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5. Lastly, we are unskilful in the work. How few know how to deal with men, so as to get within them, and suit all our discourse to their several conditions and tempers: to choose the fittest subjects, and follow them with a holy mixture of seriousness, terror, love, and meekness!
But undoubtedly this private application is implied in those solemn words of the apostle: "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering."
O, brethren, if we could but set this work on foot in all our societies, and prosecute it zealously, what glory would redound to God! If the common lukewarmness were banished, and every shop, and every house, busied in speaking of the word and works of God, surely God would dwell in our habitations, and make us his delight.
And this is absolutely necessary to the welfare of our people, some of whom neither repent nor believe to this day. Look round, and see how many of them are still in apparent danger of damnation. And how can you walk and talk, and be merry with such people, when you know their case? When you look them in the face, you should break forth into tears, as the prophet did when he looked upon Hazael, and then set on them with the most vehement exhortations. 0, for God's sake, and the sake of poor souls,
bestir yourselves, and spare no pains that may conduce to their salvation!
What cause have we to bleed before the Lord that we have so long neglected this good work! If we had but engaged in it sooner, how many more might have been brought to Christ! And how much holier and happier might our societies have been before now! And why might we not have done it sooner? There were many hinderances; and so there always will be. But the greatest hinderance is in ourselves-in our littleness of faith and love.
But it is objected, I. "This will take up so much time, we shall not have leisure to follow our studies." We answer, 1. Gaining knowledge is a good thing, but saving souls is a better. 2. By this very thing you will gain the most excellent knowledge-that of God and eternity. 3. You will have time for gaining other knowledge too. Only sleep no more than you need; " and never be idle, or triflingly employed." But, 4. If you can do but one, let your studies alone. We ought to throw by all the libraries in the world, rather than be guilty of the loss of one soul.
It is objected, II. "The people will not submit to it." If some will not, others will. And the success with them will repay all your labour. O let us herein follow the example of St. Paul! 1. For our general business, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind: 2. Our special work, Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock: 3. Our doc
trine, Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ: 4. The place, I have taught you publicly, and from house to house: 5. The object and manner of teaching, I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears: 6. His innocence and self-denial herein, I have coveted no man's silver or gold: 7. His patience, Neither count I my life dear unto myself. And among all other motives, let these be ever before our eyes: 1. The Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood: 2. Grievous wolves shall enter in; yea, of yourselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things.
Write this upon your hearts, and it will do you more good than twenty years' study. Then you will have no time to spare; you will have work enough. Then likewise no preacher will stay with us who is as salt that has lost its savour. For to such this employment would be mere drudgery. And in order to it, you will have need of all the knowledge you can procure, and grace you can attain.
The sum is, Go into every house in course, and teach every one therein, young and old, to be Christians inwardly and outwardly; make every particular plain to their understandings; fix it in their minds; write it on their hearts. In order to this there must be line upon line, precept upon precept. What patience, what love, what knowledge, is requisite for this! We must needs do this, were it only to avoid idleness.
Do we not loiter away many hours in every week? Each try himself: no idleness is consistent with a growth in grace. Nay, without exactness in redeeming time, you cannot retain the grace you receive in justification.
Quest. 2. Why are we not more holy? Why do we not live in eternity? Walk with God all the day long? Why are we not all devoted to God? Breathing the whole spirit of missionaries?
Answ. Chiefly because we are enthusiasts; looking for the end without using the means. To touch only upon two or three instances:-Who of us rises at four, or even at five, when we do not preach? Do we know the obligation and benefit of fasting or abstinence? How often do we practise it? The neglect of this alone is sufficient to account for our feebleness and faintness of spirit. We are continually grieving the Holy Spirit of God by the habitual neglect of a plain duty. Let us amend from this hour.
Quest. 3. How shall we guard against Sabbath-breaking, evil-speaking, unprofit able conversation, lightness, expensiveness or gayety of apparel, and contracting debts without due care to discharge them?
Answ. 1. Let us preach expressly on each of these heads. 2. Read in every society the sermon on evil-speaking. 3. Let the leaders closely examine and exhort every person to put away the accursed thing. 4. Let the preachers warn every society that
none who is guilty herein can remain with us. 5. Extirpate buying or selling goods which have not paid the duty laid upon them by government out of our Church. Let none remain with us who will not totally abstain from this evil in every kind and degree. Extirpate bribery, receiving anything, directly or indirectly, for voting at any election. Show no respect to persons herein, but expel all that touch the accursed thing. And strongly advise our people to discountenance all treats given by candidates before or at elections, and not to be partakers, in any respect, of such iniquitous practices.
Of Employing our Time profitably, when we are not travelling, or engaged in Public Exercises.
Quest. 1. What general method of employing our time shall we advise?
Answ. We advise you, 1. As often as possible to rise at four. 2. From four to five in the morning, and from five to six in the evening, to meditate, pray, and read the Scriptures with notes, and the closely practical parts of what Mr. Wesley has published. 3. From six in the morning till twelve, (allowing an hour for breakfast,) read, with much prayer, some of our best religious tracts.
Quest. 2. Why is it that the people under our care are not better?