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ordinate 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 injoined ; for in this case God hath expressly declared, that he will have mercy, and not sacrifice. Upon which ground our Saviour declares, that the law of the fabbath ought to give place to works of mercy. Upon the same account peace and charity are to be valued above matters of nicety and scruple, of doubtful dispute and controverfy.; because: the former are unquestionably good, the latter doubtfully and uncertainly fo

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 ftir 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 devo-tion, and yet be destitute of the power and life of it, and fall short of that inward, and real, and substantial righteousness, which along can qualify us for the kingdom of God.

The fifth and last direction I would give, is this, That we have a particular regard to the great duty of charity or almigiving, this being very frequently in fcripture called righteousness, as being an eminent part of religion, and a great evidence of the truth and fincerity 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 beavens which faileth not. And elsewhere our Saviour speaks of this grace and virtue, as that which, above all others, will make way for our admission into heaven,

Luke

Luke xvi. 9. I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you (or ye may be received) into es verlasting habitations. And St Paul calls it laying in store for ourselves a goot foundation, or (as the word may better be rendered in this place), a good treasure against the time to come, that we may lay hold on éternal life, i Tim. vi. 29. St James speaks of it as a main and most effential part of religion, and the great evidence of a true and sincere piety, James i. 27. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their af: fiction. Finally, our Lord instanceth in this, as the. very thing which will admit us into, or shut us out of heaven; by the performance whereof we shall be abfolved, and for the neglect whereof we shall be condemned in the judgement of the great day, Matth. xiv.: so that this 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 doth so much depend.

The fourth and last thing only remains to be fpoken to, which is, To set before you the most proper and powerful motives and encouragements to the minding of this great interest and concernment. But: this will be the subject of another discourse.

SER

117

S E R M O N

XCV.

Religion our first and great concernment.

MATTH. vi. 33. But seek ye firft the kingdom of God, and his righteouf

nefs ; and all these things shall be added unto yout.

The second sermon on this text.

ΤΗΣ

Hese 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 of God, and his righteousness; and all these things fall be added unto you. In the handling of which ar. gument,

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 feeking them firft.

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 njoft proper and powerful arguments and enccuragements to engage us to the minding of this great interest and concerniment : Among which I shall, in the last place, particularly consider the encouragement here given in the text, Seek se first the kingdom of God, and his righteousnefs, and all these things shall be added unto you.

First, My firft argument shall be from the worth and excellency of the things we seck, The kingdom of God, and bis righteousness ; which are certainly the : greatest and best things we can seek. The kingdom.

of

of God is the eternal falvation of our fouls, everlasting life and happiness in another world, which, to aniinate 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 difficuties 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 after, is not like the kingdoms of men, and of this world. It is called the kingdom of God, to fignify 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 car: not be maken, - a crown which fadeth not away, a sceptre which cannot be wreited from us.

But to quit the metaphor, and speak to the thing; the kingdoin of God imports the eternal salvation of our souls ; I say of our souls, which, both in respea of the dignity. of their nature, and their immortal duration, are infinitely more valuable than any of the perishing things of this world, and ought to be much dearer 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 falvation of our immortal souls , that is, that we may be rescued from eternal misery, and everlastingly happy in another world. And can we be at too much cost and pains upon such a design, to escape so dismal a condition, fo dreadful a ruin, as

that

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 fo inestimable a price, that a wise 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 fought 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. ' at 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 iii. 2. It doth not yet appear what we shall be ;

but know, that when he mall 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 exprefled by the name of purity and holiness; and therefore every one that hopes for the happiness of heaven, must endeavour after holiness: Every man that hath this hope in him, muft purify himself, evin asle is pure.

So

we

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