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S E R M O N CI.
- Of the work assigned to every man, and the season for doing it. .
John ix. 4. '/ must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: The night cometh, when no man can work.
THESE words our blessed Saviour spake os himself, whilst he was upon earth; in which he tells us, that he was lent by God into the world, and had a certain work and employment appointed him during his abode in it. A great work indeed! to instruct, to reform, and save mankind. A work of great labour, and pains, and patience, not to be done in a short time; and yet the time for doing it was not long: aster he came into the world, it was a' good while before he began it; and after he began it, the time of working was not long before the night came, and put an end to it: / must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: The night cometh, when no man can work.
But that which our Saviour here speaks of himself, and which properly belongs to him and no other, may yet be accommodated to every man, with some allowance for the difference and disproportion. Por though every man be not sent by God into the world aster so peculiar a manner, and upon so particular and vast a design; yet upon a general account, every man is sent by God into this world, and hath a work given him to do in it, which he is concerned vigoroufly to mind and to prosecute with all his might. And though every man be not sent to save the whole world, as the Son of God was, yet every man is sent by God into the world, to work m hit twit salvation, and to take care of that in the first place, and then to promote the salvation of others, as much as in him lies. So that every one of us may, in a very good fense, accommodate these words of our Saviour to himself, / must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: The night tometh, when no man can work.
I shall therefore at this time take the liberty to handle these words according to this moral accommodation of them, and apply what our Saviour-here fays of himself, to every man that cometh into the World: And this I shall do, by shewing these three things:
First, That every man hath a work assigned hint to do in this world, by him that sent him into it i and may in some sense say, as our blessed Saviour did of himself, I must work the works of him that sent me.
Secondly, That there is a certain and limited time for every man to do this work in. While it is day.
Thirdly, That after this season is expired, there will be no further opportunity of working. The night tometh, when no man can work.
First, Every man hath a work assigned him to do in this world, by him. that sent him into it, and may in some sense say, as our blessed Saviour did of himself, I must work the works of him that sent me. God who made man a reasonable creature, and haths endued him with faculties whereby he is capable of knowing and serving him, hath appointed him a work and service suitable to these faculties: And having infused an immortal foul into this earthy body, hath certainly designed him sor a state beyond this life, in which he shall be sor ever happy or miserable, according as he ufeth and demeans himself in this world.
So that the work which every one of us hath todo in this world, is to prepare and fit ourselves for that eternal duration which remains for us after death. For the life which we live now in this world» is a time of exercise, a short state of probation and trial, in order to a durable and endless state, in which we shall be immutably fixed in another world.
S 2. Thi* This world, into which we are now sent for a little while, is as it were God's school, in which immortal spirits cloathed with flesh, are trained and bred up for eternity: And therefore the best, the only sure way to be happy for ever, is, so to improve the short and uncertain time of this life, that we may approve ourselves to God in this world, and enjoy him in the next: Or ( as St. Paul expresseth it) that having our fruit unto holiness, our end may be everlasting life.
And this work consists in these three things:
I. In the care of our own salvation.
IT. In doing what we can to promote the salvationof others.
III. And in order to both these, in the careful improvement and good husbandry of our time.
I. In the care of our own salvation. And this confists in two things,
1. In the worship of Almighty God.
i. In the careful and conscientious practice and obedience of his holy laws. 'I;
1. The care of our own salvation consists in the pious and devout worship of Almighty God; that we honour him, and pay him; that honour and respect, which is due from creatures to him that made them, and is the great Sovereign and Judge of the world; that we have an inward reverence and esteem of him, and that we express this by all solemn external acknowledgments of him; as by praying to him for the supply of our wants -r by praising him for all the blefhngs and benefits which we have received at his hands; and that we set apart constant and solemn times for the performance of these duties; and then when we are employed in them, we be serious and hearty, and attentive to what we are about, and perform every part of divine worship with those circumstances of reverence and respect, which may testify our awful sense of the divine majesty, and our inward and profound veneration of him with whom we have to do:. And this is that which is directly and properly religion.
2. This care of our own salvation does consist likewise in the conscientious and constant obedience and practice of God's holy laws, in the conformity of our lives and actions to the laws which he hath given us, whether they be natural, or written upon our hearts, or made known to us by the revelation of his word ; that we govern our passions by reason, and moderate ourselves in the use of sensual delights, so as not to transgress the rules of tempe- ~ ranee and chastity; that we demean ourselves towards others, and converse with them with justice and fidelity, with kindness and charity.
These are the sum of the divine saws, and the heads ©f our duty towards ourselves and others; all whiclv are more powerfully enforced upon us by the revelation of the gospel, and- the plain promises and threataings of it; the faith of Christ being the most firmt and effectual' principle both of piety towards God, and of universal obedience to-all his particular commands.
And this is the great work which God hath sent us to do in the world. So the wise man sums up> eur duty, Eccles. xii. 13. Tear God, and keep his commandments ; for this is the whole duty of man. The sear and reverence of the divine majesty is .the great foundation and principle of religion; but obedience to God's laws is the life and practice of it. God. does not expect that we should spend the greatest part of our time in the immediate acts of religion, and in the solemn duties of his worship and service 5but only that we should allot a fitting portion of out time to these, according to the circumstances of out condition in this worlds and the example of holy and good men that are in the like circumstances with ourselves.. For such is the goodness of God, that he does not only allow us to provide for the necessaries and conveniences of this life ; but hath made it our dutv so to dot It is one of the precepts of the gospel, which the Apostle chargeth the Bishops and Teachers of the gospel t» inculcate frequently upon Christians, that they which- have believed in God, should be careful to maintain good works ; that is, to> employ themselves in the works of an honest calling, for neceflary uses ; that is, for the support of their samiles, and the relief of those who are in want
stress upon this, as a very great duty, Tit. iii. 8. This is a faithful faying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men ; that is, of general benefit and advantage to mankind. .
So that no man's calling is a hindrance ta religion, but a part of it ; and by performing the duties of> piety in their proper seasons, and spending the rest of our time in any honest and useful employment,we may make our whole life a perpetual serving of God ; we may glorify God in our eating and drinking, and in all other lawful and useful actions of life. In serving the occasions and necessities of life, with sobriety and temperance, and in managing our worldly commerce vwitn justice and integrity, we may serve Cod, and perform considerable duties of religion.
So that provided we do nothing that is sinful, and manage the actions and concernments of this life with a due regard and subserviency to the great interests of eternity, we may do the work of God all the while we are providing for ourselves, and employed in the works of an honest calling : For God, who hath designed this life, in order to the other, considers the necessities of our present state, and allows us to make provision for it.
There are some person! indeed, whose birth and condition sets them above the common employments of life, and the works of an ordinary calling ; but these also have a work given them to do ; for God hath sent no man into the world to no purpose, and only to take his pastime therein; neque enim ita generati fumus a natura• ut ad ludum 07" jocum fatti effe videamur ; fed ad feveritatem potiits, qtudam studia graviora atque major a; " For we are not (fays. "Tully de off. lib. K) so framed by nature, as if "we were made for sport and jest, but for more fe"rious employments, and for greater and weightier
and necessity. And the Apostle lay