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Phil. i. 20. He spent his life in the service of Christ, and he could rejoice in death as his gain. It is a glory to the gospel, when we can lie down and die with courage, in the hope of its promised blessings. It is an honour to our common faith, when it overcomes the terrors of death, and raises the christian to a song of triumph, in view of the last enemy. It is a new crown put upon the head of our Redeemer, and a living cordial put into the hands of mourning friends, in our dying hour, when we can take our leave of them with boly fortitude, rejoicing in the salvation of Christ. No sooner does he call, but we are ready, and can answer with holy transport, “ Lord, I come.” This is a blessing that belongs only to the watchful christian. May every one of us be awake to salvation in our expiring moments, and partake of this glorious blessedness!
[“ Here this discourse may be divided.”] I proceed now to a few remarks, and particularly such as relate to the necessity and duty of constant watchfulness, and the hazardous case of sleeping souls.
Remark 1. “ To presume on long life is a most dangerous temptation, for it is the common spring and cause of spiritual sleep and drowsiness. Could we take an inward view of the hearts of men, and trace out the springs of their coldness and indifference about eternal things, and the shameful neglect of their most important interests, we should find this secret thought in the bottom of their hearts, “ that we are not like to die to-day or to-morrow." They put this evil day afar off, and indulge themselves in their carnal delights, without due solicitude to prepare for the call of God. There is scarce any thing produces so inuch evil fruit in the world, so much shameful wickedness amongst the sensual and the profane, or such neglect of lively religion among real christians, as this bitter root of presumption upon life and time before us. Mat. xxiv. 48, 49. 66 The evil servant did not begin to smite his fellows, and to eat and drink with the drunken, till he had said in his heart, my lord de his coming : It was while the bridegroom tarried, and they imagined he would tarry longer, that even the wise virgins fell into slumbers;” Mat. xxv. 5. Ask your own hearts my friends; does not this thought secretly Jurk within you when you comply witli a temptation, “ Surely I shall not die yet, I have no sickness upon me, nor tokens of death, I shallo live a little longer and repent of my follies?” Vain expectation and groundless fancy! when you see the young, and the strong, and the laealthy seized away from the midst of you, and a final period put at once to all their works and designs in this life. Yet we are foolish enough to imagine our term of life shall be extended, and we presume upou mouths and years which God hath not - Written down for us in his own book, and which he will never give us to enjoy.
We are all borderers upon the river of death which conveys us into the eternal world, and we should be ever waiting the call of our Lord, that we may launch away with joy to the regions of iinmortality : But thoughtless creatures that we are perpetually wandering far up into the fields of sense and time, we are gathering the gay and fading flowers that grow there, and filling our laps with them as a fair treasure, or making garlands for ambitiou to crown our brows, till one and another of us is called off on a sudden, and hurried away from this mortal coast : Those of us who survive are surprized a little, we stand gazing, we follow our departing friends with a weeping eye for a minute or two, and then we fall to our amusements again and grow busy as before, in gathering the flowers of time and sense. 0 how fond we are to enrich ourselves with these perishing trifles, and adorn our beads with honours and withering vanities, never thinking which of us may receive the next summons to leave all behind us and stand before God! but eaeb presumes, “it will not be sent to me.” We trifle with God and things eternal, or utterly forget them, while our hands and our hearts are thus deeply engaged in the pursuit of our earthly delights : All our powers of thought and action are intensely busied amongst the dreams of this life while we are asleep to God, because we vainly imagine he will not call us yet
II.“ Whatsoever puts us in mind of dying should be improved to awaken us from our spiritual sleep.' Sudden deaths near us should have this effect : our young companions and acquaintance, snatched away from among us in an unexpected hour, should become our monitors in death, and teach us this divine and needful lesson : The surprizing loss of our friends, who lay near our hearts, should put us in mind of our own departure, and powerfully awaken us from our dangerous slumbers. Sinners when they feel do sorrows they think of no death ; but when the judgments of God are in the earth, his Spirit can awaken the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness; Is. xxvi. 9. At such seasons it is time for the sinners in Zion 10 be afraid, and fearfulness to surprize the hypocriles ; Is. xxxii. 11. Even the children of God have sometimes need of paivful warn. ing-pieces to awaken them from their careless, their slothful and their secure frame : And as for those souls who are indeed awake to righteousness, and lively in the practice of all religion and virtue, such sudden and awful strokes of providence have a happy tendency to wean them from creatures and keep them awake to God, that when their Lord comes, he may find then watching, and pronounce upon them everlasting blessedness.
III. “No person can be exempted from this duty of watchfulness, till he is lord of his own life, and can appoint the time of his own dying." Then indeed you might have some colour for your carnal indulgences, some pretence for sleeping, if you were sovereign of death and the grave, and had the keys in your own band.
And truly such as venture to sleep in sin, do in effect say, “ We are lords of our own life :” They act and manage, as if their times were in their own hands, and pot in the hand of their Maker: But the watchful christian lives upon that principle which David professes; Ps. xxxi. 15. “ My times are in thy hand, O Lord;" and they never give rest to themselves, till they can rejoice with him, and say to the Lord, “thou art my God, into thy hapds I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed it," and I leave it to thy appointment, when thou wilt dislodge me from this body of flesh and bloor), and call me into thy more immediate presence. Verse 5. If we could but resist the messenger of death when the Lord of hosts has sent it, if we could sbut the mouth of the grave when the Son of God has opened it for us, with the key that is entrusted in bis band, we might say then to our souls, “ sleep on your bed of case, and take your rest :" But woe be to those who will venture to sleep in an unholy and unpardoned state, or even allow themselves the indulgence of short and sinful slumbers, when they cannot resist death one moment, when they cannot delay the summons of heaven, when they cannot defer their appearance before that Judge whose sentence is eternal pleasure or everlasting pain. Our holy watch must not be intermitted one moment, for every following moment is a grand uncertainty. There is no minute of life, no point of time wherein I can say, “ I shall not die;" and therefore I should pot dare to say, “ This minute I will take a short slumber.” What if my Lord should summon me whilst he finds me sleep. ing? His command cannot be disobeyed, the very call and sound of it divides me from flesh and blood, and all that is mortal, and sends me at once into the eternal world; for it is an almighty voice.
IV. “ As it is a foolish and dangerous thing for any of the sons and daughters of men, to presu:ne upon long life, and neglect their watch ; so “persons under some peculiar circumstances are eminently called to be ever wakeful.” Give me leave here to reckon up some of them, and make a particular address to the persons concerned.
1. Is your constitution of body weak and feeble ? You carry then a perpetual warning about you, never to indulge sinful drowsiness. Every languor of nature assures you, that it is sinking to the dust: every pain you feel should put you in mind, that the pains of death are ready to seize you : You are tottering apoo the very borders of the grave, and will you venture to drop in before your hopes of life and immortality are secured, and a joyful resurrection? You pass, perhaps, many nights, wherein the intirmities of your fleshi will not suffer you to sleep, and to take that common refreshment of nature ; and shall not these same infirmities keep you awake to things spiritual, and rouse all your thoughts and cares about your immortal interests?
2. You, whose circumstances or employments of life expose you to perpetual dangers, either by land or by sea ; you who carry your lives, as it were, in your hand, and are often in a day, within a few inches of death; is it not necessary for you to enquire daily, Am I prepared for a departure hence? Ain I ready to hear the summons of my Lord, and ready to give up my account before him? Shall I dare go on another day with my
sins unpardoned, with my soul unsanctified, and in immediate danger of eternal misery? A fall from a horse, or a house-top, may send you down to the pit whence there is no redemption ; every wind that blows, and every rising wave may convey you into the eteroal world, and are you ready to meet the great God in such a surprize, and without warning?
3. You who are young and vigorous, and flourish amidst all the gaities and allurements of life, you are in most danger of being lulled asleep in sin, and therefore I addressed you lately in a funeral discourse, when the present providence gave each of you a new and loud call to awake, aud I pray God you may hear his voice in it.
4. Perhaps others of you are arrived at old age, and the course of nature forbids you to expect a long continuance in the land of the living: Are any of my hearers ancient sinners, and asleep still? Venturous and thoughtless creatures ! that have grown old in slumber, and worn out their whole life in iniquity! Surely, it is time for you to hear the voice of the Son of God in the gospel, and accept of his salvation : “ Behold, the judge is at the door!” he comes speedily, and he will not tarry; his herald of death is just at hand : Are you willing he should seize you in a deadly sleep, and send you into eternal sorrows ? And let aged christians bestir themselves, and awake from their slothful and seeure frames of spirit; let them look upward to the crown that is not far off, to the prize that is almost within reach: Whatsoever your hand or heart find to do for God, do it with all your zeal and might; Eccles. ix. 10. Let your loins be girded about, and your natural powers active in his service, let your lamp of profession be bright and burning, that when Jesus comes, ye may receive him with joy; Luke xii. 35, 36.
5. And are there any of you, that are under decays of grace and piety, that are labouring and wrestling with strong corruptions, or in actual conflict with repeated temptations, which too often prevail over you ? it becomes you to hear the watch-word, which Christ often gives to his churches under such circumstances : Make haste and awake noto holiness,“ be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die: hold fast what thou hast received ;" Rev. iii. 2, 12. remember thy first affection and zeal, and repent and mourn for what thou hast Jost, lest I come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know the hour; Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works, for thou hast lost thú first love; Rev. ii. 3, 4. Have a care of dangerous lukewarmness and indifference in the things of religion. This is the very temper of a sleepy, declining christian, while he dreams he is rich, and has great attainments : Take heed lest presuming upon thy riches and thy self-sufficiency, thou shouldst be found wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; Rev. iii. 16. Keep your souls awake bourly, and be upon your guard against every adversary, and every defilement, lest ye be seized away in the commission of some sin, or in the compliance with some foul temptation. The drowsy soldier is liable to be led captive, and to die in fetters, and groan heavily in death. But blessed is the watchful christian, he shall be found amongst the overcomers, and shall partake of the rich variety of divine favours, which are contained in the epistles to the seven churches ; Rev. chapters ii. and iii. Though the greatest part of a former discourse has been describing the blessedness of a watchful christian at the hour of death, and in this I have set before you the sad consequences that attend sleepers, both which are powerful preservatives against drowsi. ness, yet at the conclusion of this sermon, give me leave to add a few inore motives to the duty of watchfulness, for we cannot be too well guarded against the danger of spiritual sloth and sccurity.
Motive I..“ Our natures at best in the present state, are too much inclined to slumber." We are too ready to fall asleep bourly: All the saints on earth, even the most lively and active of thein, are not out of danger, while they carry ibis flesh and blood about them. Indeed the best of christians here below, dwell but as it were in twilight, and in some sense, they may be described as persons between sleeping and waking, in comparison of the world of spirits. We behold divine things here but darkly, and exert our spiritual faculties but in a feeble man. ner : It is only in the other world that we are broad awake, and in the perfect and unrestrained exercise of our vital powers; there only thie complete life and vigour of a saint appears. In such a drowsy state then, and in this dusky bour, we cannot be too diligent in rousing ourselves, lest we sink down into dangerous slumbers. Besides if we profess to be children of the light and of the day, and growing up to a briglater immortality, let