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all silenced in a moment; their grandeur blasted; their pleasure departed as a vision of the night ; their vain boastings of happiness and security confuted by the actual their judge in the clouds of heaven; and themselves hurried away, without any preparation, to the dreadful tribunal : some of them surprized at masquerades and places of entertainment; some in the act of cheating and defrauding their neighbours ; some cursing and swearing over a gaming table ; others lying drunk upon the earth in a condition worse than that of the beasts : what a miserable preparation is this for the sight of a just judge, and an entrance upon the awful scenes of eternity! But thus it must be. In vain shall the minis. ters of Jesus Christ lift up their voice like a trumpet: the world is too far gone to take any of their warnings ; wickedness is too bold for any words to reform it; and therefore we may take up that exclamation of the Psalmist, It is time for thee, Lord, to lay to thine hand, for they have destroyed thy law. And this brings us to the execution of that vengeance, which is the last thing mentioned in the text; he shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The place of this punish
ment, and the punishment itself, are suited to the nature of the crime. For where ought he to have his portion, but with the hypocrites ; who, in his baptism, pretended to be the servant of God; but, in practice, never served any thing but his worldly interests and sensual inclinations ? His being cut asunder, signifies his eternal separation from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power: the sword which shall give the stroke, is the word of God, which he has neglected and despised: the weeping which shall be in that place of torment, will be a fit recompense for all that profane mirth and noise with which he used to delight himself. They who now mourn and weep for their sins, shall hereafter be comforted, and have their tears wiped away: but they who laugh at sin, and make free with things sacred, as subjects of ridicule, will exchange their laughter for lamentation. The gnashing of the teeth with anguish and torment is the just reward of excess and drunkenness. The teeth of the Epicure, which never knew how to refrain themselves on a principle of duty, were the instruments of his sin ; and will therefore be applied to express the justice as well as the sharpness of his sufferings. What has been delivered concerning the
character and the end of an evil servant will lead us naturally to the following inferences : First, that it is the interest of every
Christian to guard against the deceit of an evil heart; and to be careful that there is no lurking poison of unbelief. The generality of men are apt to conceive very shallow notions of faith. If they allow the facts of Christianity, they rest satisfied with their religion ; not considering, that if they have any faith, properly so called, it will take possession of their affections. Let them then examine their own hearts, whether they think with any pleasure about the return of their Lord, Jesus Christ? Whether they ever converse together, and comfort one another, as the Apostle hath admonished them, with words upon this great subject? Whether they can pray sincerely, that the kingdom of God may come, and this vain world be removed out of the way to make room for that new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness ? Is their faith so strong and operative, as to lessen that esteem and value, which they feel naturally for the things of this world ? If not, they may assure themselves, it is too much like that of the evil servant; who had just so much religion as to talk about his Lord, but not enough to expect him and prepare for his appearance. As unbelief betrays a man into carelessness and pleasure, so will a right faith be sure to operate with a contrary effect, and will make him sober, serious, vigilant and devout. The duty of a good servant is expressed in those words of our blessed Master, let your loins be girded about and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for the Lord, when he shall return from the wedding ; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. And surely gratitude as well as prudence should have its influence in making us serious and vigilant. For consider how he, our Lord and Master, condescended to watch for our salvation ; continuing whole nights in prayer, and retiring into silence and darkness upon a mountain, to make intercession for a world of sinners. He offered himself to the scourge, to the thorns, to the cross, to the grave. Many painful hours and days did he watch for us, and paid at last the price of our redemption, even his own precious blood: yet we, miseraable wretches as we are, think it hard to deny ourselves any little gratification, and to spend even one single hour in prayer to God or in humiliation for our sins. M 2
Our subject teaches us to consider secondly, that as the return of Christ to judgment is reserved for the world in general, and will come upon them when it is least looked for ; so death is an unknown period, reserved for every Christian, taken as an individual; and the day and hour of it may surprize him as much as the day of judgment shall surprise those who shall be alive at the Lord's coming. If we do not make it the great rule of our lives, to be prepared for death, it may come upon us when we are most unprepared. To presume upon youth or health, which are made the grounds of a false confidence, is the worst of vanity and folly ; as daily experience too frequently teaches us.
I am here offering such considerations as are of use to all people, of all ages, and at all times. Happy will it be for us, if we lay them to heart: then will our loins be girded about, and our lights burning ; and instead of being cut asunder in wrath, we shall depart in peace with those words of Jacob in our lips.- I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
You have heard the punishment of an evil servant : now learn the reward of a good one.
" Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, « when he cometh, shall find watching: verily “ I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and