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I am thankful for the accounts I have had of its usefulness, and bless God that any feeble attempt of mine should be owned to his people's edification. I have taken fresh pains in preparing the eighth edition for the press, and am persuaded that it comes now abroad under greater advantages than in former editions. What alterations I have made, are such as seemed to me calculated to promote its usefulness, and make it more agreeble to the serious reader. I have only to add, that I beg my reader to impute the plainness of speech I have used in the preface, to a warın desire of seeing the true spirit of religion prevail amongst professors, and to be useful to the souls of my fellow sinners.
Now that the Holy Ghost may attend the reading of Death a Vision, with his special influence; that it may answer the end for which it is now again sent into the world, is, and I trust shall be, the author's prayer. Amen.
DEATH: A VISION.
IT was about twelve months ago that my mind, as is but too frequent with me, void of stability, rambled from one theme to another, and, for a considerable time, continued its vagary to that degree, that I found myself utterly incapable of fixing my attention on any subject, that presented itself, however interesting or important it might seem. At last an awful subject, Death-all conquering Death ! presented itself to me, and that not in a very desirable manner, but in all the deformities of an implacable enemy to Nature. This unwelcome, though important visitant, ingrossed my attention in such a manner, that for a fortnight's space [ maintained an almost constant intercourse with that awful production of Sin.---Throughout the whole length of the day, whether I was in the closet, at the table, or taking a turn on the flowery banks of Severn, my friendly neighbour, I was always em. ployed in viewing the features of his awful countenance; marking as well as I could, the porportion of his parts, and duly observing his formidable retinue. It was thus I employed myself, whilst the cheerful Sun illumined our horizon, and Nature rejoiced in his genial rays; nor was I less intent on the awful subject, when silent night spread her sable curtains over the kingdom, and invited the labourer to refreshing rest; for either my eyes resisted the leaden influence of sleep, or the visiting slumber brought the thoughts of Death along with it. One particular instant of my nocturnal conversation with that universal pillager, I esteem not unworthy of a public hearing; therefore shall do my myself the pleasure of relating
It happened, one night, after I had been deeply ruminating through the day on that awful subject, that when I was in bed I could not compose myself for several hours to rest, but numbered the clock from eleven till two, so deep was the impression which the exercise of the day had left upon my mind. Then it was that I felt the power of an alarmed imagination; for in one strain of thought I fancied I beheld the dreadful monster approaching me with his open commission in one hand, and a resistless dart in the other, with which he intended piercing my reluctant heart, and the hated grave close at his heels, yawning with eager desire for a prey. The man who knows the extent of his own fortitude, and the prowess of nature's arm, will not brand me with cowardice, though I tell him, that such a striking discovery made my timorous nature shrink, and turn its back on the inflexible enemy;
Hard work, alas! to join the fray with death,
At another time I fancied, I saw the tyrant in the form of a dragon, wreathing his tremendous bulk beneath the feet of a Glorious Personage, who bore five ever-flowing wounds, which he received on the day, that haughty Death imagined the heavenly country was added to his earthly dominions. Indeed well might the insatiable tyrant conceive such a presumptuous thought, seeing, strange as it may seem, the Lord, the fountain of life himself, had fallen into his hands, nor did the regardless monster pay the least deference to his immaculate person. But well for man it was, that as the Saviour fell, he seized the king of terrors in his most hideous form, and wrenched from him the fatal sting, the sad repository of all his strength, and disabled him of the least hurtfulness to the chosen race. This holy Con. queror, for reasons known to himself, and profitable to us, was pleased to visit the dwellings of the dead, and, for a season, submitted himself to the arrest of Death. But the third blest morning come, he shook the dust from him, burst the barriers of the tomb, forsook the confines of Death, and in holy triumph held forth the poisonous sting, and said, “I have overcome Death, and him that had the power of Death.” When I was indulged with this mental vision, I thought that emboldened Nature collected its force, and advanced to gaze on the expiring monster. O! thought I, if I could always view that cruel adversary in his stingless condition, sprawling at the feet of his wonderful Conqueror, I could meet him with as little fear as a child would sport himself with a harmless lamb. But, alas ! I often looked forward with fear,and sometimes with horror, to that momentous period that shall fix, for ever fix my state of existence, in an unalterable station of weal or woe. To be incapable of discerning any thing alluring in life, any thing attractive in this world, and yet to dread a departure from it; to have no satisfying discovery made of that world of spirits where Immanuel reigns in triumph nor of safety of the passage from earth to heaven, how dismal the case ! how gloomy, how threatening the prospect! As I was meditating on these awful subjects, gentle slumber seized me with its lulling charms, and soon wafted me into the arms of downy sleep, where I lay the rest of the night inactive in body, Death having imprinted his image upon me.
In the mean while, the more vigilant mind, after her usual manner, rambled abroad through unmeasured space. Mounted on agile fancy, she soon explored the vast meridian from pole to pole; then changing her course, she winged her flight across the countries, from the eastern depth to the occidental shore, and in its rapid journey my fruitful fancy lined out a numerous train of visionary objects; so that now I had work enough cut out for the residue of the night, in turning over these phantoms of the mind,
I dreamed, that in one place I beheld the most beautiful garden that ever I had seen represented by any type or print whatsoever, and which I presume could be equalled only by Eden in its original beauty. In the midst of this delightful garden arose a fountain. not of water, but of a slimy substance, bearing something of the resemblance of boiling pitch. I thought that the fountain flowed apace, and sent forth innumerable streams to every quarter of the globe, in such plenty, that it diffused itself abroad through every corner of the land, insomuch that every inhabitant was less or more debauched with the polluting marter. Gentlemen in scarlet and lace, ladies adorned with silver and gold brocades, I beheld smeared with the filth of the fountain: from the high possessor of the royal chair, down to the despised Lazer, all were polluted, though many of them perceived not the stain. Many of those streams joining in one, composed a river of a prodigious force, which passed through a spacious plain; and multitudes of people of both sexes, high and low, rich and poor, of all denominations and persuations, young and old, I saw rolling in the filthiness of the stream. Some swimming, others wading; some faster, others slower down the noisome channel; some siping, others lapping the foam of the unnatural billows; but all going along with the stream, which I perceived disembogued itself on the other side of this world, in “ a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, where the worm di. eth not, and where the fire is not quenched.”
In another place I saw an infinite number of people, old and young, rich and poor, some decked with ornamental embroideries, rich brocades, delightful damasks, &c. others hardly covered with deforming rags; some with their coaches, landaus, &c. attended with a numerous retinue; some on horseback following a pack of hounds, others running on foot, but all pursuing the same chase. This promiscuous body, as I thought, formed itself into a circle of a wide diameter, around the mouth of a dreadful volcano. Every member of the mixed multitude held an un