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delayeth not his serious thoughts of it, and preparations for it till it surprise him; and therefore when it cometh it findeth him prepared, and he gladly entertaineth it as the messenger of his father, to call him to his everlasting home. It is not a strange unexpected thing to him, to hear he must die; he died daily in his daily sufferings, and mortified contempt of worldly things, and in his daily expectation of his change. He wondereth to see men at a dying time, surprised with astonishment and terror, who jovially or carelessly neglected it before, as if they had never known till then that they must die. Or as if a few years time were reason enough for so great a difference. For that which he certainly knoweth will be, he looketh at as if it were even at hand; and his preparation for it is more serious in his health, than other men's is on their deathbed. He useth more carefully to bethink himself what graces he shall need at a dying time, and in what case he shall then wish his soul to be; and accordingly he laboureth in his provisions now, even as if it were to be to-morrow. He verily believeth that it is incomparably "better for him to be with Christ," than to abide on earth; and therefore, though death of itself be an enemy, and terrible to nature, yet being the only passage into happiness, he gladly entertaineth it. Though he have not himself any clear apprehensions, of the place and state of the happiness of departed souls, yet it quieteth him to know that they "shall be with Christ," and that Christ knoweth all, and prepareth and secureth for him that promised rest; John xii. 26. 2 Cor. v. 1. 7, 8. Phil. i. 21. 23. Luke xxiii. 43. Though he is not free from all the natural fears of death, yet his belief and hope of endless happiness doth abate those fears by the joyful expectation of the gain which followeth. See my book, called "The Last Enemy, and the Last Work of a Believer;" and that of "Self-denial," against the fears of death.
But especially he loveth and longeth for the coming of Christ to judgment, as knowing that the marriage-day of the Lamb is come, and then the desires and hopes of all believers shall be satisfied; "then shall the righteous shine as stars in the kingdom of their Father:" and the hand of violence shall not reach them. Every enemy then is overcome, and all the Redeemer's work is consummated, and the kingdom delivered up unto the Father. Then shall the ungodly
and the unmerciful be confounded, and the righteous filled with everlasting joy, when the Lord shall throughly plead their cause, and justify them against the accusations of satan, and all the lies of his malicious instruments. O blessed, glorious, joyful day, when Christ shall come with thousands of his angels," to execute vengeance on the ungodly world, and to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe;" 2 Thess. i. 8-10. When the patient followers of the Lamb shall behold him in glory, whom they have believed in, and shall see that they did not pray, or hope, or wait in vain! When Christ himself and his sacred truth, shall be justified and glorified in the presence of the world, and his enemies mouths for ever stopped. "When he shall convince all that are ungodly, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him;" Jude 14, 15. Where then isthe mouth that pleadeth the cause of infidelity and impiety? and reproached the serious holiness of believers? and made a jest of the judgments of the Lord? Then what terrors and confusion, and shame, what fruitless repentings will seize upon that man, that set himself against the holy ones of the Lord, and knew not the day of his visitation, and embraced the image and form of godliness, while he abhorred the power. The joys which will then possess the hearts of the justified, will be such as now no heart can comprehend. When love shall come to be glorified in the highest expression, to those that lately were so low; when all their doubts, and fears, and sorrows, shall be turned into full contenting sight, and all tears shall be wiped away, and all reproaches turned into glory, and every enemy overcome, and sin destroyed, and holiness effected, and our "vile bodies changed, and made like the glorious body of Christ; Phil. iii. 20, 21. Col. iii. 4. Then will the love and work of our redemption be fully understood. And then a saint will be a saint indeed, when with Christ they shall "judge the angels and the world:" 1 Cor. vi. 2, 3 : and shall hear from Christ," Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for from the foundation of the world ;" Matt. xxv. 34. "Enter ye into the joy of your Lord;" Matt. xxv. 21. Then "every knee shall bow to Christ, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father;" Phil. ii.
2. 10, 11. Then sin will fully appear in its malignity, and holiness in its lustre unto all. The proud will then be abased, and the mouths of all the wicked stopped; when they shall see, to their confusion, the glory of that Christ whom they despised, and of those holy ones whom they made their scorn. In vain will they then " knock when the door is shut, and cry, Lord, Lord, open unto us;" Matt. xxv. 10-12. And in vain will they then wish, O that we had known the day of our visitation, that we might have died the death of the righteous, and our latter end might have been as his ;' Numb. xxii. 10. Rom. iii. 19. Job v. 16. Psal. cvii. 42. xxxi. 23. xiii. 6. 8.
The day of death is to true believers a day of happiness and joy; but it is much easier for them to think with joy on the coming of Christ, and the day of judgment, because it is a day of fuller joy, and soul and body shall be conjoined in the blessedness; and there is nothing in it to be so great a stop to our desires as death is, which naturally is an ene my. God hath put a love of life, and fear of death, into the nature of every sensible creature, as necessary for the preservation of themselves and others, and the orderly government of the world. But what is there in the blessed day of judgment, which a justified child of God should be averse to? O, if he were but sure that this would be the day, or week, or year of the coming of his Lord, how glad would the confirmed Christian be! And with what longings would he be looking up, to see that most desired sight.
2. And the weak Christian is so far of the same mind, that he had rather come to God by death and judgment, than not at all; (except when temptations make him fear that he shall be condemned.) He hath fixedly made choice of that felicity, which till then he cannot attain. He would not take all the pleasures of this world for his hopes of the happiness of that day: but yet he thinketh not of it with so strong a faith and great consolation, nor with such boldness and desire, as the confirmed Christian doth; but either with much more dull security, or more perplexity and fear. His thoughts of God and of the world to come, are much more dark and doubtful, and his fears of that day are usually so great, as to make his desires and joys scarcely felt only he thinketh not of it with that contempt or stupidity as the
infidel or hardened sinner, nor with the terrors of those that have no God, no Christ, no hope; (except when temptation bringeth him near to the borders of despair.) His death indeed is unspeakably safer than the death of the ungodly, and the joys which he is entering into will quickly end the terror; but yet he hath no great comfort at the present, but only so much trust in Christ, as keepeth his heart from sinking into despair.
3. But to the hypocrite or seeming Christian, death and judgment are the most unwelcome days, and the thoughts of them are the most unwelcome thoughts. He would take any tolerable life on earth, at any time, for all his hopes of heaven; and that not only through the doubts of his own sincerity, (which may sometimes be the case of a tempted Christian,) but through the unsoundness of his belief of the life to come, or the utter unsuitableness of his soul to such a blessedness; which maketh him look at it as less desirable to him, than a life of fleshly pleasures here. All that he, doth for heaven is upon mere necessity, because he knoweth that die he must, and he had rather be in heaven than in hell, though he had rather be in prosperity on earth than either. And as he taketh heaven but as a reserve or second good, so he seeketh it with reserves, and in the second place. And having no better preparations for death and judgment, no marvel if they be his greatest terror. He may possibly by his self-deceit have some abatement of his fears, and he may by pride and wit seem very valiant and comfortable at his death, to hide his fear and pusillanimity from the world. But the cure of all his misery is, that he sought not first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and laid not up a treasure upon heaven, but upon earth, and loved this world above God, and above the world to come; and so his heart is not set on heaven, nor his affections on things above; and therefore he hath not that love to God, to Christ, to saints, to perfect holiness, which should make that world most desirable in his eyes, and make him think unfeignedly that it is best for him to depart and live with Christ for ever. Having not the Divine nature, nor having lived the Divine life in walking with God, his complacency and desires are carnal, according to the nature which he hath. And this is the true cause, (and not only his doubts of his own sincerity,)
of his unwillingness to die, or to see the day of Christ's appearance; Matt. vi. 33. 19-21. 1 John ii. 15. 1-4. Rom. viii. 5-8. 1 Cor. ii. 13, 14. 2 Pet. i. 4.
And thus I have shewed you from the word of God, and the nature of Christianity, the true characters of the Confirmed Christian, and of the Weak Christian, and of the Seeming Christian.
The Uses for which I have drawn up these characters, and which the reader is to make of them, are these:
1. Here the weak Christian and the hypocrite may see what manner of persons they ought to be. Not only how unsafe it is to remain in a state of hypocrisy, but also how uncomfortable, and unserviceable, and troublesome it is, to remain in a state of weakness and diseasedness; what a folly (and indeed a sign of hypocrisy) is it to think, 'If I had but grace enough to save me, I would desire no more, or I would be well content.' Are you content, if you have but life here, to difference you from the dead? If you were continually infants that must be fed, and carried, and made clean by others; or if you had a continual gout, or stone, or leprosy, and lived in continual want and misery, you would think that life alone is not enough; and that ‘non vivere tantum sed valere vita est;' that life is uncomfortable when we have nothing but life, and all the delights of life are gone. He that lieth in continual pain and want is weary of his life, if he cannot separate it from those calamities. He that knoweth how necessary strength is, as well as life, to do any considerable service for God, and how many pains attend the diseases and infirmities of the weak, and what great dishonour cometh to Christ and religion, by the faults and childishness of many that shall be pardoned and saved, would certainly bestir him with all possible care to get out of this sick or infant state.
2. By this you may see who are the strong Christians, and who are the weak. It is not always the man of learning and free expressions, that can speak longest and most wisely of holy things, that is the strong, confirmed Christian; but he that most excelleth in the love of God and man, and in a heavenly mind, and holy life. Nor is it he that is unlearned, or of a weak memory, or slow expression, that is the weakest Christian; but he that hath least love to God and