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"Lord, give me a good hand at cards!" Such petitions would be justly reckoned impious: but the impropriety clearly shows that what cannot be done with prayer, cannot be done with a good conscience, cannot be done to the glory of God, and therefore ought not to be done at all. In all these things the consistent Christian must remember the text,—" Be notconformed to this world."
From what has been said, it is surely evident that it is the duty of Christians not to be conformed to this world. It is plain that God's people are a distinct people, and ought to be a separate people.—There is a holy singularity, though not an affected singularity, which well becomes them. This indeed requires courage. In certain situations, where persons have been- closely connected with the carnal and the gay, and especially with the great, it will not be very easy to come out from among them, and avow that they belong to Christ. Yet, let none despair; the Scripture shows us how it may be done, 1 John, v. 4,—" Whosoever is born of God, overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our Faith." By the new nature which the Christian receives, he gets above the terrors and allurements of the men and things of this world, so as not to be driven away by the one, or drawn aside by the other, from his duty to God. And this noble conquest is obtained, not by our own power but by the strength we derive from Christ, through faith in him. Faith realizes eternal things, and shows us how vain and mean are the pursuits of the world. Faith also realizes the presence of God, and judges his approbation to be infinitely superior to the friendship of men.
Thus Moses, the man of God, triumphed over the world.—" When come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" Heb. xi. 24. It was by faith that Moses did this. Faith showed him the vanity and danger of a court life ; of riches, of grandeur, and sensual pleasure. Faith also showed him "the recompence of reward" —the glories of the eternal world, which he should continue to enjoy when all human pomp is buried in the dust. He therefore wisely chose the better part, though attended with poverty and shame. With a crown of glory in view/he was willing to take up the cross, and even to glory in it. He determined to unite himself with God's people, and suffer reproach and affliction with them, rather than be conformed to this sinful and perishing world.
This subject shows the necessity of the new birth. If we would not be conformed to this world, it is necessary for us to be transformed, by the renewing of our mind, as the apostle adds, immediately after our text: Be ye transformed—changed into a better form—frqm being " earthly, sensual, and devilish," to become heavenly, spiritual, angelical; and this is done, "by the renewing of our minds." The Holy Spirit begins this renewing work in regeneration ; it is gradually carried on in sanctification: in dying more and more to sin and the world, until the blessed work be perfected in everlasting glory. Thus shall we "prove what is that good, and acceptable,and perfect will of God." The will of God as revealed in his word, for our direction in this particular, and in every other branch of duty, is good: good in itself, and good for us: conformity to it is acceptable and well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; and it is perfect;—it is sufficient to make a finished Christian "thoroughly furnish ed to every good work.'' O that divine Grace may so transform our hearts, that we may prove, and prove by our own experience (for nothing else can teach it) how happy a thing it is to be wholly devoted to God, and to be governed in every respect by his sacred will!
Matthew Xxiv. 44.
DEATH is a most serious thing! It is impossible to express, in words what a most serious thing Death is'! Those who have thought and said the most about it in the time of their health, have found dying to be a far more serious matter than they could before conceive. "The living know that they must die;" and yet how few lay it to heart!—how few there are who "so number their days as to apply their hearts to wisdom!" In small country villages, where death seldom comes, the people scarcely think of it: and "their inward thought seems to be, that their houses shall continue for ever, and the/ir dwelling places to all generations!" and in large cities, where the bell tolls every day, and people constantly see coffins and funerals, the commonness of death takes away.the solemnity of it. And in some places it is shocking to reflect how little seriousness attends a funeral; and that, by excessive eating, drinking, and unseasonable mirth, the house of mourning is turned into the house of feasting! All this shows that the heart of man is filled with criminal vanity, and how far it is from that constant seriousness which becomes mortals living on the borders of eternity. Yet, when death comes into our houses, or our neighbourhood, we should be particularly thoughtful. When it pleases God to remove a relation, a friend, or a neighbour, we should consider him as speaking to us,—speaking the solemn language of the text, "Be ye also ready.'' It is as if he had said, "Thoughtless mortals, remember your latter end. Consider this providence. Your fellow-creature is dead:—he speaks no more—he moves no more—he breathes no more: he has done with all the businesses, all the pleasures, all the relations of life: he is stripped of his former raiment, and wrapped in a shroud: he walks no more at large, but is confined to the narrow limits of the coffin: he mixes in human society no more; he is now the companion of worms: he has forsaken all his former possessions, and retains nothing but a little spot of earth, with which he will shortly mingle, so as not to be distinguished from it. This is the end of man! This will shortly be your end. Prepare for it: prepare to die; prepare to meet your God!" Such is the language of Providence. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear it.
* This sermon maybe particularly seasonable when the providence of God hath removed a relation, a friend, or a neighbour.
VOL. IV. O
The words of our text were spoken by Jesus Christ to his disciples, with respect to the destruction of Jerusalem, and also with respect to the end of the world. The destruction of Jerusalem was a "coming of the Son of Man," to execute terrible judgments on the unbelieving Jews. The Son of Man will also come to judge the world at the last day. But the particular time of the first event was kept secret; "the day and the hour was known to no man." The same may be said of the day of judgment. Our Saviour uses this as an argument with his disciples, to be always ready'. "Watch, therefore," said he, "for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." And this he enforces by two comparisons, taken from the common prudence of men. If any housekeeper was told, that some time or another in the night his house would be attacked by thieves, he would be sure to watch at every hour till the danger was over. And if a servant is ordered to sit up for his master, but knows not whether he will come home at twelve o'clock, at two, or at three, he ought to be watching, that whenever he comes, he may be ready to open the door:—so, " Be ye also ready, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
The hour of death is the hour of the Lord's coming to us. He comes to put a period to that life, which his power had constantly supported:—He comes to separate the immortal spirit from the mortal body:— He comes to call the soul to his triubnal, and to fix its state in endless bliss or woe. And although his coming will not be visible, attended with angels in the clouds of Heaven, as his last grand coming shall be, yet it is equally important and solemn in its consequences to each individual. Jesus has " the keys of death; he has a right to close our lives when he pleases;" and he has "the keys of the unseen world," to open the doors of Heaven to his people, and to open the doors of Hell to the wicked.
But the time of his coming is a profound secret :" of that day and of that hour, knoweth no man." There is indeed " an appointed time to man upon the earth: his days are determined;" " the number of his months are with God;" who has fixed "bounds which he cannot pass." But where the bounds are fixed, or how many the years, and months, and days, who can tell? It is not fit for us to know. If wicked men certainly knew they should yet live many years, their hearts would be fully set in them to do evil: they would be more presumptuously wicked then they are. And if weakly and timorous people knew the time of thendeath, they would thereby be made unfit for any of the enjoyments or duties of life. It is therefore best as it is. Thus we are kept dependent on the God of our lives; and, if truly wise, we are always kept watchful;