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the mercies of it, to the former days and mercies of our life; to take notice of the indulgence of providence in giving us commodious habitations and easy beds, and continuing to us such health of body, that we can lay ourselves down at ease upon them, and such serenity of mind as leaves us any room to hope for refreshing sleep: a refreshment to be sought, not merely as an indulgence to animal nature, but as what our wise Creator, in order to keep us humble in the midst of so many infirmities, has been pleased to make necessary to our being able to pursue his service with renewed alacrity. Thus may our sleeping, as well as our waking hours, be in some sense devoted to God. And when we are just going to resign ourselves to the image of death, (to what one of the ancients beautifully calls its lesser mysteries,) it is also evidently proper to think seriously of that end of all the living, and to renew those actings of repentance and faith, which we should judge necessary if we were to wake no more here. You have once, sir, seen a meditation of that kind in my hand, I will transcribe it for you in the postscript; and therefore shall add no more to this head, but here put a close to the directions you desired.
$. 25. I am persuaded the most important of them have, in one form or another, been long regarded by you, and made governing maxims of your life. I shall greatly rejoice, if the review of these, and the examination and trial of the rest, may be the means of leading you into more intimate communion with God, and so of rendering your life more pleasant and useful, and your eternity, whenever that is to commence, more glorious, There is not a human creature upon earth, whom I should not delight to serve in these important interests ; but I can faithfully assure you, that I am, with particular respect,
$. 26. This, reader, with the alteration of a very few words, is the letter I wrote to a worthy friend, (now I donbt not with God,) about sixteen years ago : and I can assuredly say, that the experience of each of these years has confirmed me in these views, and established me in the persuasion, “ that one day thus spent is preferable to whole years of sensuality, and the neglect of religion.” I chose to insert the letter as it is, because I thought the freedom and particularity of the advice I had given in it, would appear most natural in its original form; and as I propose to enforce these advices in the next chapter, I shall conclude this with that meditation, which I promised my friend as a postscript; and which I could wish you, to make so familiar to yourself, as that you might be able to recollect the substance of it, whenever you compose yourself to sleep.
A serious View of Death. “ OH my soul, look forward a little with seriousness and attention, and learn wisdom by the consideration of thy latter end*. Another of thy mortal days is now numbered and finished : and as I have put off my clothes, and laid myself upon my bed for the repose of the night ; so will the day of life quickly come to its period, so must the body itself be put off, and laid to its repose in a bed of dust. There let it rest; for it will be no more regarded by me, than the clothes which I have now laid aside. I have another far more important concern to attend. Think, Oh my soul, when death comes, thou art to enter upon the eternal world, and to be fixed either in heaven or in hell. All the schemes and cares, the hopes and fears, the pleasures and sorrows of life, will come to their period, and the world of spirits will open upon thee. And Oh, how soon may it open! Perhaps before the returning sun bring on the light of another day. To-morrow's sun may not enlighten mine eyes, but only shine round a senseless corpse, which may lie in the place of this animated body. At least the death of many in the flower of their age, and many who were superior to me in capa. city, piety, and the prospects of usefulness, may loudly warn me not to depend on a long life, and engage me rather to wonder that I am continued here so many years, than to be surprised if I am speedily removed.
“ And now, Oh my soul, answer as in the sight of God; art thou ready? Art thou ready? Is there no sin unforsaken, and so unrepented of, to fill me with anguish in my departing moments, and to make me tremble on the brink of
eternity ? Dread to remain under the guilt of it, and this moment renew thy most earnest applications to the mercy of God, and the blood of a Redeemer, for deliverance from it.
“ But if the great account be already adjusted, if thou hast cordially repented of thy numerous offences, if thou hast sincerely committed thyself, by faith, into the hands of the blessed Jesus, and hast not renounced thy covenant with him, by returning to the allowed practice of sin, then start not at the thought of a separation : it is not in the power of death to
.. Deut. xxxii, 29.
hurt a soul devoted to God, and united to the great Redeemer. It may take from me my worldly comforts; it may disconcert and break my schemes for service on earth : but, Oh my soul, diviner entertainments, and nobler services wait thée beyond the grave. For ever blessed be the name of God and the love of Jesus, for these quieting, encouraging, joyful views! I will now lay me down in peace, and sleep*, free from the fears of what shall be the issue of this night, whether life or death may be appointed for me. Father, into thine hand I commit my spiritt, for thou hast redeemed me, O God of truths, and therefore I can cheerfully refer it to thy choice, whether I shall awake in this world or another."
CHAP. XX. A serious Persuasive to such a Method of spending our Days
as is represented in the former Chapter. Christians fix their Views too low, and indulge too indolent a Disposition,
which makes it more necessary to urge such a Life, as that under Consideration, §. 1, 2. It is therefore inforced, (1.) From its being apparently reasonable, considering ourselves as the Creatures of God, and as redeemed by the Blood of Christ, 9.3, (2.) From its evident Tendency to conduce to our Comfort in Life, . 4. (3.) From the Influence it will have to promote our Usefulness to others, $. 5. (4.) From its Efficacy to make Afflictions lighter, §. 6. (5.) From its happy Aspect on Death, $. 7. And, (6.) On Eternity, . 8. Whereas not to desire Improvement would argue a Soul destitute of Religion, $. 9. A Prayer suited to the State of a Soul, who longs to attain the Life recommended above.
$. 1. I HAVE been assigning, in the preceding chapter, what I fear, will seem to some of my readers so hard a task, that they will want courage to attempt it; and indeed it is a life in many respects so far above that of the generality of christians, that I am not without apprehensions, that many who deserve the name, may think the directions, after all the precautions with which I have proposed them, are carried to an unneces. sary degree of nicety and strictness. But I am persuaded, much of the credit and comfort of christianity is lost, in consequence of its professors fixing their aims too low, and not conceiving of their high and holy calling in so elevated and sublime a view as the nature of religion would require, and
ety and strict christianity is low, and
the word of God would direct. I am fully convinced, that the expressions of walking with God, of being in the fear of the Lord all the day long*, and above all, that of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strengtht, must require, if not all these circumstances, yet the substance of all that I have been recommending, so far as we have capacity, leisure, and opportunity: and I cannot but think, that many might command more of the latter, and perhaps improve their capacities too, if they would take a due care in the government of themselves; if they would give up vain and unnecessary diversions, and certain indulgences, which only suit and delight the lower part of our nature, and (to say the best of them) deprive us of pleasures much better than themselves, if they do not plunge us into guilt. Many of these rules would appear easily practicable, if men would learn to know the value of time, and particularly to redeem it from unnecessary sleep, which wastes many golden hours of the day: hours in which many of God's servants are delighting themselves in him, and drinking in full draughts of the water of life; while these their brethren are slumbering upon their beds, and lost in vain dreams, as far below the common entertainments of a rational creature, as the pleasures of the sublimest devotion are above them.
$. 2. I know likewise, that the mind is very fickle and inconstant; and that it is a hard thing to preserve such a government and authority over our thoughts, as would be very desirable, and as the plan I have laid down will require. But so much of the honour of God, and so much of your own true happiness, depends upon it, that I beg you will give me a patient and attentive hearing while I am pleading with you, and that you will seriously examine the arguments, and then judge, whether a care and conduct like that which I have advised, be not in itself reasonable ; and whether it will not be highly conducive to your comfort and usefulness in life, your peace in death, and the advancement and increase of your eternal glory
$. 3. Let conscience say, whether such a life as I have described above, be not in itself highly reasonable. Look over the substance of it again, and bring it under a close examination; for I am very apprehensive, that some weak objections may rise against the whole, which may in their consequences affect particulars, against which no reasonable man would presumne to make any objection at all. Recollect, O christian, and
Prov, xxiii, 17.
f. Mark xii, 30,
carry it with you in your memory and your heart, while you are pursuing this review, that you are the creature of God, that you are purchased with the blood of Jesus; and then say, whether these relations in which you stand, do not demand all that application and resolution which I would engage you to. Suppose all the counsels I have given, reduced into practice : suppose every day begun and concluded with such devout breathings after God, and such holy retirements for morning and evening converse with him and with your own heart: suppose a daily care, in contriving how your time may be managed, and in reflecting how it has been employed : suppose this regard to God, this sense of his presence, and zeal for his glory, to run through your acts of worship, your hours of business and recreation: suppose this attention to providence, this guard against temptations this dependance upon divine influence, this government of the thoughts in solitude, and of the discourses in company: Nay, I will add farther, suppose every particular direction given, to be pursued, excepting when particular cases occur, with respect to which you shall be able in conscience to say, “ I wave it not from indolence and carelessness, but because I think it will be just now more pleasing to God to be doing something else,” which may often happen in human life, where general rules are best concerted : suppose, I say, all this to be done, not for a day, or a week, but through the remainder of life, whether longer or shorter ; and suppose this to be reviewed at the close of life, in the full exercise of your rational faculties: will there be reason to say in the reflection, “I have taken too much pains in religion : the author of my being did not deserve all this from me: less diligence, less fidelity, less zeal than this, might have been an equivalent for the blood which was shed for my redemption. A part of my heart, a part of my time, a part of my labours might have şufficed for him who hath given me all my powers, for him who hath delivered me from that destruction, which would have made them my everlasting torment; for him who is raising me to the regions of a blissful immortality.” Can you with any face say this? If you cannot, then surely your conscience bears witness, that all I have recommended, under the limitations above, is reasonable ; that duty and gratitude require it; and consequently, that by every allowed failure in it, you bring guilt upon your own soul, you offend God, and act unworthy your christian profession.
§. 4, I intreat you farther to consider, whether such a conduct as I have now been recommending, would not conduce