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is going to give an account of a life, which he cannot reflect upon without self-condemnation and remorse, and for which he is justly afraid he shall in a few moments, be consigned to endless misery and torments? how does he blame himself, when his conscience reproaches him for having spent that time insignificantly, or wickedly, which was given him for noble and excellent
purposes; that he has neglected the
great add important work of his salvation, and been deaf to all the calls and invitations of God's holy spirit; that, instead of laying up in store a good foundation of hope and comfort against the day of trouble, which is now come upon him ; he has heaped up to himself a dreadful load of guilt, which is ready to sink him with its intolerable weight. O wretched man! what would'st thou give, were it in thy power, to recall those precious moments which thou hast lavished away in sin and vanity how dost thou wish, that thou hadst known in time the things that belong to thy peace! but alas ! they are now hidden from thine eyes; and nothing is left but darkness and despair. But let us suppose the life of a dying person not to have been so flagrant and vicious, as to fill his mind with such black and despairing thoughts; yet, if, upon the review of it in his last hour, he finds in it such a mixture of good and evil, that he is in great doubt and uncertainty concerning his eternal welfare; how sad and disconsolate nust his condition even then be and what a dreadful anxiety will he labour under when he considers, that he is leaving this world and going he knows not whither; and he is just launching out into the boundless ocean of eternity; and that the next moment he may sink into the terrible abyss of endless misery and torment.' It is without all question, a most distressful circumstance to be doubtful concerning an event, of which it so nearly concerns us . to have some highly probable asSuran Ce, O that men would be persuaded seriously to think on these things' that they would be wise, and consider their
latter end / Deut. xxii. 29. and, as the Psalmist advises, would keep innocency, and take heed to the thing that is right ! for, that, and that only, shall bring a man, peace at the last. Ps. xxxivi. 38. And who is there so stupid, that would not wish for such an invaluable blessing? what wise man would not rather submit to the worst . that could befall him here in a short life, than run the least risque of going out of this world under the terrours of a guilty conscience? It is, (whatever those, who are carried away by their lusts and passions may think) the utmost wisdom of man to prepare for his latter end, by conducting himself according to the will of his great Creator: for, it is certain, (however some may vainly flatter themselves), there is no leaving this world with any tolerable composure, unless our lives have been such, as, through the tender mercies of God and the merits of Christ Jesus, to give us a reasonable hope that we may be found in the number of those whom our great judge shall at the last day pronounce blessed. But this can only
be the lot and portion of the righteous; for, how can any one, whose life has been a direct contradiction to the will of God, entertain hopes of his favour? perhaps, when he sees death approaching, he may bewail the folly of his past conduct, and with strong crying and tears resolve upon a new course of life, if it should please God to spare him: but, since the Gospel hath no where assured us, that God will accept of a death-bed repentance, or be reconciled to a sinner who (after having lived a wicked and careless life, and been deaf to all the calls and invitations of the Holy Spirit, the threatenings of the Gospel, and the checks of his own conscience) shall at the last, when he is able to gratify his lusts no longer, and begins to fear the sad consequences of his sins, cry out for mercy, and wish that he had been wise in time—I say, since God has no where revealed, that he will accept of any repentance which is not followed by a thorough change and amendment of life, and a sincere obedience to his commandments: and since it is impossible for a dying sinner to bring forth such fruits of repentance, how precarious must his hopes be, that are built upon souncertain a foundation
It is true, to repent is all that a man who has led a wicked life can do, when he comes to die; and it would be well, for his own sake, and for the sake of his sorrowful friends and relations, that he would do this much, and not go out of the world hardened and insensible : for, who knows how far infinite mercy may be extended ? But, surely, it must be the greatest instance of folly and madness, to hazard a matter of such infinite moment upon so uncertain an issue; upon a few broken, confused, and almost despairing sighs and groans; for, if the remorse and horrours, the solemn vows and resolutions of such men should not prove a true godly sorrow; a repentance to salvation not to be repeated of (as no man can say they certainly will) they are lost and undone to all eternity.
But suppose we could be assured, that a death-bed ropentance would be effectual; yet who can tell, whether a man may have time for that work in