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wicked company: "Evil words corrupt good manners," saith the apostle. And what good words shall ye have with them? With them ye shall meet with that which shall prejudice you against what is good, and those that are good. Would ye therefore be freed from the carnality of profession? Take heed how you come into carnal wicked company.
Call yourself often to an account, and examine your ways, whether they be spiritual or carnal. Come, oh, my soul, thou hast been in such a company, but hast thou not been frothy, vain, passionate, or carnal in it? Thou hast been this day amongst those that are spiritual; but hast not thou been carnal in the midst of them? Come, O my soul, thou hast been at such a work this day, but hast thou not been selfish in it; hast not thou desired to be seen therein; hast not thou been carnal even in thy spirituals? Thus daily call yourselves to an account. And
Consider but this one thing, That the only way to lose a mercy, is to be carnal in it. If you be a professor, one that God loves, the more carnal engines you use to obtain a mercy, the more like you are to lose it; and in avoiding of misery, the more carnal your engines are to avoid it, the more like it is for to come upon you: if you be wicked and ungodly, the Lord, it may be, will let you obtain your ends by your carnal engines: but if you be godly, the more carnal engines you use to obtain a mercy, the more like you are to lose it. Now therefore as you do desire to avoid misery, and to obtain mercy, labour to be more spiritual; take heed of carnal engines in all your designs; make it your work and business to be more spiritual; rest not upon your holy mount, saying, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord;" for it is carnal; and take heed of divisions, strifes, and envyings; "For if these things be among us, are we not carnal?" And this may easily be; for you see the text, and you remember the doctrine. Possibly great professors may be very carnal. Wherefore let us all make it our work and business to be more spiritual.
WHAT OUR WORK IS, AND HOW TO BE DONE.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might for there is no work," &c.-ECCLES. IX. 10.
SOME think that Solomon speaks these words in the person of an epicure; as if he should say, "Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die." But an epicure doth not use to speak so religiously. An epicure doth not mind the acceptance of God. But Solomon here saith, "Eat and drink with joy, for God accepteth thy works." verse 7. An epicure doth not look upon this life," and the days thereof as vanity," which Solomon here doth (verse 9.) An epicure doth not look upon these outward things and blessings of this life, as the gift of God; Solomon here doth, verse 9. But in this Scripture, Solomon tells us, That a man should cheerfully take all the good that God doth put into his hand to have, verse 7, 8, 9. And that he should industriously do all that work which God hath put into his hand for to do, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," &c. verse 10. Where ye have an injunction, and the reason of that injunction. The injunction in these words, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," or is in the power of thy hand to do, as some translations have it," do it with thy might." The reason in these words, "For there is no work," &c., that is, there is nothing in the grave which you can turn your hand unto; for the word is sometimes put for work, sometimes for device, sometimes for knowledge, and sometimes for wisdom. So that from these words you may observe thus much; that it is our duty to do that work with all our might, which is in the power of our hand to do. For the clearing whereof, we must first inquire what this phrase, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," or whatsoever is in the power of thine hand, doth import. Now if ye consult the Scripture, it implies, authority, ability, opportunity.
It implies authority or commission. That which falleth within the compass of our commission and authority, is, " in the power of our hand." Upon this account Abraham said unto Sarah concerning her maid, Hagar," Behold thy maid is in thine hand,” Gen. xvi. 6., that is, within the compass of
thine authority. Illud vere possumus, quod jure possumus; Though a man be able to do a work, yet if it be not lawful, or within the compass of his calling and commission; it is not in the power of his hand to do it.
As the words do imply authority, so they do imply an ability. For though a man have the power of authority to do a work, yet if he have not the power of ability to do it, it is not in the power of his hand to do it," Knowest thou not, (said Laban to Jacob) that it is in the power of my hand to do thee hurt;" Gen. xxxi. 29, that is, knowest thou not that I have power and strength, and ability for to do thee hurt. But,
As the words do imply an ability, so they do imply opportunity and occasion; for though a man have both power of anthority and of ability to do a work, yet if he have not opportunity to do it, that work is not in the power of his hand to do," And let it be when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion shall serve." 1 Sam. x. 7. In the Hebrew, as your margin tells you, it is, " as thy hand shall find to do." And if ye look into Scripture, you shall find that a man is said to do that work which he doth occasion, though that work be done by another. It is said of Judas, "That he purchased a field with the reward of iniquity." Acts i. 18." He brought the thirty pieces of silver to the priests, and threw them down in the temple, and departed," Matt. xxvii. 3, 5. If he threw them down in the temple, and left them with the priests, how did he purchase the field? Yes, says the interlineary gloss, Possidit quia possideri fecit, he purchased it, because he did that work which did administer the occasion of this purchase. Look therefore when a work is within the compass of our commission, and which we have ability and opportunity to do, then it is truly said to be in the power of our hand, and that is the work which our hand finds to do; so that whatever work that is, which God doth betrust us with, if we have ability and opportunity to do it, that we are to do with all our might.
Well, but then, when may a man be said to do this work of God with his might, or with all his might?
I answer, it imports several things, He that will do the work of God with all his might, must do it with all his soul in opposition unto heart-division. As in the New Testa
ment, there is mention of diyuxos aung," a double-minded man:" so in the Old Testament ye read of a divided heart, ab, "An heart and an heart." And the word
, heart is sometimes put for the affections, and sometimes for the conscience: yea, the Hebrew hath no other proper word for conscience, but the word heart. Therefore says the apostle," If thy heart condemn thee, (that is) if thy conscience condemn thee," that is an Hebraism. Now the heart of the affection may run one way, and the heart of the conscience may go another way. The heart of Herod's conscience went with John the Baptist, but the heart of his affection went with the dancing damsel. The heart of a drunkard's conscience is to leave his drunkenness, but the heart of his affections is to his drunken company. But where a man doth the work of the Lord with all his might, he doth it with all his soul, in opposition unto heart-division.
And as he must do it with all his soul in opposition unto heart-division, so he must do the work of the Lord with all his understanding, in opposition unto unskilfulness. For, says Solomon," It is the property of a fool, not to know the way to the city," Eccles. x. "The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; because he knows not how to go to the city," that is, saith Luther, he wearieth out himself in difficult things and questions, when he doth not know that which is ordinary and necessary for him to know; "he knows not the way to the city:" but as for the wise man, saith he, "his heart is at his right hand,” verse 2. "A wise man's heart is at his right hand:" that is, he doth his work with dexterity, in opposition unto all unskilfulness.
And as he doth God's work with dexterity, in opposition to all unskilfulness, so he doth it with all his affections, in opposition unto lukewarmness and remissness. For as the philosopher observes, All remissness doth arise from the mixture of some contrary: now where there is a mixture of the contrary, a man cannot do his work with all his might. But,
As he must do God's work with all his affection, in opposition unto lukewarmness; so he must do it with all his ability, in opposition unto all reserves; Ananias and Sapphira did not do God's work with all their might; why? because they had their reserves: but Moses did God's work with
all his might, when he brought the people out of Egypt; why? because he left not an hoof behind him; he had no reserves. So now, when a man will not leave an hoof behind him, but doth God's work without all reserves; then he doth it with all his might. Yet.
As he must do it with all his ability, in opposition unto all reserves; so he must do it with his diligence and industry, in opposition unto sloth and negligence. "For he that is slothful in his business, is brother to the scatterer," saith Solomon. Do you therefore ask when a man may be said to do God's work with all his might? I answer it implies these things. He must do it with all his soul in opposition to all division of heart: with all his dexterity in opposition unto all uuskilfulness: with all his affections, in opposition unto all lukewarmness and remissness: with all his ability, in opposition unto all reserves: and with all his industry and diligence, in opposition unto all sloth and negligence.
Well, but then, why and upon what account or reason must we do God's work with all our might?
I answer. It is God's will we should do so; it is his commandment," Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Deut. iv. 5, 6. Here are three alls; "All thy soul, all thy heart, and all thy might." And lest you should think that there may be some abatement in New Testament times, ye shall find that when Christ cites those words he adds a fourth all. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind," Luke x. 27. Here are four alls. There is no abatement then in our gospel times. Now if this be the mind and will of God, is not this reason enough for us? I heve read of one bishop in the primitive times, whose name was Quodvulteus, that is, Quod vult Deus, What God will. And indeed methinks that this should be the name of every christian, Quodvulteus, what God will. We all profess ourselves the children of Abraham: he went blindfold into God's commandments, and subscribed to a blank. Now we have commandment for this both in the Old and New Testament. It is scriptural.
As it is scriptural, so it is a rational thing that we should do God's work with all our might. For is it not a reasonable thing that we should give God his due, his own?