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In these and many other ways multitudes of mankind reserve to themselves some sinful course of life, or other, as a privilege. They are willing, that is, they think themselves willing, to obey most of the commands of God; and secretly hope, that he will not require their obedience to the rest. Thus in their hearts they make a bargain with their Maker ; and agree, that, if he will permit them to sin in such and such ways, they will obey him in such and such other ways. The sins, which they reserve, are always their favourite sins; those," which most easily beset them;" and those, therefore, which God requires of us always most anxious and watchfully to resist.
He, who does not intend to obey the divine commands universally, neither intends to obey, nor actually obeys, them at all
. Multitudes cheat themselves in this respect; but they cannot cheat their Maker. The universality of our obedience is the first proof, that it is real and sincere. All those, therefore, who adopt the conduct, wbich I have here described, must be miserably prepared to meet their Judge. Seventhly. Those, also, are unready for the coming of Christ
, who do not continually, and solemnly, converse with death, judgment, and eternity.
We become ready for death by bringing it home to our hearts; by pondering it daily, and deeply; and by thus learning what it is to die.
We become ready for our final account by considering with all anxiety of mind what that account will be, and what are the deeds, done in the body," of which it will be composed. We become ready for eternity by realizing, often, its endless duration ; the immense magnitude of the scenes, which it unfolds ; and the irreversible nature of the allotments, destined to us beyond the grave. I do not mean, that such meditations will sanc tify us, nor that they will entitle us to sanctification ; but I intend, that they are among the happiest means of bringing forward this divine consummation. This at least will, I presume, be granted on all hands; that he, who does not think of these things, must be ill prepared to meet them.
Nothing is more evident, than that our negligence will not alter the nature of those momentous events, which are before us. However regardless we may be; it will still be a solemn thing to die ; an awful thing to be judged ; an amazing thing, to enter upon the recompense of reward. How many of you have either never considered these subjects at all, or thought of them only with a glance of the mental eye, or a momentary excursion of the imagination: and this, too, forced upon you by some alarming discourse, or some sickness which arrested you, or the death of a friend, or some other terrifying event. Think, I beseech you, what it is to die; what it is to stand before God; what it is to give an account of all your conduct in the present life ; what it is to hear the last sentence; what it is to ascend to Heaven, or go down to Hell. Does not even a momentary reflection compel you to believe; nay, does it not compel you to feel; that no thought, no anxiety, no labour, can be too great to prepare you for events of such overwhelming importance? Does not the same thought prove to you, that he, who never ponders them at all, must be deplorably unprepared.
Eighthly. Careless Christians are, also, unhappily prepared for the coming of Christ.
It is to be particularly remembered, that the precept in the text was especially addressed by our Lord to his disciples. It was, therefore, necessary for them. But, if they needed it, no Christian, of modern times, will believe it to be less necessary for himself. Peculiarly is its quickening influence desirable: and, let me add, especially when Christians are at ease, negligent, and sluggish, in the performance of their duty. Certainly such Christians are unhappily prepared for the coming of their Lord.
Of what will the final account, given by these persons, consist? How few, how imperfect, will the services of the best men appear, when they come to be rehearsed at the final day, examined by the eye of the Judge, and set in the light of his countenance ? How much fewer, and of how much less value, will be the services of the persons in question ? How small a part of their duty will they be found to have done : and how great a por.
tion of their life will appear to have been filled up with mere negligence? How much nearer than they mistrust, how much nearer than they will then be willing to remember, will they be found to have approached towards the character of the “unprofitable, and slothful, servant, who wrapped his talent in a napkin, and buried it in the earth ?" These, certainly, will be melancholy recitals to him, who came from heaven, lived a life of suffering, and died on the Cross, that we might live forever. Let every slothful Christian, then, awake to a sense of his condition, and character. Let him search his life. Let him probe his heart. Let him mark the little periods, in which he has done his duty ; and the melancholy chasms, filled up either with doing it by halves, in fragments and scraps, or with doing nothing, or with committing sin. Let him also remember, that all these things will constitute a part of his final account.
III. I will now proceed to the consideration of the Reason, by which the duty of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ is enforced in the text. “For the Son of Man cometh in an hour, when ye think not."
In other words, Death, Judgment, and Eternity, will come at a time, which we cannot foresee, and of which we are not aware, The true weight of this reason lies in the fact, that these things are of such vast concern to us. Death ends our probation, and introduces us to the Judgment. The Judgment finally decides the great question, whether we shall be happy, or miserable throughout eternity: and Eternity involves all our well-being.
As the time when these things shall arrive, is wholly uncertain; we ought, obviously, to be ready for them at every period. We are to be ready for them to-day, to-morrow, the next week, and the next year; because at either of these periods they may arrive. Christ comes, as he himself informs us, and as all experience proves, “at even, at midnight, at the cock-crowing, and in the morning.” How plainly, then, ought every one of his “ servants to watch, lest, coming sudddenly, his Master find him sleeping."
Unhappily, we are always prone to think death at a distance; and thus to feel, that we may safely postpone our repentance to a future day. How few persons would be guilty of this procrastination if they really believed, that death was at the door ? This then is our peculiar danger; and to a great extent the source of our negligence, and our ruin. The very uncertainty, which ought to rouse us to the greatest diligence, only prompts us to sloth. That, which ought to fill us with alarm, only lulls us into security. Thus we go on, postponing the great business of life, till death knocks at the door, and finds the work yet to be begun.
But to all, who thus waste their probation, and abuse the mercy of God, the time of Christ's coming will be dreadful.
“Death, 'tis a melancholy day
Surprised, hurried, overborne with distress, they leave the world in terror; and awake in eternity, utterly unprepared to meet their Judge.
These solemn truths are peculiarly interesting to persons in middle, and declining, life. If we are not ready; when are we to become so ? If our repentance is not now begun; when is it to commence? If we have not renounced sin; overcome the world; believed in Christ ; and given up ourselves to God; what reasons have we to hope, that the little of life, which remains, will be spent to any better purpose, than the great portion, which
How solemnly ought we to remember, that death will not wait for our wishes; that the Judgment is now hastening; that Eternity is at the door? Disease, unperceived, may now be making progress in our veins; and may be preparing without a suspicion on our part to hurry us to the grave. How absurd, how deceitful, how fatal, is our procrastination! How dreadful our stupidity! What terrible reasons have we to do what our hands find to do in this concern with our might !
Are we in health, and for this reason at ease about our salvation? So a month since were those, who died yesterday. Their
end exposes our folly in this senseless security; and from the tomb calls to us, “ Be ye also ready."
." To the young this duty becomes immensely interesting, because they now enjoy the best of all seasons for making this prep. aration. Remember, that, however hard your hearts may now be, they are more susceptible than they will probably be at any future period. Lose not, then, this hopeful, verdant season, this seed-time of life. Should the good seed be actually sown in advanced years ; it will find a sterile soil, and an inclement sky: and the crop, if it should really follow, will scarcely repay the labours of the reaper. What fearful reasons have you to believe, that your hearts will be covered with thorns and briars; that they will be nigh unto cursing, and that their end will be to be burned? How few of you are ready for the coming of Christ? How few would declare, that they believed themselves to be ready? How few, while taking a retrospect of their lives, can find in them such a train of actions, as they would be willing to rehearse before their Judge ?
Open your eyes ; and see your privileges, and with them your hopes, every day lessening. Behold God every day removing farther from you; and the world taking a more entire possession of your hearts. Look back. Do you not perceive, that the gates of Heaven have already become more distant, dim and doubtful, to your eyes ? Listen. Are not the calls of mercy ready more indistinct. What hope can he, who is sinking every moment, rationally entertain, that he shall not be drowned! What hope can he, who is sliding down a precipice and all whose efforts stop not his career at the beginning, soberly indulge, when he is farther advanced, that he will not be dashed in pieces at the bottom. Now, then, lay hold on the hope set before you.
Remember further, that life to you, also, is absolutely uncertain. When your hopes of living long are high, and with full confidence you are promising yourselves many days ; go to the neighbouring burying-ground ; mark how many monuments are there raised over the young; and consider how many more at the same period of life have become inhabitants of those dark and melan