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life depends not upon your choice, but my please
Since unthoughtfulness of death is no security against it, how unreasonable your disobedience to this particular command ?. Remember that I came, and “ took those away, who were eating, and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage," in the old world: made quick work with them, sweeping the whole human race into eternity by a preternatural deluge, one family excepted; therefore watch. You see from that awful instance, to which I refer
you are not the more safe hy forgetting your danger. Never were they less apprehensive of death, than when their destruction came upon
them. To carry the thread of the argument, it is further to be considered,
2. Though your unwatchfulness cannot prevent my coming, yet it will deprive you of their comfort of those whom I shall find ready. “ Who is the faithful and wise servant (says Christ) whom his Lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season ? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily 1 say unto you, he shall make him ruler over all his goods;" Mat. xxiv. 45, 46, 47. My coming will make such persons amends, who regularly expect it; and since unwatchfulness defends not from death, and yet makes a forfeiture of so comprehensive a blessing, whether is greater, the folly or the wickedness of this conduct? If you'
would go with me to the marriage, let me find you ready. Come I shall, and I will do such, very particular favors, who love mine appearing: think therefore, whether it be not motive sufficient to continued watchfulness, when so much is hazarded by a contrary behaviour ?
To complete the argument, we may suppose our
Lord to say,
3. When I come, be it sooner or later, if you arc not upon the watch; it will be a terrible coming to you. Somewhat of this sort is referred to, when Christ says, Watch ye therefore, lest coming suddenly, I find you sleeping ; Mark xiii. 35, 36. There is a threatening of woe to the unwatchful, wrapt up in those expressions. And if you look to the twenty fourth chapter of Matthew, from the forty eighth verse, you will find there a very explicit declaration of the vengeance which shall overtake them: “ The Lord of the evil servant will come when he is not aware of it, and cut him asunder, appointing him the hypocrite's portion.”
Upon the whole, the matter is set in this light, though I tell you not when I shall come, on what day, or in what hour, yet I have given assurance to all, that I will come; I urge your watching for that time, whenever it shall be, from the consideration of the good you shall lose, and the evil you shall suffer, if otherwise employed at my coming.
III. I shall now endeavor to vindicate the divine conduct in this disposal of things.
Should it be said, that by keeping us in the dark as to this matter, we are deprived of the most proper motive to duty; and that in order to our being in a constant readiness for such an event, it would have been better if every person exactly knew the period of his life, and when he should be called into judgment : I shall reply to this objection in the following particulars.
1. God can do nothing but what is best, therefore his having put our affairs upon another footing, concludes that his work is not to be mended, or the designs he has in view more effectually attained in another way. The rich man in the gospel told Abraham, that God took the less proper method for reducing the world to his obedience, that a messenger from the invisible state would do much more by his testimony for the conviction of mankind, than could be expected from the ordinance of preaching ; but Abraham assured him, that the creature was very unfit to correct the conduct of his maker, in saying, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead : Luke xvi. ult.
2. Obvious inconveniencies would attend our having such a knowledge of the time of our death and Judgment. It is not improbable that it might prove a dangerous temptation to a good man ; slacken his pace, and abate his diligence, to see a large space between him and death. And on the other hand, that his beholding himself upon the
very brink of eternity, might so swallow up his time, and thoughts, and cares, as that his personal should break in upon the relative and social duties, which are bound upon conscience, by the same authority.
And as to a wicked man, as his heart would be more fully set in him to do wickedly, when he saw that sentence against his evil deeds was not to be executed speedily; the seeing himself within the shadow of death would make him desperate : and so his circumstances be worse than now they are, whether his time were longer or shorter in the world.
3. Taking our case as it now stands, we have the most rational motive to continued watchfulness. There is no room for a moment's intermission of this duty for security or slumber, because we know not but our fast sands may be running, and after a few pulses more, the silver cord shall be broken. And our not knowing but that we may have years to come, secures us against that troublesome concern, that mnight imbitter our short stay, did we see them waiting at the door, who should carry us to the grave.
So that there seems to be a mixture of divine wisdom and goodness in the thing, when Christ commands us to watch, because we know not eiths er the day or hour of his coming.
The whole of this discourse has been practical, which makes it less needful to enlarge in the application.
However, we will offer something under this
IVth and last head of discourse. We cannot but observe from what has been said,
1. The wisdom of being truly religious. Such are provided against all events : nothing can befall them which shall not work together for their good. The watchfulness of which we have spoken, is not to be considered as a single duty, but as of a com. plex nature; taking into it Christianity itself, in all the beauty and perfection it can appear, in our present state. And are not they wise in a way of distinction and eminence, who being intended for another world, into which they are certainly, and they know not how suddenly to be removed, have laid in for whatever can happen to them? “ To whom to live, is Christ; and to die, gain? So that whether they live, they live unto the Lord; or whether they die, they die unto the Lord: whether therefore they live or die, they are the Lord's.” This is not indeed the wisdom of this world; they are now too far prejudiced to give into it, but it is what God applauds as wisdom, and what (another day), the vilest of men shall acknowledge to be so.
2. See hence the folly and danger of security, when we know not what a day may bring forth. O say not, worldling, when such a scheme is executed, and I have surmounted this and the other incumbrance, I will take care of my poor soul; and I will then begin to study and practice religion. Thy soul is worth more than the whole world i