« السابقةمتابعة »
other things bid fo fair for heaven, fhould break with God upon this fingle point?
I know men have feveral ways to deceive their own hearts, and to defend themselves against all these affaults.
First, They fay, they are injurious to no man in not being charitable. And it is true, that in human courts the poor can have no action against the rich for want of charity to them; but yet for all that, they do injuriously detain that which doth not of right belong to them. They are cruel and hard hearted, and they are guilty of high breach of truft, in re fpect of God, whofe ftewards they are, and who hath dealt fo liberally with them in the things of this life, on purpose to oblige them to be fo to others. That which thou ftoreft up, without regard to the neceffities of others, is unlawfully detained by thee, fince God intended it should have been for bread to the hungry, and cloaths to the naked, and for help and relief of those who are ready to perish. For why art thou rich, and another poor, but that thou mighteft exercife thy charity upon thofe fitting objects which the providence of God prefents to thee? It had been eafy for God (fince the earth is his and the fulness thereof) fo to have contrived things, that every man fhould have had a fufficiency, and have been in a moderate condition; but then a great many virtues would have been fhut out of the world, and loft, for want of opportunity to exercise them. Where then had been the poor man's patience, and the rich man's pity, and the contentedness of men of moderate fortune?
Secondly, Men fay that they have children to provide for. And do fo in God's name, for he allows us to do it liberally; but unless their condition and wealth fet them above an ordinary calling, do not chufe fo to provide for them, as to take them off from all employment, left you put them in the ready way to be undone, have a care of leaving them no other bufinefs, but to spend what you have left them; if you fo do, they will in all probability do that work very effectually, and make as much hafte to
be poor, as you did to make them rich. If men could be but contented to do that which is best for their children, they might do a great deal better for themselves, by difpofing what they have to fpare in charity.
Thirdly, Others would fain excufe themselves from this duty at prefent, by telling what they intend to do when they come to dy, that is, when they can keep what they have no longer. It feems then thou wilt leave it to thy executor to do good in thy ftead. This fhews thou haft no great heart to the business, when thou deferreft it as long as ever thou canft. But why wilt thou truft another with the difpofal of thy charity, rather than thyself? This is hardly to of fer either a reasonable or a living facrifice to God, to do good only when we are dead. It is well that God hath made all men mortal, and that it is appointed for all men once to dy; otherwise some men would never do good at all.
Wherefore fetting afide these, and all other excu fes, which will not be admitted, nor will any of us have the face to plead them at the day of judgment z I fay, fetting afide all excufes whatsoever, let us refolve to do good with what we have, whilft we can; and to that end let us lay afide fome portion of what God hath bleft us withal, for the ufes of piety and charity, and let it bear fome decent proportion to what God hath given us.
There is never want of proper objects for our largeft charity, and now less than ever. Befides thefe at home, which prefent themselves to us in greatnumbers every day, God hath fent us many from a broad, who call loud upon us for our pity and help, both as they are reduced to the greatest extremity, and are fufferers in the best caufe, that of our common religion, which ought now to be dearer to us than ever. Let us new mercy now, as we expect mercy from others, in any day of our diftrefs in this world, and as ever we hope, whenever we come to appear before the judgment-feat of Chrift, to find mercy with the Lord in that day.
Confider what I have faid upon this argument,
and let this extraordinary kind of caution, which our Saviour here gives, make a deep impreffion upon your minds; Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man's life confifteth not in the abundance of the things which he poffeffeth.
Religion our firft and great concernment.
MATT. vi. 33.
But feek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righte oufness; and all these things fhall be added unse
N the latter part of this chapter, our Saviour doth in a long difcourfe caution his difciples against an inordinate care about the things of this life, which he concludes with a strict charge to make religion their firft and great concernment, and above all things to take care to fecure to themselves the happiness of another life; But feek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, &c. In the hand. ling of which words, I fhall do these four things:
Firft, I fhall explain what is here meant by the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Secondly, What by feeking of thefe.
Thirdly, I fhall lay down fome neceffary and plain directions, which if we observe, we cannot miscarry in this matter.
Fourthly, I fhall fet before you fome of the moft proper and powerful motives and encouragements to the minding of this great intereft and concernment; among which I fhall particularly confider the argument or encouragement here ufed in the text, and all these things shall be added unto you.
First, I fhall explain to you what is here meant by the kingdom of God, and his righteousness:
I. What is meant by the kingdom of God. And there are two famous acceptations of this phrafe, and both of them very frequent in the New Teftament. Sometimes it is ufed to fignify the ftate of the gofpel, or the Chriftian religion, which by the Jews was called the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of the Meffias, as Mark i. 15. The kingdom of God is at hand; that is, the ftate or difpenfation of the gofpel is now approaching, and ready to take place. Luke xvii. 20. The Pharifees demanding of our Saviour, when the kingdom of God should come, that is, when the reign of the Meffias fhould commence; he anfwers them, the kingdom of God cometh not with obfervation; that is, not with any temporal pomp and fplendor, fo as to draw the eyes of people after it, as the Jews did vainly imagine; but the kingdom of God, irròs pav esi, is among you; not within you, as our tranflation hath improperly rendered it ; the kingdom of God (he tells them) is already come unto you, the Meffias is among you, and ye are not aware of him. In the like fenfe this phrafe is ufed, Matt, xxi. 43. The kingdom of God. (that is the gofpel) shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And fo likewife the phrafe of the kingdom of heaven is ufed, Matt. xi, 11. where, fpeaking of John the baptift, our Saviour faith, that among them that were born of women, there bath not rifen a greater than John the baptift that is, there was no greater perfon than he under the Jewish difpenfation, and yet he that is leaft in the kingdom of heaven, that is, under the difpenfati on of the gospel, is greater than he.
Now though this fenfe of the kingdom of God be not wholly excluded in the text, yet there is another fenfe of this phrafe very ufual likewife in the fcripture, and which is more agreeable to the scope of Our Saviour's argument and difcourfe, and fo it fignifies that future ftate of happiness and glory which good men fhall be advanced to in another world, in oppofition to this life, and the enjoyments of it, which our Saviour had before forbidden his difciples to be fo folicitous about. Take ye no thought, Jay
ing, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be cloathed? And then it follows in direct oppofition to this inordinate and folicitous care about worldly things, but feek ye firf the kingdom of God and his righteousness; that is, be not fo folicitous about the conveniencies and neceffaries of this life, as about the happiness of the other, and the means to it. And this fense of this phrafe of the kingdom of God, is fo very frequent in the New Teftament, that I fhall not need to give particular inftances of it.
II. What is meant by righteoufnefs; feek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. Righteoufnefs, in the ftrictest and most proper fenfe of the word, fignifies the particular virtue of juftice; and very frequently in the Old Teftament it is ufed for Charity to the poor, or almsgiving, Pfal. xxxvii. 25. 26. I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not feen the righteous forfaken, nor his feed begging bread; he is ever merciful, and lendeth; and Pfal. cxii. 9. he hath difperfed, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever. But righteoufnefs in its largest and most extended fenfe, comprehends all the virtues of a good man; and fo it fignifies here in the text, and in many other places of fcripture.
So that the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, comprehends the whole business of religion, our laft end, which is eternal life and happiness in another world; and the way and means to this end; which is righteoufnefs, or that univerfal goodness which God requires of us, and whereof he himself is a pattern and example to us; for which reafon it is cal led his righteousness. And in this fenfe of our laft end, and the way and means to it, the kingdom of heaven, and righteousness, are used in another place, even of this fermon of our Saviour's upon the mount, Matt. v. 20. Except your righteousness fhall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharifees, ye shall in no cafe enter into the kingdom of heaven; where righte oufness is made the neceffary means and condition of eternal life. I proceed, in the
Second place, to explain what is meant by feeking