A meditation on mortification and self-denial from the English Reformer and martyr John Bradford (1510-1555):
He that will be ready in weighty matters to deny his own will, and to be obedient to the will of God, the same had need to accustom himself to deny his desires in matters of less weight, and to exercise mortification of his own will in trifles: for, if that our affections by this daily custom be not as it were half slain, surely, surely, when the plunge shall come, we shall find the more to do. If we cannot “watch with Christ one hour,” as he saith to Peter, we undoubtedly can much less go to death with him. Wherefore that in great temptations we may be ready to say with Christ, “Not my will, but thine be done,” in that this commonly cometh not to pass but where the roots of our lusts by thy grace, dear Father, are almost rotten and rooted out by a daily denial of that they desire, I humbly beseech thee, for Christ’s sake, to help me herein.
First pardon me my cherishing and, as it were, watering of mine affections, obeying them in their devices and superfluous desires: wherethrough in that they have taken deep root, and are too lively in me, I secondly do beseech thee to pull them up by the roots out of my heart, and so henceforth to order me, that I may continually accustom myself to weaken the principal root, that the by-roots and branches may lose all their power. Grant me, I beseech thee, that thy grace may daily mortify my concupiscence of pleasant things, that is, of wealth, riches, glory, liberty, favour of men, meats, drinks, apparel, ease, yea, and life itself; that the horror and impatiency of more grievous things may be weakened, and I made more patient in adversity. Whereunto I further do desire and pray thy goodness, dear Father, that thou wilt add this, namely, that I may for ever become obedient and ready to thy good will in all things, heartily, and willingly to serve thee, and do whatsoever may please thee. For doubtless, although we accustom ourselves in the pleasant things of this life to a mortification and denial of ourselves, yet we shall find enough to do when more bitter and weighty crosses come: for, if thy Son our Saviour, ever wont to obey thy good will, prayed so heartily and often, “Not my will, but thy will be done,” (whereby he declareth himself to be very man;) how can it be but we, whose nature is corrupt, not only in nativity, but in the rest of our whole life also, shall find both our hands full, in great and grievous temptations, wholly to resign ourselves unto thee?
Grant therefore, dear Father, for thy Christ’s sake, to me a most miserable wretch, thy grace and holy Spirit to be effectual in me, that daily I may accustom myself to deny my will in more easy and pleasant things in this life; that, when need shall be, I may come with Christ to thee with a resigned will, always steadfastly expecting thy mercy, and in the mean season continually obeying thee with readiness and willingness, doing whatsoever may most please thee, through Christ our Lord, which liveth with thee, &c.
– John Bradford (1510-1555), The Writings of John Bradford (1848, Parker Society), p. 190-191.