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SERM reflections, if you do not stifle them : How have I spent my XCVI:
life; how have I employed my time and my health; how have I improved the talents with which God intrusted me; what good have I done in the world; have I brought up my children in the fear of God; have I been kind and helpful to poor and needy people, according to my ability; have I been true and just in my dealings; have I lived in the fear of God, and worshipped Him both in public and private, according to my ability; and lastly, have I taken pains to be doing something good all my life, pursuant to that
sentence of God, passed upon me, and upon every soul of Gen. 3. 19. man, whether rich or poor,—“In the sweat of thy face shalt
thou eat bread ?"
These, I say again, will be the thoughts of such as die in their right mind. And to such whose consciences cannot answer for them, that something like this has been the tenor of their past life; to such as have led an unthoughtful, fearless, useless, sinful life, and are just going into eternity, what arguments can be thought on to comfort them?
Believe it, believe it, Christians, that when that day comes, the stoutest heart amongst us cannot, without the utmost astonishment, bear the thoughts of being shut out of heaven.
And now, if you have attended to what has been said, you will see reason not to be over-fond of a world and its pleasures, which you must leave so very soon; nor to omit those opportunities that God has put into your power of doing some good in your generation,—those good works which will so very soon stand you in stead, and witness for you, that you have not been an useless part of the creation, an unprofitable servant, whose sentence is already passed, and dreadful to be thought of.
Some are apt to think themselves much overlooked by providence in this world; not considering, that the blessedness of the next world will make them sufficient amends. Others are (as they think) so happy, that they wish never to die. But believe it, my Christian brethren, believe this important truth, which I would leave with you, as never to be forgot, that our happiness or misery does not begin till after we are dead.
May God give us all grace to think of this, with the seriousness of Christians who hope for salvation; that we may die in peace, and rest in hope, and rise in glory, for Jesus Christ's sake. To Whom &c.
AT THE FUNERAL OF MRS. SUSANNAH MURRAY.
THE TRUE FOUNDATION OF COMFORT ON THE DEATH
1 Thess. iv. 13, 14.
I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them
which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which hare no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even 80 them also which sleep in Jesus (that is, in the faith of Jesus) will God bring with Him.
This is the mighty difference which death makes betwixt true Christian believers, and infidels or libertines.
When the first come to die, they are able to say with St. Paul, “I know whom I have believed;" they resign their souls into the hands of God, who is able to keep them; trusting in His mercy, and goodness, and promises, in Jesus Christ, both at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment. And their friends, which they leave behind them, HAVING
THEIR DEATH, consider them as freed from the miseries of this life, and as gone to a much better. With which considerations they endeavour to assuage their grief, and to bear with patience and resignation the chastisement which God in His wise and good providence has thought fit to lay upon them, to be sure for their good, if it is not their own fault.
On the other hand, THEY Which HAVE NO HOPE; that is, no knowledge of what must come hereafter, no faith in God's Word; or have not regarded it; these, when death ap
proaches, are either stupid, or hardened, or given over to a reprobate mind, a mind void of judgment; or, if their consciences are not seared, they are under the greatest perplexities, fears, astonishment, at what may very soon be their portion; and no mortal man can tell what to say to comfort them.
And such friends as they leave behind them are either overwhelmed with sorrow for what may too likely be their lot; or they part with them with despair of ever seeing them again; or they blame themselves for having not done all that was in their power to keep them from the pit of destruction.
So very great a difference does death make, both with regard to the living and the dead, betwixt Christians and infidels, betwixt good and bad livers.
Now, the great design of the subject I have chosen, being to comfort all Christians upon the death of such persons as have been very dear to them; I would from hence take occasion to exhort you all, good Christians, to take care to lay a sure foundation of comfort for yourselves, and for those you shall leave behind you.
This is to be done by a TRUE REPENTANCE, and by an HOLY LIFE; these being the fruit and effects of a true and saving faith.
Whoever promises you pardon and peace upon any other terms, does but deceive himself and you, to his own and your eternal ruin.
And yet nothing is more common than to hear people speak their comfortable hopes of their departed friends, though they have lived in sin, and have left no sign of vir. tue and piety behind them; only because they were become serious at the sight of death, which the most abandoned sinners can hardly choose but be.
St. Paul's commission from Jesus Christ Himself was this: that he should preach (and accordingly he did) every where, that men should repent and turn to God, and do works meet (Acts 26. for repentance.
20.) Here you see, (Christians,) here are works to be done after men have repented. And then, if we add our Saviour's words, THE NIGHT COMETH WHEN NO MAN CAN WORK; we John 9. 4.
SERM. shall easily see what a madness it must be, to trust the great XCVII.
concern of our salvation to a death-bed repentance.
We must not indeed limit the mercies of God, nor discourage people from confessing and detesting their sins and unfruitfulness, under the means of grace, even at their last moments. But then this is only what can be said to them after all: they having not done works meet for repentance, their case must be left to the uncovenanted mercy of God, who, under the law of Moses, reserved to Himself certain cases, for which no sacrifices were to be offered by His priest.
The will of God is, that all who are called Christians should honour Him in their lives, and should improve the
graces He bestows upon them: should crucify the flesh with (Col. 1. 12.] its affections and lusts, “ that they may be meet to be par
takers of the inheritance with the saints in light.”
And if people will deceive themselves either with the bare name of Christians, or will depend upon a faith, which does not purify the heart, or trust the care of their souls to those they leave behind them, they will run the greatest hazard of being shut out of paradise when they die.
To prevent this as much as possible, and that we may have comfort in the death of our friends, I would apply myself,
First ; to such of my own order as hear me, and to whom Jesus Christ has committed the care of the souls which He has purchased with His most precious blood;
And secondly; to such as have any manner of authority over others, whether magistrates, parents, or masters, who all have it in charge, and, through the blessing of God, in their power, to hinder people from ruining themselves and others; to the sad sorrow and grief of those who have any serious concern for their friends' everlasting welfare.
And first; every clergyman, who knows what a frightful and difficult part of his duty it is to deal with HABITUAL SINNERS upon the bed of sickness, should be at any pains to prevent so afflicting and uneasy a work; and which only can be prevented by dealing with such people very often and plainly, while they are in health; by representing to them the danger they are in, while they live in open rebellion against God, and in defiance of His laws; that as sure as