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John Wesley on Self-Denial

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

It seems especially appropriate in the season of Lent to quote from John Wesley’s Sermon (# 48) on Self Denial:

The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after Him and following Him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practice it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; we are not treading in his steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him.

— Sermon #48 “Self Denial.”

It seems to me that Lent can be a training ground for the practice of self-denial throughout the year. It is a beginning point. In this season we hear the call to self-denial more loudly than in other seasons. This is not to draw away from the need for spiritual discipline throughout the year. It is to provide us a beginning point.

On the call to take up the Cross, Wesley remarks:

And thus it behooves every disciple of Christ to take up, as well as to bear, his cross. Indeed, in one sense, it is not his alone; it is common to him, and many others; seeing there is no temptation befalls any man, εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος, — “but such as is common to men;” such as is incident and adapted to their common nature and situation in the present world. But, in another sense, as it is considered with all its circumstances, it is his; peculiar to himself: It is prepared of God for him; it is given by God to him, as a token of his love. And if he receives it as such, and, after using such means to remove the pressure as Christian wisdom directs, lies as clay in the potter’s hand; it is disposed and ordered by God for his good, both with regard to the quality of it, and in respect to its quantity and degree, its duration, and every other circumstance.

— Sermon #48 “Self Denial.”

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