Quest. But how shall I know whether I am but a pretender to the things of Iesus Christ? whether I am one who makes use of Religion to serve mine owne interest? Whether I am like Deme∣trius the Silver-smith, who minded his gaine more then his Goddesse?
Answ. If we would deale faithfully with our owne Soules, we could not but easily know this. To help you in it, take these rules:
1. If thou art as zealous for the advancement of Religion and Reformation, when it doth not concerne thy int rest, as when it doth; this is a certaine signe thou seekest the things of Christ in sincerity: Thus it was with Moses, in the Rebellion of Corah and his company, there was a conjunction of interests; the conspiracy was against God and Mo•es, but the Idolatry of the Golden calfe, was onely against the interest of G•d, Moses was not prejudiced by it, and yet he was every way as zealous Page 29 for the glory of God in the latter, as in the former. But now on the contrary, if thou drivest furiously when any gaine is to be got by a Reformation, but very heavily and slowly, when thy interest is not at all concerned, this is a signe that thou makest use of Religion for thine owne ends. Thus it was with Iehu, he had a double Idolatry to root o•t, the Idolatry of Baal, and of Ieroboams Calves; he destroyed the first, but continued the second, because it was against his interest to abolish it. Thus it is with many Masters of Families, if their Servants play the theeves, they will cry out against them as dishonou∣rers of God; but let the same Servants prophane the Sab∣bath, or abuse the name of God by vaine Oaths, they are not troubled at it, because it is not against their private interest.
2. A pretender to the things of Christ, if he undertakes to doe service for Church or State, he will doe it by halves, so far as it makes for his interest and no farther. This is the rea∣son why the Reformation of Religion in most places of the Christian world is but a patcht Reformation, and as a Cake halfe baked, because that States and Kingdomes mould the Reformation, not according to the Word of God, but according to State-interest. Thus it was in Henry the Eights time, he thrust out the Popes Supremacy because it furthered his designe of a second Marriage, but he continued much of the Popish Religion, and made six Articles called A whip, with six strings, which were the death of many godly men. Erasmus hath a notable saying of Luther, That he had been a good man, had he not medled too much with the Monks bellies, and the Popes triple Crowne, the Pope was willing to yield to a Reformation of the Church, so far as it might consist with the upholding of his triple Crowne, and no farther, &c.
3. A pretender to the things of Christ when he hath got what he aimes at, will leave Christ wholly, and lay aside all his pre∣tences. As the Angels who appeared to Abraham and Lot, and divers others, assumed bodies, not out of love to the bodies they assumed, but onely to doe their errant, and when they had done it laied them aside. So there are many who assume a Page 30 profession of Religion for the pursuing of their ambitious de∣signes, which when they have obtained they lay aside, as the Fisherman did his Net, when he was made Pope; when he was an Abbot, and then a Bishop, and then a Cardinal, he would have his Net spread for a Table-cloath, to put him in minde of his meane and poor originall; But when he came to be Pope, he then commanded his Servants to lay aside his Net, for now he had caught what he had been so long Fishing for.
4. He that seeks his owne things, under pretence of seeking the things of Christ, will walke contrary to his Protestations, Declarations, Vowes and Covenants, even then, when he seems outwardly to be most solemne and serious in making of them. Thus did Balaam, he protesteth, that if he had an house full of Gold given him, he could not doe any thing con∣trary to the will of God, and yet at the same time, he goeth with the Messengers sent by Balac. Are there not many a∣mongst us, who when they Covenanted with hands lifted up to Heaven, to endeavour the extirpation of error and Heresie, and whatsoever was contrary to sound Doctrine, did even at the ve∣ry same time, secretly foment and countenance the things they Covenanted against?
5. Lastly, He that pretends to the things of Christ, and in∣tends his own, cares not by what wayes and meanes he com∣passeth his ends, nor by what kind of persons; whether the wayes be lawfull or unlawfull, the persons good or bad, it is all one to him so he may obtaine his ambitious intendments, which is a certaine signe of a notorious hypocrite. For he that truly and sincerely indeavours to promote the Glory and Honour of Christ, will never goe out of Christs way to obtaine his de∣sires. For Christ will be more dishonoured by his sin, than ho∣noured by his indeavours, though never so laborious and sincere.
Let us I beseech you examine our selves, according to these severall notes and markes, whether we be guilty of this sin∣full cursed and Devilish selfe-seeking. And know, that if this sinne rule and raigne in us, it makes us accessary to a foure∣fould murder; It makes us selfe-murderers, Church and State-murderers, and Christ-murderers. It brings us under a double Page 31 Gospel curse, for if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be (saith the Apostle) Anathema Maranatha. The Lord give us hearts seriously to weigh these things.
The second Use is, an use of Exhortation, which is two∣fold: *
1. To beseech all here present, whether Magistrates, Mi∣nisters or private Citizens, to take heed of this sinfull * selfe-seeking, and sixe headed Monster, of seeking our owne gaine and credit seperatedly from the things of Christ, or before, or more then the things of Christ, of seek∣ing our owne things under pretence of seeking the things of Christ, or when they stand in opposition to, or competition with the things of Christ, of seeking the good of our vile bodies, with the neglect of our pretious and immortall Soules. As Christ saith of Covetousnesse, so I of this sinne, Take heed and beware of sinfull selfe-seeking, consider the exceeding great∣nesse of this sinne, and the wofull and mischievous fruits and effects of it. This is the plague-soar of Church and State; The great Caterpillar that devours all the green things of the land. This hath destroyed our Parliaments, our Ministery, our Gentry: This is that which obstructeth that glorious reforma∣tion so long expected and desired, &c. This is not selfe-seeking but selfe-hating and selfe-destroying: he that seeks to give satisfaction to his corrupt selfe, is just like a Man who gives strong wine to his friend in a high Feaver, which is not to love him, but to kill him. He that seeks to please his sinfull selfe, seeks to strengthen his disease, to maintaine that within him, which God hateth, and to nourish that which will destroy his Soule. He that seeks the welfare of his body, and neglects the welfare of his soule, destroyes (as I have said) both body and soul. This is just as if a Husbandman in time of Harvest should gather in his stubble, & leave his corne to be devoured by hoggs. Just like a Father who takes care to feed & cloath his children, but not to instruct and teach them. In a word, he that seeks his owne ease and safety, his owne gaine and credit, his owne pleasure and satisfaction, and neglecteth and slighteth the things of Christ, this Man is the greatest selfe-hater, and selfe-destroyer; For he that sesks not the interest of Christ, shall never have any interest in Christ.
Page 32 2. To beseech you to labour for the divine, heavenly, and blessed self-seeking mentioned in the beginning of the Ser∣mon: * Physitians when they see men bleed immoderately at the nose, will let them bloud in another veine, that so they may make a diversion, and thereby stop the bleeding. Oh that God would use me this day, as his instrument, to make a most glorious and most happy diversion, and to turn you all from self-seekers, into Christ-seekers! Oh that I could prevaile with you, to seek the things of Jesus Christ before, and more then your own things! Oh how happy would London be, if it could be said of it; All thy Magistrates, Ministers, and pri∣vate people, seek the things of Christ more vigorously and cordi∣ally then they doe their own things.
To move you to this, consider,
1. What these your own things are which you so immode∣rately and inordinately seek after?
1. They are not your owne in a proper sence, as you have heard.
2. They are not Worth owning, they are vain and empty, empty of reality, and Soul-satisfaction, they are vanish∣ing & perishing, like houses made of Snow or waxe, and not only so, but they are also vexing and tormenting, according to what is said by one that had full and ample experience of them, Eccles. 2. 2, 17, 26.
2. Consider the excellency of the things of Jesus Christ which you so much neglect & undervalue. The truths of Christ, the Or∣dinances, Day, Ministry, and Government of Christ, the Preserva∣on, Propagation, and Reformation of Religion: These are Glo∣rious and Excellent things in their own Nature, and so far exceeding your own things which you so greedily labour after, that they are not worthy to be named that day in which we speak of the things of Christ. I want time to set out the trans∣cendent Glory and Excellency of Gospel concernments, and the vanity, emptinesse, and nothingnesse of all our own Earthly enjoyments. Onely let me desire you to take no∣tice;
1. That Jesus Christ sought not his owne things, he left Heaven for us, and shall not we neglect Earth for him?
Page 33 2. For what poor trifles you despise the glorious things of the Gospel.
3. If you seek not after the things of Christ more then your owne, you are in a cursed condition, and bet∣ter you had never been borne.
4. The things of Jesus Christ shall prosper, though you seek not the prosperity of them. What Mordecai said to Ester in another case, I crave leave to say to you, Enlargement and deliverance shall arise to the*people of God from another place, but thou and thy Fathers house shall be destroyed. There will a time come when the Mountaine of the Lords house shall be*established in the top of the Mountaines, and shall be exalted above the Hills, and all Nations shall flow to it; when the Kingdomes of this world shall become the*Kingdomes of our Lord and his Christ, when the little stone cuts out of the Mountaine without hands, shall destroy all opposite Kingdomes, and become a great Mountaine and fill the whole earth, when every Nati∣on*and Kingdome that will not serve the Lord Jesus, shall perish, and be utterly wasted. For neglecting to set up this Kingdome of Christ, God hath destroyed * many Nations and Kingdomes, and so he will us, if we follow their examples; If we preferre the building of our owne houses, before the builing of Gods house, God will build up his owne house by other instruments, but he will destroy us and our Houses.
3. Lastly, Consider: That man seeks himselfe most, who most seeketh the things of Christ. He that is the greatest Christ-seeker, is the greatest selfe seeker. For God hath said, Seek ye first the Kingdome of God, and his righteousnesse, and all these things shall be added unto you. When Solomon begged wisdome, God gave him wealth and riches as an overplus. If we seek the things of Christ, in the first and chiefe place, God will give in our own things into the bargaine, even as Paper and thred is added to a bought commodity.
Page 34 Thus I have put an end to the Sermon of selfe-seeking, Oh that I could put an end to the sinne of selfe-seeking! Two things I dare affirme:
- 1. That this sin hath been the Originall cause of all En∣glands miseries.
- 2. That it will never be well with England, nor shall we ever see better dayes, till this sinne be morti∣fied.
Let us goe to Christ, and labour by Faith, to fetch power from his Death, to crucifie and mortifie this sinne; Let it be our daily prayer, that England may have more Christ-seekers, and fewer selfe-seekers; or which is all one, That God would make us all true selfe-seekers, by making us true Christ-seekers.