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for our encouragement let us be assured, that a timely preparation for death will arm us against the fear of death, and against all other fears whatever. But forasmuch as THE PREPARATIONS OF THE HEART ARE (Prov. 16.
i.] FROM THE LORD, from Him we must ask this grace; and we must ask it with great earnestness, as a grace without which we shall perish everlastingly.
We must beg Him to remove all those hindrances, which may divert us from considering our latter end, and from preparing for it.
And because the love of the world is the greatest of those hindrances, we must beg of God, in the first place, to give us the eyes of faith, that we may see the world just as it really is; the folly of its pleasures, the vanity of its promises, the shortness of its rewards, the multitude of its snares, and the dangers of its temptations.
When once we shall be well convinced of this, we shall be better prepared to fix our hearts upon the happiness of another life, and to love that good God, who has prepared such happiness for them that in this world strive to please Him.
The way to do this, and to be so far prepared for death, is, in the first place, to have our worldly affairs, as much as possible, in that order, that we may not only have discharged a good conscience in disposing of them; but, by declaring what we owe, and what is owing to us, we may prevent disputes, and preserve peace and charity among those we leave behind us. And, forasmuch as God has expressly CHARGED THEM (1 Tim. 6.
17-19; THAT ARE RICH, THAT THEY BE READY TO GIVE, AND GLAD Heb. 6. 10; TO DISTRIBUTE; and all others are exhorted to be merciful 13. 16.) after their power; and God having declared, that with such sacrifices He is well pleased; that He will not forget this labour of love ; that is, their works of charity; and that this is the laying up for themselves a good foundation, a growing stock, for the time to come. All this, I say, shews, that it is an indispensable duty, a duty most pleasing to God, to be all our life long, as well as when we come to die, giving to the poor, according to our ability, and the good disposition which God shall give us.
SERM. This is called in holy Scripture, LENDING UNTO THE LORD; XCIV.
so that we are sure of a good paymaster; and it will still be better for us, if the payment is deferred till after our death.
And indeed this is so necessary a preparation for death, [Tobit 4. 9.] that it is called, A GATHERING TO OURSELVES A GOOD REWARD
IN THE DAY OF NECESSITY ; than which none sure can be greater than the day of death.
And therefore most thoughtful people, lest they should be (1 Cor. 16 wanting in this duty, do follow the apostle's advice, and "do 2; Ps. 41. 1.]
regularly lay by them in store, according as God has prospered them," that they may have to give to them that need; and “that the Lord may deliver them in the time of trouble," as He has promised to do.
The next care of every Christian who desires to be always prepared for death, must be, to see that his faith be such as it should be. A firm faith in God's Word, in His promises and threatenings therein contained ; a firm faith in Jesus Christ, His only Son, and our only Saviour; and that God will, for His sake, be reconciled unto all such as with hearty repentance turn unto Him; lastly, a firm faith in the Holy Ghost, and that He it is who enlightens the minds of such as
fear God, and that He works in them all good dispositions, (Luke 11 and enables them to follow that which is good, “and that 13.]
God will give this Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”
Whoever has this faith, and a full resolution to order
his life accordingly, always bearing in mind what the apostle Rom. 2. 7. assures us of, that eternal life will be the portion of those
only who, by continuance in well-doing, seek for glory; such a person, we say, is in a very good way of preparation for death.
But that he may continue in this good way, it is also absolutely necessary, that he close with the means of grace which God has ordained for our salvation. That he attend the Church carefully; that he hear God's Word reverently; that he constantly pray to God; and that especially, whenever the memorial of Christ's death is celebrated in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, he receive it with great devotion, as the most sovereign medicine for all the diseases of the soul, and especially against that universal disease, the fear of death.
He that expects to have Christ his Saviour when he dies, must devote himself entirely to God while he lives, and very seriously resolve, that nothing in this world shall prevail with him to do what he believes will displease God.
Particularly, he will submit patiently to God's will under all trials and afflictions, because they are of God's ordering.
He will depend upon God's good providence, both for delivering him out of danger, and for supplying all his wants; and he will have great regard to every thing which has any relation to God; by which he will recommend himself to God's favour at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.
And, that he may have as little as possible to answer for with respect to his neighbour, he will endeavour to be just in his dealings, will neither take, nor detain, nor so much as covet, what is another's.
He will be faithful to his word, and keep his tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering, and will readily forgive as he hopes for forgiveness from God.
He will strive to be at peace with all, and will be obedient to his governors and pastors; and he will endeavour to do all these things with this view, TO PLEASE GOD. And then he is sure to have God pleased with him.
With regard to himself, he will keep a strict watch over his senses, lest intemperance get the mastery over him; and, above all things, he will be afraid of growing lukewarm and indifferent for eternity, lest he should be surprised by death when he least thinks of it.
Every Christian, who has been so happy as to lead such a life as this, will have reason to hope well for himself, and to trust in the mercy, and goodness, and promises of God, when he comes to die. He knows that the sting OF [l Cor. 15.
56.] DEATH IS sin; that therefore an holy life must be the best security against the fear of death.
And whoever has not been so happy as to lead such a careful life, has no other way to secure himself against the fear of death, and the very dreadful consequence of dying unprepared, but to make his peace with God by a timely repentance, by not delaying to do it one moment.
In order to this, let the number of sudden deaths oblige
SERM. him to count himself to be one of those who is to be surXCIV.
prised by death; which, if any thing, will force him to set about making the best and speediest preparation he can.
And this must be, by not hiding, but confessing the sins of his life past; by judging and condemning himself for them; by putting on the most solemn resolutions of living more Christianly for the time to come; by begging God's pardon and gracious assistance, to enable him to make good his resolutions.
By keeping these resolutions in his mind, and calling hinself often to an account, and warily avoiding temptations to the sins he has been most subject to; by making restitution, as far as it is in his power, for any injuries he has done to others, and forgiving all such as have injured or offended him, as he himself expects forgiveness at God's hands; by endeavouring to make such as he has drawn into sin, if it be possible, sensible of their danger, at least to beg of God to touch their hearts most powerfully from above, and to pardon their sin.
Whoever does this in the sincerity of his soul, God will graciously pardon what is past; and if he afterwards continues to live in the fear of God, he will certainly, when he dies, die in the favour of God. For, this favour, this mighty favour, Jesus Christ has obtained for all true penitents with the price of His own blood; for which we can never be sufficiently thankful.
And this brings us to the last thing which I proposed to lay before you, in order to awaken, to encourage, and to force Christians to prepare for death; which was,
IV. To set before you, the very different thoughts and reflections of dying persons, both of good and bad men, that you may resolve this day, what you will choose, what end you will make.
Suppose, therefore, you should hear a dying sinner thus expostulating with himself, thus lamenting his sad condition : ‘God forgive me, how sadly have I spent the greatest part of my life! What a sad end is this of all my pleasures, to be now tormented with the remembrance of them, and with the dread of what I am like to suffer for them! I have led an idle and a useless life. How dreadful are now those words to my soul, which till now I never minded :-Cast ye the un- (Matt. 25.
30.] profitable servant into outer darkness! What madness was it to spend a life in sin and vanity, which was given me to prepare for this sad hour! How have I despised and turned my back upon the poor members of Christ, when God gave me enough for them and for myself too! How much have I
spent upon myself in clothes and luxury, which would have kept many a one warm, and filled many an hungry belly? Oh the folly, the madness of pride and intemperance, which I could never see till now-till now, when it is too late to see it to any good purpose! Would to God I had never seen those wretched people, who tempted me to sin, to revelling and drunkenness, to whoredom and intemperance.'
'What signifies (saith another) the estate that I have got by injustice, by fraud, or oppression ? It is now a plague to myself, and will too likely be a curse to my children, for whose sake I took such ways to get it. It is not now in my power to make amends for the injury I did my neighbour in his body, goods, or good name. How shall I answer it to God, before whom I am going to be judged ?'
* The estate, (says another,) which my ancestors left me, has been a snare and a curse to me; but so I made it myself, my wretched self. The authority and power which I was so fond of do now serve only to torment me, because I used them so very ill.
“I have been careful, (saith another,) for every thing, but for my soul. I have been afraid of every thing else, of poverty, of shame, of afflictions; but I never feared for my soul till now, when my fears only serve to torment me. How often have I shut my ears, and turned my back upon God, when He spoke to me, by His ministers, by afflictions, by my own conscience! And now He is going to call me to an account for my perverseness ! Happy had it been for me, if I had given credit to God, to His ministers; if I had believed, and repented, and had brought forth fruits meet for repentance. But, alas ! I slighted the worship of God, His Word, and Sacraments; I joined with those fools who counted the life of the righteous madness; but now he is comforted, and we are tormented. Oh! that God would spare me, I would not now stick to take shame to myself, for