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“ Let me go, first, and bury my father : I have married a wife: I have something else first to do?" these are morbid symptoms.
Yet, though we are expressly charged to be on our watch, let us not mistake, as if that were sufficient : for, however we may put ourselves on exertion, our vigilance, if we are left to ourselves, will fail. The most active and vigilant General has been sometimes ensnared in an ambush, or blown up by a mine insidiously prepared under his feet. Vigilance, alone, will not save! Our Lord has therefore said, Watch and pray.
Here is the patience of the saints, in carrying their petitions, day after day, to their Great Lord. Here is their wisdom: knowing their weakness, their petition is, “ Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe : keep me, and I shall be kept: enable me to watch, and I shall watch. But, if thou leavest me a moment, I fall.” Here is the strength of the saints: here they are taught of God to suspect every exertion they can make.
In a word, Brethren, while our Lord gives us counsel in this most important concern, he tells us, at the same time, to remember that nothing is done to purpose in Christianity, till we give him the whole glory of sending the truth, and of giving efficacy to it by the power of his Holy Spirit. This is peculiar to his character. I can speak to you, but I cannot infuse a principle. The Apostle could say,
I would to God that ye were altogether such as I am, except these bonds: but the Apostle could not give grace, to render them such who heard him: but our Holy Master, who taught these truths, can give the grace, and must have all the glory; so that from beginning to end, from first to last, we must sing Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood /
We must cry after him, then, as he passes by in his ordinances. Like the leper, we must call on him, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us: or, as the sick of the palsy, we must look to him to say, Arise : take up thy bed and walk.
I will only add this remark, that there is such a thing and I would to God that I had not both seen and heard of it in many instances, and marked its direful effects too-there is such a thing as Spiritual Quackery, as well as Medical Quackery; such a thing as healing the hurt slightly; imposing on the sick man; daubing the wall with untempered mortar, and crying Peace, Peace. That we should not be deceived in a matter of such importance as this before us, here stands the Great Physician of soul and body." I give you," as if he had said, " a plain account of what is coming on, and plain counsel how to meet it. You must hope to get forward through time into a blessed eternity, by faith and patience, by watchfulness and prayer.” And, though it may be scorned by the proud and slighted by the VOL, II.
ignorant, yet I pray God that you and I may remember this counsel of Jesus Christ, who best knows how to preach his own gospel.
“ This,” says he, “is the method which I set before my disciples. Since they know not when their time ends, since I come suddenly like a master who has taken a far journey from home, let them watch and pray. What I say unto you, I say unto all,
My Dear Hearers, I may be called in a moment to render an account of the advice which I am now giving to you; and nothing but the special hand of God prevented my being called to give account of my ministry before this day*: but, if I am spared a little longer to speak these words after my Master, let us pray that his grace may rest on us; and that both Minister and People may stir up one another; and that, in the day of his coming, instead of finding us sleeping, our lights may be burning, our loins girded, and we ourselves like men who wait for the coming of their Lord.
* This Sermon was preached soon after Mr. Cecil had escaped imminent danger of death, by his horse falling in frosty weather in the street.,
And suddenly there was with the Angel a Multitude of the
Heavenly Host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, Good Will towards Men.
IT is a lamentable consideration, how little man is disposed to consider those special and impor, tant truths, which God has revealed to him for his benefit.
In respect to the passage before us, for instance, a Philosopher reads it:—“ Now,” says he, “let us enquire whether this was an impression made on the minds of these shepherds, or whether it was an actual vision presented to them;" and thus he spends his time in empty speculations. A Painter reads the passage :-"I could very much wish,” says he, “ that I had been there, to have caught an idea from that scene.” A Musician reads it:-“ I should exceedingly like," says he, " to have heard this harmony, and to have examined how far it agreed with our present rules :" but since this is impossible, he sits down, turns it into music, and puts it into a song; not considering what important lessons it contains. A Critical Divine reads it:-" This,” says he, “ is a singular event; and it will lead me to consider the ministry of angels, and whether it has totally ceased in our day or not."
Thus men trifle with the Word of God! A real Christian alone makes a proper use of such a passage.
He asks his conscience, « What am I to learn from this? What instruction and encouragement does it afford ?”
I shall treat it only in this way: I speak, therefore, only to such as have ears to hear to that purpose.
1. Let us CONSIDER THE PASSAGE, AS IT LIES
BEFORE US IN THE HISTORY.
2. Let us improve it by SOME PRACTICAL
I. Consider the HISTORY before us.
The Evangelist informs us, that, on the birth of Christ, There were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Business, you see, is honourable. Moses was in his employment, when the vision was manifested to him in the bush. David was in his employment, when called to a kingdom. Elisha was at the plough, when called to be a pro