« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
to disband and dissolve of itself, for want of mu-SERM. tual trust and confidence among men to hold it to-, gether.
And this want of faith, in both senses, we owe in a great measure to popery; which by its artificial ways of fallhood and perjury (which when they have to deal with hereticks, they have upon folemn occasions declared lawful) hath not only weakned, but even destroyed the credit of mankind with one another, as we find of late by sad experience. And as for infidelity in religion, they have not only given great occasion to it, by the monstrous absurdities they have brought into religion; and by overítraining the faith of men in some parts of it, have brought them to a disbelief of the whole; as is at chis day too visible in many of the most knowing persons of their communion, both in France and Italy : but besides this, they have in their writings, to gain men to a dependence upon, and submission to the infallibility of their church, undermined the foundation of religion, and industriously endeavoured to bring men to scepticism and infidelity; hoping that when they have made men of no religion, they will be fit for theirs, which in too many respects is next to none; and in some, worse.
But whether the judgment of the great day be near at hand, or farther off, God alone knows; this is certain, that God hath in great mercy deLayed it for a long time, because “ he is not will« ing that any should perish, but that all should “ come to repentance.” And it is no less certain that it may come at any time, and will come when men least expect it, when the world is in great fecurity, and very little apprehensive of the near
SERM.ness and danger of it; which is reason and arguCLXXXIII. ment enough to continual care and vigilancy: for
it may come the next hour, the next moment, for any thing we know to the contrary: and whenever it comes, if we be not prepared, it will be too late to begin that work; if“ our lamps be gone out,” and “ we want oil,” we cannot provide ourselves in such a hurry; we shall be full of fear and amazement, but we shall “ find no place for repentance,” and a deliberate preparation for our great trial. As the great judge of the world then finds us, so will he deal with us; such as our state and condition then is, such will be our fentence and doom to all eternity. And is not this argument enough to us to be always upon our guard, always watchful and always ready? because “ the Son of man inay come at an hour 6 when we think not ;” and if we be not then prepared, it will be too late to set about it; the opportunity of doing it, and we ourselves are lost for ever.
This is the first direction our Saviour gives us, continual vigilancy and watchfulness over ourselves in general. .
The Ild direction is more particular, and that is prayer ; " take ye heed, watch and pray.” And the practice of this duty of prayer will be of great advantage to us upon these two accounts.
1. As it tends to awaken and excite our care and diligence in the business of religion.
2. As it is, if sincerely performed, effectual to engage the divine blessing and assistance to second our care and endeavours, and to secure them from iniscarriage,
. 1. It is very apt to awaken and excite our care SERM.
and diligence in the business of religion. For when- CLXXXIII.
of our own duty : and both reason and fcripture will * tell us, that we pray to God in vain for his help, - if we will do nothing ourselves; that it is gross hy.
pocrisy, and an impudent mocking of God, to i implore his grace and assistance, if we be not re
folved to put forth our own endeavours. Prayer in& deed supposeth that we stand in need of the divine 5 help; but it implies likewise a resolution on our E part, to do what we can ourselves ; otherwise “ we
" ask in vain," and have no reason to hope that God will hear our prayers, and grant our requests though never so earnestly and importunately put up to him.
2. If we use our sincere endeavours for the effecting of what we pray for, prayer is the most effectual means to engage the divine blessing and assistance to, second our endeavours, and to secure them from miscarriage. And without the aid of God's grace, and his blessing upon our endeavours, they will all be ineffectual, and signify nothing; we shall not be able so much as “ to watch one hour.” If God be · not with us, “ the watchman waketh but in vain :" for “ the way of a man is not in himself, it is not « in man that walkech to direct his steps.” It is necessary therefore, that we continually implore the divine grace, and that we do not rely upon our own strength, and the fickleness and uncertainty of our own resolutions, according to the wise advice of Solomon, Prov. iii. 5, 6. “ Trust in the LORD with " all thine heart, and lean not to thine own under
SERM.“ standing. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and
hope to persevere and continue in a good course,
And to this purpose, we have all the encouragement which the assurance of the divine goodness, and the fecurity of his never-failing promise can give us. It is but asking and receiving. So St. James tells us, speaking of this heavenly wisdom to direct us in our christian course, so as we may “ be perfect « and entire wanting nothing.” James i. 5. “ If “ any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,
who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth “ not, and it shall be given him.” I proceed to the
Third and last part of the text, which is the reason which our Saviour here adds to enforce our care and diligence in a matter of so great concernment, viz. the uncertainty, as to us, of the particular time, when this day of judgment will be. “ Ye know not when the time is.” Therefore we should always be in expectation of it, always in a readiness and preparation for it. The certainty of the thing, and that " God hath appointed” and determined “ a time, in which he will judge the world “ in righteousness,” though we were sure this day were far off, ought in all reason to make us very
I watchful over ourselves, and very careful of all our SERM. 11 actions, very strict and conscientious in the discharge
and performance of every part of our duty. If
there were no more but this, that we must one day I be call'd to a strict account for all the actions of ai our lives, and receive the just recompence of them, ti and according to the nature and quality of them be i sentenc'd to eternal happiness, or everlasting misery; of this alone were a mighty argument. So St. Peter d' reasons, 2 Pet. iii. 10, 11, 12. " But the day of the
A LORD will come, in the which the heavens shall
“ pass away with a great noise, and the elements : « shall inelt with fervent heat; the earth also, and i « the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.
" Sceing then all these things shall be diffolved,
“ hasting unto the coming of the day of God?” i that is, making speedy preparation for it. The very
expectation of this 26 terrible day of the LORD,”
diligent, that whenever it shall be, “ we may be [ - found of him in peace, without spot and blame. « less.”
But it adds a great deal of awe and force to this i argument, to consider, that for ought we know to į the contrary, this judgment may surprise us at any i time; that this very night we may be awakened by
the sound of that mighty trumpet, which shall pierce
and by fear, by his mercies and by his corrections, -2 by our knowledge and by our ignorance, hath pur