Imatges de pàgina

and fortitude. Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day on the earth: And though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job xix. 25, 26. And David, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Ps. xxiii. 4.

"I know

The gospel dispensation reflects stiil clearer light on the future state of happiness reserved for the righteous, and so affords more ample encouragement, and support to their hope. It hath enabled not a few to adopt the language of the apostle Paul. whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day." 2 Tim. i. 12. For we know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Cor. v. 1.

Now though all true Christians have a foundation for such firm supporting hopes in death, yet we cannot say that all have them, in real and comfortable exercise. I can hardly suppose, however, that any truly pious person, who possesses his rational faculties at death, expires without some hope in exercise; though it may be attended with doubts and fears. As some Christians, of a dark and gloomy cast of mind, may be all their lifetime subject to bondage, through fear of death, so when that great change comes, they may be under fear and discouragement, and their sun may, as it were, set in a cloud; a case to be earnestly deprecated. It is a very desirable thing to finish our course with joy, as well as with safety. And in order hereto, we should labor, through life, to obtain, and keep, clear evidence of our adoption into God's family, and of our title to the privileges of his children in the coming world. We should guard against those sins which might provoke God to hide his face from us, and leave us to walk in darkness, to the close of life.

2. Safety is another thing which distinguisheth the death of the righteous from that of others, and makes it desirable. The sting of it, as I said before, is taken away by the death of Christ ; and it is disarmed of its power to hurt them. "The sting of death is sin," as the apostle remarks, 1 Cor. xv. 56. "And the strength of sin is the law," which condemns the impenitent sinner. But the sin of the true believer is pardoned through the atoning blood of Christ; "he is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth. There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

Death indeed produces a change in the righteous, as well as in others, which to an eye of sense, hath a gloomy appearance. It reduces the body to a state of insensibility; it soon becomes putrid,

and crumbles into dust. But this dust is precious in the sight of God; it shall not be lost, but at the appointed period of the resurrection, be reanimated, and refined, and constitute a spiritual and glorious body, like to Christ's. "He shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body." So that the change which takes place on their bodies, in consequence of death, is greatly to their advantage.

Their spirits also, separated from their bodies by death, remain in safety. They are put under a convoy of angels to secure them from molestation, by malignant spirits in the air, and to be conducted to mansions of glory. We read that the soul of Lazarus, when he died, was carried by angels to Abraham's bosom. Luke xvi. 22. Thus safe are the righteous, in death-The power and grace of Christ are engaged for their security and defence. Nothing can set on them to hurt them. They have the same ground to bid defiance to all enemies, and dangers, which the apostle expressed, in such sublime and animating language, in the 8th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Mr. Henry mentions an eminent Christian, in Scotland, who, when dying, called for a Bible; but finding his sight gone, he said, Turn me to the 8th of the Romans, and set my finger at those words, I am persuaded that neither death nor life shall separate me from the love of God; and then died in peace. I add,

3. The righteous have peace in death. They are in a state of peace with God. He is reconciled to them, through the mediation of Christ, hath forgiven their offences, and is become their everlasting friend. "Being justified by faith, they have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. v. 1. This lays a foundation for peace in their own breasts. Though it cannot be truly affirmed, that every pious person actually, and constantly enjoys this peace, to any great degree; yet undoubtedly all do, in some measure, taste the comforts of it. They have all received that Spirit-they are all sanctified by that Spirit, one of whose fruits is peace. And those, in particular, who take peculiar care to act up to the character of the righteous, by lives of exemplary piety and godliness, generally enjoy great peace; and this inward tranquillity often increases, near the close of life, as a gracious reward of their strict piety. They find the work of righteousness to be

peace, and the effect of it quietness and assurance for ever. Isa. xxxii. 17.

Of some grossly wicked persons it is indeed said, that "they have no bands in their death." Ps. lxxiii. 4. This perhaps may principally intend, that they escape a violent death, by the hands of public justice, which their crimes may have deserved: Or that their strength continues firm near to the close of life, and they are not distinguished by any peculiar distress, and agonies, in the time of dying. They are those who "die in their full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet;" and not those that "die in the bitterness of their souls, and never eat with pleasure;" as represented, Job xxi. 23, 25. Or, if the expression should be allowed to signify, that they are not bound with the terrors of conscience, in their dying moments that they are not terrified, either with the remembrance of their sins, or the prospect of their punishment: yet this cannot be justly called peace in their death. It is owing to a hard heart, and a seared conscience, which produce a stupid inattention, to their real state and character: It is as remote from that real peace, enjoyed by the true saint, upon Christian principles, as a lethargic insensibility, in an apoplectic person, is from quiet and natural sleep, in one that is in good health. Persons truly and eminently pious, often enjoy peace, upon the principles of the gospel, at their death, as the beginning of that full and everlasting peace, to which death introduces them. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." This leads me to say,

4. The death of a righteous man brings him into a state of everlasting life and glory. The end of this life is, to all men, the beginning of an eternal state of existence. The human soul is immortal; it will never die. But how vastly different the condition which follows upon death, to the righteous and to the wicked! "Say to the righteous, it shall be well with him. Wo to the wicked, it shall be ill with him. The wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal."

Death puts a final period to all the trials, sorrows, and sufferings of a good man; it introduces him into that rest which remains to the people of God, in heaven. There all his desires shall be satisfied-there all the powers of his soul shall be delightfully employed in the service of God; in a happy consort with angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. The felicity which then commences, shall continue and increase for ever. He shall be all joyous and active, in the business and comforts of the heavenly world, and be an entire stranger to any weariness, or imperfection, in this blissful state. Such are the consequences of death to the righteous. Much reason is there to say, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." Well may we desire to die the death

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of the righteous, and to have our last end like his. On such accounts, as have been suggested, the death of the righteous is desirable. I proceed to the third and last observation, which I shall make on the words, viz.

III. That many persons wish to die the death of the righteous, who will not live the life of the righteous. This was the case with Balaam, whose character, as I said before, was not good. Many wish to be saints at death and after it, who allow themselves to be sinners, and gross ones, through the course of their lives. A desire of happiness, the invariable dictate of nature, and inseparable from the human mind, leads them to wish for a share in the felicity, which the gospel reveals, as the lot of the righteous, in the future world. They have indeed no just and consistent notions of the blessedness of the righteous, at, and after death. They consider not that it consists in a conformity to God, in the temper of their minds-in being holy as He that bath called them into his kingdom, is holy-being in his sacred presence, and engaged in pure and holy employments. As such, they do not desire it; they cannot consistently with the habitual love and practice of sin.

Many have a general notion, that a state of happiness is reserved for the righteous, beyond death; and that there is none other, but one of misery and torments; they wish to partake of the former, though they have no relish for the pleasures and comforts of a religious life, in this world, which, in reality, are the beginnings of the felicity of heaven, and of the same nature, though in a lower degree. They would be glad to enjoy the pleasures of sin, while they live, and when death puts an end to them, escape the wages of sin, and be admitted to the rewards of grace. In this case they adopt the wish of Balaam; Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his. This is only a fruitless wish. Indeed, if a person made it the matter of a petition to Heaven, it would not only be vain and fruitless, but full of impiety. It would be, in effect, praying God to alter the fundamental laws of his kingdom, which determine, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord"-to confound the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness-to do what, in the nature of things, is impossible, namely, to make a man happy with what is directly contrary to the governing temper of his mind-with what is invariably displeasing and offensive to him. Thus absurd and fruitless is it, for a person, allowedly wicked, to wish to die the death of the righteous, and to have his last end like his.

Having endeavored to illustrate these observations suggested by the words, I proceed to some practical improvement.

Is death the lot of all men, of the righteous as well as of others?

How reasonable is it that we consider it, with application to ourselves, and labor to have our minds deeply impressed with a sense of our mortality? To cultivate serious meditations on the certainty of our death, and its daily approaches is an important duty. "This my body which is now animated by a living spirit is mortal, and tending to the dust, out of which it was formed: In a few days it will become a lifeless corpse, and be deposited in the grave, among those of my friends, who are already dead. In a very little time, my soul must go into the world of spirits, and appear before my final Judge, to give an account of my conduct in this probationary state, and to be fixed in endless happiness or misery, according to the deeds done in the body. It is impossible I should long escape the stroke of death, and I know not but it may lay its cold hand upon me before the dawn of another day. The summons will be irresistible, and must be obeyed. Prepared, or unprepared, I must go, when God calls. Nothing further can be done to secure a happy eternity, or to escape a miserable one, than is accomplished in this transitory life. Art thou duly affected, O my soul, with a sense of the certainty, and importance of this change! Art thou as diligent in preparing for it, as will appear reasonable when it does come, or as thou wilt then wish thou hadst been?"

Such serious reflections on the daily approaches of death, with particular application to ourselves, are highly proper, and by the divine blessing, might be very profitable. Is it not very much owing to the neglect of them, that so many conduct as if they were to be here always; and have their hands, and heads, and hearts, so continually crowded with the business and concernments of this life, as leaves them little time, or inclination to attend to the momentous concerns of another world? How would the serious thoughts of death, brought home to our minds, break the force of temptations to sin? How would they moderate our fondness for sensual pleasures? How would they lessen our anxiety about the affairs of this momentary life? How lively, diligent, and conscientious, would they render us, in the duties of religion? Would they not produce the temper discovered by a certain pious man, who being asked, why he was so strict in the duties of piety, and spent so much time in prayer, reading God's word, and devout meditation, gave this answer, I must die, I must die.

Such thoughts would prevent our wasting so much time in vain amusements, as too many do-our trifling with Sabbaths-our slighting the means of grace-our restraining prayer before God. We should not only acknowledge in words, that preparation for death is the one thing needful, but treat it as such. When tempted to a sinful action, we should be ready to reply, to the tempter;

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