Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

she possessed in a peculiar degree, so that she was not greatly elevated or depressed by coinmon accidents or occurrences ; but this secured her froin the rise of uoruly passions, those stormy powers of nature, which sometimes sink us into guilt and distress, and make us unwilling and afraid of the sudden summons of Christ, lest he should find us 'under these disorders.

We think of her firmness of spirit, and that steady resolution which joined with a natural reserve, was a happy guard against many of the forward follies and dangers of youth, and proved a successful defence against some of the allurements and teinptations of the gayer years of life: And then we mourn afres!ı, that a person so well formed for growing prudence and virtue, should be so suddenly snatched away from amongst us. But this steady and dispassionate frame of soul, well improved by religion and divine grace, became an effectual means to preserve lier youth more uublemished, and made her spirit fitter for the heavenly world, where nothing can enter that is defiled, and : whose delights are not tuinultuous as ours are on earth; but all is a calin and rational state of joy.

We lament yet further when we think of her native goodness and unwillingness to displease : But goodness is the very temper of that region to which she is gone, and she is the fitter companion for the inhabitants of a world of love.

We lament that such a pattern of early piety should be taken from the earth when there are so few practisers of it, especially among the youth of our degenerate age, and in plentiful circumstances of life. But it is a matter of high thankfulness to God, who endowed her with those valuable qualities, and trained her up so soou for a world so much better than ours is. Let our sorrow for the deceased be changed into devout praises to divine grace. Let'lis iinitate the holy language of St. Paul to the Thessalonians and say, “ We are comforted even at her grave, in all our afflictions and distress, by the remembrance of her faith and piety. What sufficient thanks can we render unto God, man her account, for all the joy wherewith we rejoice, for hver sake, before our God, night and day praying exceedingly, that we may see her face in the state of perfection ? And may God himself eten our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ direci our way to the frappy world where she dwells," 1 Thess. iii. 7-12. The imitation of what was excellent in her life, and watchful readiness to follow her in death, are the best bonours we can pay her memory, and the wisest improvement of the present providence. Blay the Spirit of grace teach us these lessons, and make us all learn them with power, that when our Lord Jesus shall come to call us hence by death, or shall appear with all his saints is the great rising vay, we may be found among his wakeful servants, and partake of the promised blessedness! Amee.

[ocr errors]

DISCOURSE III.-Surprize in Death. Mark xiii. 35, 36.-Watch ye, therefore ;lest, coming sud

denly, he find you sleeping. AMONG the parables of our Saviour, there are several recorded by the evangelists, which represent him as a prince, or lord and master of a family, departing for a season from his servants, and in his absence, appointing them their proper work, with a solemo charge, to wait for his return; at which time, he foretold them, that be should require an account of their behaviour in bis absence; and he either intimates, or expresses a severe treatment of those who should neglect their daty while he was gone, or make no preparation for his appearance. He informs them also, that he should come upon them on a sudden, and for this reason charges them to be always awake, and upon their guard, verse 35. Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning.

Though the ultimate design of these parables, and the coming of Christ mentioned therein, refer to the great day of judga ment, when be shall return from heaven, shall raise the dead, and call mankind to appear before his judgment-seat, to receive a recompence accordiog to their works; yet both the duties and the warnings, which are represented in these parables, seem to be very accommodable to the hour of our death ; for then our Lord Jesus, who has the keys of death and the grave, and the unseen world, comes to finish our state of trial, and to put a period to all our works on earth: He comes then to call us into the invisible state ; he disposes our bodies to the dust, and our gouls are sent into other nansions, and taste some degrees of appointed bappiness or misery, according to their behaviour here. The solemn and awful warning, which my text gives us concerning the return of Christ to judgment, may be pertinently applied to the season when he shall send his messenger of death to fetch us hence : Watch ye, therefore, -lest, coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

When I had occasion to treat on a subject near a-kin to this,* I shewed, that there was distinction to be made between the dead sleep of a sinner, and the slumber of an unwatchful christian. Those who never had the work of religion beguo in their hearts or lives, are sleeping the sleep of death; whereas some who are made alive by the grace of Christ, yet may indulge ainful drowsiness, and grow careless and secure, slothful and

* la a funeral sermon for Mrs. Sarah Abney, on Luke xii. 37. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he comelk, shall find watching.

Vol. VII.

inactive. “ The wise virgins, as well as the foolish, were slumbering and sleeping ;” Mat. xxv. 5. The mischiefs and sorrows whichi attend each of these when Christ shall summon them to judgment, or shall call them away from earth by natural death, are great and formidable, though they are not equally dangerons : Let us consider each of them in succession, in order to rouse dead sinners from their lethargy, and to keep drowsy christians awake.

First, let us survey the sad consequences, which attend those that are asleep in sin, and spiritually dead, when the hour of natural death approaches : They are such as these :

1. “ If they liappen to be awakened on the borders of the grave, into what a horrible confusion and distress of soul are they plunged ?" What keen anguish of conscience, for their past iniquities seizes upon them? What bitter remorse and self. reproaches, for the seasons of grace which they have wasted, for the proposals of mercy which they have abused and rejected, and for the divine salvation, which seems now to be lost for ever, and put almost beyond the reach of possibility and hope.They feel the messenger of death laying his cold bands upon them, and they shudder and tremble with the expectation of approaching misery. They look up to heaven, and they see a God of holiness there, as a consuming fire, ready to devour them as stubble fit for the flame: They look to the Son of God, who has the keys of death in his hand, and who calls them away from the land of the living, even to Jesus, the compassionate Mediator, but they can scarce persuade themselves to expect any thing from him, because they have turned a deaf ear so long to the invitations of his gospel, and so long affronted his divine compassion. They look behind them, and with painful agonies, are frighted at the mountains of their former guilt ready to overwhelm them : They look forward and see the pit of bell opening upon them with all its torments; long darkness without a glimpse of light, and eternal despair with no glimmerings of hope.

Or if now and then amidst their horrors, they would try to form some faint hope of mercy, how are their spirits perplesed with prevailing and distracting fears, with keen and cutting reflections ? “ Oh that I had improved my former seasons for reading, for praying, for meditating on divine things ! But I cannot read, I can hardly meditate, and scarce know how to pray. Will the ear of God ever hearken to the cries and groans of a rebel, that has so long resisted his grace? Are there any pardons to be had for a criminal, who never left his sins till vengeance was in view ? Will the blood of Christ be ever applied to washi a, soul, that has wallowed in his defilements, till death roused hiin out of them? Will the meanest favour of heaven be indulged to a wretch who has grown bold in sin, in, opposition to so loud and repeated warnings? I am awake indeed, but I can see nothing round about me but distresses and discouragements, and my soul sinks within me, and my heart dies at the thoughts of appearing before God."

It is a wise and just observation among christians, though it is a very common one, that the scriptures give us one instance of a penitent saved in his dying hour, and that is, “ the thief upon the cross;" Luke xxiii. 43. that so none might utterly despair; but there is but one such instance given, that nono might presume. The work of repentance is too difficult, and too important a thing, to be left to the languors of a dying bed, and the tumults and flutterings of thought, which attend such a late con viction. There can be hardly any effectual proofs given of the sincerity of such repentings : And I am verily persuaded there are few of them sincere; for we have often found these violent emotions of conscience vanish again, if the sioner has happened to recover bis health : They seem to be merely the wild perplexities and struggles of nature averse to misery, rather than averse to sin : Their renouncing their former lusts on the very borders of hell and destruction, is more like the vehement and irregular efforts of a drowning creature, constrained to let go a most beloved object, and taking eager hold of any plank for safety, rather than the calm, and reasonable, and voluntary desigos of a mariner, who forsakes his earthly joys, ventures himself in a ship that is offered bim, and sets sail for the heavenly country. I never will pronounce such efforts and endeavours desperate, lest I limit the grace of God, which is unbounded; but I can give very little encouragement for hope to a hour or iwo of this vehement and tumultuous penitence, on the very briuk of damnation. Judas repented, but his agonies of soul hurried him to hasten bis own death, that he might go to his own place: And there is abundance of such kind of repenting, in every corner of hell; that is a deep and dreadful pit, whence there is no redemption, though there are millions of such sort of penitents; it is a strong and dark prison, where no beam of comfort ever shines, where bitter anguish and mourning for sins past, is no evangelical repentance, but everlasting and hopeless sorrow.

II. “ Those that are found sleeping at the hour of death, are carried away at once from all their sensual pursuits and enjoyments, which were their chosen portion, and their highest happiness.” At once they lose all their golden dreams, and their chief good is, as it were, spatched away from them at once, and for ever." They stand on slippery places, they are brought to destruction in a moment, and all their former joys are like a dream, when one awaketh, and finds himself beset round with terrors!”? Ps. Ixxiii. 18-20.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Are there any of you, that are pleasing yourselves here in the days of youth and vanity, and indulge your dreams of pleasure in the sleep of spiritual death, think of the approaching moment, when the death of nature shall dissolve your sleep, and scatter all the delusive images of sinful joy. The separation from the body of flesh is a fearful shock given to the soul, that makes it awake indeed. Sermons would not do it : The voice of the preacher was not loud enough ; strokes of affliction, and smarting providences, would not do it; perhaps the soul might be roused a little, but dropped into profound sleep again : Sudden or surprizing deaths near them, and even the pains of nature in their own flesb, their own sicknesses and diseases, did not awaken thein, nor the voice of the Lord in them all : But the partingstroke, that divides the soul and body, will terribly awaken the soul from the vain delusion, and all its fancied delights for ever vanish.

When they are visited by the Lord of hosts with this thunder and earthquake, as the prophet Isaiah speaks ; Is. xxix. 8. when this storm and tempest of death shall shake the sinner out of his airy visions, he shall be as a hungry man that dreameth he was euting, but awakes, and his soul is empty; or as a thirsty creature dreaming that he drinks, but he awaketh, and behold he is faint, and his soul is pained with raging appetite : The sinner finds, to bis owu torment, how wretchedly he has deceived himself, and fed upon vanity : There are no more earthly objects to please his senses, and to gratify his inclinations ; but the soul for rever lies upon a rack of carnal desire, and no proper object to satisfy it. His taste is not suited to the pleasures of a world of spirits, he can find no God there to comfort bim : God, with his offers of grace, are gone for ever, and the world witb its joys are for ever vanished, while the wretched and malicious creatures, into whose company he is hurried, and who were the tempters or associates of his crimes, shall stand round him to become his tormentors.

III. “ Though death will awaken sinful souls into a sharper and more lively sense of divine and heavenly things, than ever they had in this world, yet they shall never be awakened to spiritual life and holiness :" And I think I may add, that though they should be awakened to a sight of God, and his justice, and his grace, to a sight of heaven and hell, more immediate and perspicuons than what even the saints themselves usually enjoy in this life, yet they would remain still under the bondage of their lusts, still dead in trespasses and sins. They shall for ever continue unbeloved of God, and incapable of all the happiness of the heavenly state, because they are for ever averse to the holiness of God, and themselves for ever unholy. It 'it only in the present state of trial, and under the present proposals of grace,

« ForrigeFortsæt »