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how sensibly he will speak of the other world, as if he were just come from it, rather than going to it; how severely he will condemn himself for the folly and wickedness of his life; with what passion he will wish that he had lived better, and had served God more sincerely; how seriously he will resolve upon a better life, if God would be pleased to raise him up, and try him but once more; with what zeal and earnestness he will commend to his best friends and nearest relations a religious and virtuous course of life, as the only thing that will minister comfort to them when they come to be in his condition. Such discourses as these are very apt to move and affect men for the time, and to stir up in them very good resolutions, whilst the present fit and impression lasts; but because these sights are very frequent, they have seldom any great permanent effect upon men. They consider that it is a very common case, and sinners take example and encouragement from one another; every one is affected for the present, few are so effectually convinced as to betake themselves to a better course. Tillotson.
COMPARISON BETWEEN A DYING PAGAN AND A DYING CHRISTIAN.
I CONSIDER a Pagan, in his dying-bed, speaking to himself what follows: On which side soever I consider my state, I perceive nothing but trouble and despair. If I observe the forerunners of death, I see awful symptoms, violent sickness, and intolerable pain, which surround my sick-bed, and are
the first scenes of the bloody tragedy. As to the world, my dearest objects disappear; my closest connections are dissolving; my most specious titles are effacing; my noblest privileges are vanishing away; a dismal curtain falls between my eyes and all the decorations of the universe. In regard to my body, it is a mass without motion and life: my tongue is about to be condemned to eternal silence; my eyes to perpetual darkness; all the organs of my body to entire dissolution; and the miserable remains of my carcass to lodge in the grave, and to become food for the worms. If I consider my soul, I scarcely know whether it be immortal and could I demonstrate its natural immortality, I should not be able to say, whether my Creator would display his attributes in preserving, or in destroying it; whether my wishes for immortality be the dictates of nature, or the language of sin. If I consider my past life, I have a witness within me, attesting that my practice hath been less than my knowledge, how small soever the latter hath been; and that the abundant depravity of my heart hath thickened the darkness of my mind. If I consider futurity, I think I discover through many thick clouds a future state; my reason suggests, that the Author of Nature hath not given me a soul so sublime in thought, and so expansive in desire, merely to move in this little orb for a moment: but this is nothing but conjecture; and if there be another economy after this, should I be less miserable than I am here? One moment I hope for annihilation, the next I shudder with the fear of being anpihilated; my thoughts and desires are at war with
each other; they rise, they resist, they destroy one another. Such is the dying Heathen. If a few examples of those, who have died otherwise, be adduced, they ought not to be urged in evidence against what we have advanced; for they are rare, and very probably deceptive, their outward tranquillity being only a concealment of trouble within. Trouble is the greater for confinement within, and for an affected appearance without. As we ought not to believe that philosophy hath rendered men insensible of pain, because some philosophers have maintained that pain is no evil, and have seemed to triumph over it: so neither ought we to believe, that it hath disarmed death in regard to the disciples of natural religion, because some have affirmed, that death is not an object of fear. After all, if some Pagans enjoyed a real tranquillity at death, it was a groundless tranquillity, to which reason contributed nothing at all.
O! how differently do Christians die! How doth revealed religion triumph over the religion of nature in this respect! May each of our hearers be a new evidence of this article! The whole, that troubles an expiring Heathen, revives a Christian in his dying bed.
Thus speaks the dying Christian. When I consider the awful symptoms of death, and the violent agonies of dissolving nature, they appear to me as medical preparations, sharp, but salutary; they are necessary to detach me from life, and to separate the remains of inward depravity from me. Beside, I shall not be abandoned to my own frailty; but my patience and constancy will be proportional to my sufferings, and that powerful arm, which hath
supported me through life, will uphold me under the pressure of death. If I consider my sins, many as they are, I am invulnerable; for I go to a tribunal of mercy, where God is reconciled, and justice is satisfied. If I consider my body, I perceive, I am putting off a mean and corruptible habit, and putting on robes of glory. Fall, fall ye imperfect senses, ye frail organs; fall, house of clay, into your original dust; ye will be sown in corruption, but raised in incorruption; sown in dishonour, but raised in glory; sown in weakness, but raised in power.' If I consider my soul, it is passing, I see, from slavery to freedom. I shall carry with me that, which thinks and reflects. I shall carry with me the delicacy of taste, the harmony of sounds, the beauty of colours, the fragrance of odoriferous smells. I shall surmount heaven and earth, nature and all terrestrial things, and my ideas of all their beauties will multiply and expand. If I consider the future economy, to which I go, I have, I own, very inadequate notions of it but my incapacity is the ground of my expectation. Could I perfectly comprehend it, it would argue its resemblance to some of the present objects of my senses, or its minute proportion of the present operations of my mind. If worldly dignities and grandeurs, if accumulated treasures, if the enjoyments of the most refined voluptuousness, were to represent to me celestial felicity, I should suppose, that, partaking of their nature, they partook of their vanity. But, if nothing here can represent the future state, it is because that state surpasseth every other. My ardour is inereased by my imperfect knowledge of it. My
knowledge, and virtue, I know, will be perfected; I know I shall comprehend truth, and obey order; I know I shall be free from all evils, and in possession of all good; I shall be present with God, I know, and with all the happy spirits who surround his throne; and this perfect state, I am sure, will continue for ever and ever.
Such are the all-sufficient supports, which revealed religion affords against the fear of death. Such are the meditations of a dying Christian; not of one, whose whole Christianity consists of dry speculations, which have no influence over his practice; but of one who applies his knowledge to relieve the real wants of his life.
DYING THOUGHTS OF THE AUTHOR OF THE
AFTER this manner spake the author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, immediately before he expired;
'I have lived to see, that this world is made up of perturbations; and I have been long preparing to leave it, and gathering comfort for the dreadful hour of making my account with God, which I now apprehend to be near. And though I have, by his grace, loved him in my youth, and feared him in mine age, and laboured to have a conscience void of offence towards him, and towards all men; yet, if thou, Lord, shouldest be extreme to mark what I have done amiss, who can abide it? And therefore, where I have failed, Lord, show mercy to me, for I plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, through his