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"received forgiveness of sins," and are both entitled to, and "meet for an inheritance amongst "all them who are sanctified;" some live in a more strict and constant course of consequent preparation than others; and the same persons more at one season than at another.
There are seasons when in some measure we are all too anxious about worldly things, and entangled by them; when we are betrayed into wrong tempers, or inexpedient indulgences; when we are comparatively unwatchful, lifeless, and negligent in our attendance upon public ordinances or secret devotion. At such times, though, as believers, we possess an habitual readiness, yet, in another sense, we are not ready; "our loins are not girded; "we are not as servants waiting for the coming of "our Lord;" and his approach would startle us, excite perplexing doubts and gloomy apprehensions, and fill us with confusion and remorse.
Contrasted with this unwatchfulness are that tenor of conduct and frame of spirit, which form our actual readiness. When the believer daily examines himself, both respecting his state, conduct, growth in grace, and victory over sinful habits and passions; when he constantly and impartially reviews whatever occupies his thoughts, or engages his affections; whatever relates to the regulation of his appetites and passions, his tempers and conversation; whatever passes in public or in private, in his closet or family, in his business, in company, or in the house of God; when he judges himself and scrutinizes his own conduct with scrupulous exactness; keeps his heart with all diligence;" and without reserve confesses humbly before God
every thing that he but suspects hath been amiss; seeking forgiveness expressly through the blood of Christ when in the exercise of repentance and faith, by continual earnest prayer, seeking the invigorating influences of the Holy Spirit, he is daily employed in striving against sin; in mortifying the deeds of the body; in opposing especially his strongest enemy, his own constitutional or customary iniquity; and in aspiring after a more entire victory over the world, an increase of spiritual affections, and a conversation more becoming the gospel of Christ: when a Christian is thus actually "setting his affections on things above, not on "things on the earth," in a believing prospect of approaching dissolution, and its important consequences, he is indeed " ready for the coming of his "Lord."
Further: "The Son of man is as a man taking "a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his "work." Every Christian is the servant of Jesus Christ. Every servant has his place, his work, his talents. In filling up that place, doing that work, and improving those talents, wisely, faithfully, and diligently, we approve ourselves his servants, and best prepare for his coming.-The minister's work is to "preach the word instant in season and out of 66 season." A few, (like David, Daniel, and Nehemiah,) are called to serve God and their generation in the exercise of civil power and authority. These are doing their work when they assiduously and conscientiously improve their exalted station, for
1 Mark xiii. 34.
the promotion of religion, the welfare of society, and the happiness of mankind. The employment of the rich is to do good with their abundance, by alleviating the miseries, increasing the comforts, and discountenancing the wickedness of all around them, as much as possible.-Those who have not such abundance, may find their work in less expensive, but more self-denying, and not less acceptable, instances of kindness to the distressed: as Tabitha did in "making coats and garments for the poor." The poor themselves may serve Christ by diligence, frugality, honesty, cheerful contentment, and a humble, respectful deportment to their superiors. The man who is employed in commercial dealings will find his proper service to our common Lord, in a line of conduct strongly marked with integrity, removed at a distance from the appearance and plausible suspicion of avarice, fraud, and oppression; by "rendering to Cæsar the things that are
Cæsar's, and to God, the things that are God's;" and by bestowing upon the needy, according as God has prospered him. In short, every situation in society, or in relative life, has its peculiar duties, and affords peculiar occasions of serving God, adorning religion, and doing good to mankind. In understanding and doing our own proper work with quietness and cheerfulness, not envying those above, nor despising those beneath us, nor intermeddling with another's work, nor quarrelling with our fellow-servants; but disinterestedly, in our proper place, serving the common cause of God and his church, with universal conscientiousness and watchfulnesss, do we best prepare for the coming of our Lord. And whatever his employment
blessed is that servant whom his Lord when "he cometh shall find so doing."
III. I would propose some conclusive arguments, which prove the necessity of our being always ready.
1. Were we required to be ready for an event which might, or might not, take place, our negligence might admit of some excuse: but "it is "appointed unto men once to die, and after death "the judgment." That event, for which we are thus assiduously to prepare, is of known and acknowledged certainty; whilst all other future events and emergencies, about which we are anxious, and for which we are making provision, are totally uncertain; and, whilst we are taking care for many years, we may never live to see many days. Can we then act reasonably, if we provide so carefully and laboriously for an uncertainty, and bestow no pains to provide for an undisputed certainty?
2. Death to individuals, and judgment to the world, will not only arrive with certainty, but at the time when the most of men never expect them. "When they say peace and safety, then sudden "destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a
woman with child, and they shall not escape: "for the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the
night." The appointed hour of death is kept from each of us in impenetrable secrecy; not only beyond our discovery, but even beyond our probable conjecture. Death is all around us indiscriminately preying upon tender infancy, blooming youth, vigorous manhood, and decrepit old age. The feeble linger on, the robust are hurried away.
Wasting sickness, or hoary hairs warn a few of approaching, dissolution, who yet seldom profit by the warning: more are cut off without previous notice. A fall, a blow, a robber, a nocturnal conflagration, or some of the innumerable unforeseen appointments of God, which men call accidents, hurry multitudes from vigorous health, eager pursuits, and sanguine expectations, to meet their Judge, and hear their doom. One drops by an apoplexy; another is seized by madness; and a third by a fever and delirium, who raves a few days, and dies. As in a field of battle, they fall on the right hand and on the left: we are hitherto wonderfully preserved; but at what hour, or by what stroke, a Sovereign God may cut us off, we know not, nor can we conjecture. Is it not reasonable that we should be always ready?
3. Should a sudden calamity deprive us of all earthly comforts, we might hope for a favourable reverse to reinstate us in prosperity: or the favour of God, and the hope and earnest of heaven might silence our complaints, and brighten our prospect. But, if unexpected death cut us off unprepared, our opportunity is eternally lost, our hope has given up the ghost, and the blackness of darkness bounds the dreary prospect for ever. Surely we have reason enough to prepare for a decision which may take place this hour; which once passed can never be reversed; and on which the interests of eternity depend. Assuredly it would be irrational to run the hazard of a miscarriage for one moment, though in that moment we could secure the empire of the universe! "For what is a man profited, if "he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?