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through scenes full of instruction, and calculated to teach them how to live and how to die. Some of them have long stood around her sick and dying bed, and seen her calmness and composure in the view of eternity. She is now separated from them; and have they not reason to ask themselves whether the separation may not be long and even without end? If she was prepared to die in safety, it deeply concerns them to prepare to die in safety. If she was prepared to die in peace, it deeply concerns them to prepare to die in peace. And if she has gone to heaven, it deeply concerns them to follow her there.
The death they lament is not an ordinary instance of mortality; and the circumstances attending it imperiously call for serious reflections upon their own frailty, mortality, and the solemn importance of living and dying to God. They never will, perhaps, have a more affecting admonition to obtain the one thing needful. And should they rightly improve this bereavement, the afflicted husband may have reason to bless God that he was called to bear the yoke in his youth; and the afflicted parents and brothers and sisters may have reason to say that it has been good for them that they have been afflicted and bereaved.
The death of a young pious parent reads a solemn lecture to the young families in this place, who are destitute not only of the reality, but of the form of that religion in which they were educated. How many such irreligious families are there, and how fast are they multiplying! Though such families may banish God from their thoughts, and religion from their houses, yet they cannot prevent death from coming into their windows. And where is there a young family prepared for such an event? Be entreated to awake from your awful stupor, and attend to the things which belong to your peace in life and death, before it be too late. God has preserved your own lives, but has he not taken away one or more of your children? Or if he has spared their lives, he may not spare yours much longer. It is high time to give yourselves and your children to God; and you risk your own salvation and theirs every day you neglect the care of your own souls and theirs. Delay is presumption, and may prove fatal.
Though this is not a dying time, yet this is a dying world; and no one knows that he shall live another year, or another month, or another day. Every one, therefore, whether old or young, whether strong or feeble, ought to take warning from the late instance, and late instances, of mortality, and be ready also for being the first to meet death, and to give up his great and last account.
SERMON X X X.
ENTIRE DEVOTION TO DUTY.
JANUARY 11, 1824.
WHATSOEVER thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave
whither thou goest. Eccl. ix. 10.
This is an independent sentence, which, without any comment, naturally leads us to consider three things.
I. How men ought to find out their duty.
I. Let us consider how men ought to find out what they have to do in this world. They all come into the world ignorant of what they have to do in it. But the wise man supposes that every one may find out what he has to do in particular. “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” This is an address to every particular person, and an express command to find out his own duty. The question now is, how every person may find out what his duty is, while acting upon the stage of life. The days of inspiration are past, and none have any ground to expect that God will teach them their duty, without their improving the means they have to discover it. These means are various and sufficient. For,
1. Men may find out their duty by reading the word of God. He has therein plainly pointed out the end for which he formed them rational and immortal creatures, and the principal duties they have to perform. The apostle says, “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” By searching the scriptures, every person of every character and condition may discover “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” which he ought to follow. It was by the scriptures that Christ discovered his duty as a man and as Mediator. He grew in knowledge and wisdom like other children of men. As soon as he could read the Bible, he discovered what business his Father had given him to do in the world. Just so all men may discover their duty by reading the word of God, with a sincere desire to know it. The Bible points out the duty of parents and children, of masters and servants, of rulers and subjects, of the rich and the poor, and of all persons in every situation, relation, and connection of life. It is able to make all wise unto salvation.
2. Men may find out what they have do in this world, by hearing, as well as by reading the word of God. He has appointed men to preach his word, and to explain and inculcate the duties contained in it. The duty of ministers to preach, implies the duty of people to hear the word of God. This is a price which he has put into their hands to get wisdom; and if they properly improve it, they can hardly fail of gaining the knowledge of their duty in many doubtful and difficult cases. God never intended to make men's duty so plain in his word, as to render it unnecessary for them to hear it explained and enforced by religious instructers. The prophet says, priest's lips should keep knowledge, and the people should seek the law at his mouth : for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts."
3. Men may find out their duty by duly regarding the dispensations of divine providence towards them. Many of the duties of life result from the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed. God deals very differently with different persons, and very differently with the same persons at different times. Their duties always vary as their circumstances vary. New duties always arise from new situations, relations, connections, and external circumstances. If men will properly regard God's dealings towards them from time to time, and from day to day, they may find out what their hearts and hands have to do from time to time and from day to day. God as plainly points out duty to men by his providence, as by his word, and it is as necessary that they should regard what he says to them in his providence, as in his word, in order to know their duty in the course of life. Besides,
4. There is another way in which they may discover their duty; and that is, by asking counsel of God. The apostle says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who
giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” How often did David pray that God would teach him his statutes! When Solomon felt like a little child in respect to the knowledge of his duty, he prayed that God would give him “ a wise and understanding heart.” And he enjoined it upon others to follow his example and acknowledge God in all their ways, and assures them that he will direct their paths. God can, by the influence of his Spirit, enlighten men's understandings, and cause them to discern their duty as exhibited in his word and providence. And if they will properly seek for divine wisdom and direction, they may justly expect to be led in the strait path of duty. For “the meek he will guide in judgment; and the meek he will teach his way.” By some or all the ways which have been mentioned, men may always find out what they have to do in the world. I proceed to show,
II. What is implied in men's doing their duty, when they discover it, “ with their might.”
Might signifies power, strength and ability of every kind. This leads me to observe,
1. That men ought to employ all their powers and faculties in doing what they find they have to do. If what they find to do requires bodily strength, then they must exert their bodily strength; if it requires knowledge, then they must exercise the knowledge they possess; if it requires wisdom, then they must exercise their wisdom ; if it requires prudence, then they must exercise prudence; if it requires authority, then they must exercise authority; if it requires influence, then they must exercise all the influence they have; or if it requires the exertion of all their natural and moral abilities, then they must exert them all, to their utmost extent. For every man's might consists in his mental as well as corporeal strength. And no man can be said to do his duty with his might, unless he exerts all his powers and faculties which are necessary to perform it. God measures men's duty by the powers and faculties which he has given them. He requires them to love him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength, and their neighbor as themselves. This is requiring them to do every duty with all their might. It is true, every duty does not require the exertion of all their corporeal and mental faculties; but some duties do, and when they do, they are morally obliged to exert them all.
2. Men's doing with their might, what they find to do, implies that they should surmount all the difficulties that lie in the way of doing their duty. Though God never requires men to do any thing above their might, or strength, or abilities to do,
yet he does require them to do many things that cannot be done, without surmounting great and formidable difficulties, which lie in the way of the performance of duty. Every man finds in the course of life, some duties which are extremely hard and difficult for him to do. But in such cases, he ought to suminon all his courage, strength, activity, wisdom and prudence, which are necessary to discharge the duty devolved upon him. Abraham undoubtedly found it necessary to exert all his mental might, when he was called to sacrifice his son. Moses felt unequal to go to Pharaoh, to demand the deliverance of his people, and desired to be excused; but God would not excuse him. He therefore girded up the loins of his mind and went forward, and surmounted all the opposition, dangers and obstacles which he had to encounter. David found it to be his duty to meet Goliath ; he put his life in his hand, went, and slew the giant. Elijah found it to be his duty to go to Ahab, who had been seeking his life, and he went and performed his duty with safety. The prophets, Christ, the apostles, and the primitive christians, conducted in the same manner, and surmounted all difficulties and dangers that stood in the way of duty. They did whatsoever they found to do, with their might. And this is what every person ought to do, not only once or twice, or in a few instances; but to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the service of God, notwithstanding all the difficulties and dangers that obstruct their course.
It only remains to show,
III. Why men should thus exert themselves to do whatsoever they find to do in the world. And,
1. They ought thus to exert themselves in doing their duty, because God has given them all their mental and corporeal powers and faculties for use. He has made all men for himself, and given them all their natural and moral powers to capacitate them for what he has for them to do. The more strength any have, the more they ought to exercise it on all proper occasions. The more knowledge, wisdom, prudence, authority and influence any have, the more they ought to exercise these distinguishing talents in doing whatever of duty they find to do. No talents were ever given for the mere contemplation, amusement, or reputation of their possessors; and therefore they have no right to bury them, or pervert them. God needs them all, and requires that they should exercise them all in his service, with the utmost diligence, activity and perseverance. He does not allow
any of mankind to stand all the day idle, but commands them all to enter into his vineyard, and faithfully discharge the various and important duties which he has assigned them.