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saints are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation; yet they must watch and pray, and attend to their immediate duty, lest they step into some forbidden path, and greatly dishonour his name. Noah, the preacher of righteousness, busied about remote concerns, falls into shameful intoxication. Moses, the meekest of men, the moment he neglects present duty, speaks unadvisedly and wickedly with his lips. Aaron, the priest, straying step by step, is persuaded to make a golden calf.
The prophet Jonah, turning aside from duty, attempts to flee from the presence of his Maker; and after a merciful deliverance, he replies with presumption. David, the man after God's own heart, forgetting his honour and duty, commits adultery and then is guilty of murder. Peter, the ready follower of Christ, by turning aside a little, unexpectedly, with an oath denies his Lord and master. What stains in these characters! What dishonour to the cause of religion! And would believers at the present day, not wound their own souls and the cause which they have espoused, by some heinous transgression, let them be careful not to neglect their immediate duty.
8th. To be busy about remote concerns, to the neglect of present duty, proves the final destruction of many of the human race. Mankind have immortal souls committed to their care, which they are forbidden to neglect upon the pain of death. They, who are busy here and there, till they loose their souls, will experience an irreparable loss. As the man was unable to pay the talent of silver as a ransom for his life, so they will ever be unable to pay the uttermost farthing, or to redeem their souls from the curse of the law. Although heaven is at an infinite remove in consequence of sin ; yet, through the atonement of Christ, and the means of grace, it is possible to be obtained. Notwithstanding, it may be lost; and some, instead of eternal life, reap eternal death. Not only open vice, but the neglect of immediate 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 season. 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.
Ist 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 yieldig 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 man. 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 instruc- . tion 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.
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 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 inquiry may be, What earthly or created good, when rightly pursued, will promote human happiness. Some, when