But the Scripture speaks according to our aim and intention; we intend to seek ourselves, though in effect we do but lose ourselves. Scripture speaks, “All seek their own, and not that which is Jesus Christ’s” (Phil 2:21). Of this kind of self-seeking, some who do God’s work are guilty—they do not do it for God’s end, to enjoy Him, but rather to enjoy [profit of] the world. Some make a mere merchandise of obedience. If they have worldly gain, they are satisfied…“They have their reward” (Mat 6:2).

They will acquit and release God of all the grant and promise that He has made of heaven to them in the covenant of grace, if God will give them a patent to enjoy as much of the world as they can. This indicates a sordid and base spirit.

They are such as “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:18). The Apostle speaks of false teachers who did not make God their end, but were wholly bent upon their secular profit. Such may not reprove men for their sin, but soothe men in their sin. In their preaching there is no salt, and in their private visits there is a great deal of worldly compliance. This is all because they have set up another god, such a base thing as the belly, instead of Christ.

[1.2] When the aim of the heart is at our own glory

The next aim of the creature should be to glorify God in all the motions and operations of the soul. This must be the settled frame and constitution of the soul. To enjoy God is our happiness; to glorify God is our work; and, therefore, when the aim of the heart is at our own glory and praise, this is self-seeking.[2]

Now, so that you may discern it the better and see when the soul is guilty of it, I shall show you how far we are to intend the glory of God in every action of ours. I shall do it in the following propositions:

(1.) In all civil[3] actions

The glory of God must be the end we propose to ourselves in all our civil actions. Though the action be civil, yet the end must be religious—that I may glorify God and do good to others, though it be but in such natural actions as eating and drinking. This must be the fixed aim, to do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31); otherwise you set up another god, a Moloch instead of God (Jer 32:35). When merely you eat to gratify your own flesh, it may be a meat-offering and drink-offering to appetite. So also for your business: if it be merely for wealth, it is but consecrating yourselves to mammon and setting the world in the place of God.

This is the great mercy of God, that, considering our necessity, He has so wisely ordered the world that He might lose no part of our time. Even our natural actions may be religious. Works of nature may become acts of grace, and our business dealings may be a kind of worship, when our ends are to glorify Him. Otherwise we set up self in His place. Your very eating is idolatry when it is merely to please and gratify self; your table is a table of devils—“whose God is their belly” (Phil 3:19). And then, as for your business, when you trade in the world merely to grow rich, and have not an aim at the glory and service of God, you set up another god: mammon is your god. “No man can serve two masters…Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat 6:24).

But here a question arises that is worthy of discussion: whether in every action we are bound actively to intend God’s glory? I answer, we should labour as much as we can to make our very thoughts active (2 Cor 10:5). This is the very vitality and vigour of the spiritual life, when all our natural actions are raised up to a supernatural intention.[4] As a Christian is not to have evil aims, so also he is not to be like a blind archer, to shoot at random and without a mark.

Why should we at any time forget God, Who always remembers us? There is not a moment that passes but God looks after you, or else you could not live (Psa 3:5; Col 1:17)…There is not a good thought of yours forgotten. The spiritual life seems to be asleep when we do not think of God. We are obliged to gratitude.

Certainly an active elevation of the soul should be of no great labour and trouble, because thoughts are quick and sudden. It will not hinder us, or be a burden to us, to look up with the eye of our soul, but it would be of great profit! It would make the actions of the mind more acceptable to God (1Pe 2:5), and the soul would the better be kept upright. This will be as a golden crown upon the head of every action, and will be an excellent means to prevent carnal injections.[5]

However, because of our infirmities in the lesser actions of life,…a Christian may not always actually think of heaven, yet his heart is set that way…

In the noble actions of life that require more labour and difficulty, our thoughts should be explicit. The reason is because Satan is ready to blast every serious duty with the injection of carnal thoughts. The devil is not only with you in the shop, but in the closet and at religious duty. Many times, though we begin “in the spirit,” yet we are apt to end “in the flesh” (Gal 3:3). Self recoils upon us! When Abraham had quartered the sacrifices the fowls came down, but he drove them away (Gen 15:11). When we think of offering duty to God, carnal thoughts are apt to rush into the mind; so that without this actual intention we may easily begin for God, and yet notwithstanding end for self-interest!

(2.) In all sacred actions

In sacred actions—in the higher operations of the soul, be they either internal or external—the utmost end must be the glory of God.

(a.) In internal actions

In internal actions, in desires of grace and salvation, our only end must not be self. Our motions are proper when they are conformed to God, when we have the same end and aim as God has. Now whatsoever God does, both within and without, in creation and grace, it is for Himself, “The LORD hath made all things for himself” (Pro 16:4). Well then, we should seek grace and glory with the same aim that God gives it: the praise of the glory of his grace (Eph 1:5-6). God’s aim is that grace may be glorified in your salvation and in your acceptance of Jesus Christ. I desire my salvation, but I should not rest there; instead, my utmost aim should be that God may be glorified in my salvation.

Some question whether or not we may look to the reward; but those that do so seem to misunderstand heaven. They have a carnal notion of the reward of the gospel, and dream of the Muslim heaven, not the heaven of the gospel. What is the heaven of the gospel but to enjoy God forever, in the way of a blessed and daily communion? Now, can any man be so irrational to conceive that we should not aim at the inheritance of the saints in light, as well as at the vision and enjoyment of God? This of necessity must be a high act of grace, to seek my own happiness in the highest way of communion with God. They misunderstand the nature of the covenant, or the way with which God would deal with men, for God has invested His precept with a promise, and men would seem wiser than God.

We may use the Spirit’s motives without sin, as the saints have done throughout history. It was a foolish modesty in Ahaz, when God bade him ask, and he would not ask a sign (Isa 7:10-12); so it is a foolish modesty when men will not act their faith upon the blessed rewards. Christ used this way, as it is said, “for the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2).[6]

And truly all creatures, as they are now made, must take this course: to look at the glory, so that they may discharge the duty and endure the cross. No created agent can rest merely in the beauty and goodness of his own action. It is folly to say that virtue is a reward to itself, if you speak of eternal reward. Rather, [eternal reward to His children] is God’s covenant way. We are not only to regard duty, but the encouragement of duty.

However, the reward must not be the chief cause, but only the encouragement. The ultimate reason must be the glory of God. When we make the reward the ultimate end of all we desire, this is to respect self above God. Rather, the glory of God must be the mainspring of all our desires and hopes. To look after happiness is an innocent aim of nature, but to glorify God is the aim of grace. Now, only to aim at happiness is the mere motion of nature and our own will; but it is our duty to have a further aim at the glory of God. By the law of our creation we were bound to aim at the glory of God—even if our happiness were not subordinate to it—for God “made all things for himself” (Pro 16:4).

(b.) In external actions

In external actions and in duties of worship, we must have a good aim. It is dangerous in sacred things to be insincere, and by the temple to serve the concerns of the shop. This is to put dung in God’s own cup; this is to make God serve with our iniquities; and to use worship as a pretence and cover to our own interest. When we pervert things from their proper use, we do them an injury. If a cup were made for a king to drink in, and we should use it as a vessel to keep dung, it would be a high affront…Duties of worship were made for the special honour of God by His appointment, therefore they should have no end beneath themselves.

(c.) In all conditions of life

In all conditions of life, a Christian should be indifferent to every condition so that God may be glorified. He should be like a die in the hand of God: let providence cast him high or low, as it pleases God. So be it, that Christ may be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or death (Phil 1:20). I am indifferent; my aim is only to magnify Christ.

This is the temper of a Christian. Things may fall out, not as we think but always as we would, if our general aim is to God’s glory, for in providence we are required only to be passive. There is nothing left to our choice; we are to resign up our wills to His good pleasure. Our duty is submission. Events must be left to God Himself, and in these things He will provide for His own glory.

Well then, whether your condition is prosperous or adverse, pleasing or displeasing, if it is for God’s glory, it should be all the same to you. When a traveller asks the way, it is all the same to him if you direct him to the right hand or left, just as long as he may accomplish his journey. So it is to a Christian: whether his way to heaven lies by sickness or health, by quiet or trouble, by living at home or in exile and banishment, abased or abounding, by possessions or poverty, a Christian is content, as long as God may be glorified. Thus should we, in all conditions of life, submit ourselves to the disposal of God, that He might be glorified in us.

Some say that we should think about the eternal state of our souls in a particular way: that it should make no difference to us whether He will damn us or save us, just as long as He may be glorified. I answer, No; this seems to be extremely harsh, and God does not put us upon that trial…Such a trial was only required of Christ, that He should lay down His soul for a while without the consolations of the Godhead…God in His covenant seeks to draw on men to be earnest for the everlasting welfare of their souls, rather than to leave it at His disposal (Act 2:40).

By this you may see what is self-seeking: when we do not make it our aim to enjoy God and glorify Him.

Questions & Notes

  1. Self-seeking is a sin by which men refer all they do, or can do, to their own _________ and _________.
  2. To enjoy God is our _________; to glorify God is our _________.
  3. civil – done for or in relation to other people.
  4. This is the very vitality and vigour of the spiritual life, when all our _________ actions are raised up to a _________ intention.
  5. carnal injections – occurrences of sinful thoughts in the mind.
  6. Is it ok to seek my own happiness in the highest way of communion with God?
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

God the Chief Good – Denying Self-love Pt 5

  What is your true North?  This section will help you to figure that out and as hard as the task of self-denial may seem to you, it will seem less so as you read through this section. It was that way for me.
Compass - sellnera18
As seen at walkinginsunlight.com
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO God

A. God The First Cause / Denying Self-dependence

B. God the Highest Lord / Denying Self-will

C. God the Chief Good: Denying Self-love

1. How Far Self-Love Is Criminal

2. Self-love to Our Persons

3. Self-love to Our Interests and Enjoyments

And now…

[3.5] Remedies for self-love in our interests and enjoyments

I come now to offer some remedies. Herein I shall speak 1) something by way of consideration and 2) something by way of means…To inform the judgment is not so necessary; everyone will confess that it is not fit to prefer himself before God. My focus, however, is to impress an awe upon the heart, and to awaken faith and meditation.

(1.) Things to consider in order to deny self-love

(a.) Consider how you differ from God’s children.

Consider how much you differ from the character of God’s children when you prefer self before God, and esteem the outward appendages of life rather than that which is properly yourself. The children of God count the worst part of godliness better than the best of worldly pleasures.[1] They prefer Christ even at the worst of times. When obedience puts them upon inward trouble or outward suffering, yet they think it is fit that Christ should have the honour. They count the groans of prayer better than the acclamations of the theatre. The very tears of God’s children are blessed, and they look upon the most burdensome and difficult duties as sweet. They cannot only say, “Thy love is better than wine” (Song 1:2)—that is, the manifestations of God’s grace are choicer than his own best refreshments—but, “One day in thy courts is better than a thousand” (Psa 84:10). Galeacius Carracciolus[2] said, “Cursed be the man that thinks all the world worth one hour’s communion with God.”

Now when you habitually prefer your pleasure and contentment, what a vast difference is there between you and Christians! It is recorded of Moses that he esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb 11:26)…Thuanus[3] reports that Lewis Marsae, a French nobleman, when he was condemned to suffer for religion, and because of the nobility of his blood was not bound with ropes as others were, said, “Give me my chain also, and make me a knight too of this excellent order.” The reproaches of Christ are better than all the pleasures of the world!

(b.) Consider the Day of Judgment.

Consider how you will be able to look Jesus Christ in the face on the day of recompenses, when you have such cheap and low thoughts of Him for trifles, when you are content to part with God and Christ, and all the comfort and hope of the Spirit, for a trifle, for worldly concerns, for base and worthless pleasures.

The Day of Judgment is one of the enforcements of self-denial.[4]

When Christ laid down this doctrine of self-denial, He said, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Mat 16:27)…Because you would forsake Christ upon so small a temptation, and would sell all the excellent things of religion for a toy, a matter of nothing, how will you look the blessed companions of Christ in the face: angels and those self-denying saints who could give up every concern and count not their lives dear? You will become the scorn of saints and angels, “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness” (Psa 52:7). This is the man that would not make God his portion, that preferred his body before his soul, and his wealth and pleasure before Christ; this is he that would not part with a little comfort in the world for Christ’s sake!

(c.) We should love our best self.

If we would love ourselves, we should love our “best” self. The dignity of the soul requires the best care to keep and save it. The body was made to be the soul’s instrument to work by, therefore the body is inferior to the soul.[5] We should look principally to the safety of the soul. Besides, the bodily life may be lost, but the soul endures to eternity; the bodily life may be repaired to health, while the soul is sick. Therefore it is best to secure the soul in the hands of Christ, and then you cannot fail. Alas, the body is but the outward casing of the soul! Anaxarchus,[6] when he was put into a great mortar and pounded with brazen pestles, cried out to his tormentor, “Beat on, beat on the bag of Anaxarchus; you cannot hurt himself!” Now, who would preserve the casing and lose the treasure?

(d.) You must first look to your soul.

You may seek self[7] with more allowance from God and conscience, yea, and with more success, when the better part of self is once secured and made safe.[8] Self-love is not removed by grace, but overruled and put in its proper place.[9] We are first to look after the necessities, and then the conveniences of life. We are bound to look after the necessities and conveniences of the body, but first we must look to the soul.

One thing is necessary (Luk 10:42). It is a necessary thing to secure the soul. It should be the main care of a Christian to obtain what is necessary for the salvation of his soul; this will secure you in life and death. This one thing is simply necessary. This one thing is necessary for itself, and all other things are necessary in order to it. You are to maintain your body that it may be an instrument for your soul while you work toward true happiness.

Seek first the kingdom of God (Mat 6:33). First seek to get into a state of grace. The kingdom of God represents the whole state of evangelical grace. The first thing the Israelites did in the morning was to seek manna. This kept them alive. So the first thing, and your primary care and work, should be to secure your soul, and then all other things will be added, so far as they are proper.

(e.) The very motives and reasons that draw us to self-love, draw us to better things.

He who loves anything would love the best of the kind; and therefore, if we love anything that is good, let us love that which is eternally good.[10] What do we love? Is it friends, life, glory, pleasure, substance? When we love friends, let us love the best of friends—an eternal friend such as God is. We should please them most with whom we are to live longest. If we love long life, let us love eternity; if glory and praise, remember that there is no praise like that which is given us before God and angels out of Christ’s own mouth; vain glory, it is nothing to everlasting glory. If we love pleasure, let us love the best of the kind, those pleasures that are at God’s right hand—the nearer the fountain, the sweeter the water. If we love wealth, let us love “enduring substance” (Heb 10:34), the joy of heaven. All earthly things are but perishing movables.[11]

(f.) Consider what reason we have to love God above all things.

Not only in point of deserving are we more obliged to God than to all things in the world, and not only in point of law and duty, which we shall be responsible for, but in point of natural reason. All the creatures are but the image and shadow of that goodness that is in God. The good of the creature is but a ray or beam of the chief good. God has given some of His goodness to us…Why should we give much attention to the image and neglect the substance? Why should we love other things, and not God much more—and chase after the shadow as does a dog but let go the substance? It is true, in the creature there are some evidences of God’s goodness that should serve to put us in mind of God, not to capture our affections, but to proclaim to us that God is more worthy of our respect and esteem. God has put some of His goodness in all the creatures to admonish us, not to satisfy us.[12]

Consider, all these things stand in need of God to preserve them. They need other things, but now, God alone is enough, and He Himself can satisfy you without created things. He that has God has all things; he that possesses Him “possesseth all things” (1 Cor 3:21-23, 2 Cor 6:10). They are more yours when you do not have them than when you enjoy them without God, for then they are less of a snare to you. So then, say to God, with indignation to all other loves, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” (Psa 73:25).

(g.) Consider trials.

It is a very great honour when you are called out to any actual trial, so that you can show how much you love God above the creature. There is no cause of grief in such a case, if our eyes were opened and our affections mortified. Certainly it is better to give up our concerns to God freely than to have them taken away from us by force; to offer them up to God, than to have them snatched from us.

It is a great honour that God will have our will exercised and our loyalty manifested. He might take away our pleasant things by the dominion of His providence. They might be taken away in punishment. It is an honour when we can sacrifice them by way of thanksgiving. Death will take us from them, and God may take them from us. It is an honour that we may resign them before we die, and that by an act of choice and consent we may render them to God for the sake of a good conscience. To you, it is given to suffer (Phil 1:29), says the apostle; your gain will be more than your loss.

(2.) The means to denial of self-love

The means that may enable you to obtain this self-denial follow.

(a.) See that you take heed of being overly focused on or absorbed with yourself.[13]

We are apt to make ourselves too large; take heed what you count yourself. There is an old and corrupt self, which we should not own. Consider that your comfort, your safety, and your value and acceptance with God do not depend upon these things (Luk 12:4-7, 15). Your safety does not lie in them; they are only pipes to convey the blessing of God to you. You do not live upon abundance, but upon providence; otherwise your bread would be as a turf of earth to you, not your comfort.[14]

A man may have happiness enough in God alone, without the creature (Hab 3:17-19)…Neither your value and esteem with God, nor your eternal life, lies in it. God loves you, though naked, stripped of all temporal gifts and favours; He does not love yours, but you! Jesus Christ died not for your goods and estate, but for your person.[15] And when God looks for you in heaven, He does not look that you should come with a train of outward comforts; for when we go to the grave, we go naked; we leave these things behind us.

(b.) Exercise faith upon the blessed recompenses.

What is the reason men give too much attention to the creature? They do so because they are not acquainted with a higher glory.[16] Carnal men are near-sighted; they cannot “see afar off” (2Pe 1:9). They look upon the things of heaven as golden dreams, as pleasing delusions; therefore they cannot be divorced, nor separate their affections, from present comforts. It is notable that, when Christ said to Zaccheus, “Salvation is come to thy house,” Zaccheus said, “Half of my goods I give to the poor” (see Luk 19:8-9). As good almost bid men pluck themselves asunder, as press them to such a thing. It may be as difficult as rending the body from itself, yet the sight of heaven will do this.

(c.) Faith must be employed to judge rightly of present sufferings and encumbrances.

Faith must count losses to be savings.[17] As we are not to believe human reason alone, so also we are not to believe our senses against the articles of faith. Why do we believe the glorious mystery of the Trinity, three in one? We believe this doctrine because Christ has revealed it to us. The same Jesus has revealed, “Blessed are they that suffer persecution; and he that loseth his life shall save it” (see Mat 5:10-12; Mar 8:35). Why should we count as grievous that which Christ has called blessed? Why should we count as loss that which indeed is the greatest gain? We are as much bound to believe persecutions will make us blessed, and losing will be saving, as we are bound to believe that God is three in one, and that there is a union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ.[18] Faith is as much seen in practical matters as it is in abstract doctrines…

(d.) Let us love ourselves, and all things else, in God and for God’s sake.

When God is made ours, we love ourselves in loving God. We should love nothing but for God’s sake; we should do all to His glory, and with aims and ends of religion (1 Cor 10:31). Certainly God does all things for Himself. We should not love any other—no, not even ourselves—but for God’s sake and the accomplishing of His holy will. If we love the godly, we should love them because they bear His image. Our enemies we should love because of God’s command, and our relations and comforts because they are God’s gifts to us. God must have all the heart; and in those affections that are carried out to other things, the supreme reason must be taken from God. That is the law still in force: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deu 6:4-5). And it is often repeated in the New Testament.[19]

We are to reserve no part for idols, for creatures; all is too little for so great a God, though it be more than we can perform. When a great prince on a journey comes to an inn, he takes up all the rooms in the house, believing it inconsistent with his state to have a stranger share with him. All our respect must either be carried out to God, or to other things for God’s sake. Certainly this will be a means to keep ourselves from such a degree of affection to them, as may alienate and divide our souls from God. Yea, in whatever we love, it will make us tend to the service and glory of God.

As when a compass is fixed in the center, it gives strength and direction to the other part that moves about the circumference; so it is when the heart is fixed in God, resolved to love God alone, we shall receive strength and direction from Him. Our love will be rightly set. The saints and angels above love God with all their hearts and all their souls, therefore they cannot sin. Love is their rule and guide, they can do nothing inordinately; in the same way we should labour to come up to that level…

Questions & Notes

  1. The children of God count the worst part of _________ better than the best of worldly pleasures.
  2. Galeacius Carracciolus – 16th century Italian, converted through the ministry of Peter Martyr, left Italy for Geneva because of his faith. Calvin dedicated the 2nd edition of his commentary on 1 Corinthians to him, saying, “For although you do not court public applause—satisfied to have God alone as your witness—and though it is not my design to herald your praises, yet it were not proper to conceal altogether from my readers what is useful and profitable to be known: that a man, sprung from a family of the first rank, prosperous in honors and wealth, blest with a spouse of the noblest descent and strictest virtue, a numerous offspring, domestic quiet and harmony, and happy in his entire condition in life, has, of his own accord, with the view of joining the camp of Christ, quitted his native country, has left behind him a fertile and lovely domain, a splendid patrimony, and a residence not less commodious than delightful, has stript himself of domestic splendor, has left father, wife, children, relatives, and connections, and after bidding farewell to so many worldly allurements, satisfied with our mean style, adopts our frugal and homely way of living, just as if he were one of ourselves.”
  3. Thuanus (1553-1617) – full name: Jacques Auguste de Thou; a French historian, nobleman, and president of the Parlement de Paris.
  4. The Day of Judgment is one of the enforcements of _________.
  5. The _________ was made to be the soul’s instrument to work by, therefore the _________ is inferior to the soul.
  6. Anaxarchus (c.380-c.320 B.C.) – Greek philosopher; valued contentment based on indifference to the value of things in this world.
  7. self – in the context, lawful temporal and/or bodily interests.
  8. What is “the better part of self”?
  9. _________ is not removed by grace, but overruled and put in its proper place.
  10. He who loves anything would love the best of the kind; and therefore, if we love anything that is good, let us love that which is _________ good.
  11. movables – relating to portable personal property. Here the emphasis appears to be on the instability of earthly, temporal possessions.
  12. The unregenerate man can, through common grace, love his family, and he may be a good citizen. He may give a million dollars to build a hospital, but he cannot give even a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of Jesus. If a drunkard, he may abstain from drink for utilitarian purposes, but he cannot do it out of love for God. All of his common virtues or good works have a fatal defect in that his motives which prompt them are not to glorify God…It matters not how good the works may be in themselves, for so long as the doer of them is out of harmony with God, none of his works are spiritually acceptable. (Loraine Boettner, Total Depravity) For more on the vital biblical doctrine of total depravity see Rom 3:10-20; 8:7-8; Heb 11:6; and The Doctrine of Human Depravity, A. W. Pink, available from CHAPEL LIBRARY.
  13. The original phrase is “complicating and folding up yourself with yourself.”
  14. You do not live upon abundance, but upon _________.
  15. Jesus Christ died not for your goods and estate, but for your _________.
  16. What is the reason men give too much attention to the creature? They do so because they are not acquainted with a _________ _________.
  17. _________ must count losses to be savings.
  18. union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ – This is the doctrine of “hypostatic” union: “The doctrine of the hypostatic union, first set forth officially in the definition of faith produced by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), concerns the union of the two natures of deity and humanity in the one hypostasis or person of Jesus Christ. It can be stated as follows: In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, with out mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.” (Walter Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 583)
  19. See Mat 22:37; Mar 12:30; Luk 10:27.
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

God the Chief Good – Denying Self-love Pt 4

  It should be remembered that these cutting descriptions and revelations of the heart and conscience are not something new to God.  He has been enduring these diabolical defects in us from day one.  His remedy for an impure heart, lack of motivation and desire are to be found in Christ.  It is His life, His heart, His motivation and desire that was given to overcome our way.  This exchange is an act of growth and the steps for this our found in a corresponding study I did here.  So don't despair after reading this section but rather resolve to put the Band-Aids on and commit to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him.
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO God

A. God The First Cause / Denying Self-dependence

B. God the Highest Lord / Denying Self-will

C. God the Chief Good: Denying Self-love

1. How Far Self-Love Is Criminal

2. Self-love to Our Persons

3. Self-love to Our Interests and Enjoyments

And now…

[3.3] The acts of self-love to our interests and enjoyments

The acts of this kind of self-love are many. All sins are a diversion of love from God to the creature; and so far as we sin, we prefer the creature before God. But there are some special acts of sin that are to be censured upon this occasion.

(1.) When a man makes duty to give way to relations

When a man can break a law to salvage an interest, and makes duty to give way to relations, this is to venture on God’s displeasure in order to gratify a friend. No affection to the creature should draw us to offend God. So it is said to Eli, “Thou honourest thy sons above me” (see 1 Sa 2:29)…This was God’s interpretation of his act. By virtue of his office, he should have put them out of the priesthood; but he chose rather to please his sons than God, and was more careful of the reputation of his sons than of the reputation of God’s worship, which was extremely scandalised.[1] For parents to prepare their children for the Christian ministry, or continue them there merely for the income,[2] though otherwise unfit and unworthy, is to honour their sons above God. God is to have the highest honour and respect.

(2.) When we can part with spiritual prerogatives for a more free enjoyment of carnal pleasures

When we make pleasures to be the business of our lives, and are motivated to them with great affection, but are cold and careless in the service of God, this is to love pleasures more than God (2 Tim 3:4). It is a sin that does not deserve to be stroked with only a gentle censure. There is much irreverence shown when duty and pleasure come in competition, and when we cannot find any contentment in communion with God, but can part with it to gratify the senses. The temptation is so low, that the sin rises the higher. When the consolations of God are exchanged for the pleasures of sin, it is a sorry exchange, like Esau’s selling his birthright for a mess of pottage (Heb 12:16).

When the temptation is small, and yet prevalent,[3] it is a sign the natural inclinations are very great. They are carried downwards by their own weight, as heavy bodies; they are not forced, but inclined. A little sinful delight and satisfaction draws them out of the way and makes them risk the love of God, the consolations of the Spirit, and whatever is dear and precious to Christ. Now this is aggravated when, upon serious debates and struggles of conscience, men do not do what is best, but what is sweetest.[4] It is a very dangerous symptom of this evil, because debate argues something of choice and full consent—not only doing evil, but preferring it!

(3.) When men have an actual conviction upon them, and out of carnal reasons think of delays

“They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise” (Mat 22:5; cf. Luk 14:18); they were loath to part from those things. Christ not only calls from sin but from the world.[5] They do not send a denial, but an excuse. Some neglect, others oppose. They do not kill the preachers, yet they prefer these paltry matters before the king’s grace tendered to them. When their hearts are affixed on worldly affairs, they will not leave them for heavenly offers. A too great care for the business of the world works a neglect of God. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb 2:3). Though we do not openly despise or oppose, yet if we neglect, we think the world better and will not be called off to higher things.

(4.) When men have a greater savour in worldly gain than in the ordinances of God

Self-love of their own interests is shown when they think all the time that is spent in spiritual duties is lost. For those wretches who said, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?” (Amo 8:5), it was a hindrance and loss to them to lose a day; it was irksome to have to fast from gain. It is an irreverent spirit that continually begrudges God His time, and thinks that all is lost that is spent in duty and service to Him. This is to love the world more than God.

This savour is betrayed by self-denial, when we can deny ourselves more for pleasure than for God. It is an ill sign when we count nothing too much for our lusts, and everything too much for God. When we spend our lives in the world (Psa 127:2) in pleasure, counting it a pleasure to riot[6] in the day-time (2Pe 2:13)—this is to love pleasure more than God.

When we habitually cut God short of the duties that we owe Him, and do not keep the soul healthy, and are loath to redeem time so that we can participate in the ordinances, yet can spend time freely and without remorse in sinful pleasures, and this is our joy and rejoicing; and when men can rack their brains and waste their strength in worldly business, yet will not take pains in a godly life—it shows that the world, not God, is uppermost in the heart.

(5.) When we do many things that are contrary to conscience

Self-love of our own interests is shown when, for our ambition to attain the favour of men, we do many things that are contrary to the conscience of our duty to God. It is an ill sign when men cannot satisfy themselves in the approval of Christ; He should be first to us instead of all else. It were a great folly in a race to make the people judges; it is no matter what by-standers say, so long as the judges of the race do concur.

Yet thus too many do; they are convinced of the excellence of the ways of God, yet dare not profess them, lest they should lose the praise of men (Joh 12:42-43). Their consciences were sufficiently convinced, but their heart was not subdued and weaned from self-respect. Thus it falls out: men are hardened, not so much for lack of light, as lack of love to God; they will not bow to truth. When such a spirit reigns, it is wholly inconsistent with grace, for so Christ charges it: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?” (Joh 5:44). Men are loath to lose credit with their own group. Hear Paul: “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). As a Pharisee, Paul was carried with a wild zeal and animated with a false fire.

(6.) When we are more satisfied with outward enjoyments

Self-love of our own interests is shown when we find more contentment in outward enjoyments and are more satisfied with them than with God’s love and favour—when men cannot find any sweetness in communion with God, but are wonderfully drawn out in fleshly delights. This is contrary to the dispositions of God’s people: “One day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (see Psa 84:10). Oh, that is a day of a thousand that is spent in free access to God in His ordinances! Wherever there is a new heart, it must have new desires and new delights. But carnal men, like swine, find more pleasure in swill than in better food. To them, it is irksome to converse with God in spiritual duties; they find no more pleasure than in the white of an egg.[7] As those who brought the sick and lame animals for sacrifice, yet they count it a great burden and say, “What a weariness is it!” (Mal 1:13). They puffed and blew and said, “How weary am I with bringing this sacrifice!” This is an ill note, and does in effect proclaim that the life of pleasures is more excellent and satisfying to them than that which is spent in the exercises of religion.[8]

(7.) When men envy them that have outward increase

It argues a trace of this carnal self-love when men envy them who have an outward increase, as if they had the better portion. This is an evil with which the children of God may be surprised when Satan is at their elbows. They may have admiring thoughts of the world, and think it a brave thing to milk out the breasts of worldly consolations.

To emphasize this evil, consider, the devil himself is not taken with material things, carnal pleasure, or the delight of the senses. Why? because he is a spiritual being. Christians are made partakers of a divine nature (2Pe 1:4); therefore when carnal men increase in wealth, or grow fat and flourish in outward pleasure, they should not envy them. The people of God have always disclaimed this evil, as the psalmist does in Psalm 4:7, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” If they grow fat upon common mercies, should I wax lean upon spiritual mercies? So it is in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” Those that bear down all before them with violence may be filled with treasures—they may provide for their babes—but I do not envy them their portion. I have a better that is provided. “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”

(8.) When men are more troubled for worldly losses than they are for sins against God

When men are more troubled for worldly losses than they are for sins against God, this is also to love created things more than God. All affections follow love, and so does grief; and therefore it is notable when it is said, “Jesus wept,” and then follows that they said, “Behold how he loved him!” (Joh 11:35-36).[9] The greatness of our grief will reveal the greatness of our love; therefore, when we grieve more for worldly losses than for sins, this is an act of self-love. I confess, in crosses[10] there may be a greater commotion, but there should not be a more solid grief. A Christian’s sorrow is consecrated; it is water for the uses of the sanctuary. We should not lavish out our tears, but reserve them. Men may spend their affections on carnal matters, and then, when they should mourn for sin, they have no tenderness left. Most of our grief should be for the insult we put upon God’s grace. It is an argument that men love something else more than God, when they can grieve more for a temporal loss than for a departure of [God’s presence].

[3.4] The reign and state of self-love in our interests

What shows the reign and state of self-love? Most of the marks already given are convincing, yet you must know that a man is not tried by what he does during a particular temptation; but a man is to be measured by the constant course of his life. When a man makes the scope of his life to be pleasures and earthly advantages rather than God’s service, lets all care of heaven go, constantly consults with flesh and blood, and is ruled and guided by the love of the creature and respect to his own interest, rather than the love of God—this shows his state. Many a man, in fact and by the interpretation of his actions, may be said to love the creature more than God.

But his state is to be measured by the esteem and solid constitution of his soul. When a man’s bent is to the carnal life, when he is prejudiced against the strict part of religion, when he has neither hope, desire, nor estimation for Christ as the pearl of greatest price (Mat 13:46), when he is put to the test, he falls away from Christ to the “present world” (2 Tim 4:10). Men seek to provide for their safety and profit rather than their peace of conscience, and they never, unless in a slight manner, look after their true self or grieve for the failings in their actions. This shows that it is a habitual disposition. Self is on the throne and not God!

Questions & Notes

  1. Eli was more careful of the _________ of his sons than of the _________ of God’s worship.
  2. income – financial security one might enjoy as a member of the Anglican clergy.
  3. small yet prevalent – if motivation to comply with the temptation is not to gain some great thing, like our lives, but small (like an incidental comfort or convenience), yet we find this temptation prevails over us.
  4. This downward decent into sin is aggravated when, upon serious debates and struggles of conscience, men do not do what is _________, but what is sweetest.
  5. Christ not only calls from sin but from the _________ .
  6. riot – be excessive in indulgence.
  7. The white of an egg had the reputation of being tasteless.
  8. Where are you on a scale of 1 to 5 in your love for God verses your love for the world? (1 represents love for the world and 5 love for God.) What needs to change to increase your love for God?
  9. All _________ follow love, and so does grief; and therefore it is notable when it is said, “Jesus wept,” and then follows that they said, “Behold how he loved him!” (Joh 11:35-36).
  10. crosses – trials.
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

God the Chief Good – Denying Self-love Pt 3

  If you seek your soul's eternal happiness like you seek your body's wellbeing do you think this will straighten everything else out in your life?  I think it does if I understand Manton correctly.  Often though I feel like this dog in the moment of choices.  What about you?
This is a review of Thomas Manton’s work A Treatise Of Self-Denial with comments and study questions along the way. Feel free to study along and answer the questions or ask your own in the comments’ section below to enrich our learning. www.ChapelLibrary.org has this copyright notice.  To go to the start of this series click here.

Previously…

II. SELF-DENIAL IN RESPECT TO God

A. God The First Cause / Denying Self-dependence

B. God the Highest Lord / Denying Self-will

C. God the Chief Good: Denying Self-love

1. How Far Self-Love Is Criminal

2. Self-love to Our Persons

And now…

3. Self-love to Our Interests and Enjoyments

I come now to the second kind of self-love [the first being self-love to our persons]: self-love to our interests and enjoyments.

There is a lawful respect to the safety and convenience of our lives. As we are bound to love ourselves, so we are bound to love our interests and our relations. The service of Christ requires no violation of the laws of God and nature, but still the greater interest must be preserved. We are bound to love ourselves, but we must love God more than ourselves. He is a true disciple that does not seek his own honour but that of his Master.

Now, the place of Scripture for this is in Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” To all these relations the Scripture enforces a dear and tender love; and yet in such cases where this love is incompatible with the love of Christ, we should rather hate than love. “Hatred” in this verse compares to “denial” in Matthew 16:24; to deny oneself is to hate one’s own life. All must be renounced for Christ’s sake because there is a higher obligation. We are more obliged to our Creator than to our parents, and we owe more service to our Redeemer than to our greatest friends and benefactors in the world. Let us not love father and mother above Christ (Mat 10:37).

Notice again, all these relations are mentioned because at one time or another they may prove a snare. The frowns of a father or mother are an ordinary temptation. When a child takes to religion, he exposes himself to the displeasure and browbeating of a carnal father and mother. And so is the insinuation of a wife, the one that lies nearest to our hearts, a great snare. And so is provision for our children and family. And so are brothers and sisters—loss of familiarity with them. When we are to lose our commerce, it is a great temptation. Then consider love to our own lives. Life is the great possession of the creature, by which we hold other things. These are known temptations.

Well then, it is a faulty self-love when we love anything that is ours, and prefer it before the conscience of our duty to God. It is a faulty self-love when we are loath to part with our lives, our relations, or anything that is ours, for Christ’s sake or the just reasons of religion.

[3.1] Observations concerning self-love to our interests and enjoyments

Concerning this self-love, I shall observe the following:

(1.) We mistake self.

I observe that we mistake our own identity, and think “self” lies more in the conveniences of the body than of the soul. A man has a soul as well as a body, and he is to seek the welfare of both. Now we love the body and seek the conveniences of the body. Often, self is expressed by the body in Scripture. Naturally our love runs out that way: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph 5:28). Men love this life rather than the next, and their bodies rather than their souls, and pleasure more than their bodies. They waste and harass the body in hunting after riches, pleasure, honour, profit, and such like additions to the outward life.

Now these are mere mistakes. The “self” we are to preserve and maintain is body and soul, in a proper state and constitution to perform duty to God and to attain true happiness. Now when we love only the body, we do not love that which is properly ourselves.[1] The body has more affinity with the beasts, as our souls have with the angels. Our souls are ourselves: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mar 8:36). In another evangelist it is “lose himself” (Luk 9:25). Our souls are regarded chiefly by Christ (Mat 10:28); in the work of redemption He poured out “his soul unto death” for our souls (Isa 53:12).[2]

Therefore in denying yourself this must be distinguished. Whatever you do with the body or the conveniences of the body, do nothing to prejudice the soul and eternal happiness. I ground this observation upon this very context. Christ had spoken something of His bodily sufferings, and Peter in effect said unto His master, “Favour thyself” (Mat 16:22). Then Christ gives this lesson in the text: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat 16:24-25). And then Christ explains 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?” (Mat 16:26). We lose by saving the body. He who makes his body to be “himself,” and the conveniences of the temporal life to be “himself,” will deny Christ, but will never deny himself. You must reckon upon and discern this first: what is yourself.[3]

(2.) We misplace self.

We misplace self as well as mistake it. He that loves himself more than God lays God aside, and sets self on the throne in his heart.[4] This is a great crime in the eye of nature. There is a natural reverence to what we conceive to be of divine power. Everyone will say, “I love God best; God forbid, I should love anything above God.” We cry out against the Jews for preferring Barabbas before Christ, yet we do the like every day when we prefer a carnal satisfaction before communion with God.

We think the Gadarenes were vile men, who could be content to part with Christ and preferred their swine before Him (Luk 8:26-37). Yet we, who profess to believe the dignity of His person, do little less much of the time. We look upon it as a great scorn in the Philistines that they should set up Dagon above the ark (1 Sa 5:2); yet this is done by carnal persons, but they are not sensible of it because it is done spiritually (as idolatry is, under this light we enjoy).

Look, when a man may give the devil bad words and yet hold the crown upon his own head, it does not exempt him from the devil’s power and dominion. Many defy the devil in their words, yet defy him not with their heart; so empty professions do not satisfy. This self-love is not to be measured by naked professions, but by real experiences. If your heart is carried out more to your own person and interests than to God, and if the strength of your spirit runs out to pleasure, and if you spend whole hours and days that way and can find no time for God, then you love yourself more than God, though you do not say so much in obvious language.

[3.2] Signs of self-love to interests and pleasures

But here a question will arise: What are those usual experiences by which self-love is to be measured? I shall answer it in several propositions.

(1.) The comparison of affection with affection

The comparison of affection with affection is the best way to discover the temper and strength of our love, when we compare our affection to Christ with our affection to other matters. We cannot judge of any affection by its single exercises; that is, what it does alone toward one object. [We can judge our affections much better] by observing the difference and disproportion among our respects to several objects. If you observe the vein of marks and signs in Scripture,[5] they put us upon this compounded trial: the disproportion of our respect to God and to the world. We shall examine this both in the pleasure and profit of the world.

In the pleasure of the world, there is a description of very carnal men: “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:4). A man may not be as well tried by considering only his love to God or only his love to pleasure—not by his love to God, because there is in all men a pretence of devotion and service to God; nor by his love to pleasure, because there is a lawful allowance of taking pleasure in created things, provided they do not take and overcome our hearts. But now, when you compare affection with affection, when the strength of a man’s heart is carried out to the use of worldly comforts and pleasures, when he neglects God and cannot find any delight in the exercises of religion and the way of communion that God has established between Himself and us—this is an ill note, and, if these reign, shows that we are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”

It is the same for the profit of the world. Christ spoke a parable to show who is the covetous man, and concludes it thus, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luk 12:21). A man cannot be judged simply by his laying up of treasures, by hoarding up worldly provision, and by getting increase in the world. Why? Because we are allowed to be active and cheerful in the way of our calling, and God may bless our industry. Neither, on the other hand, [should a man be assured simply] because a man may think he has made some provision for heaven when he waits upon God in some duties of religion, and because of some cold and faint operations, some devout and cold workings of his soul.

But now compare care with care, “He that lays up treasures to himself, and is not rich towards God”; that is, when a man is all for getting wealth for himself, and is not so earnest to get grace and a covenant interest[6] for himself, to be enriched with spiritual and heavenly exercises. When men follow after spiritual things in a formal and careless manner, and after earthly things with the greatest earnestness and strength that may be; when respects to the world are accompanied with the neglect of heaven; when men can be content with a lean soul, so they may have a fat estate; when all their care is to join land to land, and not lay up evidences for heaven—this is a sign the heart is wicked and totally covetous.

(2.) The solid esteem and constitution of the spirit

Though comparison is the best way to discover love, yet this love is not to be measured by the lively stirring acts of love so much as by the solid esteem and constitution of the spirit. Why? Because the act may be more lively where the love is less firm and rooted in the heart. The passions of suitors are greater than the love of the husband, yet not so deeply rooted. The commotion may be greater in less love, but esteem and solid satisfaction are always the fruit of the greater love.

Men often will laugh most when they are not best pleased. A man may laugh at a toy, yet he cannot be said to rejoice more in that toy than in other things just because the act of his joy is more lively than it would be in a solid, serious matter. We laugh more at a trifle, but are better pleased at a great courtesy. The commotion of the body and spirits depends much upon the strength of mental image, and mental image depends much upon the sense and the presence of the object, so that the senses do much affect and urge us in the present state to which we are subjected. We are masses of flesh and blood, and it is our infirmity introduced by sin that the senses and animal spirits are affected with things of sense rather than spiritual things.[7]

For instance, a man may have more affectionate expressions upon the loss of a child or an estate, than at God’s dishonour.

A man may weep more for a temporal loss than for sin. Why? Because in spiritual things grief does not always vent itself by tears.

So a man may seem to have more lively joy in physical blessings than in spiritual, and yet he cannot be concluded to be carnal. Why? Because of the solid estimation of his heart: he could rather part with all these things than offend God—could rather lack this and that comfort than miss the favour of God. David longed and fainted for the waters of Bethlehem as strongly as the spouse who was sick of love longed for Christ (2 Sam 23:15; Song 2:5). But he would not have refused the consolations of the Spirit, as he refused the water of Bethlehem when he poured it out. The affections may be violently carried out to a present good, and even though they may have some weakness and sin, yet the affections in this case do not argue a state of sin.

Therefore the judgment you are to make upon your heart, whether you love your relations and satisfactions more than God, is not to be determined by the rapid motion of the heart, but by its constant stream and bent.[8] Your affections may be more vehemently stirred up to outward objects because two streams meeting in one channel run more vehemently and strongly than one stream. It is a duty, required of us by nature and grace, moderately to prize these things: children and friends, outward delights and comforts. Nature craves a part, and grace judges it to be suitable; there may be more sensible stirring in the one, though the solid esteem of the soul be set right.

(3.) The time and care that we give to outward things

As our affection to outward things is not to be judged by the vigorous motion and excitement of the spirits, so neither altogether by the time and care that we give to them. A man may spend more time in the world than in prayer with God, yet he cannot be said to love the world more than God. Why? Because bodily necessities are more pressing than spiritual. In the proportion of time, we see that God allowed six days for man to labour, and appropriated only the seventh to Himself, which seems to indicate that the supply of bodily necessities will require more time than spiritual.[9]

I do not speak this as if in the week a man were free whether he would serve God or no, for as we may do works of necessity on the Sabbath day to preserve ourselves, so we must in the week redeem seasons for spiritual duties. But I speak this to show that the great proportion of time spent in the world does not argue disproportion of affection to God and the world. The body must be maintained; nature and grace have laid a law upon us so to do, and it cannot be maintained without active diligence in our calling. And therefore, though I should give God but two hours in the day for direct service, and spend the other in my calling and necessary refreshment, yet I cannot be said to love God less and the world more.

This is the case, provided it is with these two cautions.

(a.) Obedience

I must go about the duties of my calling in obedience, upon a principle and for the ends of religion. If a Christian were wise, he might give God all his time, not only that which he spends in the closet, but that which he spends in the shop—as when you go about your worldly business with a heavenly mind, and do it as God’s work for His glory. Those that live by manual labour must work not merely to sustain themselves, but to glorify God and do good to their neighbours. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph 4:28). Mark, if a man were in such necessity, if he lives but from hand to mouth through manual labour, yet he is to have a gracious end to bring glory to God by being useful to his neighbour, to give to him that needs.

In effect, then, God receives the greatest portion, though grace be exercised in temporal rather than spiritual employments, for the difference is not so much in the proportion of time as in the [grace itself]. Grace works in our vocational callings; it keeps the heart right in worldly employments. And grace keeps the heart right in duties of worship. This is so that in worldly business we may have a heavenly mind, and that in spiritual business we may not have carnal minds—that now and then in your vocation you may send a glance to heaven, and in your spiritual duties you may not wander into the world.

(b.) Grace

My next caution is that you sometimes will make the world give way to grace, and encroach rather upon your temporal than your spiritual necessities. Too, too often we find the lean cows devour the fat (Gen 41:20). Now it is good sometimes to take revenge,[10] and let grace encroach upon the world for special and solemn duties. Look, as it is a sin to eat without gratefulness to God for providing the food, so it is a sin to work without reverence to God, lest we should be too much in the world. Remember, “we are debtors, not to the flesh” (Rom 8:12). Did we promise we would be all for the flesh? No, but rather we are debtors to the Spirit…It is better to make business give way to spiritual duty, than duty to business. Bernard has a pretty[11] expression: “That is a happy family where Martha is complaining about Mary”; that is, when the world complains of spiritual duty,[12] rather than duty complains of the world, for…our time and care should be spent in the work of God.

(4.) When duty and self-interest are utterly severed

The great trial of our esteem and love to God is when spiritual duty and self-interest are required to be utterly severed, when we are put upon a great difficulty requiring us to deny either ourselves or Christ. It is as a dog following two men: when they walk together in company, we do not know to whom the dog belongs, but the matter is settled when they part. God and mammon may sometimes walk together; but when they part company, you are put to your choice, whether you will leave God or the company of mammon. I leave all upon this decision, because such difficult cases are called trials: “Knowing the trial of your faith worketh patience,” and, “count it all joy when ye fall into divers trials” (see Jam 1:2-3). Our affections are brought into the ranks, and God and angels behold the combat. Here is a deliberate debate; and when in a deliberate debate the world gets the victory of conscience, it is an ill sign. Here you show whether your esteem and a solid satisfaction is in God or not.

The things of religion seem best in the absence of a temptation. But when you are brought to an actual choice, either of duty or sin—when duty is left without sensible encouragement, or loaded with sensible discouragement—what will you do then? Which will you prefer? “They loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:11) when it came to the crisis. A temptation, represented in imagination and speculation, is nothing so terrible as it is in its actual appearance. We may be of great confidence in our own imaginations, as Peter was; but when we are called out to death itself, then not to love our friends or lives, to risk the frowns of a father, the familiarity of kindred, provisions for your children—is a sign your love to God is real. It is true, in such a case as this, a child of God may be overcome by the violence of such a temptation, but speedily he repents. Here is the great trial: when we are called out to break a law or risk an interest (as we will be sooner or later), to please men or to please God, then we are tested to see if we will deny ourselves or Christ.

The high priest under the Law had the names of the tribes upon his breast, but the name of God on his front or forehead (Exo 28:29, 36-38)…An emblem of every Christian should be this: if his relations be on his breast, yet the honour of God must be on his forehead. That interest must be chief and predominant. When we can habitually venture upon the displeasure of God to gratify our interest, this is to love ourselves more than God.

But you will say, “Many of us are still left in the dark, everyone is not called to martyrdom and public contests. How shall we judge of our own hearts, and know whether we have this kind of faulty self-love; whether we mistake and misplace ourselves, or not?” I answer, we need not wish for these cases, they will come fast enough before we come to heaven. But if they come not, there are a great many other cases by which you may try your souls—cases that do not belong to martyrdom. I shall,

-Show what are the acts of self-love,

-Clarify what shows the reign and state of self-love, and

-Give some remedies for self-love.

Questions & Notes

  1. When we love only the _________, we do not love that which is properly ourselves.
  2. The body is also important and shall be raised and redeemed (Rom 8:23; 1Cor 15; Act 24:15).
  3. What must you understand first when it comes to denying self?
  4. What does it mean to misplace self?
  5. vein of marks and signs in Scripture – those portions of the Bible instructing us how to recognize our true spiritual condition.
  6. covenant interest – part in the rich blessings of the new covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:10-12).
  7. It is our infirmity introduced by _________ that the senses and animal spirits are affected with things of sense rather than spiritual things.
  8. The judgment you are to make upon your heart, whether you love your relations and satisfactions more than God, is not to be determined by the rapid motion of the heart, but by its _________ _________ _________ _________.
  9. How do we know that the supply of bodily necessities will require more time than spiritual?
  10. revenge – in this context, taking time from your work to devote directly to God, as in prayers of thanks and asking for aid.
  11. pretty – clever.
  12. Because spiritual duties are given a high priority.
Click on the "A Treatise Of Self-Denial" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.