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more candid, impartial and disinterested in your zeal for the promotion of truth, and for the detection, and suppression, and extirpation of great and fatal errors. Or should your holy zeal be resented by errorists, you have no ground to fear the evil they can do you, while acting under the Captain of your salvation. He has graciously said to the teachers and defenders of his gospel, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”

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GOOD MEN WITHOUT MERIT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.

“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are com.

manded you, say, We are unprofitable servants : we have done that which was our duty to do."-Luke, xvii. 10.

OUR Saviour seized every opportunity of instructing his disciples. If they proposed a question to him, he would frequently take the question for a theme of a serious and instructive discourse. Or if they made a request to him, he would take occasion from it, to read them'a lecture on some seasonable and important subject. And whatever he said to his disciples, as well as to others, he would frequently illustrate by some appropriate parable, metaphor, or similitude. Our text is a part of a discourse, which was occasioned by a petition that the apostles made to him. “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” To this Christ directly replies, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye might say unto this sycamore-tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.". This seems to be a gentle reproof for their weakness of faith, and designed to prepare them for larger measures of miraculous gifts. But lest they should value those gifts too highly, and themselves on account of them, he reads them a solemn lecture upon their own unworthiness for such supernatural qualifications for great and extensive service in his spiritual kingdom. To convince them, that they could merit nothing by their best services, he says, “But which of you having a servant plowing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go, and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that ser.

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vant because he did the things that were commanded him ? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants : we have done that which was our duty to do." Now, if the apostles, who were eminent for their gifts and graces, could not do anything meritorious in the sight of God, but after all their labors and sufferings in the cause of Christ, were still unprofitable servants; then the best servants of God at this day, are far more unprofitable and unworthy in his sight. This, then, is the plain and serious truth which falls under our present consideration :

Though good men are the servants of God, yet they cannot merit any favor from him.

I. I shall show, that good men are the servants of God; and

II. That they cannot merit any favor at his hands.
I. I am to show that good men are the servants of God.

The apostles were good men, and as such, were the servants of God. Moses and the prophets were good men, and as such, were the servants of God. Indeed, this is the proper appellation of all good men. For,

1. They are the servants of God by creation. He made them, and made them for himself. He not only created, but renewed them, for the purpose of employing them in his service, and making them the voluntary instruments of promoting his glory. Accordingly, we read, " The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.” He has an original and independent right to their services. As his creatures, they are indispensably bound to labor for him in building up his kingdom. And he has a right to appoint their service, and determine in what ways and by what exertions, they shall carry into effect his wise and holy purposes. He has more authority over them than any master has over any servant. His authority is absolute and unlimited. He has a right to do what he will with his own.

This, all good men feel and acknowledge. David acknowledges before God, “O Lord, truly I am thy servant;": and he repeats the acknowledgment, time after time, to express his cordial attachment and subjugation to his holy and gracious Sovereign.

2. Good men are the servants of God by dedication, as well as by creation. They have been led to realize and love the sovereignty of God. Their carnal mind, which once opposed his government, and refused to submit to his authority, has been slain. They have been made willing that he who hath made them, should reign over them. His law has been written

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in their hearts, and they delight in it after the inward man. It is their choice that his law should be the rule by which to govern all their thoughts, and words, and actions. Hence, they have been disposed to dedicate themselves wholly to the Lord, to be his servants as long as they exist. They have resolved, like Joshua, that as for themselves, they will serve the Lord. Every good man can say with David, “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. While I live, will I praise the Lord : I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being." Though some real saints have not made a public profession of religion, yet all who love God sincerely and supremely, have heartily consecrated them- . selves to the service of God, and resolved before him, that no other lords shall have dominion over them. So that all good men are the servants of God, by a free, voluntary, unreserved dedication of themselves to him forever. Besides,

3. They are his servants, by practice. They actually obey God in a sincere and acceptable manner. For,

In the first place, they do the things which God commands them to do. This is acting like proper servants. sents a servant as actually doing the things commanded by his master. It is characteristic of good men, that they esteem God's precepts concerning all things to be right, and actually obey his commands and prohibitions. They allow not themselves to live in the neglect of any known duty, nor in disobedience to any known precept. They mean to make the word of God the rule of all their external conduct, and to do whatsoever he has commanded them to do, and refrain from doing whatsoever he has forbidden, in every relation, situation, connection, and circumstance of life. Nor do they rest satisfied with this ; for,

In the next place, they do those things, which God has commanded them to do, because he has commanded them. Others do a great many things which God has required, but yet do not pay the least regard to his authority. They do such things as God has enjoined, because they appear necessary to answer their own purposes. But whatever God has required, which does not coincide with their own selfish interests, they totally neglect. Not so is the conduct of good men. They feel like good servants, who acknowledge the authority by which they are bound. They mean to submit their will to the will of God, and to act in obedience to it. They desire to know his will, and, like the Psalmist, pray that he would teach them his precepts, his statutes, and his commands. Like faithful servants, they seek to be directed in every part of their conduct.

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They choose to walk in the ways of God, rather than in their own ways. They acknowledge God in all their ways, and look to him to direct their steps.

Furthermore, they not only regard the will of God, but the glory of God, in serving him. A good servant not only regards his master's authority, but his master's interest more than his

And good men in this respect are the servants of God. They mean to do everything "heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” Whether they eat, or drink, or whatsoever they do, they do all to the glory of God. It is their meat and

. drink, as it was Christ's, to do the will of their heavenly Father. As a good servant has no interest separate from his master's; so good men have no interest separate from the glory of God. They seek first the kingdom of God, and place their interest and happiness in doing his will and promoting his cause in the world. They seek not their own, but the things of God. Thus they completely answer the character of dutiful servants. They do what God commands, and because he commands it, and with a supreme regard to his glory. Like faithful servants, they employ all their time and talents in the service of their supreme Sovereign, and choose that all their services should redound to his glory.

II. But yet they cannot merit any favor from the hand of God. They are still unprofitable servants. Divines have sometimes distinguished merit into two kinds, and have called one kind the merit of condignity, and the other the merit of congruity. By the merit of condignity, they mean that which deserves a reward in point of justice. And by the merit of congruity, they mean that which is worthy of approbation, though not justly deserving a reward. But there appears no solid ground for this distinction. Nothing is really meritorious but what deserves a reward in point of justice. In this sense, one creature may lay another under obligation to reward him. The laborer is worthy of his hire, and his employer is bound in justice to reward him for the benefit he has received from his labor. But the great Creator is infinitely above all obligation to his dependent creatures. It is impossible, that they should do anything for his benefit, which should bind him, in point of justice, to reward them for their services. 66 Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable to himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous ? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect ?” Again it is written, “ If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hands ?David acknowledges before God his unworthiness. “O my

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