« PreviousContinue »
the same form and order, which he had before conceived in the eternal ideas of his own mind. Now, since all things are by participation from the First Cause, and all their perfections are but faint strictures and glimmering resemblances of his, it is most unreasonable that those should belong to themselves, who were made by another; and that they should be their own, who, without his influence and efficacy, had still been nothing.
 All other beings are Dependent, and owe their continued preservation to the goodness and powerful influx of God.
Indeed, preservation is nothing else, but a prolonged production. For, as we see the light of the sun preserved in the air, by a constant emanation that it hath from the sun; and that, as bright and glorious a creature as it is, yet it cannot subsist one moment upon its own succours; and that there needs nothing else to blot it out of our hemisphere, and to involve all in night and darkness, but only the sun's withdrawing itself: so is it with us, in respect of God. We depend upon him, as necessarily as the light depends upon the sun: he is the fountain of our life and being : the continuance of it, thus long, is by a continual emanation and streaming of it forth from him: should he withdraw his preserving influence from us, we should instantly dissolve, and fall all abroad into nothing. And, therefore, it were insupportable arrogance for us to think ourselves our own; who are what we are by his creating power, and while we are by his preserving influence.
 All other beings are Subordinate to the First; made for his ends and uses, and to be employed in his service.
Never had there been any such thing as a world and creatures in it, but that the all-wise God intended them all as the instruments of promoting his glory. And this they all do. Some, indeed, only objectively; as brute and inanimate creatures, by exhibiting the prints and footsteps of the power, and wisdom, and being of their Almighty Creator: and, therefore, the Psalmist tells us, that the heavens declare the glory of God; Ps. xix. 1. that is, the beauty, splendor, and harmony of that most excellent piece of the creation, do evidently demonstrate the infinite wisdom, power, and majesty of the great Architect; who hath framed such a glorious roof for our house here on earth, and so glorious a pavement for his own in heaven. But, because glory requires celebration, therefore God hath created other ranks of rational and intellectual beings, who might actively
serve and glorify him; and, by taking notice of his attributes, so conspicuously shining forth in the works of Creation and Providence, ascribe unto him the praise that is due unto his name for such his wonderful works: and these are angels and men; both which he made for himself, in a more especial and peculiar inanner; communicating to them more exalted perfections, and more express resemblances of his divine attributes, than to other inferior things. And, although endless multitudes of these have, by their apostacy and rebellion, defeated the primary end of their creation, refusing to glorify God actively: yet God will certainly fetch his glory out of them; and, that they may not be made in vain, will glorify himself upon them passively, in inflicting that wrath and vengeance, that shall make him known and revered as an infinitely just and jealous God: though they transgress the law of their own natures, yet they cannot transgress the law of the Divine Providence: God will make them serve to the promoting of his glory; if not voluntarily, as the vessels of his mercy, yet by constraint and a sad necessity, as the objects of his wrath and fury. And thus Solomon tells us, that God hath made all things for himself ; yea, even the wicked also for the day of wrath : and so, likewise, in that doxology of the elders, Rev. iv. 11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created : and therefore, certainly, if all things were created for God as their highest and ultimate end, all things are his, and not their own ; and the right and title to them is in him, by whom and for whom they were made.
And thus you see the Import of this Phrase, Ye are not your own ; that is, you are not supreme, absolute, independent beings, left only to your own ways and wills; but ye are God's; created, supported, and governed by him, and accountable to him for all your actions.
Indeed the Apostle, in the text, gives us another reason why we are not our own: and that is, upon the account of our Redemption by Christ: Ye are not your own : for ye are bought with a price. Redemption gives him as much, if not a greater title to you, than Creation : for it was not so considerable an effect of the divine power and goodness, to create, as to redeem you: the one was but the expence of his breath; the other is the expence of his blood. But, because this falls in with the second part of the text, I shall at present wave it, reserving it to its proper place.
Briefly, therefore, when the Apostle saith Ye are not your own, it is as much as if he had said, “ You have no right nor title to yourselves : ye are not your own proprietors, nor to look upon yourselves as lords over your own beings. There is another Lord, to whom ye appertain; and that is God: whose right you infinitely wrong, if you acknowledge not yourselves to be his inheritance and possession.” Indeed it is a sacrilegious invading of the divine prerogative, for any creature to pretend to be its own, or to live as though it were so. This is no less, than impiously to ascribe an all-sufficiency to itself.
And, thus much, for the First General, what it implies not to be our own.
2. Let us consider what it Infers, and what Obligation it lays upon us.
And this I shall endeavour to shew you, in these following corollaries.
(1) If we are not our own, then certainly we ought not to seek our own.
Self-seeking is the very bane of Christianity. It is that worm, that lies at the root, and eats out the very life and sap of it. A self-seeking Christian is a downright contradiction, an absurdity in religion : for the very first lesson, that Christ teaches in his school, is that hard one of self-denial; and our Saviour hath told us, that whosoever refuseth to deny himself, and to take his cross, cannot be his disciple.
But, as there is in every Christian a twofold self: a spiritual, heaven-born self, the new man, the divine nature, the impress and stamp of the image of God upon the soul, consisting in the sanctifying principles both of knowledge and holiness, and all the habits of special grace infused into us by the Holy Ghost in our first conversion; and, likewise, an earthy, dreggy, and inferior self, the utmost tendency of which is only the satisfying of the sensual part of man, and all its good things are only such as the world and its stock can furnish it withal : as, I
there is this twofold self in every true Christian, so must we distinguish likewise of a twofold self-seeking.
 There is a seeking of those things, which are grateful and pleasing to the Spiritual Self of a good Christian; those, which may promote its interests and concerns, and make it flourishing and vigorous in us.
And this is a self-seeking so far from being condemned, that it is our highest praise and glory. The tendency of the new nature is towards Two things:
The Increase of Grace in us, here; and
The Participation of Glory, hereafter.
But, for the Second, some have been so weak as to doubt, whether we might make the eternal glory and happiness of our souls the end of our duties and endeavours : and, with many high-flown inconsistencies, that seem to have in them much of spiritual rapture, but indeed are nothing else but idle dreams and false delusions, tell us that we must serve and obey God only out of love and gratitude, neither for hope of reward, nor fear of punishment; and condemn all that obedience, which respects these, as sordid and mercenary, unworthy of the true and generous spirit of the Gospel. But, if we should tell these men, that they pretend to a greater degree of spiritualness than ever Moses did, possibly their pride and self-conceit would make them assume it: for, alas! Moses was but a
Old Testament Saint, and we read of him, Heb. xi. 26. that he had respect unto the recompence of the reward : but, though they think themselves more spiritual than he, what! are they likewise more spiritual than St. Paul? and yet he tells us, Phil. iii. 13, 14. that he reached forth unto those things, which are before, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus : or have they attained to an elevation of spiritualness beyond our Lord Jesus Christ himself? of whom the Apostle witnesseth, Heb. xii. 2. that, for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame. It is allowable, therefore, yea it is necessary, to be selfish; to consider our own interest and our own advantage, in this case: for, since our very nature is so tempered, that the two great advantages which we have to quicken it, are hopes and fears, I shall very much doubt that those will prove but slothful and negligent Christians, who shall, out of a fond conceit of greater spiritualness and perfection, lay these spurs aside; and pretend to make use of other arguments, which, though they seem more specious, yet, I am sure, must needs be less effectual,
Others again, who do allow that our obedience may be directed unto God, with an eye and respect unto the reward which he hath promised us, yet question whether we ought chiefly and principally to regard our own 'happiness or his honour,
ur own glory or his. I answer: This is but a nice and needless scruple: and, though many infirm and tender spirits may be much puzzled in directing their obedience, yet this solicitude is but vain ; for, whilst they do either, they do both: for what is the glory of God's grace and mercy ? is it not the accomplishment of our salvation and therefore, certainly, whilst I endeavour to promote mine own salvation, I do as much endeavour to promote the glory of God: although, perhaps, in every duty I do it not with a distinct particular act of reflection ; yet, so long as I endeavour to promote mine own salvation, I do implicitly and interpretatively endeavour the advancement of God's glory; for that is the next and immediate means to this: we need not, therefore, be anxious, whether we seek ourselves, or the honour of God; for, in thus seeking ourselves, we do nothing else but seek bis honour and glory. Let us again consider what is our happiness and felicity: our objective happiness, is the infinite and boundless good, even God himself; our formal happiness, is our clear vision and full fruition of him, and the near conjunction of our souls unto him by love and inherence: now, certainly, bis infinite goodness will never reject those duties as sordid and mercenary, that aspire to no greater, no other reward but the enjoyment of himself: in thus seeking ourselves, we seek God; and, the more intensely we thus love our own souls, the more supremely do we love God, while we breathe and pant after the fruition of him with the holy impatience of an amorous spirit : in this sense, therefore, although we are not our own, yet we may seek our own: we appertain not to ourselves, but to God; yet, certainly, when this self which we seek hath God for its object and end, we seek him in seeking of ourselves.
And that is the First kind of seeking, which is not only warrantable but necessary.
 There is a seeking of those things, which are only conducible to the ease, profit, and advantage of the Natural and Earthy Self.
And these St. John hath briefly summed up in three things : the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life :