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3. The necessity of a standing ministry. Gospel ministers are labourers and vine-dressers, and watch for souls. They point out the way of salvation. They are a voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. It is a great part of their office to awaken the slothful, and to use every mean, persuading them by the terrors of the Lord, and inviting them by the grace of the Gospel, saying, as in Ephes. iv. 15, " Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." They explain the Scriptures. They warn sinners, and set life and death before them, the blessing and the curse. The Lord has promised to be with them, and make them successful, and if many believe not, some will; and the election shall obtain.
4. That under the means of grace the church and individuals will bring forth fruit of one kind or other. There is no such thing as an empty heart. Gospel ordinances will either be the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. There will be fruit unto sin, or unto holiness. There will either be the pleasing fruits of grace laid up for our beloved, or thorns and nettles. We have a list of each kind mentioned by the apostle, Gal. v. 19-26, "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time pást, that they who do such things shall not inherit the
kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
5. The excellency of grace. What a vast difference between the sluggard and the exercised Christian! While the one is concerned about nothing but present ease, crying, "Yet a little sleep;" the other looks about him. He looks at the things that are unseen and eternal, and has his conduct influenced by them. He looks for Christ and communion with him in duties and ordinances, and listens to his voice. He looks to God in his providential, procedure, sees his hand in what passes over him, and endeavours to improve every dispensation. He looks to the Holy Ghost as the great Comforter, and seeks from him all the gracious influences of which he stands in need. He looks to his own heart to see if grace flourishes and grows. He looks around him lest his adversaries come and hurt his vineyard. In one word, he is a child of the light and of the day, while the slothful is a child of the night and of darkness: he does not sleep as the sluggard, but watches and is sober.
6. That poverty is the certain consequence of sloth. In the last verse of this chapter the wise man says, "Thy poverty shall come, as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man." Poverty follows sloth as the shadow the body. It may ad
vance apparently by slow degrees; but it will come. At the hour of death, complete poverty will overtake the sluggard, and he will be no more able to resist it, than a person fast asleep can resist an armed enemy. Then he will be deprived of every mercy, and his misery will be complete. He will be eternally helpless and hopeless. Sinners should take warning before it be too late. "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"
I CORINTHIANS X. 13.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
IN whatever situation believers may be, they may lay their account with trials. They have many good things in this world; but troubles await them as long as they are in it. The Lord in his word has made ample provision for them under the severest trials, that if their tribulations abound, their consolations may also abound. They have many and precious promises, some of which are designed for their support, others for their direction; and all for their comfort. There are many declarations in the Scriptures intended to encourage and animate their hearts in every furnace. They are assured that "the Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble," and that he shall deliver them in six troubles; and that in seven no evil shall touch them." For their encouragement too, it is expressly promised that "all things work together for good to them that