By such activity in holiness we are to prove that in our devotions we did not mock the Almighty, or think to cajole and flatter him with fair speeches, and mere empty professions. Our prayers should be only the forerunners of our zeal for the divine glory, and our honorable exertions for the welfare of mankind.
Every man has his post of duty allotted him. To such an extent one is to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. In one place, he is to give advice from his experience, and in that, condolence and sympathy to the distressed from his humanity.
Another person may not have the means to act in this manner; but he can often lend a little personal aid. He can sometimes spare a few moments for neighborly conversation; and can always put up a humble, heartfelt prayer for the spiritual welfare of those around him. A cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple shall not go without its reward. We can all do something for the comfort and edification of the little circles in which we are known. In this respect, as well as others, great providential differences are made: to some, five talents are communicated, and to others only one.
Let each of us endeavor to do as much as we can. Let those especially who are recently recovered from sickness listen to the voice of exhortation. Every event of this nature must convince us how precarious the day of usefulness is.
By interruptions of health many of our schemes are delayed, and not a few, perhaps, broken off. It is happy when these frustrated designs are of little importance to any but the parties themselves; but this is not always the case. Persons may be so circumstanced, that a few weeks, or a few months confinement, may subject them to losses and evils which can never be retrieved.
Let us be warned, therefore, against procrastination. Do not delay until tomorrow what may be done today. You know not what an hour may bring. Scripture has not a single promise for tomorrow, if today has been deliberately neglected.
The foolish virgins slept at the close of a day of idleness, and it was this circumstance that constituted their crime; for had they stocked their vessels with oil before nature demanded repose, they would not have been excluded from the bridal entertainment. We should never listen to an argument for delay, unless it is such as we can justify at the tribunal of judgment.
Permit me to guard you against one instance of delay. Let property be disposed of in the days of reason and health; do not let the lack of a properly executed will lay the possible foundation for contention among your survivors.
But what is of infinitely more importance than this, get your accounts for heaven ready. In a moment the judge may be at the door. Thousands in every stage of life are, every year, every month, swept into the grave. Walk, then, before the Lord, while you are allowed to do it, in the land of the living.
Walk, and do not fold your hands in idleness, letting opportunities of doing and getting good slip from you. Be in a posture of activity, ever ready to go where duty calls you. Walk before God in a uniform dependence upon His support, with a constant sense of his presence, and under the influence of this awakening thought: "Wherever I am, God sees me." Do this, in the land of the living. The great field of society lies open. Before, and behind, on the right hand, and on the left, objects for the display of benevolence, and the exercise of all the useful virtues, are to be found. The day is now bright, but in a little while it may be overcast; in a few years it must draw to a close.
In the name of God, be up and doing. Do not be slothful in business, but be fervent in spirit. Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord and your labor in the Lord shall not be in vain.
(Adapted from a Sermon by Rev. Edmund Butcher, 1757-1822)