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exertions of fortitude to benefit others, or to guard themselves from evil. Like the fig-tree in the vineyard, they make a conspicuous figure, and promise much; but whoever “comes seeking fruit,” will find nothing but leaves; or, at most, blossoms, which, like the untimely flowers of autumn, soon wither away. As that cumbers the ground, so they may be truly said to occupy . a station in society, which they do not deserve, and which they fill unworthily. They shrink, perhaps, with horror, from the commission of atrocious crimes, or any enormous transgressions; but they dread not the reproach that was cast on the slothful servant, who hid his talent under ground; nor reflect, that, next to the guilt of actual evil, is the sin of squandering away life to no useful purpose, and without making any progress in knowledge, piety, or virtue,
To projects of business, and schemes of worldly advantage, they are, perhaps, always alive,-as furnishing the means of self-indulgence, and of gratifying pride and ostentation in all its varieties; but if plans of Christian beneficence come before them, or endeavours to promote the interests of true religion, then, like Gallio, the Proconsul, “ they care for none
of these things;" or, at least, their condemnation is the same as that of the Laodiceans, who, we read, were “neither hot nor cold.”
This negative character, it is feared, will apply to thousands, whom it would be unjust to class among the wicked, and yet who have little claim to be ranked among the good; who, if not altogether idle, perform not half the work that is allotted them; and who, if not habitually vicious, walk daily so near the boundaries of evil, that they are scarcely ever in the right path.
The present season is favorable for us to consider, and that most seriously, whether many of us do not belong to this numerous class of mortals. If so, it is impossible to look , back on the waste of life that has been already committed, without a mixture of the deepest sorrow and neglect ;-but this will be of no avail, unless it lead to that true repentance, which may enable us, by God's blessing, to “ walk circumspectly" for the future, and, in a religious sense, “ to redeem the time.”
As there are limits to all things, so there is a certain measure of forbearance, arising from the union of the divine justice with the divine mercy, which we are assured will not be exceeded. “My spirit shall not always strive with man," saith the Lord God: and how long he might have looked down upon us, “ seeking fruit, and finding none,” is known best to Him, and our own consciences. Perhaps, with some of us, the awful decree, “ Cut it down," is gone. forth; and the merciful intercession, “ Lord, let it alone this year also,” can no longer be listened to. Surely, this single reflection should be sufficient to waken our souls to speedy repentance, and lead us, with the New Year, to amendment of life.
But let us always remember, that the first genuine fruit of repentance is the forsaking of sin. To sorrow, and still to transgress ;-or to suppose that a certain portion of pious contrition, and humble prayer, will be received as an apology for the wilful and continued indulgence of any known sin, is folly and presumption joined: for “what fellowship,” says the great apostle, “ hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial ?" Before, therefore, we can hope to “ do well,” we must, as the first preliminary step, cease to do cvil.”
But whatever virtuous resolutions we may
form, and whatever means we may adopt, of so passing the remainder of our days, in this probationary world, as not finally to lose the hope of everlasting life, which we have in Christ Jesus our Lord, let us consider that there is no further time for procrastination and delay. “What thou doest, therefore, do quickly.”
If we look back on the year that is past, the melancholy records of mortality will tell us, that mány have been “cut down” by the resistless stroke of death, with better hopes of life than some of us, who are still spared, and who still experience the mercy and forbearance of our heavenly Father. God grant, that when they, who are now no more, shall appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, they may be found to have been not unfruitful, but to have “abounded in every good word and work!"
If the subject of this day's meditation should lead to any thing like practical improvement, and not be as transient as “a morning cloud, and the early dew,” let its first effect be to enforce the salutary task of self-examination, that you may know, distinctly, what frailties and errors you are called on to correct, what vices and follies you ought immediately to renounce, and what virtues and Christian graces you should endeavour, by God's blessing, to pursue with increasing diligence.
In the first place, considering that Time may be regarded as the measure of all our good and all our evil ;-of every thing that is barren, and every thing that is fruitful;-in short, as the only material, of which life is composed ;the great question to be resolved is,-a question, which comprises the summary of all our duties,-do you employ it profitably, to the glory of God, and the salvation of
souls? This, I need scarcely say, cannot be done without habits of piety, works of Christian beneficence, and at all times chearful submission, and obedience, to the will of God. But, to descend to particulars-You may not accuse yourselves of absolute idleness; but consider, whether there has not been a large mixture of that, and of indolent self-indulgence, in the course of every year that has glided away. Some of you, perhaps, will be forced to confess, if
consult " the small still voice" within
many an hour is gone by for ever, loaded with sin, vice, or folly; and more will allow, that day after day has passed on in idle pleasures, vain imaginations, and frivolous pursuits, instead of