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This selfish disposition is mean, vile, and sinful. Patriotism itself, if it be supposed to imply a seeking the advancement of one country at the expense of all others, is no virtue, but a vice! Or, if it could be supposed that a man might have a regard to the whole human race, while he was an enemy to all other intelligent beings, and especially to the Supreme Being, he would still be but a sordid, selfish wretch !
Unrenewewed men, if conscience is awakened, and excites them to some attendance to their eternal interests, mind only self. If sufficiently terrified, they will reform, pray, and cry for mercy, and think there is a vast deal of merit in their so doiug; though they have no regard to God in all they do, but merely to self-interest. They still hate the law of God, and scorn the gospel of Christ. They wish to secure their lusts, or self-righteousness, or both; and will give up no more than what they cannot help. They submit feignedly. Their repentance is all a forced thing. If they seem to fall in with the gospel, they give it but a partial reception. They care for Christ only on a selfish account. All their zeal and love is founded on a persuasion of their own safety and exaltation. They are for all privilege, and no duty. They have no notion of entering much into the nature and design of the law and the gospel, and seeing the divine glory. They know as much of God's general character, of the things which David prayed to behold, and which angels desire to look into, as they expect or desire to know.
But renewing grace implants a superior affection in the human breast: a principle of holy love, of disinterested benevolence. It unites the heart to the Supreme Being, and to beings in general. It expands the bosom, enlarges the heart, causes the soul to delight in the diffusion of good, and exult in the communication of happiness from the fulness of God. God himself is loved above all, and his glory is treated as the chief end of the renewed soul. He aspires after his favor, and cannot bear separation from him; but this blessedness is sought only in the way of righteousness. He could not be happy on the supposition that God, in the bestowment of salvation, had disregarded his own honor. He regards also the happiness of others, as of equal importance with his
own; and though he cannot equally exert himself for every individual around him, yet he feels a new kind of regard for the welfare of all mankind. He seeks his own happiness, not at the expense of others, but as a part of the great whole, which deserves his highest regard, and that which is most immediately committed to his care. To such a generous soul, how precious must Christ be, who alone has rendered the salvation of sinners consistent with the divine glory and the general good; and whose salvation is of such a nature, that the happiness of each one adds to the happiness of all.
But alas! how rare, and how small in degree, is this religion! How few have any thing of it! How little have those few! How deficient are most Christians in disinterested love to the honor of Christ, and the advancement of his glorious cause! How generally are they taken up with other things, rather than with the interests of his kingdom! How much is the love of many confined to a party! How backward are most to duties which require self-denial. We are seldom willing to put ourselves out of the way for God's glory, or the good of others. And yet,
SECONDLY, A disinterested regard to the things of Christ is most reasonable; and a preference of selfish concerns highly criminal.
Justice requires us to seek the things of Christ Jesus, in preference to any concerns of our own. What are we, compared with him and his kingdom? Col. i. 17. John i. 3. As a particle of water is small, compared with a generous stream, and much more with the mighty ocean; or the dust of the balance with the solar system; so the humble man feels small before the great family of his fellow-creatures, and less than nothing compared with the infinite God. The kingdom of Christ is of infinite importance, as it contains all that is valuable on earth, and stands connected with all that is glorious in heaven.
Gratitude to Christ requires that we should seek his interest above our own. For how did he deny himself for us! He became poor for our sakes, emptied himself, made himself of no reputation, and became obedient unto death. What ingratitude is it to neglect his cause!
Wisdom requires that we should seek the things of Christ, for self-seeking is arrant folly; he that finds his life shall lose it, &c. Our highest interest is best promoted by our devoting ourselves without reserve to our Redeemer. Our personal happiness would be greatly advanced were we but more public spirited, and more concerned for the cause of the blessed Saviour.
O that we had more of Timothy's spirit! Our Lord has expressly taught us, that no one can be his disciple without self-denial and indeed selfishness is the very root and essence of sin, and generous disinterested love is the very root and essence of holiness. Therefore, said our Lord, (Matt. x. 37.) "Whoso loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." And in Luke xiv. 26. "If he hate not these, yea, his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
AGAINST WORLDLY ANXIETY.
PHIL. iv. 6, 7.
Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
THE Apostle, drawing toward the close of this Epistle, adds, as usual, a variety of exhortations to particular duties. But the duties to which he exhorts, may well give us the most exalted ideas of the privileges of a child of God. How affectionately does he address the saints in general; and, after some particular charges to individuals, he exhorts all believers to rejoice in the Lord, or to consider it as their duty to be joyful in their God, even at all times, though in the midst of tribulation. Then he charges them to manifest that moderation towards all earthly joys and sorrows, which must naturally spring from the consideration that the Lord is at hand; that he is ever ready to succour them, and interpose
in their behalf, and will soon come to judgment. words of our text contain—
FIRST, A caution. "Be anxious for nothing."
Certainly, the Apostle does not mean to inculcate stupid indifference, giddy thoughtlessness, wicked carelessness. He does not require us to be indifferent to natural good and evil; insensible of pleasure or pain, or careless of what may befal us. Much less would he wish us to be unconcerned respecting moral good and evil; careless how we act; neither concerned to avoid sin, nor attend to duty. But he means to guard us against inordinate, distrustful, anxious care, which is sinful and injurious. His words imply, that we are liable to various changes, which bring on new wants, new dangers, new cares and fears. And we are very apt, in such cases, to be over anxious, with that carefulness which implies a distrust of God, an idolatrous attachment to instruments of good, or a dependance on them, as though God could not do us good without them; and an inordinate dread of impending evils, as if God could not guard us from them. This kind of anxiety is very tormenting, very useless, very prejudicial, and very sinful. It unfits for present duty, and exposes to many temptations.
Remember, there is no affliction that can now be upon you, or impending over you, but the Lord knows how to prevent it, remove it, or overrule it for good. We are exceedingly incompetent judges what is best for us, of all that is before us. Eccles. vi. 12. Certainly, it is good for us to be brought to a more sensible consideration, both of our continual need of God, and of his all-sufficiency. Absolute submission to the divine will, will do us ten times more good, than any creature comfort whatever. No temporal loss or affliction can befall us but by his will, and his presence can make ample amends for all.
But may we not be more anxious in cases wherein our spiritual interests are concerned? Ans. Doubtless, you should be earnestly solicitous to know what is your own duty, and do it; and to know what is wrong, and avoid it and to do all you can to assist others in so doing; and then leave events with God. But that may be best even for your soul,
which seems far otherwise to you. Nor have you room, if you are earnestly concerned for spiritual blessings, to believe you shall be finally denied.
SECONDLY: A direction. "In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
The general rule is, Make your requests known unto God. In every thing, points out the universality of its application; to all cases whatever; there are none too difficult, none too trivial. By prayer, refers, perhaps, to the good we seek to have bestowed. Supplication, to the evil that we wish to be averted. With thanksgiving: this should accompany all our petitions.
Tell God of all your concerns. Spread before him every circumstance. Yea, repeat it over and over to him, not for his information, but for your own benefit. Nothing will so assist you to form a just judgment of any particular case that exercises your mind, as to utter all before the Lord. Should you tell it to man, you may indulge your passions, and so misrepresent it in your narration as to increase your own misconceptions. Whereas, reverence for God will prevent this effect. Nay, men may be unduly influenced by your representation, and then give you such advice as shall mislead you farther. You may inflame their passions, and they yours. This will not be so with telling God. Men may mistake things various ways, and so give improper advice. But God cannot. If they fully understand the case, their wisdom may be insufficient to point out a mode of relief to you. But the only wise God is never at a loss. They may be deficient in power, or in the means of accomplishing their purpose. But God is almighty and all-sufficient. They may be defective in pity and kindness. But he will ever hearken to true supplication :he loves to have you cast your care on him. There is no good, but he can bestow it; no evil, but what he can prevent.
But be sure to intermix thanksgivings with your petitions. When you implore future mercies, thank him for the past. If you fear losing any good, bless him you have had it so