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SERMON 1.*

JOHN iv. 35-38.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest ?

behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields ; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal;, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour : other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

To be diligent in the performance of the various duties which our station in life involves and imposes, is a conduct on behalf of which little argument appears to be necessary. Idleness and sloth receive a just and general condemnation ; and however imperfect may be the practice of men, yet, in theory, there is an universal admission of the excellence with which habits of industry and perseverance are invested. Such habits are known to be, in the ordinary course of affairs, essential to the attainment of whatever is considered valuable in existence--to the acquisition either of wealth, of reputation, of knowledge, or of power. All depend on diligence; or if any exceptions be

* Preached at the Anniversary of the Bristol Auxiliary Missionary Society, 1824.

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furnished by the history of our race, we regard them as dispensations beyond the common and established order of events, and against the principles by which we assume the affairs of the world to be customarily managed.

If such a disposition be commended with regard to temporal concerns, much more may it be commended with regard to the duties which relate to our religious and eternal interests. Here indeed ought the best energies of the soul to be perseveringly and constantly employed. In attending to the matters of our own personal salvation, and in promoting the means by which our fellow-men may be made inheritors of the promises of redemption, there is an imperious demand on the engagement of all talent and all opportunity. Whether we consider the nobility of the concerns themselves, or the sublime and stupendous consequences with which they are interwoven, and in which they terminate, we recognize a call to “be stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

An illustrious example of diligence is furnished in the conduct of the great Author of our religion. His attention to the objects for which he came into the world was unwearied and unremitting. For not one moment was he diverted from the purposes of his advent and the language of his lips was verified by the actions of his life-" I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work." One remarkable exemplification of his spirit is contained in the chapter from which we have selected our text. His way to Galilee lay through Samaria. Ancient prejudices separated the inhabitants of that district from the Jews" the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans ;” and a journey through their country might therefore have been one without occupation or exertion. But there did the Saviour find the means of glorifying his mission; and, by the conversation with the woman at Jacob's well, an opening was made, by which extensive credit might be given to the claims he advanced, as the source of human salvation. When the disciples, who had left him to procure the means of sustenance, returned, and requested him to attend to the satisfaction of corporeał want, he showed them how closely his entire powers were occupied in promoting the plans of his mercy. They prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Then he

proceeded to excite the same spirit of activity and diligence in the hearts of those who were to go forth as his delegates, by making the very beautiful appeal, contained in the verses now more specially before us. This language, with a proper consideration of the principles it includes, is well adapted to such occasions as the present, when the vast sphere of Christian exertion is exhibited, when we are called to ponder the work of human evangelization, and when the leading object is, to inspire increasing energy among the servants of God, in their high career of warfare for the diffusion of his empire.

It is our design, by the blessing of the divine Spirit, to render the present opportunity conducive to these important ends, and we request your attention to the text, as containing,

I. A DESCRIPTION OF THE EXISTING CONDITION

OF THE WORLD.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields ; for they are white already to harvest.” Very frequently it was the object of our Lord to illustrate the different purposes connected with his mission to the earth, by allusions to the agricultural state and customs of the country in which he lived. It is by one of these allusions that he is speaking in the text; and from a fact respecting the seasons, and the corresponding state of the fruits of the earth, he turns to the sphere in which he was then engaged, and which

was to be occupied by his appointed followers in the different generations of time.

When he speaks of “ the fields,” he speaks of the nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles. In the right application of the metaphor, here and elsewhere employed in the Scriptures, “the field is the world."— The visit of the Messiah to the habitations of the human race, comprehended in its expanded designs the interests of all the countries of the earth. It was not subject to any restriction of territory, or of character, as was that former revelation which had been given by the prophets ; but was so ordered and so constituted, as that its blessings could be freely communicated to the uttermost corners of the globe. In reference to this benevolent purpose, the Redeemer was said to be “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world—to be“ the light of the world,the Saviour of the world;" showing, that not only to the privileged descendants of Abraham, but to the outcast sinners of Gentile race, the glad tidings of salvation and of peace were to be preached and applied. To that vast and unbounded tract for the operations of mercy, he summons the contemplation of his disciples here. It is of importance for those concerned in the propagation of the gospel, to have a distinct and full presentation of the sphere where their efforts are to be made ; that, so they may be enabled to kindle their spirit to that zeal, and brace their powers to that

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