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selves up either to sensual pleasures, or to the cares of this world, by which they may keep far from them the thoughts of death. But after all,

II. This method will neither make their lives more easy, nor their deaths more happy.

It will not make their lives more easy, because of the ignorance, the uncertainty, and the fears, which attend them. It is impossible a man can be easy, who is not sure but that he may be very miserable when he dies; who is so little satisfied with his own condition, that he does not care to think of it, or to know how it is like to go with him; who is forced to run into company, or business, or pleasures, to avoid the knowledge of himself.

We are apt enough to be fond of any thing which we think to be valuable in ourselves, and to be pleased with the thoughts of it; and therefore, when we care not for thinking of our souls, it is most sure we do not think them in any measure safe, and out of danger.

But however men may contrive to keep off the fears of death, neither business, nor pleasures, can keep off death itself. It is then men begin to see their error, when they find themselves going to be parted for ever from all earthly satisfactions, which till now had hindered them from considering their latter end; which the Wise Man thus truly sets forth: “O death! how bitter is the remembrance of Ecclus. thee to a man that liveth at rest in his possessions, unto the man that hath nothing to vex him, and that hath prosperity in all things." And the reason is, because he has no hopes of a better life, and is tormented to think of losing the happiness of this so soon.

III. And this leads us to the third thing which we mentioned ; namely, That this is what in all reason we should resolve upon; that since we must die so soon, not to set our hearts upon such things as will make us forget the end of our creation; such as will make death more bitter to us, and unfit us for that happiness which after death good men are sure to enjoy.

Self-denial is a duty very much neglected, and yet it is what the Christian religion has made a means of our salvation. We all pretend to be making the best of our way to heaven, and most Christians are satisfied and hope to be happy without much trouble or hazard. On the other

41. 1.

SERM. hand, that very Gospel which we take for our rule speaks LXII.

very much of denying ourselves, of suffering afflictions, and teaches us that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Christians may be apt to imagine that these and such-like Scriptures do not belong to us, but only to times of persecution. But, alas! Christians are in more danger now than in times of persecution. Now they are in danger of falling in love with the world, of setting up their rest here, of thinking themselves safe, of following their inclinations without control; in one word, of forgetting their latter end, and neglecting to prepare for it, by weaning their affections from the love of this world.

Now every Christian, who has made the experiment, knows for certain, that to bring one's mind to such a temper will require trouble, pains, and time; will be a work of conflict and tribulation. We must deny ourselves a great many things for which we have a great desire; we must not only avoid things in themselves sinful, but sometimes things that are indifferent, in order to get the mastery over our own will;

we must not only avoid intemperance, but sometimes even [Mark 2. moderate refreshment. So saith our Lord; “In those days 20; Luke 5. 35.] shall My disciples fast;" not from sin only, as foolish people

pervert the Scriptures, for that we are at all times to abstain from ; but that fasting and mortification, which religion requires of us, consists in such a sparing use of the creatures, and in such a forbearance even from lawful pleasures, sometimes, as may deaden our love for the world, and hinder us from being captivated by it. And therefore a very great man, and most extraordinary Christiana, was used to say that to deny one's self in things indifferent consistent with health and civility) was a secret, the greatest one friend could communicate to another.

Pursuant to this, we must not only forsake the company and conversation of the wicked and profane, but sometimes even all company, that we may be better able to take an account of the state of our souls, that we may make the thoughts of death easy to us, by preparing for it; and that we may loosen the bands that fasten us to the world.

* Dr. More. [Life of Dr. Henry More by Richard Ward. 8vo. London, 1710, p. 108.]

And one may say with truth, that when men will not afflict themselves, it is usual with God, in the way of His providence, to bring afflictions upon them whether they will or not; and especially upon those whom He owns for His children; because all sin must be punished either here or hereafter.

And though we are apt to complain of the miseries, the disappointments, and the crosses of this life, yet indeed they are the greatest blessings we meet with: they bring us, if we do not resist His will, they bring us the very nearest way to God; they are necessary, and they are designed, to fit us for heaven; to awaken, to convince, and to reduce us, when we forget or neglect the ONE THING NEEDFUL, the care of our souls.

I shall conclude this particular with the words of Jesus Christ, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus : "Son, [Luke 16. remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good 25.] things, and likewise Lazarus his evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” The remembrance of which words will ever serve to two excellent purposes; they will restrain us when we are eagerly fond of the good things of this life, lest we should receive all our good here; and they will comfort those that want what the world doats on, in hopes that what they want here, if it is not their own fault, will be made up to them hereafter.

IV. By this time, Christians, you have in part seen how carefully you should avoid the company and conversation of loose people, and people of loose principles, especially of such as do make a jest of self-denial, and would lead us, by their words or example, to follow our own natural inclinations.

And yet the most ignorant Christian knows this is wrong; and if they have any spark of grace, they take care that their children shall not have their will, because they know it would ruin them.

They know, for instance, that if they may keep what company they please, they will never learn any thing that is good; that if they fall into idle company, they will never be serious; if they may please their own appetites, they will be gluttons or drunkards.

Why now, is not this the case of older people, who, by the

LXII.

SERM. company they keep, get habits of intemperance, of sloth, of

trifling away their time, till at last they forget themselves, their God, and their latter end, and act as foolishly as if they had but the sense and the resolution of children ?

But even this is not the worst of keeping the company of evil men.

There is manifestly a spirit of infidelity, of profaneness, of irreligion, gone out into the world ; and a man can hardly go into a mixed company, but he is in danger of infection; and a thousand to one but he leaves the company less serious, less resolved, or less holy, than when he went into it.

There are every where too many who make a jest of things sacred, and who, because they know they cannot reason men out of their religion and hopes of heaven, will endeavour to laugh them out of their seriousness, and out of their senses ; which is very often the effect of revelling and drunkenness.

There are few people but at the beginning think themselves proof against such contagion, who yet live to see themselves sadly mistaken ; they make the liberties other people take a measure for their own; and do not know, perhaps, that the man they admire is at the bottom an errant atheist, who therefore lives according to his principles. You believe a God, a judgment, and rewards and punishments hereafter, and yet you live just as he does; it is great odds that you will

believe as he does at the long run, whatever you may think [Hos. 4.11.) for the present. “Wine, and new wine” (saith Solomon),

“take away the heart;" you will find it so to your sorrow, when death approaches, and when it will be too late to return to a sober mind.

In short; in whatever company men make a mock of sin, speak lightly of God, His word, His ministers, His house, His day, or of any thing that belongs to Him; Satan governs in that company, inspires his instruments, infects more or less all that are present, and they certainly become more his servants than before.

So that, in truth, nothing but an obstinate resolution of avoiding the company and conversation of men of loose principles, and loose manners, can hinder a man from forfeiting that grace, which alone can secure him from being abandoned of God, and given up to a reprobate mind.

To come to a conclusion of this discourse, and to the uses we ought to make of it:

And first, no Christian ought to be easy till he can have some comfortable hopes, that it will not be worse with him in the next world than it is in this. And I beg you will believe and remember this important truth, that a timely preparation for death will deliver us from the fear of death, and from all other fears.

If you find a satisfaction in forgetting yourself, and diverting the thoughts of death, depend upon it, your case is bad; for it is the case of every good Christian as well as St. Paul's, TO ME TO DIE IS GAIN. And though nature will not subscribe to this, yet grace will.

And be assured of this, that he who attempts to get rid of his fears by running from God, will most certainly increase them, as every man will find who runs into company as a remedy against thinking.

It is astonishing to see Christians very well pleased to hear the most serious things made a jest of; it is not because such things are ridiculous, but because men's lives are corrupt, and they wish secretly that there were no truth in the things they have believed. But then how sad is their case, who have no comfort but in hopes that God's Word may prove false!

That you may avoid the witchery of EVIL COMMUNICATIONS, be persuaded to believe, that one need but taste a sinful pleasure a very little, to become fond of and a slave to it. This is seldom considered till the poison is swallowed, and men are become incurable.

In short; whether people are in jest or in earnest when they speak of dying, death is a very serious subject; nothing on earth ought to divert us from thinking of and preparing for it; the moment we die, our fate is determined for ever and ever. This we should often think of, lest the health we enjoy, and the seeming distance of entering upon eternity, should make us careless.

To prevent this, let us keep a strict watch over all our senses, lest intemperance get the mastery over us ; remembering the warning Jesus Christ has given us, "Take heed Luke 21. 34. lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting,

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