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fore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
But what is the dependence upon God, which we recommend ?-It is wise, it is cautious, it is active. And if vigilance be nothing, without prayer, prayer is nothing, without vigilance. We must, therefore,
II. “Set a watch, because of our enemies, night and day.” I am very sorry to say, that this is not.so much attended to, as it ought to be. For, the help God affords, is not designed to favour indolence, but to encourage exertion ; and, in his wisdom, he has connected the means and the end together ; and, therefore, to expect the end, without the use of the means, is nothing but presumption.
If people would exercise the same common sense in religion, which they discover in the ordinary affairs of life, it would save them from a thousand mistakes. Behold the husbandman. He knows that God gives the increase ; but he also knows how he gives it; and, therefore, manures, and ploughs, and sows, and weeds. His reliance upon God tells him, that favourable seasons, and influences, are necessary to raise and ripen the corn ; but, he is never guilty of such folly, as to go forth at harvest, and expect to reap where he has not sown. Nevertheless, such is the folly of many, with regard to religious things. Such is the folly of a man, who complains he does not profit by the word, but never tries to impress his mind with the importance of the duty, in which he is going to engage ; never hears with attention and application; never retires, to review what he has heard, and make it his own. Does the word
of God operate like a charm-so that it is equally the same, whether a man be awake, or asleep? Such is the folly of a man, who complains that his children are not religious, when he knows that he never trained them up in the way that they should go-never prayed with them-never instructed them early in the principles of the gospelnever placed before them a good example, in his own temper, and life. Such is the folly of those heads of families, who complain of servants ; not considering that kind affections, expressions, and actions, can only be returned, where they are received—that a harsh, unfeeling, tyrannical master—that a haughty, niggardly, scolding mistress, can never be served with cordial attention, and cheerful obedience. By failing in their duty to their dependents, they set the consciences of their dependents easy, in the breach of duty to them. A poor man may talk of casting all his care upon God, and sing Jehovah Jireh-the Lord will provide—as long as he pleases ; but, if he becomes idle, wandering about from house to house : if he omits opportunity of exertion, and lives beyond his expected inconie, let such a man remember, that he tempts God, but does not trust him : that he may pray without ceasing ; but, that an inspired apostle says, “ If any man will not also work, neither shall he eat.” God knows our dispositions, and hence he is prepared to advise us; and he has commanded us - not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” If we disregard this admonition, and form irreligious alliances, all the devotion in the world will never remedy the mischief, or the misery.
He, then, who, while he lives carelessly, and indifferently, hopes to be delivered from evil, merely by prayer, is only sporting himself with his own deceivings. He who enjoined prayer, never intended to make it the sacrifice of fools. Prayer, when unaccompanied by a corresponding course of action, is a trifling with God; and prayer, when contradicted by our practice, is an insulting of God to his face.
And, therefore, not only be prayerful, but sober and vigilant. And, to enable you to set a watch successfully, take the following directions.
First. Impress your minds with a sense of your danger. The evil which lurks under every temptation is inexpressible. The design of it is to make you sin ; and to sin, is to debase your nature, to defile your conscience, to rob yourselves of peace and reputation, and to destroy both body and soul in hell. I know there is a deceitfulness in sin ; and that the enemy endeavours to represent it as liberty, and pleasure; or, if an evil at all, as a trifling one. But, take your estimate of all sin from the scripture, from the Judge himself, who is to punislı it, and you will find that it is exceeding sinful, and that its history is like Ezekiel's roll, “ written within and without, with lamentation, and mourning, and wo.”
Think of this—and, common sense being your counsellor, you will watch: you will be willing to make any sacrifices, any efforts, rather than lie down in everlasting shame and sorrow. “ If I conquer, I gain endless honour and happiness. If I am overcome, I am undone for ever. And O, my soul, is there no danger of this ? Are there not temptations in every situation ; in my business; in my food ; in my dress? Have I not a wise and a powerful adversary, who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?
And is there not a subtle party within, carrying on a traitorous correspondence with the world, and the devil without ?-0 my soul, awake, and watch.”
Secondly. Study your constitutional weakness, and failings. Endeavour to know what manner of spirit you are of. Some are more inclined naturally to sloth ; others to anger, and impatience. Soine to pride, and vanity ; others to wantonness, and the pleasures of sense. There is a sin that most easily besets us; and this demands our peculiar circumspection, and care.
Thirdly, Observe, how you have already been foiled, or ensnared. He who would encounter an enemy successfully, should be informed of his mode of fighting: and how is this to be done, but by observation, and reflection. “How was such a place taken? How did I lose such a battle? What rendered the last campaign so little efficient ?—Let me look back upon my past life; and endeavour to derive wisdom from my old follies, and strength from my falls. By what secret avenue did sin enter ? Have I not been taken by surprise, where I deemed myself most secure ? And may not this be the case again ? Are there not some places and companies from which I never returned without injury ? Shall I turn again to folly? Let painful experience awaken me, and keep me awake.”
Fourthly. Guard against the beginnings of sin. You should learn, even from an enemy; and take the same course to preserve yourselves, as the devil does to destroy you. Now, the tempter never begins, where he intends to leave off. Would he induce a man to impurity? He does not propose the crime at once; but prepares for it by degrees,
by the cherishing of loose thoughts, by the indulging of improper familiarities, by the courting of favourable opportunities. If he would produce infidelity, he first reconciles the youth to read poisonous books, perhaps for the sake of the style, or some curious subject; he draws him into the company of those who entertain loose notions of religion, and ridicule some of its doctrines and institutions : from these he joins the sceptic; and he prepares him for the scofler. Guard, therefore, against the first deviątions from the path of righteousness. Crush the cockatrice in the egg, or it will grow up into a frightful serpent. Cut off the shoots of iniquity, yea, nip the very buds; it will otherwise bring forth fruit unto death.
Finally. Avoid the occasions of sin. Nothing is more dangerous than idleness, or having nothing to do. “ Our idle days,” says Henry, “ are the devil's busy ones.” And, says another, “ When the mind is full, temptation cannot enter ; but when it is empty and open, the enemy can throw in what he pleases." Stagnant waters breed thousands of noxious insects ; but this is not the case with living water.
" A prudent man looketh well to his going," and will think it at any time worth while to go round, in order to avoid a pit. “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house”-lest by going nigh, you should be tempted to go in. “ Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burnt ?" Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt ?" Can a man wish the weeds in his garden to wither, and daily water them? If a man prayed to be heavenly-minded, would he go and wait in a theatre for the answer ?