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In order to this, I shall make it my endeavour, by the blessing of God, to put in practice the following Resolutions.
I am resolved, if possible, to redeem my time past, by using a double diligence for the future, to employ and improve all the gifts and endowments, both of body and mind, to the glory and service of my great Creator
TIME, health, and parts, are three precious talents, generally bestowed upon men, but seldom improved for God. To go no farther than myself; how much time and health have I enjoyed by God's grace? and how little of it have I laid out for his honour? On the contrary, how oft have I offended, affronted, and provoked him, even when he has been courting me with his favours, and daily pouring forth his benefits upon me? This, alas is a sad truth, which whensoever I seriously reflect upon, I cannot but acknowledge the continuance of my life as the greatest instance of God's mercy and goodness, as well as the greatest motive to my gratitude and obedience. In a due sense, therefore, of the vanities and follies of my younger years, I desire to take shame to myself for what is past, and do, this morning, humbly prostrate myself before the throne of grace, to implore God's pardon, and to make solemn promises and resolutions, for the future, to cast off the works of darkness, and to put on the armour of light; and not only so, but to redeem the precious minutes I have squandered away, by husbanding those that remain to the best advantage. I will not trifle and sin away my time in the pleasures of sense, or the impertinencies of business, but shall always employ it in things that are necessary and useful, and proportion it to the weight and importance of the work or business
I engage myself in; allotting such a part of it for this business, and such a part for that, so as to leave no intervals for unlawful or unnecessary actions to thrust themselves in, and pollute my life and conversation.
For, since it has pleased God to favour me with the blessing of health, and I am not certain how soon I may be deprived of it, and thrown upon a bed of sickness, which may deprive me of the use of my reason, or make me incapable of any thing else but grappling with my distemper; it highly concerns me to make a due use of this blessing, while I have it; to improve these parts and gifts that God has endowed me with to the manifestation of his glory, the salvation of my soul, and the public good of the community whereof I am a member.
To these ends, it will be requisite for me frequently to consider with myself, which way my weak parts may be the most usefully employed, and to bend them to those studies or actions, which they are naturally the most inclined to and delighted in, with the utmost vigour and application; more particularly, in spiritual matters, to make use of all opportunities for the convincing others of God's love to them, and their sins against God, of their misery by nature, and happiness by Christ; and when the truth of God happens to be any ways traduced or opposed, to be as valiant in the defence of it, as its enemies are violent in their assaults against it. And as I thus resolve to employ my inward gifts and faculties for the glory and service of God; so,
I am resolved, by the divine grace, to employ my riches, the outward blessings of Providence, to the same end; and to observe such a due medium in the dispensing of them, as to avoid prodigality on the one hand, and covetousness on the other.
THIS, without doubt, is a necessary resolution, but is likewise very difficult to put in practice, without a careful observance of the following rules.
First, never to lavish out my substance, like the prodigal, in the revels of sin and vanity, but, after a due provision for the necessities and conveniencies of life, to lay up the overplus for the acts of love and charity toward my indigent brethren. I must consider the uses and ends for which God has entrusted me with such and such possessions; that they were not given me for the pampering my body, the feeding my lusts, or puffing me up with pride and ambition; but for advancing his glory and my own, and the public good. But why do I say given ? when, as I before observed, I have no propriety in the riches I possess; they are only lent me for a few years, to be dispensed and distributed as my great Lord and Master sees fit to appoint, viz. for the benefit of the poor and necessitous, which he has made his deputies, to call for and receive his money at my hands. And this, indeed, is the best use I can put it to, for my own advantage as well as theirs for the money I bestow upon the poor I give to God to lay up for me, and I have his infallible word and promise for it, that it shall be paid me again, with unlimited interest, out of his heavenly treasure, which is infinite, eternal, and inexhaustible. Hence it is, that whensoever I see any fit object of charity, methinks I hear the Most High say unto me, Give this poor brother so much of my stock which thou hast in thy hand, and I will place it to thy account, as given to myself;
and, Look what thou layest out, and it shall be paid thee again.
The second rule is, never to spend a penny where it can be better spared; nor to spare it where it can be better spent. And this will oblige me, whensoever any occasion offers of laying out money, considerately to weigh the circumstances of it, and, according as the matter, upon mature deliberation, requires, I must not grudge to spend it: or, if at any time I find more reason to spare, I must not dare to spend it; still remembering, that as I am strictly to account for the money God has given me, so I ought neither to be covetous in saving or hoarding it up, nor profuse in throwing it away, without a just occasion. The main thing to be regarded is, the end I propose to myself in my expences, whether it be really the glory of God, or my own carnal humour and appetite. For instance, if I lay out my money in clothing my body, the question must be, whether I do this only for warmth and decency, or to gratify my pride and vanity. If the former, my money is better spent; if the latter, it is better spared than spent. Again; do I lay it out in eating and drinking? If this be only to satisfy the necessities of nature, and make my life the more easy and comfortable, it is, without doubt, very well spent; but if it be to feed iny luxury and intemperance, it is much better spared; better for my soul in keeping it from sin, and better for my body in preserving it from sickness. And this rule is the more strictly to be observed, because it is as great a fault in a servant not to lay out his master's. money when he should, as to lay it out when he should
In order, therefore, to avoid both these extremes, there is a third rule to be observed under this Resolution; and that is, to keep a particular account of all my receipts and disbursements; to set down in a book every penny I receive at the hands of the Almighty, and every penny I lay out for his honour and service. By
this means I shall be, in a manner, forced both to get my money lawfully, and to lay it out carefully; for how can I put that amongst the money I have received from God, which I have got by unlawful means? Certainly, such money I may rather account as received from the devil for his use, than from God for his. And so must I either lay every penny out for God, or otherwise I shall not know where to set it down; for I must set down nothing but what I lay out for his use; and if it be not for his use, with what face can I say it was? And, by this means also, when God shall be pleased to call me to an account for what I received from him, I may with comfort appear before him; and having improved the talents he had committed to my charge, I may be received into his heavenly kingdom, with a well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into thy Master's joy.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to improve the authority God gives me over others, to the suppres sion of vice, and the encouragement of virtue; and so, for the exaltation of God's name on earth, and their souls in heaven.
THAT all power and authority hath its original from God, and that one creature is not over another, but by the providence and will of him who is over all; and, by consequence, that all the authority we have over men is to be improved for God, is clear, not only from that question, Who made thee to differ from another? and what hast thou which thou didst not receive? 1 Cor. iv. 7. but likewise, and that more clearly, from that positive assertion, The powers that be are ordained of God, Rom. xiii. 1. That therefore I may follow my commission, I must stick close to my present resolution, even in all the power God gives me, to be