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him. Job xxxii. 8. There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. By this a man is in a capacity to confider who and what he is; by whom he was made, and for what end, namely, to know, and love, and obey his Maker, and to take up his chief felicity in him, as infinitely preferable to all the world.
Such as have reason in exercise, are capable of confidering the emptiness and vanity of all things here below: How fast the fashion of the world paffes away, and how foon, with any one generation, it will have an end: And therefore, that what relates to it is inconfiderable, in comparison of the life and immortality brought to light by the gofpel; and that, as we are here upon our trial for an after everlasting state, to prepare for that state, is our main concern, in which we should early ingage, and ought fteadily to purfue, by doing whatever our hand findeth to do with all our might; feeing that there is no knowledge, nor counfel, nor work in the grave, into which we are going; and fo, whatever is done for eternity, must be now or never. There is no room
to boast of to-morrow, none knowing what a day will bring forth. As reafon is given for fuch purposes as thefe, it appears to be a very valuable bleffing: which is one thing of which we are stewards.
2. Time wherein to know the things of our peace, and work out our falvation, is another privilege the Father of mercies entrusts with us. There is a time to be born, and a time to die:
and, that the latter, as to any, is fet at fo many years distance from the former, is owing to the patience and long-fuffering of God. He declares, As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and therefore give them space to repent: And in this fpace, what pity is it that it should be faid of any, That they repent not, but defpifing the riches of the divine goodness and long-fuffering, after their hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God? How great a mercy is life in a state of hope! For a guilty creature to be fpared out of hell, and this as an opportunity to fly from the wrath to come, and make fure of heaven and glory!
What would thofe loft fouls that are gone into a miserable eternity, give for those precious moments that they have here neglected, and spent in vanity and fin? O the mercy, to be yet in the way with God, in a world where we may acquaint oufelves with him and be at peace! Who can tell how foon the happy feason will be over, no more to be recalled for ever? and yet how few make conscience of employing it as they ought, and anfwerably to its worth, and the awful concerns they have to mind, as thofe that have death and judgment to prepare for, heaven to win, and hell to escape, and fouls to fave? But to how great a degree foever finners mispend their time, of this they fhall know, they were but ftewards. 3. Bodily
3. Bodily health and ftrength in whatever measure enjoyed, are among the talents and trufts received from God. These qualify for greater fervice for God, and our generation, and fhould make us more abundant and chearful in this with them. None know but thofe that feel it, what a clog and burden a weak and pained body is to the foul: And where instead of this, any are favoured with a healthful vigorous conftitution, enabling them to go on with delight in the work and duty of their place; what reafon have they to acknowledge the goodnefs of God, and to fee to it, that it be not received in vain?
4. External wealth and riches are among the things of which the poffeffors are to be confidered as ftewards. By these they are fet in a way to be freed from many difficulties which others ftruggle with, and can hardly fupport under. They that in this refpect have received more than others, are obliged to do more than others. Though many forget God in the midst of outward abundance, and encreasing riches do engrofs their hearts, it fhould not be fo. It is God that gives power to get wealth, and the ufe to be made of it; our Lord tells us, a few verfes after the text: I fay unto I fay unto you, Make to yourfelves friends of the mammon of unrighteoufnefs; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
5. The word, ordinances and means of grace, are farther talents, in refpect of which we are ftewards. The helps and advantages we enjoy for our fouls, are endearing inftances of the good
nefs of God; and he ftrictly obferves what use we make of them. It is not a small thing to have the word of God in our hands, the gofpel founding in our ears, the things of our peace laid open before us, and the Spirit of God ftriving with us to engage us to attend to them, and comply with them: This is a treafure, of which, as stewards we must give an account.
6. Saving grace, wherever vouchfafed, is a talent and truft indeed, fpeaking the happy perfons with whom it is lodged, born from heaven ; and which they are to improve to the best purpofes in the way thither. These are the things, in regard of fome or other of which, every one in the prefent life may be faid to be a steward; a fteward for God, and to be accountable to him. And under this thought, how earnestly fhould we pray for wisdom and faithfulness, the qualifications neceffary to the giving up our account with joy?
But this bring us to the
II. Thing obferved, namely, That the time of our stewardship will have an end.
1. It will end certainly at death. We may indeed be deprived of many of our talents while we live Health may be exchanged for fickness, riches for poverty, the ufe of reafon may be taken from us, or we may have no publick ordinances or means of grace to attend upon: But if we fhould be favoured with thefe as long as we live, our stewardship muft neceffarily conclude at death, that is, with our last breath our ftate of probation ends. Then instead of acting any longer for an after-state, we are immediately
to enter upon it. For this, the decree is fixed, It is appointed to men once to die, and after that the judgment. Thus our stewardship will end certainly.
2. It may end fuddenly, or by a fudden death. All our times are in God's hand, and he may cut them off when he pleases. We know not but any day or night we live may prove our last. The talents our Lord hath committed to us, we are bid to occupy till he come: But, to keep us always waking and watchful, he has not told us when it shall be, whether a year hence, or before the next day. We read of one that reckoned upon many years to come, whofe foul was that night required of him: And who can fay, it fhall not be thus with himself? Such as have lived before us have had their stewardship concluded variously: Some have had long warning by lingring fickness, or wafting pain; others have been fnatched away without any previous notice, being well and dead almost in the fame moment: Some have had their stewardship continued to a good old age, when they have been gently removed; others have been fummoned hence in the midst of their health and strength, having the earthly tabernacle violently pulled down, that feemed to be built for a much longer time.
3. Our stewardship, once ended, fhall be renewed no more. When the order is iffued forth, Give an account of thy account of thy stewardship: for thou mayft be no longer fteward, it cannot be protracted; and being over, fhall not afterwards any more begin anew, It is appointed unto men