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But perhaps some of you may be inverting this confideration, and whispering to yourselves, · This ‘year I may not die:' and therefore there is no immediate necessity of preparation for death. But what if you should not die this year, if you still delay the great work for which your time is given you ? Alas! if you persist in this, one would think it can give you but little pleasure whether you die this year or not? What end will your life answer, but to add to your guilt, and increase your punishment ? What safety can another year afford you, when you must die at last? What valuable end do you intend to answer in future life? Do you purpose to spend this year as you have done your past years ? What! in offending your God! abusing his mercies! neglecting the precious seasons of grace! hardening yourselves more and more in impenitence! adding fin to fin, and treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath! Is it worth your while to live for such horrid, preposterous purposes as these? Can you wish for another year with these views ? Could you venture to pray for it? Will the prayer bear to be put into words? Come, put on the hardiness of an infernal ghoft, that you may be able to support yourselves under the horror of the sound. - Thou supreme Excellence! Thou 6 Author of my being, and all my powers! Thou
Father of all my mercies! Thou righteous Judge ? of the world! I have spent ten, twenty, or thirty
years in difpleasing thee and ruining myself; but “I am not yet satisfied with the pleasures of such a
conduct. Grant me, I pray thee, another year to 'spend in the same manner. Grant me more mer
cies to abuse ; more time to mifpend ; more means of grace to neglect and profane. Could you now fall on your knees, and present such petitions to Heaven? Surely you could not. Surely your frame would shudder; nay, would not the heavens gather blackness, and the earth tremble at the found! But have your temper and practice no language. Language Vol. II.
expresses the thoughts and intentions of the mind; and are not the habitual temper and practice a more certain discovery of the thoughts and intentions than mere words ? Words, which may be spoken without a thought, or in a passion, and which may soon be heartily retracted. : But the temper and practice is a steady and sure rule of judging, and decisive of a man's predominant character. Therefore, while your temper and practice are agreeable to such a prayer ; that is, while you are disposed to spend your time that God gives you in fin and impenitence, you are perpetually insulting Heaven with such petitions, and that too in a manner much more expressive and strong than if you should utter. them in words. And can you quietly bear the thought of this horrid blasphemy, which you are constantly breathing out against Heaven ? Can you wish and pray for another year for this purpose? What though you should not die this year? Will this exempt you from death in another, or from the punishment of a mispent life ? Alas! no; this will only render you a greater criminal, and a more miserable wretch in eternity. One year of linning will make a dreadful addition to your account.
Therefore conclude, every one for himself, - It is 6 of little importance to me whether I die this year,
or not; but the only important point is, that I (make a good use of my future time, whether it be
longer or shorter. This, my brethren, is the only way to secure a happy new year; a year of time, that will lead the way to an happy eternity.
SE R M O N XXXV.
AN ENROLMENT OF OUR NAMES IN HEAVEN, THE
NOBLEST SOURCE OF JOY.
LUKE X. 20. Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that
the fpirits are subject to you ; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. * THIS is the answer Christ gave to his disciples,
1 when returned from their mission, flushed with victory over the most mighty and most malignant enemies, the infernal powers. Lord, say they, even the devils are subject to us, through thy name. This they probably mentioned with a tincture of vanity, and were fecretly proud of their new power, which their Master had given them. Though they owned it was his gift, they gloried in it, as conferring some new honour and dignity upon themselves. And probably, like the rest of their countrymen, their heads were filled with notions of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, and his conquests over the other nations of the earth in favour of the Jews; and inferred that they should have an irresistible power over their enemies on earth, from the power they had been enabled to exercise over evil spirits, so much more. mighty, and seemingly unconquerable.
Their Lord and Master, among other things in his answer, checks this secret vanity, and points out to them a superior cause of joy.' Rejoice not in this ; that is, rejoice not so much as you do, rejoice not principally in this, that the spirits (that is evil spirits) are subject to you ; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven; as if he hould say, “ Though
, you * A Sermon preached at Hanover, in Virginia, Jan, 14, 1759. you may fafely rejoice in the victory you have obtained through my name over the powers of hell, yet you ought to take care that it be not a vain, selfish, carnal joy, a joy springing from the gratification of your own ambition. And take care also, that it does not run into excess: for I will fhew you a much greater cause of joy than even this; and that is, that your names are written in heaven. It is possible, that while you are casting the devil out of the bodies of others, your own souls may be under his power, and you may be his miserable slaves for ever. But since your names are written in heaven, you are safe ; and that is cause of joy indeed. Rejoice in this above all other things.”
How should we rejoice, and perhaps boast, if the mighty powers of hell were subject unto us, and we could make them fly at a word ! But the meanest christian is more happy than this, and has cause of greater joy.
For the farther explication of the text, it is only necessary to inquire, What is meant by their names being written in heaven?
Heaven is here compared to a city or corporation, in which a list or record is kept of all the citizens or freemen who are entitled to its privileges and immunities. And therefore, to have our names written in heaven, signifies, to be citizens, or freemen of the heavenly city; that is, to have a right to an inheritance there, and to all its privileges and enjoyments.
This naturally suggests a very important inquiry, the decision of which may hold us all in an anxious suspense: “ How may I know (may each of us alk) whether my unworthy name be written in heaven? who can open and read the records of heaven, and shew me whether my name is registered there?”
I answer, This is a secret that may be discovered ; for all that have their names written in heaven, may be distinguished by their characters, their temper,
that of of hea confual
and practice, while upon earth. And their characters are such as these.
1. They are deeply sensible of the vanity of all earthly things, and that heaven alone is a sufficient portion and happiness. All that are registered as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem have a superlative esteem of that privilege, and count all things but loss in comparison of it. Matt. vii. 24-26. and xiii. 45, 46. And is this your character? Are your hearts in heaven? or are your highest affections confined to the earth?
2. All that have their names written in heaven have a heavenly nature; a nature very different from that of the men of this world, and like that of the citizens of heaven. And is this your temper? or is it earthly and sensual ?
3. All that have their names written in heaven. have a peculiar love for all their fellow-citizens, who are heirs of heaven. They love them as members of the same corporation with themselves. 1 John iii. 14.
4. If your names are written in heaven, it is the chief business and concern of your life to obtain an interest in heaven. This is not the object of languid, lazy wishes, or of lukewarm, spiritlefs prayers; but of your vigorous, anxious, persevering desires. And do you thus seek the kingdom of heaven ? Matt. x. 12. Luke xvi. 16. · These marks must fuffice at present to affist you in self-examination, and I beg you would bring them to your hearts, and see if they will stand this test.
If your names are written in heaven, then my text authorizes me to tell you, this is the greatest cause of joy you can possible have ; a joy that may swallow up every other joy. But on the other hand,
If your names are not written in heaven, there is nothing in the world that can happen to you, that can be a cause of rational, lasting joy to you.
I. If your names are written in heaven, this is the greatest cause of joy you can possible have ; a joy