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worldly business, and success in it; it being utterly impossible to love God, when we love the world and its idols with all our hearts. Such people are too much distracted to hear their compassionate Redeemer asking them this concerning question, “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, (Matt. 16. and lose his own soul ?”
And if business is apt to blind us, much more will success in it do it effectually. The holy David confesseth, that this was his own case, and acknowledges God's great mercy in letting him see the danger he was in. “In my prosperity, (Ps. 80. 6,
7.] I said, I shall never be removed; but Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled ;" and this trouble was of more use to him than all his prosperity.
Want of humility, and a just fear for ourselves, is another and the greatest cause of our unfruitfulness under the means of grace and salvation.
We are apt to have a good opinion of our state, and therefore we fear no evil, nor see any danger. We say, with the Jews, we have Abraham to our father; so we have Jesus Christ for our Redeemer; and yet with that great advantage they became the most abandoned of all people. And ought it not to humble us, to consider how little we are better than they, with all the advantages we have, and do therefore boast of ?
We that profess to believe that we are made for the everlasting possession of an heavenly Canaan, and yet seldom think of fitting ourselves for it; we that know we are made for the fellowship of Angels, and yet can be content with the pleasures proper to beasts; we that know that we have a time appointed to work out our salvation, and yet defer this mighty concern "till the night come when no can (John 9.4.] work ;" we that profess to believe an everlasting life of happiness or misery, and yet seldom consider which of the two is like to be our own portion; we that know that we are sinners, and yet do live as if we had never done amiss, or stand in no need of pardon ; we that are in danger every moment to be snatched away, and are sure, if we die in our sins unrepented of, to be made the scorn of devils, and yet to be as unconcerned as if the command of life and death were in our own hands!
Gracious God! that these considerations might beget in us all a deep humility, that weighing the uncertainty of our days, and the work we have to do, the necessity of making our peace with God, and the comfort of living to bring forth fruit meet for salvation, our hearts may be filled with godly fear, and that we may see in this our day, and follow the things that make for our peace, lest they be for ever hid from our eyes !
But I would not only raise your passions and fears, without pointing out to you the true way of turning them to your advantage. Our Lord Himself has directed us what to do,
when we are under a concern for what may become of us [Luke 21. when we die. “Watch and pray, that ye may be accounted 36; Mark 13. 35.]
worthy to escape; for ye know not when your Lord cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning.”
Why now, Christians, this is our appointed time; this is our day of salvation; which would not be continued to us, but that God waits to be gracious.
Our duty is to watch against sin, and the temptations that lead to it, and pray for grace, always remembering, that if we lead a careless, thoughtless life, our sentence is already passed, with that of the unfruitful tree: “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground ?”
To put this command of our Saviour into practice, these few hints will be well worth your remembering :- Lose not the sight of death; and forget not that it may come when you least think of it.
You will then be apt to make good use of the present time; for who knows how short it may be ? You will take every occasion of doing what good you can ; for who can assure you that you
shall ever have another? You will be moderate in your concern for the good things of this life, when you are so very soon to be possessed of pleasures that are to last for ever.
You will be sober and temperate, lest that day should overtake you, as it has done many a one before you, when you have not your thoughts and senses about you. You will be more patient under afflictions, which God appoints for your good, since these cannot last very long. You will be kind and charitable according to your power, know
ing that you are very soon to go to the treasure which you have laid up in heaven. You will more readily forgive all that have offended you; for why should you be enemies, when in a very little time you expect to meet in Paradise, and be friends there for ever? You will be inclined to be just to all men, and wrong none; for who would hazard his soul for that which he must so soon leave behind him ?
In one word, you will be very serious; for so the thoughts of death will make you, of course. You will be generally devout; for who can think of another life, and not passionately wish and pray that his portion may be with the blessed when he dies?
And this is the only way to make our lives easy, and our death happy.
But is this care and concern necessary for all ? Most certainly so. “What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch,” (Mark 13.
37.] saith our Lord.
The truth is this, and I pray you take notice and remember it; that before we leave this world, as we hope to go to a better, our corrupt nature must be changed, and we must endeavour, by the grace of God, to be restored to such a condition as man was at first created in, that we may be fit for the company of angels, and of just men made perfect.
And this is to be done, by forsaking every evil way, every known sin; by standing against the temptations we meet with; by denying our own corrupt desires, which would lead us to dishonour God; by making it part of our daily prayers to God, to give us a new heart, new desires, greater strength, and better resolutions ; and lastly, by exercising ourselves in acts of piety and charity, that we may thereby recommend ourselves, as we certainly shall do, to God, for greater degrees of grace here, and for a favourable sentence at the day of judgment.
To conclude, with some short but useful observations: While we are alive, we have reason to hope, that the sentence of the unfruitful tree is not yet passed upon us; but then let us not forget, that when the door is shut, there is no longer time to cry for mercy.
And one thing, which is not so well considered as it ought to be, I must leave upon your memories : that at whatever
SERM. distance the day of judgment may be off, yet happiness or LVI.
misery will be the portion of every man and woman when they die. This is plain from the Word of God. Good men's souls are carried, as the soul of Lazarus was, by the angels into Paradise, a place of rest and peace: on the other hand, the souls of the wicked are carried to a place of misery and torment, as was that of the hard-hearted rich man; both the one and the other to be kept unto the judgment of the great day.
You will, I hope, expect no other arguments to persuade you to consider how you live, and how you die.
Remember, in the next place, that the time of death is kept from us, that we may be always thinking of it, always preparing for it, and that we may not forget the only thing for which we came into the world.
Indeed God, in the ways of His providence, puts us in mind of our latter end by a thousand instances and a thousand ways. People are every day going out of the world, of all ages, of all conditions, by all manner of ways; by lingering, sudden, and by untimely deaths. All these have passed their time of trial, and their souls are confined to their proper places of happiness or misery till the judgment of the great day.
This ought to affect us, if we would but consider how soon this may be, how soon it must be, our own case.
And may the good Spirit of God fix these truths in all our hearts; for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
THE TRUE CHRISTIAN METHOD OF EDUCATING THE CHILDREN
BOTH OF THE RICH AND THE POOR.
Acts xii. 48.
As many as were ordained to (that is, disposed or prepared for)
eternal life, believed. THE CHARITY Schools being designed to give the children of the poor not merely an orderly education, though that itself is a mighty blessing both to them and to the public; but more especially a Christian education, whereby they may become happy to all eternity ; I cannot think of a more proper subject for this solemn meeting, than this I have made choice of; which intimates to us, that there are certain dispositions necessary to qualify men for receiving and believing the Gospel to any saving purposes. “As many as were ordained to," or prepared for, "eternal life, believed.”
Having made this out, we shall then proceed to enquire
First, What those dispositions are ?
Secondly, What manner of education is most proper to imprint them in the minds of those to whom the Gospel is proposed ? In order, in the first place, to prevent them from making shipwreck of the faith which they have once received; and, secondly, to oblige them to live according to the precepts of the Gospel which they have embraced.
But I must first observe to you, that this text has been sometimes made use of, to favour an opinion, which, if true, would render all education, with regard to another world,
· Preached in the year 1724, before the Society for piromoting Christian Knowledge.