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SERMON XCIV.

A FUNERAL DISCOURSE,

THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH PUT INTO PRACTICE.

O LORD of life and death, dispose by Thy grace, all that shall hear this

discourse, that, remembering our sentence is already passed, our whole lives

may be a worthy preparation for death. Deliver every soul of us from the blindness of trusting to a death-bed repentance. Let me not speak to others upon this serious subject, and forget it myself. And when this sentence shall be executed upon me, be Thou, O Jesu, my mighty Protector.

2 KINGS xx. 1.

8. 36;

See Job 14.

Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order, for thou 5; Ps. 39. 4; 89. 48;

shalt die, and not live. 90. 12; Matt. 10. Good Christians; I take this occasion, when most people 28; Mark

are, or should be, serious, to speak to you upon the most Rom. 5, 12; serious subject in the world, and a subject which concerns

. 7. 29; 15. 56; every soul of us, as much as our life is worth. 2 Cor. 4. 17; Heb. 9. 27; I would desire you, and I would charge it upon myself, to 13. 14; 1 Pet. 2. 11. consider seriously, what it is TO DIE, and whAT PREPARA

TION IS NECESSARY FOR AN HAPPY DEATH. For sure we need

not be told, that if death surpriseth any man before he be (Matt. 26. prepared for it, “it had been better for that man if he had 24.]

never been born."

The text I have made choice of is a message sent by the Prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah: “Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live."

We little think of it, and yet indeed this very sentence is already passed upon every one of us. It is true, we know not when it will be executed, but executed it will be, and that in a very short while.

30.]

It behoves us, therefore, to be prepared for it; "to set our house in order," while we have time, while we are in our right mind, and have our senses and thoughts about us; always remembering, that it will be no proper time, when we come to die, to ask this question, “What must I do to (Acts 16. be saved ?" The Spirit of God has already told us this : “Pass the (1 Pet. 1.

17.] time of your sojourning here," that is, your whole life, “ in fear," with a great concern for what must become of you when you die.

That we may all do this more effectually, I will set before you,

First; what our condition and business in the world is.
Secondly; what alteration death will make in our condition.

Thirdly; what preparation for death will be necessary, to make our life easy, and our death happy.

Lastly; I will set before you the different thoughts and reflections of dying persons, both of good and bad, that we may be warned betimes, what to choose, and what to avoid.

I. And first, we shall consider, what our condition and business in this world is.

As for our condition; we are by nature born in sin; and subject to the punishment of sin, which is misery and death.

This punishment and sentence we cannot hope to avoid, it being passed upon us by a most righteous judge, and never to be reversed. Yet this comfort we have still left us, that God has been so good, for His Son's sake, as to make a further trial of us, and to place us in this world in a state of probation, in order to try our obedience, and to mend our nature. And has given us this assurance, that if, during this short life, we give such proof of our obedience, as that our nature is thereby mended, and that we have sincerely endeavoured to be restored to the image of God, in which we were created, we shall, whenever we die, be received into that heavenly state which our sin had made us uncapable of.

All this God has made known to us, in order to awaken us, and to make us careful how we spend this short life.

Now, because our eternal weal or woe must depend upon this trial, God has been so gracious as to give us laws and rules to live by, which are most proper to cure our corruption, and to fit us for heaven.

WILSON

SERM.
XCIV.

He has also given us warning of such things as will certainly divert us from minding this great work, if we be not careful to avoid them.

He has indeed forbidden us many things; but then they are only such as would certainly shut us out of heaven.

He has foretold us of the dangers we may encounter, and the enemies we have to struggle with; but then He has assured us of all the assistance we shall at any time stand in need of.

In order to this, He has promised His Holy Spirit to all that ask for Him in sincerity, to be an almighty principle of a new life, in every soul with whom He vouchsafes to dwell. And He is given to, and will dwell with, every Christian who takes care not to grieve Him by his evil deeds.

This is our condition, this is our case: we are in this life upon our good behaviour; we are in a state of penance for what is past, and we are upon our trial for the time to come, even for eternity.

And that we may most highly value the love of God, and not think that these conditions are hard, or impossible to be performed, His Son did, in our nature, submit to all this, to convince us, that there is no other way for mortal man to regain the favour of God, but this : to resign ourselves wholly to God's will and pleasure, to do what He commands, to avoid what He forbids, to suffer what He appoints, and to be pleased with all His choices.

So that nothing but an holy life, and following the commands of Jesus Christ, can possibly secure to us the favour of God, or save us from eternal misery when we die.

II. And this brings us to the next thing to be considered, and that is, what alteration death will make in our condition,

That it will make a very great alteration, all people are convinced of it; they fear, they avoid it; they take all pains to keep it off"; and they generally submit to it unwillingly.

And indeed there is great reason for all this, if people are not prepared for death; or if they have set their hearts upon this world; or if they have not a true knowledge of death, and the reason of it.

If a man is not prepared for death, he cannot but meet it

41. 1.

with amazement. The night is come when no man can work. (John 9, 4.] His time of trial is at an end. And he has a summons to appear before the bar of God's justice, in these words : “ Careless man! this night shall thy soul be required of Luke 12.

20.] thee."

Not less terrible is death to those whose souls are fastened to the world, — by its pleasures, profits, honours, or any other of its idols. So saith the Wise Man: “O death; how bitter Ecclus. is the remembrance of 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 !”

But if the thoughts of death be so bitter, the sight must needs be insupportable, to a man whose soul was bound up in the world. Forasmuch as death strips him of every thing he valued; of every friend, of every pleasure, of authority, of power, of estate, of every thing in which he placed his happiness.

A great alteration this; and should in reason teach people to moderate their affections for every thing the world doats on, if it were but to prevent the trouble of parting with them at the hour of death.

But, alas ! this is but the least of that anguish which will then seize men, if the love of the world has till then hindered them from loving God, and obeying His laws. A frightful consideration this ! To be going to appear before God, whose laws I have broken and never repented of it, whose promises I have slighted, and whose judgments I have never till then regarded.

But even good men are not altogether without their fears, upon the prospect of that change which death is going to make in their condition, whether they look upon death, either as painful to nature; or as a just punishment of sin; or, lastly, as a messenger calling them before their Judge. But then these fears, in good men, are capable of being lessened, if not quite removed.

Even a dying criminal, if truly penitent, will comfort his soul with such thoughts as these, and support his spirits against the terrors of death: “The pains of death will soon be over; if they were to be longer, they are the due reward of my crimes ; the sentence is righteous, and just, and as

SERM. such I submit to it, and I cannot but esteem the very judge XÇIV.

who condemned me; and I am sure that if he knew the disposition with which I receive the sentence of death, he would pity me, though he would not think fit to recall his sentence.'

And will not such considerations as these serve to sweeten the approach of death, and strip it of much of its terrors ?

For suppose a man should thus reason with himself: 'I know by faith, that death is the fruit and the punishment of sin, a punishment to which we are all condemned by the righteous judgment of God; I am therefore bound to submit to it, out of love to His justice; if I do it willingly, my death will (like that of my Saviour's) be a sacrifice of obedience to God. And why should I increase my accounts by an uneasy and rebellious temper? Rather let me cast myself on God's mercy, and, by an humble compliance with His will, I may hope to make some atonement for my sins, which I cannot recall.'

But after all, there is nothing like a sober, and a Christian life, which can give a man any solid comfort, when death calls him to judgment. Not that we are to set bounds to the mercies of God; or, by any means, exclude a sincere and timely repentance. But these are favours in the hands of God, and not to be expected by such as live in rebellion against Him.

Let us rather remember what the Spirit saith: “Thou shalt not know what hour I will come.” Will it not then be the highest presumption to persuade ourselves that we have time enough to prepare for death, when God Himself declares that we have not one moment certain ?

III. And this brings us to consider, what preparation is necessary to make our lives easy, and our death happy.

And first let us remember, that life was given us for this very end, to make trial of our behaviour here; and that by an holy life, and a careful preparation for death, our souls and bodies may be a worthy sacrifice to God, when He shall think fit to call us out of this world.

In the next place; let us fix this in our minds, and never forget it, that now is the time, in which we are to choose where we are to be, and what we are to be, for ever.

And

Rev. 3. 3.

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