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ter of the world would receive the testimony which they should leave behind them, and follow them to glory?
But all these effects are manifest to them in the heavenly world. There they see the harvest which had arisen from the handful of corn, waving before the wind, like the trees of the vast and conspicuous forest of Mount Libanus. Every hour, if I may so speak, souls are arrived at those happy regions, who hail them as their spiritual fathers, and who shall be their crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord.
The joy of the apostles will not prevent later labourers from possessing the immediate fruit of their toils, any more than that of the prophets will prevent them from possessing theirs: both they that sow and they that reap will rejoice together.
Nor is this encouraging truth to be confined to the apostles, or to men of eminence. He who received but two talents had the approbation of his Lord, equally with him who had received five. The reward, as promised in the gospel, will not be so much according to the talents we possess, as the use we make of them; nor so much in respect of our success, as of our fidelity. Many a servant of Christ has spent the greater part of his life with but little apparent His charges it may be, was small at the beginning, and he has not been able to enlarge it. He has witnessed but few appearances of a divine change in his congregation; and some of those, who, for a time, afforded him hope, have turned back. Under such circumstances, his heart has often sunk within him; often has he sighed in secret, and thought within himself, I am a vessel in which the Lord taketh no pleasure! But if, under all this, he be faithful to his trust, and preserve a single eye to the glory of God, his labours will not be lost. The seed which he has sown may spring up after his decease; or he may have prepared the way for another more successful, and when all shall meet in a future state, he that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together.
Neither is this subject to be confined to ministers. As in Christ's harvest there is employment for every description of labourers, so there is reason to believe that every thing done for him is productive of some good effect; and will, in some way, glorify his name ; which cannot but yield a joyful satisfaction to those who love him.
How grateful are the recollections of a godly parent, when, upon his dying bed, he is able to say to his children; I have taught you the good and the right way; the things which you have heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.' And, though he may not in this world witness those effects which would have rejoiced his heart, yet his labour will not be lost. He may, at the last, be able to present them, saying, 'Here am I, and the children which the Lord hath given me.' Or if some should not be gathered, yet his judgment is with the Lord, and his work with his God.
What a satisfaction must be enjoyed by those who have willingly contributed, in any form, to so glorious a cause as that of Christ; a cause which he founded by the shedding of his blood; a cause to which all the tribes of maatyrs cheerfully sacrifice their lives; a cause in fine, by the prevalence of which the name of God is glorified, and the salvation of our fellow-sinners accomplished.
I close with a few reflections.
1. We learn, from this subject, how to estimate the importance of our present conduct. We are fearfully made, but still more fearfully situated. Every thing we do is a seed of futurity, and is daily ripening into heaven or hell. It is here we receive the stamp, or impression, for the whole of our existence. Is it possible that, with a proper sense of this truth, we should trifle with time, or lavish its precious moments in idleness or folly?
2. By this also, we may estimate the folly of hypocrisy. All the labour of a man to appear what he is not, is making preparation for his own confusion. What should we think of a husbandman who sows cockle instead of barley; and who, having, by early rising and performing his labour in the dark, deceived his neighbours, should congratulate himself for his ingenuity? Foolish man! we should say, of what account is it to his neighbour, in comparison of what it is to himself? It will soon appear what he has been doing!
3. Let us never forget, that, whatever encouragements are afforded us, they are altogether of grace, and through a Mediator. There is no room for pharisaical pride; and if such a spirit be at the root
of our labours, it will prove as rottenness, and the blossom shall go up as dust.
Do any inquire, What they must do, that they may work the works of God? The answer is This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he hath sent. This is the first and chief concern, without which all others will be of no account. While you either openly reject Christianity, or imbibe another gospel, which is not the gospel of Christ, the curse of the Almighty is upon your head, and all your works are no other than sowing to the flesh. Come off, without farther delay, come off from that fatal ground. Renounce thy self-dependences, and submit to the righteousness of God; then every thing will be in its proper place. The curse shall no longer be upon thee, nor upon any thing which thou doest. The Lord will rejoice over thee to do thee good. Thou mayest eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works.
GOD'S APPROBATION OF OUR LABOURS NECESSARY
TO THE HOPE OF SUCCESS.
[Preached at the Annual Meeting of the Bedford Union, May 6, 1801.†
NUMB. XIV. 8.
If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us.
You recollect, my brethren, that, when the children of Israel were going up to possess the land which the Lord their God had promised them, they were directed to send spies before them, who should search out the land, and report whether it was good or bad, and whether the inhabitants were strong or weak, few or many. The greater part of these spies proved unfaithful. They brought an evil report of the good land; depreciating its value, magnifying the difficulties of obtaining it, and thus spreading despondency over the hearts of the people. The effect was, that instead of persevering in the undertaking, they were for returning to Egypt.
There were two out of the number, however, who were of another spirit, and whose report was different from that of their companions. The land, said they, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land, which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them:
fear them not. These worthies stood alone in their testimony, and the people had well nigh stoned them for it; but the Lord honoured them: for, of all the generations which came out of Egypt, they only inherited the promise.
Considering the object of the present meeting, you will probably suppose that my thoughts have been employed in drawing a parallel between the undertaking of Israel to subdue the Canaanites, and take possession of their land in the name of Jehovah ; and our undertakings to subdue to the obedience of Christ the hearts of his enemies, both at home and abroad, and, in this manner, take possession of the world for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is true, they have and, in discoursing upon the subject, I shall first attempt to justify the application by tracing the analogy between the two cases, and then consider the proviso on which we are given to expect success.
I. I shall attempt to justify the application of the subject, by tracing THE ANALOGY BETWEEN THE UNDERTAKING of Israel, and THE EFFORTS OF CHRISTIANS TO DISSEMINATE the gospel.
It is allowed, that the imagination, unaccompanied with judgment, will often find resemblances which the sacred writers would have disavowed, as beneath them; and far be it from me to imitate so puerile and unwarrantable a method of treating the oracles of God but it appears, to me, that the gift of the holy land to Abraham and his posterity was really designed to prefigure the gift of all nations to the Messiah for his inheritance, and that thus it is represented in the scriptures. It is said, in the 72d Psalm, He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. This promise, I suppose, had immediate reference to the kingdom of Solomon, and signified, that, during his reign, the whole extent of country included in the original promise to Abraham should be actually possessed: but, in a more remote sense, it refers to a greater son of David than Solomon. This is manifest from several passages in the psalm, which are inapplicable to any one but the Messiah. It is his kingdom only which shall continue as long as the sun and the moon endure, throughout all generations: Him shall all nations serve, and to him shall all kings bow down; men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call