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indolence revolts; or it would divert me from other em, ployments more agreeable to my inclination. On which side shall I resolve ? May I not so manage it, that the neglect shall escape the observation of my neighbour ! Or if he should perceive it, may I not put a good face upon it, and find out some excuse to save me from his censure 2-Ah! but here is the check. The Searcher of hearts knows my present conviction. In vain shall I attempt to prevaricate with him. I may elude the censure of man: but I never can escape the just judgment of that God who is greater than my heart, and knoweth all things, Such reasoning as this, if it were once become habitual to us, would be a constant and powerful incitement to all holy obedience, and would prevent the deep guilt of neglecting to do good, even when we know the extent and obligation of the law of God, and are convinced that it is our duty to comply with it.
Having thus endeavoured to illustrate and confirm the two propositions contained in my text, I proceed now to the practical improvement of the subject.-And,
1st, This subject administers a sharp reproof to those who, in any case, attempt to evade their convictions of duty. “ To him that knoweth to do good,” saith the Apostle, “and doth it not, to him it is sin.” For, consider what kind of disposition this conduct betrays. Is it not evidently the disposition of a slavish and mercenary mind? You do no more in the service of God than you suppose to be necessary, in order to escape eternal misery; and this is the only consideration which deters you from open transgressions of his law. You have therefore no, regard for him, but only a concern for your own safety. Your plan of conduct is to offend God as far as you can, without incurring his vengeance: So that any appearance of goodness about you is nothing more than the effect of a natural timidity. Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise ? Doth his goodness challenge no better return from you, than merely to refrain from acts of open rebellion against him? Consider, 1 beseech you, the baseness and ingratitude of this conduct; and if your hearts retain any spark of ingenuity, you will surely be persuaded to yield him a more faithful and generous service in time to come. But,
2dly, This subject administers reproof also to the slothful and inactive servant, who rests contented with low attainments in religion. You perhaps flatter yourself, that although you are remiss in seeking out opportunities of doing good, yet you are not unfaithful to any known obligation. But in this case you greatly deceive yourself. For, is it not a known obligation, that we should aim at as much perfection as we are capable of attaining? But, you have renounced this desire altogether. In other words, you have deliberately left off that work to which our Saviour hath expressly commanded us to devote ourselves. For, are not these his words ? " Be ye perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect."Once more,
What hath been said on this subject ought to quicken the zeal and activity even of those who have made the greatest progress in the good ways of God.
The declining state of religion calls loudly on all who are its real friends, to exert themselves to the utmost, in order to revive its influence in the world. Nothing, be assured, will be so effectual for accomplishing this desirable object, as the bright and exemplary lives of professing Christians. Are you then zealous for the glory of God? be " ous of good works." Let it appear that your religion gives authority to your conscience, by your being more just, and humane, and generous than other men. “ Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world." Your divine Master hath intrusted you with the honour of that religion which he taught on earth, and expects that you should display it in an amiable light, But surely a mere negative degree of virtue will never VOL. II.
convince men that your principles have any excellence superior to their ownand that professing Christians satisfy themselves with a virtue of this sort, is, I am afraid, in no small degree the cause to which the rapid growth of infidelity in these times must be ascribed.
If this is at all the fact, doth it not afford us a subject of the most serious lamentation? “ It is impossible but that offences will come, but woe unto him through whom they come. It were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea." then study to adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”—“ Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things," and do them. This will administer to you true pleasure in life, and solid hope in death; and hereafter the sound of the last trumpet, the terror of the negligent and unfaithful servant, will be the triumphant signal of your release from the grave, and the summons of your Lord to enter into his joy. Amen.
PROVERBS vi, 6, 7, 8.
Go to the ant, thou slaggard; consider her ways, and be
wise : which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest,
AN was created wirh more understanding than the beasts of the earth. But our minds are so debased by our apostasy from God, that the meanest creatures may become our teachers. And accordingly, the Spirit of God in the Scriptures, doth frequently send us to learn our duty from the example of the beasts of the field, and of the fowls of heaven. · Thus, ingratitude is reproved by the example of those animals which are accounted the most stupid and untractable. Isa, i. 3. “ The ox know, eth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” An inattention to the conduct of divine Providence, and a neglect of the proper seasons of activity, are, in like manner, condemned by the example of the fowls of heaven, " The stork knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the times of their coming ; but my people (saith God) know not the judgment of the Lord," Jer, viii. 7. To cure us of excessive carefulness and anxiety, our Saviour sends us to “ consi, der the ravens : they neither sow nor reap; they have neither store-house nor barn, yet God feedeth them; how much more," saith he, “are ye better than the fowls?” Luke xii. 24. And in my text, to cure us of negligence and sloth, Solomon sends us to a creature of the smallest size, but of most wonderful activity. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
In discoursing on these words, I will,
1st, Consider the character of the person whom the wise man here addresses.-And,
2aly, The counsel or advice which he gives him; and will then conclude with a practical improvement of the subject.
I begin with the character of the person to whom this advice is addressed. “ Go to the ant,” saith Solomon, <thou sluggard;" and the character of the sluggard is so minutely described in this book, and in the book of Ecclesiastes, that any of us may soon be acquainted with it.
Solomon observes in general, that sloth casteth into a deep sleep; and he represents the sluggard in this state, in the verses immediately following my text. When it is said to him, “ How long wilt thou sleep, 0 sluggard ? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" instead of being affected with the just reproach, he begs earnestly for farther indulgence, “ Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." -“ As the door turneth upon its hinges, so doth the slothful man upon his bed.” At length, when sleep itself hath become wearisome, and he hath risen from his bed, he hath changed his situation, only to give a new indulgence to his sloth. “ He hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again." He spends his time in fruitless wishes: “ The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath not.” To-morrow is always a day of labour, to-day is always spent in idleness ; and thus the desire