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tion of him, “whose eyes are as a flame the interest of his Lord: he
in short, of fire." “The eyes of the Lord are in the sluggard here addressed by the wise every place, beholding the evil and the man; and his doom was just. For it is good.”-Can any man hide himself in se only " to those who, by a patient continucret " places that I shall not see him ? do ance in well-doing, seek for glory, honor, not I fill heaven and earth, saith the and immortality, that God will render Lord ?"_“ Yea, the darkness hideth not eternal life, in the day when he shall from thee, O Lord, but the night shineth judge the secrets of men by Jesus as the day.” Besides, God hath placed Christ." an overseer in our own breasts, which Thus, then, the ant, which, without a acts within us as his deputy; for the guide, overseer, or judge, labors with such voice of conscience is the voice of God. diligence, sagacity, and foresight, for the This bosom-witness marks our steps, re- preservation of a life which must soon minds us of our duty, condemns us when come to a final period; instructs, reproves, we do wrong, and never fails to render and condemns those who, having all the those unhappy whom it fails to keep faith- advantages which are denied to her, are ful to their duty. For conscience at first yet remiss and negligent in the great buspeaks forcibly to every human being; siness assigned them: on which depend and many, a hard struggle doth it cost not their present interests only, but the even the worst of men, before this awful interests and the life of their immortal monitor can be silenced. Thus we have spirits of their spirits, which shall surnot only a guide to point out the way to vive the dissolution of their bodies, and us, but an overseer to attend us in every shall last through eternal ages. step; and therefore, if we either loiter or These observations may be sufficient turn aside, we must be without excuse: both to illustrate the meaning, and to show
our own hearts condemn us, and God is the propriety of Solomon's advice. Let greater than our hearts, and knoweth all me now, as the improvement of the subthings."
ject, press you to reduce to practice the Once more, the ant “hath no ruler ” | lessons which I have been considering. or judge to call her to account for her And for this end, I would represent to conduct; but every one of us must give you, an account to God. "God hath appointed 1st. That the sluggard sins against a day in which he will judge the world in the very nature which God hath given righteousness, by that Man whom he hath him. For what are all the high powers ordained, whereof he hath given assur- and faculties with which we are endowed, ance unto all men, in that he raised him but so many tokens that we were formed from the dead." “We must all appear for active service ? The nature of things before the judgment-seat of Christ, that has evidently in this respect the force of a every one may receive the things done in law; since it is impossible to conceive, the body, according to that he hath done, that powers and capacities were given us, whether it be good or bad.” And it de. which were not meant to be exerted and serves our notice, that the sluggard is improved. Even in the state of innocence, particularly pointed out in Scripture as man had his task assigned him, whilst the one of those who shall certainly be con- inferior animals were left to roam at large, demned in that decisive day. This is without being accountable for their conclearly intimated to us in the parable of duct. And as our natures are formed for the talents. The unprofitable servant, action, so our inclination evidently prompts who is condemned to utter darkness, is us to it. This is plain from the various not accused of having squandered his talent, methods by which those who will not laor of having applied it to wicked pur- bor endeavor to relieve themselves from poses: on the contrary, he had preserved the oppressive load of idleness. Their it entire, and returned it unimpaired to time itself is a misery: and there is nohis master : his crime was, that he had thing so impertinent to which they will not improved it. He was a wicked ser- not fly, that they may be free from it. The vant, because he had not been active for burdens of the most laborious slaves are
light, when compared with the burden great Redeemer, who shed his blood for which the sluggard carries about with him the ransom of our souls, and who gave in an enfeebled body, and a vacant, dis- himself for us, not to purchase our release contented mind.
from duty, but to “purify unto himself a 2dly. The sluggard sins against the peculiar people, zealous of good works." manifest design of Providence. God hath Christ spoiled principalities and powers, indeed made a liberal provision for the “ that we, being delivered out of the hands supply of all our returning wants. But of our enemies, might serve him without he hath done this in a way that requires fear, in holiness and righteousness before industry on our part, in order to render him all the days of our lives." Let us that provision effectual. The earth, by hear and reverence the language of the the blessing of God, is fruitful of herbs Gospel. “ Ye are not your own: ye are and grain for the use of man. But man bought with a price: therefore glorify God must be careful to do his part in the labor in your body and in your spirit, which are of the field, that it may yield him a re- God's. Work out your own salvation gular or a certain produce. The rough with fear and trembling: for it is God materials of all things necessary and con- that worketh in you, both to will and to venient for the purposes of life are laid do of his good pleasure. And beside plentifully at our hands; but the skill and this, giving all diligence, add to your faith industry of the workmen must bring them virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to into form, and render them fit for use. knowledge temperance, and to temperance “ All things are full of labor.” Who then patience, and to patience godliness, and to art thou, O sluggard, to counteract the godliness brotherly kindness, and to brothdesigns both of Nature and of Provi- erly kindness charity. For so an entrance dence ?
shall be ministered unto you abundantly, But some may say, perhaps, We have into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord nothing to do. Our wants are abundantly and Saviour Jesus Christ." supplied from the patrimony which we have Let us then be no longer “slothful in inherited; and nothing remains for us but business, but fervent in spirit, serving the to enjoy what we have. Do you then in- Lord." Amen. deed believe, that any human being can have a right to live idle on the earth? If ye believe this, ye have yet to learn this fundamental principle of common sense,
SERMON XLII. That all obligations are reciprocal. Ye sluggards, why cumber ye the ground? Shall God give you all things richly to enjoy, and is there no active service which JAMES IV. 13, 14, 15.—“Gu to now, ye that say, he requires of you ? Must the labor of
to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city,
and continue there a year, and buy and sell, the husbandman nourish, and the art of
and get gain. Whereas ye know not what the manufacturer clothe you? Must all
shall be on the morrow. For what is your ranks of men labor for your convenience;
life? it is even a vapor that appeareth for a
little time, and then vanisheth away. For and are there no obligations which ye are
that ye ought to say, If the LORD will, we shall bound to discharge to them in return for
live, and do this or that. so many, and so important services ? For what end then do you live? Your being The obvious design of this passage is to is an embarrassment and burden to the detect the folly and presumption of those creation. “For if any man will not work, who lay schemes for futurity, without a neither should he eat."--Once more, in proper acknowledgment of their depenthe
dence on the providence of God. The 3d place, The sluggard sins against the particular scheme, which the apostle regreat design of the Gospel
. For we have presents and condemns, is one of the most not only a Guide to instruct us, an Over- plausible that can well be imagined. A seer to observe us, and a Judge to whom merchant resolves on a journey to some we are accountable; but we have also al city, in which he can carry on his trade to
FATALITY OF PROCRASTINATION.
advantage. That he may lose no time, he If this remark is just, we have already saith, “ To-day,” or, at farthest, “to-mor- discovered one capital error in the expresrow, I will go into such a city, and con- sions before us.- To seek gain by honest tinue there a year, and buy and sell, and industry, either for the supply of our own get gain.” There is no intimation that wants, or to enable us to relieve the nehe meant to enrich himself by fraud or cessities of others, is not only lawful but extortion. The gain he had in view may honorable : But to seek wealth for its own be supposed to have been the profits of a sake, and merely for the sordid pleasure fair and honorable commerce; the honest of possessing it, betrays a mean and selfish reward of his attention and diligence. spirit, unworthy of a man, and much more
I apprehend that none of us would be unworthy of a Christian. greatly startled, though we should hear Supposing this then to be the end in some of our friends talking in the manner view, there can be no doubt that it is in a which is here represented. There are few high degree culpable. But as the apostle of us, perhaps, who have not on some oc- is silent on this head, we shall admit, that casions held such a language, without sus- the persons who hold the language before pecting that it was either presumptuous us, might intend to make a proper use of or wrong: In order, therefore, to discover their riches, and proceed to examine the what is faulty in it, and to enter into the means by which they propose to obtain spirit of this text, let us examine with at- them. "To-day," say they," or to-mortention,
row, we will go into such a city.” These 1st. The form of expression which the words may pass in common conversation; apostle condemns. And,
but when we seriously weigh the import 2dly. The amendment which he sug- of them, as at present we are called to do, gests.
And if it shall please God to we shall find that they are chargeable both afford us the assistance of his Spirit, I with folly and presumption. am persuaded that several remarks will. The great Lord of all has no part in occur to us in the course of this inquiry, this scheme. These little arrogant words, which may be “profitable for doctrine, for WE WILL, thrust him out at once, and ocreproof, for correction, and for instruction cupy his place. And for what do the per. in righteousness." Let us then attend, sons here described undertake? They
First. To the form of expression which undertake, without hesitation, to insure the apostle condemns. “Go to now, ye their lives against death, their bodies that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go against sickness, and their effects against into such a city, and continue there a year, every casualty or hazard. They speak of and buy and sell, and get gain.'
the morrow as if they had the absolute In general, we may observe, that this property of it. They promise themselves, language relates altogether to a worldly that tomorrow they shall not only be project. The principal object is gain : alive, but in health, to set out on their is not the true riches; " that good journey; that they shall meet with no part” which shall never be taken from cross accidents by the way; that the goods those who choose it; but the gain of this which they carry along with them shall be world, the gain which is acquired by buy- protected against thieves and robbers; ing and selling. They say nothing of the and that in due time they shall arrive at measure of gain that would satisfy them, the city where their plan of business is to and nothing of the use to which they be carried into execution. But what folmeant to apply their wealth. For any lows is still more extravagant. They thing that their expressions imply, their promise upon life for a full year: “We desires might be without bounds, and their will continue there a year :" and not upon sole aiın might be to “heap up silver as life only, but on health of body, and the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the soundness of mind, during all that time. streets; or, in the language of Isaiah, No allowance is made for the change of
to join house to house, and field to field, climate, or the fatigues of business: they till they were placed alone in the midst of are always to be in a condition to buy and the earth.'
sell, and to manage their affairs with ac
tivity and prudence. Nay, more, they need only to stretch forth our hand to assure themselves of success. “We will take hold of them. God knows, that we buy and sell, and get gain." They under- have much work to do, and little time to take, not for themselves alone, but for all do it in: and therefore, that we may lose whom they shall employ, or with whom no part of it, the most useful and necesthey shall have commerce—that they shall sary things are scattered around us with have diligent and faithful servants; that the greatest profusion. Were it otherthey shall have large profits from those to wise, the opportunity of acting might frewhom they sell, and cheap bargains from quently pass away before the means of those of whom they buy. In a word, action were ready. Yet such, alas! is they speak as if every thing relating to our folly and perverseness, that overlookthemselves and others were so dependent ing what is near, we roam abroad, and on their will, that they might command always grasp most eagerly at those things the events which they desired, and dis- which are farthest from us. Thwarting pose of all things according to their own the merciful designs of God, we despise pleasure.
common truths, merely because they Well might the apostle give this the are common; and wander in pursuit of name of boasting, as he doth at the 16th abstruse and intricate speculations, which verse of this chapter; and had it suited puzzle the understanding, and amuse the the gravity of an inspired writer; he might fancy, but leave the heart cold and insenhave examined the different parts of the sible. How much better was the course scheme, computed the risks which were which the apostle took with those who plainly against them in every step, and held the language of the text, in order to thus turned the whole design into matter bring them to a sense of their folly ? He of contempt and ridicule. But instead of doth not go about in quest of remote obthis, he arrests them at the very first out- jects, nor seek to surprise them with new
You talk of “going to such a city, and uncommon discoveries ; but he surof continuing there a year, of buying, of prised them most effectually, by pointing selling, and getting gain :""whereas ye to an object just at hand, one view of know not what shall be on the morrow. which was sufficient to check their preThe present moment is all that ye can call sumption,—an object which stood always
This night your souls may be before their eyes, though overlooked required of you: to-day you are; but to-through the pride, or inattention, or permorrow ye may be numbered with those verseness of their minds. who have been. He would not trifle with It hath already been observed, that the miserable men, who might die whilst he matter of the project, here represented was speaking to them. He therefore by the apostle, is in itself plausible; and seizeth one important truth, the force of that his reproof is chiefly aimed at the which could not be denied, and instantly form or manner of expressing it. And if placeth it full in their view. " What is he treated this with so much severity, your life ?” saith he, “it is even a vapor." what would he have said, had the end At present it appears; but while I get proposed been criminal in its own nature, speak to you
may vanish away. Cease or the means of obtaining it base and disthen, vain boasters, to talk of a year hence, honorable ? What would he have said to until ye can say something with certainty those who puzzle themselves with schemes of the succeeding day. Thus the visionary to get rid of their money, or to throw it Babel falls to the ground. This plain pro- away upon the most ridiculous trifles ? position, “ Life is a vapor," undermines it who have no higher objects than the suat once, and overwhelms the proud builders perfluities of dress, the luxury of enterwith shame.
tainments, the multiplicity of diversions, It hath often given me pleasure to ob- and all the expensive arts of dissipation serve, that the truths which are best fit- and sensuality? What would he have ted to touch the heart, and to influence said to those who, in the same presumptuthe life, are universally the most simple ous style, lay deliberate schemes for low and obvious, and lie so near us, that we vice and debauchery, for drunkenness
and whoredom, and other works of the it had brought forth sin. And I am perflesh ? What would he have said to suaded, that if men were faithfully to those who devise methods of making practise this one easy and reasonable
pregain by secret fraud or open violence ? caution, they would at least avoid many to those who practise deceit in buying of those presumptuous offences which lay and selling, or who, without either buy- waste the conscience, and destroy the ing or selling, support a useless and peace of the soul. pernicious life by the base and infa- 2dly. This amendment, which the mous occupation of gaming? Compared apostle suggests, teacheth us to consider with these, the scheme which the apostle the shortness, and particularly the uncercondemns is wisdom, and honor, and tainty, of life. “Ye know not," saith he, virtue.
“ what shall be on the morrow. For But the apostle doth not rest in censur- what is your life? it is even
a vapor ing what was wrong.
He goes on at the which appeareth for a little time, and 15th verse to correct what was faulty, then vanisheth away.” Thus David deand to supply what was defective. " For scribes the life of man by those things that ye ought to say,” adds he, “If the which are most frail and fugitive in naLord will, we shall live, and do this or ture. “As for man, his days are as that.”—This amendment, suggested by grass.” Nay, as if the grass, which enthe apostle, was the
dures for a season, were too permanent Second thing which I proposed to con- an object of comparison, he immediately sider.—And,
corrects the similitude, “ As the flower 1st. It furnisheth us with a rule by of the field, so he flourisheth:” As the which all our undertakings ought to be flower of the field, which is exposed to examined. Whatever scheme we have in the foot of every passenger, to the tooth view, to which we cannot prefix this pre- of every wild beast, to the wanton hand face, “If the Lord will," we may be of every destroyer. It is not by rare and assured is essentially wrong, and ought to striking events only that the thread of be abandoned without delay. There is life may be broken. There is no need nothing truly good or profitable to us, for that the thunder should break on you, or which we may not address God by prayer. that the fire should devour you, or that Let us then convert the views which we the earth should open and swallow you up. have in any undertaking into the form of Things far more common and familiar are a petition, and try whether we can, with sufficient for so easy a purpose, as that decency or propriety, offer up such a pe- of cutting off your days. There is not an tition to God. Let us consider, whether element so friendly, nor a circumstance so the means by which we propose to com- trifling, that it may not become the minpass these views are of such a nature, ister of death. Ought not this manifest that we may ask or expect the divine uncertainty of life, then, to cool our purblessing to accompany them. Happy suit of earthly projects? We are apt to were it for us, that all our schemes and meditate great and complicated schemes projects were brought to this test. We to attain wealth, or power, or honor in the should then be seasonably delivered from world. But could we penetrate a little that fatal enchantment which first enga- into futurity, we might perhaps see our geth us in unlawful pursuits, and then grave opened far on this side of half way stimulates us to persist in them against to the objects of our keenest pursuit. the remonstrances of our own consciences. “ For what is our life? it is even a vapor
We should then escape from those fatal that appeareth for a little time, and then snares into which our rash unadvised vanisheth away. For that we ought to plans betray us. For who would dare to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and say, “ If the Lord will, I shall live," and do this or that." rob and steal, game and defraud, oppress 3dly. This amendment, suggested by and overreach my neighbor ? Such a the apostle, teacheth us to live in an haconnection of thought would startle the bitual dependence on God, not only for mind at the first conception of lust, before life, but also for activity and prudence to