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in such a state of habitual preparation as not to be lost, though taken unawares; and yet he might be so far off his guard, as to be much distressed, and to be, in some degree, a loser by his negligence. What precise degree of forgetfulness may be at all consistent with a state of acceptance, it is impossible to determine, and it would be as dangerous, as it is unnecessary, to inquire. No right-thinking person, no true Christian, can ever make it a study to know how far he may safely slumber; on the contrary, every believer will be anxious, not only to maintain his ground, but to gain more. What we are now saying can only apply to believers; for, it would be absurd to exhort those to have graces in exercise, who have no graces to exercise. But, even pious persons are liable to be off their guard, and require to be admonished. To be taken at an unfavourable time, at a time of partial backsliding, will expose them to much perplexity in encountering the king of terrors, and will prevent the higher degree of happiness to which they would otherwise attain. “If any man's work abide," and it will stand, if it be built on the true foundation, “he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."-"While the bridegroom tarried," all the ten virgins, the wise as well as the foolish, "slumbered and slept:" the wise had oil in their lamps, it is true, they had grace, and therefore, they were not utterly confounded and rejected; but it would have been better, if they had had their grace in exercise, if they had been awake, and if they had had their loins girt and their lights burning, that they might have opened to him, and met him, immediately.
Let the particular duty of watchfulness, then, engage your most careful attention. How vigilant is he who is appointed to keep watch at sea! "The watchful mariner," says one, "is ever on the look out. His eyes and ears are both open. Be the prevailing fear an enemy's force, or a sunk rock, or concealed bank, or shelving coast, he discerns the smallest symptoms, observes the motion of the waves, sounds with the line, and gives the alarm on the most minute alteration. Without such watchfulness, the most precious merchandise, and the lives of men, would be each hour in jeopardy. Much the same is the case in warfare by land. The sentinel on the outpost is heedful of the most inconsiderable object within his station: and in the darkness of the night, his ear listens to every noise. Nothing can divert his attention from
fidelity to his charge. Such also is the case with the watchman in the besieged city. From the walls, as far as he has light, he marks each change and alteration in the posture of the enemy, draws a judgment from the nicest circumstances; and, in the night, discerns even the rustling of the leaf moved by the breath of heaven; and at every suspicious noise he gives the alarm to the guards of the city. Without this, the cry of havoc would oft be heard in the town, when drowned in heaviness and slumber." Thus it is that you should watch for your own souls. Be watchful lest you make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Be watchful against your spiritual enemies. "Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." Watch over your words and actions, and your very thoughts. "Keep your hearts with all diligence, for out of them are the issues of life." Beware of those things which are contrary to watchfulness, such as sloth, inconsideration, worldliness, and sensuality. And see that you join prayer to watchfulness. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." "Watch unto prayer." "Watch and ye enter not into temptation." Are you careful to barricade your houses, and to guard against thieves? then, every time you lock your doors, or take any precautions to secure your dwellings, let the act remind you to be at least as careful of your souls as you are of your houses.
Think, all of you, whatever your present state may be, think of the uncertainty of your lives, and of the folly and danger of procrastinating attention to the great concern of salvation and preparation for eternity. It is likely that some
you, who have made no preparation at all, think and speak of beginning to prepare by-and-by: but, suffer me to deal plainly with you, in a case too important to admit of flattery, and too dangerous to admit of concealment. It is but too probable that you who can coolly delay, in this manner, will be lost for ever. And why? Not because there is any want of room in the mercy of God, or the merits of Christ-not because there is any want of threatenings to alarm, or promises to allure you-not because your case is in itself desperate-not because your sins are too great to be forgiven-not because you will, in this life, earnestly seek the Lord, and be rejected; but because it is too probable that you will never heartily set about preparation at all—that you will continue careless, unbelieving, and
impenitent-that, in a word, you will continue just as you That this is too probable will appear to yourselves, if you duly consider your already misspent years, the shortness and uncertainty of your remaining time, and the many providential warnings and gospel invitations you have disregarded. What better opportunities can you expect hereafter, than you have enjoyed already? Suppose they were to continue with you as they are, and you with them, which you do not know, you would be hardening more and more by such habits of resistance: so that, if you are wilfully putting away from you the warning of the present moment, it is far more probable, humanly speaking, that you will be overtaken by death in your state of guilt and depravity, than it is that you will ever turn and live, and become ready for eternity. "It is really exceedingly probable, and therefore you have every reason to fear: but, thanks be to God, it is not certain, and therefore you have no reason to despair." Therefore now, O sinners, if this unreserved declaration offend you, or, at least, seem harsh, do, I beseech you, prove that it is a mistake, by rousing yourselves from your deathlike slumbers. Let none of you say, "Soul, take thine ease for many days;" for, hark! a messenger knocks at thy door; it is the messenger of death, and his message is, "Thou fool, this night thy soul is required of thee." If you are not ready before, how can you prepare then? When reason is
disturbed, and care perplexes, and the head is sick, and the heart faint, and troubles rush in from every quarter, how can you prepare then? "The ship must be repaired before she goes to sea;" for, it is too late to think of repairs, when the wind roars, and the waves roll mountains high, and there is no probability of her weathering the storm. The soul must bethink herself while she is capable of thinking; she must attend to the things which belong to her peace, before they be for ever hid from her eyes. Prepare, then, and prepare without any farther delay, to meet your God.
As for you who are so far prepared already, as to be at least safe, let it not happen to you to be surprised in the entanglements of sin and of the world. "Take heed to yourselves, lest, at any time, your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.". Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."
brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. For God hath not appointed you unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." Be ye, therefore, in all respects ready:"Set your houses in order." Let even your temporal affairs be so arranged, on Christian principles, that nothing of that sort, at least, may distract you in your last moments. In a word, let it be your study to live in your duty, and to die at your post. In this way you will be sure to be ready; and the views of your Lord's coming, instead of being terrific, will be refreshing to you. The delay may appear to you long; but to him it will be only as a watch in the night. Be not weary, then, in waiting for his coming, for it will prove well worth waiting for. Watch, and listen; yet a little while, and he who is to come, will come, and will not tarry. Hearken, and you shall at last hear the long expected knock, and, hearing it, shall open to him, and welcome him with an "Amen; even so, come, Lord Jesus."
LUKE XII. 49-53.
"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? 50. But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 51. Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
"I am come to send fire on the earth.”—Every thing that is of God has a direct tendency to promote his own glory, and the happiness of his creatures, on the whole. This, however, does not prevent fallen men from abusing his favours; nor is it inconsistent with his turning, as it were, some of his laws out of their original course, because of human wickedness. Tendency is one thing; effect is another. And, though it is true that the divinely constituted principles in the natural and moral world, which tend to happiness and holiness, do still produce these effects in many instances; yet, in other instances, from no fault in the principles themselves, they fail of good, and even become the occasion of evil. Do we not see many illustrations of this in nature, and in common life? Fire, for example, is of vast importance in most of the operations of man; it is, in many circumstances, essential to the preservation of life, and it is, on the whole, greatly conducive to happiness: but, when it obtains the mastery, and increases into a conflagration, it becomes destructive of life and property. Water is necessary to man's refreshment, cleansing, and very life; in rivers, it is ornament and power; and in oceans, though apparently an obstruction, it is the greatest help to intercourse between distant regions of the earth, so that none can doubt of its being a blessing on the whole: but some individuals lose their lives by being drowned in our rivers; in floods, it ravages the country; and at sea, ships with their whole crews, are lost