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J OHN IX. 4.
JT must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
THERE cannot, perhaps, be a more awful idea conveyed to the mind of man, than that which is suggested to us in these words. Yet, awful as it is, it seems but to make little impression on our minds and actions. We all of us well know that our night is coming: we have daily monitors around us to warn us of its certain approach: its black curtain successively drops over our dearest friends, and dooms us to a long and painful separation from them; yet neither precept nor warning are able to teach us to number our days, and apply our hearts to wisdom. We know that our night is coming, and that the journey of life must be performed
whilst whilst it is yet day, yet we. foolishly linger by the way: we make idle excursions into the fields of fancy or the regions of amusement; we waste our moments in cropping the rosebuds of pleasure: we crown ourselves with the garlands of folly, and dance along the road of life, as thoughtless and unconcerned as the decorated lamb in the pagan sacrifices of old, which knew not that his gaudy trappings only destined him to the. bloody knife of the slayer.
But let us awake to the sober voice of reason, and listen to the dictates of heavenly wisdom. To many of us the day is far spent, and the night is at hand: to all of us the continuance of the light of life is a matter of the greatest uncertainty, and our surt may be set in darkness, before to-morrow's light shall gild the bright chambers of the morning. .:. .r v.. .
- This awful approach of night may be considered as a warning to us, both with respect to the business of the present life, and the concerns of the next, r • ..' •
If we consider it as designed to teach us wis* dom with respect to the present life, it seems to speak to every man in some such language as this:
"Remember, child of mortality, that the night is coming, when no man can work: whatever, therefore, be thy province in life* or whatever thy situation, discharge the duties of it with care and fidelity. Form not idle schemes of future happiness or possible advantage, but employ the present moment welL Let not life glide away insensibly in torpidity or indifference, but call forth all thy powers to their proper use. Every day brings its peculiar task, which, if neglected, is doubled on the succeeding day; and perhaps that succeeding day may never arrive to thee. Nor vainly imagine, that any rank or degree can exempt thee from the duties of humanity: all are necessary in some; way or other, and must contribute their share to the movement of the great machine of the world."
The employments indeed of life are as various as tfre changes and chances of it: some are doomed to more painful scenes, the labour of the body and the hardships of animal suffering: others to the cultivation of the mind, and its several powers, in speculative industry: to some are delegated the reins of power: to others are trusted the stores of affluence. But all have many duties which they owe to themselves, and
Vol. Ii. G many * '^ w
many, which they owe to others; and, therefore, all are required to be active and diligent in their several stations, and to fulfil their destined task, before the night approacheth.
Is' any man, for example, called to servile employ, to toil for others? It is his duty to labour with chearfulness for the support of himself and the benefit of the public. And though he may earn his bread with the sweat of his brow, yet let him not repine: it will be sweeter to him, if eaten with a contented heart, than all the delicacies of pampered luxury. Should he sometimes think it hard to toil in the vale of obscurity, let him remember that he is treading in the footsteps of his Saviour, who was lowly and of no reputation, and that his station is the appointment of a wise God, who ordereth all things in number, weight, and measure. And though others may have many blessingswhich he wants, yet he is also free from many inconveniences to which they are subject. He is exempt from the dangerous snares of ambition, which lead thousands into anxiety and ruin: he has no tedious hours of indolence to sour his temper: he has no constitution shattered by intemperance and nocturnal revels, to* bring misery upon himself, and entail it upon his posterity: in a word, he may have the comfort
of- competence and a good conscience here, and be eternally happy hereafter. It becomes him, therefore, to discharge the duties of his humble station with chearfulness, modesty, and dili-* gence. Is any man free from the necessity of bodily labour? Still let him not think himself privileged to do nothing, or, what is worse, to do evil.—The very insect that flutters in the sunshine for a few moments, has its peculiar task allotted by infinite wisdom: surely, therefore, an immortal nature cannot be left without its proper destination. His work, indeed, is different from that of the necessitous, but his duty is equal. For the more leisure he has from bodily toil, though Providence has wisely made some degree of that necessary for every man, the more he is bound to improve his mind in knowledge and virtue.
Nor let him think his task either easy or trifling. Knowledge is of great value, and therefore is not to be attained without proportionate labour. It does not, as too many seem to think, lie upon the surface, within the grasp of every careless and fortuitous passenger. If we would obtain it, we must dig for it as for hidden treasure. Nor shall we ever want sufficient employment. The stores of natural knowledge, the wonders of the heavens above G 2 arid