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is, set about it with great care, use all possible diligence and industry for the effecting and accomplishing of it. | Secondly, Here is the argument whereby the wise preacher doth enforce this counsel and exhortation; be. cause this life is the proper season of activity and industry, of designing and doing those things which are in order to a future happiness; and when this life is at an end, there will be no farther opportunity of working, there will nothing then remain, but to reap the fruit, and to receive the just recoinpence of what we have done in this life; For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou go.. ell. In the grave, this the LXX render by the word eldes, by which the Greeks used to express the state of the dead, the condition of separate souls of good or bad men after they are departed this life, and entered into another world. In which state, Solomon does not mean that departed souls have no knowledge and sense of any thing, but that then there will be no place for any counsel and design, for any activity and indufiry in order to our happiness : what we do to this purpose, we must do whilst we are in this world, it will be too late afterwards to think of altering or bettering our condition.
These are the two parts of the text, and they shall be the two heads of my following discourse; and God grant, that what shall be said upon them, may be effectual to persuade every one of us seriously to mind our great interest and concernment, and to apply ourselves with all our might to that which is our proper work and business in this world.
Firs, We will consider the inatter of this counsel and exhortation, and that is, that we would use great diligence and industry about that which is our proper work and business in this life ; and this may very probably comprehend in it these two things.
I. Diligence in our great work and business, that which equally concerns every man, I mean the business of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and salvation of our souls.
II. Diligence in our particular calling and charge, whatever it be.
I. Diligence in our great and general work, that which equally concerns every man, the business of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and salvation of our souls; and this consists in these two things.
1. In a fincere care and endeavour of universal obedience to God, by the conformity of our lives and actions to his laws.
2. In case of sin and miscarriage, in a sincere repentance for our sins, and a timely care to be reconciled to
1. In a fincere care and endeavour of universal obedience to God, by the conformity of our lives and alii. ons to his will and law. And this is a great work, and requires our greatest care and diligence to rectify our minds, to reltrain our evil inclinations, to fubdue and mortify our lusts, to correct the irregularity of our palfions, to moderate and govern our appetites and affecti. ons, and to keep them within due and reasonable bounds, to take heed to our ways, that we offend not with our tongile, nor transgress our duty by word or deed ; to serve God with true devotion of mind, both in publick and private ; to attend upon the duties of his worship, and to perform all acts of piety and religion, with care and conItancy, in the sincerity and uprightness of our hearts; to be meek and humble, peaceable and patient, chearful and contented with our condition ; to be ready not only to forgive injuries, but to requite them with kindness and good turns, to do all offices of humanity and charity to all men, according to our ability and opportunity; to instruct the ignorant, and to reduce thole that are in error to the knowledge of the truth, by wise counsel and good example; to endeavour to turn men from the evil of their ways, and to save their fouls from death; to be ready to supply mens outward wants and necessities, to comfort them in their forrows, and to relieve them in their affliction and distress. - And these works of compassion and charity, are perhaps more particularly intended here in the text, for so the Chaldee Paraphrase interprets these words of Solo. mon, as a precept of charity, rendering them thus, Do all thou cans, according to thy utmost ability in alms and charity: for nothing but this will turn to our account, in another world ; no other way of laying out our estates will be of any advantage to us in the future state. And though I do not think Solomon did here intend to ex• clude any part of religious practice, yet he might very well have a more especial eye and regard to this, as one of the principal instances and best evidences of a true and sincere piety, according to that of St. James, chap. i. ver. last. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their afli&tion. To be sure, our Saviour lays mighty weight upon it, by making it the great article upon which men shall be tried at the judgment of the great day. And indeed no religion is to be valued, that wants humanity and compallion ; for so far as it departs from this, , it departs from the true nature of God and religion. .
So that it is a vast work which lies upon our hands, and which every one of us, from the highest to the lowest, are engaged in ; this business of religion, this care of our whole man, and of our whole duty, of the inward frame and disposition of our minds, and of all our words and actions, to keep our hearts with all diligence, and careful. ly to observe and govern all the inclinations and motions of our souls, and to order our whole conversation aright; in a word, to do God all the services, and men all the good that possibly we can, while we are in this world. This is the first.
2. And because in many things we offend all, and there is no man that linneth not, another part of our work and care is, in case of transgression and miscarriage in any part of our duty, to exercise repentance for it, that lo we may be reconciled to God, and at peace with him.
And this is absolutely necessary, because our life and happiness depend upon it, and except we repent we must perish, and be miserable for ever. It cannot be denied but that this work of repentance is very harsh and unpleasant, like the taking of physick, and searching into a wound; but because it tends to our health and safe. ty, and is the necessary way and means to a better con. dition, this severity must be submitted to, if we desire to be cured, and have a mind to do well; and the sooner we make use of this remedy the better, we shall find so much the less difficulty and pain in the cure.
And And there is great reason why we should frequently exercise and renew our repentance, because our failings are frequent, and in one kind or other we offend and provoke God every day : especially when we are coming to the holy sacrament, in which we solemnly renew our covenant with God, and promise him better obedience for the future ; we should examine ourselves more strictly, and call our sins more particularly to remembrance, and exercise a most folemn and deep repentance for then ; this is the way to keep our accounts in a good measure even. And this surely is great wisdom, to provide that we may have no long account to make. up, no great scores to wipe off, when we come to be 0vertaken by sickness, and to lie upon our death-bed; that innumerable tranfgrellions unrepented of may not then compass us about, and stare us in the face, and fill our souls with fear and confusion, with horror and a. mazement in a dying hour; that an insupportable load of guilt may not then lie upon our minds, and oppress our consciences, when we are least able to bear it, and most unfit to deal with it, when we may not have time to call our sins particularly to remembrance, and to excrcile a particular repentance for them, and yet perhaps a general repentance may not be sufficient, and available with God, for the pardon and forgiveness of them.
Therefore we should exercise ourselves much in this work of repentance in the days of our health, when we are fittest for it, and when it will be most acceptable to God, and when the sincerity of it will be most evi. dent and comfortable to us, when we may know it to be true by the real and certain effects of it, in the change and anendment of our lives. Whereas a death-bed repentance is infinitely hazardous, because we may not perhaps have time and opportunity for the exercise of it'; or if we should have that, yet hardly can we have opportunity for the trial of it, whether it be fincere or not, and consequently mult needs die very, un. comfortably, and in great doubt and anxiety of mind, what will be our fate and doom in another world.
So that it is a great work which lies upon our hands, and equally concerns every one of us. The business of religion, which consists in the strict care of our duty
to God and man, and in the frequent exercise of repent. ance for the fins and miscarriages of our lives ; and we may consequently judge how great a care and diligence a work of so much difficulty, and of so great moment and importance does require and call for at our hands. But besides this, we must in the
11. Place likewise be diligent in our particular calling and charge, in that province and Itation which God hath appointed us, whatever it be; whether it consists in the labour of our hands, or in the improvement of our minds, in order to the gaining of knowledge for our own pleasure and satisfaction, and for the use and benefit of others; whether it lie in the skill of government, and the administration of publick justice; or in the management of a great estate, of an honourable rank and quality a. bove others, to the best advantage, for the honour of God, and the benefit and advantage of men, so as by the influence of our power and estate, and by the authority of our example, to contribute all we can to the welfare and happiness of others.
For it is a great mistake to think that any man is without a calling, and that God does not expect that every one of us should employ himself in doing good in one kind or other. Some persons indeed, by the privilege of their birth and quality, are above a common trade and profeslion, but they are not hereby either exempted or excused from all business, and allowed to live unprofitably to others, because they are so plentifully provided for themselves : nay, on the contrary, they have so much the greater obligation, havingthe greater liberty and leisure, to attend the good of others; the higher our character and station is, we have the better opportunities of being publickly useful and beneficial; and the heavier will our account be, if we neglect these opportunities. Those who are in a low and private condition, can only shine to a few ; but they that are advanced to a great height a. bove others, may, like the heavenly bodies, dispense a general light and influence, and scatter happiness and blessings among all that are below them.
And as they are capable of doing more good than 0thers, so with more cafe and effect ; that which persons of an inferior rank can hardly bring others to, by all the