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In discoursing on these jwords, I shall endeavour, by Divine assistance, First, To show you, what ia implied in our abounding in the work of the Lord. Secondly, What it is to abound always in it. And, Lastly, I shall explain the meaning and obligation of the two arguments or motives in the text, employed .to enforce this duty, viz. the designation here given to it, " the work of the Lord;" and the glorious recompence of reward that is promised, "Forasmuch "as ye know, that your labour is not in vain in the ** Lord."'
I. Iam first to show you, • what is implied in our abounding in the work of the Lord.
By the work of the Lord, we are to understand the whole of. practical religion; comprehending in it, the exercise of piety and devotion towards God, of justice and charity to men, and of fobriety and temperance in our own conduct: In one word, obedience to all jhe precepts, both of the sirst and second table of the law. "He hath showed thee, O man," fays the prophet Micah, " what is good: and what ** doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, "to love mercy, . and ,to walk humbly with thy v God r" And the apostle Paul gives us a beautisul summary of this work cf the Lord, as taught by the gospel; " For the grace of God," fays he, "that bringe.th falvation, hath appeared to all men, "teaching us, that denying ungodliness, and.wordiy ** lusts, we should live foberly, righteously, and god"ly, in this present world (a)."
Now, abounding'in this work, evidently supposes, that there is a principle of spiritual lise in the foul, by which it is made alive unto God, and disposed for the facred duties of religion.—Without lise, there can be no activity. A perfon who is dead, cannot engage in the business of this world; neither can h; who is
-("} Tit. U. Ii, n.
dead in trespasses and sins, abound in the work of the Lord. In this matter, I am asraid, a great many professing Christians deceive themselves, and by thatmeans lose all their labour in religion. They attempt the work without a principle of lise; and hence, all their performances, however specious, must be supersicial. If, then, you would abound in the work of the Lord, let it be your sirst and principal concern,; to lay the foundation in an union with Christ, who is the resurrection, and the lise, and from whom alone, this new lise and strength for your work is derived.
And, being thus disposed for the exercises and duties of the religious lise, abounding in the work of the Lord implies in it,
1. That we should have the graces of the Spirit, in a lively and vigorous exercise. Unless he exert .his strength and vigour, a man cannot work in the affairs of this world. In religion, the case is the fame. He who indulges himself in floth, or neglects to stir up the grace of God that is in him, can never abound in the work of the Lord. I acknowledge, indeed, that the spiritual lise may fometimes seem as sire under the ashes; that indwelling corruption may prevail, and lead captive to the love of sin and death. But a life of grace, as to the general tenor of it, is active: and it is evident to a demonstration, that a Christian can never abound in the fruits of righteousness unto holiness, unless he live in the habitual and vigorous exercise of the graces of the Spirit: for these are the springs which set all the wheels of religious obedience in motion. The human body is sitted for action by the vigour and flow .of the animal spirits; whereas, when they move more flowly, it is seeble and languid.In the fame manner, when the Christian's faith in God is strong, his love servent, and' his hope of falvation sirm, entering into that within the vail; these graces excite him to diligence and activity in serving the Lord: but when they are weak and decayed, he Z becomes becomes careless and remiss in the discharge of his duty; and the things that remain in him are even
2. It implies in it actual attainments, and considerable prosiciency in those graces, which are the principles and strength of the spiritual lise. It imports, that they are arrived at a good degree os imjnovement and growth, and that this is evidenced, both in the regular performance of religious duties •with some measure of peace and comfort, and in encountering disficulties, 'and resisting temptation with fortitude and resolution. Thus, it is given as a distinguishing mark of sincere Christians by the apostk, ** That they have crucisied the flesh with its affec** tions and lusts («)not only are they endeavouring to do it, but they have actually crucisied it in fome measure. Nay, it is not enough to have obtained some victories over indwelling corruption; we must go on and weaken this body of sin more and more: and as there are many degrees of holiness besore •we can arrive at the persection of it, we must be still rising higher and higher. This is very properly illustrated by the growth of a plant, or of our own bodies. A plant, you know, is daily advancing, till it come to that strength and maturity which are designed for it by the Author of nature; and our bodies are continually^ 'though imperceptibly, expanding, till at last; Jjgf% arrive at their appointed stature. Just so it juS.the spiritual lise. After the vital principle of gr,ac^'is implanted in the mind, it will still be acquiring new accessions of strength, until it be persected in glory. This is the meaning of that faying of the inspired wise man, " The path of the just ** is as the shining light that shinerh more and more ** unto the perfect day (b)." It is true, in God's children there may be decays of grace for a seasonThe Christian may walk in darkness, and fee no li^hf
His graces, like flowers in the winter, may difappear, and hide their beautisul heads- The spirit of lise remains in him like the root in the earth; but he abounds not in the display and exercise of the Christian graces. And when this is the case, you may plainly perceive, that the Christian cannot be faid to abound in the work of the Lord; nay, sjp far from it, that, under those decays of grace, he will lament his own condition, and utter that passionate wish of the apostle Paul, when he was in similar circumstances: " O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver "me from the body of this death?"
Lastly, This abounding in the work- of the Lord implies, that, till we have arrived at perfection, we must never rest fatisfied with our attainments. However far advanced our present progress in religion may be, we must think, with the apostle, that it is insufsicient; we must forget the things which are behind, and press forward towards the mark for the prize of our high calling that is with God in Christ JesusDo you excel other Christians, who are weaker hi grace than yourselves? Beware of thinking that this is enough. While you are short of the work, your diligence must not be relaxed: and though, indeed, you never can attain persection, while consined to this valley of tears; yet, it is the object to which your ambition and your efforts ought to be directed. Although you come insinitely short of the perfect standard of your conduct the holy law of God, and of •Christ your persect pattern; yet, you must be indefatigable in your endeavours, you must walk and not be weary; run, and not faint. There are many who promise well lor a time; many who outstrip their sellow Christians, who yet, by fainting and becoming remiss before they arrive at the end of their journey, fail of obtaining the prize. What sears ought this to awaken and maintain in our fouls, lest we alfo faint before our Christian race be linished! Let us reZ 2 member,, member, that he who begins, but does not end in the Spirit, has suffered many things in vain; and that to him o'nly who is faithsul unto death, Christ has promised to give the crown of lise.
Thus, I have shown you what it is to abound in the work of the Lord. It implies a lively and vigorous excscjfe of grace, actual attainments, and considerable proficiency, both in mortifying sin, and in positive holiness; and sinally, that, till we have arrived at perfection, our zeal and activity must never be relaxed. I now proceed,
II. To (hew you what it is to abound always in this good work.
1. There is no time nor period, no condition nor circumstances of life, in which we ought to neglect it. The charms of prosperity should not seduce us, nor the powers of adversity deter us, from abounding in the work of the Lord. When we are in health, we should apply to it with vigour; when in sickness, it cught to be our chief concern. In the days of youth, we should bring forth our summer fruits; in more advaaced age, folid piety and religion; and in old age, when.the body is hastening to the grave, the soul ihould be'* placing its affections on the things which are above. Wherever we are, whether in the house or in the sields, in the closet or in company, Religion shQuld, of all things, be the nearest to our heart, and employ our most diligent care. In the night seafon, when fleep does not close our eyes, the meditation of God should be sweet to us; when vre awake in the morning, we should be still with him, and in the sear of the Lord all the day l^ng. In ;i word, no danger should prevent us from observing, no consideration prevail with us to neglect, this important duty. We must preser it to our chiesest worldly joys, and to all the delights of the fons of pien; for we are to seek 'sirst the kingdom of God,