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LXXXIII.

{coffed at them upon this account, as if the apostles SERM. had been deceivers in this matter, and therefore said, CLXXXIII, as where is the promise of his coming ?” as it were upbraiding them, for putting men in a vain expectation of it.

And it was no inconvenience at all, that the apostles and first christians had this apprehension of the nearness of that time; for no consideration could be more forcible to keep them stedfast in their profefsion, and to fortify them against 'sufferings, than a persuasion of the approach of that day, wherein those who suffered for CHRIST should be fo gloriouly rewarded ; and those who for fear of suffering fell off from him, should be so terribly punish'd. And nothing could be more proper and powerful, to, wean their affections from the love of this world, and to make them willing to part with any thing in it, than to apprehend that there would shortly be an end of it, and then all the enjoyments of it would signify nothing. So that their ignorance in this mat.. ter was, by the providence of God, admirably fito ted for the animating and encouraging of christians. to a great zeal and constancy in the profession of their faith, and in the propagating of it, as thinking they had but a little while to do this great work in.

And it will be in all ages to the end of the world, a good argument to men to vigilancy and constant preparation ;, because if they be remiss and careless, the great judge of the world may “ come in a day " that they think not of, and at an hour when they 6 are not aware,” But to return to the particulars I propounded to speak to from the words.

First,

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SERM. First, here is a general caution, “ take ye heed; ". CLXXXIII. look heedfully to it, that ye be not surprized and

overtaken by that time : for being uncertain when it will happen, ye are always in danger. But because this general caution is only premised by our SAVIOUR, to make way for the more particular directions, therefore I shall not insist upon this, but in the second place proceed to them. And they are these two; '" watch and pray.”

I. Vigilancy, which is a large duty, and comprehends under it the whole care of a christian life; all that watchfulness and preparation which we ought to use, that we be not surprized by that terrible day; that we be not found in such a condition, as Nothful and negligent servants used to be in, when their lord comes suddenly upon them, and finds all things in confusion and disorder. And to this our SAVIOUR alludes several times in his exhortations to watchfulness: Luke xii. 35, 36. “Let your loins be girded « about, and your lamps burning, and ye yourselves “ like unto men that wait for their LORD. Blessed « are those servants, whom the Lord when he « comes shall find watching.” And, ver. 40. “ Be “ ye therefore ready also; for the Son of man “ cometh at an hour when ye think not.” So that this watchfulness implies a continual care of our lives and actions, that we be always in such a posture as we would be willing the great judge of the world should take us in, doing those things which we should not be ashamed to own, if he should come suddenly upon us, and summon us before his tribunal; and avoiding those things which would be matter of shame and confusion to us at his appearance. Luke xxi. 34, 35, 36. where our Saviour giveth

this caution, he instanceth in some particular fins, SERM. which are more directly contrary to this “ vigilance;" clxxxIII. as intemperance, and an inordinate love and care about earthly things.“ Take heed to yourselves, lest your “ hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunken“ ness and the cares of this life, and so that day come “ upon you unawares : for as a snare shall it come « on all that dwell on the face of the whole earth. " Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may “ be accounted worthy to escape all those things that u shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son s of man.”

It would be a large work to descend to all particu lars, whereby we should express our care and vigilance. I shall mention but a few; but such as will comprehend most others under them.

1. We should resolve without delay, to put ourselves into that state and condition, in which we may not be afraid judgment should find us. It is to be feared, that a great part of mankind are in that loose and negligent posture, in the time of their health and prosperity, in which if the great judge of the world Thould surprize them, and bring them to a speedy trial, it would go ill with them; their case would be sad and deplorable beyond all imagination, infinitely fadder than of a malefactor standing before an earthly judge, guilty of great and notorious crimes, and continually expecting the sentence of death to be pass’d upon him. Such is the condition of all impenitent sinners, who have lived careless and dissolute lives, without any serious consideration of their future ftate, or preparation for it; who have in the general course of their lives neglected God and religion, and a great many necessary and essential parts

SERM. of their duty, and have indulged themselves, either CLXXXIII. in a continual course of impiety and wickedness, or

of sensual pleasures and vanity. What shall become of those whoin the judge of the world shall find in this condition, either actually wicked, or wretchedly fecure ?

Nay, those who do in some measure and degree mind religion, how few of them live under “ the c powers of the world to come,” have “ their loins, “ girded about, and their lamps burning,” and are habitually fo prepared, as if they were in a continual expectation of the coming of their Lord ? So that, in the secure and negligent posture that most men live, even the better sort of men, if judgment should overtake them, how few could be saved ? For this cause “ God is long-suffering to men, because “ he is not willing that any should perish, but that “ all should come to repentance.” And if he should not by his merciful providence awaken many men to consideration and care of themselves, and by some great affliction, or long sickness, put men upon ferious thoughts, and give them the space and opportunity to recollect themselves, to make up their accounts, and so make their peace with God, and to put themselves into a better posture for another world, than they usually are in the time of their health and prosperity, it is very much to be feared, that the greatest part of those who are tolerably good, would be destroyed in their security.

But this patience of God will not always last ; but “ the day of the LORD will come as a thief in “ the night," and will surprize the careless world all at once, and give them no time " to trim up their “ lamps,” and “ to get oil,” if they be not pro

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vided already; but in an instant the door will be shut SERM. against them, and they shall never enter into the LXXX kingdom of God. This day hath not yet happen'd ; but it will certainly come, and, as our SAVIOUR says, “ will come as a snare upon all them that dwell “ upon the face of the whole earth.” And “ blercc sed is that servant, whom his Lord when he “ comes shall find ready."

So that our first care must be to get out of this dangerous state of sin and security ; " to break off " our sins by repentance,” that we may be capable of the mercy of God, and at peace with him, before he comes to execute judgment upon the world: for 'till this be done, we are every moment in dan. ger; and if death or judgment should overtake us in this impenitent state, we are lost beyond recovery.

2. After this great work of repentance is over, we should be very careful how we contract any new guilt, by returning to our former sins, or by the gross neglect of any part of our duty. A true and sincere repentance will put us into a safe condition : but then we must take heed, that we do not repent of our repentance, and bring ourselves into danger again, by starting aside froin those good resolutions, which we had so folemnly taken up. For every de. liberate and presumptuous sin that we are guilty of after our repentance, does endanger our state, and shake the foundations of our peace : but if we relapse into our former evil course, or after our repentance we allow ourselves in the habitual practice of any known sin, either our repentance was insincere before, or if it were true for the time, we are fallen from it, and all that we have done signifies nothing, and we have the whole work to begin, VOL. X.

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