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portion. But suppose it is literally true concerning any one, that the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower, than that he can wrap himself in it. How happy for that man if the moral or figurative import of the words, be not applicable to him.
3d. We may conclude, that the gospel is suited to every disposition or circumstance in life; and calculated to render all who embrace it happy. Are any of peculiarly tender feelings and delicate sensibility, and are they timid and distrustful of themselves? The influence of the gospel would serve to establish their minds with Christian fortitude; and render their faith firm, and their hopes in the Lord strong. But, are any pained with insensibility of affection, and with an unfeeling and sceptical mind? The grace and mercy of God are peculiarly calculated to fill their souls with contrition; and to awaken them to all that is endearing or interesting. Through the light of the gospel, the moralist may have all the moral virtues carried to their highest perfection, whilst he is made wise unto salvation. The profane and profligate will become moral and godly, and bless the Father of all mercies for all their comforts, if they will only hearken to the voice of wisdom. The intemperate will become sober minded, and lead godly lives, if they resist not the light and power of the gospel. The wandering may be led into the right way; and the blind receive their sight, from the anointing with that eye salve, which the gospel offers freely. Then let us not be deceived in concerns of the utmost importance, by fearing to come to the light, lest our deeds be reproved. Infinitely better to have our sins set in order continually before our eyes, whilst in time; that we, through the rich grace and mercy of God, may be delivered from them for eternity. Amen,
NEGLECT OF PRESENT DUTY THE RUIN OF MAN.
1 Kings xx. 40. As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. VARIOUS and deeply interesting are the instructions of the sacred oracles. The revelation which God has given, is both glorious and worthy its author; and suited to the state and condition of mankind. On the one hand, the divine character is exhibited in all its glory and beauty; on the other, that of man in all its pollution and deformity. The great design of divine revelation is the glory of God, and the salvation of man. But, in order to this, we may see the propriety of those facts being recorded of the conduct of both good and bad mens of the faithful and unfaithful, and all their varied circumstances, to be a terrour to evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. Hence, a passage of scripture seemingly indifferent in itself, by its connexion becomes momentously interesting.
The words of the text are the account of a man's negligence, which cost his life. The connexion, is solemn and instructive. And a certain man of the sons of the prophets, said unto his neighbour in the word of the Lord, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him. Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the Lord, Behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lon shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him and slew him. Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him. So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king; and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a man turned aside and brought a man unto me and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgement be, thyself hast decided it. And he hasted and took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel discerned him, that he was of the prophets. And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.
By this account we are taught, that to be busy about remote concerns, to the neglect of immediate duty, proves the destruction of man. The subject may be illustrated with great variety for our present and future well-being.
1st. As it respects the various evils of civil life, the true reason to be assigned, is, that mankind are so much busied in concerns remote from their present duty. Society is burdened by manifold evils, because so many are busy here and there; and for the greater part of their time, and the chief part of their conduct, no satisfactory account can be given. Mankind are generally busied about something; and if it be not for good, it must be for ill
. Those pursuits which cannot be for the benefit of individuals and community, must be for their injury. And to turn aside but one step from what is consistent with known duty, is to enter a course which may end in lasting disgrace and infamy. When the mind is not employed with subjects which relate to immediate duty, a person is peculiarly exposed to temptation.
To be busy here and there, by spending much of our time in loitering or frivolous pursuits, is to be in danger of some destructive vice; of intemperance, profanity, theft, or lasciviousness: and to an unfeel
mind and abandoned life. Would all be occupied in some of the varied duties of life, how quickly would bitter animosities, and painful and lasting contentions have an end. Why are our prisons filled with malefactors? Because many are busy here and there, contemplating schemes to which duty does not call, and inventing projects which are not their true interest. Forgery and robbery so often take place on the account of some who would be busy, but not in some honest calling. Why are locks necessary? For fear that some would be busy here and there, from motives foreign from present duty. The same reasoning will account for the conduct of duelists. Would the person on the gallows assign the true reason and first cause how he came to ascend the scaffold to be a spectacle for the world, he would tell us he first embarked in some trivial
pursuits, aside from the path of duty; and, persisting in this course by a climax of vices, he is suspended between the heavens and earth. Murder, at first, was far from his intentions; his soul even shuddered at the thought of a profligate life, and of abandoned and desperate attempts. How varied the vices and evils of this present world! But to be busy about remote concerns to the neglect of immediate duty, proves the destruction of man in his present state, as it respects the various evils of social and civil life.
2d. Negligence and trivial pursuits, instead of industry and economy, cause many to live in the want of the conveniences of life. Earthly good things must not be accounted our chief portion, as they are only the temporal blessings of heaven. Still no person of reflection can be insensible how desirable and necessary they are in this life, both for usefulness and comfort. Although they are only temporal gifts, yet they are essential for our subsistence and for the support of society. Hence, then, we are not only to desire them; but to labour, and by all prudent means, endeavour to procure them. In time of health property is desirable, that we may have a competence; bear our part in the support of religious institutions, and contribute to the support of the poor and needy, and to the necessities of the sick and distressed. And how culpable must that person be, who by idleness or prodigality, has rendered himself unable to discharge such offices of humanity. Sin lieth at the door of him who will be busy here and there, in pursuits remote and inconsistent with his worldly interest. If the time and means for accumulating earthly goods be mispent, how can we comply with the kind exhortation, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness? Without the means of relieving the necessities of the afflicted, how can we succour them? To endure a distressing and lingering sickness, or to bear the infirmities peculiar to old age, and at the same time to be destitute of the comforts and aids requisite to such a state, through former indolence or extravagance, must fill the mind with keen reflection and painful reproaches. Youth is the season peculiarly favourable to a preparation and beginning, to accumulate the varied blessings of life. But parents, who are the instruments of bringing their children into the world, are bound to make suitable provision_for their several wants. Hence says the apostle Paul, The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. Instead of this, however, we behold some profusely squander wealth, and waste their fortunes; and others, who are too indifferent to exert themselves for their children's welfare. They are busy here and there; but their daily employments are wholly incompatible with the peace and pros