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WE MUST NOT SEEK GREAT THINGS
Jeremiah 45:5. Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.
WORLDLINESS is a great and common evil: and it is often manifested in those from whom we should least expect it. The sons of Zebedee solicited the highest posts of honour in their Master’s kingdom, immediately after he had been foretelling his crucifixion: and all the disciples disputed about preeminence even at the last supper, just after they had been warned, that one of them would betray his Lord. Thus Baruch, when he had been writing in a book all the prophecies of Jeremiah, wherein God’s determination to destroy the Jewish nation had been repeatedly declared, was promising himself years of case and affluence; and was afraid to write another copy of the prophecies, lest the king, who had destroyed the former copy, should put him to death. Jeremiah therefore was ordered by God to reprove him; to tell him what had been the secret thoughts of his heart [Note: ver. 3.], and to warn him against indulging such an unbecoming spirit [Note: To see this connexion, read the thirty-sixth chapter, and then the forty-fifth, which, in the series of Jeremiah’s prophecies, ought to follow it.].
The prohibition in the text being applicable to all in every age, we shall shew,
When we may be said to seek great things for ourselves—
In direct reference to the text itself we observe, that this may be said of us,
When the objects of our pursuit are great—
[Things are great or small by comparison only; since that which would be great for a peasant, would be altogether worthless in the eyes of a king. But they may universally be called “great,” when they far exceed our present condition: and, in that case, an aspiring after them subjects us to the censure in the text. The world indeed universally commend ambition: but worldly ambition is very opposite to the self-denying doctrines of Christianity. It was always discountenanced by our Lord [Note: Matthew 8:20. John 6:15.Matthew 6:19-21; Matthew 6:19-21.]; and is universally reprobated by his Apostles [Note: Philippians 3:19. Colossians 3:2.]: and, wherever it rules in the heart, it indicates a carnal and worldly mind [Note: Romans 8:5.].]
When we seek even moderate things with eagerness—
[There is an important distinction to be made between industry, and eagerness: the one relates to the activity of the body; the other to an excessive desire of the mind: the one is not only proper, but necessary, in our respective spheres [Note: Romans 12:11.Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ecclesiastes 9:10.]; the other is universally sinful, when it relates to earthly things. What can our Lord mean by repeating, no less than four times, that solemn injunction, “Take no thought [Note: Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:28; Matthew 6:31; Matthew 6:34.]?” Doubtless it is not to be taken literally in the strictest sense: but, allowing for the utmost latitude of interpretation, he must mean, that we should take no anxious thought even for the most moderate, or most necessary, comforts. In perfect agreement with this are the directions of his Apostles [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:32.Philippians 4:6; Philippians 4:6.]:—consequently, the indulging of an eager desire after any thing pertaining to this life, exposes us to the reproof contained in the text.]
When we seek any thing merely for ourselves—
[We are not at liberty to make self in any instance the chief end of our actions. There is One above us, even God, whose honour we should seek, even in the most common offices of life [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.]. To be lovers of our own selves is a mark of a reprobate mind [Note: 2 Timothy 3:2.] and whatever we do under the influence of such a spirit, whether the action be of a civil [Note: Hosea 10:1.] or religious [Note: Zechariah 7:5-6.] nature, it is not acceptable to God. Though therefore we do not aspire after great things, yet, if we seek any tiling merely for ourselves, and without any higher end than our own ease, interest, or honour, we are altogether wrong, and deserving of the severest censure.]
To vindicate the reasonableness of this prohibition, we shall proceed to shew,
Why we should not seek them—
That the reasons may more distinctly appear, we shall shew,
Why we should not make great things the objects of our pursuit—
[An aspiring after riches or honours necessarily supposes that we expect to find happiness in the enjoyment of them. But it is certain that even the whole world (supposing we could possess it) could never make us happy [Note: Luke 12:15.]. What folly then is it to be seeking to “fill our belly with the east wind [Note: Job 15:2.]!” Besides, the more we possess of this world, the more we are exposed to temptations. Who does not see that the having the means of gratifying our evil inclinations operates as an inducement to indulge them? and that an elevation of rank or character has a tendency to strengthen the pride of our hearts? Are there not then temptations enough in our way without our seeking to increase them? Shall we “load ourselves with thick clay [Note: Habakkuk 2:6.]” when we are about to run a race; or make the way to heaven tenfold more difficult than it is already [Note: Matthew 19:23-24.]? They to whom God has given great things, may doubtless enjoy them: but the man who seeks them, labours for that which will ultimately involve him in utter ruin [Note: 1 Timothy 6:8; 1 Timothy 6:10. Οἱ δὲ βουλόμενοι πλουτεῖν. The willing and desiring to be rich has this fatal tendency, without any determination to get rich at all events.].]
Why we should not seek even moderate things with eagerness—
[No man is eager after any thing but in consequence of the love he feels towards it: his eagerness therefore to it must imply a love of it. Now an attachment to any of the things of time and sense, especially such an attachment as stimulates us earnestly to pursue them, argues a want of true love to God [Note: 1 John 2:15.]: for to love both God and mammon is impossible [Note: Matthew 6:24.]. Moreover, such an eagerness shews, that we have no just value for our souls: for if we had once learned to appreciate the soul aright, the whole world would appear as nothing in comparison of it [Note: Matthew 16:26. Philippians 3:7-8.]. Will any one then justify a conduct that involves in it such consequences? As long as the love of God, and a care for our own souls, be our bounden duty, so long must the eager pursuit of any earthly vanity be incompatible with the Christian character.]
Why we should not seek any thing merely for ourselves—
[We are not our own, but God’s. He both formed [Note: Isaiah 43:21.] and redeemed [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:20. 2 Corinthians 5:15.] us, that we might glorify his name: and he represents his faithful servants as seeking, not their own things, out the things of Jesus Christ [Note: Philippians 2:21.]. Are we then at liberty to rob God of his glory? and to defeat the great end both of our creation and redemption? Besides, our fellow-creatures also have a claim upon us. We are commanded not to “seek every man his own, but every man another’s wealth [Note: Php 2:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:24.]. Ought we then to deprive them of their right? Doubtless we may without impropriety labour in our respective callings to provide for ourselves and families; but we must take care that, in doing this, we have a view to God’s honour, and the general welfare of mankind. Else our labour is mere selfishness, that contracts and hardens our hearts, while it violates every obligation to God and man.]
Those who are seeking only the things of this world—
[What have you gained by all your past exertions? You are pleased, perhaps, with your success, and have your pride gratified: but are you really happier than you were before you possessed your present honours and emoluments? Perhaps we may rather ask, Have you not, together with your means of self-indulgence, multiplied also your vexations and disappointments? But supposing you to be unusually favoured in these respects, we still ask, What comfort will these things afford you in the hour of death, and the day of judgment? Will they not then at least, whatever they may now do, appear to be lighter than vanity itself? Then in the name of God, “Seek them not.”
If however you be determined to seek great things, we will change our voice, and say, “Seek them:” yes, seek them: only take care that they be truly great. Be not contented with the poor pitiful things of time and sense: let your ambition rise to the very throne of God, and all the glory of heaven. Seek the favour of God: seek an union with Christ: seek an abiding fellowship with him: seek such discoveries of his love as produce in you a perfect conformity to his image. In pursuit of such things, you cannot aim too high; your eagerness cannot be excessive; your very selfishness becomes a virtue. Other things that you acquire, are for yourselves and heirs; these shall be for yourselves alone, and that, for ever and ever.]
Those who profess to seek higher and better things—
[Many a Baruch is to be found in the house of God: even the people who are truly beloved of the Lord, may need reproof for being too much cumbered about earthly things [Note: John 11:5. with Luke 10:41-42,]. If then such a character be present, let him consider the text as applied to himself in particular; Seekest thou great things unto thyself? thou, who professest to be dead to the world? thou, who pretendest to walk in the steps of Christ? thou, who boastest that thou hast God for thy portion? How dishonourable is such conduct! O “remember whence thou art fallen; and repent.” Remember what was the root of Demas’ apostasy [Note: 2 Timothy 4:10.]; and know that the same root of bitterness, if nourished in your hearts, will bring forth the same malignant and destructive fruit. The best, the only antidote to this poison is, “the love of Christ shed abroad in your hearts [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.].” As a sight of the meridian sun unfits our organs of vision for beholding for a time, any inferior objects, so will a sight of Christ efface the beauty of all sublunary things; or, to use the language of inspiration, “by the cross of Christ, the world will soon be crucified unto us, and we unto the world [Note: Galatians 6:14.],”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 45". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
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