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those who neglect both? One compares the gracious soul to a ship richly laden; which is the greater temptation to pirates upon that very account. I say not this to discourage the sincere Christian ; for greater is he that is with you than all that can be against you ; but metbinks it should excite you to double your watchfulness. If you have profited by the means of grace; if your treasure is increased ; instead of growing secure, you should be the more humble and watchful upon that very account; for needful is that caution, “Let him that thinketh he standetb, take heed lest he fall.” Once more, in the
4th place, Our Saviour here directs us to consider ourselves as fellow-servants and members of his family; and in this view another part of our preparation for his coming must lie in the performance of the duties we owe to each other, as well as of those duties which more immediately respect himself. This is more clearly pointed out to us in the 45th and 46th verses of this chapter, where we find a fearful threatening denounced against those who neglect this mutual relation : " But, and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to beat the men-servants, and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” It appears from this passage, that the faithful discharge of social duties has a higher rank in religion than many seem to apprehend. It is not indeed the whole of religion ; neither can it be called the most essential part of it; for no doubt the duties of the highest class are those which belong to the first table of the law, and arise from our first and most lasting relation. We were the subjects of God before we became
members of human society ; and if we prove unfaithful to God, it cannot surely give him any pleasure to behold confederated rebels living in the most perfect agreement among themselves: so that a man may, in several respects, prove an agreeable, perhaps an useful, member of society, and after all be condemned for his ingratitude to God, and rebellion against his Maker. Never theless, the discharge of those duties which we owe to one another, is of such importance in religion, that I can warrantably affirm, no man shall be saved who transgresses them, or even who wilfully and habitually neglects them. It is not to be expected, nor indeed is it necessary, that I should give you a detail of these; they are universally better understood than they are practised. Our duty bere extends to all the different expressions of righteousness and love; and the rule is both short and plain; All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye eren so to them. The best offices are those which promote our neighbour's spiritual and eternal interest; and therefore religious instruction, friendly advice, and seasonable reproof, can. not be dispensed with. Whatever tends to discourage vice, or to promote the interests of religion and virtue, is strictly incumbent upon us, according to the power and authority which our station gives us; and therefore he is but half a magistrate, and a poor half too, who resents only the injury that is done to men, and overlooks those horrid instances of impiety against God, wbich the good laws of our land authorise him to punish. In short, whatever be our condition in life, there are certain du. ties belonging to it which we must perform; and I shall only add, that as the obligation is mutual, both parties are equally bound, and neither can withhold from the other what is due without an injury: nor is the superior
less strictly bound to those who are below him, than the inferior to those who are above him; and they who pos. sess the highest stations are equally obliged, with the meanest of their brethren, to “ live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world,” and to promote the glory of God, and the welfare of human society, by the faithful and conscientious use of all those talents which God hath put into their bands; and if they do otherwise, they shall be condemned and punished by their Master and Judge when he cometh again.
After this manner are we taught to make ready for the Lord's return.
We must lay aside every thing that may incumber us in his service; we must labour to know our Master's will, and to keep all onr graces in lively and vigorous exercise ;-particularly, we should guard against slothfulness and security, and, from a sense of our danger, keep a strict and habitual watch against the enemies of our souls; at the same time regarding each other as fellow-servants, and faithfully performing those social duties which belong to our several stations and relations. To all which I might further add, that we should ear. nestly look out for our Master's coming, and long for his second and glorious appearance, when we and all his faithful servants shall be admitted into his immediate presence, and be enabled to serve him without any mixture of sin, in another and a better world than this.
I COME now to exhort you to the practice of these duties; for which I offer the following motives and argu, ments.
1st then. One great argument for the preparation here recommended may be drawn from the certainty of our Lord's return. This is asserted in so many passages of Scripture, that there is no room left us to doubt it,
The present mixt state of things renders a future judg. ment not only probable to reason, but almost certain and necessary; and the apostle Paul, in the 8th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, derives a very ingenious, but substantial, argument in favour of this doctrine, from the present burdened state and weary face of the creatures : nor can any who professeth Christianity pretend to question it. Should not this then oblige us to make ready for it? With these very eyes shall we see our Redeemer; and how shall we look him in the face, if we have been anfaithful during his absence, and lived at random: as if none had power over us? Nay, methinks this very consideration, that he is now removed from us, should work upon our ingenuity, and excite us to the utmost care and diligence in his service. Every one will be doing while he sees the master present; the test of fidelity is, to mind the master's interest wben he is at a distance; especially the interest of such a Master, who hath bought us from the most deplorable slavery with bis own precious blood, and requires nothing at our hand, but what tends to make us happy here, and to fit us for eternal glory hereafter.
2dly. The uncertainty of the time of his coming, should excite us to be always busy at our work, and in a fit posture to receive him. This argument is much insisted upon by our Saviour. He often compares his coming to that of a thief in the night, who studies secrecy, and will not give any previous notice: and this seems to be the meaning of that allusion in the 36th verse, where he likens bimself to one who is attending a marriage-solemnity; because on such occasions people are not usually masters of their own time, which renders the season of their return to their own houses more uncer. tain. And if this be the case, can there be a more pow.
erful motive to an habitual preparation? “Behold, I come as a thief,” says our Saviour, in the book of the Revelation.—“Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see bis shame.” Dost thou not know, O man! but that to-morrow thy Master may come to thee; or, which is the same thing, may call thee to him? and wilt thou not be busy? Show us thy security for one day, and then claim that day as thine own: but if thou canst not, how mad art thou to neglect thy business, or to leave any task unfinished, whilst it is in the power of thy hands to do it? Especially if it be considered, in the
3d place, That when thy Master returns, thy work. ing-time is over. What is then unfinished must remain so for ever. He comes to judge thee according to what thou hast done, and not to call thee to perfect thy untinished labours. This, my brethren, is a most awful consideration; we are now sowing the seed for eternity, and what we sow that shall we reap. Our Master's order is, Occupy till I come: that is the term; and we can neither get it protracted nor renewed; and if we be found unfaithful, dreadful shall our punishment be; and the more dreadful upon this account, that it shall be perpetual, without abatement, and without end. But as I would rather choose to allure than frighten you to your duty, I shall represent to you, as a
4th Motive to a diligent preparation for your Master's coming: The glorious advancement, and blessed reward, of the watchful servants, which is mentioned in the last part of my text; Verily I say unto you. It is iutroduced with a strong asseveration, to denote the abso. lute certainty of the thing; and, 0 how condescending is that which follows! He shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve