This is a part of Christ's long sermon. He is dissuading his disciples and the people from carnal carefulness and worldly mindedness. The sermon holds out the Christian's diverse aspects towards spiritual and external things. What is the Christian's disposition in regard to the world, how should he look upon food, raiment, and all things necessary in this life? "Be careful for nothing." "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or drink," &c. "Seek them not as your chief good." But what is his disposition towards spiritual and eternal things, and how ought ye to look upon them? "Seek them, set your heart upon them, look upon them as your treasure, and where your treasure is, let your heart be there also." So then you see here two callings and employments of a man in the world, -- two universal callings that comprehend all men, one natural to us, and unlawful, the other divine, and lawful, the one paganish, the other Christian. What is the employment of all men out of Christ? There are many different callings and employments among men. One spends his time and thoughts one way, and another another way, but all of them agree in one general, whatever they are: Their heart is here. The thoughts they have are bounded and circumscribed in this present world. They are careful for nothing else but what concerns their back and belly,(482) or their name and credit. Take the best of them, whose employment seems most abstracted from the common affairs and distractions among men, yet their affections run no higher than this present world. On the other hand, what should be the exercise and employment of a Christian? It is even this, whatever he be, or whatever his occupation be among men, he drives a higher trade with heaven, that should take him up. The world gets but his spare hours. He is upon a more noble and high project. He aspires after a kingdom. His heart is above where Christ is, and where his treasure is. And these things exhaust his affections and pains. Christ Jesus once takes the man's heart off these baser things, that are not worthy of an immortal spirit, let be(483) a spirit who is a partaker of a divine nature. But because the creature cannot be satisfied within itself, its happiness depends upon something without itself, (and this speaks out the vanity of the creature, and something of God, that is peculiar to him, to be self sufficient,) therefore Christ changes the object of the heart, and fixes the spirit upon a nobler and divine exercise. Since the spirit of a man cannot abide within doors without starving, it must run out upon something, therefore Jesus Christ hath described its bounds and way, its end and period. Before, a man sought many things, because not one was satisfying, that the want of one might be supplied by another; and therefore he was never near the borders of contentment and happiness, because still a thousand things are wanting. But now, Christ puts the soul upon a satisfying and self sufficient object. And here the streams of affection may run in one current, and need not divide or go contrary ways.
First: We have here then the Christian's calling and employment in this world, opposed to the carefulness and worldly mindedness of the men of this world, "Seek ye the kingdom of God." Secondly: His encouragement and success in two things, one is expressed, the other implied. That which is expressed, is seeking the kingdom of God, of grace and glory. If ye seek this kingdom, all temporal things shall be laid to your hand, all these things that ye need "shall be added unto you." The other imported is, ye shall get the kingdom who seek it. For the words, "added unto you," suppose the first and principal intent to be gotten. Then the Christian's success and encouragement is this, ye shall have the thing ye seek and more also. It was said to Solomon, "Because thou hast sought wisdom, therefore thou shalt get all other things." Because, O Christian, thou sought the kingdom of God, and not this present world which Satan is prince of, therefore thou shalt get according to thy word, and thou shalt also get what thou asked not, 1 Kings iii.11-13. He hath success in the main business, and there is a superplus besides, some accession to his portion, that comes of will, so to speak. The kingdom of God in the New Testament is sometimes restricted to the elect, the word of the gospel, and the administration of it, by the Spirit of grace in the hearts of his people. This is frequently called "the kingdom of heaven," and "of God," Matth. xiii.33. Sometimes the kingdom of God is taken for the state of grace, a new principle of spiritual life, that grows up to the perfect day, and this kingdom is within us, Luke xvii.21. It is taken also for heaven, the kingdom of glory, Luke xxii.16. Both these must be sought after, (Luke xii.31.) and received, (Luke xviii.17.) and must suffer violence, Matth. xi.12. The righteousness thereof may be taken for the righteousness of God by faith, Rom. x.3, chap. iii.21, 22, 2 Cor. v.21, Rom. iv.11, 13, Rom. ix.30, chap. x.6, Heb. xi.7, Phil. iii.9.
We would observe here: I. That the Christian his name and occupation is to be a wanter and a seeker. II. The great exercise and employment he should have in this world, that which should swallow up his affections, thoughts, and endeavours, should be the kingdom of God and his righteousness, which is clearly expressed in three things: 1. His first and chief care should be to be at peace with God, and to be adorned with Christ's righteousness; 2. To have the kingdom of God within him, a throne of judgment erected for Christ to rule the whole man, by his Spirit according to the word; 3. To be made an heir here, and a possessor hereafter, of the everlasting kingdom of glory; 4. No man can either be a subject of God's gracious kingdom here, or his glorious kingdom hereafter, without the imputed righteousness of the Son of God, and whoever seeks righteousness must also seek the kingdom of God. These are joined together, and there is a great opposition between seeking of the world, and seeking grace and glory. Whoever is careful in these things cannot be diligent here. But rather seek the kingdom of God (Luke xii.31) also implies, 5. That whatever a man be, or his profession be, except he seek this way of righteousness, and yield himself unto God's kingdom of grace, and unless Christ rule in him, he is but a pagan, or infidel Gentile, in God's account. We return to the first of these, namely:
1st. That the Christian is a seeker. This is the ordinary description of a child of God, Psal. xxiv.6, Psal. xxvii.8. Many, at this time, call themselves Seekers.(484) They profess they seek a true church, and seek ordinances purely dispensed, but find none. But the child of God, the good Christian that seeks according to Christ's appointment, seeks not these things as if they were not, but he seeks God in ordinances, he seeks Christ in the church, he seeks grace and glory, honour and immortality, and eternal life. He is in the church, he hath the ordinances rightly administered, yet he wants the most part, till he find Jesus Christ in all these. Many seek corn, wine, or any worldly good thing, saying, "Who will show us any good?" Fie upon such a lax and indifferent spirit, that hath no discretion or sense of things that are good, that sees not one thing needful, and no more good than is necessary. But the child of God is a seeker different from these also, he seeks the favour and countenance of God, Psal. iv.6, 7. He seeks wisdom above all things, Prov. ii.4. He seeks but one good thing, because there is but one good thing necessary. The seeking Christian is a wanter, one that hath nothing, and finds it so. He wants, and knows he wants, else he would never seek. What wants he? Nay, rather ask, what hath he? It may soon be told what he hath, but it is hard to tell what he wants. Look what he hath, and ye find little or nothing, and therefore ye may conclude he wants all things. The text tells what he wants: (1) He wants righteousness; (2) He wants grace; (3) He wants glory, and hath no right to it. Men seek not what they carry from the womb. Therefore all men have come into the world with three great wants. (1.) Ye want righteousness. Ye cannot stand before God in the terms of strict justice. There is nothing ye have, or can do, but it is a menstruous cloth, Isa. lxiv.6. All your religion and prayers will never commend you to God's holy justice. The scripture hath passed this sentence upon you all, "There is none righteous, no not one," Rom. iii.10. The righteousness that the law of God requires is perfect, and complete, and exact. Either lay down the whole sum, or if it want a farthing it is no payment. Keep all the nine commands, but if ye break the tenth the nine will not suffice. Now all of you have sinned and corrupted your ways, and it is impossible to make up the want. As the redemption of the soul is precious and ceases for ever, so the broken and dyvour(485) man having become a bankrupt, shall never make up or pay his debt to all eternity. He hath once broken the command, and all your keeping afterwards will not stand for the obedience ye should always have given to it. Therefore sinners of the posterity of Adam, and wretched men by nature, see this great want and impossibility to recover it in yourselves. (2.) Ye likewise want all grace by nature. There is no delusion more ordinary than this, that the world thinks grace is very common. But believe it, Sirs, that all men came from the womb without grace, get it as ye will. Look what the scripture speaks of the whole race of Adam, "There is no fear of God before their eyes," Rom. iii.18. They are without Christ, without hope, and without God in the world, aliens from the covenants of promise, Eph. ii.1-3, 12. Let grace be as common as can be, yet all of you once wanted it. Ye have it not by birth, nor by education, nor by baptism. Ye think perhaps a baptized soul cannot be graceless, but know it for a truth that ye have neither legal righteousness nor evangelical holiness. All of you have wofully fallen from righteousness, and therefore ye lie, with Adam's posterity, without hope in the world Grace and truth must come from above by Jesus Christ Grace and glory are the gifts of God. (3.) The sinner also comes short of the glory of God, Rom. iii.23. All sinners are born heirs of hell and wrath, without the hope of happiness. There is none born with a title to the kingdom of heaven, or any right to it. Man in his fall lost his right to eternal life and immortality, and hath purchased a doleful right to the Lord's wrath and to hell fire. Ye think it strange that any christened or baptized person should be damned, but the scripture knows no difference. "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing, but a new creature, and faith which worketh by love." Neither to be a member of the visible church nor a pagan avails any thing, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Now what have ye since ye want righteousness? Ye want grace and ye want glory, and in the place of these ye have unrighteousness, all sin, all God's curses and wrath, and this makes up complete misery. In a word, ye want God and Christ, and this is all, and enough for all, Eph. ii.12. Ye have, by nature, more sibness(486) with Satan, and nearer relation to him, than to God, and if ye want God, what can ye have beside? Your abundance is want. As all things are theirs who are Christ's, so nothing is theirs who are not God's. In short, there is not in all the creation such a miserable creature as man, whom God hath magnified and exalted above the angels, and the rest of the works of his hands. Now all men want these, but no man knows this but the Christian, whose eyes Christ hath opened, and to whom he hath given eye salve. Laodicea was blind and saw not, but she thought she was rich enough, when she had nothing, Rev. iii.17, 18. The man, who will discourse well on all the miseries of this life, and human infirmities, may be ignorant of these things. There is no man but knows some want. But what is it he misses? Nothing but what concerns his present being and well being in this world, and so the world may supply it. But the Christian wants something this vain world will not make up. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon the earth I desire beside thee," says the soul that hath found God. And whom want I in heaven but thee? (Psal. lxxiii.25, 26) says the soul that seeks God. He wants God's favour, and the light of his reconciled countenance, Psal. iv.6. If ye ask him, what seek ye, what want ye in all the world? He answers, "And now. Lord, what wait I for?" My heart and "my hope is in thee," Psal. xxxix.7. None needed ask at Mary, "Whom seekest thou?" Any body that knows her, knows her want. It is he, the Christ Jesus, and she thinks all the world should want him, and seek him with her, and thinks no body should be ignorant of him; for she speaks to the gardener, as if there had been no other in the world, John xx.15. But,
2dly. His wants put him to seeking, to diligence. He misses something, and O it is a great something, infinitely more than he is worth in the world! He wants being and well being. He thinks himself as good as lost, and he comes at length to some point of resolution, with the lepers of Samaria, (2 Kings vii.3, 4.) "Why sit we here till we die? If we enter into the city there is famine, if we sit still we perish, if we go out we may find bread." And so the poor soul, with Mordecai and Esther, comes to this conclusion, "If I perish, I perish;" nothing but perishing as I am, I will go and seek salvation in Jesus Christ, and it may be I will find it. Who knows but he may turn again? Resolution is born a man at first, a giant. It goes out to the utmost border of want the first day. Wanting makes desire, and desire, attended with some hope, makes up resolution and purpose, and when the soul is thus principled, then in the third room,(487) it comes forth to action. Desire and hope give legs to the soul for the journey, and now the wanting Christian ye shall find with his hand in every good turn, his feet in every ordinance. Ye shall find him praying, reading, and hearing. It is true, resolution is born a man, and practice is born but a child, and scarcely will come up in many years to the stature of resolution. Always(488) diligence and violence is the qualification of his practice, (Heb. xi.6, Matth. xi.12) and this is written upon his using of means, "How love I the Lord! I am sick of love." The Christian's diligence in the use of means proclaims his earnest desire to obtain, whereas many a man's practice speaks but a coldrife and indifferent spirit. That is a neutral who cares not whether he obtain or miss. Some Christians have some missings of God, and spiritual things, but alas! their want, and sight of want, makes them twice miserable, because it puts not their hand to action. The slothful and sluggard's desire slays him, because his hands refuse to labour, Prov. xxi.25. O! but he finds many difficulties in the way. Though he have half a wish, or a raw(489) desire after Christ, yet it never comes farther than a conditional wish. A beggar may wish to be a king. He comes to no purpose in it and therefore his way is called a hedge of thorns. Whereas a seeking Christian finds a plain path where he goes, Prov. xv.19. The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the way, and a lion in the streets." He concludes upon the means and duties of religion before ever he try them, Prov. xxii.13, Prov. xix.24. How lazy is he! He will not bring his hand out of his bosom, when he hath put it in. Thus the lazy and secure Christian is a brother to a great waster, his desire consumes him. He hath no more religion than a spunk(490) of desire; and he sits down with this spark of his own kindling, and the life of religion thrives not upon his hand, Prov. xviii.9, 12. His seeking must have violence with it, Matth. xi.12. But we may also observe concerning the Christian, that he is,
3dly. Defined on this side of time as a seeker. In heaven he is an enjoyer, and he seeks no more; for how can the ox low over his fodder? He sits down to eat the fruit and sweat of his labour, and well may he triumphantly say, as the ancient philosopher said, "I have found, I have found."(491) But here he is a seeker still. Whatever he miss, he is still a seeker, and whatever he find, he is yet a seeker. He is named not from his finding, but his seeking, not from his enjoyment or attainment, but from his endeavour and aim. Though he find righteousness in Jesus, and remission of sins, yet he is a seeker of grace; though he be justified, yet he seeks holiness. There are many who would seek no more of God than pardon of sin. Let him deliver them from hell, and they will trouble God with no more requests. Doth not some of your own consciences speak, that ye would seek no more from Christ than to be saved from an ill hour, and to be found in him; whereas Paul was not content with this, but made an holy gradation, as we read, Philip iii.8, &c. He desired to know the power of Christ's resurrection, and to be made conformable to him by any means; and now, when he is found in Christ, and justified, he counts not himself well, or perfect and complete, or to have attained that which he struggled earnestly for. Would not many be content with a Saviour, but they love not to hear of a king to rule over them, nor of his laws to regulate their lives by? They love an imputed holiness, as well as righteousness. But the true seeker seeks grace within him. Though he be justified, or freed from guilt and condemnation, and have the righteousness of Christ to cover him, and though he should never come into condemnation for sin, yet he seeks the death and destruction of it in his soul, and the life of holiness implanted and perfected in his inward man. Though he is sure of heaven, yet he would have God's image upon his spirit, and whole man.
4thly. Whatever degree of grace he have or attain, yet he is still a wanter, and still a seeker. He counts not himself to have attained, or to be already perfect, but presses forward to gain the mark and prize of God's high calling, Phil. iii.13, 14. He stands at no pitch, but forgets what is behind, and overlooks it, he thinks it not worthy to come in reckoning. There is still so much before his hand, that he apprehends it to be lost time to reckon what is passed. His aim is to perfect holiness in the fear of God. He endeavours to be holy as God is holy, who is the completest pattern of unspotted purity and uprightness, and to be holy in all manner of conversation. He goes from strength to strength, till he appear blameless before God; he seeks grace for grace, Psal. lxxxiv.5-8. And truly the man who seeks the exact copy or pattern, Jesus Christ, who is gone before his people into heaven, and he who knows the spiritual command in all its dimensions, he will not say "I have found," but will still want more than he hath, and seek what he wants. There are some professors who have attained some pitch and degree, as it were, the first day, and never advance further. They have gotten a gift of prayer, some way of discharging duties, some degree in profession, and they want no more. Look on them some years after, and ye would say, they have sought no more. And truly he who seeks no more shall never be able to keep what he hath already, as a fire must soon die away if ye add not new fuel to it. Christians are not green in old age, because they have come to a pitch in their religion, and stand there. No, religion should not come to its stature hereaway.(492) This is but the time of its minority. Grace should be still on the growing hand. The grace of God is but a child here. Heaven and eternity make up the man. Glory is the man, who was once the child grace.
5thly. The good Christian is still a seeker till Christ be all in all, till he apprehend that for which he is apprehended. As long as he is in this world he is a seeker. Whereof, ye will say? Not only of more grace here, but of glory hereafter. Here he hath no continuing city, but he seeks one to come, Heb. xiii.14. He is a pilgrim on earth, embracing the promises afar off, and seeking his country, even heaven itself, Heb. xi.13, &c. All your present enjoyments in this world, your own houses and lands, would not make you think yourselves at home, if ye were Christians at the heart. Ye would miss consolation, ye would want happiness in the affluence of all created things. And therefore, Christians, do ye want nothing when all things go according to your mind? Is there no hole in your heart that a world cannot fill up? This is not well. Ye ought to seek a city, while ye are in your own country, and ye should never think yourselves at home till ye be in heaven. The Christian gets some taste of the fruits of the land, some clusters in the wilderness and house of his pilgrimage, and this makes him long to be there. This inflames the soul's desire, and turns it all in motion to seek that which was so sweet. If hope be so sweet, what shall the thing possessed be? If a grape brought a savour and taste so refreshful, what must the grapes plucked from the tree of life be, and the rivers of pleasures, which are at God's right hand, for evermore be? Sit not down then, Christians, upon your enjoyments, whether they be worldly or spiritual, but aspire to high things.