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mediate duty, the neglect of the great salvation, proves the final ruin of many. Let us again call to mind the words of the text. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. It does not appear, that he was busy in sinful or unlawful pursuits. But he neglected safely to guard and keep the one delivered into his custody; and for the safe keeping and delivery of whom, he was responsible, even at the expense of his own life. Whilst he was engaged in other pursuits of less solemn importance ; the prisoner made his escape. Just so many lose their souls by seeking mere trifles, instead of striving to enter in at the strait gate. Instead of engaging with seriousness in immediate duty, which is of infinite moment; they would be busy here and there in remote concerns, till they think it a convenient
The gospel is committed to them; and they are charged to keep it unto the day of Jesus Christ. But when the Holy Spirit urges to immediate duty, whether of repentance, prayer, or perseverance, how do some resort to remote concerns? perhaps to a social circle, a pleasing anecdote, or some novel. Instead of making the word of God their guide, they follow the fancies of a lively imagination. In times of general awakenings, whilst some engage with all diligence, through divine grace, to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling; others, with unremitting perseverance, work out their own destruction. They suffer some pursuit, remote from the great end of their being, to engage their attention, till death comes upon them unawares, and they are destroyed suddenly, and that without remedy, Thus their souls are gone; gone to the region of darkness and the perdition of the ungodly. Would they in time have laid their dearest interest to heart, they would not, with consternation in eternity, lament their criminal neglect. How solemn the fact! how alarming the truth! that the being busy about remote concerns, to the neglect of present
duty, proves the final destruction of many of the human race.
1st. This subject naturally suggests the inquiry to each one of us; Where am I, what am I doing, and whither am I going? Am I at my proper place or station in the pursuit of secular concerns, and attendance on religious duties ? Am I engaged in those pursuits which become a rational, accountable, and immortal being? Am I travelling in the straight and narrow way of immediate duty which leadeth to life, or in the broad road of remote concerns, which leads to death.
2d. We may see how important it is to shun the very appearance of evil.
To resist the first risings of temptation, is easy; but to parley with the tempter, till by his wiles he place his fascinating baits, and exhibit sin in all its deceitful and alluring charms, is dangerous and yielding to his power. Thus the soul is led his willing captive. As birds exposed to the fascinations of a serpent, if they first take the alarm, they make their escape. But, if they listen to his deadly wiles and fatal enchantments, instead of flying away, they first make excentrick flights, next come near and hover around him, then lose the power of flight; and with a few feeble flutters, fall a victim to their devouring enemy. So is it delusive and deadly to the soul to give heed to the suggestions of satan, and not resist his deadly cunning and delusive schemes, when first perceived. At first, resistance is not difficult; but if we hearken to the great deceiver as to some kind angel, we fall a prey to his delusions and power.
3d. We may behold the astonishing goodness and compassion of God, in giving a divine revelation to
The sacred volume not only makes known that the door of heaven is opened for lost man; but with the most friendly cautions and warnings, it
reveals the hidden dangers which beset the heavenly road. In tender mercy, counsels of wisdom and salutary admonitions are given, that the wandering may return, and their souls find rest. No suitable instruction is withheld; and all that is encouraging and endearing, invites us to walk in the way of salvation.
4th. This subject presents every possible encouragement to attend to the concerns of immediate duty. This is the proper way to secure the comforts of this life, and to promote our present peace and highest enjoyment upon earth. Present duty is immediately and inseparably connected with the dearest interest of our fellow-men, and by reciprocation to double our own joys. And as to those joys which are on high, the faithful discharge of our duty towards God and man, will reap endless and increasing felicity. The evils of life, and those of futurity forbid us to be busy about remote concerns.
But cheering prospects for time, and unspeakable blessings for eternity, are the reward of well doing; and call, invite, and allure, that our employments and enjoyments, be in attending to the concerns of immediate duty and preparing for immortal glory. Amen.
THE PATH OF HUMAN HAPPINESS.
Psalm iv. 6. There be many
Who will show us any good ? The desire of happiness is connatural to the minds of intelligent beings. All men wish to be happy, notwithstanding so many pursue courses which are inconsistent with the attainment of this desirable end. Whether mankind be holy or sinful; whether they walk in the straight and narrow way that leadeth to life, or in the broad road that leads to death, they are inquiring after happiness. This is an object truly worthy of their pursuit, and there is but one higher or more noble motive which can inspire the human breast. Moral fitness, or the seeking to know and do the will of God so as to promote the greatest good of his moral kingdom, is the most glorious principle, by which man can be excited to action. Such a sentiment and excitement are the dignity of human nature; and a royal diadem to crown the head of man. But all are not thus nobly influenced. The Psalmist says, There be many that say, Who will show us any good ? Perhaps the true import of this expression is, Many inquire after happiness, without knowing what it is, or seeking where it may be found. They may desire any enjoyments of a worldly and sensual nature, and be willing to pursue any means or courses in order to self gratification. Such would delight in any object or pursuit, that would afford sinful pleasures. The inq uiry may be, What earthly or created good, when righily pursued, will promote human happiness. Some, when
they make the inquiry, Who will show us any good? would convey this idea, That none but God can satisfy and fill the desires of an immortal mind.
Inthe prosecution of this subject,my object will be to point out the path of human happiness. In the world above all are completely happy; butinthe present state, happiness is variously distributed, and in general according to the propriety and uprightness of conduct. Hence the present and future prospects of human beings depend much upon themselves, or upon a wise and faithful improvement of means and talents. But suffer me first to present the reader with some observations from Sterne, on the same subject.
The great pursuit of man is happiness, which is the first and strongest desire of his nature. In every stage of his life he searches for it, as for hid treasure. He courts it under a thousand different shapes; and though perpetually disappointed, still persists, runs, and inquires for it afresh; asks every passenger, who comes in his way, Who will show him any good ? who will assist him in the attainment of it, or direct him to the discovery of this great end of all his wishes ?
He is told by one, to search for it amongst the more gay and youthful pleasures of life; in scenes of mirth and sprightliness, where happiness ever presides, and is ever to be known by the joy and laughter which he will see, at once, painted in her looks.
A second, with a graver aspect, points to the costly dwellings which pride and extravagance have erected; tells the inquirer that the object of which he is in search, resides there; that happiness lives only in company with the great, in the midst of much pomp and outward state; that he will easily find her out by the fineness, richness, and costliness of her dress; and by the great luxury, the expense of equipage and furniture, with which she is always surrounded.