DECEMBER 1ST - ON THE TIME OF ADVENT
Consider first, that the time of Advent, (so called from being set aside by the church for worthily celebrating the advent, that is, the coming of Christ,) is a penitential time, and a time of devotion, in which we are every day called upon by the church of God to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight his paths; to enter into the like dispositions of those which St. John the Baptist required of the people when he was sent to preach to them conversion and penance, in order to prepare them for their Messias; that so we also, by turning away from our sins, by sorrow and repentance, and turning ourselves to the Lord our God with our whole heart, by love and affection, may dispose our souls to welcome our Saviour whose birth we are about to celebrate, and to embrace in such manner the mercy and grace which he brings with him at his first coming as to escape hereafter those dreadful judgments which his justice shall execute upon impenitent sinners at his second coming. See then, my soul that thou dedicate this holy time to suitable exercise of devotion and penance, that thou mayest answer the end of this institution.
Consider 2ndly, in what manner we are all summoned by the church, at the beginning of this holy time, (in the words of St. Paul, Rom xiii. 11, read in the epistle of the First Sunday in Advent,) to dispose ourselves now for Christ. 'Knowing the time,' says the apostle, 'that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is passed, (or far spent,) the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light; let us walk decently, as in the day,' &c. O! my soul, let us consider these words as particularly addressed to us, in order to awaken us, and to stir us up to begin now a new life. Alas! have we not hitherto been quite asleep as to the greatest of all our concerns? Are not far the greatest part of Christians quite asleep by their unaccountable indolence in the great business of the salvation of their souls and of a happy eternity? Are they not sleeping too, which is worse, in the very midst of dangers and of mortal enemies, who are continually plotting their destruction, an even upon the very brink of a precipice, which if they fall down will let them in a moment into hell? O let us then all hearken seriously to this summons, and rouse ourselves now, whilst we have time, out of this unhappy lethargy, and from this hour begin to apply ourselves in good earnest to that only business for which we came into this world. O let us cast off now and for ever the works of darkness, and put on Jesus Christ.
Consider 3rdly, that on the First Sunday of Advent, the terrors also of God's justice are set before our eyes, in the description given in the gospel of the great accounting day; to the end, that they that will not correspond with the sweet invitations of God's mercy, and awake from sleep at the summons addressed to them in the epistle, may be roused at least by the thunder of his justice, denounced in the gospel; and be induced by the wholesome fear of the dreadful judgments that are continually hanging over the heads of impenitent sinners, to make good use of this present time of mercy, lest hereafter there should be neither time nor mercy for them. Ah! sinners, if this day you hear the voice of the Lord, either sweetly inviting you with the allurements of his mercy, or terrifying you with the threats of his judgments, see you harden not your hearts. For now is your time. Sleep on no longer, lest you come to sleep in death, as it happened to them of old, who by refusing to hearken to God's voice, provoked him so far, that he swore to them in his wrath, that they should never enter into his rest. O remember that 'the day of the Lord and his judgments shall come as a snare upon all them that will not watch,' Luke xxi. 55.
Conclude to enter now into the true spirit of this holy time - which is a penitential spirit - and to prepare the way of the Lord, by putting away all thy sins, and purifying thy soul for him; thus shalt thou welcome him at his coming, and shalt be welcome to him.