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a bright example of piety and virtue in your own behaviour?— Have the less ins which you have taught them by your own practice happily concurred with the instructions of your lips to train them up for God and heaven? What can you say my friends to sich enquiries as these? Have you been faithful to this trust, and have you done any thing answerable to these high engagements? Or have you only brought these infants into a world of sin and sorrow, and taken no thought nor pains to make them holy and happy? Have you introduced them into a state of immortal existence, and yet employed no care nor labour to render that existence happy, and to bring them up for the blessedness of hea ven? Is not this what you owe to your young offspring, and to your own character as parents?
I should here address all governors of families, as well as parents, and those whose business it is to teach and instruct children, or who take servants into their house. You provide the conveniences of this life for servants, and ought you not to have some care of their souls as well as of your own? It is the honourable character that God himself gave Abraham; Gen. xviii.
I know him, i. e. Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord; and his servants as well as his sons were circumcised and entered into the bond of the covenant. Where servants are instructed and admonished by their superiors, with that just `tenderness and respect as creatures made of the same flesh and blood, there may be much done to win them to Christ, and where there appears a hearty solicitude for the welfare of their souls and their highest interest, they are not always such untractable creatures as to refuse the assistance that a master or mistress might give them in the way to heaven; and remember this assistance comes with a double influence upon the hearts and consciences of those that are under your government, when the mingled principles of authority and love join in religious advice.
Here I might address magistrates with a warm enquiry, what do you more than others? But we have few of that character who attend our separate assemblies. I might address ministers in the same language, who are eminently entrusted with the care of souls; but while each of us are engaged in fulfilling our own proper posts of service, we have but very little opportunity of giving or receiving such mutual advices in our public ministry. Yet would I not suffer this moment to pass away without renewing the enquiry upon my own conscience, What do I more than others? And in pressing the solemn charge upon my own heart of behaving in all my ministrations, and all my studies, as becomes one that is interested in the care of immortal souls.
IV. You who have given yourselves up to Christ by a soJemn and public profession of his name, and have joined yourselves to the Lord in his visible church, to partake of the special ordinances of the gospel, What do ye more than others? You have declared to the world in a solemn manner, that you have listed yourselves under the banner of Christ, that you have taken up arms against sin and every enemy of your salvation, and that you are become the disciples of the meek and holy Jesus, what have you done answerable to these solemn engagements, beyond those who have lived more at large, who have walked at a loose from all such sacred bonds? The vows of God are upon you, and you have recognized your obligations to be the Lord's: have you had your conversation in the world like the covenated servants of Christ? Have you kept yourselves at a distance from the defilements of the world, as a people purchased by the blood of the Son of God, and devoted to his faith and love? Have you learned to be meek and holy, and harmless, and full of compassion to men, and zealous for the honour of God as Jesus your Master was? Why do ye call him Lord and Master, if you prac tise not the rules of his advice, nor imitate his divine pattern? You who have often joined in the public worship of God as your God through Christ Jesus your great Mediator, and what have you gained by all these seasons of devotion? Are you brought nearer to God than others? Are you made fitter after every such sacred season to join the worshipping assembly in heaven?
You who have often been partakers of the blessed institution of the Lord's-supper, and by this means le under powerful obligations and enjoy special advantages for holiness, what do you more than others? His holy supper is provided for the exercise and establishment of your faith on a crucified Christ: it is appointed for raising and inflaming your love to God the Father, in sending his Son to die for you, and to Jesus the Son in submitting to death for your sakes: it is designed to encourage and advance your everlasting hope, and your holy joy in the Lord; and it is given you also to represent and to promote your union and love to all fellow-christians, and to lay you under the strongest and most solemn engagements to fulfil all the duties of christianity. Shall I entreat you to enquire into the frame of your hearts, and to look back on your behaviour in life? Are these holy and happy ends of so sacred an ordinance in any measure obtained by you in a higher degree than those who have no opportunity to enjoy it, or no inclination to attend it? Is your faith in a dying Saviour established so, that you can say, you will venture to live and die by the faith of the Son of God? Is your love kindled into a higher flame to him who died for you? Is your hope more confirmed? Is your view of heavenly things
where Jesus is at the Father's right-hand, more constantly maintained? And do ye walk in the joy of the Lord? Do ye feel the powerful influence of these holy solemnities engaging you to a more undaunted profession of the name of Christ, and the prac tice of every duty toward God and man? Do you find your hearts more united to your fellow-christians in love, by coniunicating with them in the same bread and drinking of the same cup, and by this emblem of your visible union to one head even Christ Jesus? Are you animated to fulfil difficult services by these heavenly refreshments? Do you find your souls nourished by this bread of life? Are you strengthened to bear the fatigues of the christian soldier, and supported by these holy cordials under the daily trials and troubles of mortality? You ought to think with yourselves, To what purpose have I eat and drunk so often at the table of the Lord, if my religion be still in a starving way? How little influence have all these sacred vows and engagements had upon me, if I suffer myself to neglect duty or be defiled with sin as often as those who never partake of this entertainment? And think also what a shameful discouragement you give to those who begin to set their faces toward Zion, if an inhabitant of Zion, a member of a christian church, has not something more heavenly about him than those who have not yet separated themselves from this world.
V. You who have had long and large experience of the goodness and grace of God through the whole course of life, and are now arrived at a good old age, and drawing near to death and eternity, what do ye more than others? Do not the invisible things of a future state appear to you in a fairer and stronger light when you are brought so near them? And have they not more constant influence upon your heart and life? You. who have so often tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have seen so often the interposures of his providence to save you from threatening dangers, and the glorious accomplishments of his promises in the many occurrences of the christian life, are you better acquainted with the worth of these promises, and more ready to trust them upon every new difficulty?, Have you learned to live upon a naked promise more than others, and to expect all from God when you see new distress arising, and the help of creatures failing you? Do you make it your business to encou rage younger christians to walk onward in the way of faith and holiness, and that sometimes by telling them what you yourself have seen and felt of the grace of the Lord, as well as what you have read and heard of it in his gospel? Do ye invite, animate and comfort the younger disciples in the school of Christ at proper seasons, and say, Come all ye that fear and love the Lord, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul? Are the many condescensions of divine mercy to you entirely forgotten? Is
the remembrance of the various instances of his grace lost out of your minds? Do ye stagger at every new difficulty? Are you frighted at every fresh trial? Have ye been trained up in the school of Christ so long, and learned so many lessons of faith and godliness, and are ye still beginning again, still learning the first principles of duty and hope? What have ye done with all your experiences of the favours of heaven and the rich grace of Christ?
You whose tottering tabernacles give you notice that they are ready to fall into the dust, have you attained a greater assurance of the building of God not made with hands, that is reserved in heaven for you? Have you learned to say with holy triumph, We know that if this earthly house be dissolved, there is a nobler habitation waiting for us on high? Have you this heavenly inheritance always in view and hope, and are you ready to be dislodged from your dwelling on earth, that you may dwell with Christ in heaven? Are ye confident and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, and that upon just and solid grounds? O it is high time for you who are so near to eternity, to get your whole souls loosened from the little affairs of this mortal state! You who make daily approaches to heaven, it is time to be weaned from every thing on earth, and be dead to all that is not divine: you should begin as it were to put on the vestments of paradise and immortality, and to diffuse a savour of the holiness and the joy of that place round about you, and let the world know that you are near to God. Or can you wear out whole days and weeks together, and never speak of Christ, of heaven, of the pleasures at the righthand of God, and the happiness to be found in his presence? And do you suffer this little remnant of life to wear out daily without some efforts for the honour of your heavenly Father and your Saviour? Can you pass your time away amongst men, and talk busily about their affairs without any lively or joyful thoughts of the business and the blessedness of the saints on high, and the spirits of the just made perfect? Are you so near to the place where God and his Son Jesus dwell in their brightest glories, and say nothing of them to your friends round about you? So near the borders of the upper world, and yet cleave to the dust as others do, and discover as much attachment to earthly things, as those who are in the midst of mortal amusements, and in the vigour of human life? If this be your temper stili, what apology can be made for you? what pretence of an excuse? How much do you dishonour religion in old age, and disgrace the profession of fifty or threescore years?
You who have walked with God so long through this wilderness, and have been fed and clothed and supported all the way, who have been delivered from many enemies and many
dangers, from fires and waters, and perils of every kind, who have been carried through multitudes of difficulties, and made to triumph over huge teraptations, and have had rich experiences of the grace and mercy of God through all your pilgrimage, can you not rejoice in him, trust him in this last stage of life, and venture through death and the grave leaning upon his arm? Have you so often committed your souls into the hands of your blessed Redeemer while they dwell here in flesh, and can you not commit your souls with holy cheerfulness and joy into the same hands when you are departing from these regions of flesh and blood, and entering upon the paradise of God through the dark valley? Can you not say with the holy psalmist, Psalm lxxi. 20. Thou hast done great things for me, O God, who is like unto thee? Thou hast shewed me great and sore troubles, and given me many a salvation, thou shalt quicken me again even from the 'dust of death, thou shalt bring me again from the depths of the earth; my God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for he shall receive me. Has he carried you through six troubles, and cannot you venture yourself under his conduct and care to pass through the seventh at the appointed hour, and to make the number of your victories and salvations complete? We hope you have taught younger christians to live and walk with God, by your exemplary behaviour and heavenly conversation, and will you not also teach them to die, by reusing your faith into an active vigour, and raising your courage high at the gates of death and the borders of glory? What will the world say, this sinful and unbelieving world? And what will younger christians be ready to say, if they observe such as you are, cast down and overwhelmed with tumultuous fears at the approaching hour of your departure, when you have all along professed to the world how divine a support your religion contains in it against all the terrors of death and the grave?
SECT. VIII.-Persuasives to superior Virtue and Piety.
Before I entirely finish this discourse, perhaps it may not be amiss to mention a few motives or persuasive arguments to awaken and excite you to improve in religion and virtue proportionably to all your advantages and obligations. I confess, throughout the train of my discourse I have given frequent hints of this kind already, and therefore I shall mention but a few, and shall be more brief in the proposal of them.
I. If your practice of sincere godliness bear no proportion to the obligation you lie under, and to the advantages you have enjoyed, you will disappoint the just and reasonable expectations of God, angels, and men concerning you. It is true indeed, the blessed God, who foreknows all things from the beginning, cannot be really disappointed in a proper sense, by any occurrences