Quest. How shall I know whether I preferre in my judgement, affections, or conversation, my owne outward interest, before the interest of Christ and the Gospel?
Answ 1. If the seeking of thine own things take up the first, best, and most of thy time. If thy marrow and strength of thy Soule, goe out after them, if thou makest them thy 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, thy Primum quaerite, and unum necessarium, and the things of Christ, thy 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and idle houre. If the seeking of thine own, make thee neglect the things of Christ, or seek after them negligently, this a signe that thou dost over-value and over-affect thine owne things, and undervalue, and dis-affect the things of Christ.
2. If thou mournest more for personall miseries, than for the desolations of Sion, it is a signe thou mindest thine owne things more than the things of Christ, this is a frame of spirit, quite opposite to true Saintship. Ezra, Nehemiah, David, Daniel and Ieremiah, were more afflicted with the miseries of the Church then their owne.
3. If the seeking of thine own things take away thy courage for Christ and his cause, and make thee come to Christ by Page 24 night, as Nichodemus did, and the more thou hast of the world, the lesse thou appearest for Christ and his Gospel; the more honours, the more fearfull: If the preserving of thine owne things make thee betray the things of Christ by sinfull silence, or base cowardise, this is a sign thou preferrest thine own inte∣rest before the interest of Christ.
4. If the seeking of thine own things make thee seek to find out excuses, and vaine pretences, to hinder thee from appea∣ring for Christ, this is a sign, &c, I read Luke 14 18. when the Servant was sent to fetch the Guests to the great Supper of the Gospel, they all with one consent, began to make excuse, &c. The times wherein we live, are very sinfull and perillous: the Truths and Ministry of Christ are trampled under feet, Religion and Reformation neglected. Now God by us his Ambassadors, calls upon you to appear for his Truths, and for his Gospel ministrie, and Gospel-ordinances. Meth nks I hear the Nobleman say, I have a great estate to lose, pray have me excused: I heare the rich Citizen say, I shall be utterly undone in my trading, pray have me excused: I heare the voluptuous Epicure say, I have married a wife, pray have me excused. Take it for a certain rule, If the seeking of these outward things puts thee upon excuses, thou seekest them sinfully: For if you look into the text forementioned, you will finde that the ex∣cuses there made were
1. Lying and false, they say they cannot come, where∣as the truth was, they would not come, non posse preten∣ditur, nolle in c•usâ est.
2. Poore and frivolous; What is a Farm in comparison of Heaven? marrying a Wife in comparison of being married to Jesus Christ?
3. Vain and unprofitable. For notwithstanding the ex∣cuses they made, it is said, verse 24. That none of these men which were bidden shall tast of my supper.
4. Unreasonable and unconscionable. For they made those things laqueos Diaboli, snares and impediments to hinder them from Christ, which would have been vincula obedientiae, motives and incouragements to bring them to Christ.
Page 25 5. Lastly, If when thine owne things and the things of Christ come in competition, and thou must either part with the one or the other, if thou choosest as Spyra did, and as the young man in the Gospel did, rather to part with Christ and his Gospel, than with thy profit and preferment, this is a sure note that thou seekest thine own things, before and more than the things of Christ. I read of Tiberius Emperour of Rome, that he sent to the Senate to receive Christ into the number of their Gods, but they refused to doe it upon this account, because if they received him, they must reject all their other Gods, and there∣fore chose rather to renounce Jesus Christ, than to receive him, and part with the rest of their feigned Deities. If thou re∣nouncest and rejectest the Lord Christ and his Truths, rather than thou wilt lose thy creature-enjoyments, thou art a sinful self-seeker of the highest forme.
But now on the contrary, If thou pursuest after the things of Christ in the first and chiefe place; If thou mournest more for Church desolations than personall miseries; If the more wealth thou hast, the more couragious thou art for God, and art glad, that thou hast an Estate to lose for Christs cause; If the seeking of thine owne things doe not put thee upon ly∣ing, vaine, frivolous, and unconscionable excuses; If thou art like unto Hormisdas, a Nobleman of Persia, who was deposed from all his Honours because he would not deny his Religion, and afterwards restored again, and a little after solicited again to deny Christ and his truths, but he rent his purple robe, and laid all his honours at the foot of the Emperour, and said, Si propter ista me denegaturum Christum put as, ea denuò accipe. If you thinke to gaine me to deny Christ for the re-obtaining of my honours, take them all back againe: If this be the frame of thy heart, it is a certaine token that thou prizest, lovest and seekest the things of Christ before, and more then thine owne things.
3. The third sort of those who are guilty of this sinfull selfe-seeking are such who pretend to seek the things of Christ, but seek their owne things, under colour of seeking the things of Christ, who hold forth the preservation and propagation of Religion as a stalking horse, to catch men by, as a blinde to deceive the Page 26 world; but aime a• nothing lesse then Religion, but either with Demetrius at their owne gaine, or with Jehu at the ob∣taining of a Kingdome, or with Balaam at the wages of ini∣quity. This sinne of selfe-seeking is so odious both to God and Man, that it never appeares upon the stage in its owne likenesse, but alwaies covered over with Samuels mantle: There is no sinne hath more 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Fig∣leaves and religious cloaks to cover it, then this sinne. By this meanes the Pope of Rome hath purchased his triple Crowne; It is said Rev. 13. 11. that Antichrist should have two hornes like a Lambe, but yet act like a Dragon, signifying unto us, that Antichrist should under colour of Religion, act all his villanies, and bloudy Massacres, and by this means deceive all the world. Therefore Antichristianisme is called a Mysterie of iniquity, that is, iniquity covered over with faire shewes and pretences of godlinesse; What Murders, what Treasons hath not the Pope committed under the colour of defending the Catholique Religion? under pretence of being Peters suc∣cessor, and of having •eters keyes, and chaire? Witnesse the holy league (as it was called) in France; witnesse the Gunpowder treason amongst us, undertaken under shew of Religion, for the defence of the Catholique cause.
What I affirme of Papists and Jesuites, the like I say of all the Errors and Heresies that have been broached in the Chri∣stian world; The Apostle tells us, that the first Authors of Heresies and Schismes were great selfe seekers. Men greedy*of filthy lucre, who served not the Lord Jesus, but their owne bellies, who made merchandise of the Soules of people, making gaine their godlinesse, not godlinesse their gaine. But though they were such, yet they did not appeare to be such, but seemed to be very holy and selfe-denying: Therefore Christ calls them, Wolves in sheeps cloathing, ravening Wolves inward∣ly,* though innocent Sheep outwardly. They honied over the poison of their Doctrine, with good words, and faire speeches, to deceive the hearts of the simple, Rom. 16. 18. Such a one was Pelagius (one of the greatest enemies to the Doctrine of Grace that ever the Church had) who made such a shew of godlinesse, that when Hierome first wrote against his Heresies, Page 27 he was forced to conceale his name, lest by appearing to write on purpose against him, his book should have been rejected by the people, who did so highly magnifie him.
Let me adde, This is a sinne which not onely Papists and Jesuits, Schismaticks and Hereticks, but most Christians in the world are tainted withall. It is a most true saying, Pauci amant Iesum propter Iesum, there are few, and but very few, who love Christ for Christs sake: Most people follow Christ for the loaves, and make use of Christ to serve their own ends and interest. Let a Man be to marry a Wife, and he will in words pretend, that it is Religion and Godlinesse that he most of all desires; but if you had a window to look into his heart, you will finde that it is Money which is his chiefe aime. But amongst all sorts of Men, the great States-men, and deep Po∣lititians are most eminently guilty of this sin, who usually bring Religion upon the stage meerly to usher in their Politick designes. It is a cursed Maxim in Machiavel, that Kings and Princes should labour after a shew of Religion, but not look much after the substance; For the substance would be a burden, but the shew of it would be very usefull for the carrying on of their own ends and designes. This wicked advise and counsell is followed by many Kingdoms & Common-wealths at this day: there was scarce ever any State or Church-reformer who did reforme Religion for Religions sake, but for his owne ends, ei∣ther to be revenged of his enemies, or to gaine Church-reve∣nues, or to be a coy-Duck, to draw a party to side with him. Let me give in a few Examples;
It pleased God so to order affaires, in Henry the Eights time, that the Popes supremacy was abolished in England: But what was the principle that moved the King to doe this? was it out of love to the true Religion? or was it not rather that thereby he might be revenged of the Pope, who would not allow of his Divorce from his first Wife?
I have read of Maximilian Emperour of Germany, who li∣ving in Luthers time, professed a great deale of zeale after Reformation; and especially, in plucking down golden Ima∣ges. But the story saith, that it was not so much out of Page 28hatred to the Images, as out of love to the gold, which made him undertake it.
In the History of the Civill Warres in France, I read that when the Princes of the blood fell out one with another, one party called in the Protestants to their assistance, not out of love to Religion, but that thereby they might gaine a par∣ty.
That which I say of Kingdomes and Common-wealths, the like I say of Armies; I read of Goliahs sword hid in a cloth be∣hind the Ephod, 1 Sam. 2. 9. The sword never appeares to the world under bloudy colours, but alwayes cloathed with a linnen Ephod, pretending Reformation of abuses in Church and State. But it is worth remembring, that this sword was the sword of Goliah, who was a defier of the Israel of God, and a great ene∣my to Religion. The summe of all amounts to this, that in all ages of the Church, especially in times of Civil Warre, and in times of Reformation, there are thousands that hold forth to the world, in their words and Declarations, a sincere desire to propagate the Gospel and the Kingdome of Christ, and to advance the pure Ordinances of Christ, yet notwithstanding minde nothing really and inwardly, but their preferment and advancement.