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session of his truth and religion, Matth. x. 37,38. Ut that loveth father or mother more than me, is not -worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me,is not worthy of me. He instanced) in the nearest relations, those towards whom we have the most tender and relenting affections, and yet he tells us, that the consideration of his truth, and religion ought to take place of these, nay, even of life itself; for so it follows, and he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. St. Luke expre£Teth it more strongly and vehemently, Luke xiv. 26- If any man come to me, (that is, take upon him the profession of my religion ) and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. When these come in competition with our religion, and the great interest of our eternal salvation, we are to regard and value them no more than if they were the objects of our hatred, but to set aside all consideration of affection to them, so far as it would tempt us from constancy in our religion, and the care of our fouls.
So that when our Saviour bids us first to seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, his meaning is, that religion, and the concernments of our fouls, and the eternal happiness of them in another world, should be our first and chief care; and that all other things should be made subordinate and subservient to this great design, and to be no farther minded by us, than they really are so: For that which is our great end, will subdue all other things/and bring them into subjection to it, and will reject them, and throw them aside, if they be inconsistent with it. If heaven be our utmost aim, and in order to that, it be our great study and endeavour to be righteous and holy, this resolution and design, sincerely entertained, will over-mle all other considerations, and make all the things of this world to stoop and give way to that which is our chief end, the eternal happiness and salvation of our souls. And thus 1 have done with the second thing 1 proposed, namely, what is meant by K z seek* seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and what by seeking them first.
I proceed in the third place, to lay down some plain rules for our direction and furtherance in seeking tht kingdom of God, and his righteousness; that is, in the great business of religion.
First, Let us always live under a lively and powerful fense of another world; that we are placed here in this world, but for a little while, and that wholly in order to our preparation for a better and happier life. Let this thought be often in our minds, that eternity is the most considerable duration, and the next world the place of our everlasting abode, where we must dwell and continue for ever; and therefore our present state is but of little moment and consideration to us, but only in order to our future and everlasting condition. We may please ourselves here for a little while with toys and tr'fles, with dreams and shadows of pleasure and happiness, and may be exercised with some troubles and afflictions for a short space, for a moment (as the Apostle calls it) our light afflictions which are but for a moment, and so indeed it is, compared with all eternity; but the substantial and durable happiness or misery remain for men in the other world, and will certainly be their portion, according as they have demeaned themselves in this world.
Now the serious consideration os this cannot fail to put us upon vigorous preparations for another world, and to make us wholly intent upon our eternal concernments, and to resolve, whatever becomes of us in this world, to take effectual care that we may be happy for ever. He that firmly believes the immortality of his soul, and a life after death, which will never have an end, must needs take into consideration his whole duration, and bend all his care and thoughts, how he may avoid the greatest and most lasting misery, and secure to himself an immortality of bfiss and happiness.
Secondly, Let us be always under a conviction of the absolute and indispensable necessity of holiness and righteousness, as the only way and means whereby by the kingdom of God is to be attained, and that holiness and happiness are not to be separated, the one being a necessary condition and qualification fof the other; and consequently, that it is the vainest thing in the world for any man to hope to enter into the kingdom of God, without endeavouring after his righteousness; there is so strong a connexion between them, that a man may as reasonably expect to be well and at ease without health, as to be happy without holiness; for this makes us like to God, and our likeness and conformity to God, is that alone which can make us capable of the blessed sight and enjoyment of God. We must be partakers of a divine nature, in order to our participation of the divine blessedness. And the consideration of this will effectually engage us to seek the righteousness of God, without which we shall never enter into his kingdom; and to follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Thirdly, Let us always remember that righteousness is of a great extent, and comprehends in it all goodness; it takes in all the duties of religion, and the practice of all of them: It is a complication of all graces and virtues, of all the parts and ingredients, of all the duties and offices of a good man. To denominate a man righteous, all causes must concur; all the essential principles and parts of religion and goodness must meet together; knowledge and practice, faith and good works, right opinions and real virtues, an orthodox profession and a holy life, abstaining from sin and doing of righteousness, purity of heart and unspotted manners, godliness and honesty, the bridling of our tongue, and the government of our passions, and above all things charity, -which is the band of perfeclion.
For righteousness is our conformity to the law of God, as unrighteousness and sin is the transgression of .it. Now this, it it be real and sincere, will be uniform and universal, equally respecting all the laws of .God, and every part of our known duty, and will not content itself with an especial .regard to one or two precepts of the law, though never so consideK. 3 rablet table, and then allow itself in the neglect and violation of the rest; no, nor with the observation of the duties of one table of the law, if it over-look the other; no, nor with obedience to all the commandments of God, one only excepted. St. James hath put this veTy case, and determined it, that he that shall keep the whole law, jave only that he offend inane point, is guilty of all; that is, he is not sincere in his obedience to the rest: And therefore if we seek the righteousness of God, our righteousness must be universal; as he that hath called us is holy, so must vie be holy in all manner os conversation, in the tenor os our actions, and the whole course of our lives: , And any one reigning sin and vice, any gross and notorious defect in the virtues of a good life, will spoil our righteousness, and will effectually shut us out of the kingdom os heaven.
Fourthly, Let us wisely subordinate the several parts and duties of religion to one another, according to the intrinsical worth and value of them, that so we may mind every part of religion in its due place, and according to the true nature and importance of it. Knowledge and faith are in order to practice, and a good life; and signify nothing unless they produce that. The means of religion, such as prayer and fasting, diligent reading and hearing the word of God, reverent and devout receiving of the blessed sacrament, are of less account and value, than that which is the end of all these, which is to make us inwardly and really good, and fruitful in all the works of righteousness, which by Jesus Christ are to the praise and glory of God.' And therefore the means of religion which I have mentioned, are to be regarded and itfed by us, in order to the attaining of these ends, without which they are mere formality and hypocrisy, and instead of finding acceptance with God, they are an abomination to him, and his foul hates them.
And so likewise the circumstances of religion are less considerable than the substantial means and instruments of it. And therefore all rites and ceremonies are in religion of less consideration, than the substance of G©4's worship, and ought always to be subordinate to it. In like manner, the moral duties of religion, comprehended under the two great commandments of the love of God, and our neighbour, because they are of eternal and indispensable obligation, are to be preferred to matters of mere positive institution; and where they cannot stand together, that which is positive ought to be set aside, and to give way for the present to that which is moral and good in its' own nature, and not only, because it is commanded and enjoined; for in this case God hath expresly declared, that he will have mercy and not sacrifice. Upon which ground our Saviour declares, that the law of the sabbath ought to give place to works of mercy. Upon the fame account peace and charity are to be valued above matters of nicety and scruple, of doubtful dispute and controversy; because the former are unquestionably good, the latter doubtfully and uncertainly so.
All these things ought to be considered, and are of great moment to make a man sincerely and wisely religious. For men may keep a great stir about some parts of religion, and be very careful and diligent, zealous and earnest about the means and instruments of religion, and in the exercises of piety and devotion, and yet be destitute of the power and life of it, and fall short of that inward, and real, and substantial righteousness, which alone can qualify us for tht kingdom os God.
The fifth and last direction I would give, is this; that we have a particular regard to the great duty of charity, or alms-giving, this being very frequently in scripture called righteousness, as being an eminent part of religion, and a great evidence of the truth, and sincerity of our piety. And this our Saviour particularly directs to, as the way to the kingdom of God, Luke xii. 33. After this general exhortation, to seek the kingdom of God, he instanceth in charity, as the direct way- to it; give alms, provide for yourselves bags that wax not old, a treasure in the heavens which faileth not. And elsewhere our Saviour speaks of this grace and virtue, as that which, above ail others, will make way for