(2.) It is pride and discontent that makes persons go out of their place. Some men are in this very unhappy. Their spirits are too big and haughty for the place God hath set them in. Their calling is may be mean and low, but their spirits high and towering, and whereas they should labour to bring their hearts to their condition, they project how they may bring their condition to their proud hearts. They think themselves very unhappy while they are shut up in such strait limits. Indeed the whole world is too narrow a walk for a proud heart, œstuat infœlix angusto limite mundi—it tosses unhappy within the narrow boundary of the world. The world was but a little ease to Alexander. Shall they be hid in a crowd, lie in an obscure corner, and die before they let the world know their worth? No, they cannot brook it, and therefore they must get on the stage, and put forth themselves one way or other. It was not the priest’s work that Korah and his accomplices were so in love with him, but the priest’s honour which attended the work. This they desired to share, and liked not to see others run away with it from them. Nor was it the zeal that Absalom had to do justice which made his teeth water so after his father’s crown, though this must silver over his ambition. These places of church and state are such fair flowers, that proud spirits in all ages have been ambitious to have them set in their own garden, though they never thrive so well as in their proper soil.
(3.) In a third it is unbelief. This made Uzzah stretch forth his hand unadvisedly to stay the ark that shook; which being but a Levite, he was not to touch, see Num. 4:15. Alas! good man, it was his faith shook more dangerously than the ark. By fearing the fall of this, he fell to the ground himself. God needs not our sin to shoar up his glory, truth, or church.
(4.) In some it is misinformed zeal. Many think they may do a thing, because they can do it. They can preach, and therefore they may. Wherefore else have they gifts? Certainly the gifts of the saints need not be lost, any of them, though be not be laid out in the minister’s work. The private Christian hath a large field wherein he may be serviceable to his brethren. He need not break the hedge which God hath set, and thereby occasion such disorder as we see to be the consequences of this. We read in the Jewish law, Ex. 22, that he who set a hedge on fire, and that fire burned the corn standing in a field, was to make restitution, though he only fired the hedge—may be not intending to hurt the corn; and the reason was, because his firing the hedge was an occasion of the corn’s being burned, though he meant it not. I dare not say, that every private Christian who hath in these times taken upon him the minister’s work, did intend to make such a combustion in the church, as hath been, and still sadly is, among us. God forbid I should think so. But, O that I could clear them from being accessory to it. In that they have fired the hedge which God hath set between the minister’s calling and people’s. If we will acknowledge the ministry a particular office in the church of Christ—and this I think the word will compel us to do—then we must also confess it is not any one’s work, though never so able, except called to the office. There are many in a kingdom to be found that could do the prince’s errand, it is like, as well as his ambassador, but none takes the place but he that is sent, and can show his letters credential. Those that are not sent and commissionated by God’s call for ministerial work, they may speak truths as well as they that are, yet of him that acts by virtue of his calling, we may say that he preacheth with authority, and not like those that can show no commission, but what the opinion themselves have of their own abilities gives them. Dost thou like the minister’s work? why shouldst thou not desire the office, that thou mayest do the work acceptably? Thou dost find thyself gifted, as thou thinkest, for the work, but were not the church more fit to judge so, than thyself? and if thou shouldst be found so by them appointed for the trial, who would not give thee the right hand of fellowship? There are not so many labourers in Christ’s field, but thy help, if able, would be accepted. But as thou now actest, thou bringest thyself into suspicion in the thoughts of sober Christians; as he would justly do, who comes into the field where his prince hath an army, and gives out he comes to do his sovereign service against the common enemy, yet stands by himself at the head of a troop he hath got together, and refuseth to take any commission from his prince’s officers or join himself with them. I question whether the service such a one can perform—should he mean as he say, which is to be feared—would do so much good, as the distraction which this his carriage might cause in the army would do hurt.