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to quicken the soul, and to bring all its faculties into active employment; and no delusion can be more gross, than for a man to flatter himself that he is religious, merely because he has a certain species of religious knowledge and religious feeling, while he lives in the neglect of those dutiful exertions which he is called on to make, to promote the honour of God and the happiness of mankind.
2d, The figurative description of the saint's present state, in the text, intimates, that his active exertions are directed to important and useful purposes. The employment of the sower is not merely laborious, it is at the same time useful and necessary. It is deeply to be regretted, there is not only much indolence and inaction among mankind, but also much wasted exer. tion, much misapplied industry. How many spend the whole of life in busy idleness, constantly employed, but never employed to any good purpose! Their exertions produce no useful result, either to themselves or to others. They scatter pebbles instead of grain over the field : They have all the labour of the sower, but they have none of his reward. How many more do worse than merely waste their activity in trifling, by strenuously exerting themselves to do mischief to themselves and others ! “ They are of their father the devil, and the works of their father they do." Their time and talents are devoted to his service, with a zeal and perseverance which reprove the languor and un. steadiness of those who profess to be engaged in a bete ter cause. These men sow the seeds of some deadly poison, instead of the wholesome grain. They are in dustrious, but their industry is not only useless but mischievous. It is a melancholy reflection, that many men put themselves to an expence of time and labour in ruining their souls, which, if properly employed, might have been sufficient to save them.
The industry of the saint is wisely and usefully directed. His labours have for their object the glory of God, the salvation of his own soul, and the happiness of his brethren of mankind : “ Whatsoever he does, he does it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him. Whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, he does all to the glory of God.”
His great desire is, “that in all things God may be glorified.” He makes his "light to shine before men, that they, seeing his good works, may glorify his Father who is in heaven.”. He sows, that there may be a rich harvest of “the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ Jesus to the praise and glory of God."--Next to the glory of God, the salvation of his own soul is the great object of the saint's vigorous exertions. He is well aware, that “ eternal life is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord ;” but he is also aware, that it is by stant continuance in well-doing, that men are to look for glory, honour, and immortality.” Persuaded that religion is the one thing needful, he labours to obtain “that good part which shall never be taken from him.” He gives “ all diligence to add to his faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. He makes his calling and election sure; and thus an entrance is ministered to him abundautly into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” He “labours, whether present or absent, that he may be accepted of God.”—A third important and useful object to which the active exertions of the saint is directed, is the promotion of the true happiness of his fellow men. In his estimation, no man ought to live to himself.
He “looks not merely on his own things, but also on the things of others.” If
blessed with affluence, he employs his influence and wealth in mitigating the sorrows of his less fortunate brethren. “He is eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and a father to the afflicted poor. The blessing of him who was ready to perish comes on him, and he makes the widow's heart to sing for joy." If Providence assigns him a more narrow sphere of exertion, still, within its limits, he “does good to all as he has opportunity;" and labours, by promoting by every means in his power the happiness of his brethren, not to live in vain.
3d, The figurative description of the saint's present state in the text, intimates, that his active and useful exertions have a reference to futurity. The conduct of the sower is accountable only when viewed as looking forward to the months of harvest. To a person unacquainted with the law of nature by which vegetable substances are reproduced, the husbandman, casting into the earth what is fitted for the food of man and of beast, would appear to act the part of a madman. It is so with the Christian : His labours have a direct reference to futurity; and, without taking into consideration the invisible realities of religion and eterni. ty, there is much of his conduct that is altogether unaccountable. The employments in which he takes most pleasure, have no tendency to secure for him the pleasures, the honours, or the riches of this world. They look beyond time into eternity for their recompence. He sometimes makes sacrifices, for which, in the present state, he can expect to receive no compensation; and, if there is no heavenly happiness remaining for him, he is of all men the most foolish and miserable. Indeed, the whole of his mode of thinking, and feeling, and acting, is distinguished by this reference to futurity. He “walks by faith, and not by sight.” As the sower sows in hope, so the Christian
acts and suffers, lives and dies, under the influence of the faith of the gospel and the hope of eternal life.
4th, The figurative account of the saint's present state, in the text, intimates, that while thus actively engaged in useful employments which have a reference to futurity, he often exhibits symptoms of distress and
“He sows in tears.” It might have been expected, from the account already given of the saint's employments in the present state, that he should be blessed with uninterrupted serenity. What can be better fitted to preserve the mind in perfect peace, than constant employment in the best of all causes, with the prospect of perfection and immortality? And indeed we find, that good men do derive much satisfaction from the duties and exercises of religion : “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeps their hearts and minds through Christ Jesus ;" and they not unfrequently “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, with a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory." Yet still the motto of the saint is" Sorrowful, though always rejoicing.” The state of good men in a present world is of a mixed character, and while they never want ground of joy, they also are never without ground of sorrow. While the saint
forth bearing precious seed, weeping, his tears are principally tears of penitence, tears of affliction, or tears of sympathy.
The people of God are not naturally better than the rest of mankind. They have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. When renewed in the spirit of their mind, they are instructed in the malignant nature of sin in general, and are deeply impressed with the hatefulness of their own sins: Their sins are
ever before them.” Though well assured that God has forgiven them, they find it impossible to forgive themselves ; and whenever their sins are brought to their remembrance, the tears of godly sorrow burst forth afresh. But this is not all: The saint not only recollects with regret that he once was a sinner, but he feels with deep sorrow, that still “in him, that is, in his flesh, dwelleth no good thing. There is a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, so that when he would do good, evil is present with him.” This fills him with extreme uneasiness, and induces him to breathe out the apostle's complaint, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death !"
The afflictions of life frequently also oblige the saint to exhibit symptoms of distress, while engaged in the discharge of his important duties. Religion neither exempts her votaries from the evils of life, nor renders them insensible under their pressure : “ What son is there whom the Father chasteneth not?” “All who would live godly must suffer persecution.” “ Through much tribulation must they enter into the kingdom.” All these afflictions are kindly intended on the part of their heavenly Father, and, by his superintending providence and gracious influence, will ultimately be productive of the most beneficial results. But while they continue they are painful, and the saint must sometimes breathe a sigh and drop a tear.
Farther, in the present state the saint often sheds tears of sympathy. There is much in this world to affect with sadness the heart of any man who is not an entire stranger to sensibility. It is a world full of sin and misery. Every renewed heart glows with a peculiarly tender sympathy for all the miseries of man; and every renewed mind is enlightened with just views of the nature and extent of the evils, and especially the moral evils, under which mankind groan. In following the instinct of his new nature, as well as in obeying the commands of his Saviour, the saint