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reformation, if they could escape this one time; and this is so very common and familiar, that in all other cases no man regards it; a judge, a father, or a master, will not spare upon such promises as these ; and why should this be thought any thing more in a dying sinner, than in other malefactors ? Why should that be thought a sufficient reason for God to pardon, which we ourselves think no reason, in all other cases ? All this may be no more than the fear of hell ; and I doubt the mere fear of hell, when men are a dying, though it may imitate all the scenes of repentance, will not keep them out of hell. It is so very probable,that this is the whole of a deathbed repentance, that no such dying sinner can have any reasonable hope that he does truly repent; and therefore unless he flatter himself, when he dies, with a false and counterfeit repentance, as he did, while he lived, with the hopes of repenting before he died, he must expire in all the terrors and agonies of guilty fears. This is so miserable a condition, that though we should suppose such a sinner may be a true penitent, and go to heaven at last, yet no wise man would endure these dying agonies for all the false and deceitful pleasures of sin : and yet there is no possible way of avoiding this, but by such a timely repentance, while we are well, and death at a distance, as may bring forth the actual fruits of holiness, that when we come to die, we may have some better evidence of the sincerity of our repentance, than mere dying sorrows.
3. Let us now consider the case of those who are doubtful what their condition is ; who are neither so good as to be out of all danger and fear, nor so bad as to be out of hope : and I need not tell any man that this is a state between hope and fear, which is a very uneasy state, when eternal happiness or misery is the matter of the doubt. This is the case of those men, who after all their good resolutions, are ever and anon conquered by temptations ; who as soon as their tears are dried up for their last fall, fall again, and then lament their sins, and resolve again ; and while they are thus interchangeably sinning, repenting, and resolving before they have got a lasting victory, or are arrived to a steady virtue, are summoned by death to judgment; or those who have a reverence for God, but are not so constant and frequent in their devotion ; or if they abstain from gross and scandalous vices, yet they have not a due government of their passions, or do very little good in the world, &c. 'Here is such a mixture of good and evil, that it is hard to ki w which is predominant ; while such men are in health, they are very uneasy, and know not what to judge of themselves; but they fall into much greater perplexities, when they are alarmed with the near approaches of death and judgment. And what a deplorable state is this, when we are dying, to be uncertain and anxious what will become of us to d'ernity ?
Now there is no possible way to prevent these fears when we come to die, but by giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure, by liv. ing such holy and innocent lives, that our consciences may not condemn us; and then we shall have confidence towards God, 1. John iii. 20, 21.
But this is such a remedy, as few of these men like : they would be glad to be sure of heaven, but yet would go as near hell as they can, without danger of falling into it: they will serve God, but must reserve a little favor and indulgence to their lusts ; though they dare not take full draughts of sensual pleasures, yet must be sipping now and then, as often as they can pacify their consciences, and get rid of the fear of God, and of another world : and therefore they are very inquisitive after other cures for an accusing and condemning conscience : are mighty fond of such marks and signs of grace, as will secure them of heaven, without the severities of mortification, or the constant and uniform practice of an universal righteousness : and a great many such signs have been invented, which like strong opiates assuage their pain and smart, till their consciences awake, when it is too late, in the next world.
For all this is cheat and delusion, as St. John assures us, little children, let no man deceive you ; he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin, is of the deuil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning ; for this purpose the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin ; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil ; whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother, 1 John. ji. 7,-10. This is the only sure evidence for heaven ; and therefore every sin men commit, makes their state doubtful, and this must fill them with
per: plexities and fears : men may cheat themselves with vain hopes and imaginations when they come to die ; but nothing can be a solid foundation for peace and security, but an universal righteousness.
THE CONCLUSION. FOR the conclusion of this discourse, I shall only observe in a few words, that it must be the business of our whole lives to prepare for death: our accounts must be always ready, because we know not how soon we may be called to give an account of our stewardship; we must be always upon our watch, as pot knowing what hour our lord will come. man, who has taken care all his life to please God, has little more to do when he sees death approaching, than to take leave of his friends, to bless his children, to support life, comfort himself with the hopes of immortal life, and a glorious resurrection, and to resign up his spirit into the hands of God and
A good of his Savior ; his lamp is full of oil, and always burning, though it may need a little trimming when the bridegroom comes, Matth. xx. 1, &c. some few acts of faith and hope, and such devout passions as are proper to be exercised at our leaving the world, and going to God : but when the bridegroom is at the door, it is too late, with the foolish virgins, to buy oil for our lamps : unless we be ready when the bridegroom comes, to enter in with him to the marriage, the door will be shut against us ; watch there: fore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour whereint the son of man cometh.
Some men talk of preparing for death, as if it were a thing that could be done in two or three days, and that the proper time of doing it were a little before they die ; but I know no other preparation for death but living well : and thus we must every day prepare for death, and then we shall be well prepared when death. comes ; that is, we shall be able to give a good account of our lives, and of the improvement of our talents; and he who can do this, is well prepared to die, and to go to judgment; but he who has spent all his days wickedly, whatever care he may take when he comes to die, to prepare himself for it, it is certain he can never prepare. a good account of his past life, and all his other preparations are little worth.