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ment, implied in the word watch, are addressed to all persons; to those who stand in the relation of mere creatures, by creation and Providence; to those who have become children by the grace of faith, repentance, and adoption; and to those especially, who are rulers of the household. There is scope enough furnished by the subject to address every class of persons-ministers as well as magistrates, to be vigilant in the performance of their respective duties; and to address churches on the necessity of communicating a knowledge of their Lord's will to all the different national branches of the household, scattered over the face of the world; beginning, however, in their own houses, their own neighbourhoods, and their respective countries. But we this day merely glance at these various topics, and I shall now close with noticing the motives to watchfulness which Holy Scripture sanctions. Some of these are addressed to admiration of what is excellent, and gratitude for what is kind; but more to our fears and to our hopes.
It has been a conceit of proud man, both in the west and in the east, in ancient Rome and in modern China, that either hope or fear entering into the motive of moral action, is destructive of virtue. But this is a sentiment as opposite as possible to the whole scope of divine revelation ; for promises and threatenings, exciting hopes, and awakening fears, run through the whole of the Sacred Volume from beginning to end. The promises of pardon and of peace, and of a filial relation to God, and eternal bliss, are presented to the hopes of faith and repentance. The servant who has faithfully employed the talents committed to his care, shall be commended by the great Lord of all for having done well, and shall be welcomed to his Lord's joy. But on the faithless, and unbelieving, and hard-hearted, and impenitent, who may have wasted their Lord's goods, or neglected the talents committed to them, shall be tribulation and anguish for ever and ever. And indeed, the most prominent motive addressed by our Lord, in the subject of this day's discourse, to the servants of the household, appeals to their fears, viz. the sudden and unexpected coming
of the Master, whilst they are indulging in sleepy slothfulness, or tyrannising over their fellows.
I shall now, my friends, drop the figure or comparison employed by our Saviour, and exhort you to let the possibility of sudden and unexpected death, (which may be considered, to you, the coming of the Lord,) have the weight on your minds which it ought. The old-fashioned distinction between an habitual and an actual preparation for death, has considerable meaning and propriety. Every person who has not repented, and believed the Gospel, is habitually, totally unfit to die; and those who have the fear of God before their eyes, and who have, it is hoped, repented and believed the Gospel; if their faith be not in vigorous exercise, and their obedience unreserved, and their usefulness extensive, as the Providence of God may enable them, they are not in actual preparation to meet their Lord. And observe, finally, that the warning and the threatening in the passage before us, are both addressed to those who are denominated servants, which may justly cause those who hold offices in churches, as well every member, to watch heedfully against a deadening spirit of self-security, and the pernicious presumption, that long life will be theirs.
should he find his household in disorder, he would certainly punish those who had abused his confidence, and violated their acknowledged duty; or the specific commands which he had, at his departure, given them. Under such circumstances, the best advice that could be given to a family, would be that which is contained in the words of our text, Watch; be careful and attentive to your proper work, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. It is generally thought that our Lord, in the discourse addressed to his disciples, in connexion with the sentence which I have read, referred to four events: to the destruction of Jerusalem; to the termination of the then existing state of the Jewish church; to the death of individual men, and to the final judgment of all mankind. Indeed, its application to the general judgment, could be no otherwise appropriate, than by considering the death of each individual as introducing him to that state of existence in which he shall be judged. I will not this day refer to the awful calamities which befel the Jews, when Jerusalem was overthrown by the conquering Romans, in which transactions an immense number of human beings perished; but shall direct my discourse to two general topics: first, Man's relative situation; and, secondly, Man's obligation to watchfulness; and whilst discoursing on these two leading ideas, I shall consider man both as a creature and a Christian.
I. Man is not his own maker, nor was the world he inhabits produced by his power; his being is derived, the supply of his wants is from another, and therefore man is not his own master; he may not do what he pleases, either with himself or with what he possesses. Man owes his existence, and the sustentation of his being, to a supreme Lord, who is the great and glorious Creator of the universe. To him man owes life, and breath, and every good. If a fellow-creature, who affords any one the means of daily support, is entitled, by general consent, to a certain portion of service, to be performed with perfect good faith and good will, how much more ought man to acknowledge that the great Creator and Lord of the universe is entitled.
the prosperous sometimes dread what will be their condition in case of a reverse, or in old age. The ambitious are racked with anxieties to obtain interest, and patronage, and promotion; and those in high places often dread the probabilities of disgrace. The literary aspirant is full of care to obtain distinction, and those who have attained it, feel great anxiety to sustain their character. There are many whose lawful concerns, their agriculture, or manufactures, or commerce, fill their minds with constant carping cares. And there are teachers of literature and science, and ministers of religion, whose minds lose their equanimity by over-anxiety about the performance of their duty, or the temporalities of their charge. Care and anxiety are not confined to those whose only cry is, What shall we eat or drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed? Cares and anxieties extend to those persons who are perfectly indifferent to, or most abundantly supplied with these comforts.
Some cares and anxieties seem necessarily forced upon human beings, but the greater number are self-induced; that is, they do not arise from the circumstances in which Providence has placed us, but are brought upon ourselves by our own defects or excesses.
I now come to the question, Are the cares of this life sinful? Does Christianity require Christians to be careless and thoughtless concerning the present life? Must the Christian merchant be careless and indifferent about his affairs? Must the mother take no thought about her children, the children about their parents? Are these expressions of Holy Scripture-"Take no thought for to-morrow," "Be careful for nothing"-to be understood, as the words, if taken by themselves, plainly mean?
If to these questions we answer, Yes, we make the doctrine of our holy religion of a piece with pagan systems in India and China, which require the good man to quit his kindred, and the business of life, and to become a monk and a beggar. But from this interpretation of Sacred Scripture we are preserved, by looking more diligently into the Holy Book. Interspersed, throughout that volume, there are general maxims, and express precepts, which
And duties will further appear from an attention to the place which each person holds in the great family or household. Some are entrusted with certain offices, intended to promote the well-being of the whole, such as princes and magistrates, in the state; fathers, and mothers, and teachers, in families; bishops, or pastors, and deacons, in the church. These should be faithful and wise servants of their Lord, and give to his household their meat in due season. Blessed is the servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing!
But duty is not confined to these rulers of the household; there are also duties binding on those who are under authority, and the younger branches of the great family. Duties owing by the people towards princes and magistrates; by children and scholars, towards parents and teachers, and by members of churches towards their pastors and deacons. And all these relative duties among men should be performed with a supreme regard to the great Lord of all. His will is man's law; and pains should be taken to ascertain his will, according to the means which he may have put in our power; and moreover, the different branches of this great family, or, in other words, the different nations and tribes of men, should kindly communicate whatever they know regarding their Lord's will to each other. Those who, like the Jews and Christians, have had superior means of knowing their Lord's will, were made keepers of the oracles of God, not solely for their own use, but for the benefit of all mankind. It is not less a duty in those who know their Lord's will to instruct others, than it is a duty in the uninformed to exert themselves to ascertain it.
Let us, in this part of our discourse, stop a while to consider the character of the Lord or Master of the household, as made known to us in the inspired history of Divine Providence, which constitutes the records of the family.
In the beginning he reared a magnificent mansion for the accommodation of the family, and stored it with all that could contribute to the happiness and delight of its inmates; and in so doing, displayed his power and his goodness, both of which are infinite. He was not a hard nor a tyrannical