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doubt the Lord Christ; who said of himself to his disciples, ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. As the Israelites were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt, then passed through the Red Sea, and encamped in the wilderness; so we Christians have been redeemed from the powers of sin, and conducted, through the waters of baptism, into the church of Christ, the camp of the true Israelites, which is upon its progress through the wilderness of this world to the heavenly land of promise. As Moses, who was their Lord, left the camp for a time, and went up into the mount, to receive a law, which he was to deliver to the people : so Christ, our Lord, ascended up on high, that he might send a new law into the world by the hands of his Apostles. He is now absent from us at the right hand of God, and we his servants are here below in this wilderness. With respect to this his absence from the day of his ascension to his return in judgment, he represents himself to us as a Samaritan upon a journey; who, after a certain time, was to come again and reckon with the host. In another place he describes himself as a bridegroom ; who tarried for a while, but at length should return from the wedding. Again he is signified to us by a man travelling into a far country; who, after a long time, should come back again to reckon with his servants.
If we go on with the comparison, we shall conclude, that the behaviour of the faithless Israelites, in the absence of Moses, will be accomplished in the people of the Christian world; of whom it is but too apparent, that the far greater number now do, and will continue to corrupt themselves, as the evil servant in the parable. He used the absence of his master as an opportunity of indulging his own vicious
nature, and of acting as if he had no master but himself. And are we not all of us witnesses, that Christians make the same use of the absence of Jesus Christ, as if their Lord would never return to require any account of them? Within the compass of a few years the people of this nation seem far advanced in all sorts of wickedness; and from the principles which prevail, the next generation may be worse than the present. And what is the beginning of all this? What but a neglect of the great doctrines of faith, and a consequent inattention to the judgment that must shortly come upon us? Does not the world cry out as it were with one common voice, my Lord delayeth his coming? Or, in the language of St. Peter, who set down the words which should afterwards be used by the scoffers of the last days, where is the promise of his coming ; for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the creation of the world ? If you should go amongst a large company of people, commonly called by the name of Christians, and should mention the coming of their Saviour, as an event soon to be expected, and greatly to be wished for; some would be ready to laugh at your simplicity; others would look grave, and be out of countenance for you; and it is to be questioned whether one single person, in any polite assembly, would have either the courage or the inclination to go on with the subject. And is not this a melancholy proof that they say in their hearts, though they do not declare it openly with their lips, my Lord delayeth his coming ; and that they have a secret satisfaction in putting away all thought of their Master's second appearance in the world?
If you proceed to consider their life and manners, you will discover them to be of such a sort as can agree only with an evil heart of unbelief. When the
people had forgotten Moses, they fell to making a molten image, and were given up to all kinds of excess in eating, drinking, singing, and dancing in the worship of it. So it is now: when faith is gone, then the heart is given up to the service of the world ; and idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, gaming, a multiplicity of theatres, and places of public diversion, extravagance, debauchery, profaneness and sedition, are the sad marks of its apostacy. Is not the Christian world over-run with these corrupt practices ? Have they not first said in their hearts, and then have they not proceeded to act, as the evil servant in the text ? This being the case, it is easy to pronounce what will follow: for it cannot possibly be long before the Lord of such servants shall come in a day when they look not for him, and in an hour that they are not aware. When Moses was forgotten by the Israelites, he came upon them, and surprised them in the midst of their idolatry. Thus it hath been and thus it will be: it is an invariable rule in the order of God's providence, that when men say peace, then sudden destruction cometh upon them. Such was the state of the world in the days of Noah, that preacher of righteousness. He declared publicly to the world, that God would bring a flood upon them to destroy them; and they had an opportunity of seeing him prepare the ark for an hundred and twenty years : yet they believed nothing of the judgment which hung over their heads; but continued all their evil practices till the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away. So also in the days of Lot, they were secure in their pleasures; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded: but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from
heaven, and destroyed them all. So will it be with the Christian world, at the coming of Christ: their hearts will be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares, and pleasures of this life, so that the day of their visitation shall come when they look not for it: and if we consider what state the world is even now in, we cannot believe it will be long before the Gospel will be accomplished. And then, how dreadful will be the consternation of a thoughtless and profane world! their mirth all silenced in a moment; their grandeur blasted; their pleasure departed as a vision of the night; their vain boastings of happiness and security confuted by the actual presence of their judge in the clouds of heaven; and themselves hurried away, without any preparation, to the dreadful tribunal : some of them surprised at masquerades and places of entertainment; some in the act of cheating and defrauding their neighbours; some cursing and swearing over a gaming table; others lying drunk upon the earth in a condition worse than that of the beasts : what a miserable preparation is this for the sight of a just judge, and an entrance upon the awful scenes of eternity! But thus it must be. In vain shall the ministers of Jesus Christ lift
up their voice like a trumpet: the world is too far gone to take any of their warnings; wickedness is too bold for any words to reform it; and therefore we may take up that exclamation of the Psalmist, It is time for thee, Lord, to lay to thy hand, for they have destroyed thy law. And this brings us to the execution of that vengeance, which is the last thing mentioned in the text; he shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The place of this punishment, and the punishment itself, are suited
to the nature of the crime. For where ought he to have his portion, but with the hypocrites ; who, in his baptism, pretended to be the servant of God; but, in practice, never served any thing but his worldly interests and sensual inclinations ? His being cut asunder, signifies his eternal separation from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power : the sword which shall give the stroke, is the word of God, which he has neglected and despised : the weeping which shall be in that place of torment, will be a fit recompense for all that profane mirth and noise with which he used to delight himself. They who now mourn and weep for their sins, shall hereafter be comforted, and have their tears wiped away: but they who laugh at sin, and make free with things sacred, as subjects of ridicule, will exchange their laughter for lamentation. The gnashing of the teeth with anguish and torment is the just reward of excess and drunken
The teeth of the Epicure, which never knew how to refrain themselves on a principle of duty, were the instruments of his sin ; and will therefore be applied to express the justice as well as the sharpness of his sufferings.
What has been delivered concerning the character and the end of an evil servant will lead us naturally to the following inferences :
First, that it is the interest of every Christian to guard against the deceit of an evil heart; and to be careful that there is no lurking poison of unbelief. The generality of men are apt to conceive very shallow notions of faith. If they allow the facts of Christianity, they rest satisfied with their religion ; not considering that if they have any faith, properly so called, it will take possession of their affections. Let them then examine their own hearts, whether