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our lusts, corruptions, temptations and burdens now? What is become of a body of death, indwelling sin that lay so long on us as a dead weight? What is become of the church's enemies we often complained of? O! these are all gone, they shall trouble you no more; you shall triumph over them, as Israel did on the other side of the Red sea, when they saw the Egyptians drowned and lying dead upon the shore These Egyptians, O believer, whom thou once sawest to thy great vexation and trouble," thou shalt see them again no more."
I might mention many other subjects of meditation proper for the Sabbath; such as the evil of sin, the vanity of the world, the worth of the soul, the sufferings of Christ, the last judgment, and many others, which the sermons you hear that day will bring to your remembrance: But, fearing that I have been too tedious already on this head, I must pass them, and proceed to another private duty necessary on the Lord's day; which is,
This duty is near of kin to the former, it being a sort of reflexive meditation, the mind turns inward and communes with itself, according to Psalm iv. 4. It is absolutely necessary that we should take some time to commune with ourselves, and ask what we are, what we have been, and what we have done, Jer. viii. 6. And is not the Sabbath a fit time for this duty, when we retire from the noise of the world, and are not disturbed with secular affairs? This is a most important duty, and nearly concerns our eternal well being; but yet it is a duty very much neglected. Many have lived fifty or sixty years in the world, who never spent one hour in communing with their own hearts: There are many going out of the world, who never yet began to inquire why they came into it, and never yet asked the question at their souls, Are you to go hence, or live here for ever? Why came you hither, and where are you to lodge when you go hence? Many live in a crowd of worldly bu siness, are hurried from one thing to another, leap out of their beds to the world in the morning, and from the world to their beds again at night, and so never find one minute on the week days to take their soul aside; and, for the Sabbath, though they have time for it, yet such is their aver
sion to the work, they shift it all they can, and avoid meeting with themselves; they rather converse with any in the world than with their own hearts. It is against self-love and carnal ease, for a man to turn his own accuser and judge therefore many would rather drudge and toil their bodies whole days and weeks at the sonest labour, ere they spent one quarter of an hour at this exercise; and so they live their whole lives strangers to themselves. We would think it strange to hear of two men that conversed every day for fifty or sixty years.space, and yet all this while did not know one another; and yet this is the case betwixt many and their souls: for as long as they have lived together, they are utterly unacquainted, they never turn inward to converse with themselves, they have no serious thoughts about their own state or condition. It is said of the rich man in the parable, Luke xvi. that "in hell he lift up his eyes," as if he had never considered nor bethought himself till that time; and indeed it is the want of retired consideration, and people's serious bethinking of themselves, that is the ruin of many thousands. O then, resolve in God's strength, that in spite of the devil and your own corruption, you and your souls shall have a meeting, and live no longer asunder; that ye will imitate David, Psalm.cxix. 59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies." Seeing then you have free time for this duty on the Lord's day, take your souls aside, and inquire into their state; say, "O my soul, where art thou? Art thou under a covenant of works, or a covenant of grace? Dost thou belong to Christ's family or the devil's? Art thou in the narrow or broad way? Suppose I should die this night, (for God knows if ever I shall see the morrow's light,) what hope will I have in a dying hour? Where will death land me? Whether with God in heaven, or with devils in hell? Would Christ smile on me in the dark valley, or be my advocate at God's bar? Is there any saving change yet wrought on my heart and life by a work of conversion? God forbid I undergo my great and final change till this happy change be wrought. Can I say, I am not man that once I was; "once I was blind, but now I see ?" Study and inquire into the marks of the converted and unconverted, with the greatest seriousness and anxiety of soul, and see which of them you can apply to yourself; cry, that God may open a window in your breast, to let you see into your own heart
164 Of the Duties requisite upon the Lord's day.
and soul's state; and whatever you be deceived in, beg it of him, that he may not suffer you to be deceived on this momentous point, where your soul and your all is at stake. And if you find yourself in a bad state," give no rest to your eyes, no slumber to your eye-lids," till, in God's -strength, you resolve on a thorough change.
Lastly. It is incumbent on every private Christian on the Lord's day, to practise the works of charity and mercy, both to the souls and bodies of men. Study to promote the edification of others by good counsels, instructions, admonitions, and reproofs. Comfort the afflicted, supply those that are in straits, visit the sick and those that are in misery. These are proper duties on the Sabbath, and God is highly pleased with them, James i. 27. If we practise these duties conscientiously, we may both do good and get good; we may both give direction and comfort to the distressed, and receive instruction and comfort to ourselves. Though we may not inquire at the dead, we may learn many wholesome lessons from the dying. And would to God that both the persons visiting and visited were more spiritual in their converse than ordinarily they are! for then this duty would be found very edifying and profitable. But if, when we visit the sick this day, we spend the time in worldly discourse, and not for the spiritual advantage of the sick and others present, we profane the Sabbath, instead of sanctifying it.
Do we see some oppressed by continual slumbering and sleeping, when death is supposed to be near, so that they cannot think on their everlasting state? Let this teach us to remember our latter end, and awake our souls to their work, while we are in health.
Do we see others troubled with ravings? Let it teach us to employ our reason for our souls advantage, while we have the use of it.
Do we see some sadly discomposed with extreme pains and agonies? Let it mind us to dispatch our work while health and ease remain with us.
Do we observe their sight failing, tongue faultering, or hearing growing worse? O let this teach us to make a covenant with our eyes, and turn them away from beholding vanity; to use our tongues for God's giory, and beware of
abusing them now, while we have the use of them; and to employ our ears for hearing spiritual instructions, while they are in case for it.
Concerning the Special Order, Method and Manner, wherein the Duties of the Sabbath are to be performed.
THE Lord requires us not only to take heed to the matter of our duties, but also the manner of them; not only to do what is good, but to do it well. As we must seek God in due ordinances, so we must seek him in a due order, 1 Chron. xv. 13. Very much depends upon the circumstances of our actions, therefore we must look narrowly to them.
That we may take a view of the sanctification of the Sabbath complexly, and the order and circumstances of the duties therein required, there are three things to be considered:
1. What is requisite in order to prepare for the Sabbath, before it come.
2. What is requisite in performing the duties of the Sabbath when it is come.
3. What is requisite at the end of the Sabbath, or when the work thereof is over.
I. Concerning our Preparation for the Sabbath.
As to the first, that it is needful to prepare for the Sabbath, cannot be denied, if we consider the word remember, prefixed to the commandment; "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy." We must remember it before it come, so as to provide for it. Moses calls the people, Exod. xvi. 23. to mind that" to-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath.”
Again, if we consider the nature of the Sabbath work, and our unfitness for it, preparation for it will be found very needful. We are called this day to make solemn and near approaches to that God who is a glorious Spirit, and to hold communion with him who is infinitely holy; and is it not.
very necessary that we who are naturally carnal, and much involved in worldly business through the week, should endeavour to abstract our thoughts, from earthly things, that we may draw nigh to so great a God upon this holy day? For holy performances God requires us to make holy preparations; and therefore David saith, Psal. xxvi. 6. "I will wash mine hands in innocency, so shall I compass thine altar, O Lord." The mariner that intendeth a voyage, he not only provides his tackling, but he is careful before he sail, to put his ship off from the land, that he may catch the first fair wind. In like manner, Christian, if thou wouldst launch heavenwards upon the Lord's day, be concerned to get the vessel of thy heart put off from the earth on the evening before.
Wert thou a person of great quality and estate, and the king should send thee word that he would dine with thee to-morrow, thou wouldst make preparation for his entertainment the day before, by cleansing the house, and putting all things in order, suitable to the dignity of so great a prince. Now, when King JESUS gives thee notice before hand, that on such a day he is to sup with thee, wilt thou not testify thy respect to so great a potentate, by making preparation for him? When Christ prepares a table for thee in the gospel, and furnishes it with all the dainties of heaven, pardon, peace, love, grace, and eternal life; shouldst thou not empty thy stomach, cleanse thy heart, adorn thy soul, and make ready, to feast with thy Redeemer? At this gospel table others sit and feed, their souls are filled with marrow and fatness, and their mouths praise the Lord with joyful lips; but alas! many have no stomach; they can eat little, and savour nothing. Their stomachs are foul, their hearts unclean; the world fills their thoughts; they taste no goodness in hearing, in prayer, in praises, or any duty of God's worship: Why? They are at no pains beforehand to empty their minds of the world, and prepare for this heavenly fare.
Reader, were I to counsel thee how to improve a market day, so as thou mightst gain much wealth and treasure, I doubt not but thou wouldst hearken to me: And wilt thou not regard me, when I am to advise thee how to spend the Lord's day, the market day for thy soul, so as thou mayest get thee true treasure, even durable riches and