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Now the End of all things being at hand, the Apostle wills us to be fober and temperate in all things, and to -avoid all
' Abuse or intemperate Use of any of God's Creatures, that we may render a good Account of them, and receive the Reward of so doing. To this we are frequently exhorted in Holy Scripture, from this Consideration of the End of all things drawing nigh: In the 21st of St. Luke, our Saviour speaking of the sudden Coming of the Lord, advises, ver. 24. Take heed to your selves, left at any time your Hearts be overcharg’d with Surfeiting and Drunkennessy and the Cares of this Life, and so that Day come upon you unawares
. St. Paul, from the Night's being far spent, and the Day's being at hand, exhorts to caft off the Works of Darkness, particularly mentioning Rioting and Drunkenness, as Vices that altogether unfit us for that season, Rom. 13. 12, 13. Let us that are of the Day (faith he) be sober, Thess. 5. &. and elsewhere he exhorts to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World, looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Chrift; Tit. 2. 12, 13. Let your Moderation be known unto. all Men, the Lord is at hand ; Phil. 4. 5. that is, let us moderate our Desires for the good things, and our Passions under the evil things of this Life,, and that will prepare us for the coming of the Lord. And that is the first Vertue here prescrib'd to that end : The End of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober.
The 2d is Watchfulness; And watch unto Prayer. The Certainty of the Coming of the Lord, together with the great Uncertainty of the Time of it, is sufficient to set all Wise Men upon their watch, to be ever ready against that great and important Season ; considering the great Be nefit of being prepar'd, and the great Danger-of being surpriz'd at his Coming : the former will welcome us into our Master's Joy, the latter will doom us to endless Woe and Sorrow. Watch therefore (faith our Saviour, Mat. 24. 42.) for ye know not the Day or Hour when your Lord cometh, His Coming (he tells us) will be as a Thief in the Night; which is wont to be in the deepest Silence and Darkness, when he is least thought of, or expected, and therefore the Apostle calls upon us, not to sleep, as do others, but to watch and be sober; that is, not to bę lulld into Supineness and Security by Luxury and Excess, but to be always in a Pof. ture of Readiness by Watchfulness and Sobriety, To encoupage us all so to be, werçad that the faithful and wise Servant,
that is found upon his guard, and ready for his Master's Coming, shall be made Ruler of all his Goods, Mat.24. 45,46,&c. But the slothful and foolish Servant, that faith in his Heart, My Lord delayeth his Coming, and so makes no Preparation for him, Mall have his Portion with Hypocrites, where is weeping and gnashing of Teeth. Watch therefore (faith our Saviour, ver. 44.) for in such an Hour as ye think not of, the Son of Man cometh. And what he said to his Disciples then, be saith unto all, Watch; Mark 13. 37,
And this Watchfulness must be unto Prayer, which is always to go with it; for except God keep the City, the Watchman waketh in vain. Without the Aid and Assistance of his Grace, all our Vigilance and Care will be to no purpose, which we must always call for by diligent Prayer. And therefore we find Watchfulness and Prayer generally join'd together; Watch and pray, that ye enter not into Temptation. The World and the Flesh are apt to take us fron our Watch, and too often betray us by their Charnis and Allurements ; so that fome greater Force is needful to guard us from these ghostly and subtle Enemies; and without the Affistance of Divine Grace, call'd in' by devout Prayer, they will be too hard for us. For which reason the Apostle, from the approaching End of all things, directs us to watch unto · Prayer ; that is, to be still upon our guard, and upon our Knees, to prevent Surprize, that the Day come not upon us unawares.
To which he adds, 3dly, Another preparatory Vertue to that end ; and that is, Above all things to have fervent Charity among your selves, for Charity shall cover the Multitude of Sins. Now this fervent Charity implies a hearty Love and Affection burning in Mens Breasts to one another ; which if it be true and sincere, as it ought to be, will restrain them from doing any the least Harm or Disturbance to their Neighbour, and will prompt them to perform all good Offices, that may promote the Welfare and Quiet of Mankind. This he would have minded above all things, because of the great Benefit and Comfort it will afford in this World, and the good Account it will turn to at the end of it. He that is forward to do Evil, and backward to do Good, bears no true Love either to God or his Neighbour, and will have a bad reckoning to make in the latter end: but he that hates every false way, and is ready to all Acts of Mercy and Kindness, is a true Lover of both : and blessed is he, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
We read in the 25th of St. Matthew, that when Chrift cometh to Judgment he will proportion mens Reward by the measures of their Charity, and allign their Punishment by the degrees of their Oppression and Uncharitableness; saying to the former, Came ye blessed of my Father, inherit a Kingdom; to the latter, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. By which the Apostle's Advice here appears to be wife and wholesom: The End of all things is at hand, therefore above all things have fervent Charity among your selves. A good Reason whereof is added in the next words:
For Charity shall cover the Multitude of Sins. To cover Sin, is in the Scripture-Phrase to forgive it: so the Psalmist understands it; Blessed is the Man whose Iniquity is forgiven, and whose Sin is cover'd, Pfal. 32. I. For as the covering of a thing puts it out of sight, and oftinies out of mind too, so the covering of Sin hides it from the face of God, so as not to be seen or remember'd any more. Now that which removes Sin from the light and remembrance of God, must admirably prepare us for his Coming; for that will present us pure and without spot before him : and this is here made the happy Effect of Charity, that it covers a multitude of Sins. 'Tis a known Property of Charity, to cover the Failings and Infirmities of others; and the Reward of it will be, the covering of our own from the sight of God; for he that forgives, shall be forgiven; and he that cafts a Veil over his Brother's Miscarriages, shall have a Mantle thrown over his own ; neither shall the Number or Greatness of his Sins obstruct his Pardon, for Charity covers a multitude of Sins, which we fould therefore above all things cherish among our selves.
4tbly, Another Vertue, or rather Branch of the former here recommended, is Hospitality : Use Hospitality one tą another, without grudging. Hospitality, in the proper Notion of it, is the entertaining of Strangers, or the receiving them into our Houses, as Occasion shall require. To this we have many Exhortations in Holy Scripture : Be not forgetful to entertain Strangers (faith the Author to the Hebrews) for thereby Some have entertain'd Angels unawares Heb. 13.2. Where by Strangers we are to understand all Christians, to what Nation or Country soever they be. long. By entertaining them is meant the shewing them all Kindness, not confining it to our own Country or Neighbourhood, but extending it to all the Brotherhood ; for by this means some have receiv'd Angels unthought of, as,
Abraham and Lot did, of whom we read, Gen. ch. 18, 19. And others have hereby receiv'd fuch as have been Instruments of Blessing and Salvation to them. And therefore the Apostle here exhorts to this Hospitality, and to use it without grudging; that is, with all Freedom and Cheerfulness, not driven to it by Importunity
or Necesity, but led to it by a willing and ready Mind. That this will prepare us for the End of all things, appears by the Words of our Saviour at the Day of Judgment, who will then pronounce some blessed for this, among other Reasons ; because I was 4 Stranger (faith he) and ye took me in, Mat. 25.35. And will declare others cursed for the Neglect of this Duty, saying unto them, I was a Stranger, and ye took me not ini ver.43. which should teach us to live in the practice of this Duty, and not fuffer the Vertue of Hospitality to Strangers to be strange to us.
This the Apostle backs with a general Exhortation, in the Close, to every one, to impart to others something of the Gift or Talent wherewith God hath bless'd or bestow'd upon them: As every one hath receiv’d the Gift, even so minifter the same ane to another, as good Stewards of the nifold Grace of God. There are Diversities of Gifts (faith the Apostle) and different Administrations of the same spi. rit, i Cor. 12. God, like the Housholder in the Parable, hath distributed various Talents to the Sons of Men, to one the Word of Wisdom, to another the Word of Knowledg, to a third the Gift of Prophecy : on some he scatters his temporal Gifts, such as Wealth, Honour, and Power, and the like ; on others he bestows his spiritual Gifts, as Grace, Learning, and Understanding: and all for the benefit of Mankind, and for the edifying of the Body of Christ. They that abound in the temporal good things of this Life, are to distribute to the Neceflities of the Saints, relieving them with their Wealth, and supporting them with their Power. They that are intrusted with fpiritual Gifts, are to communicate them for the Good of Mens Souls; instructing the Ignorant, confirming the Weak, and in fome measure consulting the Good of all: knowing that we are not Owners, but Stewards of the manifold Grace of God; whofe Duty it is to dispose of the Master's Gifts according to his Will, and by his Direction, as those that must render an Account of the Distribution.
In the next words he particularly instances in the Offices of Priests and Deacons : If any Man Speak, füith he, (that
26 PRACTICAL DiscoURSES on the is, as a. Teacher and Instructor of others) let him speak as the Oracles of God; that is, with all Sincerity, Reverence, and Fidelity, delivering faithfully the Mind of God, as the Oracles of old did the Will of the Heathen Deities; and likewise with all Authority, as speaking in God's Name, and as his Ambassadors. If any Man minister in the Office of a Deacon, let him do it as of the Ability, which God giveth; that is, let him fully and faithfully discharge the Trust reá pos'd in him, without defrauding the Church or Poor in any thing committed to his charge: That God in all things may be. glorify:d, to whom be Praise and Dominion for ever and ever, Amen: meaning, that the Glory of all that we have or do, may be ascrib'd to the Almighty Donor and Dispenser of all things, to whom alone it is due.
This is briefly the Sense and Scope of the Epistle for this Day; which puts us in mind of the approaching End of all things here below, and therefore wills us to be always expecting and preparing for it: being sober and temperate in all things; watching against the Temptations of the Devil, the World, and the Flesh ; observing the Times and Seafons of Prayer; having fervent Love and Charity among our selves, using Hospitality one to another without grudging; cheerfully administring the good things which God hath given us; and faithfully discharging all those Trusts and Offices, wherein he hath set us. These things will conduce much to the putting us in a constant Readiness for that time, and to the making it welcome and happy to us.
To all which I shall add, in the last place, what the approaching Season calls for, the receiving the Holy Sacrament. Nothing can better fit us for the End of all things, than that which will stand us in stead when all things are at an end. This will enter us upon a new Life, not such as we lead here in the Flesh, miserable and mortal, but a spiritual and glorious Life crown'd with Immortality. Then Shall we begin a Blessedness that shall never end, and taste the Sweets of those Joys that have not the least Alloy of Bitterness : the First-fruits hereof we have in this holy Sacrament, where we eat the Flesh of our Saviour, and receive a double Portion of his Spirit. Tho his corporal Prefence is in Heaven, yet is he fpiritually present in this holy Feast : he is there in his Graces and his Comforts, in his Merits and his Love; of all which we partake at that holy Table, to which we are now invited.