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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 bis 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 here 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, cannot 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 duties 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 tbeir 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 hands; and if they do otherwise, they sball 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 immedi. ate 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 unfaithful 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 when he is at a distance ; especially the interest of such a Master, who hath bought us from the most deplorable slavery with his 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 uncertain. 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, 0 man! but that to-morrow thy Master may come to thee; or, which is the same thing, may call thee to bim? 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 unfi. nished 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 diligeut preparation for your Mas. ter'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 in. troduced 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
them. Surely this is a reward, not of debt, but of grace; for how can the most perfect obedience merit any thing like this? Those faithful servants shall be advanced to an honour, which, were it not promised, they could not lawfully bope for. They shall be entertained by their Master at his own table; there shall they feast without any to disturb them. Here, indeed, whilst we are at our work, we obtain some foretastes of this heavenly banquet; but how soon is the table drawn! But it shall not be so in heaven.--Here we must eat, as the Jews did their passover, “in haste, with our loins girded, our shoes on our feet, and our staff in our hand.”—But ia heaven we shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Ja. cob, and with all our dear fellow-servants, never more to rise again. O blessed rest! O glorious society ! O delightful entertainment! But what can these words mean, He shall gird himself, and come forth and serve them? -Surely this cannot be literally fulfilled; yet it must have a resemblance to something that is real, otherwise it would not have been mentioned.
Thus much we know, that on that day Christ shall bestow some extraordinary marks of respect upon his servants, which our ears have not yet heard, neither can our hearts conceive."
If there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,” though he is then only beginning his warfare, and has many a weary and painful step before him; if the prodigal is so kindly embraced upon his first return from feeding swine, and gets “ the wedding-ring on his finger, and the best robe put on him;" what shall be the saint's honour in that day of the “ manifestation of the
&6 sons of God!"
“If any man serve me," saith Christ, 6 let bim fol. low me; and where I am, there shall my servant be. If