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My kingdom, saith our blessed Saviour, is not of this world; by which we may be assured that no wordlings are of his kingdom.
We have a farther representation of the contrariety that there is. betwixt this kingdom and the concerns of this world. A certain man, saith our Lord, made a great supper, and bade many, and sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, come, for all things are now ready; and they all, with one consentz began to make excuse. The first said, I hare bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them, I pray thee have me excused; another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
We find that the master of the house was angry, and said, None of those men which
Luke xiv. 16. bidden shall taste of my supper..
Our Saviour, a little afterwards, applies it all in this manner, Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. We are told, that when the chief priests and pharisees heard our Saviour's parables, they perceived Matt. xxi. 45. that he spake of them.
If Christians, hearing the above-recited parable, are not pricked in their hearts, and do not feel that our Saviour speaks of them, it must be owned that they are more hardened than Jews, and more insincere than pharisecs.
This parable teaches us, that not only the vices, the wickedness and vanity of this world, but even its most lawful and allowed concerns, render men unable to enter, and unworthy to be received into the true state of Christianity.
That he who is busied in an honest and lawful calling, may, on that account, be as well rejected by God, as he who is vainly employed in foolish and idle pursuits.
That it is no more pardonable to be less affected to the things of religion, for the sake of any worldly business, than for the indulgence of our pride, or any other passion : it farther teaches us, that Christianity is a calling that puts an end to all other callings; that we are no longer to consider it as our proper state or employment to take care of oxen, look after an estate, or attend the most plausible affairs of life; but to reckon every condition equally trifling, and fit to be neglected, for the sake of the one thing needful.
Men of serious business and management generally censure those who trifle away their time in idle and impertinent pleasures, as vain and foolish, and unworthy of the Christian profession.
But they do not consider that the business of the world, where they think they show such a manly skill and address, is as vain as vanity itself; they do not consider that the cares of an employment, an attention to business, if it has got hold of the heart, renders men as vain and odious in the sight of God as any other gratification.
For though they may call it an honest care, a creditable industry, or by any other plausible name; yet it is their particular gratification, and a wisdom that can no more recommend itself to the eyes of God than the wisdom of an epicure.
For it shows as wrong a turn of mind, as false a judgment, and as great a contempt of the true goods, to neglect any degrees of piety for the sake of business, as for any of the most trifling pteasures of life.
The wisdom of this world gives an importance, an air of greatness to several ways of life, and ridicules others as vain and contemptible, which differ only in their kind of vanity; but the wisdom from above condemns all labour as equally fruitless, but that which labours after everlasting life. Let but religion determine the point, and what can it signify, whether a man forgets God in his farm, or a
shop, or at a gaming-table? For the world is full as great and important in its pleasures, as in its cares; there is no more wisdom in the one than in the other; and the Christian that is governed by either, and made less affected to the things of God by them, is equally odious and contemptible in the sight of God.
And though we distinguish betwixt cares and pleasures, yet if we would speak exactly, it is pleasure alone that governs and moves us in every state of life. And the man who, in the business of the world, would be thought to pursue it, because of its use and importance, is as much governed by his temper and taste for pleasures as he who studies the gratification of his palate, or takes his delight in running foxes and hares out of breath.
For there is no wisdom or reason in any thing but religion, nor is any way of life less vain than another, but as it is made serviceable to piety, and conspires with the designs of religion, to raise mankind to a participation and enjoyment of the divine nature.
Therefore does our Saviour equally call men from the cares of employments, as from the pleasures of their senses; because they are equally wrong turns of mind, equally nourish the corruption of our nature, and are equally nothing, when compared to that high state of glory, which, by his sutierings and death, he has merited for us.
Perhaps Christians, who are not at all ashamed to be devoted to the cares and business of the world, cannot better perceive the weakness and folly of their designs, than by comparing them with such states of life as they own to be vain and foolish, and contrary to the temper of religion.
Some people have no other care than how to give their palate some fresh pleasure, and enlarge the happiness of tasting. I desire to know now wherein consists the sin or baseness of this care?
Others live to no other purpose than to breed dogs, and attend the sports of the field.
Others think all their time dull and heavy which is not spent in the pleasures and diversions of the town.
Men of sober business, who seem to act the grave part of life, generally condemn these ways of life.
Now I desire to know upon what account they are to be condemned ? For produce but the true reason why any of these ways of life are vain and sinful, and the same reason will conclude with the same strength against every state of life, but that which is entirely devoted to God.
Let the ambitious man but show the folly and irregularity of covetousness, and the same reasons will show the folly and irregularity of ambition.
Let the man who is deep in worldly business but show the vanity and shame of a life that is devoted to pleasures, and the same reasons will as fully set forth the vanity and shame of worldly cares. So that whoever can condemn sensuality, ambition, or any way of life, upon the principles of reason and religion, carries his own condemnation within his own breast, and is that very person which he despises, unless his life be entirely devoted to God.
For worldly. cares are no more holy or virtuous than worldly pleasures; they are as great a mistake in life, and when they equally divide or possess the heart, are equally vain and shameful as any sensual gratifications.
It is granted that some cares are made necessary by the necessities of nature; and the same also may be observed of some pleasures; the pleasures of eating, drinking, and rest, are equally necessary; but yet if reason and religion do not limit these pleasures by the necessities of nature, we fall from rational creatures into drones, sots, gluttons, and epicures
In like manier our care after some worldly
things is necessary; but if this care is not bounded by the just wants of nature; if it wanders into unnecessary pursuits, and fills the mind with false desires and cravings; if it wants to add an imaginary splendor to the plain demands of nature, it is vain and irregular; it is the care of the epicure, a longing for sauces and ragouts, and corrupts the sous like any other sensual indulgence.
For this reason our Lord points his doctrines at the most common and allowed employments of life, to teach us that they may employ our minds as falsely, and distract us as far from our true good, as any trifles and vanity.
He calls us from such cares, to convince us that even the necessities of life must be sought with a a kind of indifference, that so our souls may be truly sensible of greater wants, and disposed to hunger and thirst after enjoyments that will make us happy for ever,
But how unlike are Christians to Christianity! It commands us to take no thought, saying, what shall we cat, or what shall we drink? Yet Christians are restless and laborious till they can eat in plate.
It commands us to be indifferent about raiment; but Christians are full of care and concern to be clothed in purple and fine linen; it enjoins us to take no thought for the morrow, yet Christians think they have lived in vain, if they do not leave estates at their death. Yet these are the disciples of that Lord, who saith, Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
It must not be said, that there is some defect in these doctrines, or that they are not plainly enough taught in Scripture, because the lives and behaviour of Christians is so contrary to them; for if the spirit of the world, and the temper of Christians, might be alledged against the doctrines of Scripture, none of them would have lasted to this day.