Notes of a Sermon by James Stewart
Jeremiah 45:5. Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.
1. The person here addressed: Baruch.
2. The circumstances which gave rise to the question and injunction: his disappointment.
3. The exhortation of the text is very generally applicable. No such thing is truly great. Our judgments as to what is great, vary with:
(1). Our characters and tastes.
(2). Our outward circumstances.
1. Seek not great things for yourselves, for self ought never to be an ultimate object.
(1.) The glory of God is the only legitimate aim.
(2.) The glorification of God is not to be sought as a means to the good of the creature, but the reverse, for man would be exalted above God.
(3.) Even great spiritual things are not to be sought for our own purposes and exaltation, but for His name’s sake.
(4.) There is no hardship in this, for if we seek the glory of God, our own enjoyment will follow.
(5.) The neglect of this is at the bottom of much disappointment – in prayer, in happiness.
2. Seek not great things for yourselves, for you thereby render them the objects of idolatrous worship.
(1.) That which is most esteemed by us is our god – “covetousness, which is idolatry”.
(2.) We acknowledge God to be the Lord only when we admire and love Him supremely.
(3.) When therefore we seek great things:
1. We dethrone God.
2. We deify the creature.
3. We degrade ourselves.
3. Seek not great things for yourselves, for to do so is to subordinate the discharge of duty to their acquisition and enjoyment.
(1.) The only legitimate question with man is: What is duty?
(2.) This question is precluded by a habitual and systematic seeking after great things.
(3.) If duty lead to great things, then their possession is lawful; but the possession of great things ought not to recommend duty, or the reverse.
4. Seek not great things for yourselves, for by doing so you will involve yourselves and others in much positive suffering.
(1.) They are seldom reached, and our toil is unrewarded.
(2.) They are not truly great, and we experience disappointment.
(3.) The seeking of them produces hatred and strife.
(4.) They are incompatible with the true riches.
5. Seek not great things for yourselves, when the Church of Christ requires your sympathy and your efforts.
(1.) You should feel one with Christ.
(2.) You should feel one with believers.
(3.) You should therefore feel the cause of Christ and His Church to be paramount.
There are great things which you may seek after – what is for His name’s sake.”
1. This is, slightly edited, no 132 of Stewart’s Outlines of Discourses, which has a commendation by George Smeaton as a prefatory note. Stewart (1813-1846) was minister latterly in Aberdeen. For a sketch of his life, see this magazine for October and November 2000.