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SURPRIZE IN DEATH.
MARK xiii. 36.
Watch ye therefore ; lest, coming suddenly, he find
MONG the parables of our Saviour there are A A
several recorded by the evangelists, which represent him as a Prince, or Lord and Master of a family, departing for a season from his servants, and in bis absence appointing them their proper work, with a solemn charge to wait for his return; at which time he foretold them that he should require an account of their behaviour in his absence, and he either intimates or expresses a severe treatment of those who should neglect their duty while he was gone, or make no preparation for his appearance. He informs ihem also that he should come upon them on a sudden, and for this reason charges them to is always awake and upon their guard, ver. 35. “ Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing; or in the morning.
Though the ultimate design of these parables, and
the coming of Christ mentioned therein, refer tõ the great day of judgment, when he shall return from heaven, shall raise the dead, and call mankind to appear before his judgment-seat to receive a recompence according to thejr works ; yet both the duties and the warnings which are represented in these parables seem to be very accommodable to the hour of our death; for then our Lord Jesus, who has the keys of death and the grave and the unseen world, comes to finish our state of trial, and to put a period to all our works on earth : he comes then to call us into the invisible state ; he disposes our bodies to the dust, and our souls are sent into other mansions, and taste some degrees of appointed happiness or misery according to their behaviour here. The solemn and awful warning which my text gives us concerning the return of Christ to judgment, may be therefore pertinently applyed to the season when he shall send his messenger of death to fetch us hence: « Watch ye therefore; lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping."
When I had occasion to treat on a subject near akin to this, * I shewed that there was a distinction to be made between the “ dead sleep of a sinner, and slumber of an unwatchful Christian." Those who never had the work of religion begun in their hearts or lives are sleeping the sleep of death ; whereas some who are made alive by the grace of Christ yet may indulge sinful drowziness, and grow careless and secure, slothful and inactive. « The wise virgins as well as the foolish were slumbering and sleeping." Matt. xxv. 5. The mischiefs and sorrows which attend each of these when Christ shall summon'them to judgment, or shall call them away from earth by natural death are great and formidable, though they are not equally dangerous : let us consider each of them in succession, in order to rouse dead sinners from their lethargy and to keep drowzy Christians awake.
in a Funeral Sermon for Mıs. Sarah Abney, on Luke xii. 37. " Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he conjes shall find watching."
First, let us survey the sad consequences which attend those that are asleep in sin and spiritually dead
when the hour of natural death approaches : they are • such as these..
1. If they happen to be awakened on the borders of the grave, into what a horrible confusion and dis.. tress of soul are they plunged? what keen anguish of conscience for their past iniquities seizes upon them ? what bitter remorse and self-reproaches, for the seasons of grace which they have wasted, for the proposals of mercy which they have abused and rejected, and for the divine salvation which seems now to be lost for ever and put almost-beyond the reach of possibility and hope ! They feel the messenger of death laying his cold hands upon them, and they shudder and tremble with the expectation of approaching mişery. They look up to heaven and they see a God of holiness there as a consuming fire ready to devour them as stubble fit for the flame: they look to the Son of God who has the keys of death in his hand, and who calls them away from the land of the living, even to Jesus the compassionate mediator, but they can scarce persuade themselves to expect any thing from him, because they have lurned a deaf ear so long to the invitations of his gospel, and so long affronted his divine compassion. They look behind them and with painful agonies are frighted at the mountains of their former guilt ready to overwhelm them: they look forward and see the pit of hell opening upon them with all its torments ; long darkness without a glimpse of light, and eternal despair with no glimmerings of hope.
Or if now and then amidst their horrors they would
try to form some faint hope of mercy, how are their spirits perplexed with prevailing and distracting fears, with keen and cutting reflections ? Oh that I had improved my former seasons for reading, for praying, for meditating on divine things! but I cannot read, I can hardly meditate, and scarce know how to pray. Will the ear of God ever hearken to the cries and groans of a rebel that has so long resisted his grace? are there any pardons to be had for a criminal who • never left his sins till vengeance was in view ? will the blood of Christ ever be applied to wash a soul that has wallowed in his defilements till death roused him out of them ? will the mea nest favour of heaven be-indulged to a wretch who has grown bold in sin in opposition to so loud and repeated warnings ? I am awake indeed, but I can see nothing round me but distresses and discouragements, and my soul sinks, within me, and my heart dies at the thoughts of apdearing before God.
It is a wise, and just observation among Christians, thongh it is a very common one, that the scriptures give us one instance of a penitent saved in his dying hour, and that is the thief upon the cross, that so none might utterly despair ; but there is but one such instance given, that nove might presame. The work of repentance is too difficult and too important a thing to be left to the languors of a dying bed and the tumults and flutterings of thought which attend such a late conviction. There can be hardly any effectual proofs given of the sincerity of such repentings : and I am verily persuaded there are few of them sincere ; for we have often found these violent emotions of conscience vanish again if the sinner has happened to recover his health : they seem to be merely the wild perplexities and struggles of nature averse to misery rather than averse to sin : their renouncing their former lusts on the very borders of hell and destruction, is more like the vehement and