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1. Why then stand ye idle in the sight of men? Have ye a mind to tell the world, that go to God's vineyard who will, ye have no mind to stir ? embrace God and his service who will, ye will have nothing to do with him, nor it neither? Are you afraid you want witnesses to stand against you before the tribunal of God, to testify how little you valued the working the works of God? The groans of those that warned you to your work, that were grieved at your licentious lives, will witness against you; nay, the stones and timber will cry out of the walls within which you live against you, and witness how little God was in all your thoughts, how little ye ever wrestled with God about your soul's case, and how the prayer, when yo made it, has died in your mouths.
2. Why stand ye idle in the sight of the all-seeing God, who set you down in this world to work your great work? There are many that seem to be diligent workers, but God knows them to be mere idlers; what they work is before men, but their vineyard in the inclosure of their breasts is all overgrown with weeds, and they are at no pains to pluck them up. Have ye bid a defiance to the great Master, whose eyes are upon you in secret, as well as in public, that sees your heart, as well as your outward conversation ?
sure, he will call you to account.—The inquiry, next, is, IV. Why stand ye "here" idle, even in the market-place, where the great Master has been often calling whom he found here, and you among others, to go and work in his vineyard ? and you had not been standing here idle, if you had been willing to work.
1. Why stand ye here idle, in a land of gospel light? Isa. xxvi. 10, “In the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord?” If you will serve the devil and your lusts, why do ye not go to the dark places of the earth, and work your works of darkness there? but why must they be brought forth in the face of the sun ? why here, in this covenanted land, a land under the sacred bond of solemn covenant to the work of holiness, and the means of holiness; a bond which neither the breaking nor burning of them could loose ; and they had never met with that treatment, had not men been as great enemies to piety as to Presbytery. But I dare say, there is no land where men must buy their ease at so dear a rate as in Scotland.
2. Why here, where the Lord is in a special manner calling you to work, setting up his standard, and is about to cover a table for his labourers ? will you be idle spectators, while Christ is to be sacramentally crucified before your eyes ? will you be idle here, where the Lord is in a special manner calling you to search and try yourselves? If you will stand here idle, it will be a new item, in great letters, in the accounts of the despisers of Christ, and slighters of the power of godliness in Yarrow* -I may once more inquire,
V. Why stand ye idle in the“ day?” The day brings with it a call to work, though indeed it is the time when the wild beasts enter into their dens, and lie at their ease, Psalm cii. 22, 23. But better to be a beast, than to be like a beast; they that sleep, sleep in the night; but what shall we say of them that cannot be got awakened, even in the day?
1. Then why are ye idle, when ye have a day to work in? No wonder our forefathers were idle, when they were wrapt up in the midnight darkness of Paganism and Popery; but though it was night with them, it is day with us; the sun of the gospel is arisen above our horizon, it has been long up, and will ye be idle in the day? God has not only set up the candle of conscience within you, but has made the sun of the gospel to arise and shine without you, to call you to work, and to let you see to work : Tit. ii. 11, 12, “For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying nogodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Such a day idled away will make a dreadful night!
2. Why are you idle, when you have but a day to work in? John is. 4, “The night cometh when no man can work.” It is to-day, if ye will hear his voice. The time of your life, and the season of grace, is but a day, and that day will soon be over; there is no working in the grave, Eccl. ix. 10. The candle burnt to snuff cannot be lighted again, and time once gone can never be recalled ; God will not turn night to day, to let the sluggard see to work, who turned his day to night. Now, when you have but a day, will you idle it away? Ye will, it may be, count it rather by years yet to come; but sure I am, the Spirit of God never learned you that way of counting : James iv. 14, “ Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow; for what is your life ? it is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." Psalm xxxix. 5, “ Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee.”-I shall only inquire,
VI. Why are ye idle" all the day?" Will no less than all the day serve? May not the time past suffice? Is it not high time now at length to awake? Is it not the eleventh hour with many of you ? and the youngest here knows not but they may be in the last hour of their day. And are ye not afraid your glass run out ere your work bo done? Sure it looks very like the very last hour of this church
The place where this discourse was delivered,
and nation's day: we have had a long day, but now we may say, Jer. vi. 4, “Woe unto us, for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out." We are threatened with a dreadful eclipse of gospel-light, and a dark night, and we may well conclude as to many of us, that our eyes will never see the breaking of the day again.
As the practical improvement of this subject, I shall only call on you to ponder seriously in your mind, the important inquiries addressed to you ;-to pose your consciences closely with them as in the sight of God, -to profit by the instructivo lessons afforded from them ;-and, in short, that you stady a being diligent in business, fervent in spirit, always serving the Lord.
CHRIST'S PRESENCE WITH GOSPEL MINISTERS. *
MATTH. xxviii. 20,
Our Lord Jesus Christ having, before his death, as a prophet, revealed his Father's mind, and taught the doctrine of salvation, confirmed the same by many miracles; and having in his death, as a priest, offered up himself a sacrifice to atone for the sins of his people, and so brought in an everlasting righteousness; appears here after his resurrection, as a King, ordering the affairs of his own kingdom, which is his church. And, 1st, He asserts his power, his supremacy, and headship, ver. 18, given unto him as Mediator. 2dly, He gives a commission to his apostles, and in them to their successors in the work of the ministry, to raise up unto him a kingdom out of the kingdoms of the earth, to proclaim his laws among them, and to enjoin obedience to these laws in his name, and to take men solemnly engaged thereto, vers. 19 and 20. Then, in the words of the text, by promise, he secures their encouragement, for the due discharge of their duty, in the words under consideration : “And lo, I am with you alway.”—In these words consider,
1. The parties to whom this encouragement doos belong : You, that is, (1.) The apostles, to whom these words were immediately directed: (2.) Ordinary ministers, succeeding to them in the ordinary work of the ministry, teaching and baptising, as is clear from the words, in which Christ promiseth to be with them to the end of the world ; whereas the formal office of the apostleship was extraordinary, and soon expired. Their mission was immediate ; their inspection universal and unconfined ; they had an infallible directive power; John xvi. 13,“ When he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.” They had the gift of miracles and tongues, and were eye-witnesses of Christ: 1 Cor. ix. 1, " Am I not an apostle ? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord ?” So that to allow any to be their successsors in the formal office of the apostleship, as some Prelatists would have the bishops, is to contradict the plain testimony of the scriptures, and of our senses : but the authoritative dispensation of the word, and administration of the sacraments, with the appendant power of discipline and government, which were the substance of the apostolic office, are continued, and will be in the pastoral office to the end of the world; and to these is Christ's presence promised, not excluding such as receive and embrace Christ's word preached by them.—Consider,
* Delivered before the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale, April, 1712.
2. How, and in what case, they may lay claim to this promised presence; that is in the faithful adherence to, and discharge of their work, put by their Master into their hands. This is the import of the particle, and which knils the work and the encouragement together, ver. 19, “Go ye," &c. If they shall quit their Master's work, they forfeit his promised presence. If they turn servants of men, they must look to them, and not to Christ, for their protection and assistance. If they receive their instructions from any other than our royal Master, they must bid farewell to their part in the lot of his servants. Men that take upon them to teach what Christ never commanded, bringing in error in doctrine, superstition, and the inventions of men in the worship of God, such have need of temporal power and force with them, seeing they have no ground from the word to expect Christ will be with them.-Consider,
3. The encouragement promised: “I am with you,” &c. It is Christ's presence that is with them in their work, and who would refuse to go a journey where Christ himself will be companion in travel ? if the work be hard his presence is sweet. Christ lays in here a sufficiency for the support of his servants against all the discouragements they may meet with in his work. And there are four things to be noticed in this.
(1.) There is but one encouragement proposed, their difficulties were many. If they looked to their work, it was very hard ; they were sent out to grapple with the powers of darkness, to overturn the devil's kingdom, to reform the world sunk in idolatry and monstrous profanity, and to rescue the proy out of the mouth of the
roaring lion. If they looked within themselves, they might see a mass of emptiness, weakness, wants, nothingness, unable of themselves to resist the least temptation. If they looked abroad into the world, they might see that the venturing out into it, on such a design, was a running themselves into a manifest hazard; the wits of the world would treat them as a company of fools, the powers of the world as a company of seditious and pestilent fellows; the multitude of the world would cry, Away with them, it is not meet that they should live on the earth.” But go they must; and here is one answer to all their objections, “ I am with you;" that is sufficient, be against you who will, “ I am with you,” to assist, protect, and bear you through in the work, and to make the word in your mouths do execution; I design to raise up, by your means, a kingdom to myself, maugre all the opposition of men and devils. He does not promise to send armies with them, but to go with them himself, His presence,
(2.) Is proposed as a present thing, an encouragement in hand : “I am with you-to the end ;" not I“ will be.". The expression is emphatical.
[1.] According to the prophetio style, it denotes the utmost certainty his servants shall have his presence in his work to the end of the world, as surely as if it were already done.
[2.] It denotes Christ's presence with his apostles, to be, by bis own allowance and appointment, a pledge of his presence with these that, being called, follow out the work that they began in their day: “I am with you;" and let these that follow take it as a certain pledge, " I will be with them too." Let the church be over so low, there was never any glorious appearance Christ made for her, but she may call it Joseph, for the Lord shall add another.
[3.] It denotes, that Christ's servants, though they should be full of eyes behind and before, yet their eyes are often dim, that they even miss Christ when he is really with them, and so are dejected, because they see not their own meroy : “I am with you," &c.--His presence,
(3.) Is promised to be with them without interruption,—"always,” all days, every day; it is an Old Testament phrase, denoting the continuance of a thing without interruption; as Gen. vi. 5, “ And that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He will not leave his servants at his work at any time; they may sometimes want the sense of his presence, but he is with them always, every day, in lightsome days, also in dark and gloomy days, whatever be their case, however hard their lot may be, their peace may be interrupted, but not their Master's presence with them. While they keep at his work, he will be upon their head.--His presence,