« PreviousContinue »
2. As a consequent of this, an early preparation for death will support men under all the troubles and calamities of this life : there are so many troubles, which mankind are exposed to in this world, that no man must expect to escape them all ; nay, there are a great many troubles, which are insupportable to human nature, which there can be no relief for in this world : the hopes and expectations of a better life are, in most cases, the safest ret: eat; a man may bear his present sufferings with some courage, when he knows that he shall quickly see an end to them, that death will put an end to them, and place him out of their reach : For there the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest ; there the prisoners rest together, they hear not the voice of the oppressor ; the small and great are there, and the servant is free from his master, Job. iii. 17, 18, 19.
So that in many cases the thoughts and expectations of death, are the only things, that can support us under present sufferings; but while the thoughts of death itself are terrible to us, this will be a poor comfort : men who are under the sense of guilt, are more afraid of death, than they are of all the evils of this world : whatever their present sufferings are, they are not so terrible as lakes of fire and brimstone, the worm that never dieth, and the fire that never goeth out. So that such, men, while they are under the fears and terrors of death, have nothing to sup
port them under present miseries.
The next world, which death puts us into the possession of, is a very delightful prospect to good men ; there they see the rewards of their labors and sufferings, of their faith and patience : they can suffer shame and reproach, and take joyfully the spoiling of their goods ; since these light afflictions, which are but for a season, wilt work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. But men who are not prepared to die, while they are afraid of death, can find no relief against the sufferings of it: the sooner we prepare to die, the sooner we are delivered from the fears of death, and then the hope of a better life will carry us cheerfully through this world whatever storms we meet with.
3diy, Since we must certainly die, it makes it extremely reasonable to sacrifice our lives to God, whenever he calls for them ; that is, rather to choose to die a little before our time, than to renounce God, or to give his worship to idols, or any created beings, or to corrupt the faith and religion of Christ : there are arguments indeed enough encourage
christians to martyrdom, when God calls them to suffer for his sake : the love of Christ in dying for us, is a sufficient reason why we should cheerfully die for him ; and the great rewards of martyrdom, that glorious crown which is reserved for such conquerors, made the primitive christians ambitious of it: it is certain there is no hurt in it ; nay, that it is a peculiar favor to die for Christ, because those persons who were most dear to him were crowned with martyrdom : But our present argument shews us, at what an easy rate we may purchase so glorious a crown ; for we part with nothing for it: we die for God, and we must die whether we die martyrs or not: and what man then who knows he must die, and believes the rewards of martyrdom, can think it so terrible to die a martyr ? No good christian can think that he loses any thing by the bargain, to exchange this life for a better: for as many years as he goes sooner out of this world, than he should have done by the course of nature, so many years he gets sooner to heaven ; and I suppose that is no great loss : It is indeed a noble expression of our love to God, and of our entire obedience and subjection to him, and of a perfect trust in him, to part with our lives for his sake; but what can a man, who knows he must die, do less for God than this; than to part with a life which he cannot keep, than willingly to lay down a life for God, which will shortly be taken from him, whether he will or not.
4thly, This shews us also, what little reason we have to be afraid of the power of men ; the utmost they can do, is to kill the body; a mortal body which will die whether they kill it or not : which is no mighty argument of power, no more than it is to break a brittle glass ; nor any great hurt to us, no
than it is to die, which we are all born to, and
which is no injury to a good man : and therefore our Savior's counsel is very remarkable, Luke, xii. 4, 5. Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do : But I will forewarn you, whom you shall fear, fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell ; yea, I
say unto you, fear him.
This is very reasonable, when the fear of God and men is opposed to each other, which is the only case our Savior supposes. No man ought foolishly to fling away his life, nor to provoke and affront princes, who have the power of life and death : this is not to die like a martyr, but like a fool, or a rebel. But when a prince threatens death, and God threatens damnation, then our Savior's counsel takes place, not to fear men but God : for indeed God's power in this is equal to men's at least; men can kill, for men are mortal, and may be killed ; and this is only for a mortal creature to die a little out of order: but God can kill too ; and thus far the case is the
It is true, most men are of the mind, in such a case, rather to trust God than men, because he does not always punish in this world, nor execute a speedy vengeance. And yet when our Savior takes notice, that God kills as well as men, it seems to intimate to us, that such apostates, who rather choose to provoke God than men, may meet with their deserts in this world : for no man is secure that God will not punish him in this world ; and apostatos, of
all others, have least reason to expect it. Those who renounce God for fear of men, are the fittest persons to be made examples of a sudden vengeance. But then when men have killed the body, they can do no more, they cannot kill the soul; and here the power of God and men is very unequal, for when he has killed, he can cast both body and soul into hell. fire : this is a very formidable power indeed, and we have reason to fear him; but the power of men, who can only kill a mortal body, is not very terrible ; it ought not to fright us into any sin, which will make us obnoxious to that more terrible power, which can destroy the soul.
Concerning the time of our death, and the proper im
provement of it.
LET us now consider the time of our death, which is once, but when, uncertain.
Now when I say the time of our death is uncertain, I need not tell you that I mean only it is uncertain to us; that is, that no man knows when he shall die; for God certainly knows when we shall die, because he knows all things, and therefore, with respect to the fore-knowledge of God, the time of our death is certain.
Thus much is certain as to death, that we must all die ; and it is certain also, that death is not far