Imatges de pàgina
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them at such a time as God is pleased to remove them. The prospect of their death may indeed be grievous, and fill our hearts with sorrow ; but let that sorrow be moderated by the consideration, that their times are in the hands of God, who calls them out of the world, at such a season, and in such a manner as he in his infinite wisdom judges most expedient. Without his direction and appointment, neither our lives can be continued, nor our death ensue. Nothing can befal us without his permission, no disease can attack us, nor accident overtake us, nor can our dissolution happen, without the providential interference of our Father in heaven.

“ Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground” without his notice, and by him “the hairs of our head are numbered." Let us therefore submit ourselves and our friends to his uner. ring guidance; and whether we and they are permitted to live, or called to die, let us in the meekness of resignation acquiesce in every dispensation ; saying, O God, do with us what seemeth good in thy sight, “ not our wills but thine be done." And well may we adopt such sentiments, since God knoweth whether life or death be best for us and ours, and makes all things work together for good to those who fear and obey him. Let us consider that God calls his people from the world, that they may be with Christ, and behold his glory; which is far better than to continue in the body. Wherefore let us comfort one another with these words.

If also, we have families, about whose health and welfare we are often solicitous, let us reflect that “ God holdeth their souls in life ;" but if it seemeth good in his sight for promoting the purposes of his glory and their good, he may send affliction, and “ chasten them with pain upon their beds, and the multitude of their bones with strong pain, so that they may choose strangling and death rather than life.” But in every disorder to which

' we or our families are exposed, we should reflect, that “ affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; but that man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward;" that God hath ordained our condition in the world to be subject to dis

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eases; that he “ bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up, and none can stay his hand from working, or say unto him what dost thou?"

În the day of distress, indeed, we should seek unto God, and to him commit our cause, for he is a present help in time of trouble. Perhaps he may deliver our eyes from tears, our feet from falling, and our souls from death; but if he have otherwise determined ; if those on whom our hearts are set, be appointed to die ; if the residue of their years be cut off in the midst; let us yield with becoming resignation to the divine decree, since the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Let us entertain good hope through grace, that our children if brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, shall after death be transported to happy regions, which their Saviour hath prepared for their reception ; that he removed the fears of parents respecting the fate of their little ones, when he said, “ suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Wherefore, when our hearts are dismayed in the hour of distress ; when we tend the sick bed of our dear relations ; let us take comfort, that if they have lived the life of the righteous; their latter end shall be peace in this world, and eternal glory in the world to come.

Such hopes indeed we can only entertain respecting the righteous, and therefore it becomes us now to live such lives as becometh saints, that we may always be ready to depart in peace, whenever disease and death shall be sent to transport us from the world. A godly life is the best preparation for a happy death. If during our earthly pilgrimage, we endeavour to secure the favour of God by the practice of hóliness; if we study to grow in grace, and acquire conformity to the divine law; if we become more and more perfect in our religious services, and our moral character; and gradually relinquish every siq that easily besets us, till we walk in all the commandments of the Lord blameless; if we rely on the merits of our Saviour for the pardon of our offences; if we are desirous to be released from all the imperfections which

cleave to humanity, and long to be admitted to that blessed place where temptation and sin "are known no more; then may we cherish the hope, that death will be to us the harbinger of peace, which is sent to convey us from this world of sorrow, to the land of uprightness.

But if we are living without God in the world, serving divers lusts and pleasures ; let us not be deceived, for “ according as we now sow we shall hereafter reap; if we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption; but if we sow to the spirit, we shall of the spirit reap life everlasting,” According to the general tenour of our life, our latter end here, and our fate hereafter will be happy or miserable. It is not by a few 'serious thoughts on our dying bed, that our souls shall be fitted for entering into the joy of our Lord, if we have lived regardless of him and of our duty, during the course of our lives. Let us then live every day harmless and blameless, without rebuke or reproof. Let us keep consciences void of offence, both towards God and man. Let us riot continue in any sin, without instant repentance, but walk in newness of life. Let us consider our ways, and if we discover any defect in our general course of conduct ; let us reform it by living more godly, and righteously, and soberly, than we may have hitherto done. Let us work the works of faith, and repentance, and new obedience, while life continues, since death cometh, when no man can work.

Since death is so uncertain, and even in many cases so sudden and unexpected; this should teach us not to postpone our repentance and reformation, lest we be prevented from accomplishing it, by a speedy dissolution. We may indeed indulge the prospect of many years awaiting us, but what certainty is there that we may not be cut off in a short time, as well as many who have gone before us? If we were forewarned that we must die a few weeks hence, would we not give all diligence to make our calling and election sure? would we not enquire what we must do to be le saved ? would we not repent of our sins, examine the Stute of our souls, live in the fear of God, and in such

watchfulness over our heart and conduct, and such diligence in the discharge of our duties, that we may prepare to meet our God, and give our account with joy at his judgment seat ? If such exercises and such a frame of mind would be suitable to one who had received warning of his speedy dissolution; are they not equally necessary for all and every one of us who still enjoy both health and strength? Have we not received the sentence of death within ourselves; “ dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return?” And so soon may it be executed, that for ought we know this night our souls may be required

of us.

Or if our lives are still prolonged, are not faith and repentance, the examination of our ways, and circumspection in our conduct; a serious sense of religion, with the worship of God and communion with him ; heavenlymindedness and abstraction from the world; the constant practice of holiness and virtue; the exercise of kind affections towards others, and the right government of our own heart; sobriety, temperance and self-denial ; together with the improvement of our souls in knowledge, and the frequent contemplation of death and judgment ;-are not these all requisite, however long we may continue in the world ; will they not be as necessary ten years hence, as they would be, if we should this night be called to give an account at the divine tribunal of all the deeds now done in the body? If we judge that these would be suitable for a dying bed, let us be persuaded now to acquire them, since we may not live to do it at a future period. Let us suppose ourselves arrived at our last hour, and just ready to leave the world, with what sins of the flesla or of the spirit would our consciences accuse us, or what neglects of duty would then be most galling to our spirits? Let each of us ask our own hearts, whether we would not wish to renounce some of our unbecoming tempers, or vicious habits, before we die? If we are conscious of certain imperfections which still cleave to us, let us instantiy endeavour to return from this error of our ways to the wisdom and obedience of the just; and give heed to the things which belong to our peace before they be hid from our eyes. Let us repent since the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Since we must all die and leave this world, let us learn to withdraw our affections from it as much as possible, and not spend so much time in the acquisition of those treasures which perish with the using, as in securing those which endure to everlasting life. It is indeed necessary, while we sojourn in the body, to procure the necessaries of life for ourselves and our families; and therefore a due degree of diligence in our worldly avocations is required both by the laws of God and man.-But so immersed are we in the cares of the world and in the business of life, that we seldom find time sufficient to improve our minds in knowledge, and our hearts in holiness. Our souls remain uncultivated by the exercise of devotion, our hearts void of virtuous dispositions, and our lives unaccustomed to spiritual employments. Yet these are the only possessions which shall accompany us beyond the grave, for at death our worldly possessions shall be left behind us, and we shall then too late lament our folly that we have been anxious what we should eat, and what we should drink, and wherewithal we should be clothed, and toiled night and day to provide for the body, but neglected the cultivation and improvement of our minds, which are the only treasures which fade not away. Let us therefore moderate our attachment to worldly enjoyments, and choose that better part of spiritual edification and growth in grace, which shall never be taken away from us.

Finally, since death transports us to another world, where we must live without a body ; let us now learn to wean ourselves from those pleasures and enjoyments which can be our portion only in the present world, and direct our views to the employments of immortality. Let us think that in a future state, we shall be entirely depen, dent for our happiness on the operations of our minds; and therefore let us now endeavour to derive satisfaction from the reflexions of reason ; from peace of conscience, from the favour of God, and the hope of heaven. These will constitute our chief employment in the world of spirits, let us now therefore begin by anticipation to relish the

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