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they think with any pleasure about the return of their Lord, Jesus Christ? Whether they ever converse together, and comfort one another, as the Apostle hath admonished them, with words upon this great subject ? Whether they can pray sincerely, that the kingdom of God may come, and this vain world be removed out of the way to make room for that new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness Is their faith so strong and operative, as to lessen that esteem and value, which they feel naturally for the things of this world ? If not, they may assure themselves, it is too much like that of the evil servant; who had just so much religion as to talk about his Lord, but not enough to expect him and prepare for his appearance. As unbelief betrays a man into carelessness and pleasure, so will a right faith be sure to operate with a contrary effect, and will make him sober, serious, vigilant and devout. The duty of a good servant is expressed in those words of our blessed Master, let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for the Lord, when he shall return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. And surely gratitude as well as prudence should have its influence in making us serious and vigilant. For consider how he, our Lord and Master, condescended to watch for our salvation; continuing whole nights in prayer, and retiring into silence and darkness upon a mountain, to make intercession for a world of sinners. He offered himself to the scourge, to the thorns, to the cross, to the grave. Many painful hours and days did he watch for us, and paid at last the price of our redemption, even his own precious blood : yet we, miserable wretches
as we are, think it hard to deny ourselves any little gratification, and to spend even one single hour in prayer to God, or in humiliation for our sins.
Our subject teaches us to consider secondly, that as the return of Christ to judgment is reserved for the world in general, and will come upon them when it is least looked for; so death is an unknown period, reserved for every Christian, taken as an individual; and the day and hour of it may surprise him as much as the day of judgment shall surprise those who shall be alive at the Lord's coming. If we do not make it the great rule of our lives to be prepared for death, it may come upon us when we are most unprepared. To presume upon youth or health which are made the grounds of a false confidence, is the worst of vanity and folly; as daily experience too frequently teaches us.
I am here offering such considerations as are of use to all people, of all ages, and at all times. Happy will it be for us, if we lay them to heart: then will our loins be girded about, and our lights burning ; and instead of being cut asunder in wrath, we shall depart in peace with those words of Jacob in our lips.--I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
You have heard the punishment of an evil servant: now learn the reward of a good one.-“ Blessed are “ those servants whom the Lord when he cometh, “shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that “ he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to
meat, and come forth and serve them.” Excess and riot can last but a very short time; and when they are over, they terminate in weeping and gnashing of the teeth : but temperance and vigilance for the
Lord's sake, shall end in a perpetual feast. To abstain from the false mirth of this present time, the noise of which, while it lasts, is no better than the crackling of thorns under a pot, which consume themselves with their own blaze; is to find the true joys of eternity: and if the servant of the Lord can but refrain from eating and drinking with the drunken, he shall be rewarded with better fare and better company, when he shall partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.
AND HE SAID UNTO HIM, IF THY PRESENCE GO NOT WITH
ME, CARRY US NOT UP HENCE.—EXOD. xxxiii. 15.
Thus did Moses signify his distress for himself, and his people, when God threatened to withdraw his presence from them in the wilderness. The prophet knew it was impossible for them to go through the dangers and difficulties of their passage to Canaan, unless the God who had brought them out of Egypt should still be with them to guide and protect them. No less hazardous is the situation of every Christian in this world, than theirs was in their way to Canaan. We are all upon a journey, as they were, to the promised rest; and we are beset with such difficulties, dangers and temptations, that there can be no hope of arriving at it in safety, unless God shall conduct and defend us in our progress. So that we may each of us take up the words of Moses, and say, if thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence. Miserable is the condition of those, who either do not know how necessary the presence of God is to every man, or who have neither assurance nor sense of its effects towards their preservation.
I shall therefore shew you, in discoursing on the words I have chosen, that his presence always has been with his church, and that it extends to every individual.
That the presence of God was with the church of the Hebrews, must be plain to every one who reads their history: and while to us this presence is an object of faith, to them it was visible, in the cloud and the pillar of fire which attended their camp, and the glory which was seen on Mount Sinai. But the presence of God was as manifest by its effects. He divided the sea for them; he confounded the host of Egypt which pursued them; he furnished them with water from the rock, and bread from heaven; he healed them when they were bitten with serpents; their clothes did not wear out, nor their shoes wax old upon their feet; their enemies were terrified and driven out before them; vengeance was executed upon those who tempted and seduced them; and when they were about to be settled in the promised land, all the wonders God had wrought were set before them, as inducements to gratitude, and obligations to obedience.
If we look to the history of the Christian church: that also was propagated in a wonderful manner, by the power of its preachers, and the fortitude of its martyrs; whom God invested with such wisdom as overpowered the disputers of this world, and prevailed against the kingdoms of the earth; which were at length converted from the power of Satan unto God. The universal monarchy established in the Roman Empire was really aiding and assisting toward the spreading of the Gospel, while it seemed to persecute and resist it; and at last the Christian religion was received as the religion of the empire.
We are apt to admire the works of God when he interposes for the deliverance and preservation of his people; but his providence is equally to be admired,