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tm admission into heaven, Luke xvi. 9. I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon cf unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you (.of ye may be received) into everlasting habitations. . And St. Paul calls it laying in store for .ourselves a good foundation; or ( as the word may (better be rendred in this place J 4 good treasure agair.st the time to come, that we may lay hold on tttrnal life, 1 Tim. vi. 19. St. James speaks of it as a main and most essential part of religion, and the great evidence os a true and sincere piety, James i• 37. Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the lather, is this; to visit the fatherless and widows in their assliblion. Finally, our Lord instances in this, as the very thing which will admit us into, or shut us out of heaven; by the performance .whereof we shall be absolved, and for the neglect thereof we shall be condemned in the judgment of the great day, Matth. xxv. So that thia part of righteousness or religion, ought in a more special manner to be regarded by us; because upon the performance or neglect of this duty, our eternal happiness 2oth so much depend.
The fourth and last thing only remains to be spoken to; which is, to set before you the most proper and powerful motives and encouragements, to the mindina of this great interest and concernment. But this will be the subject of another discourse.
SERMON XCV. Religion, our first and great concernment.
Matt H. vi. 33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and bis righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
The second sermon on this teit. '.
THESE words, which I began to discourse upon the last day, are a strict charge and command to all Christians, to mind the business of religion in the first place, and to take all imaginable care to secure the happiness of another life; But seek ye first the kingdom os God, and his righteousness \ and all theje things shall be added unto you. In the handling of which argument,
First, I explained what is meant by the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.
Secondly, I shewed what is meant by seeking these; and what by seeking them first.
Thirdly I laid down some rules for our direction and furtherance in this great business.
I shall now proceed to represent to you, in the Fourth and last place, some of the most proper and powerful arguments and encouragements, to engage us to the minding of this great interest and concernment: Among which I shall, in the last place, particularly consider the encouragement here given in the text, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and hit righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
First, My first argument shall be from the worth and excellency of the things we seek, the kingdom es God and his righteousness; which are certainly the greatest and best things we can seek. The kingdovt os God is the eternal salvation of our souls, everlasting life and happiness in another world, which, to animate our endeavours, and to tempt our ambition the more, are set forth to us under the notion of a kingdom. And what will not men do to obtain that? what pains will they not take? what hazards will they not run? what difficulties will they not grapple with, and break through if they can, to come at a kingdom? which when they have obtained, they are exposed to as many, and commonly to more cares and fears, to greater difficulties and dangers in the keeping, than they were for the getting of it: And yet all this men will do for a corruptible crown, for one of the petty kingdoms and principalities of this world, which are continually tottering, and ready. to be overturned by open violence, or to be undermined by secret treachery. But the kingdom which I am speaking of, and persuading you and myself to seek aster, is not like the kingdoms of men, and of this world; it is called the kingdom os God, to signify to us the excellency and stability of it; as much beyond any of the kingdoms of this world, as the heavens are high above the earth, and as God is greater than man; a kingdom which cannot be shaken, a crown which sadeth not away, a scepter which cannot be wrested from us.
But to quit the metaphor, and speak to the thing; the kingdom of God imports the eternal salvation of our souls; I fay of our fouls, which both in respect of the dignity of our nature, and their immortal duration, are infinitely more valuable than any of the perishing things of this world, and ought to be much clearer to us. Other things are without us, they neither constitute our being, nor are essential to our happiness; but our souls are ourselves, and the loss of them is our utter ruin and destruction. So that nothing is to be regarded by us with equal care and concernment, as the salvation of our immortal souls; that is, that we may be rescued from eternal misery, and everlastingly happy in another world. Andean we be at too much cost and pains upon such a design, to escape so dismal a condition, so dreadful a ruin,
as as that of body and soul to all eternity? Can any man be concerned enough to bring about so great a good to himself? or, can he purchase it too dear, whatever he give or part with for it? a good so desirable, and so durable, as our being happy for ever. When we purchase the things of this world, the riches and honours of it, at the expence of so much time and care, and trouble, we pay dear for trifles and fancies; but eternal happiness is a jewel of so inestimable a price, that a wife merchant will have it at any rate, and sell all that he hath to purchase it. Of such value is the kingdom of God; and next to it is righteousness, which is the only way and means whereby this kingdom is to be attained, and therefore to be sought by us with the greatest diligence and earnestness: For that which is the only means to a great and desirable end, and which alone can make us capable of that end, and which in truth is a degree of it, is valuable next to the end, and almost equally with it; and such is righteousness, in respect of the kingdom of God; it is the only means to it, it is that alone which qualifies us, and makes us capable of happiness; nay, it is an essential ingredient into it, and that which does in a great measure constitute the happiness of heaven: for that temper of mind, that conformity and likeness to God, which holiness and righteousness brings us to, is the true foundation of our happiness, and according to the best apprehensions we have now of it, is the very formal cause and essence of our blessedness. So St. John tells us, 1 John iiu- 2. It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but -we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; that is, We do not now distinctly understand wherein the happiness of the next life consists, we are not able to frame a clear and perfect idea of it; but this we know in general, that it consists in our likeness to God, in a conformity to the moral perfections of the divine nature, which are exprest by the name of purity and holinejs; and therefore every one that hopes for the happiness of heaven, must endeavour aster holiness; every man that hath this hots in him, must purify himself, even as he is pure.
So that the things which I am pressing you to seek after, are most effectually recommended, by telling you what they are; the kingdom of God is eternal life and happiness, and his righteousness is universal holiness and goodness, without which no man is qualified for this blessed state. Now if there be any thing better than goodness, any thing more desirable than a happiness which hath no bounds, nor no end; do not mind them, nor look aster them: But if there be not; then certainly these are worthy of the care and endeavour of our whole life. i Standly, Another consideration that should very much excite and quicken our endeavour and diligence in seeking these things, is the difficulty of obtaining them. This, I confess, is no encouragements but it is a very good motive and argument to whet our industry in seeking these things, when we plainly fee that they are not be had upon other terms. And this consideration our Saviour ufeth to quicken us to strive, and to contend earnestly for eternal life, Matth. vii. 14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it: And Luke xiii. 24. Strive to enter in at the strait gate ; for many, I fay unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
Seeking here, in opposition to striving, is a faint and weak endeavour, which will not carry us through this narrow and difficult passage; and this is the reason why many miscarry, who make some attempts towards heaven; but they do not strive, they do not put forth any vigorous endeavours to get thither.
Now the difficulty of attaining eternal happiness, ariseth from the difficulty of the way and means to it; and it is therefore hard to attain the kingdom of God, because it is hard to attain his righteousness. As desirable as it is, it must be acknowledged very difficult fora man to raise himself to that temper and disposition os mind, so to subdue his lusts, and govern his passions, to bridle his tongue, and order all the actions of his life, as is necessary to .qualify him