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THAT approaches, we have still less time to finish our work. And,
3dly. That our eternal happiness or misery depends upon our doing the work iu the day appointed us to do it in.
I. Let us consider seriously, that every Christian has a work of importance upon his hands.
It is for this reason the apostle exhorts Christians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling; that is, with a concern suitable to the work they have to do; of which work take this short account.
We are all sinners, and must all make our peace with God, as we hope for mercy. We have renounced the world, and yet we are apt to love it too well; so that we must labour hard to wean our affections from it. We are perpetually in danger of offending God, and we must be upon our watch continually, or we shall certainly do so. We have all, more or less contracted evil habits, and it will take time, and care, and pains, to get rid of them. We stand in need of the grace of God every moment of our lives, and are every day of our lives obliged to pray for the aids of his Spirit to help our infirmitics. We receive favours continually, and are continually bound to thank God for them.
Here is work enough for any Christian; and he that fancies he has nothing to do, or thinks Christianity to be a state of ease or idleness, does not yet know what it is to be a Christian, But even this is not all.
* Phil. ii, 12.
We have all of us very many enemies to struggle with. The devil, a very powerful spirit, walketh about continually, seeking whom he may devour,* finding them careless and unprepared to resist him. The world, a very corrupt world, is always tempting us to follow its ways, which lead to destruction. And lastly, our own hearts, if we had no other adversary, would ruin us, without a constant watchfulness. So that a man needs not be at pains to be undone; we shall be undone of course, if we do not labour, and strive, and make resistance,
But then, besides these general duties, which belong to all Christians, every Christian has his proper work, for the faithful discharge of which he must one day answer.
Parents, for instance, stand charged with the care of their children, to provide for them, and to bring them up in the fear of God.
Masters are accountable for their servants' welfare, and that they live as become Christians. Servants are bound to be obedient and faithful, and it will require care and pains to be so.
Magistrates stand obliged, and must be at pains, to govern and to do justice; and Subjects must be careful to obey for conscience sake.
Therich will find enough to do to watch against pride, covetousness, and many other hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. ·
And the poor, as they have their proper duties, so they have their peculiar difficulties to struggle with, to be content with their condition, without attempting to better it by unjust ways.
* 1 Pet. 1. 8.
In a word; all Christians are accountable for their time, for the talents they have received, and for the duties of that state of life in which the providence of God has placed them. And such as live as if they had nothing to do, will one day wish that they had never been born.
But of all employments, that of a Pastor is the most difficult, the most hazardous, and the most laborious, to discharge it faithfully. To conduct Christians to eternal happiness, through a corrupt world, infinite errors, and most powerful enemies; to teach the way of salvation, without prostituting the word of God to vile purposes; to convert sinners to God by their example as well as by their sermons; to instruct the ignorant; to reprove the disorderly; to awaken the consciences of the careless; to silence gainsayers; to comfort and restore dejected penitents; to visit the sick, and to answer all the ends of that great work; to pray constantly for a blessing upon our labours, and our people, without which all our labours would be in vain: these are but part of that great work with which Pastors stand charged.
And when we seriously advise Christians to remember the work they have to do, and the account they must give, we acknowledge, at the same time, that we ourselves stand charged with a greater burthen than they do; and that it behoves us, above all Christians, to remember, that the night cometh when no man can work, since we have so great a work to answer for.
And now you see, good Christians, that we have all of us a work of importance upon our
hands; a work which must, at our peril, be done while the day lasts. To make us all, therefore, more concerned to do the work in its season, which God has appointed us, we ought,
In the second place, to consider, That we are all hastening on towards death, as the day does towards night; and that as THAT approaches, we have still less time to finish the work we have to do.
The truth is, the sentence of death is already passed upon every one of us; and God only knows when that sentence is to be put in execution: till then, he has allowed us time to prepare for an everlasting state that must follow; a state of endless misery, if we shall have spent our time ill; and a state of unspeakable happiness, if we shall have done the work in its season which God hath appointed us.
We should do well therefore to consider, that the time of our life, which is already past, and was not employed in doing our duty, is for ever lost to us; which must needs be an astonishing thought to all such as have spent the greatest part of their life in sin and vanity, without considering why God sent them into the world, or what will be expected from them when they come to account for the time they have lived.
He that has spent his youth in folly and doing nothing, has no more youth to spend in virtue; and he that has never thought of the concerns of his soul, till a few days before he comes to die, has but a few days in which to provide for eternity. Now, this is a consideration which should make Christians very serious indeed.
If a man in his worldly affairs has made an ill bargain, time, and advice, and future care, may set all strait again, and the loss may be made up. If a man has spent a good estate, he has this comfort, however, that he shall not always live to be reproved for his bad husbandry.
But what amends can be made, what arguments can be made use of, to comfort a person who has lived an unthoughtful, useless, sinful, life; and is just going to give an account of his talents, and the use he has made of them?
Christians would do well to lay these things to heart, and not to trust the endless welfare of their souls to such uncertainties as are the number of our days, which God only knows, and who may be provoked to shorten them, when men make so ill use of them.
In short; we are no sooner out of the hands of our Maker, but we are upon our way to the grave; we do, as St. Paul speaks, we die daily. Some part of our time, some of our friends, some of our comforts, are every day going, till at last we follow them ourselves. I must not say, and then there's an end of us; so far from that, that then begins our happiness or misery;-for,
IIIdly, Our eternal happiness or misery will depend upon our having spent this life well or ill; this being the sentence of life and death: They that have done good, shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.
A consideration so serious and affecting, to such as lay any thing to heart, that one should need say no more on this head, if the corrupt