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not to be burdened with too much; and yet your necessity must not be neglected. Let me entreat you therefore to be attentive to what I am going to say; for I shall speak nothing but the certain truth of God, revealed to the world by his Son and Spirit, expressed in the Scripture, and believed by all sincere Christians.
The change you are near (should this sickness end in death) is very great. You are leaving this world, where you have spent the days which were allotted for your trial, whether you would prepare for eternity or not. You are leaving your body to corrupt and turn to common earth, and you must here converse with man no more. You are now going to see that world, of which the Gospel has told you, and of which you have often heard; but which neither you nor I have ever seen. Before your friends can have laid your body in the grave, your soul must enter into its endless state; and at the resurrection your body will be joined to it again. Either heaven or hell must be your doom for ever. If it be heaven, you will there find a world of light, love, and peace, and you will dwell with glorified spirits for ever. If hell should be your portion, you will be driven away from the face of God; and you will there find a world of unholy, miserable, condemned spirits; among whom you must dwell, under the wrath of God, and the horrors of your own conscience; remembering with anguish the mercy you once rejected, the warnings you disregarded, and the time which once you lost; and at the resurrection your soul and body will be re-united, and you must live there in torment and despair for ever.
I well know that these things are but half believed by the ungodly world, while they profess to believe them. They must therefore feel that which they refused to believe. But God has revealed it to us; and let us believe our Creator.
Think, oh think what a preparation such a change as this requires.
So far may be sufficient for one visit.
At another you may proceed to this effect. You cannot but be sensible that a great difference will be made at the day of judgment between the righteous and the unrighteous, the justified and the condemned. How nearly then does it now concern you to try which of these is your own condition. It may certainly be known, for "God will judge "the world in righteousness" by the same law or covenant by which he governs it. Know but whom the law of Christ condemneth or justifieth, and you may soon know whom the Judge will con demn and justify; for he will proceed according to the law. If you should die in an unrenewed state, "die in your sins," your hope of heaven will die with you: and if you think ever so well of yourself till death, and pretend ever so confidently to trust in Christ, and the mercy of God, one hour will convince you, to your everlasting woe, that God's mercy and Christ's merits never brought an unsanctified soul to heaven. Self-flattery avails nothing, but to keep you from repenting till the time be past, and to quiet you in the snares of Satan, till there be no remedy. Immediately therefore, as you regard your soul, examine yourself, and try in which of these conditions you are, and judge yourself accordingly, before God judge you. The remainder may be deferred, if necessary, till the next visit.
You may know, if you are willing, whether you have most minded earth, or heaven, and which you have preferred and sought with the highest esteem and resolution; and whether your worldly or heavenly interest have been most prevalent; and which of them it is that has had the ascen
dancy over the other? Cannot you tell what it is which has had most of your love and care, what has been nearest to your heart, and which you have preferred when one was set against the other? Cannot you tell whether you have lived principally with a view to the things of this world, and for the pleasures of sin; or whether the Spirit of Christ has by his word enlightened you, shewed you your sin and misery, humbled you for it, and set before you the glory of the life to come, and the happiness of living in the love of God? Whether your heart has been united to himself, and turned from sin to holiness, from the world to God, from earth to heaven? And whether you are become a new creature, to live for heaven, as you did for earth? Surely this is not so small and undiscernible a work, or change, but that he, who has perceived it in himself, may know it*. One of these is your case; and is it not high time to know which of them it is, when God is ready to tell you by his judgments? If indeed you are in Christ, and his Spirit in you has renewed and sanctified you, and turned your heart and life to. God, I have then sufficient foundation to speak peace and comfort to you. But if it be otherwise, and you are yet living as without God in the world, and were never renewed by the Spirit of Christ, permit me to deal faithfully with you, as it is necessary for me to do with one in your condition; and to set before you at once your sin and your remedy, and to tell you what you must yet do, while any time and hope remain, if you have a real desire to be saved.
* That you may know it satisfactorily, consider well what is here said, and see likewise, page 6, the conversation with one in a bad state.
HELPS FOR VARIOUS CONSOLATIONS IN SICKNESS, AND FOR SELF-EXAMINATION.
Consolations for one during his sickness.
1.THE consideration, that it is the hand of God which corrects you, ought to awaken your patience and submission.
2. The end of his correcting you is not for his pleasure, but your profit.
3. Consider the greater sufferings of much more excellent and exemplary servants of God than yourself.
4. You may learn resignation from the shining pattern of Christian sufferers; you may learn it even from the patience and resolution of many among the heathens, who had neither your motives to incline them, nor your hopes to encourage them.
5. From the vicissitudes of health you may and ought to derive comfort in sickness. You are now sick, but have you not been a long time healthful? 6. The incomparable preference of such a sick state to full health, and forgetfulness of God.
7. Your sickness and sufferings are far less than your deserts; and therefore you should rather reflect on what you deserve to feel, than on what you actually do feel.
8. The advantages which arise from the exercise of submission in sickness.
9. The common condition of mortality, which unavoidably subjects you to changes and chances, to sickness and sorrows, should reconcile you to these whenever you meet with them. Sickness should never be looked upon as an unexpected guest.
10. Comfort in sickness may and ought to be derived from a comparative view of the evils of
others; from the freedom of our minds; the attendance of our friends; and the several advantages we enjoy in alleviation of our miseries.
11. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master, who was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; not the consequence of his own misdoings. Whatever we endure we may justly say, "We receive the due reward of our "deeds, but he hath done nothing amiss." Whatever may be our distress, we have his instructive example to direct and support us, and we have his all-sufficient sacrifice to atone for our sins.
12. Consider, that the eternal crown of glory, which shall be received by those who follow their blessed Master, and patiently endure to the end, shall more than overbalance all their miseries; and the joyful and pleasing expectation of it will serve abundantly to lessen the present weight of them, and render them easy to be borne.
A short plan of consolation.
1. The consolation itself.] It is God's will, who still continues many comforts to us. His will always wise, good, and best. We are his creatures; he has a right to us, as we have to our cattle, or lands. It is the Lord's doing. This was the support of Eli, Job, and Hezekiah.
2. The improvement.] To wean our hearts from the world; to set our affections above, where true joys are to be found; to excite us with greater diligence to prepare for our great change." For us men sicken, and for us they die."
3. The preparation.] The only preparation is to secure the favour of God through Christ, and an interest in his merits, by which we are pardoned and justified; to secure likewise the aid of the Holy Spirit, by which we are made fit for hea