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When impositions were supply'd
Oh! trifling head, and fickle hcart
HAVING So solemnly devoted myself to God, according to the covenant he hath made with me, and the duty I owe to him; not only what I am, and what I do, but likewise what I have; is still to be improved for him. And this I am bound to, not only upon a federal, but even a natural account; for whatsoever I have, I l'eccived from him, and therefore, all the reason in the world, whatsoever I have should be improved for him. For I look upon myself as having no other property in what I enjoy, than a servant hath in what he is entrusted with to improve for his master's use; thus, though I should have ten thousand pounds a year, I should have no more of my own than if I had but twopence in all the world. For it is only committed to my care for a season, to be employed and improved to the best advantage, and will be called for again at the grand audit, when I must answer for the use or abuse of it; so that, whatsoever in a civil sense I may call my own, that, in a spiritual sense, I must esteem as God's. And, therefore, it nearly concerns me to manage all the talents I am entrusted with as things I must give a strict account of at the day of judgment. As God bestows his mercies upon me, through the greatness of his love and affection; so am I to restore his mercies back again to him by the holiness of my life and conversation. In a word, whatever I receive from his bounty, I must, some way or other, lay out for his glory, accounting nothing my own, any further than as I improve it for God's sake and the spiritual comfort of my own soul.
In order to this, I shall make it my endeavour, by the blessing of God, to put in practice the following resolutions:-
Time, health, and parts, are thrce precious talents, generally bestowed upon mer, but seldom improved for God. To go no further than myself how much time and
health have I enjoyed by God's grace and how little of it have I laid out for his honour ? On the contrary, how oft have I offended, affronted, and provoked him even when he has been courting me with his favours, and daily pouring forth his benefits upon me? This, alas! is a sad truth, which, whensoever I seriously reflect upon, I cannot but acknowledge the continuance of my life as the greatest instance of God's mercy and goodness, as well as the greatest motive to my gratitude and obedience. In a due sense, therefore, of the vanities and follies of my younger years, I desire to take shame to myself for what is past, and do this morning humbly prostrato myself before the throne of grace, to implore God's pardon, and to make solemn promises and resolutions, for the future, to “ cast off the works of darkness, and to put on the armour of light;" and not only so, but to redeem the precious minutes I have squandered away, by husbanding those that romain, to the best advantage. I will not trifle and sin away my time in the pleasures of sense, or the impertinencios of business, but shall always employ it in things that are necessary, useful, and proportion it to the weight and importance of the work or business I engage myself in; allotting such a part of it for this business, and such a part for that, so as to leave no interval for unlawful or unnecessary actions, to thrust themselves in, and pollute my life and conversation.
Fer, since it has pleased God to favour me with the blessing of health, and I am not certain how soon I may be deprived of it, and thrown upon a bed of sickness, which may deprive me of the use of my reason, or mako me incapable of any thing else, but grappling with my distemper; it highly concerns me to make a due use of this blessing while I have it: to improve these parts and gifts that God has endowed me with, to the manifestation of his glory, the salvation of my soul, and the public good of the community whereof I am a member.
To these ends, it will be requisite for me frequently to consider with myself, which way my weak parts may be the most usefully employed, and to bend them to those studies and actions which they are naturally the most inclined to and delighted in, with the utmost vigour and application; more particularly in spiritual matters, to make use of all opportunities for the convincing others of God's love to them, and their sins against God; of their misery by nature, and happiness by Christ; and when the truth of God happens to be in any way traduced or opposed, to be as valiant in defence of it as its enemies are violent in their assaults against it. And as I thus resolve to employ my inward gifts aud faculties for the glory and service of God; so,
This, without doubt, is a necessary resolution, but it is likewise very difficult to put in practice, without a careful observance of the following rules.
l'irst, never to lavish gut my substance, like the prodigal, in the revels of sin and vanity, but after a due provision for the necessities and conveniencies of life, to lay up the overplus for acts of love and charity towards my indigent brethren. I must consider the uses and ends for which God has entrusted me with such and such possessions; that they were not given me for the pampering my body, the feeding my lusts, or puffing me up with pride and ambition; but for advancing his glory and my own, and the public good. But why do I say given? when, as I before observed, I have no property in the riches I possess; they are only lent me for a few years to be dispensed and distributed as my great Lord and Master sees fit to appoint, viz. for the benefit of the poor and necessitous, which he has made his deputies to call for and receive his money at my hands. And this, indeed, is the best use I can put it to, for my own advantage as well as theirs ; for the money I bestow upon the poor, I give to God to lay up for me, and I have his infalliblt word and promise for it, that it shall be paid me again with unlimited interest oue of his heavenly treasury, which is infinite, eternal, and inexhaustible. Hence it is that whensoever I see any fit object of charity, methinks I hear the Most High say unto me, “Give this poor brother so much of my store, which thou hast in thy hand, and I will place it to thy account, as given to myself;" and “look what thou layest out it shall be paid thee again.”
The second rule is, never to spend a penny where it can be better spared ; nor to spare it where it can be better spent. And this will oblige me, whensoever any occasion offers of laying out money, considerately to weigh the circumstances of it, and, according as the matter, upon mature deliberation, requires, I must not grudge to spend it: or, if at any time I find more reason to spare, I must not dare to spend it; still remembering, that as I am strictly to account for the money God has given me, so I ought neither to be covetous in saving, or hoarding it up, nor profuse in throwing it away, without a just occasion. The main thing to be regarded is the end I propose to myself in my expenses, whether it be really the glory of God, or my own carnal humour and appetite.
For instance, if I lay out my money in clothing my body, the question must be, whether I do this only for warmth and decency, or to gratify my pride and vanity ? If the former, my money is better spent ; if the latter, it is better spared than spent. Again, do I lay it out in eating and drinking, if this be only to satisfy the necessities of nature, and make my life more easy and comfortable, it is without doubt very well spent; but if it be to feed my luxury and intemperance, it is much better spared ; better for my soul, in keeping it from sin, and better for my body, in preserving it from sickness : and this rule is the more strictly to be observed, because it is as great a fault in a servant not to lay out his master's money when he should, as to lay it out when he should not.
In order, therefore, to avoid both these extremes, there is a third rule to be observed under this resolution ; and that is to keep a particular account of all my receipts and disbursements, to set down in a book every penny I receive at the hands of the Almighty, and every penny I lay out for his honour and service. By this means I shall be, in a manner, both forced to get my money lawfully, and to lay it out carefully : but how can I put that amongst the money I have received from God, which I have got by unlawful means ? certainly, such money I may rather account as received from the devil for his use, than from God for his. And so must I either lay every penny out for God, or otherwise I shall not know where to set it down, for I must set down nothing but what I lay out for his use; and if it be not his use, with what face can I say it was ? And by this means also, when God shall be pleased to call me to an account for what I received from him, I may with comfort appear before him; and having improved the talents he had committed to my charge, I may be received into his heavenly kingdom with a "well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into thy master's joy."
That all power and authority hath its original from God, and that one creature is not over another, but by the providence and will of Him, who is over all ; and so, by consequence, that all the authority we have over men is to be improved for God, is clear, not only from that question, “Who made thee to differ from another; and what hast thou, that thou didst not receive ?" but likewise, and that more clearly, from that positive assertion, “the powers that be are ordained of God.” That, therefore, I may follow my commission, I must stick close to my present resolution, even in all the power God gives me to behave myself as one invested with that power from above, to restrain vice and encourage virtue, as oft as I have an opportunity so to do, always looking upon myself as one commissioned by him, and acting under him. For this reason, I must still endeavour to exercise my authority as if the most high God was in my place in person as well as power. I must not follow the dictates of my own carnal reason, much less the humours of my own biassed passion, but still keep to the acts which God himself hath made, either in the general statute-book for all the world, the holy Scriptures, or in the particular laws and statutes of the nation wherein I live.
And questionless, if I discharge this duty as I ought, whatever sphere of authority I move in, I am capable of doing a great deal of good, not only by my power but by my influence and example. For common experience teaches us, that even the inclinations and desires of those that are eminent for their quality or station, are more powerful than the very commands of God himself ; especially among persons of an inferior rank, and more servile disposition, who are apt to be more wrought upon by the fear of present punishment, or the loss of some temporal advantage, than any thing that is future or spiritual. Hence it is, that all those whom God entrusteth with this precious talent, have a great advantage and opportunity in their hand, for the suppressing sin, and the exalting holiness in the world: a word from their mouths against whoredom, drunkenness, and the profanation of the sabbath, or the like ; yea, their very example and silent gestures being able to do more than the threatenings of almighty God, either pronounced by himself in his word, or by his ministers in his holy ordinances.
This, therefore, is my resolution, that whatsoever authority the most high God shall be pleased to put upon me, I will look upon it as my duty, and always make it my endeavour, to demolish the kingdom of sin and Satan, and establish that of Christ and holiness in the hearts of all those to whom my commission extends ; looking more at the duty God expects from me, than at the dignity he confers upon me. In a word, I will so exercise the power and authority God puts into my hands here, that when the particular circuit of my life is ended, and I shall be brought to
the general assize to give an account of this among my other talents, I may give it , up with joy ; and so exchange my temporal authority upon earth, for an eternal
crown of glory in heaven.
If the authority I have over others, then questionless the affection others have to me, is to be improved for God ; and that because the affection they bear to me, in a natural sensc, hath a kind of authority in me over them in a spiritual one. And this I gather from my own experience ; for I find none to have a greater cominand over me, than they that manifest the greatest affections for me. Indeed it is & truth generally agreed on, that a real and sincero estcem for any person is always attended with a fear of displeasing that person ; and where there is fear in the subject, there will, doubtless, be authority in the object; because fear is the ground of authority, as love is, or ought to be, the ground of that fear. The greatest potentate, if not feared, will not be obeyed ; if his subjects stand in no awe of him he, can never strike any awe upon them. Nor will that awe have its proper effects in curbing and restraining them from sin and disobedience, unless it proceeds from, and is joined with, love.
I know the Scripture tells me, “There is no fear in love, but that perfect love casteth out fear." But that is to be understood of our love to God, not to men, and that a perfect love, too, such as can only be exercised in heaven. There I know . our love will be consummate, without mixture, as well as without defect; there will be a perfect expression of love on both sides, and so no fear of displeasure on either, But this is a happiness which is not to be expected here on earth; so long as we are clothed with flesh and blood, we shall, in one degree or other, be still under the influence of our passions and affections. And, therefore, as there is no person we can love upon earth, but who may sometimes see occasion to be displeased with us : so he will always, upon that account, be feared by us. This I look upon as the chief occasion of one man's having so much power and influence over another.
But how comes this under the notion of a talent received from God, and so to be improved for him ? Why, because it is he, and he alone, that kindles and blows up the sparks of pure love and affection in us, and that by the breathings of his own Spirit. It was the Lord that gave Joseph favour in the sight of the “ keeper of the prison," and who brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the “prince of the eunuchs.” And so of all others in the world : for we are told elsewhere, that as “God fashioneth the hearts of men, so he turneth them which way soever he will." Insomuch that I can never see any express their love to me, but I must express my thankfulness to God for it; nor can I feel in myself any warmth of affection towards others, without considering it as a talent hid in my breast, which I am obliged in duty to improve for him, by stirring up their affections unto him whose affections himself hath stirred up towards me. And this will be the more easy to effect, if I take care in the first place, to express the zeal and sincerity of my own love to God, by making him the chief object of my esteem and adoration; and månifest my aversion to the sins they are guilty of, 'by representing them as most loathsome and abominable, as well as most dangerous and damnable. For, wherever there is a true and cordial affection to any person, it is apt to bias those that are under the influence of it, to choose the same objects for their love or aversion, that such a person does, that is, to love what he loves, and to hate what he hates. This, therefore, is the first thing to be done, to stir up the affections of others to love and serve God.
Another way of my improving the affections of others to this end, is by setting them a good example; for commonly what a friend doth, be it good or bad, is pleasing to us, because we look not at the goodness of the thing that is done, but at the loveliness of the person that doth it. And if the vices of a friend seem amiable, how much more will his virtues shine ? For this reason, therefore, whensoever I perceive any person to show a respect for, or affection to me, I shall always look upon it as an opportunity put into my hands to serve and glorify my great Creator, and shall look upon it as a call from heaven, as much as if I heard the