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Christian temper lies in the just medium, betwixt these opposite extremes: and therefore we are exhorted, not only “to watch," but also “ to quit ourselves like men;" “ to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ;"> and to be “ strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”_" Fear not,” saith God, “ for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” After this encouraging manner doth God speak to his children. Nay, he chides them when they betray the least timorousness in his service ; as in Isaiah, (chap. li. 12, 13.) “ Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass? and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth? and hast feared continually every day, because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy ? And where is the fury of the oppressor?” Hear how David triumphs in the assurance of his safety, upon grounds which are common to all believers in Cbrist : “ The Lord is my light and my salvation ; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid ? 'Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident." Let the wicked tremble; they have reason to do so; but “ let the heart of every one rejoice that seeks the Lord.” Victory is insured to you; the great “ Captain of salvation" hath already conquered all your enemies, and ere long he shall return, and bring you with singing into the heavenly Zion; then shall you obtain gladness and joy,
; and sorrow and morning shall flee away. But as the strength by which you must overcome is not your own, this makes it necessary that I direct and exhort you, in the
3d place, To depend upon God, and to walk closely with him. For this end, “abide in Christ,” for there it is alone that God and sinners can meet as friends. “ God is in Christ,” saith the apostle Paul, “ reconciling the world unto himself.” Indeed he is no where else in the character of a reconciler; and consequently, if we wish to dwell under his shadow, it is necessary that we be in Christ also. This was one of the solemn advices which our Lord gave to his disciples a little before bis death; “ Abide in me;"_" as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me;" for “ without me," or separated from me, “ye can do nothing.” In the
4th and last place, Seeing God is for us, let us be for him; let us appear openly on his side, and act with resolution and vigour in his service. God can do his work without us; he stands in no need of our assistance; yet such is bis condescension, that he invites us to the honour of being “workers together with himself.” And what can fire our ambition if this do not? He is just now calling aloud, both by his word and by his providence, " Who will rise up for me against the evil doers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity ?" 0! let each of us make haste to reply with the evangelical prophet, “ Here am I, send me.” At the same time, let us echo back the call, and humbly expostulate with him in the words which his owu Spirit hath dictated; “ Arise, O Lord, and plead thine own cause; remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.” “ It is time for thee to work, for they have made void thy law." Thus doth God permit ns to remind him of his own interest, while we ourselves are in a posture for active ser
vice; and such pleadings are highly pleasing and acceptable. Let us then, my brethren, in our respective stations, do what in us lies to advance the kingdom of Christ in the world, and to bear down every thing that stands in opposition to it. Let the “righteous be bold as lions;" and then may we hope that “ Iniquity,” as ashamed, shall bide her bead, and “stop her mouth." At any rate, “our record shall be on high,” and “our reward with our God." He will receive us unto himself 6 in that day when he maketh up his jewels;" and then shall an everlasting distinction be made “ between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." Amen.
LUKE xii. 35, 36, 37.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: verily 1 say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
THE obvious design of this passage is, to excite us to a serious consideration about the awful solemnities of death and judgment. We are here directed to consider
ourselves as servants who have a master in heaven; of whose return we have the strongest assurance, but are utterly ignorant of the precise time of his coming; and therefore it is both our duty and our interest to be always on our guard, and in a fit posture to receive him; the happy consequence of wbich shall be, that our Lord will not only approve of our prudent and zealous concern to please him, but he will even delight to honour us; he will not deal with us as servants, but as friends; and will bestow opon us a reward infinitely beyond what any services could entitle us to. So that here we have a short, but comprehensive account of the Christian's work and recompense; our duty and encouragement are both set before us.
Our duty is represented, by the diligent care of servants to have every thing in readiness for the reception of their absent master. As the Jews, and other eastern people, commonly woré long and loose garments, it was necessary, when they had any thing to do which required strength or agility, that they should tuck them up, and gird them close about them; now, says our Saviour, in allusion to this, let your loins be girded about; that is, lay aside every thing that may entangle you in your work: let your lights be continually burning, and ye yourselves, in every other respect, like servants who are anxious to please their Lord, and to be found diligent in their proper business, at whatever hour he shall come; that, when he knocketh, you may be ready to give him present admittance, and not to be surprised in any dis. order.
The reward of the diligent and faithful servant is described in the same allegorical manner; verily, says he, when their master returns, and finds them thus employed, he will bestow upon them some extraordinary marks
of honour and regard. He will not consider them as mere servants who have done no more than was their duty,” but will advance them to the rank of friends;
he will entertain them in the most liberal and gracious man. ner at his own table; yea, so condescending is he, that, in some respects, he will lay aside his superiority, as if he should gird himself like a servant, and come forth and wait upon them.
I shall at present confine myself to the first of these subjects; namely, the duty we owe to our absent Lord. It is this wbich more nearly concerns us in the mean time: the glorious reward mentioned in the latter part of my text belongs chiefly to our encouragement; and in that view I shall have occasion to speak of it before I conclude.
Now, by this figurative description of the duty we owe to our absent Lord, we are plainly taught, in the
1st place, That we should lay aside every thing that may incumber us in the service of our Master; let your loins be girded about. To the same purpose the apostle Peter exhorts us, (1 Pet. i. 13.) “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The New Testament abounds with many exhortations of the same kind; which will appear to have a peculiar propriety, if we consider those figurative representations of our work to which they are applied. It is called a race, a strife, a warfare ; we must run, and wrestle, and fight; and therefore have need of all our strength and activity. Long garments are for ornament, but not for use; these must be gathered up or laid aside when a man addresses himself to any labori. ous business. Now such is the nature of our Christian work : “ The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and