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when it is awakened out of its slumber. But when the soul's accounts are kept clear with heaven every day, O what a blessed rest does the penitent believer enjoy in the favour of God! O the divine calm of conscience, when our debts are cancelled in the book of God's remembrance! If we should be unexpectedly summoned to appear “ before the Judge of all," the sight of our sins will rather excite thankful affections, and joyful praises of God for his mercy, that he hath pardoned them, than fearful despairing thoughts of his mercy, that he will not pardon them.
And as this considering our ways leads to repentance, and is a remedy for past sins, so it is a powerful preservative from sin afterwards. For as in war the greatest care is to fortify the weakest part of a besieged town, and make it impregnable; so a christian, by the experience of his infirmity and danger, will be more wise and wary, more circumspect and resolved against those sins whereby he has been often foiled, to prevent the daily incursion, and sudden surreption by them. And according to the degrees of our innocence, we have confidence of acceptance with God in judgment.
Fourthly. Let us improve with a wise and singular diligence the talents committed to our trust : for in that day we shall be responsible for all that we have received. All the blessings we possess, whether natural, our life, our faculties, our endowments, our health and strength; or civil, honour and dignity, riches and reputation; or spiritual, the gospel in its light and power, the graces and assistance of the Holy Ghost, as they are gifts from God's love, so they are talents to be employed for his glory. We are stewards, not proprietaries : for the supreme Lord does not relinquish his right in our blessings, that we may dispose of them at our own pleasure, but hath prescribed rules for our using them in order to his glory, our own good, and the benefit of others. And it is sad to consider that usually those who enjoy the greatest gifts, render the least acknowledgments, and the most abundant in favours are most barren in thankfulness. Time, that invaluable treasure, that is due to God and the soul, the price of which arises from the work of salvation to be done in it, how is it squandered away ? Conscience would blush at the serious reflection, that every day so much is spent in the business of the world, or pleasures, and so little redeemed for communion with the holy God : that as in the prophetic dream the lean kine de
voured the fat, so unconcerning vanities take up that time that should be employed for our last and blessed end. While time is miserably wasted, the soul lies a bleeding to everlasting death, More particularly, we shall be accountable for all the days of “ the Son of Man” that we have seen, all the special seasons of grace: these we should improve for our eternal advantage, to prepare us for the divine presence above. But alas, the Lord's day that is consecrated for the immediate service of God, and should be entirely spent in it, and in things that have a necessary subordination to it, yet neither the enforcement of duty, nor incitations of love prevail upon the most, conscientiously to employ it in spiritual affairs. If they afford their presence at the public worship, it is thought enough; and as if the rest of the day was unsanctified time, they waste it either in complimental visits, or secular business, in recreations, or things impertinent to their salvation.
Riches are an excellent instrument of doing good: gold is the most precious and extensive metal, and by a marvellous art an ounce may be beaten out into some hundred leaves : but it is a more happy art by giving it, to enrich our own souls, and supply the necessities of many others. But great estates are often used to foment men’s' vicious guilty affections, pride, and sensuality; and it is called * greatness and magnificence to waste them in sumptuous vanities. I instance in these talents, because they are usually abused to the dishonour of the donor. If the slothful servant that hid his single talent in a napkin, and returned it without advantage to his Lord, was “cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth ;" a fearful image of what will befal all unprofitable persons : how severe will their accounts be who lavish out their numerous talents to gratify their carnal appetites, and betray the blessings of God to his enemy the devil ? Only the wise and good servant, that with prudent contrivance, and zealous endeavours, improves his talents, shall from the gracious Lord, in whom are all attractives and remuneratives of our service, receive an excellent reward.
Fifthly. Another rule of our acceptance at the last day is, that we must with courage and zeal maintain in our rank and places the cause of Christ. For thus he declares expressly, “Whoso
Nullis vitiis desunt pretiosa nomina. Plin. lib. 73.
ever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him also will I deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Mat. 10, 33, 34. When the truth, purity, and power of religion, in doctrine, worship and practice, is discountenanced and overborn, our Saviour commands, and will reward our undiscouraged visible constancy in it. He will not only reign in our hearts, but be honoured with our lips, and in our conversations. Rom. 10. We usurp the title of christians, unless we adhere to our duty in despite of all opposition. The temptations that usually withdraw men from confessing and glorifying Christ, are such as work upon the passioits of fear and shame. And the consideration of the last judgment will fortify us against both.
(1.) Sometimes religion exposes the professors of it to the loss of all temporal enjoyments, and of life itself. And when the honour of our Saviour requires such a service of us, when that confirmation is necessary to recommend divine truth to the belief and affections of others, when our cheerful and courageous example in suffering would animate those that are fearful to constancy and confession, then from cowardice to withdraw our testimony, is to betray him again. When our duty is attended with extreme dangers, then the sincerity and perfection of our love to Christ is brought to the strictest trial. As true carbuncles are discovered in the night, for the darkness redoubles their splendour; so the fidelity of christians is evident in persecutions, that inflame and excite their zeal to magnify the name of Christ in the sight of the world. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4. 18. But fearfulness hinders the expressing acts of love to Christ, and betrays to apostacy. For as every passion is a perturbation, so especially carnal fear, that blinds and disturbs the mind, and hinders the serious consideration of the reasons of our duty, and those motives to persevere in it, that are the fountains of our strength. From hence the timorous are often treacherous, and faith ljes buried under the cold pale ashes of fear. Now the irregularity of this passion is best cured by directing it to the most powerful object. As the rod of Moses swallowed up the rods of the magicians; so a stronger fear will subdue that which is in a weaker degree. Our Saviour therefore threatens those that for the fear of men (“who can but kill the body.") dare not own and defend his truth and cause, that he will renounce them before his Father in the great day, the immediate consequence of which will be the “ destruction of body and soul in hell.” Mat. 10. 31, 32, 33. If earthly potentates had a jurisdiction over heaven, if men were to be tried by their laws at the last day, if their power extended to eternity, they might exact unlimited obedience to their wills; but conscience is a more desirable friend and terrible enemy than Cesar; and all temporal tribunals are subordinate and accountable to the supreme and eternal: there is “one Lawgiver and Judge, who is able to save, and to destroy for ever.” It is the worst perdition to secure ourselves by the neglect of our duty, when we ought to perish for the glory of our Saviour. “He that saves his life, shall lose it.”
(2.) Shame wounds deeper the breasts of some than violence. Zedekiah would rather expose bis kingdom and life to the fury of the Chaldean armies, than be himself exposed as an object of derision by surrendering it. And satan, who understands the temper of men's spirits, suits his temptations accordingly. The purity and holiness of religion, expressed in the actions of the saints, is by the scurrilous reflections and bitter sarcasms of profane persons made contemptible. This is as foolish and malicious, as if a slave should reproach the son of a king, that he was like his father in his countenance and actions : for by how much the resemblance of God's holiness appears with more evidence and eminence in their lives, their divine relation is more certainly and justly to be acknowledged. Yet how many are ashamed of this glory? And zeal to vindicate the honour of religion is traduced and vilified, either as the effect of designing faction, or of the indiscretion and rashness of a weak judgment and strong passions. In every age the faithful servants of God are by scornful titles despised: “We are accounted," saith the apostle, “the off-scouring of the world.” 1 Cor. 4. 17. But a generous christian looks upon disgrace for the sake of Christ as his honour. The apostles “rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Acts 5. 41. It is said of the baptist, “ He was not that light, but came to bear witness of that light:" intimating as if that were the next degree of dignity to it. And our Saviour, speaking of the proofs of his divine mission, reckons up the witnesses of such dignity, that it is not
possible for sacred ambition to aspire to higher honour, than to be in conjunction with them: “they are John the baptist, his miracles, his Father, and the scriptures.” John 5. 33, 36, 37, 39.
Let us appeal then from the light depraved fancies of carnal men, to the wise and faithful judgment and authority of the Son of God. He will at the last day, in the presence of his Father and all the court of heaven, give an incomparable crown to all that have despised shame for his sake. But those vile spirits, whose courage of straw is quelled by vain opinion, and the reproaches of fools, and have deserted the cause of Christ, shall then he clothed with confusion : for this we are assured by our Judge, that “whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his father, with the holy angels.” Mark 8. 38. If the unnatural brothers were astonished when the governor of Egypt told them, “I am Joseph, whom ye sold ;" how much more will false christians, when the Lord of glory shall tell them, I am Jesus, whom for base shame ye denied ? How will it confound those abject wretches to be a spectacle of abhorrence and scorn before that universal glorious confluence ? They would choose rather to be covered under the ruins of the world. If we value and desire the approbation of the King of angels, if we fear a final rejection from him, to obtain the one and avoid the other, we must entirely adhere to his interest, without any respect to the eyes and esteem of the perverse deceived world.
Sixthly. A cordial beneficent love to the saints, is a requisite qualification of our acceptance in the day of judgment. “Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Mat. 25. 34, 35, 36. The union and endearments betwixt Christ and his people, are mutual and reflexive; as they are extremely tender of his glory, so he is concerned in all that is done to them. And though the perfection of love consists more in the affection