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The Epistle for the Sunday after Ascension-Day.
1 Pet. iv.7.12. The End of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto Prayer, and above all things have fervent Charity among your selves; for Charity shall cover the Multitude of Sins, &c.
HE Collect for this Day minds us of God's exalting his only Son Jesus Christ with great Triumph unto
his Kingdom of Heaven; and thence takes occasion to beseech him not to leave us comfortless, but to send to us his Holy Ghost to comfort us, and to exalt us unto the fame place, whither our Saviour Christ is gone before.
To this end, the Epistle for the Day puts us in mind of the approaching End and Consummation of all things, that we may be fit to be receiv'd at last into that holy place, which Christ is gone before to prepare for us. In this Epif tle then we may observe,
First, A Proposition, in these words, The End of all things is at hand.
Secondly, Some preparatory Vertues or Graces that help to fit us for it. And they are,
ift, Sobriety or Temperance in the Use of God's Creatures ; Be ye therefore sober.
2dly, Watchfulness or Diligence in Prayer ; And watch unto Prayer.
3dly, Fervent Love and Charity among our selves, which will cover a Multitude of Sins.
4thly, Hospitality to be used one to another without grudg. ing; and this to be fhew'd by ministring the Gifts we have received, as occasion shall require, like good Stewards of the manifold Grace of God. Sthly, Teaching and instructing the People, as God hath
directed us, and miniftring to them, according to the Ability that God giveth us.
To which is added, the End we are to aim at in all these things; to wit, that God in all things may be glorified thro Jesus Chrift.
These are the things here recommended to prepare us for the Coming of the Holy Ghost, and after that for the Conclusion and Consummation of all things; which must be therefore particularly handled. I begin then with the Proposition laid down in these words, The End of all things is at hand; where we are tó enquire what is meant by the End of all things, and how it is faid to be at hand. For the
First, By the End of all things, fonie understand the End of the Jewish State, by the Destruction of the City and Temple of Jerusalem, when the whole Polity and Government of the Jews was diffolvd, and they came under the Power and Subjection of the Romans: Of this we read in St. Matt, 24. where our Saviour foretold the utter Ruin and Destruction of that obdurate Nation, for rejecting of him, and casting the Word of Salvation from them; telling them, that the Temple, of which they boasted, should be raz’d to the Ground, not having one Stone of that stately Fabrick left upor another, that should not be thrown down : which Destruction was to be usherd in with niany amazing Signs and Tokens, such as the Coming of falfe Chrifts and false Prophets, with Signs in the Heayens, and on Earth Distress of Nations Mens Hearts failing them for fear of what is coming upon them; Wars and Rumors of Wars; the Sea and the Waves roaring, and the like ; of which we read in that Chapter. When these things were fulfild, and the End of the Jewish Church and State came by the Destruction of Ferufalem, then happen'd that which is sometimes callid ouulsacid to diwvos, the Consummation of the Age ; and here tò témos Táviwy, the End of all things.
Others again, by the End of all things here understand the End of the World ; of which they take the fore-mention'd Signs to be the Forerunners : so they understand that of St. Peter, 2 Epist. 3. 10. where, speaking of the Coming of the Lord at the last Day, 'tis describd by the Heavens paffing away with a great Noise, the Elements melting with fervent Heat, and the Earth's being burnt up with all things in it. This may be properly call’d the End of all things, C 2
tho the former may not be excluded, as presaging and leading to this.
But how is this End of all things said to be at hand ? Why, if we take it for the Destruction of the Temple and City of Jerusalem, it was when St. Peter wrote this Epistle very nigh at hand. Christ himself told the Jews, that when they saw those Signs, they might conclude it to be near even at the doors, adding, that that Generation foould not pass away, till all these things were fulfill'd; Mat. 24., 33, 34. St. James likewise mentions that Day of the Lord as drawing nigh; for behold the Judg standeth at the door, James sa Accordingly this Destruction came upon them very short. ly after, when the Romans came and belieg'd it round about, laying it even with the Ground, and not leaving one Stone upon another,
If we take the End of all things for the End of the World, that likewise is drawing nigh; for we are bid to be always upon our watch, left that Day' come upon us unawares. We are often minded in Scripture of the near Approach of that Day, that the time is at handy, that the Lord doth not delay his coming, but he that shall come will come, and will not ! tarry. The Time and Hour is conceal’d from us on purpose,
. that we may be continually upon our guard, and put our felves in a constant Readiness and Preparation for it.
And this will lead me, in the next place, to those preparatory Vertues or Graces here recommended to fit us for the coming of that time. The
ist Whereof is Sobriety; The End of all things is at hand, Be ye therefore føber. Now Sobriety or Temperance is that Vertue, that guides us aright in the modest and moderate Use of God's Creatures : when they are distinguishid, as they sometimes are, Sobriety is a Moderation in Drink ing, in opposition to Drunkenness; and Temperance in eating, in opposition to Surfeiting and Gluttony: but both. consisting in the moderate Use of God's Creatures, are
, Name of sources as one Vertue, callid sometimes by the and so are they to be here consider'd.
But what is that moderate Use of God's Creatures, wherein this Vertue confifts? Why, that will be best known, by considering the Ends for which God gave them. And they were,
(1.) For preserving the Life of our Bodies, which depends upon the daily Food and Nourishment we receive from these Creatures. Oar Bodies are of that mouldring Franie and Constitution, that they stand in continual need of Sustenance to repair and support them; and therefore God is graciously pleas'd to afford a constant Supply of Food to satisfy the two craving Neceilities of Nature, Hanger and Thirst; giving Meat for the one, and Drink for the other ; without which they would prove deadly, and Nature would-link and fail under the want of both. Again,
(2.) God hath given us his Creatures, not only to preserve the Life, but the Health, Strength, and. Vigour of our Bodies : he hath taken care as of our Being, fo likewife of our Well-being; and therefore hath not tyd us up to the pinching Necessities of Nature, that is, to eat no more than will just keep us from starying, and to drink no more than what will barely keep us from perishing with Thirst; but hath graciously allow'd us Plenty, to maintain the Health and Strength of our Bodies, that they may be the better fitted for the Work and Business of our Calling.
(3.) Another End or Use of God's Creatures, is for the innocent chearing and refreshing of the Mind, that it may the better bear up under the Burden of worldly Cares and Sorrows, for these are apt to link and lower the Spirits : and therefore God hath given these worldly Coniforts to be as Cordials to support them. Hence we read of Bread to strengthen, and Wine to chear the Heart of Man, and Oil to give him a chearful Countenance; which things may be lawfully us'd to those Ends: for God hath not only allow'd, but commanded us to rejoice in the good things wherewith he hath blessed us, and hath given us his Creatures not barely for Neceflity, but Delight.
These are the Ends for which they are bestow'd ; and consequently whilst we keep within these Bounds, using the Creatures of God for the preserving of Life and Health, for increasing the Strength of the Body, and the Chearfulness of the Mind, we observe the Rules of Sobriety and Temperance: but they who transgress these Bounds, by eating to Surfeiting, and drinking to Drunkennels; they who instead of cherishing, enfeeble their Nature, nsing the Blessings of God to the impairing their Health, and drowning the Vigour and Activity both of Body and Mind; such as thefe abufe God's Creatures by Riot and Excels, and turn the Instances of the Divine Bounty into the Instruments of their own Ruin.
Now the End of all things being at hand, the Apostle wills us to be fober and temperate in all things, and to -avoid all
' Abuse or intemperate Use of any of God's Creatures; that we may render a good Account of them, and receive the Reward of so doing. To this we are frequently exhorted in Holy Scripture, from this Consideration of the End of all things drawing nigh: In the 21st of St. Luke, our Saviour speaking of the sudden Coming of the Lord, advises, ver. 24. Take heed to your selves, left at any time your Hearts be overcharg'd with Surfeiting and Drunkenness, and the Cares of this Life, and so that Day come upon you unawares. St. Paul, from the Night's being far spent, and the Day's being at hand, exhorts to caft off the Works of Darkness, particularly mentioning Rioting and Drunkenness, as Vices that altogether unfit us for that season, Rom. 13. 12, 13. Let us that are of the Day (faith he) be sober, Thess. 5. &. and elsewhere he exhorts to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World, looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Chrift ; Tit. 2. 12, 13. Let your Moderation be known unto. all Men, the Lord is at hand ; Phil. 4. 5. that is, let us moderate our Desires for the good things, and our Passions under the evil things of this Life,, and that will prepare us for the coming of the Lord. And that is the first Vertue here prescrib'd to that end : The End of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober.
The 2d is Watchfulness; And watch unto Prayer. The Certainty of the Coming of the Lord, together with the great Uncertainty of the Time of it, is sufficient to fet all Wise Men upon their watch, to be ever ready against that great and important Season ; considering the great Be nefit of being prepar'd, and the great Danger-of being surpriz'd at his Coming : the former will welcome us into our Master's Joy, the latter will doom us to endless Woe and Sorrow. Watch therefore (faith our Saviour, Mat. 24. 42.) for ye know not the Day or Hour when your Lord cometh, His Coming (he tells us) will be as a Thief in the Night; which is wont to be in the deepest Silence and Darkness, when he is least thought of, or expected, and therefore the Apostle calls upon us, not to sleep, as do others, but to watch and be sober; that is, not to bę lulld into Supineness and Security by Luxury and Excess, but to be always in a Por, ture of Readiness by Watchfulness and Sobriety, "To encoupage us all so to be, werçad that the faithful and wise Servant,