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is, fet about it with great care, ufe all poffible diligence and induftry for the effecting and accomplishing of it.
Secondly, Here is the argument whereby the wife preacher doth enforce this counsel and exhortation; becaufe this life is the proper feafon of activity and induftry, of designing and doing those things which are in order to a future happinefs; and when this life is at an end, there will be no farther opportunity of working, there will nothing then remain, but to reap the fruit, and to receive the juft recompence of what we have done in this life; For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goeft. In the grave, this the LXX render by the word des, by which the Greeks ufed to exprefs the ftate of the dead, the condition of feparate fouls of good or bad men after they are departed this life, and entered into another world. In which ftate, Solomon does not mean that departed fouls have no knowledge and fenfe of any thing, but that then there will be no place for any counsel and defign, for any activity and indufry in order to our happiness: what we do to this purpofe, we must do whilst we are in this world, it will be too late afterwards to think of altering or bettering our condition.
These are the two parts of the text, and they fhall be the two heads of my following difcourfe; and God grant, that what shall be faid upon them, may be effectual to perfuade every one of us seriously to mind our great intereft and concernment, and to apply ourfelves with all our might to that which is our proper work and bufinefs in this world.
First, We will confider the matter of this counfel and exhortation, and that is, that we would use great diligence and industry about that which is our proper work and business in this life; and this may very probably comprehend in it these two things.
I. Diligence in our great work and bufinefs, that' which equally concerns every man, I mean the bufinefs of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and falvation of our fouls.
II. Diligence in our particular calling and charge, whatever it be.
I. Diligence in our great and general work, that which equally concerns every man, the bufinefs of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and falvation of our fouls; and this confifts in thefe two things.
1. In a fincere care and endeavour of universal obedience to God, by the conformity of our lives and actions to his laws.
2. In cafe of fin and mifcarriage, in a fincere repentance for our fins, and a timely care to be reconciled to God.
1. In a fincere care and endeavour of univerfal obedience to God, by the conformity of our lives and actions to his will and law. And this is a great work, and requires our greatest care and diligence to rectify our minds, to refrain our evil inclinations, to fubdue and mortify our lufts, to correct the irregularity of our paffions, to moderate and govern our appetites and affecti ons, and to keep them within due and reafonable bounds, to take heed to our ways, that we offend not with our tongue, nor tranfgrefs our duty by word or deed; to ferve God with true devotion of mind, both in publick and private; to attend upon the duties of his worship, and to perform all acts of piety and religion, with care and conftancy, in the fincerity and uprightnefs of our hearts; to be meek and humble, peaceable and patient, chearful and contented with our condition; to be ready not only to forgive injuries, but to requite them with kindness and good turns, to do all offices of humanity and charity to all men, according to our ability and opportunity; to inftruct the ignorant, and to reduce those that are in error to the knowledge of the truth, by wife counsel and good example; to endeavour to turn men from the evil of their ways, and to fave their fouls from death; to be ready to fupply mens outward wants and neceffities, to comfort them in their forrows, and to relieve them in their affliction and diftrefs.
And thefe works of compaffion and charity are perhaps more particularly intended here in the text, for fo the Chaldee Paraphrafe interprets thefe words of Solomon, as a precept of charity, rendering them thus, Do all thou canft, according to thy utmoft ability in alms and charity for nothing but this will turn to our account
in another world; no other way of laying out our eftates will be of any advantage to us in the future ftate. And though I do not think Solomon did here intend to exclude any part of religious practice, yet he might very well have a more efpecial eye and regard to this, as one of the principal inftances and beft evidences of a true and fincere piety, according to that of St. James, chap. i. ver. laft. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. To be fure, our Saviour lays mighty weight upon it, by making it the great article upon which men fhall be tried at the judgment of the great day. And indeed no religion is to be valued, that wants humanity and compaffion; for fo far as it departs from this, it departs from the true nature of God and religion.
So that it is a vast work which lies upon our hands, and which every one of us, from the highest to the lowest, are engaged in this bufinefs of religion, this care of our whole man, and of our whole duty, of the inward frame and difpofition of our minds, and of all our words and actions, to keep our hearts with all diligence, and carefully to obferve and govern all the inclinations and motions of our fouls, and to order our whole converfation aright; in a word, to do God all the fervices, and men all the good that poffibly we can, while we are in this world. This is the firft.
2. And because in many things we offend all, and there is no man that finneth not, another part of our work and care is, in cafe of tranfgreffion and mifcarriage in any part of our duty, to exercife repentance for it, that fo we may be reconciled to God, and at peace with him.
And this is abfolutely neceffary, because our life and happiness depend upon it, and except we repent we must perih, and be miserable for ever. It cannot be denied but that this work of repentance is very harsh and unpleafant, like the taking of phyfick, and fearching into a wound; but because it tends to our health and safety, and is the neceffary way and means to a better condition, this feverity must be fubmitted to, if we desire to be cured, and have a mind to do well; and the fooner we make use of this remedy the better, we shall find fo much the lefs difficulty and pain in the cure.
And there is great reason why we should frequently exercife and renew our repentance, because our failings are frequent, and in one kind or other we offend and provoke God every day: efpecially when we are coming to the holy facrament, in which we folemnly renew our covenant with God, and promise him better obedience for the future; we fhould examine ourselves more ftrictly, and call our fins more particularly to remembrance, and exercise a molt folemn and deep repentance for them; this is the way to keep our accounts in a good meafure even. And this furely is great wisdom, to provide that we may have no long account to make up, no great scores to wipe off, when we come to be overtaken by ficknefs, and to lie upon our death-bed; that innumerable tranfgreffions unrepented of may not then compafs us about, and ftare us in the face, and fill our fouls with fear and confufion, with horror and amazement in a dying hour; that an infupportable load of guilt may not then lie upon our minds, and oppress our confciences, when we are least able to bear it, and moft unfit to deal with it, when we may not have time to call our fins particularly to remembrance, and to exercife a particular repentance for them, and yet perhaps a general repentance may not be fufficient, and available with God, for the pardon and forgiveness of them.
Therefore we fhould exercife ourselves much in this work of repentance in the days of our health, when we are fitteft for it, and when it will be most acceptable to God, and when the fincerity of it will be most evident and comfortable to us, when we may know it to be true by the real and certain effects of it, in the change and amendment of our lives. Whereas a death-bed repentance is infinitely hazardous, because we may not perhaps have time and opportunity for the exercise of it; or if we fhould have that, yet hardly can we have opportunity for the trial of it, whether it be fincere or not, and confequently muft needs die very uncomfortably, and in great doubt and anxiety of mind, what will be our fate and doom in another world.
So that it is a great work which lies upon our hands, and equally concerns every one of us. The bufinefs of religion, which confifts in the strict care of our duty
to God and man, and in the frequent exercife of repentance for the fins and miscarriages of our lives; and we may confequently judge how great a care and diligence a work of fo much difficulty, and of fo great moment and importance does require and call for at our hands. But befides this, we muft in the
II. Place likewife be diligent in our particular calling and charge, in that province and station which God hath appointed us, whatever it be; whether it confifts in the labour of our hands, or in the improvement of our minds, in order to the gaining of knowledge for our own pleasure and fatisfaction, and for the ufe and benefit of others; whether it lie in the skill of government, and the adminiftration of publick juftice; or in the management of a great eftate, of an honourable rank and quality above others, to the best advantage, for the honour of God, and the benefit and advantage of men, fo as by the influence of our power and eftate, and by the authority of our example, to contribute all we can to the welfare and happiness of others.
For it is a great mistake to think that any man is without a calling, and that God does not expect that every one of us should employ himself in doing good in one kind or other. Some perfons indeed, by the privilege of their birth and quality, are above a common trade and profeffion, but they are not hereby either exempted or excufed from all bufinefs, and allowed to live unprofitably to others, because they are fo plentifully provided for themselves: nay, on the contrary, they have fo much the greater obligation, having the greater liberty and leisure to attend the good of others; the higher our character and station is, we have the better opportunities of being publickly useful and beneficial; and the heavier will our account be, if we neglect thefe opportunities. Those who are in a low and private condition, can only fhine to a few; but they that are advanced to a great height above others, may, like the heavenly bodies, difpenfe a general light and influence, and fcatter happiness and bleffings among all that are below them.
And as they are capable of doing more good than others, fo with more ease and effect; that which persons of an inferior rank can hardly bring others to, by all the