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that is found upon his guard, and ready for his Master's Coming, shall be made Ruler of all his Goods, Mat.24. 45,46,&c. But the slothful and foolish Servant, that faith in his Heart, My Lord delayeth his Coming, and so makes no Preparation for him, Mall have bis Portion with Hypocrites, where is weeping and gnashing of Teeth. Watch therefore (faith our Saviour, ver. 44.) for in such an Hour as ye think not of, the Son of Man cometh. And what he said to his Disciples then, be saith unto all, Watch; Mark 13. 37,
And this Watchfulness must be unto Prayer, which is always to go with it; for except God keep the City, the Watchman waketh in vain. Without the Aid and Assistance of his Grace, all our Vigilance and Care will be to no purpose, which we must always call for by diligent Prayer. And therefore we find Watchfulness and Prayer generally join'd together; Watch and pray, that ye enter not into Temptation. The World and the Flesh are apt to take us fron our Watch, and too often betray us by their Charnis and Allurements ; so that fome greater Force is needful to guard us from these ghostly and subtle Enemies; and without the Assistance of Divine Grace, callid in by devout Prayer, they will be too hard for us. For which reason the Apostle, from the approaching End of all things, directs us to watch unto · Prayer ; that is, to be still upon our guard, and upon our Knees, to prevent Surprize, that the Day come not upon us unawares.
To which he adds, 3dly, Another preparatory Vertue to that end ; and that is, Above all things to have fervent Charity among your selves, for Charity shall cover the Multitude of Sins. Now this fervent Charity implies a hearty Love and Affection burning in Mens Breasts to one another ; which if it be true and sincere, as it ought to be, will restrain them from doing any the least Harm or Disturbance to their Neighbour, and will prompt them to perform all good Offices, that may promote the Welfare and Quiet of Mankind. This he would have minded above all things, because of the great Benefit and Comfort it will afford in this World, and the good Account it will turn to at the end of it. He that is forward to do Evil, and backward to do Good, bears no true Love either to God or his Neighbour, and will have a bad reckoning to make in the latter end: but he that hates every false way, and is ready to all Acts of Mercy and Kindness, is a true Lover of both : and blessed is he, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
We read in the 25th of St. Matthew, that when Chrift cometh to Judgment he will proportion mens Reward by the measures of their Charity, and allign their Punishment by the degrees of their Oppression and Uncharitableness; saying to the former, Came ye blessed of my Father, inherit a Kingdom; to the latter, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. By which the Apostle's Advice here appears to be wife and wholesom: The End of all things is at hand, therefore above all things have fervent Charity among your selves. A good Reason whereof is added in the next words:
For Charity shall cover the Multitude of Sins. To cover Sin, is in the Scripture-Phrase to forgive it: so the Psalmist and whose Sin Blesed is the Man whose Iniquity is forgiven,
is thing puts it out of sight, and oftinies out of mind too, so the covering of Sin hides it from the face of God, so as not to be seen or remember'd any more. Now that which removes Sin from the light and remembrance of God, must admirably prepare us for his Coming; for that will present us pure and without spot before him : and this is here made the happy Effect of Charity, that it covers a multitude of Sins. 'Tis a known Property of Charity, to cover the Failings and Infirmities of others; and the Reward of it will be, the covering of our own from the sight of God; for he that forgives, shall be forgiven; and he that cafts a Veil over his Brother's Miscarriages, shall have a Mantle thrown over his own ; neither shall the Number or Greatness of his Sins obstruct his Pardon, for Charity covers a multitude of Sins, which we fould therefore above all things cherish among our selves.
4tbly, Another Vertue, or rather Branch of the former here recommended, is Hospitality : Use Hospitality one tą another, without grudging. Hospitality, in the proper No- ; tion of it, is the entertaining of Strangers, or the receiving them into our Houses, as Occasion shall require. To this we have many Exhortations in Holy Scripture : Be not forgetful to entertain Strangers (faith the Author to the Hebrews) for thereby Some have entertain'd Angels unawares Heb. 13.2. Where by Strangers we are to understand all Christians, to what Nation or Country soever they be. long. By entertaining them is meant the shewing them all Kindness, not confining it to our own Country or Neighbourhood, but extending it to all the Brotherhood ; for by this means some have receiv'd Angels unthought of, as,
Abraham and Lot did, of whom we read, Gen. ch. 18, 19. And others have hereby receiv'd fuch as have been Instruments of Blessing and Salvation to them. And therefore the Apostle here exhorts to this Hospitality, and to use it without grudging; that is, with all Freedom and Cheerfulness, not driven to it by Importunity
or Necesity, but led to it by a willing and ready Mind. That this will prepare us for the End of all things, appears by the Words of our Saviour at the Day of Judgment, who will then pronounce some blessed for this, among other Reasons ; because I was 4 Stranger (faith he) and ye took me in, Mat. 25.35. And will declare others cursed for the Neglect of this Duty, saying unto them, I was a Stranger, and ye took me not ini ver.43. which should teach us to live in the practice of this Duty, and not fuffer the Vertue of Hospitality to Strangers to be strange to us.
This the Apostle backs with a general Exhortation, in the Close, to every one, to impart to others something of the Gift or Talent wherewith God hath bless'd or bestow'd upon them: As every one hath receiv’d the Gift, even so minifter the same ane to another, as good Stewards of the nifold Grace of God. There are Diversities of Gifts (faith the Apostle) and different Administrations of the same spi. rit, i Cor. 12. God, like the Housholder in the Parable, hath distributed various Talents to the Sons of Men, to one the Word of Wisdom, to another the Word of Knowledg, to a third the Gift of Prophecy : on some he scatters his temporal Gifts, such as Wealth, Honour, and Power, and the like ; on others he bestows his spiritual Gifts, as Grace, Learning, and Understanding: and all for the benefit of Mankind, and for the edifying of the Body of Christ. They that abound in the temporal good things of this Life, are to distribute to the Neceflities of the Saints, relieving them with their Wealth, and supporting them with their Power. They that are intrusted with fpiritual Gifts, are to communicate them for the Good of Mens Souls; instructing the Ignorant, confirming the Weak, and in fome measure consulting the Good of all: knowing that we are not Owners, but Stewards of the manifold Grace of God; whofe Duty it is to dispose of the Master's Gifts according to his Will, and by his Direction, as those that must render an Account of the Distribution.
In the next words he particularly instances in the Offices of Priests and Deacons : If any Man Speak, füith he, (that 26 PRACTICAL DiscoURSES on the is, as a. Teacher and Instructor of others) let him speak as the Oracles of God; that is, with all Sincerity, Reverence, and Fidelity, delivering faithfully the Mind of God, as the Oracles of old did the Will of the Heathen Deities; and likewise with all Authority, as speaking in God's Name, and as his Ambassadors. If any Man minister in the Office of a Deacon, let him do it as of the Ability, which God giveth; that is, let him fully and faithfully discharge the Trust reá pos'd in him, without defrauding the Church or Poor in any thing committed to his charge: That God in all things may be. glorify:d, to whom be Praise and Dominion for ever and ever, Amen: meaning, that the Glory of all that we have or do, may be ascrib'd to the Almighty Donor and Dispenser of all things, to whom alone it is due.
This is briefly the Sense and Scope of the Epistle for this Day; which puts us in mind of the approaching End of all things here below, and therefore wills us to be always expecting and preparing for it: being sober and temperate in all things; watching against the Temptations of the Devil, the World, and the Flesh ; observing the Times and Seafons of Prayer ; having fervent Love and Charity among our selves, using Hospitality one to another without grudging; cheerfully administring the good things which God hath given us; and faithfully discharging all those Trusts and Offices, wherein he hath fet us. These things will conduce much to the putting us in a constant Readiness for that time, and to the making it welcome and happy to us.
To all which I shall add, in the last place, what the approaching Seafon calls for, the receiving the Holy Sacrament. Nothing can better fit us for the End of all things, than that which will stand us in stead when all things are at an end. This will enter us upon a new Life, not such as we lead here in the Flesh, miserable and mortal, but a spiritual and glorious Life crown'd with Immortality. Then Shall we begin a Blessedness that shall never end, and taste the Sweets of those Joys that have not the least Alloy of Bitterness: the First-fruits hereof we have in this holy Sacrament, where we eat the Flesh of our Saviour, and receive a double Portion of his Spirit. Tho his corporal Prefence is in Heaven, yet is he fpiritually present in this holy Feast : he is there in his Graces and his Comforts, in his Merits and his Love; of all which we partake at that holy Table, to which we are now invited.
DISCOURSE IV. The Gospel for the Sunday after Ascension-Day,
St. John XV. 26. and part of Chap. xvi. When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto
you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he sball testifi of me. And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken untoʻyou, that ye Should not be offended, &c.
E pray in the Collect for this Day, that God mould not leave us comfortless, but send us a Comforter in
the absence of our Saviour. This Gospel for the Day shews us who this Comforter is, together with a Promise of fending him, and the Ends for which he is sent : which things are to be the Subject of the following Dif course,
When the Comforter is come : The Word here render'd a Comforter, is in the Original a Paraclete, which fignifies three things, a Comforter, an 'Advocate, and a Teacher or Remembrancer; all which Offices were necessary to the Apostles at that time, and will be so to all Christians to the end of the World. And therefore 'tis requisite that each of them be here explain'd.
But before I do that, 'twill be necessary to know who or what this Paraclete is, that we may the better fee how these Offices are discharg'd by him. Now this Paraclete, as the Beginning of this Gospel, and fundry other places of Scripture inform us, is the Spirit of Truth, or the Holy Ghost, the third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity ; who in all the foremention'd Senses is truly and properly a Paraclete, as will evidently appear by a particular View and Consideration of them. And,