As I continue in my reading of a treatise on "self-denial", I can't help thinking, "This sounds like John Piper" and yet it was written almost 400 years ago by a "stuffy old Puritan". The truth is the truth and will always sound the same. As Piper himself states, "I am not an innovator. In fact, I am very content with the simple role of blowing the boredom out of people's brains with long-forgotten, old-fashioned, faithful blasts of biblical truth."
"In internal actions, in desires of grace and salvation, our end must not be self. Our motions are then regular, when they are conformed to God, when we have the same end and aim as God hath. Now whatsoever God doth, both within and without, in creation and grace, it is for himself: Prov. 16.4, 'The Lord hath made all things for himself.'
Well then, we should seek grace and glory with the same aim that God gives it: Eph. 1.6, 'He hath accepted us in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of his grace;' that is God's aim, that grace may be glorified in thy salvation, and in thy acceptance of Jesus Christ. I desire my salvation, but I should not rest there; but this should be my utmost aim, that God may be glorified in my salvation. Some make a question whether or no we may look to the reward; but those that make it, seem to mistake heaven, and they have a carnal notion of the reward of the gospel, and dream of the heaven of the alcaron, and not the heaven of the gospel.
What is the heaven of the gospel, but to enjoy God for ever, in the way of a blessed and daily communion? Now can any man be so irrational to conceive I should not aim at the inheritance of the saints in light, as well as at the vision and fruition of God? This must needs be a high act of grace, to seek my own happiness in the highest way of communion with God. They mistake the nature of the covenant, or the way with which God would deal with men, for God hath 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.
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 reward and the blessed recompenses. Christ used this way: Heb. 12.2, It is said, 'for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, and despised the shame,' etc. And truly all creatures, as they are now made, must needs take this course, look to the glory, 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 it folly to say that virtue is a reward to itself, if you speak of eternal reward; it is God's covenant way. We are not only to regard duty, but the encouragement of duty. But then the reward must not be the chief cause, but 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; 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 of 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, though our happiness were not subordinate to it, for 'God made all things for himself.'"