« PreviousContinue »
that of the rich man:-both the one and the other to be kept either in peace or in mifery, unto the judgment of the great day.
Well then, what I have hitherto faid comes to this This fhort life is our appointed day, in which to work out our falvation; the night
that is, death-cometh, when no man can work. If death overtake us before we have prepared ourselves for it, we are for ever undone. The time of our death is hid from us, that we may be always thinking of it, always preparing for it. That we may not forget the only thing for which we came into the world, God has hitherto spared us, and puts us in mind of our latter end by a thousand inftances. Some are every day going out of the world, of all ages and conditions, by all manner of ways, by fudden and untimely deaths; fome young; fome in their full age and ftrength; and much the feweft in a good old age. age. Nay, every day that we come to the houfe of God, we tread upon the graves of those that have already received their doom, whose fouls are all confined to their proper places of happiness or misery. And will not this affect our hearts? I am fure it ought, and make us seriously think within ourselves, that very, very foon, this must be the cafe of every one of us here prefent.
Confider what it was that made our Lord to weep over Jerufalem; why, the temporal calamities he saw the ftubborn Jews were
bringing upon their own heads: he faw how their city would be laid in afhes, how they themselves would be ftarved with famine, how that at laft they would all be murdered, or fold for flaves. But what is all this to the mifery of being for ever separated from God; of having our portion with evil spirits, which are kept in chains and darkness unto the judgment of the great day; and who at that day must hear these dreadful words, Go, ye curfed, into everlasting fire!
Why now, my brethren, the fame Spirit which forefaw the deftruction of Jerufalem, and which came exactly to pass; the fame mouth which forewarned them, has alfo given us warning of what will befal us when we die, if we are not renewed in the spirit of our minds while we live. It is therefore neceffary, very neceffary, that these truths fhould be often founded in our ears; forafmuch as a fpirit of flumber has feized upon the world, and men live as if they were never to die, or as if after death they were to have no being. It was just fo with the Jews, before their final deftruction. And do not think, my brethren, that these things are nothing to us; the frequent admonitions they had, their blindness, their obftinacy, their punishment, are all written for the admonition of every private Christian, who muft expect the fame fate, if he takes the fame way to deserve it.
To conclude:-The confideration of these things very much concerns every one of us here prefent.
It concerns myself, left when I have preached them to you, I myself (as the apostle fpeaks) fhould be a caft-away.
It concerns the very youngest perfons who hear me, that they may beware of falling into a wicked courfe of life, which fhall harden. their hearts, and blind their eyes, and grieve the Holy Spirit of God by which they were fanctified.
It concerns fuch as are in health, and in the prime of their years, left sickness, calamities, and death, fhould come upon them unawares.
And nobody doubts but that it concerns fuch as are old, for their appointed time cannot be very long.
As for fuch as are ignorant of their duty, and know not how to walk, and to please God, it concerns them to look out for better inftruction, left they pafs their days in ignorance, and die in their fin.
For fuch as hold the truth in unrighteousness; that is, who believe and know their duty, and yet live like heathens that know not God; it concerns fuch to look about them, left in a very short time they have their portion with devils, who believe as well as they, but yet for their rebellion tremble under the dreadful wrath of God.
Laftly; it concerns every body, even the very best of us, to take notice, that this is the day of vifitation.
God vifits every one of us: to fuch as are ignorant, he fends inftruction by his ministers to fuch as are careless, he fends his judgments to awaken them; to fuch as are at ease, he fends calamities; and to wean our affections from this life, he often vifits us with fickness.
He vifits us by his Holy Spirit. Such as fear him, and are dejected, he comforts them; fuch as are weak and pray to him for help, them he strengthens; to fuch as have made good ufe of the graces he has bestowed upon them, to these he gives more grace; and from those that go on to abuse his mercies, he takes away what before he had given them.
In one word; in this inftance of the Jews, every Christian may fee his own destiny.They had all the favours fhewed them that their hearts could defire, and fo have all Christians; they were chaftifed when they forgat God, and fo are we, they were told of, and threatened with approaching judg ments, and yet very few regarded, till they came upon them like a flood. And is not this the cafe of too many Chriftians, who have felt the punishment of their fins before they would be perfuaded to believe that any fuch thing would ever befal them?
What now can I add more, than only to defire every one of you, to confider with me,
that this day of vifitation, this day of grace, will have an end, and that very foon, with every one of us here prefent; that therefore it is our interest and concern to think of what must follow; namely, firft, death; fecondly, judgment; then either bell or heaven.
These are called the FOUR LAST THINGS. And the serious confideration of thefe I would leave upon your fpirits; befeeching God of his mercy to poffefs all our fouls with a lively fense of these important things, and with the great concern they ought to be to us; that the thoughts of death may mortify in us all pride and vanity, all covetoufness and worldly-mindedness, all carnal fecurity and fondness for this life; and oblige us to a strict watchfulness while we continue in this ftate of temptation and trial; that the confideration of a judgment to come may oblige us all to a strict holinefs, and may make us careful of our thoughts, defigns, words, and actions, which must all then come to light and be tried.
Let this oblige us, therefore, to try, to examine, and to judge ourselves, that we may not be condemned of the Lord, when he cometh to judge the world in righteousness.
And if the difficulties of an holy life affright us; if the commands of Jesus Christ, and the example he has fet us, feem hard to flesh and blood; then let us feriously confider, whether is easier to ferve God now, or to dwell with everlasting burnings hereafter?