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and a good conscience, in the works of our lawful callings. For these GoD is pleased graciously to accept of, as instances of our fear and reverence for him; and accounts them as done for his service, when we behave ourselves in an honest and industrious way, and with true contentment of mind in that station of life in which he, in his good providence, has thought fit to place us. By such actions as these, we shall be in a constant readiness and preparation for the coming of our LORD. And, oh! what a happiness and comfort will it be to us, to be found by him thus employed! "Blessed is that servant, whom his LORD when he cometh shall find so doing," St. Matt. xxiv. 46.
But more particularly let us be careful to exercise ourselves in works of mercy and charity, according to that ability which God has given us, and the opportunities which his good providence shall put into our hands. Always remembering, that our blessed Saviour has represented this, as a special matter of inquiry at the Judgment of the great day, how we have acquitted ourselves in duties of this kind; and has assured us, that nothing does more immediately qualify us for the mercy of GOD, when we shall come to stand before his Judgment-seat, than to have shewn mercy to our poor brethren, which he will account as done to himself, St. Matt. xxv. 40. But, on the contrary, has threatened the severest punishment to those that did it not. And so likewise, St. James tells us, "That he shall have Judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy," chap. ii. 13.
Fourthly, Let us often represent to our minds the Judgment of the great day, which will certainly come, though we know not the time of it. For GOD, who is the great lover of souls, and desirous to save us any ways, by hope and by fear, by his mercies, and by his corrections, by our knowledge, and by our ignorance, hath purposely concealed from us the time of his coming to Judgment, to the end we
may be always prepared for it. Even this very night we may be awakened by the sound of that mighty trumpet, which shall pierce the ears of all the world, and summon the living and the dead to Judgment. And if any thing in the world will prevail with men to be watchful and diligent in preparing for it, certainly this will, to consider, that the Judgment of GOD continually hangs over them, and may, for aught they know, be now standing at the door ready to rush in upon them. For so our LORD himself has foretold, that "as a snare it shall come upon all them that dwell upon the face of the earth," St. Luke xxi. 35. when they are not aware of it. As the first destruction by the deluge came suddenly upon the whole world, and surprised all the inhabitants of it unawares, when they had not the least thought of any such thing happening to them; for "they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, till the flood came and took them all away; and so shall the coming of the Son of Man be," St. Matt. xxiv. 38, 39. "The day of the LORD shall come as a thief in the night," 1 Thess. v. 2. When all things are wrapt up in silence, in sleep, and in security, then shall the fatal day rush in unawares upon all men, and overwhelm them with swift and irresistible destruction, unless they be prepared for it.
Think now, therefore, O ye careless ones, what will be your thoughts at that day, and upon the amazing circumstances that will attend it; All nature dissolving in agonies, the world flaming, the sea roaring, the earth in convulsions, the rocks and mountains falling in pieces, the dreadful flashes of lightning, the loud vollies of thunders, the shrieks and cries of distressed and despairing sinners attacking you from every quarter, and a guilty conscience stabbing and terrifying you from within; tell me, if you can, what your thoughts would be, if you were surprised with the thousand terrors of that dreadful day. Ah, stupid wretch! (would not such an one
then say) I am lost and undone for ever! was not I often told of this day? had I not proofs enough given me, that it certainly would come, and yet I would not think of it, would not prepare for it! Ah! now I see those miseries which I cannot escape; I see those glories that I can never share in, and (woe is me for ever) both greater than ever I was told: how foolishly, how madly have I acted, in giving myself up to the profits and pleasures of the world! where are now my lands and possessions? where are my friends and flatterers? what now remains of all my pride and confidence, of all my shameful lusts and sinful pleasures? Oh! the bitter end of my incorrigible folly! what would I now give for one of the days of the Son of Man? what would I now part with (if there were any thing for me to part with) for an interest in CHRIST? But that cannot now be: it is too late for me now to think of making my peace with GOD.'
And indeed, if there were any time for it, the horror and amazement that sinners will then be in, would hinder them from doing any thing. For thus the Scriptures represent the fearful case of sinners surprised with the last Judgment, as not knowing what to do with themselves, nor whither to fly for safety; as ready to betake themselves any whither for shelter and refuge; as "calling upon the mountains and rocks to fall upon them and hide them from the face of him that sits upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb," Rev. vi. 16. Hereby signifying to us, that sinners shall be in such a consternation at that day; and in so deep a despair of the mercy of GOD towards them; that instead of addressing themselves to him, they should turn their supplications to the mountains and rocks, as being more exorable than he is.
O how earnest, therefore, should every one of us now be, in this our day, to prevent such a dismal surprise happening to us! which can be done by nothing more certainly than by a careful prepara
tion for it; by a hearty and sincere repentance for all our sins past, and a holy and good life consequent upon it. These alone will clear our consciences of all dreadful fears, both at the hour of death, and at the day of Judgment. And this course will render the great Judge of the world propitious to us, and then nothing else can hurt us. For all will be joy and peace after that, through the merits of our dear Saviour. The day of Judgment will then be the happiest day we have seen ever since we had our being: and will be the beginning of such a felicity, as we are not able now to conceive, and much less to express; but all holy souls shall experience and feel it to their unspeakable comfort, in the fruition of everlasting joy and glory in heaven, with GOD, and angels, and all the holy saints for ever and ever.
Let us in the last place remember, that another excellent means to fit and prepare us for the last Judgment, is by continual and fervent prayer to apply ourselves to the GOD of all grace, 1 Pet. v. 10. for his help to make us watchful over ourselves and all the actions of our lives; to enable us to a patient continuance in well-doing, to keep us from every evil work, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. A hearty and devout prayer, is one of the most effectual means for the obtaining any grace and virtue we stand in need of, for the accomplishing our Christian warfare in the most acceptable manner. Whenever we heartily beg of GOD to assist us by his grace in doing any thing that is good, we at the same time put ourselves in mind of our own duty, which is to put forth our own endeavours, for the obtaining what we pray for: and when GOD observes this good disposition in us, he is greatly pleased with it, and will then more readily grant us his divine blessing and assistance to succeed our endeavours, and to secure them from miscarriage. And without the aid of God's grace, and his blessing on our endeavours, they will all prove ineffectual, and signify nothing; we shall not be able so
much as to watch one hour. If we should rely only upon our own strength, the fickleness and uncertainty of our own resolutions would soon deceive us; and therefore well might the Psalmist say, that "if God be not with us, the watchman watcheth but in vain," Psalm cxxvii. 2. Let us therefore but implore his assistance, and put our trust in him with all our hearts, to enable us to order our lives so as to be in a due preparation for Judgment, and let our own hearty endeavours go along with our prayers; and we may then be assured of all the assistance the divine goodness and his neverfailing Providence can give us, in order to the perfecting of it; and we shall then not fail of success, but "be prepared to meet our LORD at his coming," 1 Thess. iv. 17.
A Prayer for Mercy in the Day of Judgment.
O BLESSED JESUS, who didst once come in great humility, to offer thyself to thy offended Father a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of all mankind; and shalt once again, at the end of the world, come in power and great glory to be the Judge of quick and dead; do thou vouchsafe to hear the humble suit of a poor wretched sinner, that most earnestly begs of thee to shew him mercy at that day. I know that if thou shouldst then be extreme to mark what I have done amiss, I shall not be able to lift up my face before thee, but must stand trembling and confounded before thy righteous presence, and all that solemn assembly of angels and men, expecting the dreadful sentence of condemnation from thee, because my innumerable heinous transgressions have deserved it. But, O dear Saviour, who wert thyself clothed with flesh and blood, and therefore art sensible of the follies, temptations, and infirmities of human nature; pity my weakness, and pardon my infirmities. And as it has