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always desiring and endeavouring, according to our Saviour's advice in the text, to be ready; which is the subject of the present discourse. We therefore observe, that
To be always ready for death should be the first, the grand business of our lives.
No man remaining in his natural state of sin is, or can be, ready for death. "The wages of sin is death;" and he who "dies in his sins," must receive the wages of them. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness;" "chased out of the world;" forced away in anger, and against his will, like a malefactor to the dungeon, or a criminal to the gibbet. The natural man cleaves to the dust: his head and heart are full of worldly schemes and projects of happiness; but death unexpectedly arrives, and stops him short. "In that very day his thoughts perish;" and, "while he saith Peace and Safety, sudden destruction cometh upon him, as travail upon a woman with child, and he cannot escape." He is perhaps saying to himself, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry:" but God saith unto him, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee!"
It is unspeakably awful for a person to die in his sins, his guilt unpardoned, his heart unrenewed, under the power of that carnal mind which is enmity against God: "Guilt," says one, "is a bad companion in life; but how terrible will it be in death! It lies now, perhaps, like cold brimstone, on their benumbed consciences; but when death opens the way for the sparks of divine vengeance to fall upon it, it will make dreadful flames in the conscience, in which the soul will be wrapt up for ever."
Vain are the hopes of ungodly men with respect to death. They do not like to think of dying; but when they do, they flatter themselves in their iniquity, and hope they shall do very well at last; they think they
have good hearts, or that their good deeds will make amends for their bad ones: or that they shall have time to repent and make their peace with God, receive the sacrament, and get the priest's passport to Heaven. O vain delusive hopes! Such men generally die as they live; and "What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?" These foolish hopes, not being founded on the word of God, are like a house built upon the sand; and when the rain shall descend, the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon the house, down it must fall; and great will be the fall of it!
Only "the in heart shall see God." How can pure the profane man, who blasphemes his Maker every day, and with almost every breath calls for damnation, expect to meet God with safety? How can the unclean, the whoremonger, the adulterer, or the lascivious, expect to be admitted into the presence of a pure and holy God? How can the Sabbath-breaker imagine he shall be permitted to keep perpetual Sabbath in Heaven, who could not endure the work of a short Sabbath once a week on earth? Shall the wilfully ignorant dream of a share in the inheritance of the saints in light? the dishonest man think to rank with the righteous ?—the self-righteous person with those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb? Alas! all such hopes will be disappointed-" their hopes shall be cut off, and their trust shall be as the spider's web."
What then is it to be ready for death? In what does a real preparation for it consist?
1. The foundation of the whole is, an interest in Christ; "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." Sin and death came by Adam; righteousness and life come by Christ. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death hath passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned."-" Through the offence of one many are dead; yea, by the offence
of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." Now, as our being in Adam is the cause of death, being in Christ is the cause of life. Our union with the first man has subjected us to sin, misery, death, and Hell:-union with the second can alone afford us righteousness, happiness, life, and glory. “I am," said Jesus, "the life. I am come that they may have life; and he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."
There is no security against the fatal consequences of death, but by believing in Jesus. The soul that is truly convinced of sin, that sees its danger, that is sensible of its helplessness, that is enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, will fly for refuge to him, will trust alone to his perfect righteousness; and in doing so is secure. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." This, therefore, was the summit of St. Paul's wish;-" that I may be found in him;" that is, as he explains it, not having on his own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ, by faith. Phil. iii. 9. He saw that his own righteousness was insufficient. In the days of his ignorance he trusted to it: but being taught of God he discarded it; he despised it, as to the thought of appearing in it, or being justified by it. He now longs to be found in Christ; that is, in his righteousness;-to be found in it, as a safe refuge, in which the avenger of blood cannot reach him,-to be found in it, as the wedding garment, in which the master of the feast would accept him. There is no living happily, nor dying safely, but as we are in Christ; and some who have vainly trusted in their own works in the secure hour of prosperity, have wisely thought better of it when they came to die; and confessed, "it was safer to trust to the righteousness of Christ."
If we are united to Christ, and are interested in his righteousness, death cannot hurt us; it is like a ser
pent that has lost its sting. So the apostle beautifully speaks, 1 Cor. xv. 56. The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Death is compared to a venomous serpent, that pierces and poisons. Sin is the sting of this deadly serpent. It is sin that makes death so terrible to nature were it not for sin, death would be of little consequence, considering what a vain and vexatious world this is. And the strength of sin is the law :that which gives such a formidable power to sin, whereby it subjects us to the death of the body, and to everlasting misery, is the holy and righteous law of God, armed with its fearful curse, and binding the sinner under the guilt of his sin, to the destruction of both body and soul. But, thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has taken away the sins of the people by the sacrifice of himself; redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us; and thus he hath deprived death of its sting. "Death shot its sting into our Saviour's side; there left it; there lost it."
This is the true and only foundation of our preparation for death. It is sin that makes death terrible; but Christ has taken away sin, and so taken away the sting of death. If, therefore, we believe in him, death cannot hurt us; for "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," the Gospel having freed them from the law of sin and death. 66 He that hath the Son hath life;" "he shall never perish, but shall have everlasting life."
How much to be pitied are those poor ignorant creatures, who, in the prospect of death comfort themselves with the thoughts of having done no harm !-having paid every one his own; having been good livers; having kept church and sacrament; and having been good to the poor, and so on! All these are refuges of lies, and will leave the sinner exposed to the curse of the law, and to the sting of death. As no man can
keep the law, no man can be saved by the law. Only Christ our Surety could keep the law perfectly; he did so; and, by so doing, has "brought in an everlasting righteousness, which is to and upon all who believe. Blessed then are they, and they only, who die in the Lord! To be in Christ, then, is the ground-work of our readiness for death; to have Christ in us, by his Spirit sanctifying our nature, is equally necessary; and these blessings are always connected. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; " for if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
2. We cannot be prepared for death, unless we are prepared for Heaven: and no man is prepared for Heaven, but by the Holy Ghost. Our Lord has most solemnly declared, that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Heaven." Natural men think little of Heaven: they have little other notion of it than that it is not Hell. But if they had any just conception of that holy and happy state, their reason would convince them, that without an inward change they could never attain or enjoy it. Heaven would be a burden to a graceless soul. As well might a swine that wallows in filthy mire be delighted with the splendors of a palace; or a stupid ass be enchanted with the harmony of a concert, as a sensual, carnal man be satisfied with the joys of the heavenly world! There must be a new heart, a new nature, and new affections, or there can be no relish for a better world. The more any thing or person on earth is like Heaven, the more the sinner hates it; and the more resemblance it bears to Hell, the more he loves it. His carnality of soul, his love of sensual pleasures, with all the wicked passions of his mind, are daily fitting him for another place, and another sort of company. He is treasuring up food for the worm that never dies, and fuel for the fire that shall never be quenched.
But by regenerating grace the believer is formed for glory. God has given a new bias to his affec