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lose his own soul? Or what shall a man SERM. give in exchange for his soul k? . IV.
Indeed so gracious is God in his or- w dinary dealings with mankind, that he has in some measure linked our temporal interest with our spiritual duty; so that in diligently performing our several functions in that state of life in which God has placed us, in providing for our own household, and in promoting the welfare of the whole community, we execute a part of our religious duty. But nevertheless a caution will be always . useful to this description of hearers, that they do not cultivate their temporal to the prejudice of their eternal good; tliat they do not so intently fix their hearts on earthly things, as to weaken or impair their zeal for heavenly things; that, while they attend to their worldly business, and perform the part which Providence allots them in society, they do not overlook that more important business of human life for which they were called into the world. To the end that they may use the world without abusing it, it is expedient for them to sanctify that share of wealth which God has given
SERM. them by a grateful heart and a pious IV. and honest application. · While they
a re careful to return their thanks to God, for sending a blessing upon their honest endeavours and supplying the comforts and conveniences of life in abundance, they are to use them with moderation and temperance themselves, and they are to study the most effectual means of making them conducive to the temporal and eternal interest of their fellow-creatures.
To imprint these reflexions more sensibly upon their minds, let them view the demeanour of the primitive Disciples, when the state of the Church required of its professors, not the use, but the sacrifice of all worldly goods, For the sake of Christ and his religion they made no scruple to abandon houses and lands and kindred and country; they relinquished every comfort, they submitted to every loss; supported by the promise of that word which could not fail, that what they sacrificed on earth should be abundantly repaid in heaven.--Let them view the behaviour of their blessed Lord; though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor; though he satę on a throne of
glory, yet he submitted to a state of iga SERM: nominy; though he was the Heir of all, Iv. yet he had not where to lay his head, To all these evils, as the world esteems. them, he was cheerfully resigned on our account. He mourned, that we : might be comforted; he hungered, that we might be satisfied; he was destitute of every worldly good, that through his poverty we might be rich. .
iv. Lastly, By the good ground are signified those good and honest Hearers, who really understand the word; that is, who do not content themselves with giving it their ears or their momentary attention, but implant it in their memories and impress it on their hearts; who retain it as the guide of their conduct in all situations of human fortune, who neither diverted by the vanities, nor alarmed by the troubles, nor discomposed by the cares of life, persevere with patience in a religious course, and bring forth fruit according to the measure of their several talents and capacities.
To this kind of Hearers the exhortation to be offered is, that they still maintain a steady perseverance in the
Serm. way they have chosen.' For so frail is
IV. human nature even in those, who have m made some advance in righteousness,
and so powerful are the temptations, to which the most perfect are exposed in this life, that men have need of every .caution and circumspection to continue stedfast in that course which they have well begun. If we would ensure the high prize of our calling, we must never stop or faulter in a virtuous course, we must never rest satisfied in having attained any certain degree of righteousness. Let us climb as far as we are able, we are at a vast distance from those heights of virtue, after which we are enjoined to strive. Should we once allow ourselves to pause in our Christian race, on a presumption that we have already. advanced as far as is necessary to secure our final peace, we risk the loss of that divine grace which before enabled us to grow in goodness, and we incur a hazard of receding from that pitch of righteousness which has hitherto been the object of our serious application. It is the tenour of religious instruction that we increase more and more. Whatever advance we have already made, we are to grow in grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus serm. Christ': remembering always the cau- IV. tion which our Lord has given us, that w no man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of Godm. :
It must not be dissembled that amid the several frailties of our nature our utmost endeavours must fall far short of that perfection in righteousness to which we are admonished to aspire ; nay so poor and defective is the service of the best, that notwithstanding all their cares they are apt to fall into frequent errors, and with all their industry they are but unprofitable servants. Yet if they devoutly supplicate the grace of God for aid, and apply their constant diligence to concur with this divine Visitant in all religious exercises, they are assured of every necessary support and assistance through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. And moreover to encourage their persevering diligence, this gracious promise is extended to them in the gospel, that according to their progress here in grace will their advancement hereafter be in glory. They shall
12 Pet. iii, 18,
Luke ix. 62.