TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Donald Cargill.
IN vain would we hope to bring men to a course of godliness, considering how averse the flesh is to it, and in vain would we deal with ourselves for that purpose, if great and real advantage lay not in taking that way. Whatever the flesh objects as to disadvantage, yet there is no real disadvantage in a religious life: yea, there is more advantage in this course, than will make up for all other disadvantages. It were good that we were considering what advantages there are in this way, and comparing our advantages with our disadvantages. It would gain our affections to it, considering that our Lord is calling us to leave all that which at last will prove our eternal ruin. As for anything lawful, He is not calling us to leave that; but we are not to idolize, or make a god, as it were, of it. Consider what He is calling us to pursue. It is that without which we cannot be eternally happy.
"For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come."Hebrews 13.14.
Now, this is the scope of the words. The apostle is here pressing that exhortation which he was giving in the 13th verse. Says he, "Let us therefore go to him without the camp, bearing his reproach." But this seems heavy, and therefore he puts in this reason in the text, "For here we have no continuing city." In these words, we have
1st, The shortness of man's life signified. It is here compared to a city. In opposition to the present life, Paul sets forth the length of eternity, "But we seek one to come."
2ndly, There is the employment of those that leave it. How are they taken up? They are as travelers going from one place unto another, until they at last come unto their long abode, or resting-place, which is heaven.
How the words hold forth these few things unto us:
Now we shall speak to some of these:
- That man's continuance on earth and enjoyments of earthly things are but for a short time.
- That the consideration of this short time on earth should take our hearts off from earthly things, and set them upon Christ only.
- That we must all flit and remove from this earth, for "here we have no continuing city."
- That all should be seeking after Christ and that city or eternal habitation of rest.
1. The first thing which we proposed to speak unto, was, that man has but a short time or lease on earth. The Spirit of God points it out by sundry expressions. "Lord, make me know mine end, and the measure of my days." And what is the answer: "Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand breadth," yea shorter, "and mine age is as nothing before thee." Says Moses, when speaking of man's life, "They are like a sleep; in the morning they are like grass that groweth up, and in the evening it is cut down, and withereth." Our days are but as a thought; nay, the Holy Ghost points them out to be shorter: "For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth a little, and then vanisheth away." It is rather a vapour than a reality. It is but a vapour that continueth a little time. And doth not experience prove all this? Are we not here to-day and away to-morrow? The great thing we ought to consider is, that our time here is but shorta truth seldom minded and more seldom laid to heart.
USE 1.If our time here be short, it ought to be the better employed; it should make us early up in the morning, and late up at night about our main work. It becomes us,
(1.) To consider our ways and what belongs to our peace. It is a good advice that Solomon gives us: "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come;" and yet the most part of us, for all that is spoken from the word of the Lord concerning the shortness of man's life, think not that our time is short, but long enough, and so remember not that the evil days are coming upon us.
(2.) We lie down, and know not if ever we shall rise up again. Should we not then improve our time? For is there any person so certain of his life that he can say, "I shall live so long"? And is it not of God's good providence that it is so short and so uncertain unto us
(3.) Consider that it is not only short and uncertain, but also full of trouble and misery. And is it not enough for every person? What is dying and a decaying old age but labour and misery? And should not this be considered and laid to heart, that our life is not only short and uncertain but full of misery? And should not the time we now have be well employed on that account?
(4.) To incite you to employ your time, consider that the time is short and the task is great. Are there not many strongholds of sin and corruption to subdue and conquer? Hath not man a little world to subdue in his own heart? Now, lay these two together, that your time is short and your work great, and this may make us employ and improve it to the best advantage.
(5.) To provoke you to a right improving of time, consider further that there is nothing of greater moment or concernment than eternity, an eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery. It were good for us that we were considering this, and laying the preciousness of the soul in the balance with all earthly things, that we might see which of them is of most value; for, as our Lord says, "What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul."
(6.) Consider that eternity is fast approaching, and our Lord Jesus is coming to judgment. His last words are, "Surely I come quickly." And is Christ hastening? Should not every believer then be hastening to meet Him? If believers loved Christ as well as He loves them, they would be more hasty to meet Him. It is a wonder to see what we are employed in, and yet never employing our time aright.
Lastly, Consider that the Bridegroom is coming, and the bride must be prepared. It ought to be all our work, or talk here, to be ready to meet Him, that we may not be found unprepared. Oh, what a dreadful thing will it be to be found unprepared when Christ comeswhen the midnight cry is made, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him"!
USE. 2.That we may further incite you to a right employing, or improving of time, consider the advantages that those who rightly employ their time have. And
1st, They have this advantage, that it keeps from many challenges of conscience that we otherwise might have. Oh, but those who employ their time right, have much peace! There are much comfort and good spoken to them. Indeed there are none that have such a peaceable outgate as that man who is still preparing and looking for it. But
2ndly, It hath this advantage, that it makes them have a clear and comfortable outgate, when they enter into eternity, when about to launch out of time. Ye have nothing in that case to do but to step into your Master's house. And oh, what sad thoughts they will have, who have employed their time otherwise!
3rdly, It hath this advantage also, that all his refreshments are sweet, who employs his time aright. His sleep is sweet, his waking is sweet, and all is sweet. The wise man says, that the "rest of a labouring man is sweet," but especially when he has been about his master's work. Now we shall give you some directions how ye may employ your time aright.(1.) You ought to divide your work into tasks, setting so many hours apart for hearing, so many for reading, praying, meditating, &c., and so many for your ordinary calling. It would be an excellent thing if we were tasking ourselves, and saying, "Such a thing we resolve to do, and such a thing we must do." Oh, but this would make a Christian's work sweet unto him!USE 3.We should not be troubling our thoughts with vain prospects. Are there not many who have projected things for twenty years thence? And who knows if they shall live so long? But it were good for us that we were employing our time, and casting off vain and foolish prospects. The apostle James speaks well to this, "Go to, now, ye that say to-day, or to-morrow, we will go to such a city, and continue there a year, whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow." If we would consider the shortness of our time we would think the care of every day enough for itself. But this is a burdening of ourselves with unnecessary cares, adding a load to a burden. Are not the cares of a day sufficient for itself? Why then do we care for to-morrow, or for many days hence? And further, you should consider that these unnecessary cares put the heart out of frame. They indispose the heart so that we cannot get our time so well spent as we ought. Nor do they only indispose for duty, but duties are justled out; and these things that are at hand, are put far off, and these things that are afar off, are brought near. You know far off thoughts put death and eternity out of mind. And are there not many who when they put death, judgment, and eternity, far out of mind, are suddenly surprised by them. Now consider which of these are most necessary, and having found that which is most necessary, let your thoughts be employed about it.
(2.) You should employ your time well. Ye must have much heavenly and sweet prayer. With the psalmist, "Lord make me know mine end." "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." If this were our main care and principal petition, there would not be so much misspent time amongst us as there is.
(3.) In the morning when we rise, we should be thinking upon our last end, and in the evening we should take an account, how we have spent the day, and then be mourning over what we have done amiss therein.
USE 4.That the consideration of this shortness of our time should not only take off our hearts from earthly things, but it should even help to mitigate the cross, and help to render it more easy, that we may suffer more contentedly. Our longest afflictions must be, as it were, but for a moment, since our time is but as a moment, and shall shortly be at an end. And(1.) Consider, that even whilst we are eating, drinking, sleeping, &c., our time is fast elapsing, and all our crosses and afflictions ere long shall be ended. We speak this to believers; but for unbelievers, however bad their crosses may be, it were better for them that they were thus continued and lengthened out to them through all eternity. At death they emerge out of one woe only to enter into a greater woe and misery. But death to believers is an entrance into eternal happiness; and they ought to be more earnestly longing for it, as the hireling for the end of the day. It is strange that there is any intermission of afflictions in our moments of time; for a cross abides not always; there is still some intermission of it. Thence our life is compared to a weaver's shuttle: it slips through many threads in a little time, and so steals away unperceived, or insensibly.II. Is our life short? Then it becomes us to be moderate in all things, even in the use of all lawful enjoyments. The apostle inculcates this, "The time is short: it remaineth that both they that have wives, be as they that have none; and they that weep, as though they weep not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away." It becomes us to be taking our hearts off from all earthly things and studying to be weaned from them: for what are they? They are as nothing. It is strange that we, who seek after other things, should be so taken up with such frivolous things. But those who weep for Christ's presence, shall be made rejoice. Now for directions how to get your hearts taken off from earthly things, take these two things:
(2.) Consider, that though you be under many crosses or afflictions, yet, if believers, you shall be freed from them all by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ shall make up all your hardships. You shall shortly arrive at rest, and rest unto them that are weary, oh, how sweet is it! and a sweet rest it is for those who are seeking after Him. But those who mind not Christ have nothing to do with this rest "that remaineth for the people of God." But, O believer, "in thy Father's house are many mansions." Thou mayst well be straitened here, but there are no straitening circumstances there.1. Do not bestow too much of your time upon those things that are of a perishing nature. It is strange to see even believers so much taken up with the world, and the cares of this life. This eats out the comfort of the soul, and where there is very much of this, there cannot be much prosperity in true godliness, and where there is much real godliness there cannot be much of this, these two being inconsistent with one another. We cannot serve God and mammon; for, as the thoughts of the one rise up, the other goes down. Is it not strange that we should be so much taken up with these things? The apostle gives it as a mark of those that perish. "But they that will be rich, fall into many temptations, and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."III. This doctrine reproves those who cast away all thoughts of employing their time aright, and whose consciences tell them not of their misspending of time. It is the apostle's direction; "See that ye walk not as fools, but as wise; redeeming the time because the days are evil." There are few of us, but what have our bygone time to take in again and redeem. In the short time we have to live, we ought to be as travelers who have sat their time till the day be far spent, and are obliged to run more in one hour than in three before.
2. If thou wouldst have thy thoughts weaned from the world, as thou shouldst let it have little of thy time, so give it little of thy affections. If believers were doing this, they would be more cheerful; and he that is most cheerful, in going about duty, is most taken up with this city. "But we seek for one to come;" and consider what a stir it would make if Christ should come and take these things away, and if our mountain were moved. Think what ye would do if put to difficulties. Indeed it would be better if this world had none of our affections.
IV. And from this we would pose you, Are ye ready to meet Christ, and ready for eternity? Have ye nothing to do but to come and meet Him? We say, Are ye ready to step into eternity? Well, if it be not so, ye have need to be serious in time, for we are not sure of another day or another sermon. Consider eternity will come once, and if ye spend not your time well, it will be ill with you. Take the apostle's advice, "Walk while ye have the day." Hath God given you a day? Then ye should be serious in it, for we wot not if we shall have another. And is it not a mercy that we are not lying in the bosom of the earth unprepared and unconverted. If you misspend this time, then wrath will come upon you. On the whole, these words are a direction to you, to consider the time is passing on, and ere long we must all away, "For here we have no continuing city, but we seek for one to come."