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felves loofe to all manner of Sin and Wickedness, whereby they run themselves into many unneceffary Troubles and Dangers thefe act like Fools, and we are caution'd here not to follow or act like them. There are others that look carefully about them, weighing the Nature and Tendency of their Actions, and ufing their beft Endeavours to prevent Temptations, or provide against them, whereby they escape many Evils that would otherwife befal them: thefe act like wife Men, and fuch as thefe are here propounded to our Imitation, and are worthy to be follow'd. And from hence we learn,
f, That a careless and diffolute Life is the greatest Folly, and they who caft off all due Care of their Ways, act like Fools; which is fo plain, that Solomon Scarce ever gives them any other Name: Fools (faith he) make a mock of Sin; and Fools defpife Wisdom. This he makes the proper Stile and Character of all heedlefs and impenitent Sinners, and juftly too, for they run headlong upon the greatest Dangers without any Senfe or Confideration, and likewife prefer Trifles and Vanity before things of infinitely greater moment and concernment to them, which are known Acts and Inftances of Folly. Again,
2dly, We learn hence, that a holy and circumfpect Walking is the trueft Wisdom, and they that narrowly observe and take heed to their Ways, act like wife Men: This Solomon likewise often tells us, for he makes the Fear of God the beginning of Wisdom; and the having it always before our Eyes, the Progress, the End, and the Completion of it; This preferves from many unneceffary Troubles here, and from eternal Mifery hereafter; which are high Acts and Inftances of Wisdom.
In fhort, the Wisdom or Folly of any is in nothing better feen, than in their Care and Choice of things: He that propounds to himself a good End, and pursues it by proper and fuitable Means, is by all Men jultly thought to act wifely; whereas he that either propounds to himself no End at all, or a very bad one, and hath no regard to the Honesty or Injustice of the Means by which he follows it, must be own'd by all to act very foolishly. Now this is what the Apostle here feeks to convince Sinners of, that to live heedlefly and incautiouíly, without a due fenfe of the Good or Evil of our Ways, is to be guilty of great Folly; but to walk warily and circumfpectly, is to walk not as Fools, but as Wife.
But, Thirdly, how may this be done? Why, the next words direct us to one good Way or Means tending thereunto, and that is, the redeeming of Time. Now the redeeming of Time cannot be meant of the recalling or regaining that Time that is already paft and gone, for that is impoffible; but of the improving what remains to better advantage, and repairing that which we have loft, by a double Diligence in that which is to come: and there can be no better help to a wary and circumfpect walking, than by making a good ufe of thofe precious Hours and Opportunities, which if loft or let flip, are never to be recover'd. There are few or none have been fo good Husbands of their Time, as not to mifpend a great part of it. The doing nothing, and the doing of what is as good or rather worse than nothing, have taken up no fmall part of our days. Idlenefs, bad Company, vain Thoughts, Words and Actions, have confum'd many of our precious Minutes: Now to redeem this Time, is not by feeding our felves with vain Hopes of living it over again to fpend it better, for that was never granted to any, but by being truly fenfible and forry for what is loft, and making a better ufe of what is left. The more we have mifpent, the more fhould we beftir our felves to redeem and repair it; the longer and farther we have been out of the way, the fooner thould we return, and mend our pace after. The Time and Substance that have been fquander'd away in Gaming, Folly, and Extravagance, must be repair'd by Acts of Piety, Devotion and Charity; and the unneceffary Vifits and Vanities of the World be turn'd into the holy Exercifes of Religion and Vertue. The time paft should fuffice (faith the Apostle) to have ferved divers Lufts, and to walk according to the Courfe of the World; the reft of our days fhould be devoted to the Service of God, and the Salvation of our Souls: and that will keep a watchful eye over our Ways, and reftrain all our Wanderings.
But the redeeming the Time here is by fome thought to be what we call gaining of Time, to fave our felves from any Evil or Danger that threatens: And this feems to be countenanc'd by
The Reafon or Motive added in the next words, Because the Days are evil: intimating, that we fhould by Delays and all other prudent and lawful means endeavour to escape
thofe Evils, which a wicked World would bring upon us. Now the Days may be faid to be evil, in refpect of the Evil of Sin, and the Evil of Suffering: upon both which accounts, the Days in which the Apoftle wrote this Epiftle might be juftly reckon'd fo, for there were fome who fought to corrupt the Faith and Manners of thefe Ephefians, and there were others who rais'd Perfecutions against the Orthodox Chriftians, and both of them concur'd to make the Days evil and troublefom: for which reafon he wills them to walk circumfpectly, to look well to their ways, and to use the Wisdom of the Serpent, as well as the Innocence of the Dove, to avoid the Dangers and Difficulties that furrounded them. Neither are the Days in which we live less evil and perillous; for we have too many who seek to feduce the People into Errors and Divifions, and we have others that threaten the Peace and Welfare of Church and State: fo that we too have great need to use our utmoft Care and Diligence, to be preferv'd from the Traps and Trials of an evil World, and to be kept holy and blameless to the Coming of our Lord Jefus.
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From whence the Apostle infers, in the next words, Wherefore be not unwife, but understanding what the Will of the Lord is that is, be wary and cautious in all your Behaviour, not running into needlefs Dangers, nor declining neceffary ones, but labouring to know what the Lord would have you both to do and fuffer, chufing ftill to keep a good Confcience, and rather to fuffer than to fin against it. To which end,
He farther exhorts to avoid all carnal and brutish Senfualities, thofe efpecially that were used in the Heathen Bacchanals, to which the following words relate: And be not drunk with Wine, wherein is Excefs, but be filled with the Spirit that is, give no offence by any Intemperance or Excefs, which will betray both your Reafon and Religion; nor let your Hearts be at any time overcharg'd with Surfeiting and Drunkennefs, as the manner of the Heathen is, even in their religious Joy but let your Hearts be replenifh'd with the Graces and Comforts of God's Holy Spirit, that your Mirth and Joy may be always fpiritual; Speaking to your felves in Pfalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, finging and making melody in your Hearts to the Lord. If be merry (faith St. James) let him fing Pfalms; let him express his Mirth not in drunken Catches, but in pious Hymns, which at once edify and delight and therefore
our Apostle would have us teach and admonish one another in Pfalms, and Hymns, and fpiritual Songs, finging with Grace in our Hearts to the Lord, Col. 3. 16. This is to begin the Work of Heaven here upon Earth, to join with the holy Angels above, and by founding forth the Praises of our Maker, to prepare our felves for the Heavenly Choir. And indeed nothing tends more to elevate our Minds, to raise our Affections above this World, and to give us fome Foretaftes of Heaven, than a frequent Exercife and Delight in this Duty. To which the Apostle adds,
The great Duty of Thanksgiving, in the next words, Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jefus Chrift. Where the Vertue of Thankfulness is made to extend to all times, and to all things. Adverfity, as well as Profperity, hath its Bleffings and good Ends, and therefore both are to be thank'd for, In every thing give thanks, for they are all thankworthy. The Object is God the Father, from whom all good things come; but through the name and for the fake of God the Son, by whofe Merits and Mediation they are deriv'd' to us: to whom therefore we are in Duty bound to give continual thanks, which is an Act of Juftice as well as Religion, and is attended with prefent Pleasure, and an ample future Reward.
Laftly, To promote this Care and Circumfpection of our Ways, we are exhorted to the great Duty of Submission, in the laft words; Submitting your felves one to another in the Fear of God. Which implies not only Submiffion to Superiors, who have the Authority over us, and a Power to command us in all lawful things; but to Equals and Inferiours, to whom we owe all the good Offices of Kindness and Charity, complying with their Infirmities, and yielding to all their reafonable Defires and Neceffities, and performing all the Duties that appertain to the feveral Conditions and Orders of Men.
This is the Sum of the Epiftle for this Day; from which we may learn to fet a ftrict guard upon our Ways, and to confider the Nature and Lawfulness of all our Actions and Defigns, before we fet about them: let us do nothing rafhly, nor carelefly run into Temptation, but do our best to avoid them, and to abftain from all Occafions and Appea rances of Evil. To which end,
Let us often think of the End of our Chriftian Courfe, and have an eye to the Prize of our high Calling in Chrift Jefus, that we may run with patience the Race that is fet before us.
Finally, to conclude all, let us implore the Aid and Affiftance of Heaven, to be directed and kept in the way that leads to it; often praying with the Pfalmift, Shew me thy may, O Lord, and teach me thy Paths; guide me in the way that I should go, and let me not wander from thy Com mandments. And thus by walking circumfpectly in the Ways of Holiness here, we fhall e'er long arrive at the Regions of Blifs and Happiness hereafter: which God grant, &c.
The GOSPEL for the Twentieth Sunday after
Matthew xxii. 1
Jefus faid, The Kingdom of Heaven is, like unto a certain King who made a Marriage for his Son, and fent forth his Servants to call them that were bidden to the Wedding: and they would not come, &c.
HIS Gofpel for the Day contains a Parable, in which, under the Refemblance of a King's making a Marriage for his Son, and inviting many to it, is fet forth the free and gracious Offer of the Gospel, together with the invaluable Bleflings and Privileges of it: which Offer was first made to the Jewish Church and Nation, and upon their refufal 'twas made to the Gentiles, and in them to all Nations; adding withal, a fevere Sentence upon thofe that rejected this Tender, or receiv'd it not as they fhould. All which things being here figuratively exprefs'd, will require a little unfolding. T
The Parable begins thus; The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain King, who made a Marriage for his Son.