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drive thee from delaying and loitering. To all men I propound them, both godly and ungodly. Whoever thou art, therefore, I entreat thee to rouse up thy spirit, and read them deliberately, and give me a little while thy attention, as to a message from God. "Set thy heart to all the words that I testify to thee this day; for it is not a vain thing, but it is for thy life."
I. Our diligence should correspond to the greatness of the ends which we have in view. Now the ends of a Christian's desires and endeavours are so great, that no human understanding on earth can comprehend them; whether you consider their proper excellency, their exceeding importance, or their absolute necessity.
These ends are, the glorifying of God, the salvation of our own and other men's souls, in our escaping the torments of hell, and enjoying the glory of heaven, And can a man be too much affected with things of such moment? Can he desire them too earnestly, or love them too violently, or labour for them too diligently? When we know that if our prayers prevail not, and our labour succeeds not, we are undone for ever, I think it concerns us to seek and labour to good purpose. When the question is, whether we shall live for ever in heaven or in hell; and when the answer must depend upon our obeying or disobeying the gospel, upon the painfulness or the slothfulness of our present endeavours, I think it is time for us to bestir ourselves.
II. Our diligence should correspond to the greatness of the work which we have to do. Now the works of a Christian here are very many and very great. The soul must be renewed; many and great corruptions must be mortified; custom and worldly interests and temptations must be conquered; flesh must be mastered; self must be denied; conscience must on good grounds be quieted; assurance of pardon and
salvation must be attained. And though it is God that must give us these, and that freely without our own merit, yet will he not give them without our earnest seeking and labour.
Besides, there is much knowledge to be acquired, for the guiding of ourselves, for the defending of the truth, and for the direction of others. Many ordinances are to be used, and duties performed, ordinary and extraordinary. Every year, and day, requires a fresh succession of duty. Every place we come to, every person we have to deal with, every change of our condition, requires the renewing of our labour, and brings duty along with it. Wives, children, servants, neighbours, friends, enemies,-all of them call for duty from us; and all this of great importance too; so that, for the most of it, if we miscarry in it, it will prove our undoing.
Judge, then, whether men, that have so much business upon their hands, should not bestir themselves; and whether it be their wisdom either to delay or to loiter.
III. Our diligence should be quickened, because of the shortness and uncertainty of the time allotted us for the performance of all this work, and the many and great impediments which we meet with. Yet a few days, and we shall be here no more. Time passes on; many hundred diseases are ready to assault us. We that now are preaching, and hearing, and talking, and walking, must very shortly be carried to the grave, and laid in the dust, there to become the prey of corruption. We are almost there already. It is but a few days, or months, or years, and what is that when once they are past? We know not whether we shall enjoy another sermon, or Sabbath, or hour. How then should we bestir ourselves for everlasting rest, who know we have so short a space for so great a work!
Besides, every step in the way has its difficulties; the gate is strait, and the way narrow. The righteous themselves are scarcely saved. Stumbling blocks and discouragements will never cease to be cast before
us; and can all these be overcome by slothful endeavours?
IV. Our diligence should correspond to the diligence of our enemies in seeking our destruction. If we sit still while they are plotting and labouring, you may easily conceive how we are likely to speed. How diligent is Satan in all kind of temptations! Therefore, ❝be sober and vigilant," says Peter, "because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith." How diligent are all the ministers of Satan in seeking our ruin, and how is our inward corruption the most busy and diligent of all! Whatever we are about, it is still resisting us, perverting our thoughts, deadening our affections to good, and exciting them to evil. And will a feeble resistance then serve our turn? Should not we be more active for our own preservation than our enemies are for our ruin?
V. Our diligence should bear some proportion to the talents we have received, and the means we have enjoyed. To whom you commit much, from them you expect the more. Now the talents we have received are many and great; the means which we have enjoyed are very numerous and very precious. What people on earth have had plainer instructions, or more forcible persuasions, or more frequent admonitions, in season and out of season? What people have had God so near them as we have had; or have had heaven and hell, as it were, opened unto them, as we ? Scarcely has there been a day wherein we have not had some spur to hasten us on. What speed, then, should such a people make for heaven! How should they fly that are thus winged! How swiftly should they sail that have wind and tide to help them!
VI. Our diligence should bear some proportion to the great cost bestowed upon us, and to the many mercies which we have received from God. Oh, the cost that God has been at for our sakes! The riches of sea and land, of heaven and earth, has he poured out upon us. All our lives have been filled up with
mercies. We cannot look back upon one hour of it, or one passage in it, but we behold mercy. We feed upon mercy, we are clothed by mercy, mercy within us, common and special, mercy without us, for this life, and for that which is to come. Oh the rare deliverances that we have partaken of, both national and personal! How oft, how seasonably, how fully have our prayers been heard, and our fears removed! What large catalogues of particular mercies can every Christian draw forth and rehearse ! To offer to number them, would be as endless a task as to number the stars, or the sands on the sea-shore. Oh! is not a loitering performance of a few heartless duties, an unworthy requital of such admirable kindness? For my own part, when I compare my slow and unprofitable life, with the frequent and wonderful mercies which I have received, it shames me, it silences me, it leaves me inexcusable.
VII. All the relations which we stand in to God, whether special or common, call upon us for our utmost diligence. Should not the creature be wholly at the service of his great Creator? Are we his servants, and shall we not obey his commands? Are we his children, and shall we not yield him our most tender affections, and our dutiful obedience? "If he be our Father, where is his honour? And if he be our Master, where is his fear?" "We call him Lord and Master, and we do well." But if our affections and endeavours be not answerable to our assumed relations, we condemn ourselves in saying we are his children or his servants.
VIII. What haste should they make who have such rods at their backs as are at ours! And how painfully should they work who are driven on by such sharp afflictions! If we either wander out of the way, or loiter in it, how surely shall we smart for it! Every creature is ready to be God's rod to spur us on; our sweetest mercies will become our sorrows; our diseased bodies will make us groan; our perplexed minds will make us restless; our troubled conscience will be as a scorpion in our bosom. Thus we make our own
lives miserable, and constrain God, if he love us, to chastise us. It is true, those that do most for God, do meet with afflictions also; but surely, according to the measure of their diligence and faithfulness, is the bitterness of their cup for the most part abated.
IX. How closely should they ply their work who have such attendants as we have! All the world are our servants, that we may be the servants of God. The sun and moon and stars attend us with their light and influence; the earth, with all its furniture, its many thousand plants, and flowers, and fruits, and birds, and beasts, attends us! The sea, with its inhabitants, the air, the clouds, the rain, the frost and snow, the light and heat, all wait upon us while we do our work. Yea, the angels are ministering spirits for the service of the heirs of salvation. And is it not an intolerable crime for us to trifle, while all these are employed to assist us? Nay more, the patience and goodness of God wait upon us; the Lord Jesus waits in the offers of his blood; the Holy Ghost waits, in striving with our reluctant hearts. Besides, all his servants, the ministers of the gospel, study and preach, and pray and wait upon careless sinners. And shall angels and men, yea the Lord himself, stand by and look on, and offer their aid, whilst thou doest nothing?
X. Should not our affections and endeavours be answerable to the acknowledged principles of our Christian profession? Surely, if we are Christians indeed, and mean as we speak, when we profess the faith of Christ, this will show itself in affections and endeavours, as well as in expressions. Why, the very fundamental doctrines of our religion are,―That God is the chief good, and therefore he should be valued and sought above all things: That he is our only Lord, and therefore he is chiefly to be served: That we must love him with all our heart and soul, and mind and strength: That the principal business men have in the world, is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever. And do men's lives correspond with this profession? Are these doctrines seen in the painfulness of their daily practice? Or rather do not their works deny